Six Days?

When I first started learning about Ultras, I learned about 50 and 100 milers. There were a few local races and I had known of a few wackos who ran them. Over time, I learned that there were people who would race for 24 hours – straight. I marveled at their huevos and wondered if I could ever grow a pair that big.

Just recently, I learned that the 24 hour guys are just a bunch of pansies who can not buck up and run a six day race. Yes, six days. At first when I heard about a six day race, I found it kind of unbelievable and rather obscure. I paid the idea little attention and moved on with my life.

For the last 48 hours or so, I have been captivated by the Across the Years event which takes place down in Phoenix, Arizona. According to wikipedia, the six day race has not been run for a few years at ATY, but is being run this year.

Still reeling from the shock that people actually run these things – the world record is 644 miles (1036km!)- I was even more stunned when I pulled up the running results and saw that Yiannis Kouros, the guy who set the record and who basically owns the Spartathlon was in the lead. My jaw dropped even further when I saw that he is 57 years old. Joe Fejes, who is in first as I type this is 48. The top 4 are over 48. Crazy.

The thing I love and that really intrigues me about this whole six day thing is the strategy that has to go into it. This is not a 5k where you go balls out and hang on for the last mile trying not to wretch. It is not 50 miles or 100. It is six days. Six whole days. When do you sleep? How long do you sleep? Do you push the pace when your opponent is sleeping, or sleep as well?

This race amazes me, and while I do not think I will do one anytime soon, I think it might be one of those bucket list items. It will give me lots of time to strategize…

Running Philosophy

I suppose this post will contain a fair bit of my history – though not directly. It is my attempt at explaining part of why I run and part of where I am going with it – why I continue to assault my body with countless footfalls on rubber track, rocky trails, icy roads, boggy marshes, rotting squirrels or whatever else lies in my path.

I am fairly well convinced I started running in high school to get away from soccer. My high school brain told me I was not getting playing time and taking a back seat on the team not because I did not have the talent, but because of the politics involved. In cross country, there are no politics, no room for subjectivity and favorites; the time you post says it all.

Coming back to running after spending most of my money on fast food, booze, and cigarettes (that stuff is expensive in NYC), one of the things I loved about running was the low cost. I could find a pair of running shoes at Marshalls for less than $25, and a 10 lap stop watch from Wal-mart for near $10. I already had lots of old athletic shorts, and any cotton tee would suffice for a shirt. (If I knew then what I know now about shoes, I would have shelled out a bit more cash and gone with the SKORAs I have now, but that is for another time.) The point is, I could get out and do my thing for cheap.

In time I learned about all the gimmicky crap – the head phones, the garmins, the heart rate monitors, and do not forget all the sweat-wicking, technologically savvy clothes available to keep you dry. When I registered for my first post-hiatus race, I was appalled to find out how much it cost, and even more appalled when on race day, I picked up my schwag-bag and found it loaded with garbage. Running is supposed to be simple, easy, a break from the hubbub of life. And here we were loading it up with the crap that infects the mainstream.

Running should be something simple. It is basic in its premise: run from point A to point B, maybe back again. Sometimes we race and we try to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. It is the basic make-up of essentially any other sport – aside from maybe golf, fishing and bowling… Running was created simple, and should be kept simple. Free of distractions. Running should allow us to learn our environment, to learn ourselves and delve into the corners of our being we typically ignore. Running should be free.

2014 Goals

Yesterday, I recapped some of my 2013 goals. All in all, I felt it was a pretty good year in terms of running strong. 2014 will see me running some new distances so setting goal times might be a bit of a trick, but I will try. And again, I hope to remain injury free and listen to my body.

Streaking

A streak is not my main goal. It is something I have going and I like. It is a good tool to push. However, it is only an aside and if I need a day off because I killed myself hitting a race goal, that is acceptable. I do not want a streak to end because I was lazy. Certain important days – birthdays, anniversaries, etc – but not travel days or cold days. No real time goal, but at 100 days, I would like to see how far I can get.

Mileage
Last year I hit around 2250 miles. For 2014, 2000 is my absolute minimum and I think I should have no problem hitting it. My stretch goal will be 2500, and my dream goal will be 3000 miles. I am pretty confident I can hit 2500, and 3000 should not be too hard, but still might be tricky.

Half Marathon

This year I should be pretty fresh for Covered Bridges. Coming off last years 1:16:22 at CHaD, I am fairly confident I can go sub-1:16 at CBHM. I would love to get sub-1:15, but I think that might be a bit of a stretch goal. In terms of place I need to finally crack that top 3 if not faster.

Marathon

I am not even really sure I will run a marathon this year. If I do, it will probably only be one and it will be in February. Not ideal, but the course is pretty flat, and if weather permits I want to go sub-2:50. I do not really want to concentrate on the marathon, but I need to get my marathon time down in-order to get my 50 and 100 mile times down.

50 Miler

Two 50 miles lined up for this year. Twin State in April and VT50 in September. No real ideas for time, but I would like to go in the 8 hour range for TS50 and down into the 7 hour range for VT50. I feel confident these are obtainable goals, but having not run one before I cannot be certain. I think a top-10 at VT is also doable.

100 Miler

Another race I have never run before but will attempt my first in July at the VT100 and maybe again at Ghost Train in late October down in NH. Finishing should probably be my main goal, but that sounds too easy… I think finishing is probably my base goal, while finishing sub-24 would be a push goal. A total stretch would be sub-20 and my dream goal would be to go sub-18 and finish in the top-10. Dreamy yes, attainable, maybe. It is called training… If I do Ghost Train, I will figure out goals as that approaches.

Race Directing
Kind of ridiculous to have this as a goal, but… 2014 is the first year of the TS50. It is a goal that it goes well and continues on to next year. I would also like to establish another race sometime later in the year. I am not sure the distance, but I am thinking a 6 hour could be interesting. I would love to establish a Fat Ass Slam in the next two or three years.

2013, A Year in Review

In November 2012, I laid out some 2013 goals for myself on my training log blog. Some I hit, some I missed, and some I smashed. For posterity’s sake, I will recount them now with some of my thoughts and reflections. More of an exercise for my self before setting out new goals for 2014.

I set out with a goal of 2000 miles for the year, 600 of those I wanted to be barefoot. While I have already eclipsed 2000 and look set to hit 2250, the barefoot miles did not even reach 100. I am not really sure why this did not happen. I think I ended up doing more miles on the roads and gave up on the grass loop I do my barefoot miles on. All in all, I am not too concerned with this missed goal.

I also set out a streaking goal of sorts. Did not hit it, though I will end the year on a streak of just over 100 days. See how long it goes on into 2014.

I hit my long run goal of keeping things around 12 miles at the least. I also wanted to hit a 20 miler a month, and a couple 30 milers. Those did not happen. Should have gotten up earlier. 30 miles still would be difficult just for time constraints with family and all.

Managed to stay pretty injury free. No real injuries. Few knocks here and there that made me take things easy, but nothing to make me stop for any length of time. Good job listening as far as I am concerned. I also think making the full time switch to my zero drop Skoras and giving more attention to proper/healthy form helped tremendously.

Time Goals

Overall, I think I had a decent year. While I did not hit the PRs I was aiming for, I ran strong and came close. I have no doubt I can hit them next year.

I wanted to pop a fast 1600 – instead, I did not run any. I tried to have a go once, but turned it into an 800 TT. Pretty lame. Could have gotten one in at the end of the year, but my focus really shifted towards the ultra distances so I just kind of said fudge it. 4:52 post hiatus will have to do.

No 1600s and no real 5ks this year. Ran Harpoon. Not as fast as I would have liked at the end of last year, but I am happy in retrospect. Picked up a decent grouper.

I wanted to crush CBHM this year. The course is flat, it is has decent competition; unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and I think it hit 80 on race day; hot, muggy, and humid and it was 45 cold and damp the weekend before. The winner was three minutes slower too. I also do not think I had the base I should have had to run the Shires two weeks before and come back with a fast half. Fortunately, I whooped up at CHaD this year (though, not place-wise. I managed to shave 20+ seconds from my half pr and it is a much tougher course than where my previous half pr was set. I also lopped near 5 minutes off from my performance last year. This was another race where I felt mentally superior to how I have felt in the past. So while I did not hit my goal pr of 1:15:xx for the year, I got a little closer on a tougher course.

Knowing I was only going to run one marathon, and it was not really an ‘A’ race, I do not think I set my goals too high. I wanted to shave at least 5 minutes off, and get under 2:55. I was able to do that despite getting a wicked stitch that dropped me down to a 7:00+/mile for 2-4 miles in the middle.

Overall, I am very pleased with this year. I hit most of what I wanted, or came very close. It was a good healthy year and I am sure next year will be faster.

To The Dearly Departed…

I had to say good bye today to a good friend. While I did not know him long, our relationship grew quickly and found itself cemented in daily rituals. He was there when I woke, and there when I slept. He helped keep me warm on windy days.

Unfortunately, my wife did not have the same opinion and due to some extraordinary circumstances on her end, I listened to her.

I shaved my moustache today. Granted, I only started growing it in late October, but in the last couple of weeks it was a staple on my face. No longer can my students raise their hands and say: “I moust-ache you a question.” It is a sad day, but I am already beginning growth on another. I am just afraid it will not be ready for the hard cold months ahead.snotsicle

Bake My Shaken Rabbit

My wife and I do not adhere to any strict diet – how many fad diets have presented themselves in the last decade? – but one thing we do feel strongly about, is how and where our food comes from. If you have ever priced organic or local food, you know it is expensive – almost to the point that it is not affordable when you are trying to recover from school loans and a mortgage. Consequently, we have taken on a few chickens (hens, the roosters are in the freezer) and rabbits.

I am a big fan of rabbit. It is a fairly versatile meat – you can do anything with rabbit you can do with chicken, and all things considered, they are easy to raise and dress (unlike meat chickens). Until recently, my wife was not such a big fan, but went along anyway.

Because I do not mind chewing on a whole carcass, I always left the rabbits whole and roasted them or put them into casseroles or stews and sucked the bones clean like the old timers in Red Hook sucking chicken wings clean. The last time I processed, my wife convinced me to section the rabbits. At first I was a bit contrary to this idea as it meant more work for me, but after cooking them with the following recipe, I am glad I went along.

The following recipe (if it can be called that) is for a whole rabbit sectioned though it is easier cooking wise if you use the same parts.

In a zip lock bag add a small handful of crisped rice, or some other cereal. If you have stale bread, or bread crumbs from baking, those work well too (it is what we use). Add to the bag spices to your liking. I like to use cumin, coriander, file powder, garlic, and cayenne. Add your rabbit bits and shake until coated, then put them in a deep pan. Most recipes will tell you to slather on the butter at this point, but if you have the option you can use rendered rabbit fat which I prefer to anything I have tried at this point. Coconut oil also works well.

Bake the rabbit bits at 375 for anywhere from 20-40 minutes depending on the bits you have used – boneless loins will cook quickly, thick meaty hind legs will take a full 40 minutes. Use your judgement and do not over cook. Thank your rabbit and enjoy.

Running Cold

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I suppose it is not a stretch to join the “more-miles-than-degrees” club when you live in Vermont, especially in these winter months when temperatures drop below zero. Though December usually does not see these prolonged stretches of highs in the teens. Rather, this crummy weather is generally reserved for January and February.

When it comes to running, these icy temperatures can often be overcome with the right gear, or like me, with lots of crappy gear piled on – two pairs of gloves, an over-sized fleece pull over that leaves me looking like I should be slinging rock in the ghetto, and of course, pants. I have not had to up my gear to wool socks, and I do not really plan on it. I will stick to my cotton socks; the feet will get cold, but they do not get numb, and so I can still feel the ground. Unfortunately, there is a small area between ankle-socks and pants that gets a little exposed to the frigid air.

Either I have no feeling in the back of my heel due to repeated blistering from hiking with boots as a kid and racing spikes that were always too small, or it was just plain cold out there. No matter the answer, as I was getting undressed I noticed that my sock was no longer white – or grey – but had a nice rosy hint to the heel area. I have gotten blisters before, but none have bled like this. Is it spring time yet?

Treadmill Hate #2: Running in the Desert

Reason #2: Dehydration

Sometimes staying hydrated in the winter can be something of a trick. The constant circulation of stale air when the furnace kicks on. The desire for tasty warm beverages like coffee and cocoa instead of water. Seriously, who wants to drink cold water when it is fourteen degrees outside?

Even though it reminds me of what I imagine the Arctic to be like when I step outside, I still manage to work up a meager sweat that needs replenishing. The lack of sweat corresponds nicely with the lack of deliciousness that a tall icy-cold glass of water garners in the dead of the winter.

Unfortunately, when it gets too cold, or for some other reason we take to the treadmill, the balance of sweat and water intake gets totally smashed. Instead of barely sweating, I could drown ants in my sluices of sweat. About ten minutes in, I start getting hot. I can feel the little beads of sweat slowly coming together on my back and chest. From there it is not long until I am dripping – sweat pouring down my chin and flying from my elbows with every stride. Of course I do not use a water bottle. I am running less than an hour – certainly no need for a water bottle.

While I am running I cannot wait for a pull of some fresh cold water, of course as soon as I stop, the cold sets in and all I want is something warm – like coffee. The treadmill lulls you into a false sense of temperature. At least running in the sweltering Georgian afternoons, I knew I was hot when I was done. As soon as I hop of the treadmill I look out the window, see snow and my body quickly recalls that it is only fourteen degrees outside, not the 90 it feels like on the treadmill.

Before you know it, your lips are cracked and bleeding, your pee is beyond golden, and you are two steps away from spending the next week in a hospital bed with an IV stabbing your arm. Thank you, you nasty treadmill.

Reason #1: Barking Spiders