Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Coming to Grips






In the early morning hours of May 5, I was running in familiar territory – the Massanutten Mountains of Virginia.    My training had been very focused upon this one day for the past five months.  I was poised and hoping for a good day; a PR on a course I know well. 21:37 was the mark I was aiming.  Failure was nearly inconceivable.
From the gun, there was something missing.  The gentle climb up to Moreland Gap felt more labored than it should.  “When the sun comes up, I will feel better”, I thought to myself.  I came in to Edinburg Gap a full ten minutes slower than my time from two years prior.  “Hang in there, things will turn around”, I calmly told myself and plodded on.  By mile-20 at Woodstock Tower, I was continuing to really struggle.  My body felt like I had already run 50-miles.  Slow, sluggish, and as if I had a “restrictor plate” on my engine I proceeded.  My central governor felt broken.  My stomach and legs were fine, but I simply could not will myself to propel forward the way I normally run.

I discussed dropping at Elizabeth Furnace (mile 33) with my crew made up of my good friends Pete and Jim.  They urged me to go on.  I yearned only to make to simply to Camp Roosevelt (mile 64) where I would have pacers to the end.  “One aid-station to the next”, my positive self-talk went.  I felt terrible for having them out there with me.
I slogged on in deep contemplation and assessment of my mind, body, and soul.  In the end, it just wasn’t my day and I put myself out of misery at Habron Gap (mile 54) after 13-hours on the course.  I thought about all this failure meant:  Nullification of my sacrifice of training time away from my family and the loss of 5-years accumulated tickets for Western States.  In the end, I could do no more; or I would not do any more.  Whichever it was, it mattered not.

I have had plenty of time to dwell upon my failure.  My conclusion is that I simply have too many life stresses to focus on training and running 100-miles for the next few years.  I believe I was over-trained.  On paper I believe my training was spot on – running slightly over 1,000 miles since January with a high level of quality and specification for MMT.  What I did not account for was the accumulation of stress from work and home.  I have two young children at home and that’s comes with its own myriad of stresses – good and bad – but my job has become increasingly demanding and stressful over the past few years.  Unfortunately, I can do nothing about either currently.   Guilt constantly riddles and haunts me – my life it not my own.

In conclusion, I still love to run and I still love to race ultras.   I love my wife and two sons even more though and I value my career and the difference I am making in my community.  Sacrifices must be made and some dreams must be put on hold.   It’s simply a season of life to take care of first things first.  So 100-milers . . . until we meet again old friend!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Review

2016 WV Trilogy finishers

As 2016 comes to a close, I am again filled with gratitude.  I am grateful for every step of the year.  The balance between life and running continues to be hard to maintain -- actually it's getting significantly harder.  With the addition of our second son in September, life has seemed to speed up that much more.


I only ran one ultra in 2016, the Vermont 100.  I ran a couple of shorter races -- the Forest Festival 10K, Helvetia 10K, and the Canary in the Cave 25K++ -- but all-in-all it was a pretty low key year.  Maintaining my co-directing responsibilities at Highlands Sky and the WV Trilogy are valuable commitments that deserve mention.  I really enjoy race directing and all the relationships and pleasure it provides.  I hope I am always able to do this.

Finishing the Canary in the Cave 25K++ with Michael Bee
2016 mileage total was 2,101.  Even though it's yet again one of my lower years, I am still quite happy to have even gotten in that amount.  I hope it can be a springboard me toward more mileage in 2017.  I would like to get around 2,500 if possible.  It's neat to think about hitting 40K miles this year and in a few years 50,000.  Can I make it to 100,000?  That is an ultimate long-term goal for sure.

2002: 651
2003: 2,213
2004: 2,506
2005: 2,667
2006: 3,124
2007: 2,759
2008: 2,812
2009: 3,353
2010: 3,056
2011: 4,523
2012: 2,718
2013: 2,180
2014: 2,375
2015: 2,205
2016: 2,101
Total:  39,243 Miles



Racing Plans for 2017:  Again, the goal and dream of running Western States must wait another year.  No luck in the lottery for the fifth time in a row -- and two other times prior to 2011.  I know it is not the be-all and end-all of races, but it has been a dream every since I watched the film Running Madness back in '02/'03.

I still find great satisfaction and motivation in training and running 100-mile events.  Oddly enough it's the overall training process that I really love.  I really enjoy the focus and dedication that these events demand.

I am planning on focusing on running Massanutten again in 2017.  I feel like I still have some unfinished business on that course.  It was my first 100-miler in 2008 and continues to be my overall 100-mile PR of 21:37.  I am going to focus on surpassing that mark 9-years later.  I have no idea if it's even possible, but I'm sure going to give it my best.  In preparation for Massanutten, I hope to do the Catawba Run Around route, Haulin' in the Holler 50K, and a double North Fork Mtn Trail.  After MMT, maybe a fast-pack in July and the Iron Mtn 50 in September to round out the year (?).

Happy New Year everyone . . . here's to a healthy, happy, 2017 that is full of adventure!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Vermont 100

A"bridged" version:
Ha! Get it?

I blew out my quads by mile 20. ??!!???   Suffered through 80 more miles.  Finished in 22:42.  Well off of my goal of 17-hours.  Proud to have gutted it out and found the finish line.



You can quit reading now if you would like.  If you're in to minutia, please feel free to continue on.


Unabridged version:
I had not raced an ultra since last May at Massanutten.  This occurred for a variety of reasons, but the major limiting factors were family responsibilities, lack of desire to race, race directing responsibilities, work responsibilities, and lingering injures.  Lots of responsibilities in there and other excuses, but you get the drift.  Running just hasn't been on the front burner in the last year.  Don't get me wrong, I've still been running.  There's just a big difference between "running" and "training".  Regardless, I was excited to head to VT to finally run what I intended to by my first 100 in 2007, but was side-railed with a jolly case of mononucleosis.  With five other 100's under my belt, I was excited about what I could do at a "faster" 100.  I was excited about certainly getting a new PR since my PR is 21:37 from MMT in '08.

My lack of racing in the last year would lead the casual observer to two possible conclusions: 1) I would be well rested and ready to run well.  2) I would not be sharp and probably not race well.  I believed I was ready for option one, but option two was certainly the reality to come.  Cue the excuses: I had dealt with some lingering left achilles bursitis since the winter, but felt like I had it mostly under control in March, but was unfortunately sidelined most of the month that I planned on building VT base by the flu and resulting pneumonia.  Frankly, by April I was a little doubtful that I was going to do the race considering the fact that I had not run over 20-miles for a single run since October.  Since this was my only race planned for the year, I decided to let it all hang out and I dove head first into the training. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Wrap-Up


MMT aid station
As I reflect on the past twelve months of running, I can't help but be filled with gratitude.  No, the year was not perfect and I did not get to compete in all the races in which I intended.  Ultimately it went the way I expected though; maybe even the way I hoped.  This was my twelfth season as an ultra runner and I have certainly learned to expect the unexpected.  Injuries and life can alter the running equilibrium.  Balance in life and running is a hard thing to maintain.

Running the Massanutten 100 well was my number one focus for the year.  After tune-up races at the Frozen Sasquatch 50K, Thomas Jefferson 100K, and Promise Land 50K I was poised and primed for a good race.  Luckily, the plan worked and I had a very good run -- good enough for 4th place in 22:57.  This was my third MMT finish (21:37 '08, 22:39 '09) and I am proud to keep the sub-24 streak alive.

After MMT and the necessary rest and recovery, I set my sights on adding more speed training and quality workouts into my training. My focus in training was the goal of running sub-7:30 at Mountain Masochist (which would take some serious training considering that my PR there is 7:53).  Unfortunately I ended up getting injured.  First a nasty pulled hamstring, then a terrible case of plantar fasciitis -- which I am still nursing to a small degree.  Too much speed too quickly is a rookie mistake, but I certainly fell prey.  Regardless, in spite of many missed days of training, I still enjoyed some great running in the fall and even managed to race/run two sub-ultra distances for a change, the Iron Mountain 16-Miles and the Canary in the Cave 25K++. 


with Dan at the Promise Land start

Mileage wise, 2015 was one of my lower years; 2,205.  Even when I am healthy and training well, I simply struggle to find the time to train at the level I once did.  Once again, the balance between life and running is hard to maintain; it seems to get only more difficult with the inevitable increase of responsibilities.  I started keeping a running log in 2002 and I decided to add them up today.  It's pretty neat to see that I have run over 37K miles in my lifetime.  I am glad that I have taken the time to document all my training over the years.  I know that I won't be able to do this forever, but someday I will derive great enjoyment from reading these log books -- actually, I already have.

2002: 651
2003: 2,213
2004: 2,506
2005: 2,667
2006: 3,124
2007: 2,759
2008: 2,812
2009: 3,353
2010: 3,056
2011: 4,523
2012: 2,718
2013: 2,180
2014: 2,375
2015: 2,205
Total:  37,142 Miles


MMT finish with Clay




















Racing Plans for 2016: (Very tentative.)  The only definite is that I want to focus on the Vermont 100 in July.  After getting denied by the Western States lottery now four years in a row (and two other times prior to 2011), I have two choices:  1) give up on the race  2) keep trying.  Might as well keep trying; eventually my name will get pulled . . .
I will likely run a few 50K's this spring in my build-up to VT, but I don't really have any plans for the fall. ??  Sometimes simply running as much as possible is enough of a plan for me.  The simple joy of the daily run is my favorite aspect of running/training and I hope I have many in 2016.

No matter what the new year has in store, I am thankful for my health, family, friends, and God's mercy and grace in my life.  Here's to a Happy New Year -- bring on 2016!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thomas Jefferson 100K

Finish line photo with RD: Andy Jones-Wilkins

The 100k race distance is a cruel monster.  It's not far enough to demand the reverence that which a 100-mile race demands, yet it's certainly far enough to expose any runner not wise enough to take it seriously.  There is no faking it and nowhere to hide from her pain. 

Straight up, running in the winter is not my thing.  I do it because I'm a runner and that's what I do.  Frankly strapping on a headlamp in the pre-dawn hours to the howl of a single digit wind, blowing snow, and treacherous footing are not my cup of tea.  I would far rather enjoy the beauty of winter gliding over the trails on cross country skis instead of post-holing with my trail shoes.  I slogged my fair share of miles though this winter in West Virginia – ushered out the door by the fear of an early season tune-up in the hills to my east called the Thomas Jefferson 100K on March 14.

My goals for this race were simple: 1) Cover the distance.  2) Keep the effort controlled.  3) Don't get hurt – the Massanutten 100 is the focal point for the spring and I need to be able to jump right back into my training after a couple days of rest/recovery. 4) Enjoy it!

The race takes pace in Walnut Creek Park – just a few miles outside Charlottesville, VA – and consists of seven 9-mile loops.  Walnut Creek is an ideal location for a running event.  There is ample parking, a central pavilion, beautiful woods, and some buttery single track.  The race started at 5:00 am with a steady cold rain ushering us into the dark woods.  Even with my conservative plan, I somehow found myself leading the pack from the start.  I was going slowly, but no one seemed to mind.  Eventually I stopped to let out some coffee and the peloton went around.  Queue the day of running alone . . .

Running loop courses is something new to me.  It was an interesting day of mental tricks to fool myself into finding something novel and inspiring about each loop.  Loop 1 and 2 – no problem, just a warm up; get to drop off the headlamp.  Loop 3, take off heavier gloves.  Loop 4, change out jackets.  Loop 5, just suck it up and do the loop.  Loop 6 was the carrot on the stick; time for some tunes – a rarity for me.  At the end of loop six, I met up with Greg Loomis and shared some miles with him.  Finally having some company was great and eventually we met up with John Baldwin as well at the start/finish area.  I got to start out loop 7 with them (they were on loop 6) and really enjoyed just cruising along on some tired legs looking for the finish line.  The buttery single track was now really "buttery" – the muddy trails really had my hip flexors wrecked.  John and I covered the remainder of the loop together after Greg slowed a bit and I was happy to finish in 11:43, good enough for 3rd place.  Full results HERE.

So my impression:  All of the above goals were met and the race really exceeded my expectations.  This is a top notch event.  The pre and post-race meals were amazing, super nice swag, and the volunteers treated all of the runners like kings and queens all day long.  Be sure to check out this race in 2016 and I look forward to making seven loops around the park yet again!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Blue Ridge Outdoor Athlete Team

 
I am honored to be included in the 2015 B.R.O. Athlete Team.

"These 40 elite athletes compete and participate in nine different sport disciplines: trail running, mountain biking, road cycling, whitewater paddling, climbing, road running, fly fishing, long-distance hiking, and triathlon. Our team includes teenagers and masters athletes at the top of their game. They hail from eight different states across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, and they will compete in over 120 events this year. Look for the BRO Athlete Team at events near you and follow their adventures here. Each of these BRO athletes will be posting in-depth, behind-the-scenes personal stories about their adventures all year long."

It will be fun competing and sharing some stories -- here and online at http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Virtues of Treadmill Training

Over the last four years, I have learned the virtues of treadmill running.  Prior to obtaining a treadmill (so graciously gifted to me by my friend John) I could never have imagined how a treadmill could actually become a useful, let alone enjoyable, as a training tool.  Obviously winter time reveals the treadmill's utility more readily, but I have found it to be a viable training tool year round.

Reasons to use the 'mill:
  1. Avoidance of the cold, dark, morning runs.
  2. Avoiding dangerous ice and all the perils that entails.
  3. Steady state tempo runs: The treadmill won't slow down, so you can't either!
  4. Recovery runs: Decreased pounding/impact.
  5. Injury Rehab: You can stop at the first hint of pain/discomfort . . . instead of limping miles home.
  6. Time Crunched: You can sneak in a training run any time.
  7. Hill Training:  All the benefits of the uphill, but no injury-risking down.
  8. Catching up on TV or movies.
My Favorite Treadmill Training Runs:
  1. Commercial Intervals:  Pick-up the pace for the duration of a TV commercial.
  2. Steady-State Tempo
  3. Long Runs: Ok . . . so not my favorite, but I have a streak of four years running a marathon on the treadmill.  Usually on a nasty Saturday in February where running 20+ miles outside is equally detestable.
  4. Hill/Tempo Combo:  2M Warm-up, then for each 0.25-mile I increase the pace by 0.1 mph and every 1-mile I do a quarter at 6% grade (btw: I always keep the grade at least 2.5% to take it easier on the motor).
Anyone else have any love for the treadmill and/or favorite workouts?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Frozen Sasquatch 50K 2015


I had the pleasure of running my fourth Frozen Sasquatch 50K this past Saturday in Charleston, WV.  After my broken rib/s hiatus from racing during the fall of '14, I was more than happy to hit the buttery single track -- actually, extremely muddy this year -- at Kanawha State Forest.

My training has been leisure over the past couple of months, but I have been running a decent amount of mileage -- just no real quality or specificity since early October.  I was excited to test my base fitness a bit and to measure the amount of work needed to be done before my stout spring racing schedule.

Courtesy of Nick Billock

Being a 2-loop 50K, the race lends itself to a solid assessment of pacing.  I came through the first lap in 2:17 -- feeling fine, but as if I was running a little too "fast" for it to be sustainable.  The little slips of the extremely muddy course were starting to take their toll on my hip flexors.  I believe I came through lap one around 2:14 in the two years that I ran 4:34 and 4:35 -- so considering my fitness . . . not too bad at all.  I knew I would inevitably slow, but at least I had two runners in front to cajole me along.

After AS 1 on loop #2, I simply wanted to cruise the last 10+ miles and be done.  I was feeling a little apathetic and tired; sometimes it's just a whole heck of a lot more fun running with someone!  After the Johnson Hollow AS (#2), I luckily found my second wind and really picked up the pace.  It wasn't intentional; I just felt really good and felt like running hard.  Eventually I saw Brian Talon up ahead.  We had chatted a few moments as he passed me on the first loop and learned that he was from CT.  He seemed like a great fellow from our brief exchange and I could tell he was a talented runner.  I was hoping for a sneak attack since Brian was still running well, but alas he looked back and saw me while I was still a good 200-meters behind.  Brian picked up the pace and I knew that he was going to be a great competitor and make me work for it.  The race was on!  This was the most fun I had the whole race.  Brian took off and I slowly reeled him in over the next mile.  Nothing like some good clean competition to get the motor running!  Man I love that . . . 

Regardless, I ended up finishing strong in 4:49 -- good enough for second place overall.  Not my slowest time, but not my best -- given the days conditions, I am well pleased.


Photo: Dan Todd
Congrats to young gun Andrew Rhodes who stoically ran out front all day and performed well to win in 4:35.  I believe this is Andrew's second ultra win in the last 12-mths, but I expect many more out of him. 

Many thanks to Mike Dolin and the rest of the wonderful volunteers at the Frozen Sasquatch.  Such a great grass-roots event and a wonderful way to start the New Year!  Full results HERE.


And I nearly forgot . . . How many races do you get the opportunity to moon a sasquatch?

The aforementioned post-mooning chuckle