Saturday, December 31, 2011

Up and Down 2011

After a considerably consistent 2010 year of running, 2011 presented a number of challenging firsts that provided a year of ups and downs in my running.  Simply shown by a month-to-month and week-to-week mileage chart, it is easy to see a difference from 2010 to 2011:

2010 Total Miles:  5,157
2011 Total Miles:  4,556

2010 produced 32 weeks of 100 or more miles.  2011 saw only 24.  In 2010, there was one 10 week consecutive streak over the century mark plus a nice streak of 22 weeks – this could be considered a mark of consistency.  2011 was much different; one eight week streak, one seven week streak, and one six week streak, plus a few scattered individual weeks over 100 – that is not consistent, but quite staggered.  What drives the mark of inconsistency even further is the amount of weeks (nine) in 2011 higher than the highest 2010 week (128).  Going to high too early?   

After TNF50 (my first ultra) in Dec. 2010 I took 0 time off and started the new year with seven consecutive 120+ mile weeks – I was preparing for the Neuces 50 mile in early March and to continue in for a huge summer of mileage.  Two weeks before Neuces I suffered my first real running injury and took seven days off from running awaiting my inflamed left achilles to heal.  It was the first day I had not run in over 14 months (looking back I am fortunate I recovered from this type of injury as quickly as I did).
I'm glad this is over with.
The achilles injury was a direct result in a series of events of self-neglect.  First, was deciding to race an indoor 5k in spikes – although I ran a PR and broke 15minutes (good memory of 2011), I had ran zero (0!) speed workouts and my feet and legs were in no way conditioned to pound out 25 sharp-turned laps in spikes.  Second, was my decision to run a 30 mile rugged trail run the day after that 5k.  Third, was disregarding an initial twinge in my achilles and continuing another week of 20+ mile days and another weekend 30 mile trail run.  After that week, my achilles was swollen to three times the size it should be and that was that…        

During those seven days off, I found out SSU was promoting our club track team to varsity status and for the first time in school history, we would be allowed to run at a conference and national championship meet.  The next three months I was able to string together some good training to run the Marathon at the NAIA National Championship (yes, the NAIA has the Marathon at Track and Field Nationals).  I ended my college career as an All-American, finishing third in 2:30:07 (good memoryof 2011).
A somewhat new appreciation for running long and hard on pavement.

After the marathon I decided to take a few days to recover before I started running again (already learning from my earlier mistakes?).  Burning River 100 was two months away and the thought of my first 100 miler was uber-exciting.  I took a trip to Colorado backcountry in late June/early July that kicked off a 632 mile month of July, capped off with a satisfying first 100 mile race, finishing third with a 16:26:00 (good memory of 2011).  Looking back again, the huge increase in mileage provided a noticeable inconsistency in my year - brought an immediate good result, but later caused bad results.
Photo by Josh Stacher

Although I had the achilles injury in February, the year was still successful to that point – after BR100 is when I really messed up.  I guess I hadn’t really learned my lesson about recovery… Within two weeks I was running over 100 miles and after two weeks of that, my body started becoming very lethargic and I was both mentally and physically worn down.  I took a week off from running and decided to still give it a go at the UROC 100k – I only ran 26 miles until I decided to drop out of that race.

Besides the lack of recovery time after BR100, I did things that only made my body more tired.  13 days after Burning River I ran the SSU Alumni 5k, running a hard-earned 16:20, then the Hangover 5 mile time trial with the team a couple days later… those hard efforts and other sub seven minute mile runs with the team really took a toll on my body – I was definitely already insufficient enough in important bodily vitamins and energy stores from BR a couple weeks earlier.  Then, a week before UROC, after a week off, with only a few days of running I was tempted into running the Indian Run 40k, which ended up being a very hard effort (~6:50 pace) on a hilly course.  I was not listening to my body when it was telling me to give it a rest.
After UROC, I took 15 complete days off from running, trying to access what went wrong and if I could ever regain the confidence I had in 2010 and parts of early 2011.  I determined that a balanced, consistent overall life is what brought the success in my past and that I need to continually try to do better in every phase of my life, not just running.   

Since then, I have been refreshingly getting back into a routine of running and looking forward to 2012 – I will be living in Lynchburg, VA for grad school and am very excited about the next two years and the opportunities that the region brings with the trails, mountains, and running community.

Photo by Eric Lammers

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Nature and Human Instinct

But all this – the mysterious, far-reaching hair-line trail, 
the absence of sun from the sky, the tremendous cold, and the strangeness 
and weirdness of it all – made no impression on the man.   
It was not because he was long used to it.   
He was a newcomer to the land, a chechaquo, and this was his first winter.   
The trouble with him was that he was without imagination.
 -Jack London in To Build a Fire

Shawnee State Forest in early May

I found myself peering over an eight-foot ledge into the glassy mirror-like East Shade River.  Really, it is thought of as a creek but geological features give it the title of a river.  The spruce trees on the opposite embankment give the water a dull earthen green tint and provide the floating leaves with much contrast.  Karhu had already plunged into the river – the excitement of a quick swim and drink was too tempting to keep the adventure-seeking dog from making the jump.  The problem of being unable to climb out of the water was quickly realized by the black lab after several failed attempts.  A defeating fall back into the 40 degree water lessened her spirits and she began to whimper and give up. 

That is why I was leaning over the edge – I was trying to coax her downstream and hopefully find a better point of exit.  Without notice, my running shoes lost grip in the mud and I headed feet-first into the frigid water – coming up to my neck – and I was short of breath due to the initial shock.  Karhu swam toward me and scattered what seemed impossibly to dry ground.  “Are you kidding me?  You had to wait until I fell in to do that?”  I swam downstream and climbed up a natural root-ladder to my cheerful dog waiting for me at the top.

The first thought I made was that I needed warmth… it was in the high thirties and a slight breeze hit my soaked clothes.  I ran the remaining four miles with slushy feet and tingly quads, but for the most part the constant blood flow warmed me enough to be comfortable and ultimately reach the comforts of a warm shower.

At the end of Jack London’s short story To Build a Fire, the man let coldness take his life, dying on the side of the trail after failing to warm himself.  This was shortly after the man considered killing his dog, which had been his only companion on his tedious journey, to warm himself.  When the man was dead, the dog “crept close to the man and caught the scent of death.”  The story ends by saying the dog “turned and trotted up the trail in the direction of the camp it knew, where were the other food-providers and fire-providers.”

What To Build a Fire teaches, and my experience today, is that nature is this intense variable that human beings are constantly engulfed in, and too often not mindful enough of.  Even if we are completely aware and mindful of our movements and actions nature can be debilitating.  In an instance, we can be put in an awkward, frightening situation that we have no control of.  The man in Jack London’s story kept a constant eye out for signs of a stream hidden beneath the snow as to not get wet.  But, it happened anyway and when he made fire to dry his socks and warm his feet, snow from the spruce tree fell and muffled the flames.

Ultra-runners especially have to keep a keen eye on nature, during training and racing.  Different weather and terrain dictate what we eat and drink during running, what we wear, or how fast we go.  A lapse of focus could result in an array of health problems or acute running related injuries.  This is a lot of the reason many people participate in ultra-running – it forms a parallel between human and nature, some sort of primal accomplishment to be able to defeat the land but then a revering sense of modesty when the land masters human. 

This short story, my experience, and ultra-running also teaches me that we have an instinct and will to survive.  The dog in To Build a Fire is talked about as having an instinct, “its instinct told it a truer tale than to the man by the man’s judgment.”  The dog knew it was too cold to be traveling in 70 below zero temperatures.  The man though went against his instinct, for whatever reason, and travelled.  Even after his mishap, he instinctively knew, whether known innately or learned from lived experiences or teachings that he needed to build a fire in order to survive.  Even when the fire went out he tried to run, to warm his body, but ultimately nature won.  The dog, though saddened by the loss of his master, continued instinctively up the trail and eventually found “other food-providers and fire-providers.”

Today, when I fell in 40 degree water, my first thought was that I needed to get warmer, without even consciously thinking about it, I knew that was what my next step needed to be.  Luckily for me I was not in a winter blizzard or a long way from my house.  Nonetheless I probably would have gotten sick if I walked the four miles back to my house instead of running.  Any person that would have been in my situation would most likely have figured out they needed to do something rather than walk four miles, with wet clothe, in 38 degree weather… take off running, build a fire if they had supplies, knock on a strangers door, etc… 

We can also look at the story of Aron Ralston, who had his right hand and wrist smashed between a rock and a canyon wall while hiking in Utah.  He spent six days with little food, water, or warm clothing but inspiringly found a way to survive.  His determination, instinct and will to survive helped him find a way to escape his challenge.

Nature is a daunting force and needs to be respected (and especially conserved).  Sometimes though, even the most respect and awareness will not overcome the power of nature.  That is why we should pay attention to our instincts and our innate feelings but no matter what in any situation, don’t give up.  Keep going, but be smart about it and know what is right.  Even if we have already treaded past our instinct into a dangerous situation, the first key step is to stay calm… rushing while panicking is never a good mix.  Instinct will show the right way.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fall Abounding

Running through the forest today, fall was coming to a close.  Where in other parts of the States, fresh snow is blanketing the trail, in Southeastern Ohio the last fading leaves are being shaken from their summer abode landing on the soft, damp ground.  Pine needles blanket parts of the forest, softening the sound… foreshadowing the softened sound of snowy, winter runs.  Logs from the recent wind storms scatter the floor, sometimes needing to hurdle one to follow the path.

As I make my way through Strouds Run State Park, everything I see is declaring winter is soon approaching.  Already, the thermometer has hit below freezing marks during the nights in Ohio.  Tears roll from my eyes – not an emotion but brought on by the clean, crisp air hitting my face.  It is an ethereal feeling, almost as if viewing myself from an outside point of view… sounds of nature filling the forest.  Squirrels scatter everywhere, searching and storing their winter food before the ground frosts over.  The birds have mostly migrated to warmer climates; cardinals, blue birds, and sturdier fliers are still spotted.  Occasionally, a flock of geese will still fly over; hearing them from a long distance, in their well recognized flying V formation.  Geese show me the surreal organization that nature presents.     

This run was calming, relaxing and tranquil.  Every season brings its advantages and there seems to always be a one or two day window where everything is peaking.  Perfect weather, lighting, sounds… I remember running in the Shawnee State Forest in the spring – the flowers were just coming out and all the colors were incredibly vibrant.  Runs through these moments really define what trail running is all about for me.  It is something that both inspires and humbles me.  Energizes and slows me down.      
Man Calling, Leaf Falling. . .
Foot Splatters, Squirrel Chatters. . .
Finger Feeling, Tree Kneeling. . .
Ear Listens, Water Glistens. . .
Heart Pounding, Earth Surrounding. . .


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Course of Action

UROC --------------- 15 days completely off (moderate jogging, to get places, playing with dog, or testing new trail that I've been blazing.... etc.)

Oct. 10 - 16: 30 - 35 miles
Oct. 17 - 23: 35 - 40 miles
Oct. 24 - 30: 40 - 45 miles
Oct. 31 - 6: 45 - 50 miles
Nov. 7 - 13: 50 - 55 miles
Nov. 14 - 20: 55 - 60 miles
Nov. 21 - 27: 60 miles
Nov. 28 - 4: 65 miles
Dec. 5 - 11: 70 miles
Dec. 12 - 18: 75 miles
Dec. 19 - 25: 75 miles
Dec. 26 - 1: 80 miles

.............................. or something close to that.  I like seeing things written down.

As simple as those figures are for me to look at, I think this time I am taking to "heal" myself and re-engage into running will open up a huge first of the year opportunity to put in long runs and big weeks when I move to VA for school.

As much as I would like to run TNF EC in San Fran. again this year, I simply cannot justify spending the money to travel to the West coast and not be adequately prepared to run the best race I possibly can.  Last year I had 22 consecutive weeks of 100+ miles leading up to TNF EC - I'd like to get to that point before I race again.

2011 was such a choppy year for me, unlike the consistent 2010 year I had.  Although I had a few good races, my training was so scattered with a little achilles injury that put me down for seven days and another seven day stretch leading up to UROC that I took off due to apparent fatigue.

I want to get back to consistent training again - so I'm going to do that.



Monday, September 26, 2011


I DNF'd at UROC - my first DNF of any race of any distance in my entire running career.

UROC was an exciting event and even with a DNF, I truly enjoyed the weekend.  As a "rookie" ultra runner, being able to compete in highly competitive races is a thrill and a huge learning experience.  I met so many people that I would have never had the chance to meet, at this point in my ultra running career, without an event like UROC.

There were many DNF's at UROC from the elite field and Bryon Powell talked of potential reasons why in his post race report, saying "I don’t think that’s a dig on the character of the racers, new or veteran, as I think most folks want to finish what they start, but the money could lead folks to (1) toe the line when they’re less certain they’re fully prepared for a race and (2) go out closer to the edge of their capabilities early in a race and just see whether or not they have it on a given day. On the latter point, this could both lead to some tremendous performances when runners’ gambles pay off and make for some damn exciting races."

Bryon nailed it in that comment.  I fall in the first category - after Burning River less than two months before UROC, I tried to ramp up my training way to quick after the 100.  I paid for it a month later and took seven days completely off  and simply did not have what I consider proper training leading up to UROC.  This was such a exciting opportunity to meet a lot of cool people and I also wanted to see how my body would race after "not so good" training.  My previous ultras came after great stretches of training and I felt confident going into it.  I knew this would be a new experience and I wanted to see what it was like.  I probably would have ran this race even without the prize money and if the other variables were the same.  Although, without the prize money, the other variables probably wouldn't have been there.

As for the actual UROC race, it was good.  I only ran the first 26 miles but I liked the feel of it.  The trail sections were spectacular and the road sections were not as bad as I though they could be.  If there was no fog, the views along the course would have been even more spectacular.  I see this event growing in the future and probably even more money being added to the purse... making it that much more exciting.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Training for UROC

While all the well-known popular ultra runners have been training and preparing for the highly hyped UTMB race, I have been recovering from BR100 and getting ready for another widely talked about ultra, UROC.  UROC is a race I think I can do well in and maybe have an advantage over some of the "top" ultra guys since they are racing overseas less than a month before the race.  It is also on some more formidable mountains, ones that I have more experience running on. With that, this is the first ultra I will be doing with, to me, not the type of training I would normally like to have going into a longer race.  I get confidence from big mileage weeks and long runs and since BR100, I have did neither.  It has been three weeks since BR100 and I have five weeks till UROC - I'm looking forward to see what I can piece together in these five weeks.

Here is what I did from BR100 to now as far as training goes:

7/1 Mon - 0 Miles, 2nd day off after race
7/2 Tues - 0 Miles, 3rd day off after race
7/3 Wed - PM:  3 mi (24:00)
7/4 Thur - PM:  4 mi (30:44)
7/5 Fri - PM:  5 mi (39:54)
7/6 Sat - PM:  5 mi (41:27)
7/7 Sun - 0 Miles, Still feeling rough.
Total:  17 mi (2:16:05)

7/8 Mon - PM:  8 mi (1:02:58)
7/9 Tues - PM:  5 mi (36:17)
7/10 Wed - PM:  6 mi (48:53)
7/11 Thur - PM:  8 mi (59:00)
7/12 Fri - AM:  3 mi (23:00)  PM:  10 mi (1:00:30)  SSU Alumni 5K - 16:22.  Went out and ran my hardest and this is what I got.  Was 2x defending champion but got 9th this time around.  Would have liked to see what I could have ran without a 100 miler 13 days prior.
7/13 Sat - AM:  5 mi (36:05)  Chillicothe, OH with Juicy J.  PM:  12 mi (1:34:01).  Shawnee State Forest
7/14 Sun - AM:  8 mi (1:02:44)  Brush Creek Area 
Total: 65 mi (8:03:28)

7/15 Mon - AM:  12 mi (1:30:00)  Hangover 5 Mi. Time Trial - 30:22.  Had to rejoin the Bears with this familiar tradition and surprised myself with my third fastest time on the course.  
7/16 Tues - PM:  16 mi (1:58:11)
7/17 Wed - PM:  8 mi (1:01:38)
7/18 Thur - AM:  5 mi (38:00)  PM:  8 mi (1:01:21)
7/19 Fri - PM:  14 mi (1:46:28) 
7/20 Sat - AM:  10 mi (1:14:13)
7/21 Sun - AM:  11 mi (1:34:44)  Lancing, MI 
Total: 84 mi (10:44:35)

I have started to get back into a rhythm with my running.  Daily and weekly mileage is going up but I am still not feeling as fresh as I was before BR100.  The past few days have been refreshing though as my legs are finally getting that feeling that they can just keep going as long as I wished for them to go.

It is the time of year for colleges to start again and this is the first time since I was four years old that I am not preparing to go back to school.  It is also the first time in quite a while that I will not have daily practices, weekly meets, and all the other types of functions that I grew used too.  I am not working a solid job which I had hoped to get after college and my mind really does not know what to do.  When I do not have a constant flow to my day I get bored and when I get bored I end up getting lazy.  Took me by surprise, college ending.

Running will come to me as it always does.  Now, I am just in the process of finding what to do aside from running, which is the bulk of ones life.....


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

2011 Burning River 100 Mile Race Report

Lush Green of Ohio summers.  Photo by Eric Lammers

The day started early at 3:15 a.m. when I was eating my breakfast of blueberry bagels with Nutella - I had practically jumped into my running shorts after getting out of bed and was looking forward to the next 20 hours, or hopefully less.
I knew 2011 was going to be the year for my first 100 mile race and Burning River was on my radar for apparent reason - it is in Ohio, the course resembles a lot of the type of running I do in Southern Ohio, and it is the USATF National Championship.  Although I knew I was running it for quite some time, probably 3 months before the race, I held off on registering until the Tuesday before the race.  Signing up late meant spending a little more money on the registration but I didn't want to run my first 100 without being prepared as well as I needed to be - so I waited until I felt comfortable with it.

Before I get on to the race, I want to post the six weeks of training leading up to the race - I was lacking updates on this blog for the past few months.  For my complete and day-to-day updated training log, you can always visit Running2win.

6/20 Mon - AM:  9 mi (1:12:38) Linden Hill Repeats with Wysocki.  PM:  5 mi (36:13)
6/21 Tues - PM:  13 mi (1:32:10) Barefoot at Kitteridge Fields in Boulder
6/22 Wed - AM:  10 mi (1:15:45) Garden of the Gods.  PM:  3 mi (27:20)  Hoosier Pass at 12,000 ft.
6/23 Thur - AM:  10 mi (2:45:00) Hoosier Pass, sucking air and walking at 13,000 ft.
6/24 Fri - AM:  9 mi (1:12:16) Winter Park, CO.  PM:  9 mi (1:06:38) Evergeen, CO
6/25 Sat - AM:  10 mi (1:22:07) Evergreen, CO.  PM:  7 mi (54:49) Golden, CO
6/26 Sun - AM:  12 mi (1:40:32) Golden, CO.  PM:  5 mi (36:53) Golden, CO
Total:  102 mi (14:42:21)

6/27 Mon - AM:  19 mi (2:35:01) Golden, CO
6/28 Tues - AM:  18 mi (2:25:00) Lake Fremont, WY.  PM:  7 mi (57:05) Lake Fremont, WY
6/29 Wed - AM:  8 mi (1:04:21) Lake Fremont, WY.  PM:  10 mi (1:22:00)  Halfmoon Lake
6/30 Thur - AM:  8 mi (1:05:30) Halfmoon Lake, WY.  PM:  12 mi (1:34:38) Granite Creek
7/1 Fri - AM:  11 mi (1:28:03) Granite Creek, WY.  PM:  12 mi (1:25:11) Grand Tetons NP
7/2 Sat - AM:  14 mi (2:00:24) Grand Tetons NP.  PM:  7 mi (50:11) Alta, WY
7/3 Sun - AM:  17 mi (2:18:30) Grand Tetons NP.  PM:  3 mi (22:58) Alta, WY
Total:  146 mi (19:28:52)

Totals for August:  390 mi (51:03:03)

7/4 Mon - AM:  10 mi (1:12:39) Alta, WY
7/5 Tues - AM:  10 mi (1:13:11) St. Louis, MO
7/6 Wed - AM:  11 mi (1:18:43) Cincinnati, OH  PM:  9 mi (1:10:10)  Great Seal
7/7 Thur - PM:  25 mi (3:16:48)
7/8 Fri - AM:  10 mi (1:16:00)  PM:  15 mi (1:48:52)
7/9 Sat - AM:  10 mi (1:12:49)  PM:  20 mi (2:40:04)  Strouds Run
7/10 Sun - AM:  10 mi (1:18:48)  PM:  10 mi (1:15:25)
Total:  140 mi (17:43:29)

7/11 Mon - AM:  5 mi (37:53)  PM:  15 mi (1:56:26)
7/12 Tues - AM:  10 mi (1:20:00) 
7/13 Wed - AM:  10 mi (1:13:30)  PM:  15 mi (1:51:12)
7/14 Thur - AM:  8 mi (1:00:30)  PM:  17 mi (2:07:16) 
7/15 Fri - AM:  13 mi (1:35:54)  PM:  10 mi (1:12:10)  Scioto Trails with John IV 
7/16 Sat - AM:  34 mi (4:37:30)  Great Seal, solo run  PM:  4 mi (31:00)  Brown Cabin
7/17 Sun - AM:  16 mi (1:50:27)  Shawnee State Forest with Bears  PM:  5 mi (37:59)
Total:  162 mi (20:31:47)

7/18 Mon - AM:  10 mi (1:16:28)  PM:  7 mi (49:58)
7/19 Tues - AM:  7 mi (51:53)  PM:  10 mi (1:20:00)  Strouds Run with Big Jim and Breydon
7/20 Wed - AM:  10 mi (1:12:42)  PM:  13 mi (1:39:27)
7/21 Thur - AM:  7 mi (52:42) 
7/22 Fri - PM:  17 mi (2:13:00)
7/23 Sat - PM:  20 mi (2:29:48)
7/24 Sun - AM:  10 mi (1:16:29)  PM:  9 mi (1:07:05)
Total:  120 mi (15:09:32)

7/25 Mon - AM:  8 mi (1:00:01)  PM:  12 mi (1:31:08)
7/26 Tues - AM:  10 mi (1:15:10) 
7/27 Wed - AM:  8 mi (57:50)
7/28 Thur - PM:  5 mi (37:30) 
7/29 Fri - PM:  3 mi (22:30)  Station Rd Bridge
7/30 Sat - 100 mi (16:26:00)  2011 Burning River 100
7/31 Sun - AM:  NO RUN
Total:  146 mi (22:10:09)

Totals for July:  632 mi (84:00:14) 

At 5 a.m. a crowd of about 280 runners gathered in the field at Squires Castle to begin a long day of running through a network of trails and roads in Northeast Ohio for the 5th Annual Burning River 100 - this was also the 2011 USATF 100 Mile Trail Championship.  I was anxiously awaiting my 100 debut to start.

We started through the field and quickly jumped onto River Rd. for nearly 10 miles of hard asphalt running - this predictably made for the fastest section of the entire day, but surprisingly quicker than most of us imagined.  David James, who I had not known before the race, quickly was out of my sight and I settled into a group of a few other runners, Eric Grossman, Jordan Whitlock, and Jay Aldous.  We arrived at the Polo Fields aid station (9.6 mi) in a quick time of 1:09:00, 7:11 pace.  Dave was already a couple minutes ahead of us.

From there, we entered trails and with muddy horse worn sections and small creek crossings the pace began to slow into an actual 100 mile pace - though the pace continued to slow all day long.  By the Shadow Lake aid station (18.6 mi), Dave came back to us and there was a solid pack of four guys running in the front that continued until Station Rd. Bridge aid station one-third of the way through the race (33.3 mi.).
Nearing Station Rd. Bridge at 33.3 miles.  From left to right: David James, Jordan Whitlock, me, and Eric Grossman.  Photo by Josh Stacher

At this point in the race I was still feeling fresh; I had not yet went over my longest training run distance and was at 4:18:00 - 7:45 pace.  I was very surprised at the faster pace, but I knew the hillier sections were in the last half of the course.

I made a quick stop to fill up my bottles and before I could get going, Dave James was already out.  I would be chasing him the rest of the day.  Eric stopped to change his shoes so I was now running second overall and by myself for the first time - Eric caught back up quickly though and things remained about the same for a good portion of the race, except that Dave was increasing his lead every aid station.  At 43.8 miles he was 9 minutes ahead of us and then 14 minutes ahead at the first Boston Store aid station (49.1 mi). 
Eric and I coming into the Halloween spirited Ottawa Point (39.6 mi).

It was nice running with Eric for basically the first 53 miles of the race.  We kept a conversation the majority of the time and I learned a lot about ultra running from him, as he has been through this a bit more than I have.  I think we were both a bit surprised to keep hearing Dave was increasing his lead by so much in a short period of time - I felt that we were running pretty hard.  Compared to running short races, hearing that someone is 14 minutes ahead sounds like a lot of time to make up.
Coming into Boston Store 1, 49.1 miles, with Eric Grossman.  Photo by Eric Lammers

After leaving Boston Store 2, I passed Eric up a hill and kept increasing my lead.  I found out later that he dropped out at around 70 miles.  On the out and back section from Pine Lane (58.3), I saw Dave and he was looking pretty good, but had only increased his lead by one more minute.  Seeing him gave me a little more motivation and I kept telling myself that I could still reel him in a little at a time.

The section between Pine Lane and Happy Days (63.8) was a long stretch of road and then gravel/paved bike path and even though I dreaded these sections, I knew that I could use these as a positive to get my legs rolling and maybe pick up some ground.  At Happy Days I was happy to hear that I had actually picked up a little time on the leader, albeit one minute.  I also learned that I was 16 minutes ahead of 3rd place, Jay Aldous.
Coming into Pine Hollow at mile 70.  Photo by Josh Stacher

At Pine Hollow 2 (73.9 mi) I was still making progress, now 13 minutes behind.  I was working really hard for that one minute!  Mentally, I was still in the game and I was confident that if I kept doing what I was doing I could keep closing the gap.  Physically I was feeling alright as well.  My stomach was not an issue, and although my legs were more sore than they had ever been, it was manageable.
David James not letting up.  Photo by Josh Stacher

The next section to Covered Bridge 1 (80.5 mi) was a long 6.6 mile stretch of mostly trails and I made a concentrated effort to push harder than I had been in hopes that he would have a hard time on the longer than normal section without aid.  When I came into the Covered Bridge I learned that I made up three more minutes and was now within 10 minutes of Dave!  I was also 17 minutes ahead of Jay, who continued to stay consistent in third place.

The wheels began to fall off in the next section... looking back, pushing hard from Pine Hollow to Covered Bridge probably took a lot out of me.  The 4.7 mile section from Covered Bridge 1 to Covered  Bridge 2 took over an hour and I lost 15 minutes to Dave.  So after getting the lead down to 10 minutes, he had 25 minutes on me, just like that.  My legs were shot and I was walking the uphills and downhills and barely jogging the flats.  Mentally, I never considered dropping out - but I was worried that I was going to have to walk the last 20 miles of the race.
Boston Store 2.  Photo by Eric Lammers

I sat at the Covered Bridge 2 aid station for 9 minutes trying to refocus.  The gracious volunteers and my crew (mom, dad, and grandpa) surely did a great job of getting me what I needed and back on my feet.  As I was sitting there, I moved into 3rd place for the first time in 30 miles as Jay got in and out quickly.

After getting going again I still had trouble running and walked the majority of the road section after Covered Bridge.  I knew Mark Godale was coming on me and he finally caught me as we entered the trail going up to O'Neil Woods aid station (88.5 mi).  Mark gave me a few words of motivation and I got into a rhythm and ran right behind him.  Going back down the trail after O'Neil Woods, Mark stopped and I kept going and entered the towpath trail and ran to Merriman Rd. aid station (93 mi).
Memorial Parkway aid station (96 miles).  Putting the headlamp on for the last little trail section.

After basically walking miles 80-87, I was running again and the 7 more miles to the finish was enough to keep me going.  My last 13 miles were 9:05 pace, the fastest I had ran since 43 miles.  I made my way into Cuyahoga Falls and finished in 3rd place with a final time of 16:26:00.

Complete Results are HERE.

My first 100 mile race was all that I hoped it was going to be, and then some.  I learned so much from doing this and have a lot of things I can take away that I liked and things that I will do differently.  I was in the race to win it and even though I did not win, I went for it - maybe I went for it a little to hard, too early but I made a decision at 73 miles to go hard because at the time I was feeling good.  I didn't want to waste moments that late in the race when I was feeling good.  The beginning of the race started out fast.  I didn't think there would be much running under 8 minute pace, let alone the first 35 miles.  I did a 34 mile training run much slower than that.

Fueling is what I felt I did best in this race; my stomach never gave me an issue.  Don't ask me to eat another gel anytime soon though.  One thing that I made certain of, thanks to Eric Grossman for an early reminder, was taking salt.  S!Caps were what I used and they worked great.  I used many different types of gels throughout the race, GU, PowerGel, and Hammer Gel.  I ate a few packets of GU Chomps and Clif Bloks throughout the day as well.  I did not have a plan, or calorie count per hour, or any real routine with what I was putting in me - I went off of feel and simply kept taking something every so often.  I carried two bottles with me the entire race and could have probably carried only one in some sections.  I had Gatorade in one and water in the other for the first third of the race and switched to just water the rest of the way.  This seemed to work good for me.  I ate a little salty snacks at some aid stations and remember vividly the refreshing watermelon at the Pine Hollow.
Standing with the winner, Dave James.

My crew of my family did a great job even if they don't have as much experience as some of the other runners crew.  We all learned a lot from seeing what the other runners did in terms of preparation at aid stations.  Mentally I stayed strong the majority of the race.  The slow 7 mile section I had after Covered Bridge was my only lapse in staying focused.  I probably could have ran through it, but it was the first time my legs was experience real resistance.  I eventually got it under control and ran through it, but it took me a while to accept running through a little burn.

I was also very impressed with the course.  I was scared of reading about stories of even the best ultra runners taking wrong turns or getting off course from poorly marked sections.  I hardly had to think twice on which way to go the entire day.  Every turn was properly marked and no time was wasted in figuring out where I needed to go.  Race Director Joe Jurczyk and all volunteers of the race did a fantastic job at making this a good experience for the runners.  
Photo by Josh Stacher

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Check Out This Blog.....

I want to recommend and ask for anyone reading this to check out a friend of mines blog.  Her and her friend are both recovering from an injury that has kept them away from running for quite a while now and have decided to create a blog together to learn, reflect, and become whole runners again.  They have different styles of training and mileage but results are very similar.  My friend, AyeDubbs (her alias on the blog), is better at longer distances and consistently pounded out 100+ mile weeks before her injury and CClark trains shorter distances and faster workouts and is better at the mile and shorter events.  They remind me of Keegan and myself, as we are train very differently (he trains fast at 60 miles a week and I train slow at 120 miles a week) but still have 8k PR's only 5 seconds apart.

Their path to recovery is different too and are trying different methods to recover.  They hope to learn from each other and ultimately get to the same point, again - that is to be able to run healthy and free.

Check out their blog, they just started it today but plan on updating very soon!  Leave comments, offer advice, and help them in any way.  I am still convinced AyeDubbs is bound to be an ultra runner someday but she is too fast for that right now - maybe she just doesn't want to show up all the men at local 50k's and 50 milers - she won't let me convince her to do them but someday she'll fold ;).

Here is the website.  I also will have it linked up on the right side of my blog for future clicks - give em support!

A Clean Slate - Two Runners, One Goal...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Colorado and Wyoming

I just recently returned to Ohio after a 15 day trip to Colorado and Wyoming.  I had a great, low cost opportunity to fly into Denver, meet my former roommate, Reece, who had been on Geology class trips in the West since May and spend a couple weeks camping, running, and relaxing in the mountains.  Reece was slated for two three night shows at Red Rocks and then up in Alta, WY so I was in for the ride.

The tip started out in Boulder where I met Reece and the next morning we drove down through Colorado Springs and headed Northwest and camped at Hoosier Pass.  The next day we drove through Breckenridge and camped short of the town Winter Park.  The next town we went to was Evergreen and then into Golden while Reece drove to Morrison three nights of concerts.  That Monday we headed North toward Wyoming and found Lake Fremont.  This was a prime campsite that we ended up staying for two night.  We traveled just a little ways away to Halfmoon Lake and enjoyed another nice lakeside site.  We headed further north to Granite Creek campsite areas within the Targhee National Forest boundaries and camped under some massive mountains that made the sun set a little earlier than normal.  After one night at Granite Creek we drove to the Tetons and into Alta, Wyoming which is to the West of the Tetons.  This is where we stayed in a cabin for three nights that was reserved for Reece's mom, who ended up not being able to make the trip.  Three nights here and then we drove the 29 hours East and finally made it to Ohio.

The trip gave great chances for me to be in the mountains and get a lot more experience running in the mountains.  I saw a lot of wildlife that I had never seen in the wild before and felt the real solitude of being alone on a mountain top for the first time.  Although I didn't record such surreal moments accurately enough, here are some of the pictures I took while on the trip:

This is Reece's CRV somewhere close to Freely, CO.
Looking at the map searching for a place to camp and run for the next few days in Grant County.

Here is our campsite at Hoosier Pass which the Continental Divide runs through - sits nicely at ~12,000 ft.

Another view from Hoosier Pass - these peaks around us are nearly 14,000 ft.
Campsite number two near Robbers Roost in some National Forest I forget the name of.
Eating on the hood of the car - Frijole Roll-Ups with re-fried beans and rice. 
Saw this guy hiding in the shade one morning after unzipping the tent door.
Up above the quaint ski town of Winter Park.
Aptly named - Red Rocks
If I played music I would love to play in such a natural amphitheater.
This is Lake Fremont, the first night after leaving Colorado and going to the Wyoming wilderness.  Just an amazing location.
Reece getting dinner ready.
These little guys were not shy.
Lake Fremot from up above.
Soaking my legs in Lake Fremont and being so comfortable.  The lake was too cold to swim in but perfect ice bath temperature.

Halfmoon lake campsite.
We didn't eat lightly on this trip that's for sure - Burgers with fresh peppers and then chicken brats the next night. 
A grove of Aspens.
Reece and I decided to wade across this because we thought the trail picked up at the other end - we were wrong.
This is what it turned into.

The hardest, fastest flowing mountain stream I have ever saw - beautiful.
Spectacular singletrack.
This is what I woke up to in Granite Creek, WY.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Yearning for Trails

I wish the phrase "the long and winding road" would be "the long and winding trail."  Since moving back to Meigs County, I have not been running many trails.  It's been about four weeks now and I have touched trail just once - I had to drive 30 minutes to get there and they were mostly overgrown.  I was fortunate to have easy access to trails for the past four years via Shawnee State Forest when I was at school, but there are no trails around here.  To be relieved from asphalt I mostly run the gravel roads that are plentiful in Meigs County... they don't compare to sweet singletrack though. 

Luckily for me, I will be spending a good bit of time on trails in the coming weeks.  I am flying out to Denver to meet a friend on the 21st and heading up to Boulder for a little while and then down to Colorado Springs and camping a few nights.  After my friend leaves to go up to the Tetons with his mom, I don't know how much longer I will stay out there - hopefully a good while.  I am definitely looking forward to running on the trails in the Springs and wherever else I go.  If I am still around for the 8th I would love to head to Silverton and watch Hardrock... I've never been to a 100 miler.  I just don't have much way of transportation besides public transit and my feet.  Should be a good time.

Since the marathon 16 days ago I have resumed running normally.  I ran the day after and decided to take two days off, since then I have been running a good bit.  Last week I hit 82 miles for the week and my body feels smooth and rejuvenated despite the 90+ degree weather.  Summer running has always been my favorite season to run - probably because its a time to just run mileage and no workouts or races.  Now that college running is over, I guess that's what I'll be doing year-round. 

That's it for now.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Bit of Closure - NAIA Marathon

When my cross country season ended last November, I had thought my career of being a college athlete had ended as well.  Shawnee State had never competed as a varsity track team and I was going to forgo running as a club team, like in the previous years, and divert my focus to ultra-running - that was my plan for a couple years leading up to that point.  To make that focus even more real I competed in two ultras less than two months after cross country ended and I had no plans on stopping the trend.  Then, February came around...

I heard some news from my teammates that Eric was making a push to get a varsity track program approved for the upcoming outdoor season.  This happened every year and the proposal was always shot down from the board, so there was no reason to get our hopes up this time.  This time was different; there were new members on the board and by the first week of March, it was official that Shawnee State was able to compete as a varsity track team (this is to say that the cross country team made up - and will make up for several years - the entire track team).  My plans in ultra-running halted and I began to map out a season of running track once again.

The NAIA is different from the NCAA in a couple ways.  1.)  5K Racewalk is an event at Nationals - I personally don't think this is an event that should be held but it is an Olympic event and it makes the NAIA different in that regard.  2.)  The Marathon is an event at Nationals.  People from the NCAA find this amusing and make fun of the NAIA for this, but if there is an meet displaying all distances of running, how can the marathon be left out?  This also gives a chance for seniors not able to qualify in another event to run at Nationals and represent their team.  Even though I also qualified for the 10K, I decided to train and go to Nationals in the marathon.

This was a perfect opportunity for me.  My training was more geared for a marathon, I was interested in seeing what I could run in a marathon, and most importantly, the All-American status that had eluded me in cross country was up for grabs for the top 6 finishers.  I also thought I had a good chance of winning the entire race - and was aiming for first.

The set up at the Indiana Wesleyan was great for Nationals.  All of the athletes stayed in the college dorms and dined at the dining hall on campus.  It was suppose to mimic the Olympic Village atmosphere with everyone staying in one location.  This also made it great for the schools to plan the trip.  I arrived to campus late Wednesday and relaxed watching all the prelims on two gloomy days leading up to the marathon that started at 6 a.m. on Saturday.
Early in the race, before 5 miles.
My goal was to put myself in position to win the race.  I did not know how to do this efficiently but shortly into the race I decided I should do this by sticking with whoever was leading.  The course was two loops with a 2 mile finishing section that was not repeated.  On the backside of the loop was a semi challenging portion with many little turns and many short hills; this section was miles 3-7 and 15-19.  After the hills was a 2 mile straight stretch that was fairly flat but this was also the only section that we encountered wind.  After the straight was when we turned onto the Cardinal Greenway, which is a Rails to Trail path that lasted a little over 2 miles.  Turning off the path we went downhill for about a mile where we made a 120 degree turn onto the second loop or straight into campus to finish.
Gaynor and me near mile 5.
There was a pack of about 10 people for the first couple miles of the race.  This narrowed down to four people, Tubei from Park, Gaynor from Malone, a kid from Biola, and myself at around three miles.  This pack remained close until halfway through the greenway when the Biola kid dropped off.  Once he dropped off Tonui from Hannibal came roaring past us and Gaynor and Tubei went with him.  I stayed a few seconds back and a mile later we were all packed together again.  I didn't want to make any drastic pace changes this early.  Tonui fell behind us after his surge but did this type of thing several more times throughout the race, each time coming back.
Before 9 miles, lead pack of 4.  Winner is on the far left.
Through the half mark it was the four of us running in front at 1:13:50.  Near the entrance to the hills, another Park runner Chelulei caught us and the two Park Kenyon's took off with the lead.  Gaynor and Tonui went with them for a little bit and I didn't at all.  All of us in the lead pack started to string out now and I was in 5th.  I tried to push hard through these hills but I was noticing my splits were getting slower and slower.  After consistently staying under 5:35 for the previous 6 miles, mile 17 was 5:47.  Then, mile 18 was 5:52.  It is not that the hills were super steep or long, but they were just a nuisance.  Every time a hills started, it was after a 90 degree turn to begin the climb - it was hard to keep momentum through this section.  

Although I was slowing down and the leaders were pulling away, I managed to pass Gaynor and move into 4th place again.  But, as soon as I passed one Malone guy, the other Malone runner, Tony Migliozzi, who I was most worried about, came up on me and I was unable to go with him.  It seemed that he had ran a smart first half and was just getting rolling when he passed me.  Back in 5th.
Gaynor with me trailing around 14 miles.
  I tried to keep everyone in front of me in sight - but pushing hard through the hills was catching up with me as I ran 5:59, 6:01, and 6:03 from miles 19-21.  This is also where two teammates from Oklahoma Baptist passed me.  I was now in 7th, non All-American, for the first time in the race.  This was that terrible straight stretch with the wind in the my face.  I learned throughout this race that wind was something I deal with worse mentally than anything else in a race.

Entering the Cardinal Greenway for the second time I knew I needed to get something rolling again and I began to focus on the next guy ahead of me, which was the pesky Tonui.  I didn't catch him until about 23.5 miles.  It was weird that when I passed him he started to walk.  He ended up finishing 8th.  I was now happy to be in the top 6 and it seemed I was fairly far away from the two Okla. Bap. guys in 4-5th.  Turning off of the greenway and onto the downhill straight stretch into campus I started feeling good and making a push for the finish.  This is when I realized I could catch the two Okla. Bap. guys and Chelulei from Park who was noticeably struggling.  Before I passed him I watch as he trotted through the last aid station - I moved into 5th.

With 2.2 miles to go I set my sights on the two teammates ahead of me and was surprised to pass them right as we entered the campus.  There was about 1.5 miles left and I was in 3rd.  At this point I just mentally told myself not fall off and get re-passed.

One emotionally charged moment for me was at the mile 25 mark when I saw and heard my parents and grandpa.  The last time they saw me, I was in 7th place and probably looked like I was struggling.  They were very enthusiastic sounding and very happy to see I was in 3rd place.  I got chills as I ran past them.  I ended up finishing 3rd at 2:30:07.  Tubei won in 2:27:12 and Migliozzi was ahead of me at 2:28:29.


So, after four years of running not quite good enough to be All-American, I finally got a last chance to do it and the dream came true.  It was nice to get the track program at SSU started off in the right direction and give Coach Putnam his 5th All-American.    

Here are my splits in the race.  It was easy to see where I started falling off, and luckily regrouping:

5:15 (This mile marker was said to be short, which makes sense)
11:42 for miles 9-10
5:32 (1:13:50 for 13.1)
11:48 for miles 23-24
1:11 for last .2 (1:16:17 for second 13.1)

As far as time goes, I am pleased.  I know with a faster course and more competition I could drop that time considerably.  Looking back on this day, I wish I would have started out a little slower, because I think I could have ran the last half a lot faster than I did.  That might of gave me a better chance of getting 2nd or maybe winning.  But, I went with the top group and tried to hold on and even though I fell off it wasn't too much.

People are telling me I should focus on marathons for a while and try to hit the 2:19 Olympic Trials standard.  Can I go over 11 minutes faster?  Who knows.  Maybe if I hired a coach or trained the way marathoners trained I could make a solid attempt, but those are the exact reasons I don't want to run marathons.  My reluctance to do more marathons would hold me back to much for me to even try to make an attempt.  I don't want to cheat running like that.  Maybe someday?  For now, I want to run on trails, not have to worry about cranking 10 mile tempo runs and bashing my feet into concrete for 26.2 miles.  I want to continue what I love.

Run On