A Brilliant Idea…

Posted in the UVRC December Newsletter, an awesome piece of work from Steve Andrews.

When I started running in high school, I was a bread and butter distance guy. A convert from soccer to cross country; on the track I raced 3200s and steeple chases. When I got to college, I stuck with the longer events and took up running twenty-five laps on an outdoor track for fun. Since college, I have completed a handful of half-marathons and a couple of marathons. So far, I like the longer distances.

I am not really sure when I had the harebrained notion that I should try my feet at an ultra-marathon. Part of me says it is just a natural progression from the marathon, and then there is the fact that many of my everyday-training runs cross paths with the VT50 and 100 courses. Either way, it was inevitable that I would eventually have a go at an ultra.

While I am no coach, and I really do not know anything about training for an ultra, I am fairly confident of one thing: I need to up my miles. Essentially, this is what I have been doing since I decided to go all in shortly before the CHaD. For the most part I am doing three main runs: a long run, a threshold workout on the track, and another shorter long-run. The other days I fill in with whatever time allows.

So far, one of the hardest things is finding the time to go for a three hour run, or to spend an hour and a half at the track. It may not seem like much, but when all is said and done, that time adds up, and with two kids under four at home, time takes on a different meaning. Consequently, I am either hitting the roads at 5:00 AM or 9:00 PM – neither are particularly enjoyable at this time of year.

While I have never been an early morning runner, I will say that I have become a bigger fan than I ever thought possible. There is no more wonderful a feeling than the muted cacophony of life that follows the defeat of the warm-bed-sirens and a grinding run into daylight hours. The sun does not welcome me, I welcome the sun. While this is not total motivation to wake up at unconscionably early hour, it is something.

Only four more months until April, eight until July. It will be a long road, but I guess that is what I signed up for. I guess that is ultra running.

Hanover Turkey Trot ’13 Race Report

If I had not signed up for this race ahead of time, I am not sure I would have done it. I really wanted to end the year with a PR and nip that 35:00 mark. I am fairly confident I can, and figured this would be a decent time to do it. A week out, the forecast looked bad: cold and windy. As race day approached, the forecast looked worse: colder and windier. On race day it was cold, and it was windy. It did not rise above 20 degrees all day (yes, that is Farenheit) and the wind was stand-up wind. At one point near mile 5 the wind was enough to almost make me stop forward motion. Compound the cold (near-zero with wind chill) and wind with a slick coating of the first years snow, and drifts from the fields, and it was definitely not a PR day.

First time all year I wore shoes for a race. Went with my Altras and was not disappointed; though, as it was the first snow of the year I was a bit uncomfortable running around corners at pace. This might have been fixed with my Skoras. I tried to push the pace here and there, but had a hard time of it. Sometime around mile 4 I started to feel my right calf and left quad a bit; first and second were 20/30 seconds ahead so I want to say I took it a little easier, but that might be a lie. I definitely do not think I pushed it as hard as I could have, but there was little need. No PR, no free turkey, might as well just put in a good effort and decent time.

Ended up running third with a 35:41. Not super fast; only a couple of seconds faster per mile than my CHaD Half time. But with a day like this, I am happy with a sub-36.

Here is the excerpt from the Valley News (you will need a subscription to check out the link – it is free):

Hanover — The Upper Valley Running Club’s Ben Schippers nipped Hanover’s Alex Hall at the wire to win the 21st Hanover Turkey Trot 10K road race on Nov. 24.

Schippers, 32, of Brooklyn, N.Y., gained the victory in a race that saw both finishers record times of 35 minutes, 7 seconds. Hall, 26, took second ahead of Windsor’s Ben Pangie (35:41). Lebanon’s Laura Hagley, 29, won the women’s division in a time of 38:52.

Despite a near-zero wind chill and a course with patches of ice, a field of 125 runners turned out for the 10K, about a fifth of them from the Lebanon-based UVRC.

Losing Control

A couple of weeks ago I reflected on my need for control as a factor for my need to run. Not long thereafter, I had one of those workouts that made me give up control – to a degree – and it left my brain sprawling on the sidewalk.

I had planned a hill workout in the waning light of the day. My wife was going to be home early from work as we had to attend a parent/teacher conference for our son who is in pre-k. (You should see the stack of paperwork and reports the teachers need to fill out and send to the state for a three year old…). As the afternoon progressed it grew apparent that my plan was a bit ambitious, and I would not be able to make it out to the hill I had planned.

This was not a dilemma. I live in Vermont and hills are in abundance. I rerouted my warm-up and ended up at the foot of another hill. Unfortunately, the low clouds blocked any moonlight, and while I thought I could run the hill in the dark, I stopped half-way up and turned around. Too dark. I am afraid of the dark.

Now my frustration was starting to build. I got out later than planned. I had to reroute twice. And somewhere in my brain there were whispers of my being too weak to run the hill, and the dark was just an excuse. There were no real loops I could do from the base of the hill. Thinking as I ran back to my house I figured I could stop off at the track and throw in a few threshold miles. I could at least get some quality in that way. I got to the track, did a warm-up lap with some builds and started on my first mile. Not good. Too slow. Way too slow. There was no way I was going to hit the pace I needed/wanted. So I quit. Jogged a lap and headed out to the streets.

Angry and annoyed I ran around town for the next 45 minutes, fuming. The whole time I waged mental war on my body trying to convince it to direct itself towards my house.

I am not sure if this speaks to some weak mental resilience on my part, but I find it incredibly hard to snap out of a bad workout; especially once I start making excuses in my head as to why it is not my fault. I ended up getting my nine miles in and the pace was decent. Everything went fine, and I guess that is what matters in the end.

My New Treadmill

Last year my wife purchased a spin bike for Christmas. It has gotten a fair bit of use, though in the warmer months it has served its ultimate purpose of “Drying Rack.” This year as the cooler weather started to approach and my wife and I could no longer justify taking the kids out in the stroller we opted to get a treadmill. The last treadmill we had was a freebie from her stepfather, and it seemed to be more of a walking treadmill than a running treadmill. Needless to say I killed it in short order. So when it came time to buy this one, we went all out – sort of.

Much like I can not rationalize spending more than $60 (though really it should be a lot less…) for a marathon, I could not rationalize spending a boat load of money on a treadmill. Races can be expensive enough, we do not need to blow our budget on a treadmill that will not see 500 miles in a year. At the same time, we did not want to buy a treadmill that I would put in the ground after one fast fartlek. After some asking around, I really wanted to get one of those Woodways with the slats, but there was no way we could afford it. So instead we went with a Sole.

It seems like a nice machine. We live in an older house (~165 years?) that I would call ‘fragile’ 155 pounds of pounding on a 300 pound device kind of scares me. The reviews on the internet hit out at the gibberish filled instruction manual, and I have to admit, it took some getting used to, but once you can speak a bit of their gibberish, putting the treadmill together is a breeze. The motor seems to run smoothly and quietly, but we will see how I feel about it in a couple thousand miles. It does have a monster warranty, so hopefully any problems will be taken care of by Sole.

Of course, a couple of days after our treadmill arrived, I was down at the local rec center and saw they were selling one of their commercial grade treadmills – used – but for a whole lot less than our F80. I thought about trying to return ours, but the whole disassembling and repackaging a 300 pound box kind of scared me off. I guess I just have to run more to lower that cost-per-mile.

I should have a post in the near future with my first real experience running on it. Remember, do not change too much of your routine at once, lest you get totally buggered up…

Control

I have never really been one for long term planning. Something about it just never sucked me in. I can plan for short term things, like fishing trips or an overnight hike, but I have true difficulty planning long term events. Rather, (and it is not something I am incredibly proud of), I sort of let them happen to me.

I was accepted to college via the early decision route. By November, my life had planned itself for the next five years. I could relax. Unfortunately, when those five years were up, I had no idea where I was going. I should have had a job – or at least known where I was going for graduate school – but as is often my case, I did not. In the last two weeks of school, when everyone else was getting ready for their new jobs with their shiny new degrees, I was scanning the help wanted pages on Yahoo!. I saw an advertisement for work teaching English in South Korea. My major was English/Environmental Studies, and I did have a minor in Education, so of course I applied. A month later I had packed my worldly belongings into two of the biggest duffel bags I have ever seen and was on my first trip out of the Eastern Standard Time Zone.

A couple of years later I was back in the States working as a substitute teacher in Brooklyn when a long term position presented itself. I was given the position and was quickly out of work as the school year ended. Planning on subbing again the following year, I was pleased to be contacted by my old school for yet another long term substitute position – this time teaching sex ed. It was while teaching sex ed that my then live-in-girlfriend gave birth to our son. A little while later she was my wife and our second was on the way.

I like to tell myself I went back to running because I wanted to be a healthy role model for my son, not some binge-drinking, cigarette-smoking, fast-food-loving, overweight, waste-of-life. And while this probably is true, running gave me some control of things. I can plan a workout on the track, or a week of runs, or even a plan to get to race day. I know how to do that. I may not be able to plan long term, but when I am getting tumbled by the currents of life, I still know how to lace up my shoes and walk out the door.