08 January 2010

No Lion....I mean...No lying

OK I'm just going to say it. If you've watched the news you probably saw the report about the cougar/Mountain Lion sighting in Champlin early December.( http://wcco.com/pets/cougar.roaming.champlin.2.1353704.html) . Well if you've read my blog you might remember me running from my home in Coon Rapids to my workplace in Brooklyn Park occasionally in August/September, in preparation for my first Ultra. Well, I actually saw (and heard) a cougar at about 5:30 in the morning in Champlin on Rush Creek Trail on one of those runs. It scared the living crap out of me. I got to work told several friends/coworkers about the encounter. I felt incredibly stupid even suggesting it to the officials as I had no proof. The only thing I can prove is that I was in that vicinity. I eventually called (left messages with) the Wildlife Management person but never heard from him before or after the encounter that was captured on film by the Champlin Police Department two months later. Apparently unless you get it on film it doesn't mean much. In their defense, I bet everyone and their brother has claimed to see one of these animals since it was caught on film. It just seems odd that they wouldn't even entertain the thought of returning my calls (in the interest of public safety) to at least find out the exact time and place that I shit my pants.

So there. No lyin' ...I saw a lion.

04 January 2010

Half-Assed Update

Well I've been doing (relatively) much more training since my last post. My ankle feels fantastic. The goal this week is 6 days, about 7-8 hours of running. I have adopted a new approach to training but I don't have alot to say about it right now because I only have about a dozen workouts in using the method.
I start cross-training next week. For Christmas I received (begged for) 2 Fitness Bootcamp classes, one 10 week class and one 8 week class, every Monday and Wednesday starting on the 11th. That should get me to mid March. I chose this class because it seemed to be pretty well rounded in terms of core, balance, strength/power. I'm hoping it is more aerobic in terms of difficulty as I'm purposefully avoiding any anaerobic efforts currently. No weight lifting, etc.
oh...and I have lost 7 pounds since my last post.

08 December 2009

Some Progress

I finally braved a workout.

I did 15 minutes each on the treadmill (fast walk/light jog), elliptical, and recumbant bike. I also did lunges, some coordination drills and some active stretching. My foot actually felt better when I was done and I'm hoping for an even better workout tomorrow. I wish I would have done this earlier. Half the truth is that I've just been lazy, and the other half is that I was afraid my foot would hurt too much or get worse. We'll see how it feels tomorrow, but have a hunch that the inactivity wasn't doing it any favors.

I'll decide before bed what tomorrow's workout will be so I start Wednesday with a plan. Despite my inactivity I've lost several pounds since Murphy. Although I've been inactive I have been fairly disciplined with eating since Halloween. Unfortunately when I weighed myself after Murphy I was heavier than I thought I would be by several (O.K., at least 8-10) pounds. About 2 months before Wild Duluth I was making progress with weight loss, but decided to quit weighing myself. That wasn't a very good idea. I do better if I weigh-in daily and write down everything I eat. I wont say yet what I weigh as I'm going to be making my 2010 training declaration soon and weight loss plays into the big picture.

06 December 2009


As I mentioned before, on November 9th I saw the Ortho doc about the ITB issue I experienced during my 2 races. At the time of the appointment, I had no complaints other than the over-taxed ITB. Coincidentally, the next morning on November 10th I woke up and it felt like I had sprained my left ankle in my sleep. I had no idea what was going on but articulating my foot up and down was painful, with moderate swelling. Most of the pain was/is on top off the foot at the ankle and on the outside of the ankle. To me it felt like a connective tissue problem but I was surpised it would start hurting 10 days after my last race. The more I've reflected, I have recalled that my ankle did bother me during the races and even in training, in the same places. But I could always bear weight on it without issue and took it as tightness/strain and just treated it that way. I even started running on it again (twice) on the treadmill before it flared up on the 10th.

Anyway...I could get in with my podiatrist faster than my ortho doc, and on his advice had an MRI due to concern about a stress fracture. On December 1st he called with the results and said I have a "small" spot of arthritis on the Talus, the load-bearing bone below the Tibia (shin bone). HUH?! Arthritis? He said it isn't unusual for a person my age (41), and to see him in 3 weeks. No running until I see him again. The pain did mostly subside for a couple days but returned to varying degrees. I'm trying not to worry, but it's been almost a month of SOME pain on most days since it started. OK...I'm a little worried. I feel like I'm losing my fitness and I'm concerned now about returning to running at all. I might be over reacting and since I can bear weight on it, I'm hoping it's just connective strain that isn't seen in an MRI. However, the doc said there was no tendonitis seen in the MRI and I'm not sure if the MRI could possibly miss anything(can it?). Besides, if there was any connective tissue issue, would it just flare up ten days later? I just can't get past the fact that I'm not feeling pain in weight bearing (only in plantar/dorsiflexion), so is the "A" word really the whole problem? It was likely there for some time and I had done well up until this point. I'm going to get back to the foot doctor and my ortho and I hope I'm pain free in a couple weeks when I go to see them. I'm also going to get back on a bike or elliptical in the gym at work and do some walking on my treadmill at home just to get the wind bags working again. And to take my mind off of this.

Anyone ever experienced this issue? Any insight is welcome. I know I'm not ready to stop running in any way, shape or form . Ugh. I just got started!!!


20 November 2009

Surf the Murph and Humble Pie

I realize this post is weeks overdue. I've been scratching this thing out in bits in pieces.
It's been a crazy three+ weeks since Murphy with the passing of my stepmother, and a demanding work schedule.

The Race

If you've been following, Murphy was my attempt to ignore the conservative version of my 2009 goals of "1-2 Short courses". I decided to go right to my "stretch goal" of a 50 miler two weeks after my first short course at Wild Duluth. And since I started a 50 mile race but ended the day at 32 miles, this goes down as my first DNF. That's pretty much the humble pie portion of the story but I'll say more about that later.

For once I actually got a decent night of sleep before a race. Before I hit the rack I of course laid out the Ultra Runner's arsenal. It's hard to believe how much gear you can amass in this sport. Am I the only one? Multiple pairs of shoes, lubes, powders, pills, electronics, bottles, bags, assorted medicines and first aid components...my God.

The start was slightly behind schedule. But we were off soon enough down the familiar trail I had trained on several weekends in a row leading up to this race. Of course I was more concerned about staying with people I was enjoying talking with at the time. No concern for pace as the first almost 6 miles are all hill in the first section. Before the first AS we missed the turn off for the initial 3 mile loop. Someone was supposed to be there to direct traffic but they were not there. There were about 8-10 of us who missed it (that I know of) and everyone seemed to have varying degrees of concern. The consensus was that Les would just tack it onto the end, but it was interesting to see how we can let little hiccups/changes to become larger than they really are when we are under stress. Having learned my lesson at Wild Duluth, I ate at the first aid station, and also took gels with me that I consumed slowly until the next aid station at the horse camp.

At this point I was running with The Gang (Karen G, Rick Bothwell and Wayne Nelson). They were in full costume as Wonder Woman, a Toilet Named Wayne and a Prisoner, respectively. Costumes or not it's hard not to gravitate towards this little group's orbit. I said it before, but my time on the trail in my first two ultras was made very special by these 3 and I could not thank them enough. Karen chug-chugged along and we followed. Rick was on the camera and Wayne was wearing the same perma-grin that he wore in Duluth. Maybe he knew that this would be the day he would finish his first 50 miler. Oh...and I met Kel for the first time. She looked very strong and seemed quite confident. She finished her first 50 miler in great time as well and it's no surprise. She seemed very confident.

While we ran in the dark the beads of moisture on the leaves spread across the ground had a metallic or luminescent look in our headlamps. I don't know if others noticed the same thing but even as we gabbed I was really struck by how bizarre it looked. Very cool. Towards the end of the first hilly section I started feeling the same pain in my knee that burdened me for the last few hours in Duluth. Not as bad but I was not very thrilled to know it was there so early. I hoped it would get better (you know, after another 4 hours of running on it) before getting back to this section.
At the horse camp the volunteers were just setting up so there really wasn't anything to grab. But we were reassured that missing the first little loop wasn't an issue. Off to the southern half. Very muddy. And plenty of horse doo-doo throughout. This section also included the newly-cut leg that consisted of fresh-cut reeds and soft, rich black dirt. It was soft but I found it hard to run on. It was one of those things that add up in an Ultra. Nice addition, Les. Compared to what I thought would be the course, this was the first surprise. And it was one of the first things I personally decided to turn into a big deal in my own mind early in the race.
At the second pass-through of the horse camp I chowed again. A little of everything plus more liquids. "Remember Wild Duluth" I told myself again and again at each aid station. Back out again, through Helen's Aid Station -there has been one of these at all of my races so far-where she offered our group Nunn Tabs. I was also taking Endurolytes throughout the race but skipped them at the first pass through the horse camp, so I took her up on the offer. By the way, if you've never introduced your self to Helen, you should. Very approachable and pleasant, you would never guess that she was one of the best Ultra runners in our state.

I was feeling good but also noticed that the plentiful mud and soft terrain on the southern half was exacerbating my knee issue with all the slip and twist I was experiencing. I couldn't wait to get on the dryer single track leading back to the park entrance. I love that section because it's easy on the eyes and I love the tighter single track running more than the wide open areas that dominate much of the southern half of this course. Going back to the start Les had created a bit of a diversion, the second surprise of the day. Instead of going back by the main trail, as I had trained for and expected, he had us divert through a nifty little single track leg with a very steep little climb. Near the top was a large rock in the middle of the trail. By the time I got to that rock I was breathing hard. Real hard. Nice Les....real nice.
Despite my concerns about leg pain, as I came in to finish my first loop (16 miles on my watch) I was (barely) meeting my layman's estimate of 12 hours ± 30 minutes. I think the clock said 03:45:00-ish. I was in good spirits at this point but I also knew I wouldn't get any faster for the remainder of the race. Taking off into the hilly section again I immediately felt considerable pain on the left side. I was with Wayne and Rick again and keeping up for the most part but every downhill took more out of me. Eventually we ran into Lisa ( http://wildknits.blogspot.com/ ). Lisa was probably one of the first people I talked to regarding Ultra running. I had the chance to meet her briefly in Duluth 2 weeks prior where she ran her first Ultra at a respectable 06:29:34. By the time we met up with her at the first aid station I was feeling like my wheel would fall off. Lisa, Rick and Wayne soon disappeared from my sight as I ambled out from the AS with less running and more walking. I never saw Lisa again until the end of my race but I did see The Gang one last time as I was coming back again to the second stop at the horse camp. Wayne was looking strong coming out of the AS. This is also where I saw first place Duke R. who took the time to wish everyone well as he buzzed by us all. The guy is a trail running machine. With some pretty cool tattoos I might add.

By now I was feeling better and had talked myself down. Between the last aid station and this point I was waging a small war inside my head. I was going back and forth between the I-can-do-this-attitude and wondering "what the hell did I ever do to Les to deserve the f**king soft dirt and reeds on the southern half?!" Did I ask too many questions before the race via email? We hadn't even met and yet he purposefully redesigned the course around ME? The nerve.

One last time through Helen's Aid Station and I ate some candy, chips and refilled with HEED. Shortly after this point I knew I was toast. Working through the single track my leg just didn't want to do it anymore. It took everything in my brain to keep quitting out of my mind. I was trying real hard to tell myself this was just a wall. Something I could work through. Eventually the other half said that this wasn't just nauseau, lack of energy or pain from blisters. I felt like I could mostly handle those dilemas. It became a decision to (pardon the cliche) "live to race another day". Even if I could grit my teeth for another 18 miles it could mean damage I couldn't quickly recover from. So that was it. I made up my mind before that steep little climb that it wasn't in the cards to run 50 miles today. By the time I got to that big rock again on the steep little climb I had swallowed my pride, grieved and decided to feel good about my second short course for the year. Without much choice I mostly took my time finishing the race and upon my return to the finish line I announced I was not leaving for the third loop. Everyone was so good about it and made me feel better about my decision. I wish I knew their names.

I can't lie I did feel remorse. If not for the pain I still think I could have made it. I know it's easy to say that now and not that it matters. But I really wanted to be able to say I ran 50 miles. I thought I had done enough to meet that goal. I also knew (and had been tactfully reminded) that my first 2 races two weeks apart would be alot to handle with the second race being 50 miles. All I can say is I had to try. I just had to try.

Rick Bothwell previously commented on my report about Wild Duluth, "It may sound strange but I am glad you struggled, like we all did in our first ultra. If it was easy, you wouldn't be writing about it. " I didn't think it was a strange comment at all. I understood 100% what he meant and I found it strangely reassuring. I never did this because I thought it would be easy and I think I would have been disappointed on some level as well to find out Ultra trail "really wasn't that bad"(laughter). It is hard and I know that's what pulls me to this sport. And I think that's what I see in the people that are out there on the trail. Les also told me that "everyone is hurting on some level in every race". And now I know how hard people work to get to this level of fitness regardless of where they place in the pack. In other challenges of my life I've found humility to be a superb tool to foster growth. And that's the minimum I wanted out of my first experiences this year. Something to grow on. I got it in spades.

Thanks to Cindy and Les and everyone who volunteered to make Murphy a great race.

Today I had an X-ray for some ankle/foot swelling that popped up overnight about 10 days after Murphy. The results were negative but the doc is recommending an MRI, perhaps tomorrow, due to concern about a stress fracture. I'll let you know soon how that turns out.

I just know that somehow, someway I am running 50 miles in 2010.

09 November 2009

Nothing in Particular

I haven't had time for the Surf the Murph race report. Work has been insane and I'm so busy when I'm not at work catching up on to-dos at home that it's hard to find time. I did go see my Orthopaedic doctor today. The pain I experienced in my left leg during WD and Murphy was my IT. I'm ACL defecient in the left leg, having torn it about 3 years ago in a game of touch football. I've never had a problem with the IT before and the consensus is that it was overworked. No harm done. I'll have to focus on making it stronger and just keep doind what I'm doing once I'm fully healed....training for Ultras. In addition to strength exercises, the doc also suggests I use my foam roller. It seems like the only thing I don't use the foam roller for now is headaches and indigestion.
I'm definitely not ready for reconstructive surgery. When surgery DOES happen I'm most likely going with the allograft (cadaver). Given my age and impatience I think it is the best choice for quick recovery. I just want to run in a relatively straight line. Nothing fancy.
I'll try to get that race report done this week and I'll also be sharing at least the rough draft of my training plan and goals for 2010 in the next 2-3 weeks. I didn't realize how often new pains would pop up after my first couple races. It seems like everything is taking it's turn hurting lately.

22 October 2009

My First Ultra

This report is an effort to share the experience of my first attempt at Ultra running, the Wild Duluth 50K. I'll probably say it more than once anyway, but I had more fun during my first Ultras than I could have ever anticipated. Yes I had personal goals for 2009 ("1-2 short course ultras.Stretch goal:50 mile Ultra"). I had to have something to train for, but it wasn't all about the running. I was equally interested in the people and becoming part of what I saw but didn't fully experience as I ran trail 25Ks in 2008.

I was more of a quiet observer then, keeping a safe distance and dipping my toe in the water, if you will. I wanted to find out more about the Ultra scene and 25Ks were the closest my skill/fitness level allowed at the time. Last year I showed up, introduced myself to a couple people at each race (Trail Mix, Afton and Surf the Murph 25Ks) and then left promptly. But each time I left a race it always sounded and appeared the way it did when I arrived: Cheers, laughter, hugs, high fives and people reminiscing with the spartan-like attitude of reunited tribesman. Everyone seemed to be having so much damned fun and I really respected the racers attitudes towards each other. Despite the varied personalities and skill levels there was a singular spirit that was real obvious to me. That impression stuck with me throughout the summer as I toyed with ideas about running farther. The 2008 Surf the Murph was my last 25K for 2008 and it was my tipping point. After that race I made up my mind that I would step up to the line and attempt to double the distance in 2009.

Wild Duluth (WD) 50K

Originally I had planned on running my first Ultra 50K at Murphy. However at some point during my training this year my ambitions began to exceed my original goal. I decided to run the WD as a means of accomplishing my first 50K and also to use it as preparation for my first 50 miler at Murphy. Yes, 2 weeks apart, I know. And I was told by others, "thats not much/enough time between 2 races", "better take it easy in Duluth", or "you are never going to heal in time". In all honesty I knew it was a tall order from the beginning, but I was pretty much commited in my own mind.

Race day at WD was as nice as one could hope. Sunny and crisp. Before the race I introduced myself to Helen Lavin, Julie Berg and Lisa Messerer, three people I had spoken with via email leading up to this race. It was nice to finally meet people.

Of course I was nervous, but I was also confident that I had done as good a job as I could in training. Having maxed out at 80 miles for weekly mileage, right or wrong, my training had basically centered around volume and time.We took the bus ride from Bayfront to Chambers Grove and had a good 20 minutes to stretch and make other introductions. I met Joel Johansen and two of his buddies from North Dakota. Joel and I shared eating/drinking strategies for the race. Mine was to "eat at every aid station whether I want to or not" and I was carrying my two 20 ounce bottles for the duration of the run.

Andy Holak made his introduction and we were quickly under way. I love the anticipation part of the start, when people seem to bunch close together with anxiety. The deer trail going out of the park basically immediately starts on the incline and there really isn't much room for passing. There was an abundance of chatter and exuberance going out at this point. Julie Berg was about 20-30 feet ahead of me. I made the smart-ass comment that I would have to pass her for just a second to be able to say I passed Julie Berg in a race. That was my last recollection of seeing Julie that day!

I could not believe the terrain within the first mile. I mean....WOW. I certainly had not trained on anything like this before but was greatful for the runs at Murphy and Hyland. I was running this section and now can look back and ask, "why the hell were you running"? This was my first mistake(besides thinking I could even once pass Julie). Even Julie in her report of this race chastised herself for running with the pack up the first hill to the ridge.

The scenery was storybook with bright yellow leaves or pine needles blanketing so much of the forest, and streams throughout. The first AS came quickly. To be honest I'm not sure this AS even had food or gels or water. I'm sure it did. I didn't even look (second mistake). Like a lemming I stayed in the flow of traffic with everyone else and just ran through like everyone else. With people starting to spread out and settle into their pace, I began to chat with others. Most of the conversation centered around the trail. It just never seemed to stop going up! My heart was pounding like a fist on my chest and I did not care.

At the second AS (a.k.a. "Helen's Aid Station") I refilled a bottle with the Heed I was carrying and someone grabbed my other bottle and said they would fill it with Ultima. I just shrugged it off and let them fill it. I also took 3 Hammer salt tablets. After filling my bottles, I grabbed a 2"x2" piece of PBJ and that was it. Basically I didn't eat at the first two stations. And I soon learned that Ultima, in my opinion, is actually poison. I hated it but forced it down. If I did one thing right, I drank all day.

It was around this time leading up to Ely's Peak that I ran into The Gang. Karen G., Rick and Wayne. If they didn't have race numbers I would have thought they were just out for a leisurely hike. They were snapping pictures, laughing and really enjoying themselves. We made introductions and it felt like from that point on I had been adopted. To be perfectly honest, meeting these three was the best part of the race. THIS was what I sensed when I was running 25Ks last year. And now I wasn't just watching, I was fully engaged. Being with them made me feel like a kid. Rick was buzzing around taking pictures of everyone and everything. It seemed like there was 10 of him everywhere. I was very grateful because I didn't bring my camera to document my first Ultra. Me and Wayne chatted it up from behind for a good portion of our time together and Karen just continued on like the Energizer bunny, just consistently moving forward with steady confidence. She has a gait and rhythm on the trail that I noticed to be fairly consistent of everyone who has done this for awhile.
We continued on to AS 3 and I met Zac Pierce, who was also snapping pictures of runners on their way in. I finally ate at this AS as it was starting to get through my thick head that the initial lack of food was going to catch up to me. I have heard others say that it might take awhile but mistakes and remedies alike take awhile to catch up to you on the trail. We took off and continued on towards the ski hill (I think), with Wayne and I falling a little further behind Karen and Rick. As we approached this section Wayne said something about "138 steps". So I thought I would count. Somewhere after step 40, muscles I never knew I had on the left inside of my thigh decided to cramp. I stopped, rubbed and tryed again. Nope. I told Wayne I woud see him later and started chugging my Heed while I stretched as best I could. I took off again and that seemed to be it for cramps. I still have no idea if there were exactly 138 steps, but it sure the hell felt like it. I realized that this was payment for running like a child and not sticking to my nutrition plan. For abandoning everything I read about and trained to do correctly. At AS 4 at the zoo I saw The Gang on their way out. This time I stood at the table, drank, ate and relaxed while the children at that AS made me laugh, pushed fluids towards me and informed me of the remaining distance. They were trained very well! Another water/Heed refill and away I went.

For the rest of the race I started having considerable pain in my left knee on the downhills. Whether I was going straight down or leading on my left side, the result was the same. This basically forced me to only be able to lead with my right side, sort of hop-skipping, on all of the remaining downhills. I've never experienced this type of pain before and it was on the outside pretty much at the hinge. Needless to say it is very difficult to ask one leg to do all the work on downhills and it was really beating me up. At the next AS I again ate a good amount and especially appreciated the potatoes and salt. I think it was hear that I saw a first timer, a younger guy who came in after me, take off his shoe to reveal some pretty sore toes. They looked like cherry tomatoes and I was happy my newer Salomons and Smart Wool socks were doing so well together.
Not much longer after I left this AS and the young guy and some other gentlemen slowly pushed past me. The hills. Relentless and painful every step of the way. Coming into the last AS after running through the Enger Park (I did not ring the bell), I found a childs toy. It was a little ray gun that made funny noise when you pulled the trigger. I picked it up and decided to carry it the rest of the way for the hell of it.

More food at the last AS and I was only feeling better because I was so close to being done. Besides the knee I really think I had just went out too fast for too long, with too little to eat and it seemed like I could only tolerate short little bursts before having to walk again. My chest felt extremely tight. Although the cool weather probably did a number on my wind bags I also think I had just done too much and there was little chance of recovering for a big finish. Every once in awhile I would start each run with a burst from the ray gun to lighthen the mood. The first place 100K runner from Virginia, Sean Andrish, came zipping by me. The same steady gallop as Karen G., only much faster. It was a sight to see someone so fast and nimble. He was kind enough to shout "good job!" as he ran by and then quickly disappeared. On to finish a 62 mile race less than two hours longer than it took me to run half the distance. 'Impressive' isn't a generous enough word.

Without much choice I just took it easy the rest of the way into Bayfront Park. It was mostly downhill at this point. Under most circumstances that might be a good thing but it only slowed me down that much more as I gimped on every drop. My right leg (the "good" one) felt as though it would snap from doing all the work on the downhills for about 3 hours. By the time I hit the tar trail coming in to Bayfront the flat ground was pure heaven on my legs but my lungs had long ago retired. I walk/jogged the little leg up to the building until I turned the corner to see the Finish line. Ray gun in hand, I gave all I could muster and "ran" to the finish. 8:58:19. Yikes. I think Rome was built faster!

Seriously, this was the hardest thing I had ever done, hands down. I rarely talk about it, but I was once in the Marines. Even during my service I never had a single physical test equal this event. I know it wasn't one for the records, but it was MY record. Frankly, I thought I had come in last but I just didn't give a damn. I had just ran an Ultra and it was the best I could do. Until I run this course again, it's my personal best. And I had done something I wasn't even sure I was capable of or willing to try one year earlier.

So I ended the day with a change of clothes and a warm bowl of chili. And I was able to sit with the other Ultra runners and share a story. About the mistakes, the challenges and the FUN. A couple old timers (that finished before me) gave me advice and everyone was just very, very cool. I felt like I belonged to something new. Something the average person doesn't do every day, if ever in a lifetime. I said my goodbyes and thank-yous and headed to my car, smiling. Behind me everyone was doing what trail runners do: Cheering, laughing, hugging, high- fiving and reminiscing with the spartan-like attitude of reunited tribesman.

Thank you Andy and Kim Holak and all the oustanding volunteers for a great first race.

18 October 2009

So I Lied

I LIED. I said I wouldn't post until after Murphy, but I just wanted to make a statement about Wild Duluth(WD) 50K (full report pending).

First...THANK YOU ANDY AND KIM HOLAK! Awesome race, incredible volunteers.

If you don't already know, Wild Duluth was my first Ultra. Months ago before I registered Andy Holak assured me that WD 50K "would be a good challenge for the beginner". I had no idea. I know that running any 50K trail race is never easy the first time. I now know for a fact that the WD is in fact a "good challenge". The only thing that doesn't hurt today is my ears. But I wanted a larger scale (besides the WD 50K results) to evaluate the actual Wild Duluth course difficulty. I needed a comparison. What did I accomplish? Was it really "THAT hard"? Compared to what? I did my best to answer those questions myself.

I counted all of the 50Ks posted in Ultrarunner Magazine's July '09 through October '09 issues (the only issues I have so far). It's a rough measurement, but it covers roughly two-thirds of the Ultrarunners Magazine race calender year, so I think it's a reasonable sample size. I counted 89 50Ks.

According to Ultrarunner's scale of difficulty (1-5, 5 being most difficult) for Terrain and Surface, for all 50Ks held between July 10th 2009 to March 27th 2010, Wild Dulth 50K scores a 4 in both categories. Of the 89 50Ks, including WD, only 8 50Ks (less than 9%) were rated this difficult. Of this 89 only 5 (less than 6%) were rated more difficult. Coast to coast.

I wish I had ALL of the Ultrarunner Magazines race calender data, but I'm new to the magazine. April-July are likely the busiest months for Ultra trail racing in the U.S. But, it gave me the perspective I wanted. And I'm confident saying this: The Holak's put together a kick ass race. WD is a race that any finisher- first or last place- can be very proud of.

I am.

12 October 2009

My New Favorite Racing Song

This one is now on my Workout Playlist on my iPod. It's not new, but it's new to me. I like the imagery of the racers, and the lone racer still pushing long after the race is won. I've abbreviated it slightly....

The Distance-By Cake

Reluctantly crouched at the starting line,Engines pumping and thumping in time.

The green light flashes, the flags go up.Churning and burning, they yearn for the cup.

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank,Fuel burning fast on an empty tank.

Reckless and wild, they pour through the turns.Their crowd watches potent and secretly stearn.

As they speed through the finish, the flags go down.The fans get up and they get out of town.

The arena is empty except for one man,Still driving and striving as fast as he can.

The sun has gone down and the moon has come up,And long ago somebody left with the cup.

No trophy, no flowers, no flashbulbs, no wine,Hes haunted by something he cannot define.

Bowel-shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse,Assail him, impale him with monster-truck force.

In his mind, hes still driving,still making the grade.Shes hoping in time that her memories will fade.

Cause hes racing and pacing and plotting the course,Hes fighting and biting and riding on his horse.

The sun has gone down and the moon has come up,And long ago somebody left with the cup.

But hes striving and driving and hugging the turns...and thinking of someone for whom he still burns.

07 October 2009

Until November

I still don't know if anyone has read this blog.

I don't think I'll post again until I am done with Wild Duluth 50K and Surf the Murph 50 miler. At that time I'll talk about my first experiences with Ultra running. I'll also discuss my next fitness goals and start the"rough draft" of my plan.

I look forward to these races, and hopefully the opportunity to meet and thank as many people as possible that have encourged and shared information so generously (Julie Berg, Helen Lavin, Matt Patten and Steve Quick).

Wish me luck....

"Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get."
-- Ray Kroc

03 October 2009

More Sweat, Less Blood

Well tomorrow I am going to Murphy for my first unofficial 50K. Two Surf the Murph 15.6 mile race loops. My stretch goal for the day would be to add on, at a very casual pace, the 3 mile hilly section. This is all assuming everything goes "as planned". I look forward to the challenge and being "done" with long runs of this duration for this cycle. After this run I will go to a taper schedule as well as a 3-4 day lifting and stretching (yoga) schedule. I look forward to more weight training and stretching, as things have gotten tighter and it will feel like heaven.

I'm not sure if I've trained beyond what is required to be ready for my 1st short course and 1st 50 miler. I've just done what felt right while staying healthy, and I only backed off on or modified my plans when it started to take a toll. I was flexible but persistant. I have always believed in preparation and challenging myself to just this side of failure. Training should mean effort.

I strongly believe in the philosophy of "Sweat more in peace, bleed less in war" (Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit) and I never started this "mission" expecting to fail. I know I CAN fail, for a number of obvious reasons, but I've done my best to mitigate the risks I could anticipate. I'm confident now that I am CAPABLE of meeting my first Ultra goals.

28 September 2009

A New Week

Last week I ran more than I ever have in my life: 80 miles. Not a brag, but a surprise for me. My biggest week for training was to be 68 miles. I never had 80 in mind, but "it felt good so I kept going". And the stiffness is minimal, and only one painless blister-on-a-blister on my middle left toe. I think I'm losing the same toenail on that foot again, too. I hope it's gone by the time I get to Duluth or by the time the 50 miler at Murphy arrives.
This week, I will run to/from work again on Tuesday and Thursday. Saturday is the last official long run in my training cycle. 34 miles at Murphy if all goes well. I'll do 2 of the 25K loops and another 3 miles. I'll arrive at Wild Duluth on 10-17 having exceeded a 50K. But the elevation on the SHT will be the kicker for me as I've never quite ran the 5000 ft. of gain I will see up there. 2 weeks ago I ran a little over 3000 at Murphy, approximately. Hopefully that counts for something. It is what it is.

Oh...and I turn 41 on September 29th.

26 September 2009

A good day

I ignored all the gates at Murphy and set out to run one full 15.6 mile loop of the Surf the Murph race. I wanted to know what was in store and I also didn't want to get stuck on the smaller hilly loop closer to the race start. Not that 5 hours and 40 minutes on that section last week didn't help, but I wanted to recon the full course, to set my mind at ease. I looked like a jackass with my highlighted map(in a ziploc bag), holding it up to every posted park map to verify I was where I was supposed to be. I did get off track once and it cost me several minutes. I also took to the time to talk to a local walker for about 10-12 minutes. He didn't even know there were ever races held in that park.
So, between the time spent map leering, talking and getting lost I estimated about 30 minutes "lost" time on the course, not including 15 minutes spent eating/drinking plus changing my socks at my truck. Thank god I stuck to my plan of getting out to Murphy. Being on the course boosted my confidence and so did running nearly 50K. The one full 15.6 mile race loop and a smaller 12.4 mile loop and I got in 28 miles. The longest I've ever ran. I wish I'd had more time.

Had I known where I was going and stayed on task I'm certain I could have done a full 50K. I'm POSITIVE. I felt pretty damned good, and I was feeling very positive about my odds on Halloween. Next week, if time permits, I'm running the 50K plus the 3 mile section reserved for the 50 milers. If I do that I'll come back on Halloween with all the confidence I need on that 50 mile course, plus a 50K at Wild Duluth under my belt. I can do it and I'm actually starting to believe that now.

25 September 2009

Murphy, etc.

I'm getting up at dark-thirty to head to Murphy Saturday. There is a chance of rain until around 7 a.m., I want to be there by 5. My training schedule has me pegged for seven hours and I will do my best. I want to run one full Surf the Murph 15.6 mile race loop and then I'll spend the remainder of my time on the harder 3 mile hilly loop, closer to the starting line and my truck. I'm ignoring miles and the only time factor I care about is the 7 hours. I'm not running in my Vasque trail shoes as I suspect they are not protecting me from blisters very well. It's only a hypothesis. Instead I will bring 2 pairs of Pearl Izumis and extra pairs of socks and my Glide. Oh...and a blister kit. I'm amazed at how much gear and how many supplies are required to get me through a day on the trail.
Yesterdays run home from work was only 4 minutes slower than the morning's run in. My heart rate is considerably higher on the way home. I suppose its the heat mainly and the fact that I've already ran once and then spent a full day at work. I feel pretty good so I will try my new commute again next week.
I'm already thinking beyond my first races this October. I'll know so much more after Murphy and will be able to build a far more specific strategy for next years goals....

24 September 2009

Another Commute

Ran in to work again this a.m. Almost 20 minutes faster than Tuesday's run to work with the 14 pound daypack on. I saw an Owl, several deer, and a boatload of rabbits. Those things are quite abundant this year. No people. On the way home Tuesday I was moving faster than the cars on 169 at one point. I think I like my new commute.
I'll be going to Murphy for my long run this weekend. I'll bypass another gate to get to the flatter southern half. Spending all day on the hills is good practice but I really want to visualize the full course I'll run on Halloween. I wonder if I'll choose the 50 miler or opt for the 50K. Again, I'll decide after Wild Duluth and it will help seeing more of the Murphy course, too. Whatever my decision, I hope I don't regret it. What I mean is I might not get another chance at a 50 miler until spring 2010, and I don't want to be burdened with the thought of thinking I COULD have done it. I just "don't know what I don't know" is what it amounts to. Way more doubts than answers right now. However these races shake out, I'll have a ton more first-hand information to use for my next goals. I can apply what I learn for a smarter approach next time.
Recoverite, a fiber one bar, peanuts, a V8 and some granola for breakfast. For lunch two multi-grain flatbreads and a can of atlantic salmon.

23 September 2009

Semper Gumbi (Always Flexible)

Well I'm not much of a morning runner and tend to run at night more often than not. But this week I had to be flexible and take another approach to get my miles. With work so busy the best scenario I came up with was two-a-days. This week I also start facilitating a bible study every wednesday night for 8 weeks so that adds another element to balance.

I decided to run to and from work Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next few weeks before my first short course, Wild Duluth. I live less than two miles from the Coon Rapids Dam and work in Brooklyn Park on Brooklyn Blvd and 169. I assumed work was about 12-13 miles one way via Rush Creek Trail through the Dam. I packed my day pack on Monday night with work clothes, Recoverite, and some paperwork. I woke up at 4:30 and was off by a little after 5. A quick .8 miles to the trail head and I was running by headlamp, crossing the Dam and on the Rush Creek Trail in 2.5 miles on the Brookly Park side. The trail heads westward and I think it kisses Champlin briefly before turning south towards Osseo and Maple Grove, between 169 and Jefferson Highway. A couple nailbiter intersections to traverse and I'm at work...it ended up being 11.5 miles exactly to my building. The run home was about 8 minutes faster and a couple pounds heavier sice I was carrying the sweat-soaked clothes and a wet towel from my morning run. Not bad. I also kept the max HR averaged at 75%, so I was happy with that. I weighed the pack when I returned home:14 pounds, plus I was carrying 20 ounces in each hand. No wonder my everything is sore today, especially the quads. I woke up feeling like I had powerlifted. A pack for 23 miles was a little much. I 've never ran with a pack for that long, and I was in the military.

New plan: I brought Thursday's work clothes and return-trip workout clothes to work today. The only thing I'm carrying Thursday is my water bottles, headlamp ,iPod and ID's. I'm going to feel like Speed Racer!

I'm not 100% sure what the value is in two-a-days except that I get some miles. It's the best I can do. 46 miles beside a tempo run I've yet to do (Friday) and my long run on Saturday. I could do much worse and it should be the highest mileage I've ever seen for a week, for what it's worth. I'm hoping to get to Murphy saturday (preferred) or Sunday but I'm not sure I'll make it there or if I'll hit the flatter single track course by my house. That would make for a boring 7 hour workout with virtually no elevation, but "you can't be a picky beggar".

Peanuts and yogurt for breakfast and garden-fresh tomatoes and some egg whites for lunch. Yummy!! My bastard cubicle neighbor is scarfing Lee-Ann (Double) Chin right now. Instead of jumping over the wall I think I will hit the fitness center for weight training....

20 September 2009

Wanna Be

I wanna be training. I wanna be an Ultra runner.

Work dealt a considerable blow to training this week. Unplanned work tasks ("Fire-fighting") and long hours consumed about 60 hours this week, not counting this entire weekend I'm spending at work making up for the work I didn't get done! Everyone is getting a piece of me and I'm trying not to freak out about the loss of running time ( one 2-hour run at 80-95% max HR, including the warm up and cool down). Boo-hoo, Billy Boy.

It may be a blessing in disguise as my high hamstring has been considerably more sore since last weekend. I spent almost 6 hours at Murphy on September 12th on the hilliest section, according to the Martiskos(markers 1-11 on the park map). It honestly seemed like about 80:20 hills-to-flat ratio. I had planned on 6.5 hours but blisters on both feet cut me short at 5:40:00. I was so pissed off as I had the steam to go another loop. I'm sure the terrain is what aggravated my hamstring, but I think the silver lining was actually being on the worst part of the course I'll run on Halloween. The flats on the back portion of the loop will be heaven on race day although that part of the course is closed currently. I had to "navigate" (jump) two fences just to run the portion I was on. At least I know what to expect for hills. God willing, I still expect to run a 7 and 8 hour long run, preferably at Murphy, before I taper for my first Ultras. Life is so stressful right now and although I'm generally OK being a solitary person, always running and training alone has been difficult. The only contact I have with other runners is through MNDRS, when I ask others questions and they are generous enough to answer. I'm sure it's irritating for some of them dealing with the paranoid questions of someone they've never met. I never expected the solitude to be a problem and I look forward to actually meeting some of the people I have only "met" in hyperspace. It's frustrating not feeling plugged in or connected to anyone in the Ultra community when everyone else seems to know and run with each other. Maybe that will change as I actually start to show up at some of these things and put names to faces. Right now I'm only a third-party. An ambitious spectator.

13 September 2009

Efforts that inspire

Before I started writing about Saturday's long run I luckily payed enough attention to notice that a couple people were already blogging about their hard-fought battles up on the Superior Hiking Trail. One of the Ultra runner's I follow, Matt Patten, left a brief excerpt announcing he had DNF'd at mile 62. Matt doesn't know me but he was one of the first people to respond to my mundane emails and requests for Ultra info after joining MNDRS a couple years back and most recently as I near my first Ultra. So of course I was in his corner this weekend and sorry to hear he had DNF'd at mile 62. Thank God I read about his effort before I started whining about my own at Murphy. To me, for anyone to train for and attempt a race of that distance is nothing less than inspiring. Again I don't know Matt and he hasn't said a ton about the experience yet, but he seemed pretty level-headed about where he checked out on the Sawtooth course.

Certainly no one here knows ME, but if you did, you'd know how much I favor the "underdog" or any person or group attempting a task that most people think they are unlikely to acheive. I always favor the underdog in the Superbowl (I usually lose money too), I love reading about the battles that by all practical convention should have been lost and especially the battles that were lost but survived.

Obviously I'm not implying that Matt was not likely to succeed or that he was the underdog in the Sawtooth 2009 Saga. He was just as capable of succeeding as anyone that showed up. What I am attempting to point out is the moving spirit of the person brave enough to take the first step towards an effort the likes of Sawtooth. In other areas of my life I have learned this: As hard as we may be on ourselves about our own performance, traits or qualities there is ALWAYS someone- a child, friend, co-worker or a total stranger- that may be inspired by what we have done. Somebody believes that something each of us has done is bold, brave or inconceivable even when by our own measure we have come up short of our personal ideals or goals. I find that not only moving but also a good reason to be gracious and humble. Our efforts could make others think something is possible. Running 100 miles? Seeking religion? Attending college? Sobriety? Who the hell knows.

There are other Ultra battles that have moved me this year including SteveQ's stand at the Lean horse 100. And there HE was giving his best effort to other runners as a volunteer on the SHT this weekend. Amazing. Although it sounded as though Steve took Lean Horse pretty hard, Steve, Matt and all the other Ultra runners who have shown up this summer must know that their efforts inspire others to believe something inconceivable is possible.

So, I'll save the whining about my personal struggles this weekend for another post and dedicate this one soley to those who inspire. Thanks to everyone who ran and volunteered on the SHT this weekend. Great effort.

11 September 2009

my longest long run, other goals and hamstrings

Tomorrow I will run for 6.5 hours at Murphy Hanerahan park. Rain or shine. I actually enjoy the rain after the intial shock. Other than last week's 6 hour single-track long run I only put in a 14+ mile hilly run near my property adjacent to lake Shamineau and Crookneck lake in Scandia Valley (near Motley). During that last long run I was paying more attention to my music than the ground and kicked a root. HARD. This is the second time in 3 weeks I've accomplished this on the same trail. Each time it was full force during extension with my right foot and I aggravated my high hamstring condition that I've nursed for the last 6 months. Each time it was a full face plant into the trail, no time to roll. No rocks thank God.

Lessons: no more iPod on anything but road or treadmill, don't be complacent. And if I'm in a rooty/rocky section I'm now obliged to repeat my new cadence, "watch the ground, don't fall down. Watch the ground, don't fall down". That's honestly what I say over and over again. I cringe at the thought of injuring my hamstring or any body part to the point that I throw away the last 6 months of training. If you haven't had the high hamstring injury, bend over and have a friend boot you in the ass with a work boot as hard as possible over the lower glute on the bone.

So having recovered from a couple weeks of so-so mileage other than the long runs and a few middle distance runs, I'm back in it full swing. After Saturday I'll follow up on Sunday with a 2 hour run and take Monday off. Next week...60 miles total with a long run of 7 hours.
The only cross training I've done this week was doing bicep curls to fatigue last night while watching the last half of the Steelers Titan game I had DVR'd, and chest and tricep workouts during the week.

I've enjoyed each of my long runs more since eclipsing my longest exercise duration of about 4.5 hours about 4 weeks ago. Now each long run is a record for me and that feels good. Barring (re) injury I feel pretty good about Wild Duluth and then Murphy 2 weeks later. Some of my optimism is ignorance I'm sure. The plan (wisely advised) is to approach WD50K as a training run, take my time, get 31 miles under my feet. I'm registering for the 50 miler at Murph (my stretch goal) but after the WD50K "gut check" I'll step down to the 50K at Murph if I feel I can't do it safely. And if Cindy and Les allow changes to races prior to race day.

By October 3rd, I will have an 8 hour long run under my belt. That leaves 2 weeks to taper for the Wild, then run the Wild, and then 2 weeks of moderate-to-low mileage before Murphy. Probably more low than moderate to be honest.

Before Murphy I want to be 180 pounds or less. I'm about 190 right now. 175 would have me ecstatic. 180 is not overly ambitious -I don't think- and 175 isn't beyond the realm of possibility. My "ideal" weight and ultimate goal is to maintain at 165-170 pounds. I started at 227 pounds not being able to run a mile on a treadmill not long ago and I've lost damned near 40 pounds.
This is good.

09 September 2009

Hey...is that the new guy?

This is my first foray into blogging. Add blogging and blogger to the lists of things I swore I would never want to do or be. But here I am. Blogging. About being a runner. Runner is another descriptor on my lists.
No doubt I am blogging, I'm just not sure if what I am doing is running or if I fit the definition of a runner, whatever that is. I've run a road half-marathon, road marathon, several trail 25Ks and a little 7 mile trail race in Urbandale, Iowa. That's it. I know it's a shallow resume but I also know I like what I am doing, and everytime I do something (i.e. race), I want to do it more, I want to improve and I want to go farther. And I LOVE trails. I think those are at least a few of the minimum requirements to being an Ultra runner.
So, I'm training for my biggest goals to date. For 2009 : 1 to 2 short course trail Ultras and as a stretch goal, a 50 miler. I am not as witty or well written as most of the people I've been following through blogs. But I look forward to extending my Ultra network, getting to know as many of you as possible and learning a few things along the way. Right now I'm in the "the more I learn the less I know" stage. I can't seem to get enough information about this sport fast enough. At the same time I'm trying to avoid over-complicating something I care about. It's one thing to train hard but I think training in a smart, purposeful manner sets you aside.

So bear with me as I get started with Ultra running and blogging. I'm planning on getting better at both.