Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 North Face Endurance Challenge Race Report

I always revel in tradition.  Sometimes going back to a place that is particularly meaningful for some reason or another after not being there for some time can make that place even more meaningful.  It's about creating memories and experiences in that place and then revisiting them.  My first ultramarathon was in 2010 at TNF EC 50 Championship in California.  The experience of a first ultra alone will always stand out for an ultramarathon runner; in 2010, the field was stacked as always and I was shown the beautiful world of the ultra running community along with an amazingly scenic course.  Since then, I'd hoped and wanted to travel back to California for this event.  This year I finally had the opportunity to do so.

Going into the race I was calm and relaxed and looking forward to being free from school and work and enjoying a beautiful area of the States.  I've run three ultras that took place during or close to finals week of school and I've always took that time to relax and reset my mind; spending over 7 hours in nature is a great way to do that, even if it is a competitive atmosphere.  Speaking of competition, this years version of TNF50 was possibly the most competitive year yet, maybe even the most competitive 50 mile trail race ever.  Check out iRunFar's preview to see the pre-race excitement.  I was mentioned as a "top-ten longshot."  I will take that honor when stacked up against all the names above me!

All photo's by Bobbi or Becca Owen.
I'm always fast to arise the morning of a race and eager to begin the adventure.  I was late getting into the starting corral and settled in a position about 10 people deep.  All the who's who of the ultra running world were standing in the chaos in front of me, including all the elite women.  After the 10 to 1 countdown, we set off to a pace that seemed quick, probably because I was trying to inch my way through the crowd - soon though I settled into a place that I felt comfortable with beside the "older" guys like Karl Meltzer, Dave Mackey, and Mike Wardian.  These guys were sure to set an even, controlled pace even if there were 25-30 people in front of us.

We made our way up the Bobcat Trail and around to Alta and back down the Rodeo Valley Trail where everyone bypassed the first water stop.  I didn't have a good idea of our pace but I wasn't surprised to look ahead and see a few outlying headlamps bobbing in front of the main large group; I joked with someone that it was sure to be Cameron Clayton, and it was.  The pace was somewhat relaxed though as we made our way up another stinger and down into the Tennessee Valley aid station at 8.7 miles.

The section after Tennessee Valley is one of my favorites - once we crest the ridge, not only are runners able to look behind and see a beautiful string of headlamps gritting their way up the Coastal Fire Road, but its the first time we get a good glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.  Overlooking Pirates Cove, as in 2010, I was greeted by a dimly lit horizon with a foggy ocean speckled with little lights of boats on the water.  This is all right before bombing down a semi-technical singletrack section before going up and down into Muir Beach.
A nice elevation profile from the runners packet - the big uphill stands out in the middle but it was the downhill at mile 26 and the cumulative short downs that really did it in for my quads. 
From here and onward for the next 7 miles or so, I was running next to Alex Nichols.  I had just read a RunTramp article on Alex and knew of his recent success in the Skyrunning Series - in my mind Alex was a contender and I was more than pleased to be able to lead him up the largest single uphill of the day going into Cardiac at mile 17.9.  I felt confident with my uphill running all day and Cardiac gave me some added spark going past Pantoll and onto a fairly flat portion of smooth trail.  Shortly after leaving Cardiac I saw Miguel Heras, two time winner of TNF50, walking back toward the aid station - he was the first known drop of the day.  I was thinking maybe there would be some carnage from that huge front pack. 

After getting onto the Matt Davis Trail I got ahead of Alex and didn't see him the rest of the day - I later learned he dropped.  I caught and passed a struggling Matt Flaherty - told him congratulations on his JFK50 win a couple weeks ago and got onto the only out and back section of the course, the Coastal Trail.  After passing a couple people and feeling confident from the long climb up Cardiac, I came down to earth a little, the spark of nailing Cardiac had died.  Mike Wardian and someone else came blazing by me and I was hardly able to respond, I just didn't have the legs on this semi-flat section of the course.  Shortly after this Peter Hogg caught up to me again - we met up earlier in the dark and exchanged pleasantries.  Peter ran an incredible Burning River 100 in July beating me by a staggering 1hr20min - and since I finished 2nd, his time was that much more impressive!  I was stronger on the early hills but now he had re-caught me - we ran and chatted for the rest of the Coastal Trail until the turn around at McKinnons Gulch at 22.7 miles.  While running with Peter we got a brief glimpse of the leaders when they came back through on the out and back - we noted that we were probably in about 25th place and 12-15 minutes back.  Peter got out of the aid station about 10 seconds quicker than me and unfortunately I was never able to catch back up to him.  He ended up running a great second half, finishing 14th place and 20 minutes ahead of me.

Definitely not rushing through Stinson Beach aid station - trying to find salt.
After the out and back was the longest downhill of the day on the Matt Davis Trail leading into Stinson Beach - I wanted to take it easier on this section in attempts to save my quads.  I took it easy but it was still a struggle.  My downhill training is just not adequate and I didn't feel confident with my quads going into Stinson Beach at mile 27.7.  I lost a place or two on the downhill and could tell I was losing more time.  But, I did what most ultra runners do best, put my head down and move relentlessly toward the finish line.  The next section is the section that I faltered most in 2010, and the same was true for this year.  The Dipsea Trail leading to Cardiac for the second time is probably the most steep section of trail - it is relentless.  Unfittingly for me, this is the most beautiful forested section of the course and I wish I could say the reason I was so slow through here was because I was stopping to admire the lush ravines.  But, my head was focused on the ground "above" as I attempted to power-hike as fast as I could up the many stair steps on Dipsea.  I passed a Geoff Roes who was a spectator this year and he assured me a lot of other people were struggling on this section as well, but I doubted they were as slow as me.  Eventually after a grueling 2.7 miles and probably one hour +, I reached Cardiac aid station for the second time at mile 30.4 and refueled. 

After the race I broke my day down into three sections: a good first 20 miles, a very slow middle 10 miles, and a regrouped last 20 miles.  Shortly after Cardiac is when my race turned around and I can credit a lot of this to women's 50 mile leader and eventual winner, Michele Yates.  Michele passed me on the Dipsea Trail no more than 2 minutes after I left the Cardiac aid station and I followed along.  I had never met Michele but I definitely recognized her from the success she has had in 2013.  I was not surprised to see her passing me at that point - she was running super strong up and down hills and I was just happy to be moving again.

From here I ran the majority of the winding 6 miles to the Old Inn aid station at mile 36.3, trying to keep up with Michele.  Sometimes I would be in front of her, and sometimes she would be in front of me; we were never more than 10-15 seconds apart.  I didn't stop for long at Old Inn and made my way to Muir Beach at mile 39.9.  Getting to the 10 miles to go mark is always refreshing in an ultra - I was actually excited to attack the steep hill after Muir Beach.  I strongly power hiked the majority of the hill and ran when I could.  At this point I got into a nice rhythm of power hiking the steepest hills and running everything else; I was also sort of over the fact that my quads were rocked and decided running faster downhill was less painful.

Coming into Tennessee Valley aid station with 6 miles to go.
Coming into Tennessee Valley aid station at mile 44, I was shortly ahead of Michele but she got out before I did and it took me half of the next hill to catch her.  I remembered this hill from 2010 when I was in a battle with Thomas Lorblanchet of who could hike the fastest to the top - he won.  This year I felt good enough to run the entire hill; as I passed Michele I gave her some more words of encouragement.  I can't imagine the emotions that must have been going through her head with five miles to go - she was running for the win, a hefty prize, and from the unknown of who might come from behind.  I was glad to turn around shortly after finishing and see her come in less than a minute behind me for the victory.  She ran an incredibly strong race and rejuvenated mine... the way she ran during the ~18 miles we were together, I just thought she was way up on the ladies field.  In reality though there was a good race behind her and she had to work hard to finish it out.  That just shows the level of competitiveness that women are seeing in ultra's.
The last five miles for me was good - I passed a few guys and was told with a few miles to go that I was in 20th place.  I had just passed Scott Breeden at that time and my goal became to finish it out without getting passed to stay in the top 20.  It was tough hammering the last two mile downhill after the Alta aid station with Scott right on my heels, and then to summon up one last finish on the pavement, but I was able to and finished barely ahead of him.  I ended up finishing 19th so I was going to be in the top 20 regardless, but it felt good to "race" at the end.  My official time was 7:21:09.

As always iRunFar was on hand to provide comprehensive coverage of the race.  They just continue to lead the way in ultramarathon news and race coverage, providing spectators at home "up close and personal" live insight to races.  For complete results and references, check out their TNF EC 50 Results Article.
Fun Fact: the lady behind me in the above picture was a finisher of the 50k - her last name was also Owen.  What are the odds.
Although I've now completed nine ultra's, I continue to learn and discover aspects to improve on, weaknesses that need addressed, and new strengths that need continual fining.  TNF EC 50 was no different.  There are many points about TNF EC 50 that are worth bulleting:
  • Race specific training needs to be more specific.  I like to run trails.  A lot of times I find myself running trails at a casual pace.  For races like this, I need to be fast in order to compete.  Incorporating some, well probably a lot, of speed work in some fashion is needed.
  • Find downhill's, pound them a lot in training.  Southeastern Ohio has hills - they are short, steep and rugged.  Unfortunately they are not long.  I feel like I am adequately prepared for the amount of uphill's in a race like TNF EC 50 since there is no altitude, but the downhill's got me.  My quads need to experience that pounding in training.
  • Competition is fun, but be ready for it.  This goes hand in hand with the above two points.  I don't race often, and enjoy trails on a training basis a lot, but when I do race, I like to find competitive races.  TNF EC 50 was super competitive, but I don't think I was ready for it.  Maybe I got psyched out.  I thought it would be nice to finish in the top 3, and even thought I might have a chance, but I was fooling myself because of the first two points.  I didn't train to compete for the top spots, and that is on me.  I got to wrapped up in "thinking" I was training good. 
  • I can eat and drink less.  At Burning River 100 I ate a ton and drank a ton, I stopped an peed I don't know how many times during that race.  At TNF EC 50, I ate less and drank less.  I didn't have to stop as much, really only twice to pee and that was all.  During cooler races, I can alter my nutrition and intake to help my performance and stopping time.  I can also pee while moving - who knew!?
  • Being happy with any performance.  I had never finished outside the top 10 in an ultra prior to TNF EC 50.  This time I finished 19th.  Even though it was my lowest finish, I was still stoked to finish and have the experience I did.  Ultra running in getting super competitive.  I ran only 4 minutes slower at the same race on a similar course in 2010 but finished 9th that year.  Never be dissatisfied after finishing an ultramarathon!
  • Women are catching men and I was almost chicked!  I had never thought about losing to a female in a race, until Michele Yates passed me at mile 31.  I can't lie, the thought of losing to a woman was motivating at the time, but getting beat by someone like Michele Yates, Ellie Greenwood or Emile Forsberg in an ultra is not bad - it just shows that women are bridging the gap to men in endurance performances and the social barriers should be taken down.  Later in the race, I looked at Michele as a competitor and that is what fueled me to stay with her.

Big thanks to my crew who traveled all the way out to California with me from Ohio (such a hard place to visit, huh?) - My wife Bobbi and sister Becca.  They are becoming quite the seasoned vets in ultra crewing :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Introducing Southeastern Ohio Trail Runners (SEOTR)

The past couple months you may have seen a couple posts about a new trail club I have been in the process of developing.  I'm excited to announce the formation of Southeastern Ohio Trail Runners or SEOTR, a new non-profit organization that covers SE Ohio.  SEOTR is a group of like-minded people from the area who love to run and who love trails.  Our mission and vision will be based around these objectives:
1. Create a community of trail runners - establish a trail running culture in SE Ohio
2. Direct and host high-quality trail races in SE Ohio
3. Give back to the trails we use

I'm excited to have the opportunity to be a part of such a great group and see the growth of trail running and ultra running in SE Ohio.  What is so special, I think, about this area is the abundance of state parks and state forests, etc. that are untapped with potential for prime trail running.  Myself, along with a contingent of other runners in SE Ohio, have made that connection with these natural areas and want to share them with the community in the form of group runs, trail races, and community events sponsored and put on by SEOTR.

In early November, an informal meeting and run was held in Athens, OH to "introduce" SEOTR.  22 people attended the meeting and 12 people shared a group trail run after at Strouds Run State Park.  After this, things started to get underway to make the organization "official" - sanctioning, 501(c)3 status, etc. 

Similar organizations and trail running cultures that I am aware of gave me a lot of inspiration in the development of SEOTR.  Groups such as WVMTR, VHTRC, and ultra-running cultures like the one in central VA, plus others from around the country have given me confidence and frameworks for a successful trail running group.

So, I wanted to use my personal blog to further expand SEOTR to the public.  SEOTR does not currently have a website and is using Facebook pages for information and reaching people.  A website is planned for the future though.  Click on the link below and "Like" SEOTR's page!  Some group runs are scheduled and you can see when on the events page.  If you are from SE Ohio, join us for a group run and be a part of our organization! 

"LIKE" SEOTR on Facebook   

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Inaugural Meeting for New Trail Running Club in SE Ohio

For now, I am using my blog to disseminate information on the formation of a new trail running club in Southeastern Ohio.  Sometime in the future, the organization will be looking to develop a website.

The first meeting for a new Trail Running Club that covers Southeastern Ohio will be held on November 10th at 4:00pm at the Athens Community Center. Everyone is invited – whether you are a seasoned trail runner, road runner, beginner runner, or just someone who enjoys the outdoors, we want you there! The meeting will cover topics such as:
-club logo and color (brand)    
-what the goals and objectives are
-what types of events will this club host
-how this club can give back to the community...
-and more!

Your ideas are what will make the club – since this is the first meeting, the direction and shape of this club will be influenced by you. The meeting will last about one hour, but please stay and join us for a group trail run after. From the Community Center, there is easy access to Sells Park and a wealth of singletrack trails that leads to Strouds Run State Park.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at or via Facebook. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Happy Trails,
Michael Owen

Monday, October 14, 2013

Next Race - TNF EC

Stolen from The North Face EC California-Championship Homepage
A couple days ago I registered for The North Face Endurance Challenge, California-Championship 50 mile race.  I'm stoked to have the opportunity to participate in this race again; in 2010 this served as my ultra running debut.  The race that year was considered one of the most competitive ultras to date.  Since then, of course, the ultra world has seen an emergence in prize money, elite athletes, sponsors, and internationalism - it seems like every big race is being dubbed "the most competitive."  With the race organizers deciding recently to open elite registration and the same $15,000 prize purse per gender being offered, this years version of TNF is sure to be just as exciting as past years.   

Without a doubt, my experience at the TNF EC in 2010 was very pleasurable and since then, I've been wanting to go back.  One moment I remember vividly in 2010 was coming  over a ridge on the Coastal Trail still early in the morning and looking out over a foggy Pacific Ocean and seeing a light on the water illuminating a sailboat.  These moments are what captures the imagination of my soul while trail running.  I'll be looking forward to similar experiences on December 7th.


p.s. - what will happen if the government is still shutdown come Dec. 7th, since the race is run on a NPS unit? :-)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Idea to Develop a Trail Running Club in Southeastern Ohio

For the past year I've been putting a lot of thought into developing a trail running club Southeastern Ohio (SEO).  I have the distinct opportunity through my graduate program at Ohio University to create a project that aims to make an impact on the community.  I believe a trail running club can make that positive impact in our community.

The intentions of the club would be to:
  • be 100% non-profit
  • be the central hub for SEO runners to seek information on trails in the area
  • host trail races and trail ultramarathons
  • hold group trail runs
  • develop trail running workshops
  • give back to the trails we love
  • ....and more.
This club would be a sanctioned non-profit club based out of Athens, OH, but would range across the entire Southeastern Ohio area.  There are so many great opportunities for trail running and SEO is blessed with a wealth of State Parks, State Forests, Wilderness Areas, and even a National Forest!  The aim is to create camaraderie with a collective group of like minded people who love trail running and who love giving back to nature.  It will also be a club for individuals who want to try out trail running for the first time or for people who want to start running for the first time!     
This project is in its early stages and I am calling for comments.  Let me know what you think of a trail running club.  Are you from SEO and interested in this idea?  Would you like to be a part of this club?  Do you have idea's on how to make a trail running club a success?  Are you not from Southeastern Ohio but have experience with trail running clubs?  Let me know!
Comment below and be sure to answer to poll question to the right!
Happy Trails,
Michael Owen 
Feel free to email me with any questions:

Early spring view up a bridle trail at Shawnee State Forest in Southeastern Ohio

Overlooking a foggy Brush Creek Forest in Southeastern Ohio

Monday, August 5, 2013

2013 Burning River 100 Mile Race Report

Races are an emotional endeavor - I find emotions to be especially amplified at 100 mile races.  The time and energy spent on training, the support and encouragement needed to pull through the actual endeavor, experiencing a shared-struggle with friends, and the outside trust put on race directors and volunteers to provide the necessary arrangements to make a 100 mile race go smoothly are all factors that contribute to this emotion.  Focusing on the self now, we have constant ups and downs, battling the mind and body to conquer numbness and pain, and finally, and hopefully, a felt sense of accomplishment after finishing the run.

I felt these emotions during this years Burning River 100 and harnessed them to have a satisfying race.  I had not raced since November of 2012 and in the eight months since, I took two months off from running while rehabilitating a strained groin, struggled to find the motivation that had always come easy, questioned my reason for running ultras, and questioned whether or not my training was sufficient to do well in a 100 mile race.  It's no wonder I found myself hugging my wife, choking back the tears and outflow of emotion after crossing the finish line after a "sprint finish" in 2nd place, 15hr48min17sec after starting.  This was a journey, and sometimes the journey is as memorable as the ending.

After finishing... sharing with Bobbi.  Photo by Steve Pierce
The morning started cool - low 60's with a bit of humidity laced in the air - rain was in the future.  The weather was polar opposite from when I ran Burning River 100 in 2011, my first 100 and only until this years - 95 degrees and extremely humid was the forecast for that day.  The difference in weather was welcomed by most runners but I knew that many runners might get in over their heads early in the race.  My race tactic remained the same - go out conservative and just wait, be patient.

I found myself running around 6-8th place in the early goings of the race.  My race was comfortably slower than 2011 in the early parts and that was just fine with me.  I was relaxed and content with letting other people spend energy in front of me.  One thing that I kept conscious of was to not let other people dictate the way I raced early in the day.  There were several occasions when I normally would have went with someone who passed me but didn't.  I came through the marathon mark in 3:23:00 in 7th place.  This was 7:44 pace - a pace that I figured would have me at a higher position, but also a pace that was very controlled.

To this point I had ran pretty much the entire race with Zach Bitter, whom I linked up with in the field of the starting area.  It is strange how friendships are formed along the trail - although Zach and I had met once before, we didn't really know much about each other.  We ended up sharing the first 50 miles together at Burning River before he went ahead of me, and during those ~7 hours, we got to know each other pretty well.  This is a characteristic of ultra-running that is unmatched by any other sport - intense competition equaled by intense camaraderie (and this was the "100 mile Trail National Championship"!).  Zach unfortunately got off course around mile 70 and cut a few miles off the course, which led to a disqualification.  I'm convinced he would have finished in front of me by many minutes if the mishap would not have occurred.

So, I had executed the first fourth of the race perfectly... I felt strong and Zach and I only waited for people to start coming back.  We talked about our pace and figured that if we were on course record pace in 5-6th place, that meant the top 4 people were well under course record pace and the odds of 6 people breaking the course record was low in my opinion.  This thought was reassuring - keep moving and people were sure to come back.
Running into an Aid Station with Zach around mile 42.  Rain has started.  Photo by Pat Dooley
The rain started mid-morning.  A light sprinkle turned into a hard rain and back to a light sprinkle again.  This trend continued until the afternoon.  The rain made the trails in the valleys of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park a sloppy mess.  From 40-50, Zach and I basically walked the downhills to prevent falling and half ran/half walked other sections.  I kept good spirits through this section and hoped that the runners in front experienced the same slowness that I was.  I second guessed my decision to lace up road flats (Nike Lunar Racers) as I fell on my butt a couple times.  After the race I learned that the guys who wore trail shoes with bigger lugs were able to get through the muddy sections with a lot more ease.  Nonetheless, I made it through these sections and savored the road/towpath sections more than I normally ever would.

The halfway point came in at 7:03:00 - Zach had just left me for the last time and I prepared to run the next 30 miles of the race alone.  These moments in a 100 miler, when you've crossed over the halfway point, and you know you have 50 more miles to run, knowing most of them will be alone, are a true test.  This is a point where you can be patient just a bit longer before waiting for the carnage.  The first person I saw drop out was Todd Braje at the 55 mile aid station.  More mud, and more miles.... I finally reached The Ledges aid station (mile 65.7) and saw my crew for the first time in 24 miles.  They were awesome all day - my wife, Bobbi, my dad, and my sister - and pretty much took care of keeping my mind in the game from mile 1 to 101.  I looked forward to the aid stations that allowed crew all day as a way to pass the miles.  Here, I learned I was in 4th place, with pretty big gaps in front of me.  Still, I just kept moving and being confident with my game plan.
Coming into the Ledges at 65.7 miles.  Photo by Johnny da Jogger
Talking to people at the aid station, trying to figure out how I moved into 3rd place without realizing it!
The next aid station (70.6 miles) is where I moved into 3rd place without realizing it.  The workers at the aid station asked if I had passed Zach Bitter.  I hadn't and only speculated that he was off the trail using the bath room or off course.  Later I learned about how he had gotten off course only to find trail markings to a different part of the course.  Tough luck on his part but this was another position up for me.  I rolled into Covered Bridge (79.6 miles) and once again was told I was higher up in the race than I realized.  Shaun Pope, who was only 8 minutes up on me at mile 70 had yet to come in but I never passed him.  I later found out he took a wrong turn and tacked on a few extra miles.  This moved me into second place for the first time.

The next section of the course was my downfall from 2011.  The 5 mile section after Covered Bridge forced me to walk and stagger and eventually sit down for 9 minutes.  This year I went into it with vengeance and for the first time all day, started to push.  Even though I thought I was moving well, almost immediately after Covered Bridge, I looked behind me and saw a runner that I hadn't seen all day.  Jim Sweeney caught up to me after running an incredible race, being in 14th place at mile 40.  This was a decisive point in the race for me.  Either let him go by and settle for 3rd or go with him and make a race out of it.  Fortunately as he moved by me on an uphill, I tucked in and ran with him.

After 30 miles of solo running, I was with someone again and it was nice having Jim to push me.  We interchanged leading on the trails and got wrapped up in conversation - once again, competitors showing camaraderie in the heat of battle.  We ran together to Howe Meadow at mile 90.7 and I left before he did.  I thought I escaped but he was back with me at mile 93.  From here, we ran into the last aid station at 96.2 miles and on to the finish.

I never expected to have to "race" the last mile of a 100 miler, but this is just what happened at Burning River.  Jim and I ran across the last trail section together, up the 200 stair steps leading into the town of Cuyahoga Falls, and onto the last little road section.  Side by side we ran, with hardly a word, but a few grunts signifying our shared discomfort.  The pace quickened as the finish line grew closer.  Each turn I expected to see the clock ahead, and each turn a surge was thrown in by one of us until finally the finish line was so close we could feel it.  At this point we were both maxed out on our speed and I was able to get a few steps in front of Jim.  And going what felt like 5 minute pace, I crossed just 14 seconds in front of Jim for second place at 15:48:17
Running as hard as I could at mile 100.9.  Photo by Steve Pierce

Hugging Jim Sweeney after finishing 14 seconds from each other.  Photo by Steve Pierce

Overall, this was an amazing experience and epic last 20 miles.  I was so blessed to have been able to share 50 miles with Zach and the last 20 with Jim.  Both provided great company and energy.  Like I mentioned before, my race plan was to stay consistent and wait.  It did not get me the win, because Peter Hogg ran an incredible course record at 14:25:14 (I was never even in the race for first - congrats to Peter for going for it and getting it done), but at least I stuck to my plan and let the cards play out.  My time was 38 minutes faster than it was two years ago and I finished one position better so I couldn't ask for more.  No super low points physically and only a few sluggish mental sections that I had to work through - and all in all I kept a pretty structured food intake, water intake, etc. plan.  The course was great and all the volunteers were so supportive and helpful.  The work from race directors, volunteers, and everyone who had a part in putting together the race need to be applauded.
Big thanks to my crew for being so helpful.
Here are my splits with time spent at aid stations in parenthesis.  Looking back, I probably spent ~23-25 minutes stopped at the aid station.  Strange to think of the time spent not running, but probably worth it.
Start - 00:00
6.2 - 51:00 (-)
12.4 - 1:36:00 (-)
17.2 - 2:11:00 (< 1)
23 - 2:57:00 (< 1)
26.2 - 3:23:00 (< 1)
31 - 4:06:00 (1)
35.4 - 4:56:00 (1)
41.7 - 5:36:30 (1)
46.4 - 6:19:00 (1)
50.4 - 7:03:00 (1.5)
55.5 - 8:04:00 (2.5)
59.4 - 8:50:00 (2)
65.7 - 9:51:00 (3)
70.6 - 10:49:30 (4)
73.6 - 11:23:30 (< 1)
79.6 - 12:30:00 (2.5)
84.3 - 13:22:30 (< 1)
86.7 - 13:43:30 (1.5)
90.7 - 14:20:30 (-)
93.2 - 14:41:30 (1)
96.2 - 15:08:00 (< 1)
101 - 15:48:17

 Photo by Johnny da Jogger
 Photo by Johnny da Jogger

Below are some pictures of the days following Burning River.  Bobbi and I were able to relax by camping along Lake Erie in Ohio and on up to New York.  A nice little vacation to send off summer as school approaches for both of us!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Since Masochist - Rehabilitating the Body and Mind

2012 is long gone.  It ended as years normally do, just the way they start I suppose.  A yearly recap is 62 days late and I'm recalling the events of 2012.  2012 was the most eventful year of my life to this point - with that said, running (in terms of mileage) was at a career low.  I moved to Virginia from Ohio in January only to move right back to Ohio in May.  I started one grad school, left and started another in an 8 months span.  Oh, and in that time, I married my beautiful wife, Bobbi.  That is eventful in itself.
My left leg has given me trouble for several years.  In 2007, while doing 20 x 400 meter intervals on grass, I slipped on the start and felt my left groin "pop."  I kept running and for 5 years I handled the groin by frequent heating, icing, stretching.  The injury would usually only pop up 3-4 times a year and last for a week or so before it would go dormant for a few more months.  It never hindered me or stopped me from doing what I wanted with running.  Last year, it caught up to me.  In March, most of my muscles in my upper left leg were so tight that I had a hard time running past an hour.  I took some time off and with more dedicated stretching it went away again. 

After a 50K and two 50 milers later, the pain was so constantly dull and debilitating that I knew running in this state would only make my leg worse.  Not that I wanted to run - by that point the injury reduced my motivation for running almost completely.  Even on "good" days I would go out with intentions of running longer only to decide to head back inside after just two miles.  I still tried to run the Frozen Sasquatch 50K in early January but dropped after the first 25K loop.  I was done.
A DNF at Frozen Sasquatch after winning the previous three years.
Running had played such a major role in my life for 5 years and for the most part I floated through it.  I ran a lot of miles without worry and was able to dictate how long or how fast I wanted to go.  I scheduled my days and months, trips, and basically life around running.  I have been reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg in which he talks about how the choices we make are not actually decisions, but instead are habits.  Over time, after repetition upon repetition, habits are formed.  Running Free and long became a habit for me by training my mind to do so day after day and week after week - the "10,000 hour rule."

Motivation is a strange thing too.  It seems like motivation is only around when things are going well and that it acts upon a continuum.  I was riding that motivational wave until it collapsed.  I had been overcompensating for weak and imbalanced core and upper leg muscles mile after mile for five year.  When the time came that running was no longer fun for me, it didn't take long for my motivation to shift directions.  It was easy to use the time for other parts of life.  I was spending more time working on grad. school, teaching, being a husband and working on a house. 

From November to mid-February I ran very little.  By the end of the time off I realized that I still love running.  I have been slowly rehabbing my body and building a little mileage into my weeks.  Motivation for running is creeping back into my life and I find myself dreaming of long trail runs in the forest.  I am not sure when I will race again - I am just focused on getting to a point where my body can sustain a decent week of mileage so I can enjoy rugged hills and trails.  When you go without something like this, you only ask for the small things back... and they're coming.
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New addition to our family - Ellie