Saturday, April 9, 2016

UltraNever Again!



It's been a while. Not, getting ready for a run on Saturday. It's been a while. Not, strolling up to a starting line. It's been a while. Not, wearing pants. It's been a while. Not, getting nervous for a race. That streak is over, nerves and an uneasy feeling has taken over my body. All the normal pre-race traditions are missing, it almost feels as if there is this thick fog haze over everything. It's as if I'm a zombie, stab me in the head! Is this my body going into shock preparing what it knows is coming? Nothing feels real at this moment and it certainly doesn't seem real that today is the day for the dun-dun-dun (dumb?) Ultra.

The fog horn sounds and it starts. Thirty-three and a half miles, then there's a promise it will finish, eventually. That's the only guarantee for certain in my mind, getting there is an complete unknown. Part of me expects to be face down somewhere after the twenty mile mark. This blog is full of complaining about weather, this is one day on what I expect to be my hardest run to date, the weather finally decided to cooperated with me. Snow overnight, temps in the 20's to start and highs only in the 30's, if ever there was a day for me, this may be it. Must have done something right to deserve this.

Ultras are easier than Marathons, or so I've read. Just slow your pace, enjoy, is the recommendation. Who writes these? Almost expect it to be some kind of inside joke. Longer is easier, so dumb. First mile, 8:25, okay maybe there is some truth to this. Second mile, 8:00. Boy, that "easy" didn't last long. Here come the voices. Annoyed with the excessive amount of tracks in the snow, the people around me, something clicked and plan of keeping it easy is now gone. Mile three, 7:30. This probably is a horrible decision, but this whole challenge is an unknown. Only way to learn is by doing.

The next few miles stayed consistent. The tracks never got better, couldn't figure that out (a day later realized they were from the people who did the early start and never would have gotten better no matter how fast I went!), now ahead of most people making them. Dropping 7:30 miles, found it didn't take long to lose the crowd, but somebody was on my heals the whole way still. At about mile six, my shadow made himself known. We chatted a bit, he was from Indiana, this was also his first Ultra. I made it known that after twenty miles, wasn't sure what would happen, to clear my conscious if he was looking for advic. At mile eight, let my shadow go, knew continuing to do miles at 7:30 would not be a good thing later, so eased back to about 8's.  

This is where the mental games started. Tunnel vision is an understatement, the world consists of a trail, a treeline on either side, and a vanishing point disappearing in the distance, yet never seeming to get closer. Redrum, Redrum, isn't this how Jack Nicholas started his trip to insanity? There is an occasion runner to pass, but for the most part doing the solo ultra is fitting, it's solo, you are alone. Better get used to it, there is still a long way to go.

Getting to the halfway point, found myself thinking of past experiences doing this race as part of a relay team. Good times. This is the point I'd be taking over and would be starting, fresh and full of energy. Now, it's a seventeen and a half mile warm up, with last sixteen miles to go, alone. No team cheering, no support, just back to the monotony of the trail never seeming to end.

Just passed mile twenty, this is where things always happen. Knowing my history didn't help the mind games. Knowing still had a half marathon to go, definitely didn't help the confidence. My pace was still good and still felt good, but found myself starting to look forward to the next aid station, which I thought was at mile twenty three. It was getting to the point where I needed food and planned a drop bag with snacks for this purpose. Mile twenty three clicks, nothing. Okay, maybe it's twenty three and a half, nothing. Of course can see for what looks like forever and still see nothing. This is where mentally the wheels came off. Doubt, confidence, history, loneliness, the Wall looming, everything coming at once. Then I see it, finally, the aid station at twenty four! Salvation! First thing I notice, no drop bag, this isn't the aid station for that. The few seconds of relief instantly gone with the realization that my stuff wasn't here, low to high, to back looooow.

Luckily, this aid station is being hosted by a super positive runner friend of ours, Ms. Positive. She hits me with the usual "you're looking great", "you're doing great", all the things I know are lies based on how I'm feeling and roll off my back like water off a duck.  "Can I get you anything?", wakes me from my trance, just as I notice cups of Coke. My response, "a bike!". Then I also notice a GU, Coke and GU, not an exact replacement for not seeing my drop bag, but certainly helped. Took a moment to crouch, stretch, and attempt to find whatever strength that was still inside to continue. Ms. Positive, "that's it, find your mantra". Didn't have the heart to tell her, I was really just looking for that damn bike under the table!

Coke, GU, Ms. Positive, or the combination of all three, but what I'm sure was my downward slide, prevented and righted the ship. While nobody feels great after running twenty five miles, I felt much better than mile twenty three/four. Pace slowed a little, but not bad, still low 8's. Had any of those things not been there, would have totally changed the rest of the race and not sure I would have made it.

When mile twenty six clicked, waiting until it was officially at point two past to check my time. Fourth fastest marathon, in the middle of my first Ultra, that helped gain some confidence back. Believe the next aid station was around mile twenty eight. At this point, felt things were a success simply for the fact I was still running and knew surviving and finishing were a sure thing. Definitely was getting tired and mentally had some runner's head going on. Awwwww, light shines down, there's my drop bag! By this time the trail was more wet than snow covered and while I could finish without, felt it was best to do a sock change. Hands and fingers didn't want to work, felt as though lost lots of time making this switch, but also felt as though I needed a slight break (looking back, never should have bothered). It wasn't until about a quarter mile after realized didn't eat or take any of my damn snacks that I wanted way back at mile twenty three/four. Five more miles without anything, we'll call this ultra surviving.

Mile thirty was my Wall. Honestly, really not sure had I remembered my food, if it would of made any difference. My body was tired and this is also about the point where some of the relay team people were now passing. My mind didn't get anywhere near the place is was at around mile twenty three/four, but it really didn't feel like I was doing very well and didn't see any reason forcing myself to keep going and chance injuring something, so the last miles became the walk run mix to finish.

Crossing the line, I'm not even sure what my emotions were. Glad to be done for sure, but wasn't even excited to complete my first ultra. Maybe it was simply too tired to care, but really wanted a smiling CT standing there waiting. My favorite Bug was there with Downhill, it felt good to have somebody there, super excited, and that was unexpected. The whole time of being out there alone, figured I'd have to wait until CT finished before being able to see anyone. As we waited, Buggy wanted me to take a blanked because I was shivering. Had to tell her, I'm not cold, it's my legs quivering from what they just went through! Ran thirty three and a half miles, really basically thirty four since course changed, still label it as thirty three, liars! Yet, my legs felt the need to vibrate for probably another two after.

Have a whole new appreciation for the Ultra Marathoners out there. It's one thing to physically train your body enough to do the distance, but I can't even comprehend how tough they are mentally or how you prepare for greater distances. They probably just have water boards setup in their basements, because that's about what it felt like those last miles.

Official goal was simply to finish. Unofficial goal was getting under five hours. 4:50:55 and a promise to never do that again. Hmmm, wonder if I could do better...


   

Sunday, February 28, 2016

WinterFast



This is my race, cold, snow, short, perfect. Winter Blast is the one race I can count on to be in my sweet spot for races temperature wise. This will be the fourth year running it and the previous three all have been good times for me. I call it my race because it's one of the few times most people know me, as the guy in shorts.

Well, the one thing I'm known for isn't working today and I'm essentially the Invisible Man. This global warming thing is no joke! Instead of standing out in shorts, the people wearing pants are the odd ones today. The announcement made prior to race start, the temps today are more than the first three years temps combined. So much for my one advantage.

Prior to start, struggled with finding my zone. In what has become an almost regular occurrence, I'm alone again. No buzz from the Superstars, no outrageous requests from CT (out of town), just me.

Waaaaarm goes the gun.  The first four miles were fairly uneventful. Worried a little about the wind, but didn't seem to notice it any in these miles. Somewhere around mile four, got a little demoralized as a guy caught me from behind and powered ahead. Even though I felt good, felt fast, wasn't expecting to get passed so easily. Confidence returned as I watched him make the turn for the 10K, that makes more sense.

In the long straight away, I finally cheated and looked at my watch as it chirped for the last mile. It clocked a 6:45 mile, for my mile seven. Runner fuzz logic was definitely active, first thought was damn watch isn't reading right, figures. Mile eight chirps, 6:48! While I knew I was working hard, I couldn't figure out how I was clocking miles this fast, that's almost 5K pace.

Mile nine, cleared the fuzzy runner's logic, turning into a full force headwind. Awww, that explains a lot. Here's the payback for all those easy miles. The final miles were nothing easy, knew it was going to be close for a PR, but it was going to have to be earned into the wind.

The next four miles, all the glorious miles with the wind at my back, gone. The real work started here. At no point did the extra gear show up and I wasn't even sure if or how close I'd be to my PR I'd be, mentally just told myself to keep going and see what happens.

Last curve the clock came into view and knew I had it. One of the running coaches this year shared a TED talk explaining the benefits as to why runners throw their hands up crossing the line to signal their accomplishment. It's never crossed my mind before, probably because I'm always too tired to have any energy to even bother. This time, it did feel like an accomplishment to PR a time that I didn't think I'd ever be able to top. Arms raised, finishing strong!





Sunday, February 7, 2016

Foolish is as Foolish Does



The Kal-Haven Trail and I have quite the history. Soon, it will have another story tied to the both of us. I must be out of my mind, for what I'm about to say and do. Moments ago, committed to running the whole thing as my first ultra marathon! The same trail years ago, I dreaded riding a bike for the whole distance, now is going to be covered by foot (maybe even by hands and knees).

How did I get suckered into this? One word, and you've already guessed it, CT. The girl who doesn't want to do marathons anymore, because they are hard, for some reason doesn't have an issue doing ultra marathons instead. How foolish is that? Common sense flows strongly through me, almost like the Force. I know my limits, I thought I could resist, in the end I couldn't. CT worked her magic and planted the seed, and that's all it took.

She planted that damn thought in my head, then slowly backed away. My mind took over and before I knew it, I clicked the button and signed up, becoming foolish. For somebody who falls apart every marathon at or around the twenty mile mark, going even further seems like a receipt for disaster. Why didn't my common sense come to my aid? Simple numbers. Turning thirty-five, made a goal to run a 5K. This ultra marathon, is a 50K. In five years (okay dangerously close to six, but still forty), in my mind, it translates into getting ten times better. Common sense loses to being able to say something cool.

Don't have a clue how to train for this, so this will be an adventure. My plan is to modify my most successful marathon training plan by adding miles to it. Instead of running back to back sixteen and ten mile runs to equal marathon distance, changed it to a twenty mile run followed by a thirteen mile run to simulate the thirty-three miles of the trail. Will this be good enough? Only time will tell.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Too Young, Good-Bye Message


Jodi (1974 - 2014) 

Jodi,

I'm in disbelief finding out about this. Words can't describe my feelings, my heart feels broken and my eyes are filled with sadness. I'm sorry for not finding out this sooner and especially for not being there. You will always hold a special place when I think back to childhood memories. You were and will always be Princess Leia to me, we must have played those roles a thousand times growing up. While I try to take this all in and fight through the tears, it reminds me of the pain you once caused Ryan that time you clocked him in the face with a golf club on your back-swing! To this day, I'm not sure how you survived that, he was so pissed! Life is too short, at times unfair, this only proves that. I'm so glad that we were able to reconnect and catch up some. Thank you for being my friend and the closest thing to my childhood sister. Miss you and think of you often. RIP

Ace

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Redemption



New Year, brings a new start. No resolutions this time around. No official goals that I'll speak of. I'm going to let the title of this blog entry define what this year is going to be about though. Redemption! Two years ago, this disaster happened. I think you can see where this is going.

Luckily, there have been far fewer bad runs than good ones. Probably one of the only reasons to keep going, but those bad ones tend to stick in the memory banks. This one specifically, I remember how badly I wanted to quit, yet was in the middle of the damn woods with only one way out. That's probably the only reason that prevented me from quitting. It's a bad race when texting in the middle of it, and that's what I remember most from it.

Even though this is labeled redemption, I can't honestly say that I trained hard ensuring I'd do better. My lack of training prompted signing up for this race again. Since I needed a crazy month of running to pull off the prior entry (The 1600), figured it only made sense to sign up for something and this is one race that pained me to think about, hell it pained me physically for a solid month, but ultimately tormented me every time I see my time.

Prior to the start, get the typical looks for wearing shorts. A new one this time, a woman came up to tell me "I wanted to wear shorts, but my husband wouldn't let me". My response, "Ha, same for my wife, but in my case what she doesn't know, won't hurt her". Gave her something to think about for the rest of her race.

The gun sounded and people absolutely bolted, guess they have redemption on their minds as well. It was slippery as hell in the early parts. Even with trial shoes, it was icy enough in the early parking lot phase to prevent me from bolting and had me playing it careful. Once on the trail, it became obvious this wasn't going to be a cakewalk. While a good nine inches of less snow than last time, the trail was hardly clear. Instead what I thought would be a little bit of snow, turned out to be ruts of ice from the bikes and other foot traffic. A 25K with nothing but ankle busters, here we go.

The first couple miles, tried to stay very relaxed. The problems with trails, it's so damn hard to pass people. Always find myself content to stay with people provided nobody is pulling away, which is dumb because it's not it's possible to see more than a few people ahead. About four miles in, started passing a few before breaking away and catching the next clump of about six people.

In the back of my mind, there was certainly some fear as to what kind of shape I'd be at in the later miles, kept telling myself not to waste much energy here and save it for later if possible. This group did seem to going at a decent pace, well until about mile six and the first two broke away.

When the real hills of the course started, the original two who broke away were hell and gone. I was tailing two more who I assumed were a couple. The others had fallen back and were gone from what I could tell. Going uphill is never fun, but at least the footing felt more secure. On the downhill, caution took over and I eased back. It really felt like an accident waiting to happen. It pained me to see the couple pull ahead and out of eye sight, but at least I wasn't walking or texting either.

With about two or three miles to go the trail switched from the normal bike trail to a less used section of trail and it made a big difference. Gone were the ruts and it was much more like I had expected being a softer, better footing. What the? There's the woman half of what I thought was a couple running alone. Dammit! Clearly not a couple or he's going to hear about leaving her after for sure. Either way, I feel less guilty passing now. The question now is, do I have enough time to catch the guy in front of her? Turns out I didn't, damn close though. Had him insight for about the last half mile and had there been another quarter mile, would have had him.

In the end, it didn't matter. Didn't place and catching him wouldn't have changed that, but did cut thirty seven minutes off my previous time, and that is redemption! Hoping this theme continues.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The 1600



Three hundred sixty five days ago I came up with a number, sixteen-hundred. Could I run sixteen-hundred miles in a year? It wasn't a crazy high number, coming off a year where I had hit a little over fifteen-hundred, but still it's averaging 133 miles a month for a year is no easy task.

This decision was made on New Year's Eve, last minute, really just based on a tweet asking something along the lines of running goals for the New Year. Like every resolution, it was out of mind a few weeks into January. Fast forward eleven months.

2015 goes down as a tough year. Running requires heart and mine felt heavy and broken for most of it. Towards the end of the year, not much motivation remained. Failed at my attempt of getting older, yet faster. Never even attempted the one prize I really wanted. Watched my consecutive streak of months over triple digits end. Depressing.

Late November, I happened to remember the resolution I had set for myself. Half expected it to be ridiculously out of my grasp based on how the year played out. Surprisingly when I looked, it was still in reach and only one-hundred seventy miles away. With thirty-one days to go, could I average six miles a day and still pull this off?

It took EVERY day to pull off the 1600! From New Year's Eve to New Year's Eve, but it happened. Going from the past couple months of not even making it to a hundred miles a month, to almost doubling my total in December to pull off this silly number, took everything I had. It wasn't until the last few days, did it even seem in grasp. The weather really saved me, had it turned miserable, not sure the story would have been the same.

2015 was a battle every step of the way, at least it ended on a positive, with The 1600.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Salesman



Never will be a salesman, just not built with the level of BS needed to be successful at it. With that said though, it is possible, on occasion, for my charm to con somebody into doing something they don't want to do. With great charm, comes great responsibility!

A few months ago, that charm was responsible for getting my cousin, Dimmy, to commit and finish her first half marathon. Would it work again? A couple of the Superstars wanted to give the Mackinaw Island Half Marathon another try as an end to the running season. Dimmy lives a cat's swing (inside joke with the Superstars, I'd never swing a cat) away from the island, so it only seemed natural to talk (and don't mean that at all, I mean con) Dimmy into running with us. She treated me with such care growing up. In fact she almost seemed pleased to tell me how she and her brother crashed the tandem bike they were riding on Mackinaw Island with me in the bike seat as a baby! With  family like this, it's surprising I'm still here. But I am, and this cousin (me) believes in revenge! When I think back to how my legs burned after running this race the first time, the hills, I couldn't resist convincing Dimmy to do it with us. Sure, to some, this probably could be viewed as heartless, but deep down I know she can do it, but loved the idea of her cursing my name around mile eight or nine! Payback! Muhahaha!

The problem with revenge, sometimes it doesn't exactly go as planned.  No sooner did I get her to sign up for the race, then she offered for all of us to stay at her house. Beautiful house, an even better view, then she pulls out some serious Martha Stewart with a gourmet meal. Who is this? Wait a minute, is this poisoned? Is the conman getting conned? Starting to *almost* feel bad now.

Since I'm a little too big to get dumped from a tandem bike, my punishment in the form of karma seems like it's almost a guarantee it's going to rain. The boat ride over, the sky teased that it was going to clear and end up turning into a pretty good race day, but deep down, I knew the storm was coming.

Lining up, the group huddled together to stay warm. I was really unsure how I'd feel today, racing hard last week battling a cold this week. Part said just stick with CT and have fun. Another part of me said give it a shot and could always meet up with CT if not feeling it. The indecision, started me much further back that I would if being serious, bring on some crowd fighting.

Crack, goes the gun! A mob of people on a small road to begin with, then add the giant puddles. I started eased and relaxed, but before log there goes CT darting around people, here we go. Soon it's a game of Frogger, before too long, it becomes an early trail race resorting to passing people on the shoulder. Yup, definitely started too far back to race this.

By mile two, most people were passed and things opened up. Still constantly amazed at the number of people who run horrible lines. As I was smiling about this, that's about the time the drizzle started. It actually felt good. Maybe, rain isn't a bad thing.

Soon after mile three, the trail starts and so did the downpour. I watched the woman in front of me gingerly step around a couple patches of mud. The first of the hills started, so I was in conservation mode and wasn't willing to sacrifice energy to verbalize free advice, but I really wanted to tell her don't waste energy dodging, it's a sure thing we are ALL getting dirty today. The more we climbed the worse the rain came down. First official race in the rain and it officially became a sloppy mess, which was fun, especially since I decided against breaking in my new shoes today.

Mile six, I was glad to be done with the climb for a bit. My shirt was a second skin and really debated dumping it, but couldn't because it's a favorite, that's what I get for wearing my hometown race shirt, the nipples will hate me later.

Miles seven to ten are some of prettiest, but most difficult. The rain stopped, but the rolling hills didn't. Somewhere in this section, I knew that I wasn't going to PR this course. It felt good to pass the local wearing the viking helmet. While staying at a consistent pace, it wasn't possible to give any more and it was all about maintaining at this point. It helped by continuing to catch and pass people. Even though fatigue was setting in and part of me wanted to ease up, gaining ground on the next person ahead helped stay motivated.  Soon thoughts drifted to just have to get out of these trails and back to the road where it's nice and flat and knowing things will get easier. Used car salesmen?

Almost to the road, caught and passed a younger kid. I think I caught him by surprise because he startled a bit and almost slipped in the mud. Told him, "you're too close to the finish now to be THAT GUY covered in mud, so be careful". Next up, a woman. As I passed her, I gave her the complementary, "good job, doing great". She came back with she's the fifth woman overall. About this time we reached the road. My earlier runner's thought of the easy part is here, were quickly smashed back to reality as the gust of wind made it feel as if standing still. So much for that idea! Easy come and easy go, the hills were gone, but the wind was the next hurdle.

It's going to be a fight this whole last few miles into the wind, then something clicked. The salesman died and the nice guy came back. Looking over my shoulder, 5th girl wasn't too far back. I told her get up on me, I'll block the wind as much as I can, draft off of me, lets go get 4th girl! Honestly, I wasn't sure how long I had left in me running hard into the wind, but figured what the hell, lets see what happens. We did catch and pass a few more runners, unfortunately none of them female. My favorite pass was a horse and carriage, for some reason I decided to taunted and trash talked the horse going by. Okay, he/she was pulling a carriage, but hey, it will probably be the first and last time this ever happens! In the end, never even caught sight of the 4th girl, but crossing the line, 5th thanked me for helping her and she PR'd. Not sure if I really helped with any part of that, but I do know the last few miles were faster than when I caught her, so I'm taking a little credit for that!

Ran back for CT, found her at a wedding ceremony, fitting. She was tired, immediately worried about her time because she ran "naked" (without her watch). Of course in her mind she was doing awful, but in the real world she was right at the time she expected. Didn't even get to see Dimmy finish. She did so well, that I missed her finishing being a baby staying inside out of the rain. Didn't expect her in so soon after tricking her into those hills. As if like a boss, she was smiling when I did see her. There's no way she could have known, but her not wanting to kill me after, almost sadden me. So much for my dirty joke! Further proof, I'll never be a salesman.