Saturday, January 26, 2013

Leadville doesn't care.

When I hired my coach shortly after my DNF at Leadville last year I was struck by something he told me.  “If you want to finish Leadville, just do the work.  Leadville doesn’t care.”  By doing the work he meant running an average of 60 miles a week for 50 weeks.  That’s five days a week, every week for almost a year.  That’s what it will take to finish.  That’s what it will take to redeem myself.  That’s what it will take to bring home a buckle.

I have spent the last 5 months doing the work.  After my fall at the Frosty Fifty a couple of weeks ago, I was sidetracked for a week and didn’t run at all.  In addition to losing some training time, I started to lose my mojo.  I really enjoyed not running 10 hours a week and spending more time with my family.  As my knee healed, I began to get back with the program and found myself looking for motivation to recapture my drive and commitment.  That’s when it hit me.  I remembered my coach’s words,  “Leadville doesn’t care.”  It got me running again.  Now, every time I’m not excited about a run I stop and repeat that simple mantra to myself.  It’s written in small font on a sticky note on my computer at work.  It stares at me every day.  Taunting me.  Reminding me.  Encouraging me.  It doesn’t yell.   It doesn’t have an explanation mark at the end of it.  It doesn’t need one.  That sentence is powerful enough, even when delivered in a no nonsense, matter of fact tone.  

Leadville doesn’t care…
  • ·      If I’m tired
  • ·      If my knee hurts
  • ·      If I miss my family
  • ·      If I have to work late
  • ·      If I have to work early
  • ·      How much I think I deserve to finish
  • ·      How great I think I could be
  • ·      How great I think I should be
  • ·      Who I am
  • ·      What I do for a living
  • ·      Where I live
  • ·      Why I’ve decided I need to do this
  • ·      How fast I think I can run
  • ·      How long I think I can run
  • ·      What anyone else thinks
  • ·      If it’s too hot
  • ·      If it’s too cold
  • ·      If it’s raining
  • ·      If it’s snowing
  • ·      Whether I’m sick
  • ·      That I’ve been a runner for over 30 years
  • ·      How much sleep I didn’t get
  • ·      What is on TV
  • ·      That I really want to see that latest movie
  • ·      That sugar-filled foods taste good and make me happy
  • ·      That Perpetuem tastes like warm spit during a long run
  • ·      That Hammer Gels often have the consistency of warm mucus, or cold mucus depending on       the ambient temperature of the run
  • ·      That it’s “too late to run”
  • ·      That it’s “too early to run”
While Leadville may be a harsh and unforgiving mistress, she is one to whom I have given part of my heart and soul.  As I write this, it is snowing outside, there is a fire raging in the fireplace, there’s a pizza in the oven, and my kids are sitting on the floor in the family room watching a movie.  While Leadville may have a part of me, the rest belongs to these moments.  I will do what it takes to finish this year, but I must also do what it takes to be with my family and make them happy.  So, after we eat that delicious pizza, I will sneak upstairs for a quick 6 miles on the treadmill and be done in time to read a story to the kids and tuck them in bed.  Tomorrow I will take turns doing long runs with my wife while we juggle time with the kids. 

Although I realize that Leadville doesn’t care, there are some things that must come first.  While I work hard to get in my miles, I work even harder to make sure I spend quality time with my family.  After all, if it weren’t for them, none of this would mean a thing.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Frosty Fifty Race Report- The Perils of Gravity

I have to be honest, I have a real love hate relationship with this race.  It was my first ultra back in 2010 and was a catalyst for my growing passion of ultra running.  That year I was happy to finish at all and thrilled with my finish time of 5:25.  I missed the race in 2011 but went back again in 2012 and ran a 5:04.  Here is a race report from that experience.  I was a lot faster but had nutrition problems and ended up puking and bonking.  Never one to be deterred by a bad experience with a race I went back again this year with my trusty running buddy, Tim.

I had no real plan or expectation for how I would do.  My training plan called for a five hour run on race day, so I took that as a sign and decided to shoot for a five hour finish.  This would also be my first experiment with my coach's prescribed nutrition program.  As the race approached I definitely had mixed feelings.  It is a great race and a very forgiving course, but it would be cold, and Tim and I would have to leave bright and early to get there, which would require a 4am wake up call.  It was also hard to get fired up about a race that I've finished twice.  Putting all negativity aside and focusing on the positive, Tim and I ventured to Winston Salem early Saturday morning.  Besides, I had to run for 5 hours anyway.  Might as well be at a pretty cool race, right?

The race has grown exponentially since we first ran it in 2010.  There are now 25K and relay options which brought out a lot of runners.  While this completely changed the feel of the race, it was great to see lots of people who had never thought of running an ultra be exposed to one.  As I have come to expect with ultra runners and trail races, the runners were friendly and supportive and the volunteers were amazing.

The race started at 8am with a temperature somewhere in the low 30s.  Tim and I sat in his car until about 10 minutes before the start and debated what to wear.  I opted for long running pants, a compression shirt, a thin fleece pull over, fleece gloves and a skull cap.  It was a good choice for the first hour of the run.  By the second hour I was intermittently too hot and too cold.  I ended up dropping the gloves half way through.

We started out conservatively, with a 9:15-9:30 pace and felt comfortable and relaxed.  We cruised along, chatting about everything and enjoying the scenery.  Then somewhere between miles 6 and 7, while running in the middle of a fair number of other runners, a tiny rock jumped up and grabbed my right foot, sending me hurtling toward the ground at what I'm convinced was at least three times the speed of sound.  My left knee hit first, taking the brunt of the impact, slamming into the asphalt greenway and bouncing me forward toward my face.  I had just enough time to tuck my head and roll.  This resulted in a brief, absurd, and somewhat impressive display of acrobatics.  I caught a flash of one of my legs flying through the air with the sky bright blue behind it.  Surreal.  When I came to a stop I jumped up and kept running as quickly as I could.  I chose not to look around but heard several gasps as I went down and a few people asking if I was ok. My knee hurt like hell, and I was embarrassed and pissed off.  Once the adrenaline wore off I realized that I had hurt myself.  I walked for a minute or two to assess the damage.  Only a couple of small scrapes but there was some swelling and discoloration around the knee cap.  I decided it would loosen up with time and kept on keeping on.

By the time I got back to the start finish at the end of the first lap, I wasn't sure I was going to head out for a second lap.  I felt fine from an energy point of view, but I was in a lot of pain and started to worry about doing damage.  I voiced this concern to Tim who was appropriately supportive and encouraging.  I had just about convinced myself to quit when the trail leveled out, allowing me to run more comfortably.  Then the turn around appeared too soon.  I wasn't ready to stop running yet.  I knew I had more in me and decided I would turn around and head back out and just quit and head back if it got too bad.  Rationalization firmly in place, I turned around and headed out for the second lap.

Tim and I continued to run together, but I could tell he felt better than I did, as I had to push to keep the pace we had been running and that he was comfortable with. Around mile 21 Tim started to pull away from me.  He wasn't speeding up, but I was slowing down.  I didn't push it and let him go.  By this time I had figured out that I could run on the flats and small hills without too much discomfort in my knee but had to walk up and down any significant hills.  On the way back after the final turn around I caught up with Ryan, whom I had met at this race last year.  Since that time I've seen him at a few races and had the opportunity to run with him during a long training run at Umstead.  He is training for his second attempt at the Umstead 100 this year.  We began to run together and pushed each other to run more often and faster than either of us would have on our own.  We ended up crossing the line in 5 hours and 22 seconds (at least according to my watch.)  I am very grateful to Ryan for the company and motivation for those last, difficult miles.

Aftermath:  Tim had a great race, finishing in 4:48, almost 10 minutes faster than his previous finish. I wouldn't have been able to keep up with him, even without the fall.  The nutrition plan worked well.  I was able to take in two gels and 20 oz of Perpetuem (totaling 300 calories), and two salt tabs every hour.  This was quite a change from my traditional approach, which usually involves having no plan at all and running until I'm hungry and then eating a bunch of crap until I bonk.  My coach's plan required a lot more effort but worked well.

My knee is swollen and has a lovely purple shade covering the entire knee cap.  Nothing seems to be broken, but it hurts like the dickens when I go up or down stairs.  I was scheduled to run for two hours the day after Frosty Fifty but had to forgo it to let the swelling go down. I should be back in the swing of things in a couple of days.  The good news is that I set a PR for the race and am not sore at all, except for the knee.

Next race will be the Myrtle Beach Marathon in February.  I'll be doing my best to keep up with Wendy as she blisters the course.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Embracing the cliche

This time of year the internet is overflowing with year in reviews, looks back and other self indulgent retrospectives.  Not being one to buck the trend, here is my look back at 2012 and a few things on the horizon for 2013.

January -   Ran Frosty Fifty in Winston Salem with Tim and Rob.  Started too fast. Tried new nutrition. Got sick. Got slow.  Puked.  Bonked.  Lesson learned.

February - Couldn't get into the Mount Mitchell Challenge so I ran the marathon.  It was cold, I had fun and ran slow.  No puking so we'll call that an improvement.

March - Ran the Umstead Trail Marathon with Tim and Wendy.  I had an amazing time running with Wendy and pushing myself to keep up with her 10th place overall female finish and setting a course PR for myself in the process.  One of my all time favorite races.

March - "Ran" the Bel Monte 50 Mile Endurance Run.  Rained the entire time.  Wanted to quit a lot.  Kept going.  Learned a lot about myself.  Finished by myself in the dark, cold and rain.  Hated it.  Loved it.  Will do it again.  (I'm a moron.)

April - Volunteered at the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run.  The kids and I worked an aid station for several hours.  They loved the atmosphere and worked hard the entire time.  I was thrilled that they didn't want to leave.  Paced a lap for Jen and then a lap for Amy.  Stayed up all night.  Had a ball.

June - Started sleeping in a tent inside the house.  Yes, I'm sure that's normal behavior.  Shut up.

July - Ran the Grandfather Mountain Marathon.  One word, humid.  Drove the course the day before and freaked myself out.  Ran conservatively and surprised myself with an amazing day.  Finished in 4:03 and felt amazing.  Convinced myself I was ready for Leadville.  (I wasn't.)

August - Piled the family into the Family Truckster and drove to Leadville, Colorado.  Wife and kids crewed.  I ran.  I walked.  I gasped.  I puked.  I walked some more.  I ran a little.  I missed the cut off at Winfield.  I cried.  I cussed.  I reflected.  I focused on the positive and decided to go back.  Hired a coach and started getting serious for Leadville 2013.

September - Ran a lot.  Searched for my motivation.

October- Ran the Medoc Trail Marathon with Tim.  Had a great race and began to get my mojo back after Leadville.

November - Went to Panama City Beach, FL. to support Wendy while she kicked ass at Ironman Florida.

November - Ran the Richmond Marathon with Tim.  Low expectations.  Negative split.  New PR.  Color me surprised.

November - Paced my neighbor Rob for several hours at the Crooked Road 24 Hour Run in VA.

November - Ran a local 5K with my wife, 6 year old daughter and 8 year old son.  They loved it.  Very proud.

December- Ran a lot.  Finished up the year by running 830 miles between September 1 - Dec. 31.  Became addicted to  You should check it out.

January 1, 2013- Registered for the 2013 Leadville Trail 100 Run.

Lots more running planned for 2013.  Thanks to everyone who checked out this blog during the last year.  Please keep checking back and let me know your thoughts and comments.