Confessions of a Former Speed Addict

As a forewarning, if you’ve come here looking for life stories of a meth-head, you’ll be sadly disappointed.

This past weekend was the CHaD Hero Half Marathon and 5k. It’s an event that helps to support the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth. Last year – I think – it raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $750k for the hospital. It’s kind of a family event and for the last two years I have run the half-marathon while my wife has run the 5k or done the 1 mile walk/run with the kids.

While the half isn’t the fastest course, it is a nice course and I set a PR there last year. My race calendar isn’t very packed – races are expensive and usually require some travel. So when an event like this is local, it’s on my calendar for good. This year, though, was a little different.

Almost a year ago, I set my sights on the ultra world. I started adjusting my training to prepare me more for 50 miles, than for 13.1. Most of the training is the same, with some longer runs replacing speed workouts. At times during the year, I really wanted to go to the track for some 2000s, but instead I followed my plan and would do something else. My race schedule changed and races that were usually key races became b-races. This years CHaD half was one of those that took the back seat.

When the time came to register, my wife and I talked and I decided that this year I would sit out the half, and instead I’d run the 5k with my wife and kids in the stroller. At times I questioned my decision. I knew that if I wanted to head out and have a go at the CHaD, I could. My legs and muscles could handle it. It wouldn’t be as fast as I’d have liked, but it could still be quick. I also knew that this is my off-season and I need to let my body recover (mainly my damned Achilles), and that running with the family can be enjoyable, too.

The 5k and the half start together and there’s lots of stuff for the kids to do after. Starting in the back of the pack with the stroller, the front running half-marathoners had a three minute lead on us before we even crossed the starting line. We ran our little race, went through the food line and took the kids for a ride on a robotic elephant that paraded around in circles. And then it was time to leave. Of course, it was just about time for the first guys to start coming in for the half.

Last year I finished with this years first place guy a couple of seconds ahead of me. He has been laying down some nasty times this year, and there’s no doubt he would have smoked me this year, but as he and second place came through in 1:12 and 1:13, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of jealousy tinged with some sadness.

Jealous because I wish I was out there with them hitting 5:40s. Sad because I know that even if I had run, I wouldn’t have nearly the speed they had. Sad because that speed is gone for now. It’s taken a break. I might be able to reclaim some of it, but I’ve made a decision to let it go.

It’s kind of like an 800m specialist in love with cross country. It’s impossible to train to be the best in both fields. The requirements on your body are too different. I picked ultras. I picked long events that take fractions of days to finish. And while I usually think I made the right choice, watching the finish of the half had me second guessing.


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 (Part I, II, and III) 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


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:


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.


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.


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.


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

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 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.