Take It Easy

This past year has been one of epic proportions so far – no for real epic. I graduated from marathons to ultras and ran my first 50 and my first 100. (I also did my first timed event at 6 hours, but that was less than 50, so we’ll just call it a long long run.) I did some streaking – not the kind that’ll get you arrested – and it only came to end after VT100 kicked me up and down. I ended up putting up 2500+ miles in 306 days. For calendar year 2014, I’ll most likely put up less than 2400. And I’m okay with that.

I’m okay with it for two reasons. The first is simply that I don’t have any races planned. I might try my feet at an indoor mile at the Dartmouth Invy, but sounds like a good way to get injured. I might even have a go at some crazy winter races in the area that require microspikes or some other type of winter add-on to complete. Fun? Not in my book. The first real race of 2015 I’m planning isn’t until late April, and that’s still up in the air. So with no real races in sight, I’m not going to push.

Reason number two is kind of an abomination of reason number one, but all this crappy fall weather has me in a rather abominable mood. Off-season. I feel strongly that every runner needs an off-season of one sort or another. I’m not talking about one of those footballer off-seasons where I find myself drunk and stoned in Aruba wondering when I need to get back to training, but just a toned down period of time with low miles at an easy effort. It will give my body and mind a time to recooperate and come January/February, I’ll be ready to go.

Of course, taking it easy for that long will be harder than it sounds, but I’m dedicated…

The Answer in My Hand

When my love affair with Orange Mud earlier this year, I was quite intent on the Hydra Quiver being the only hydration system I would need. I had no idea that Orange Mud would continue to pump out phenomenal products and that I would find a need for all of them. Soon enough I found myself gearing up for the VT100 (Parts I, II, III) and realized I’d need something with a little more storage room and a bit more in terms of fluids. Que the Vest Pack. Sadly – for my wallet – I loved the VP and couldn’t imagine utilizing orange mud’s awesome return policy. While the VP isn’t my everyday goto, it is supremely useful for longer treks.

My Orange Mud.

My Orange Mud arsenal.

Being content now with both the Vest Pack and Hydra Quiver, I thought my journey withy Orange Mud would be done. Of course, I was wrong. Not too long ago they released their version of a handheld. Unlike packs, handhelds seem to have more of a polarized following. People can take or leave a pack, but a handheld is different. You either love handhelds or you hate them. I put myself in the camp of the latter.

I can’t really explain why, but for some reason I like to have my hands free. My wrists clean of any accoutrements. Bracelets fluster me. If I hold onto something for longer than five or ten minutes, my fingers start freaking out, screaming at me to let go. I want to wiggle them and free them from their bonds. I imagine my hands feel like someone suffering from claustrophobia stuck in a coffin. So for me, a handheld was a no brainer bad idea.

Sweaty October.

Sweaty October.

Of course, after reading some reviews, and knowing how much I love my VP and HQ, I had to give the handheld a try. The price was right at under $30, and I knew if I wanted to send it back I could. (I also knew if I didn’t want it, I could probably sell it to someone who did.) And here we are today.

I got the handheld specifically for shorter-long events. For times when it might be nice to have a drink, but not necessary to carry a whole pack. When it first came, I was a little skeptical. It’s just a strap and a water bottle. But when I put it on, I realized the folly of my ways. It wasn’t just a strap, but a glove. It fit nice and snug around my hand, but let my fingers wiggle and move. The trapped, suffocating feeling I was dreading didn’t exist.

The mighty Mt. Ascutney.

The mighty Mt. Ascutney.

Knowing that I had a Six Hour coming up that I wanted to use the handheld for, I started using it on every run. I practiced switching hands mid-run, and even tried to fill it on a few occasions still stuck to my hand – not the best idea.

It holds my watch for me!

It holds my watch for me!

Taking it on a six hour was the first real test. I’d have the chance to fill it every 2.62 miles, and grab any food I’d need. At first, I just grabbed a couple of cookies, but I eventually ended up shoving a couple of Cliff Bar Gel things in there (they were foul…). In the end, I couldn’t have been more pleased with it. I like to run minimally, with just the basic things I need. On a 2.62 mile loop, I didn’t need much some water, and a bit of food, and the handheld did just that. It probably would have worked for me on longer loops too. I filled the bottle with water once every hour or so, and if I wanted, I could have used a bigger bottle.

To be frank, I’ve fallen quite in love with my handheld. The strap wraps around the meat of your hand and is connected to a gigantic pocket that holds the bottle. Your fingers are free. It’s genius and kind of deceiving, after all, your hand isn’t really doing any holding on.

If you’re a handheld kind of person, it’s time to give the Orange Mud Handheld a try. And if you’re scared of handhelds, this is the one to break you in.

Rain, Mud and Fog

Pre-Race

This past Saturday night, I had made the decision to travel down to Amherst, NH for the Joe English 6 Hour Twilight challenge. Initially, I wasn’t sure about the drive home. It was going to be late; I was going to be alone; I was going to be zonked. Thankfully, at the last minute, I found two local runners – one that I knew previously, and the other I met that day – who were also going. That meant I didn’t have to drive and could get to know some more local running people.

Thankfully, it didn't rain that much.

Thankfully, it didn’t rain that much.

Going down, it poured. The forecast called for rain – all night. In fact, one forecast called for a quarter of an inch of rain. That’s a lot of rain. My main concern wasn’t so much the mud, or the rain, but the temperature. Being constantly wet for six hours when it’s 50 degrees means you’re going to be cold, even if you’re running, you’ll be cold. Thankfully, the temperature didn’t drop that much and the rain only really came down for an hour or two block in the beginning.

I went into things not really having a ‘goal’. Sure, 40 miles would be nice, but training since VT100 had been poor at best. Most of it was just recovery 20-30 mile weeks with an 8.25 mile long run. My Achilles was still not 100%, but had been healing, and I was ready to ease up at a moments notice with thoughts of future races. Of course, tendonitis being what it is, it didn’t hurt until I stopped and then it started to stiffen up a bit.

The Course

The loop was a 2.62 mile loop. There was a turn around a quarter of a lap in to pick up a half loop at the end, time permitting. It wasn’t your typical single track mountain trail, but it was reminiscent of a groomed high school cross country trail. It is a horse trail and is a minimum twelve feet wide at all times. Some if it is gravel and dirt, some of it grass. Some of it is under tree cover, and some if it in open fields.

Drop bag. Easy access at all times.

Drop bag. Easy access at all times.

It started out quite nice, but as you can imagine a dirt trail with a number of runners running loops in the rain gets pretty sloppy, and it didn’t take too long before some of the steeper declines became slip and slides. By the end, even the herd paths through the grass had to be avoided.

The Race

Having never run a timed event before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my mindset went something like this: “Go out comfortable until you can’t, then just keep moving forward. There’s no distance to be covered, just time to be eaten, move forward.” And so I went out and just ran. My splits were fairly consistent for the first six laps, and then slowly started to deteriorate.

Lap Time Pace
1 20:55 7:59
2 21:15 8:06
3 20:24 7:47
4 20:34 7:50
5 20:33 7:50
6 20:35 7:51
7 21:19 8:08
8 21:10 8:04
9 22:17 8:30
10 23:02 8:47
11 24:04 9:11
12 24:26 9:19
13 26:56 10:16
14 27:31 10:30
15 28:02 10:41
15.5 10:54 8:19

Things started to fall off around the tenth lap – about three hours in, just before I hit the marathon mark. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but there are a variety of things that I can and will blame. Starting with the thing out of my control:

The Weather

Two things here – firstly the course was getting sloppy and shoes were getting wet. Gravel had entered shoes at this point and was getting uncomfy. The rain and mud made things an uncertainty so running down the hills took a bit of precaution. Secondly, the fog. Sometime in there the fog became super dense and there was a bit of a mist. If you’ve ever driven in the fog you know that the reflection off the fog can reduce your visibility pretty good. Well, the same holds true for runners. I’d be willing to guess – no exaggeration – that visibility was 20-30 feet for a while, at points even less. There was no cruising, lots of slowing down around turns to make sure you were following the flags.

Decided to go with my FIT. Excellent choice.

Decided to go with my FIT. Excellent choice.

And now for the real reasons:

Food

Being the genius that I am, I left packing until the last minute. In doing so, I managed to forget my sweet potato mix at home which meant, I had no food. Around two hours in, I realized I needed to start eating and grabbed a couple of Nilla Waffers off of the aid station. The next lap in, I realized I couldn’t make it on cookies and grabbed a couple of Cliff Gels. Over the next hour, I consumed the gels and started to feel kind of gross. Not crampy or anything to really stop me from running, but my guts just weren’t happy. I asked one of the volunteers for a burger and they kindly obliged, so I ran the last 2.5 hours of the race with my Orange Mud Handheld in one hand and a burger in the other. Not an ideal source of calories, but it worked – to some degree.

Mindset

I was awake for the start, but as the day wore on, waking up at 6:00 AM was finally catching up to me. My body felt okay, but mentally I started to drift. I lost track of laps and just kept going forwards and that was good enough. My legs were feeling fine, but my back was sore and the head lamp and fog was really starting to give me some tunnel vision. I won’t say I threw in the towel, but I wasn’t really hell bent on pushing it either. If you look at the pace of my last half lap, you’ll see that I had plenty of gas left in the tank and probably should have been pushing a bit harder. Had I shaved a couple of minutes off my last two laps, I might have been able to eek out a full 16 laps instead of 15.5.

In the end, I can blame it on some extraneous variables, but it was really the head that broke on this one.

The Final Hour

Coming into the final hour I had lost count of laps and asked on the way in how many laps I was on. They told me and off I went. While I’m not the world’s greatest mathematician, I quickly tried to do some mental gymnastics to figure out how many laps I needed to hit that magical 40 number. No matter how many times I did it, I feel tragically short. There was no way I was going to hit 40 so what was the point in pushing on? (Not my everyday mindset, but the mindset I was in at that given moment.) As I ran I slowed down and tried to think about how many laps I could get done in the allotted time. There was no way I could do three, so I slowed down and planned on doing 2.5. In the end, I probably could have picked the pace up a bit and nipped three laps. I guess this is where a crew of some sort might come in handy. It’s hard to think sometimes…

Coming into the barn off my final full lap, I looked at my watch and saw I had sixteen minutes left. Through out the race I used the 1/4 turn around as a point to check my time. I’d been making it to the turn around the last two laps in around seven minutes. If I hustled, I could pick up another mile plus. I tossed my burger and handheld to the side and headed out of the barn. Knowing I was close to the end and having that deadline in front of my nose pushed me on. There was no more I had to do, when I got back, I could be done, so I pushed. I guess you could call it a kick, though kicks are generally associated with speed. There was no speed in this. I finished and was glad it was over. I wasn’t totally trashed as expected, and after chatting with my carmates, and checking the splits on my watch, I realized I had run 15.5 laps, and not 14.5. I had cracked 40, and with that I was stoked.

Pros of the Timed Event

Being my first timed event, I figured why not share what I liked and didn’t. One of the big pluses with a loop is the familiarity you can gain with said loop. After the first two or three times through, you know the tangents, you know when big hill is coming, or where the rock hiding in the grass ready to send you sprawling is waiting. It’s also quite helpful to never be far from an aid station or your stuff. It means you can carry less, and if you forget something, you don’t have to hold on long before you can get to it.

People. I’m not always a big fan of people. I like my quiet. I like my solitude, but people also give you something to chase. On a loop course, there’s always carrots, always someone in front of you ready to be hunted down. It also means that you can chat it up and meet people when you want/need and breaks up some of the monotony.

Cons of the Timed Event

In crummy weather conditions a wet loop can get beat up pretty bad.

Yeah, that’s about it. I really liked this loop.

Misc.

I’d also say that as a first year event, this thing rocked. It’s one I’ll probably do again, and one I’d suggest to others. It’s cheap. It’s an excellent setup. The people who put it on were some of the most helpful and pleasant I’ve met.

Results

Full Results

Full Results

Trying To Say No

For the most part, I pride myself on my frugal-ness. I change my oil despite the fact that it saves a little over $2. I buy groceries from the discount shelf because a can has a ding, or the bananas are a little over ripe. I raise my own rabbits for meat, we have chickens for eggs, we don’t eat fish unless I catch it. I wear my clothes until they have holes in them because they are so threadbare they’re falling apart. Most of it comes down to trying to pay back loans as quick as possible. Sometimes, it takes discipline, but for the most part, I’m not that compulsive of a person, except when it comes to running.

The most expensive part of running is typically shoes, but being an ambassador at SKORA Running, I get some shoes for free, and the ones I don’t get for free come discounted so that takes care of that. How about clothes? Nope, TJ Maxx, baby. So then, we’re left with races. Turns out, people realized they can make a killing of a race and so the price for races has gone up and not looked back. Half-marathons run upwards of $60 plus some kind of online registration fee (even if I send in a check, I pay the registration fee for the registration…), 5ks under $20 are becoming a unique treat. Well, ultra marathons are usually more expensive – unless it’s a Fat Ass and then it’s free. So for the most part, I plan my races based on cost. But that doesn’t stop me from occasionally perusing Ultrasignup.com.

After VT100 (Parts I, II, and III), I decided to just rehab the Achilles and keep my mileage low. There’s a race I’m planning on doing in April, and I told myself that would be my next big event, which meant real training wouldn’t commence until late December giving me a nice off-season. Of course, while rehabbing I started to get bored and decided to really plan out next years races. Bad move.

I directed my browser to Ultrasignup.com punched in my zip code and started eyeballing some races in the area – this probably would have been okay, except I forgot to set the search date for 12/31. So instead of finding races that would start after my off-season, I found some taking place during my off-season.

As I scrolled through, I stumbled across the Joe English 6 Hour Twighlight Challenge. (I’m no Fanboy but anything with the word ‘twighlight’ in it? Sold. Not really, but…) Before I did my first 50 mile run, I followed Joe Fejes’ six-day breakout race at Across the Years and was hooked on timed races. I have an 8 hour penciled in for next August, but that’s so far away, and Joe English was slated for 10/4, and it was less than two hours away. As soon as I saw that the wheels started churning, hard.

Irrationally, I really wanted to do it, rationally, I knew it was best just to heel, besides, my funds for running were nearly depleted. For kick, I cliked on the register link – $30. Holy Hell. $30 for any run is a bargain, let alone an ultra.

I think it was the $30 price tag that sealed the deal. I couldn’t help it. I signed up despite my best interest. Since VT100 I’ve been under 30 miles a week except for the last two (~35); my Achilles is still grumpy about anything quicker than a 7:00 mile.

So as I’m gearing up for Saturday night, I’m starting to get a little excited. Some people wretch at the idea of running a 2.6 mile loop for 6 hours; I can’t wait. I’ve no real goals – I’d like to hit 40 miles, but whatever works works. It’s called a trail, but it’s a groomed horse trail which is grass and gravel and 12 feet wide in all places. 314 feet of elevation change per loop.

So yes, I’m impulsive when it comes to some things. At least it’s cheap. Adventure.

An Addict

I saw an addict I know the other day.
We met at the library.

Our boys played
together
listened contently
to the librarian’s
stories.

He had just been accepted
to school;
rehabilitation counselling.
He disappeared
as intensity increased.

I saw him yesterday.
Stumbling down the County Road.
Drunk concentration
cemented on his face
knees knocking together
threatening to crash.

It was 8:30 in the morning.


So I’m not a poet. Seemed the best medium to tell the story…

Happy Fall – Sort Of…

Happy Fall – Sort Of…

I don’t mind fall, but it harbours winter, and that sucks for a lot of reasons around here. But fall isn’t all bad: I can finally use Xfinity’s (Comcast, dirty bastards) ability to DVR 15 shows all at one time! (I actually don’t have a TV and didn’t realize there was that much TV worth watching.) In seriousness though, fall brings new lines of… SHOES!!!

Yup. SKORA just put out their new Fall/Winter Line-Up. There’s lots of sweet colors to run with. One of my favorites is the Ladies Cyan Flo. Yellow FIT.ladies cyan fit Unfortunately, I can’t fit them, so I’ll have to stick with the men’s selections, which are equally as sleek. There are a couple of men’s Fit, including a variation from the intial releases silver/cyan. These are cyan and black which really makes the cyan pop. And then there’s a black on black FIT, which almost looks it coudl be worn in a formal setting without much hoopla. men black-black
There’s also a blue-monochroatic iteration of the PHASE which looks totally dope, especially if blue is your thing.blue phase And if blue isn’t your think, there’s a pretty sweet dark version of the CORE. They call it Gray/Green/Black, but it’s so much more. A dark shoe, not black with a splash of color. Humble and quiet spoken, but shouting at the same time.gray core And then of course is my favorite. The digital camo FORM. Dark, but not too dark, and a bright red sole. Something about that colored sole just does it for me. I mean, how can it not?form
Now the question becomes, which one to get first…

The Leg Calendar

I was updating my log yesterday, and I realized that had I not taken the day off after VT100, I would have hit a year streak on the 16th. Instead, I’ve started over and am at day 60 or so. My log also tells me some information regarding mileage.

Prior to VT100, I had run 2541.6 miles over 306 days averaging 8.3 miles per day. After VT100, I’ve been rehabbing my Achilles and taking it easy and my mileage has subsequently plummeted to 3.7 per day. None-the-less, my mileage from 9/17/13-9/16/14 is 2759.2. For me, that’s a huge number. Since I’ve started keeping track, my mileage has been building, but nothing more than 2300. What’s even more interesting, is that since my mileage has declined and I’m going easy, I might finish the calendar year 2014 around 2300/2400 miles again. No where in my log will I have recorded that big – for me – 2700 number.

But really, how much does that matter? Do my legs know the difference between a calendar year and 365 days? I’m going to go ahead and say probably not. While time isn’t man made, the way we keep track of it kind of is. Sure, it’s nice to tweet the crazy miles you ran in a year, or shout it out on facebook that you just ran the highest mileage week ever, but the reality is, is that it doesn’t really matter. These segments of time we have created are really meaningless to our legs. They don’t know a 31 day month to a 28 day month.

What is important, is that our mileage is increasing – to a point – overall. Mileage should be something that builds on itself; there are ebbs and floes, higher mileage periods and lower mileage periods. It shouldn’t be a flat line. Our legs need lower mileage periods to rest and recover. Even steady low mileage should have peaks and dips. During the off-season throw in a higher mileage period just to keep the legs limber and ready to go. Yes mileage is important, yes how we measure it and keep track of it is important, but it’s important not to get wrapped up in mileage on the short term. Over time, it all irons out.

Summer Losses

It happens every few months, without fail. To write about it seems an imprudent waste of time: the changing of the seasons. We’ve entered full fledged fall in Vermont, and it sucks. I’m not sure if living in Georgia negated the work the previous 28 winters of living in Upstate and Northern New York did on my blood, or perhaps it was the vicious cold last year coupled with a not-so-warm summer (according to accuweather.com we had two days that hit 90 on the nose), and more predictions of a nasty winter – this time with more snow. Either way the cooler weather of the fall has already made me ornery so I’ve made a list of the things I’ll be missing about summer.

1. Barefoot Runs. I love running barefoot. I don’t do it all the time, but I do try to incorporate 5% of weekly mileage barefoot. Sometimes it’s on the road, others it’s the field or track. Not in winter. I can push pretty far into the winter unshod, but once the salt goes down, forget it. Foot coffins here we come. Now I know I can hit the treadmill barefoot, but running on the treadmill seems to contradict the whole idea of running barefoot and naturally. Besides which, no one likes the smell of roasting flesh.

2. The Track. I hit the track once, sometimes twice a week. I enjoy an easy warm-up to the track, a nice hard workout that requires no thoughts about oncoming traffic, slushy puddles, black ice, or guessed distances. You find a pace and rock it. Not in winter. I do my best to get out when the early snow flies and keep the first lane cleared – and sometimes I can make it into December – but it’s hard work. And once the snows on the track, it’s there until April.

3. Sweat. A good sweat makes everything more enjoyable. All the toxins in your body purged through your skin and flushed into the air. You feel accomplished. A job well done. You know you just worked your backside off, and you can strip down to your shorts and just bask in the glory of your stank self. When you’re done, a cool hose for a quick rinse and off you go. Not in the winter. There is no sweat in the winter. Sweat just turns to ice, and when it does stay melted it does an awesome job at wicking away your body heat, too.

4. Clothes. As a stay at home dad, I do my share of the laundry. I do lots of laundry. Every day I do laundry. Wash, dry, fold, away. And with kids, if you don’t get to the ‘away’ part quick enough, you end up folding twice. In summer, there’s less clothes. Sometimes, (albeit rarely) it’s warm enough I start a run without a shirt on. One less item in the wash. Not to mention the size of the clothes. A t-shirt and shorts takes up so little space in a load, but when you start adding shorts, running pants, short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, maybe a third shirt because it’s that damn cold, that’s almost a load of laundry in and of itself. In one run.

5. Rain, streams, ponds, lakes. Water. Who doesn’t love water on a hot summer day? A quick jump in a pond or lake will cool you down instantaneously and you’re off on your way again. Just a stream? Splash some water on your head and let it run down your back. Rain? Awesome. Who doesn’t run faster with less effort in the rain? In winter? Look out. Rain in the winter turns to ice, black ice. Sometimes it comes down as ice. It hurts. It soaks clothes and rubs body parts raw. Crossing a stream? Be careful you don’t punch through, it’s an excellent way to get frostbite.

6. No leaves. When you start doing long long runs, and you’re out for extended periods of time, you’ll quickly learn that it is prudent to bring toilet paper. However, if you forget in the summer time, no sweat; grab some leaves and you’re good. In the winter there are no leaves except for some crinkly, crumbly beech leaves still hanging on. Don’t use those, they won’t work. If you forgot toilet paper in the winter, you’re out of luck. Say hello to Mr. Tom Thumb, or you can use a snow ball. If you did happen to bring toilet paper, you’re stuck bumbling around with exposed fingers in the bitter cold, trying not to drop a glove while you attempt to keep the TP from getting wet in the snow. Meanwhile, your backside is hanging out, and you’re literally freezing your ass off. Mind you, this is all after you’ve trudged through knee deep snow an appropriate distane off the trail so as to not offend others. Try squatting in that. (True story: Doodi called – badum… – while I was on a night run in sub-zero temps this past winter. That was a shitty – ching! – expierence.)

7. Evening Light. Not all complaints are about temperatures. As I do near half of my runs at 8:00PM or later, I love summer when it doesn’t start to get dark until 9:00 or so. I can head out on any loop I choose, and not have to worry about the fading light. As fall and winter approach, my loops start getting more and more limited, until I’m eventually running out-and-backs along the damn highway because a.) it’s the only thing clear of ice and snow, b.) if I fall over and freeze it’s the only place I’ll be found, and c.) I’m scared of the dark and dirt roads with dense tree could be hiding any number of baddies including hungry ass catamounts.

8. Stretching. I’m not an avid stretcher, but as i get older, I find that if I can do a little stretching ten minutes or so into a run, I’ll feel better during and after the run. In the summer – and fall to some extent – I can sit down wherever I want and stretch myself out. It might garner some funny looks when at first glance I’m flashing the world, but it helps. Do that in the winter and you’re hard up. It’s not the flashing part I miss – though who doesn’t like a good flash? – it’s the dry, warm ground to sit on that I miss. Sit down in the winter, and you’ll either freeze up, or get a wet bottom, which will then freeze up. I suppose I could just do laps around my house and go inside to stretch, but then I’d be all sweaty and freeze when I went back out – if my wife let me go back out.

9. Procrastination. In the summer, my wife and I have no problem getting out in the morning on the weekends. I have no problem getting out at night. The weather is warm, there’s probably some daylight; it’s easy. As darkness and coldness progress, getting out the door gets harder and harder. Instead of getting out the door to go for a run, we sit and drink our coffee dreading the venture outside. At first it isn’t so bad, but as the winter wears on, the foot dragging gets worse. No one wants to go outside for a run when it’s single digits, no matter their gear.

10. Vitamin D. We’ve all heard of the stuff. And while you can get Vit D supplements, the main source is the sun. Well the sun doesn’t go away in winter, but as you head further north, the Earth’s angle of insolation becomes steeper and less Vitamin D can get through. Not to mention the fact that in order to absorb Vitamin D you have to have exposed skin. In winter, that usually consists of your face, which for most of us, isn’t that big. So for November-March, I’m absorbing zero Vitamin D on account of the angle of insolation being too steep, and for September and October, there’s so much grayness, little Vit D is being absorbed anyway. That’s near six months without Vitamin D.

So no, I’m not looking forward to winter. I’m not enjoying the cool fall breezes, the turning of the maples, or the harvest of the garden. I want 90+ and sun. I want to sweat faster than I can hydrate. I want summer. I want a real summer.

Post-Partum: VT100 Part III

The Forethought: VT100 Part I
Delivering: VT100 Part II

I will preface this post by saying that I am a male and have not, nor will I, first handedly experience the pain and glory of childbirth. I have, however, witnessed the birth of two children and have a vague sense of the whole process. That said, I feel that preparing and executing a 100 mile race can be compared – in a sense – to childbirth. I mean no disrespect, nor do I mean to take anything from anyone who has given birth.

Disclaimer: Some of the photos found in this post are of a graphic nature and may be considered disturbing by some. While they may be photos of ordinary circumstances to ultra runners, for the non-ultra runner they may be repulsive.

We'll get to how these happened.

We’ll get to how these happened.


The After-Birth

At some point you find that you’ve signed up for a 100 mile run. Sometimes it is planned, others, it is on a dare, or a challenge from a friend. You’ll spend the next length of time preparing for your 100 mile run and eventually the day will come and you’ll begin. No matter how in shape you are or how prepared your body is, there are certain things for which you cannot prepare. And while you keep telling yourself that this will all be over when you cross the finish line you are being forgetful of the fact that there will be repercussions for the self-mutilation you are causing.

When I crossed the finish line, I slowed further, stood kind of dazed, fell in line with my wife and brother who were carrying two sleeping toddlers and wandered through the woods to the tent. It hurt, but it was manageable. The frantic voice telling me to hurry and finish had gone to sleep. I was ‘relaxed,’ if you could call it that. I took my time and wobbled over the obstacles no one but a shell of a human would find daunting. It couldn’t have been more than a quarter mile to the tent, but it seemed longer. I followed the glow and din of the tent and wandered inside, a weary traveler looking for nowt but a cup of broth as my party traveled onward.

After downing my broth and conversing with some of the other wayward beings in the tent, I wandered to the end of the tent to wait for my family to return. As I stood, I noticed a chair. It looked inviting; a place to rest my legs and soul. I grasped the back of the chair and tried to contort my body to sit with little success. As I tried to figure out how to let myself down without knocking it over, I realized that this was one of the worst ideas ever. Provided I could make it into the chair, how long would it be before I could get up? How much help would I need? Instead I continued to stand and watch. There was enough of a soft gleam from head lights and and head lamps to provide glimpses of the other worn passengers milling about. No words were spoken, just nods of sullen approval at the feat just accomplished.

Eventually, my brother came back for me, and as I tried to walk up the hill to the car I had to give-in and use his help. While he didn’t carry me, his shoulder was a much needed support. As we reached the car, I decided to sit shot gun – the most accessible seat, as opposed to laying down – perhaps forever – in the back. As I went to sit, I leaned back and let the seat catch my fall. My legs were either too tired to move, or they simply refused; moving my legs into the car required both hands – a task I wasn’t sure my arms were up for. Eighteen inches off the ground never seemed so far.

Home

I don’t remember much of the car ride home. It was pretty uneventful, but by the end of the twenty minute ride, I was nearly falling asleep. I could only focus on the yellow lines and random headlights for so long before the weariness took over. At some point it had been decided that climbing the stairs to my bedroom was out of the question and the couch was instead the best answer. We pulled into the driveway, and all I could think of was bed. I opened the car door and got out; I was going on my own. Sleep. I hobbled to the front of my car at which point my wife came over to help as I leaned on her shoulder.

It’s not a far walk from the car to the backdoor – maybe fifteen feet – but I was moving at a shuffle in the pitch black. My wife told my brother to go turn the lights on in the house and he left our side to go open the door and turn on the exterior lights. But it was dark, and I was exhausted. I stopped walking. My wife tried to move me forward. I refused. I could feel the hot flashes and cold sweats. My torso was hot, my face clammy. I knew this feeling quite well: I was ready to pass out. I dropped to my knees – slowly – with my wife’s help and sort of crumbled in the driveway.

I don’t remember much at this point. I know that I wasn’t completely out. My wife was freaking out at my brother to call an ambulance, and my brother was freaking out trying to find a pulse. Meanwhile, I was feeling good, unable to speak. I’d been here before. All they had to do was turn the lights on, give me someplace to go. Direction.

At some point in the commotion, my brother went inside and turned the light on. That was what I needed. I awoke from my nap and shrugged off any help to get me on my feet. Instead I crawled. I crawled on my hands and knees across the driveway and into my house. I crawled through the kitchen and up the half stair. Through the dining room and into the living room where I propped myself up on the couch, knees bent, arms folded across my knees to make a resting place for my head.

My brother helped me remove my shoes, and peeled off my shirt. Between he and my wife, the kids were brought inside and put to bed, and my feet and armpits were wiped down with baby wipes. I hoisted myself up on to the couch and laid on my stomach. My brother put some fruit snacks near my mouth and I managed to suck them up slowly like an anteater. It was a spectacle.

The Morning After

I don’t really know what I was expecting, but the morning after was not a pretty sight. I got up and hobbled around the house until I felt awake enough to take a shower – problem: shower is on the second floor. I managed my way up the stairs on all fours. I tried using the railing for support, but it wasn’t enough; this was a hand over hand ordeal.

Once in the bathroom, I had to get my legs over the side of the tub. Unlike the car ride home where I was sitting and could use both hands to lift my legs into the car, I was standing. It took some figuring, but eventually I figured out how to hold onto the toilet and get myself into the shower without falling over, but it wasn’t done yet. I had to wash my lower legs, too. I couldn’t bend over, and I couldn’t really lift my foot up. Again, it was a two handed finagle to get my foot on the edge of the tub without falling out of the tub.

Balance

As I tried to hobble around, I found that I was holding onto anything solid around me. My hand would rest against the wall, I would grab a chair or table in passing. It was a slow and labored pace, but I was moving. Surprisingly, harder than moving was standing still. What I didn’t realize – mostly because I never really thought about it – is that to hold our bodies upright, our bodies utilize a number of muscles we take for granted everyday. Those muscles of mine were so fatigued and worn out, if I leaned too far one way or another – and it wasn’t far – I’d find myself falling and trying to catch onto something solid.

So it was when I went for a walk later that afternoon, I needed to take the jogging stroller with me to keep from falling over. At first, my daughter was in the stroller, but after the slowest tenth of a mile in her life, she opted to get out and left me pushing an empty stroller. I would have been better with a cane.

The Swelling

That's my ankle. Seriously.

That’s my ankle. Seriously.

As the days wore on, the swelling eventually went down, but it took at least a week. For the first couple of days, my ankles were missing. I’ve had pitting oedema before, so I wasn’t too impressed, but when the swelling and fluid was accompanied with my blackened toe nails, it made for an interesting sight.

I could be making this up, but I think that since my toenails were falling off, and I had an open wound – an open blister – some of the fluid from my ankles seemed to be draining through the pin hole in the blister. Since the toenail was only attached at the sides and loose in the middle, I could depress the toenail and create an oozy, smelly pile of bubbles – slightly reminiscent of spittle. At first I thought it was blister fluid, but it kept coming. It was more than just blister fluid.

Tiny bubbles make me warm all over...

Tiny bubbles make me warm all over…

I suppose it could have been the start of an infection, but after a couple days of red and itchy toes that didn’t seem like healing, I started some epsom salt soaks and it seemed to dry things up pretty quickly.

The Hormones

To say that I was cranky the first couple of days after would be an understatement. I’d wager to say I was unbearable. The thing is, when you run that far or that long, your body produces a ton of hormones; when you stop running, those hormones drop to below normal. They swing. Well when they swing below normal there is nothing but grumpiness. As any good binger will tell you, a little hair of the dog is the best thing to keep that withdrawal away. Unfortunately for me, there was no little taste to be had the next day.

Running Again

I had been on a 2500 mile streak of 306 days at the end of Vermont, but sadly, that

Hows that for gaping?

Hows that for gaping?

streak came to an end the day after. I wanted to, and I even tried, but I could hardly muster a walk. I managed to get out the day after and do a mile around the block. It was slow, but it was all I could do. Each day things got progressively easier and my legs felt a little better after every run. It might be different for everyone, but it took a good two weeks before the legs were free of any soreness on an easy run. I think some of it has to do with over training, and maybe a bit of burnout, but my easy pace runs are still significantly slower. I haven’t tried anything with any pace but for a few strides or a 400 here or there, but I find it hard to believe I was ever doing 8×1600 with a minute rest as 5:48s.

Again?

After every long race, it’s what everyone says. It’s almost cliche. “I’ll never do that again. And then three days later I signed up for another.” And while I do like a good cliche now and again, I avoided the phrase. Instead, I said not for a while. Right now, I truly have little interest in doing another 100 mile run. I’d much rather a 12/24 hour event. I hope to do some longer runs again one day, but the kids need to be older.

I was aware of the time training would take, and I even was ready for a whole day to be set aside for my one event – but what I didn’t think about, was the recovery process and how long that was going to take. Not to mention the stress it put on my family when I collapsed in the driveway.

Yes, it was awesome. Yes, I feel accomplished. Yes, I feel incredibly selfish.

The Buckle

The Buckle