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

Where Have All The T-Shirts Gone?

There was a time, when I ran in high school, that the middle drawer of my dresser was burgeoning with t-shirts. It seemed that every weekend that there was a track meet, or a cross country race I’d come home with a new shirt to add to my collection. Some shirts were more important than others – the ones from state meets, or collared sleeves. Most of them were white, but a few came in black, or my favorite, maroon. It even came to a point one time that I made a pile of the most boring non-dated, white shirts and brought them down to the local Good Will.

Some of my favorites: home made tie-dye, my maroon job, and the dearly departed Yale shirt.

Some of my favorites: home made tie-dye, my maroon job, and the dearly departed Yale shirt.

The same held true in college, but less so. I had some sweet shirts from my team, but there weren’t as many ‘t-shirt awards’ or it seemed, shirts being given out. Though signing up for a local road race would certainly add to your collection. Perhaps it was this overwhelming abundance of sleeveless derivations of undershirts that led me to my undeniably awesome fashion sense; why buy a shirt when I have a free one that will get the same job done? And so it is that a decade after college, and I’m still wearing t-shirts gleaned from some sort of running event.

Unfortunately, my middle drawer is no longer the flourishing utopia of t-shirts it once was. This is in part due to the eight years I stayed away from running and all it’s events, but also because I have worn many of my favorites threadbare. Just yesterday night I was taking off my favorite Yale Invitational t-shirt from 2001, and one of the tiny moth-holes turned into a gigantic rip rendering the shirt useless but all a rag.

While the age of my t-shirts may be a problem, the true issue at hand is that the shirts are simply not being replaced, and not for a lack of running. Since I started running again 4/5 years ago, I’ve entered a number of races from 5ks to a 100 miler, and pretty much all of them have given out a shirt. There have been a couple of cotton tee’s ready to be worn, but it would seem that there is a bigger problem: the virulent introduction of the tech-tee.

Best tech-t ever - Manchester City Marathon, and two gigantic screen printed jobs.

Best tech-t ever – Manchester City Marathon, and two gigantic screen printed jobs.

After running through 34 degree rain with a long sleeve cotton tee on top of a regular tee and having my nipples nearly rubbed off, I know the benefits of a tech-tee (I also learned the benefits of taping). However, it would seem that the majority of tech-tees are not designed with the runner in mind and are more a ‘perk’ of signing up for a given race. I have more than enough tech-tee’s with gigantic screen printed logos across the chest. All the sweat wicking technology that went into the tech-tee is rendered useless when three-quarters of the front is covered in some sort of logo. Not to mention a giant screen printed logo just adds to the chaffing these shirts are supposed to limit. That is not to say all tech-tee’s are garbage for running. I have a couple that are top notch – the true problem is, these are unwearable as generic tees to be coupled with shorts and flip flops.

Maybe it’s all in my head, but something about wearing a tech-tee and shorts screams “Look at this race I ran!” which is not something I really care to do. A generic, cotton, t-shirt from a race doesn’t scream the same thing to me; rather it says in a much more subtle way “I wear free clothes because I’m that cheap and I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think,” which is much more in my line of thinking.

So please race directors, nix the tech-tees. We have enough. Go back to the good old cotton t-shirt. I’m running out of clothes.

Stop Scouting; Try Skout

Skout TrailbarsI always used to ‘try to eat healthy,’ after all, I think most people do. I don’t ever recall anyone saying “I try not to eat healthy. I really want to get morbidly obeese.” Of course, when the kids were born, the questionably healthy foods started being left out of the shopping cart. No more granola bars. Nutri grain bars – not tasty, but easy – were left on the shelf. It’s actually been a bit of a struggle to find pre-packaged snacks that the kids would eat, I would eat, and didn’t contain all the fake sugars and preservatives.

My wife and I dabbled in making our own crackers and cereal bars. We dried out own fruit for a while, and while they were usually pretty tasty, it was time consuming, expensive, and the results with the kids were always hit or miss.

Cue Skout Organic Trailbars. I had heard about them online a few times, but never really looked into them. Finally, I took the plunge. Turns out, it was a pretty good idea. They’re based out in Oregon and make organic trail snacks aimed at the adventurous, outdorsy types. Not only are they organic, but they are verified non-GMO (to me this is almost more important than being organic), and for all you gluten sensitive folks, they’re gluten free, too. They’re also vegan, dairy free, and kosher. So unless you’re a real odd duck, there should be one for you…

The main ingredient for the Trailbars is Dates. which for my liking gives them a bit too much sugar. Though it doesn’t taste sweet. Dates are also pretty dense when blended up and smashed into a shape. However, with the dates being dense, half a bar is pretty filling, a whole bar is certainly a snack that will suffice. All the bars come in between 170-200 calories. When I give them to the kids, I give them less than half a bar each and they’re set. While the dates and the bars are a little high in sugar for me, it is natural sugar with the fiber of the date so it’s not absorbed massively fast by the body only to turn your metabolism into a mess.

Chunks of apple.

Chunks of apple.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have any Cherry Vanilla in stock, so I was only able to try four of their five flavors: Chocolate Coconut, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Apple Cinnamon and Blueberry Almond. I think I liked them in that order. The two chocolate bars were quite tasty, with the PB bar only having subtle hints of PB flavor. The Apple Cinnamon bar was next. The were some chunks of dried apple in the bar which gave it more of a springy, light, chewy texture. It was good but not my favorite. My kids, however, did really like it. The same was true of the Blueberry Almond bar. I thought I was going to love it based on name. I was miserably wrong. Not sure what it was, but it was the worst of the bunch, and I won’t be trying it again.

In the end, I was really pleased with the Skout Organic Trailbars. They tasted good (for the most part), were very filling, and are made with wholesome ingredients I don’t hesitate to give to my children. I won’t be taking these on the run with me – they’re just too dense for anything quicker than a 50 miler – but will be taking them when I go hiking and foraging for sure.

Orange Mud HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2 Review

Some months ago, before it was warm enough to wear shorts, I purchased the Orange Mud HydraQuiver. I had tried it before, so I was ready for all the love. As time went on, and I thought about doing longer runs in the warm weather, I realized I might need to carry more water with me for those runs that didn’t go by semi-potable water. For a while, I contemplated buying the Double Barrel (a HydraQuiver with two bottles), but around that same time, there was talk about the new Orange Mud Vest Pack 2. I decided to wait, and I’m glad I did.

The chest strap, pocket, and shoulder pocket.

The chest strap, pocket, and shoulder pocket.

Essentially, the Vest Pack is a Double Barrel with chest straps that come down the front of your chest with straps to connect running parellel to the ground. The two shoulder pockets from the HQ are still in tact, but the chest straps also allow for two large pockets that sit lower on your chest. The VP is also designed so
Chest pocket.

Chest pocket.

that a third water bottle can be stored between the two existing water bottles, or an extra storage bag can be purchased from Orange Mud.

Like the HydraQuiver, the VP carries the water high on your shoulders, almost

Because three is better than two.

Because three is better than two.

between the shoulder blades. At first it may seem like it sits rather high and might be a bit awkward, but as far as packs go, this is by far the easiest place I’ve found to carry water. There’s no bouncing, even with the VP fully loaded with 72 ounces of liquid, there’s no smashing into your back. Instead it seems to stay glued to your back/shoulders. This also leaves your lower back open, which for me, is preferable when running in the heat.

The shoulder pockets are made of an elastic material that expands quite well. I used just the two shoulder pockets for a 50 miler, and had no problems with space. At Vermont 100, I used the shoulder pockets to stash my flashlight, keys, cell phone, and other non-essentials that might have proven to be useful. This left the chest pockets to be used for food. The shoulder pockets have an elastic band to synch the front of the pocket and then a velcro strap that covers the opening. Things falling out is of little concern. The shoulder pockets sit on top of the pack so there is no digging in; it’s hard to tell they’re even there.

Huge chest pocket.

Huge chest pocket.

The chest pockets are quite large. Large enough to stash a whole cheeseburger, or my fist. (I’ve tried both.) I also kept drink powder, and sandwich bags of sweet potato. I was never once concerned about filling the pack up. At one point, I put a cup of ice in one of the pockets, synched it off, and had ice for a couple of miles which was pretty nice. Towards the end, I also stuffed a bunch of tater tots in there which proved to be difficult when it came time to get them out – I don’t recommend it, maybe if you put them in a cup but… One of the chest pockets also holds a key clip if you’re worried that the shoulder pocket is inadequate.

The pack itself is incredibly light weight and made of a high grade medical quality mesh. It’s breathable, lets sweat wick away, and can ride on bare skin without any problems. There are three adjustable straps that run paralel to the ground that connect the chest straps/pockets to the back of the pack and also in front. The two side straps do the major adjustment for size, while the front strap makes the minor adjustments.

I’m not sure I’d use this pack for a 50 miler, or even a heavily aided 100 miler like Vermont – for those I think the Double Barrel would be adequate – but for events that aren’t buffets, this is certainly the pack to have. You can check them online at Orangemud.com.

Delivering: VT100 Part II

This is part II in my attempt to tell of my first one-hundred mile run. Part III will eventually follow. Part I can be found here. I didn’t want it to be so long, but a lot happens over the course of a hundred miles.

The Gun

As the announcer’s voice began to cut through the din, tired faces slowly turned towards the start. Unlike your typical road race, there was no jostling of elbows, no subtle body positing to eek in-front of another runner while avoiding eye contact, scanning the horizon pretending to look for someone you know. No, if you wanted to stand at the front of the line, no one would stop you. People would move out of your way and allow you to pass, but a hundred mile race is a little different. While the winner isn’t predetermined, chances are very good it won’t be a neck-and-neck finish, a race that could have been won with better starting position. We stand where we are and go when told, in the beginning, a few more steps isn’t worth the hassle of moving up; of course at the end, those few more steps can seem an eternity.

The announcer stopped talking and started counting backward from ten with the help of the crowd, like a New Year’s celebration without the nip of winter. Soon enough, we got to ‘one’ and we were off. There were a few cheers and shouts, but we had been advised to keep our shouts and excitement to a minimum – at least for about a mile until we hit the woods (again, thank you cranky neighbours…) – so there were little dramatics at the start. The handful of spectators lining the side of the road waiting to see loved ones pass by was brief. This race became very real long before the start, but once I passed from field to dirt road, it had begun. The nerves were gone. It became less of an obstacle and just something that had to be done. A task I had set for myself, a chore to be done with no real overseer.

At 4:00 AM it’s dark. The sun will be coming up soon, but the world still has some travelling through darkness to be done before the faint rays of our star will announce it’s arrival for the day. The headlamps and flash-lights that had seemed to light the whole area of the corral soon distanced themselves from one another as we strung out along the road, careening down the hill and snaking around the curve, surely confusing any nocturnal beasts about and giving any early waking children nightmares of the M. Knight Shyamalan variety. I opted to not take a headlamp along with me, and instead brought a couple of handheld flash lights. While I had it in my hand, lanyard wrapped around my fingers, I only turned it on a handful of times when we got out to the trails. Between the moonlight and the plethora of headlamps around, it really wasn’t necessary. In hindsight, I wonder if I broke some universal rule, a code of conduct among ultra runners to share the burden of breaking darkness.

Pacing

I

Directions.

Directions.

came into the race planning on running around 10:00 minute miles. Unfortunately, I’m not a real good judge of 10:00 minute mile pace. If I was pushing a stroller, I could tell you, but considering that most of my runs take place between the 7:00 and 8:00 minute range, 10:00 was something of a guess. In an attempt to give myself some help, I made a sort of table of different aid stations and what the running time would be depending on an 8:30 and 10:00 pace – as the distance grew longer, I also included 11:00 and 12:00 pace.

As I rolled into the first aid station seven miles in, I looked down at my watch, expecting to see a time under 60:00. I knew I was trying to go slow, but between the adrenalin and the effort the pace felt like, I figured I was somewhere just over 8:00 minute miles. I was wrong. I went through at 66:00 and some change. Despite being closer to my goal pace than I had anticipated, the fact that things certainly didn’t feel like 9:30 miles gave me some pause. With the new pacing information and awareness, I tried to slow down a bit and continued on my way.

Error #1

I was already running on my own, and figured I’d run much of the race on my own as I approached the next aid station – an unmanned table with some cola, ginger ale and a port-a-potty – and who should step out but one of the characters I met at the beginning – and knew from previous races. We had briefly talked pacing at the beginning and his strategy was a bit different than mine. I had made a point of it in the start to let him go so I wouldn’t be tempted to run with him, and here I was, a mere 11 miles in and we were running side by side chewing the fat. Apparently his drink wasn’t sitting well and he was gearing up for a long race. At the same time, he was a little disheartened by the time he had lost hitting the loo, and was looking to make it back on this long stretch of downhill.

Like the do-dah man.

Like the do-dah man.

Everything in my brain told me to let him go, and I think I even tried physically; I ran a step behind him and tried to make it two, but there was a conversation going on, and being the socially awkward guy I am, couldn’t figure out how to exit. I felt like I was going to be rude if I just dipped off, so instead I ran with him. I let him push the pace, and I just kind of held on despite my best effort to drop off.

We crossed the bridge and rounded a turn onto a dirt road I was familiar with from a local half marathon – it’s amazing how many places you’ll unknowingly recognize when you run 100 miles in your home town. As we neared the aid station, his watch beeped as we crossed the fifteen mile mark. Knowing that we had been going too fast – or at least I had been – I asked what kind of pace we had just been running. To which the reply was 7:40s.

I imagine it wasn’t good for the quads to go ‘bombing’ down hills so early in the race. Even if the short duration didn’t hurt me, in the end it would nag in the back of my head for the rest of the race, silently gnawing away at the little confidence I had.

New Friends, Old Friends, and Beef Cows

Last April I hosted a Fat Ass in town. I’m usually pretty good with names and faces – a tool I’ve honed teaching – but when sixty people show up and they’re not wearing name tags and email is the only form of communication you’ve previously had, remembering names can be a trick to say the least.

Shortly before we lolled into Pomfret, I fell in with a guy and started chatting. As it would turn out he showed up to the Fat Ass I put on, but had to drop due to a bruised foot – he ended up tweaking his hamstring on this day, but would go on to a strong finish. As we chatted, and started the long climb, I started to recognize some of the trees and mailboxes, and despite going up a monster hill, I started to feel a bit of energy as I realized where we were. For some reason, knowing where I was gave me a bit of mental energy.

I exclaimed to Tim that last year I had bought a cow at this farm. He shot me a semi-confused sideways glance. He knew I lived in town and had no space for a cow. Quickly I assuaged his confusion telling him that it was just half a cow, that I split. He caught my drift, and didn’t seem as amped as I was. I continued to tell him how good the cow was and how the tongue is still in my freezer waiting to make tacos, when we arrived at the sign for Cloudland Farm.

My eyes are loosing their ability to see far away. Signs are blurry, faces are a mystery until awkwardly close inspection renders them recognizable. As we approached the Cloudland Farm driveway, there was a couple standing there, cheering us on. Strange place to cheer. As we grew closer, I recognized an old face from college. One I hadn’t seen in 10 years. While I didn’t stop to chat, it was another of those little things that gave me a little more push forward.

The Family

Having already taken a fair bit of time away from my family by training over the past eight months, and not really knowing where to tell them to meet me, I told them to stay home. There were a couple of places designated for spectators, but that would mean my wife packing the kids in the car, driving 40 minutes to see me for a minute, then packing the kids back up and driving some more. It wasn’t fair.

Of course, my wife, had a problem listening and so as I came down a hill around mile 39, I started to hear shouts of “Yay, Daddy!” It took me by surprise, and while 39 miles isn’t that far, I had been awake since 2:45 in the morning and emotions were starting to run raw. I ran down the hill, gave my wife a kiss, bent down and kissed my son, and picked my daughter up and gave her a kiss, too. Seeing them in that moment made me appreciate them more than I usually do. I always tend to appreciate them more on a personal level after a long run, and this was one of the longest runs I’ve been on so far.

As I waved good-bye and told them I loved them, I started to get bleary eyed and choked up. A tear actually welled up before I wiped it away. Apparently running long distances makes me feel all sappy.

Time to Pee

I had managed to pee shortly after the race started, and my pee was clear. It probably had to do with the coffee and water I had for breakfast. I felt good and continued my slow march forward. That was around 4:30 AM. By the time I got to mile 40 or so and noticed the guy in front of me dip off to the side to take a leak, it dawned on me that I hadn’t peed in the last five or six hours. That was not so cool. I had been drinking what I thought was enough fluids, but was apparently not. As I ran I thought about it, checking internally to see if I had to pee, and there wasn’t an inkling of urination. I started to be a bit more conscious about drinking and really tried to force the fluids. I was still sweating pretty good, so that was positive.

Shortly after I noticed I wasn’t peeing and tried to drink more, I had the urge, so I stopped off behind a tree, and did my thing. Expecting to see a dark yellow I was much surprised to see something come out of me that looked similar to radiator fluid. For a moment I kind of panicked. Not because of my health and what my kidneys were doing, but because Camp 10 Bear was coming up and there was a medic check at that point. I would be weighed-in and I was worried about loosing too much weight and being forced to take a seat. I kept running and pounding HoneyMaxx when about a mile out from the medic check I started to wonder if I was drinking too much HoneyMaxx, and not enough water. Was I overloading my body with salts and electrolytes? If I put weight on, I was really screwed. There’s no taking a break from that; it’s game over.

I wanted to consult with my brother at 10 Bear, but the whole time I was there, the medics were in ear shot and I couldn’t let them hear of my dilemma. I continued to drink water and the occasional HoneyMaxx. I had lost a pound or so at the medic station so at least I wasn’t putting weight on. When I eventually found time to tell my brother of my issues he called me a few choice words and threatened my health a bit more. Always positive. In the end, I would pee twice more, and twice more it would be a red, radiator fluid color.

Camp 10 Bear

The Vermont 100 is essentially a big loop with one lollipop loop built-in, that lollipop starts and ends at Camp 10 Bear; it’s also where you pick up your pacer (I think) the second time around. Coming into 10 Bear I met my brother, grabbed some water, weighed myself in and continued on my way. It was a slight incline out, but the path would soon lend itself to some very runnable parts, especially for 50+ miles in. I managed to pass a few people on the flats and really felt like I was moving. It was comfortable, but flat. The only flat part of the race, and it was good. I passed the 50 mile mark at some point – there’s a sign that says 50.2 miles – and despite only being half way done, I felt accomplished. It was the furthest I’ve run in my life and only the second time I’d surpassed 50 miles. It also gave me a bit of hesitation as everything from that point forward was totally new.

Coming back into 10 Bear I would have to be weighed in again and figured the pause would be a good point to change my shirt. I had been wearing the same shirt for nearly 70 miles (I didn’t realize it was that far at the time), and it was pretty salty and gross to say the least. I pulled into the aid station, took off my pack and looked around for my brother. I didn’t see him. I hopped on the scale. My weight was still okay, so I put my pack back on, wandered over to the food table and filled up with water hoping to find my brother. I didn’t see him and after a short minute I decided that waiting was not the right answer, and so continued on my journey.

Free Miles

Every aid station was marked with the miles in, and the miles to the next aid stop. I didn’t typically pay them attention. All I was worried about was getting to the finish at this point. The little goals didn’t help a whole lot. I’m not sure why, but in my head I had figured that 10 Bear was at 64 miles in. I headed out with over 30 miles to go. I was starting to really get tired, mentally and physically at this point, but I figured I had made it this far, forward was the only way to go. I think I passed an unmanned aid station somewhere along the line, but the next time I got to an aid station, feeling exhausted and dragging, and looking for the 70 mile aid stop, where the pacers were, I saw no pacers. I cursed and couldn’t believe I still had 30+ miles to go. I started to doubt whether I’d make it.

I handed the volunteer my water bottle and asked how far I had made it. His reply shocked me and gave me the boost I needed. Apparently 10 Bear was 70 miles, and I had made it to mile 74+. I had made it nearly three-quarters of the way. Soon I would be on roads I was familiar with. As someone said, I could smell the barn at that point. I expressed my disbelief and gratitude and hurried onto the next aid stop.

A New Crew

As I approached the Spirit of ’76 aid station, I wondered if my brother

Me and my boy!

Me and my boy!

would be there, or if something had happened to him. It was a short hike up a little hill to ’76 and at the top of the hill I saw my family, again. Apparently, they had gone back to the house with my brother and all piled in the Man-Van to help daddy out. My son came trucking down the hill on hard pack gravel, barefoot, making me proud, and grabbed my hand. We hiked up the rest of the hill together and stopped at the aid station.

My brother came to meet me and I finally switched shirts. I had managed to pick up some nasty chaffage under my armpit, and I needed help switching shirts. I gobbled some food. I took off my shoes and dumped out the dirt. In hindsight, I think this was the longest I had stopped at any aid station. The path leading out of the aid station was downhill, and it was miserable. My legs felt tired and sore. They were heavy and didn’t want to move. I knew it was going to be a long 24 miles to go, but it was less than a marathon, I could do this.

Fungal Gold

I like mushrooms. It’s something of a hobby of mine, and when it comes time to run in the late summer and fall, I have a hard time focusing and find myself stopping every 200 yards to kick over some ‘shroom and see what it is. Over the last few years I’ve learned a good handful of them.

At some point during this race – I’ve no real recollection how far it was maybe 60-80 miles – I found myself stopping mid-stride. Previously the only time I actually stopped was to go the bathroom and to take my shoe off at an aid station to dump it out. I only stopped for a second and reached down to pluck up a gorgeous chanterelle. There were a number of them, all nice size and solid looking, just starting to unfurl their semi-rolled caps; in my head I could smell their faint earthy apricot smell. By the time I was almost halfway over, I realized the ridiculousness of what I was doing. There was room in my pack, but no way they’d survive the sweaty, bouncy remainder of the race. By no means was this a take my shoes off and play in the mud at the Barkley’s event, but all the same, I think I started to get a taste of that situational lostness that can occur in a hundred mile event.

As I ran away from my little trove of ‘shrooms, I tried to remember where I was so I could go back and pick them later. This would happen again later in the race, as I stopped to pick a Painted Suillius before again I got halfway bent over before I realized what I was doing.

The Great Mistake

Sometime after ’76, I started to recognize where I was. We passed by the start and we were onto roads that I had run numerous times. To some degree, it gave me a mental boost. I knew where the turns would be, where the big climbs were; I had an idea how far it was to the finish. At the same time, I think it made my brain more hurried and less aware.

As I approached the Cow Shed Trail aid station, I made a mistake. I knew Bill’s was at mile 89 and I knew from there it was essentially “over.” The home stretch so to speak. Planning my finish in less than spectacular fashion, I forgot to think about the here-and-now. I grabbed some water, a quarter of a grilled cheese and some gummy bears and was on my way.

As I left the aid station, I started to think about the next aid station and realized I had little to no food with me. It was going to be a long haul. I could turn around and back track for a tenth of a mile, but that far into a hundred miles, the last thing I wanted to do was retrace my steps. I should have.

I’m not sure that my failure to really eat anything made the end of my race the nightmare that it would be, or if it was a gradual buildup of everything that just came crashing down in the last eleven miles. But halfway between Bill’s and Cow Shed Trail, I knew the gig was up. It was going to be a battle.

The Man From Jersey

As I approached Bill’s I saw my wife and kids again sitting at the driveway in. My son, of course marching up and down the side of the road, barefoot, stick in hand, growling “dun-da-dun,” in his best attempt to be a solider. It made me chuckle and I felt okay, but I could tell by the look on my wife’s face, and the way she asked how I was feeling, that I was not okay.

I arrived to the garage and said hello to some of the local volunteers I recognized. I stepped up onto the scale doing my best to look collected. I had lost two pounds so far. The medic asked me some questions and voiced some concern as to my well-being. I assured her I was okay. I don’t recall a whole lot, but I remember telling her I was local and had run these last eleven miles a number of time. I also told her more-or-less, that I was finishing this race and that was that. She agreed and said I hadn’t lost enough weight to keep me there, and I seemed with-it enough. She just wanted to make sure I ate something. I perused the table and grabbed some more gummy bears and a handful of potatoes. I threw a couple Chia bars in my pack along with another handful of potatoes. (I should have learned from Napoleon Dynamite that potatoes in pockets don’t work, but I tried) and tried to leave.

As I went to leave, the medic kind of got in my way and put a gentle hand to my back asking where my pacer was. I told her I had none, and I could see a flash of concern on her face. She quickly rounded up a pacer for me, and told my brother to go with me as well. It took them sometime to get their stuff together, but I told the medic they could catch up, and away I went. In the end, having my brother and the guy from Jersey with me meant I finished sub-20 hours, as opposed to sub-24 or even sub-30.

Eighteen Minute Miles

Going into this, I knew there would be ups and downs. I knew that the wheels would fall off, and I would be sorry heap of scrap doing whatever it took to get where I needed. My goal was to push that demise off for as long as I could. I haven’t gone through all my splits, but I know that going from Cow Shed to Bill’s things really started to slip. My pace started slowing as the walking increased, but to say that the wheels wholly fell off would be a lie (I think…).

Rather, the explosion that left me wasted from which there was no recovery, occurred somewhere after leaving Bill’s. As I entered the woods, and came back to trails, the waning rays of sunlight disappeared and made me slow even further. We had lights, but my legs were tired, and mentally I was spent. My thoughts were no longer of running, but of avoiding rocks so as to not fall.

Even on the roads, I did more walking than running. My pacers ensured me that my walk was brisk, and when I did run, I obviously had something left in the tank. I kind of believed them at the time. In the end, it would take me almost three hours to ‘run’ the last 11 miles – a stunning 17:52 per mile.

The House Party in the Trees

Due to cranky neighbors and noise restrictions, the finish had been moved into the woods, and we had all been reminded numerous times to keep our volume down after 10:00 PM. As it stood, I wasn’t expecting much of a welcoming committee at the end of the race, especially at 11:30 at night, but as I approached what I imagined to be the finish, I grew surprised.

As we ventured through the woods on horse mangled trails for the last two miles, I started to hear some chatter. It grew louder as we continued forward, but as trails do, we looped around with the noise refusing to come closer. Part of me knew it wasn’t the finish. After all, we were told to be quiet, and the voices and music I was hearing certainly wasn’t quiet. But none of it made sense, why would there be an emcee, and 90’s hip hop banging through the woods? Why would there be a 90’s hip hop party in rural Vermont? Parties in Vermont consist of four-wheelers and bonfires. As irrational as it was, part of me believed they were there to welcome runners to the finish of the Vermont 100.

In the end, the music finally grew quieter and eventually drifted off to nothingness. I asked some local friends afterwards if they had heard of any shindig happening that evening. No one could give me any answers.

The End

As the neon glow of the ‘Finish Line’ sign got brighter, I continued to walk. It wasn’t until my pacers peeled away and told me to run across the line that I started to do my best impression of some sort of trot. I saw my wife sitting on the ground with two passed out children in her lap. There was an immense sense of gratitude and guilt at the same time. There was some disappointment that it took me almost 20 hours to finish, that I fell apart as much as I did toward the end. There was also a huge sense of relief that it was over. Accomplishment that I had done what I set out to do. I had just run more miles in one day than I have in an entire week.

As I crossed the finish line, I paused and let the volunteer place the finisher’s medal around my neck. Perhaps as I do more of these things, the finisher’s medal will lose it’s importance and will join the half-marathon and marathon medals as clutter and children’s toys, but for now, it is important.

I took my pack off as I walked back to my wife. I gave her my thanks, and my brother picked up my son as we started the journey back to the car. I had just covered 100 miles in less than a day. I thought I was done. I had no idea the next 24 hours would be more arduous than the last 20.

Post-Partum: VT100 Part III

Not Vermont

Get'em while you can!

Get’em while you can!

But it might suit your fancy. While I’m still working on my VT Part II post, I figured I’d fill in the time by mentiong that SKORA is having a massive sale. By massive I mean 40-70% off almost everything. It’s a clearance sale, so sizes might be limited, but there’s a lot of shoes there with a good number of sizes. Also, I bet you didn’t know this, because SKORA uses the same platform for their shoes, they’re essentially unisex. The fit is the same from men’s to women’s, the only difference is the size which is offset by 1.5 sizes. So if you’re a dude in a 9, you could also wear a women’s 10.5. Or if you’re a lady with a size 12 you could jump down to men’s 10.5. There are some gender neutral colorways, so give it a shot.

Reviews:

SKORA Fit

SKORA Core
SKORA Phase