New England Weather, Snow Plows, and 130 Laps

A month or so ago, I was alerted to a marathon happening in Hartford, CT. I’d only run two marathons before, and since this was an indoor marathon, it seemed like a good chance to go for a long run and give the Achilles a nice little test run. Sure I could go for a long run and see what happens, but it just made more sense to do it when the furthest I would ever stop from the start would be a tenth of a mile.

All the stuff.

All the stuff.

Gearing up I didn’t really have a plan. I had an idea, but no real plan. My hope was to go out, run some seven minute miles and see how things felt. If nothing else I could slow down, but ideally I wouldn’t go faster than that. But of course, as things go, this would certainly not be the case.

As race day approached, the forecast started warning of a snow storm for the Hartford area Friday night into Saturday. As Saturday progressed, the snow was supposed to worsen. It sounded like getting to the race would be easy enough, but coming home might be a struggle. I checked the weather the night before and figured two-and-a-half hours for a normal two hour ride would be fine. It was all down at least two-lane interstate and I wasn’t supposed to hit snow until at least halfway there.

The 'clean' roads of Massachusetts.

The ‘clean’ roads of Massachusetts.

About a half hour into the ride, the snow flakes started falling. Not heavy, but they were coming. As I got closer to half-way, the snow really started coming down. Speed slowed from 80 to 40. At points I couldn’t see the lanes – 6:30/7:00 on a Saturday morning, no plows in sight. At a couple of points I almost turned around, but convinced myself that I had already paid my money and things couldn’t get that much worse. I was sort of right.

Vermont does something funny with their roads. I’m not sure what it is, a lack of salt, sand, no plowing, something; for as soon as I hit the Massachusetts border, the roads cleared up. What was once unidentifiable as a road quickly became a skim coat of slush on top of pavement and we started driving a little faster. We were still going slow, but I still had almost two hours until race start. I was a little behind schedule, but would be okay.

I’m not sure where I was when it happened, I recall seeing a sign for Hartford, CT 44 miles, but don’t’ know if I was infront or behind. Slowly traffic in front of me started building and we started slowing down quickly. It reminded me of rush hour traffic getting off of NYC. As we got to a long downhill, I could see the hold up, three plows across two lanes of traffic driving 20 MPH. There was no way around them and it looked like they were making the roads worse. As I rode behind the snow plows it started to dawn on me that I would not make the race on time. I convinced myself it was okay. It was just laps.

Lap Number...

Lap Number…

Finally the plows pulled off at an exit and I was on my way to Connecticut. Not having clocked mileage I had no idea how far it was to Hartford. I knew the exit, but no mileage. And of course, the kind folks in the Connecticut DOT don’t feel it’s necessary to put up those signs, so once again, I was driving blind with a timer running out and no sense of how far I had left to go. Finally about five minutes before race start, I pulled off the exit. The arena, which I assumed would be well marked with road signs, was not. As I looked skyward to the top of the buildings, I saw a big ‘xl’ on the side of one, surely that was the xl Center. Wrong. But they did give me directions to the right xl Center.

At 9:15 I showed up, grabbed my bib, got changed and hit the track. The adrenalin from rushing around and being late had managed to push all sense out of my head. My 7:00/mile race plan vanished. There were people everywhere on the track and I just went. I clicked off the first couple of laps in 1:20 (it was 5 laps to a mile) and knew I was too fast. I tried to slow down and I managed to for a few laps here and there, but it was a constant battle. I had found a rhythm and with people all around and a DJ who thought he was hosting a roller skating dance party in 1994, it was all but impossible to break out.

When I run, I talk to myself. Sometimes I whistle or sing. It’s all out loud. Usually outdoors, this doesn’t matter, I’m relatively alone and no one can hear me. Inside is a different situation and I got more than a few looks as I tried to talk myself into slowing down, mostly by cussing myself out and using a litany of derogatory terms.

I rolled through the first half in a 1:27ish and knew I was going to be hurting by the end. I could keep the pace for a while longer, but I wasn’t sure how much longer. By mile 17 I had stopped carrying my Orange Mud Handheld for a couple laps at a time and carried it consistently. By mile 20 I was shot. My quads were beat and I knew I was done. I stopped at the water station a couple of times and chatted to the girl while she filled my handheld. All sense of urgency was gone and I was hitting 8:00 miles.

It was the first time I used Gatorade during a race. Usually I’m just a rinse and spit kind of guy, but as it was indoors, there was no spitting. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind it, and while I didn’t feel any difference in energy, it did taste good.

SKORA Form, Orange Mud duffel and Handheld. First time my name is on a bib!

SKORA Form, Orange Mud duffel and Handheld. First time my name is on a bib!

I ended up finishing third in an official time of 3:19:52 but if I had showed up on time, or if the clock started when I started it was a 3:06:28. Given that I’ve been running 30mpw since July, I’m pleased. I will add that the DOMS are killing me. I recovered faster after the Joe English 6hr than I did this marathon.

Advertisements

Moving Forward

It’s been a little while since my last post, and not for any real lack of things to say. I hosted a little Fat Ass and got some much-needed help from VT Trail Girl in some abominable weather conditions. I got a chance to see 100:Head/Heart/Feet. I consciously neglected registering for one of my favorite half-marathons. And as the end of December came, I realized my mileage had seriously fallen off and I would be eking through the year on heavy miles put in early in the year.

Last year, when the New Year rolled around, I made a list of goals. As I look back, I achieved a good number of those goals, and while I should be happy, I’m not. I missed the most crucial goal: stay injury free. Last February I buggered up my Achilles and continued to run through it. It didn’t hurt to run, but over time, the stiffness as I got out of bed started to last longer into the morning. I knew what I was doing, but could only focus on running my first 50 and going on to complete the VT100. While I managed to do both of those things, my performance at VT was sub par for what I had hoped, but I still got it done. Part of the sub par performance was due to the Achilles finally catching up and hampering my training: lower miles, little to no speed work, and a bit of mental angst.

Since VT I’ve been hitting 20-30 miles per week with the exception of a 6hr race in October. The reduced mileage and slower pace has certainly helped. My Achilles, while it is still swollen, is not nearly the size it was back in July. Most all stiffness is gone in the morning, though my miles are still low. If I hit more than 7 or 8 miles, it’s sore the next day. There’s still some awkward pinching, and I know the end is not near. Consequently, my plans for 2015 have taken a huge change.

I mentioned that I neglected to sign up for one of my favorite half marathons and while cost is certainly a factor, there is also the knowledge that I would be heavily under-prepared and if I want to go for a 13 mile run, I can do so on my own. I was also planning on running the Lake Waramaug 50m or 100k this April, but that too has been sidelined for next year. And while I could probably putter my way through, it wouldn’t be wise, or fun. The next event quickly approaching is registration for the VT100. I’m not entirely sure yet if I want to run the 100m or the 100k, I can figure it out as the day approaches. However, with the Achilles, I’m not even sure I want to sign up. $250 is a lot of money to waste, and I’m kind of afraid that with a race picked out that far into the future, I might try to push before things are ready to be pushed. Do I register and cut my financial loss if I’m just not ready? It’s 6+ months into the future, I should be good to go, but can’t be sure of it.

Perhaps I’m being over-cautious after giving my self some serious issues, or maybe I’m just trying to protect my ego. Hopefully by September/October I’ll be trained and ready to hit some fall ultras, but we’ll see. Just lots of rehabbing in the mean time.

.

Indoor Laps

I’m kind of in the ‘planning-for-2015’ mode, but haven’t gone all out yet. I have some key races in mind, but a lot depends on the Achilles and how it’s recovering. Of course it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped running. I still train lightly and have been perusing the race listings.

One of the problems with New England is that the winter has next to zero races. There’s a few frozen 5ks here or there but for the most part it’s a snow shoe race or a XC ski race. Not my thing. (There’s also the Winter Wild Series, which I think I’ll try out this winter.) The other day, I was turned onto the Arena Attack event happening down in Hartford, CT. There’s a handful of events happening at the Arena Attack, including a half-marathon, a marathon relay and a marathon.

Unfortunately, I was too late for the marathon, and all that’s left are slots in the half-marathon race. I emailed the RD and have had my name put on the wait list – #7 – not too bad, but as I perused the open slots, I noticed that the 11:15 half-marathon had a three hour time limit (the earlier one was a 2:10 time limit). Of course my wheels start turning, and I asked the RD if I could use the entire three hour time limit to run a marathon. He replied and told me I could, and that he’d feel hard up making me stop at 3:00 if I only had a little bit to go, but he can’t give me too much extra time because vendors will start charging. How awesome is that!?! I have no plan of taking anymore than three hours. If I hit the marathon in three, awesome, if not, it’s no big deal. The plan is to use this as my first real long run and sort of a test run (to see how a 3:00 marathon feels) once I’m back from the off-season. 130 laps, here I come!

Rain, Mud and Fog

Pre-Race

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

Thankfully, it didn't rain that much.

Thankfully, it didn’t rain that much.

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

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

The Course

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

Drop bag. Easy access at all times.

Drop bag. Easy access at all times.

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

The Race

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

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

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

The Weather

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

Decided to go with my FIT. Excellent choice.

Decided to go with my FIT. Excellent choice.

And now for the real reasons:

Food

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

Mindset

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

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

The Final Hour

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

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

Pros of the Timed Event

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

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

Cons of the Timed Event

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

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

Misc.

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

Results

Full Results

Full Results

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

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

Taper, Pacing, and A Crew

With VT100 in just about a week, my taper is in full swing. Typically, I’m not much of  a taperer. My miles aren’t really high enough to warrant a taper for a 5k. Even a 50 mile race, I might take it easy the week before – drop my miles a bit and not do any real long run or speed work – but it wouldn’t be a three week process. I’m not sure if it’s a proper fear of what’s in store, or all the training plans out there that have a taper at the end, but either way, I’ve decided to do a bit of a taper.

I’ve dropped my mileage, cancelled long runs, and opted out of any speedwork. Where as I was putting in a minimum of 50 miles a week before hand, this week will be around 40, and Sunday-Friday the week before will be two mile days.

Because I don’t really implement tapers, I’m not sure how I should be feeling, but I’ve been feeling great. Physically, my legs are starting to feel fresher. The little niggles are dissipating, the sore Achilles isn’t so sore (though this could be due to some other extraneous factors), even my mental outlook is improving. I’m still terrified of what’s to come in a little over a week, but the excitement is brimming.

With the reduced mileage I’ve also been able to think more about the race. Perhaps I should have been doing this long before two weeks out, but I’m learning, I think… Being that this is my first 100, and not having any idea how my legs will handle on the back half, it makes planning anything a bit difficult.

First, there is the pacing. In April I did a 50 miler on much the same terrain as VT100. I went out too fast with some 7:30s and managed to finish with an 8:22 pace. Things slowed down, a lot. I guess that’s to be expected, but I don’t want to drop off too hard. Consequently, I want to go out conservative, but what is that? 10:00 miles sounds pretty damn conservative, but that’s an 8:20 50 and a 16:40 100. That would almost certainly be top-10 and probably top-5. That assumes no slow down, but all the same even sub-17 seems a bit over zealous to say the least. I suppose it’s something that I will figure out n race day, but I will start knowing that I need to keep my miles in the double digits and hopefully, it won’t bite me in the ass too hard.

The other thing I’ve had time to sort of think about is my crew. Initially, I had a crew of three. Two newbies and one veteran who was going to pace me. As things would have it, my veteran had things come up and will be doing his own race the same day as VT. One of my crew will be working in Burlington during the day but will be able to make it back by evening. That leaves my brother as the only crew person I will have. At this point I’m playing with the idea of having a crew. One of the nice things about the VT100 – depending on who you ask – is that there is a plethora of aid stations and places for drop bags. Really the only thing I’d need my crew to do is carry some things I might need, and possibly give me some motivation when I’m wavering. So yes a crew would be nice in that sense, but it also means I need to plan things out for them – things I don’t even know – like when and where to meet them. In the end, it might just be easier to look after myself.

This is essentially a ‘home’ course, if you will. I live two miles from the course and know the last 30 miles quite well. I’m hoping this gives me a bit of a boost should I actually make it to the last 70 miles. But no matter the outcome, I’m really looking forward to the adventure in store.

If you’re in the area and want to volunteer there are a number of opportunities before, during and after the race. Let me know and I can put you in touch with the appropriate people (or you can just go to the VT100 website…).

A Little Self Doubt

I remember as a kid trying to build up the courage to ask a particular girl on a date. It took some time, and when I finally did gather the courage to ask, the nerves were a mess – the dry mouth, the queasy stomach, the heat. The lead up sucked, but the end result was quite pleasant. It ended quite miserably, but did lend to some decent memories. Back in January, when I signed up for the VT100, the nerves were in much the same place. I was varnishing a floor with my alarm set and the sign-up page pulled up on the lap top – no way I’d miss out on registration. It was January so needless to say, the windows were closed; perhaps some of the dizzy, hot flash, giddiness, that I was feeling had more to do with the varnish than actually signing up, but I attribute them to VT.

I already had a training plan in place and knew pretty well how every week or so should look. There were a couple of races, some long runs, and a good handful of recovery days. June was supposed to be my big month. I was looking forward to hitting my first 300 mile month and my first 100 mile week along the way. Unfortunately, as life goes, a small handful of things have come up that are looking to make June just another sub-par month.
This past Tuesday I went out for a long run just over 17 miles – it shouldn’t really be a long run at this point, but it’s the most mileage I’ve done in sometime… It was an early morning run, and it started out quite slow, as normal, but the pace never really picked up. I trudged along, cursing the hills between me and my home. I’ve run these hills countless times before, but they seemed steeper and longer as I puffed up them slowing to something slightly more than a walk as I neared their crests.  It was miserable. These runs happen. We all have off days. Having never run 100 miles before, I assume that by the last 25 miles I will be feeling worse than I do on an ‘off’ day. And it is this that gives me pause. These hills causing such problems are the same hills I would be attempting to climb nearly 90 miles into the VT100 – if I could hardly get over them 15 miles into a run, how can I possibly get over them with 90 miles on the legs (that’s assuming I actually get there)?

The butterflies and excitement of anticipation that I had in January are still there. I’m still looking forward to seeing what I can muster – how far I can push myself, but a new element of fear has been introduced. I am not taking this distance casually; I know it deserves respect and a bit of caution, but the self doubt that was once non-existent has become a fixture when thinking about July 19th.  I know I’ll toe the line, but beyond that it’s something of a mystery. I haven no idea how far I can make it, how long I can hold out and keep moving forward. There will be an end, I just hope it’s a pleasant one.

Covered Bridges Race Recap

This past Sunday I ran the Covered Bridges Half Marathon. It’s a point to point race with a net elevation loss – which is something when you live some place that calls the rest of the world ‘Flatlanders.’ The first time I ran this I set a massive PR of near seven minutes. It was the first time I realized I could really run fast and in the front of some packs. The following year I bombed, hard; naturally this year I wanted to get back to where I was. The difference this year lied mostly in my training – I hadn’t. I’ve been trying to gear up for the VT100 in July and I

Trying to finish strong.

Trying to finish strong.

haven’t done any real workouts with a half marathon focus. Top that off with a cranky Achilles tendon, and I wasn’t really sure what  was in store for this past Sunday. In my mind, it could have gone either way.

Sunday morning came and my wife and kids piled in the car. I sucked down my cup of coffee and half a bowl of oatmeal in the car. The day before my AT had felt pretty good and I didn’t really notice it, Sunday morning was a different story. It didn’t hurt, but definitely let me know it was there, and was some how anticipating the abuse it would soon receive. My family dropped me off a the start and I wandered over to the check-in. I took my time putting my bib on, and lacing up my SKORA Core. I had 30 minutes before the start of the race, and wasn’t ready to start warming up yet. Eventually 8:00 rolled around and I headed out for my warm-up. Typically, I’m not a big stretcher, but lately I’ve really been working on my hips and calves as it seems to help the AT. I got back to the start line feeling okay, and two minutes later, we were off.

I didn’t really have much strategy for this. Part of me wanted to go out just under 6:00 and warm-up from there, but the other part wanted to stick with the front pack and hang on. Last year the leaders went out around 5:50, but it was much hotter. As it turned out, I sat at the back of the front and ended up going through the first mile in a 5:38 – a little too fast. The front pack consisted of maybe seven runners, a couple I knew were capable of holding that pace. Over the second and third mile a couple guys dropped back and the pace slowed down as we rolled through mile 3 just over 17 minutes. After mile 3, the spectators start to fade, and the race starts to string out. By mile 4 there were 5 of us still running. We came to the 6 mile mark right around 34 minutes and it was hear that the leaders left us. I think they picked it up a bit, and my pace flagged a bit. I kept trucking but my pace dropped a couple of seconds, and by mile 7 I was slowed to a 6:15 (I’m fairly certain mile 6 is short, and 7 is long).

With the two guys in front long gone, 3-5 slugged through the 8 mile mark. Seeing how slow it was, I picked up the pace – probably a bit too much – and dropped another 5:43 with another runner. And then the pace started to yo-yo and the other guy I was with left me behind. I’m not sure if it’s a mental thing at this point in the race, or a true physical inability, but when things get spread out, and I don’t really have anyone in site, I start to slow, then speed up when I realize I’m slowing, then slow down again and the back and forth continues until the end.

Good enough for 3rd.

Good enough for 3rd.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed a nasty side stitch whenever I drink Gatorade mid-run. I’ve since turned to HoneyMaxx which causes no problems, I can’t really bring a hydration system with me on a half marathon. Anyway, I’ve learned to just rinse the mouth out with the Gatorade and dump some water on my head. Unfortunately, at mile 10, a bit of Gatorade snuck down the pipe and by mile 11 I was picking up some nasty stitches. It wasn’t enough to totally stop me, but it definitely slowed the pace a bit. I went through mile 10 in 57:30 and finished in a 1:16:26 – it took me near 19 minutes to run the last 5k. I’m not blaming the last 5k on the stitch, but it certainly didn’t help.

I’ve been training in my Core, and this was my first race in them. So far, they’ve been a delight in training. Nice and roomy, exceedingly comfortable. They proved to be just as delightful to race in as well. Though I think I might have to stick with the Phase (what I wore for my 50 miler) for shorter races as they’re just a bit snugger and I appreciate that in a racing flat.

All in all, I’d say things were a success. While I was 5 seconds off my PR, I still managed to pick up 3rd. My wife and I had made a decision that I wouldn’t have to shave my moustache if I won. It was farcical and I was planning on shaving, but my wife has decided to give in on the grounds that I was the first VT’er. She said I can keep it through the VT100 if I can pull out a ‘W’, ha!

I’m An Ambassador

It seems that life is picking up. The slow pace of winter is gone, and it’s time to rush around and enjoy the warmth that summer brings. Or I’ve just put too much on my plate.  Either way, it goes something like this:

Over the last three or four months, I’ve been going through the process to become a SKORA Ambassador. I didn’t have a lot of hopes, but figured what the hell. Lo and behold, I’ve found out that I was accepted. Pretty sweet. Granted it doesn’t mean much for you all. Maybe some free shoe giveaways in the future, but nowt for now.

Tomorrow also marks the first time since November that I will be running a real race, and the last couple of weeks have been sub-par to say the least. I took some easy time, and felt better, but this past week we redid our bathroom and I managed to retweak my Achilles while carrying a bathtub up a ladder into a second story window – not cool. So for two weeks in a row now, my mileage has suffered. I know what you do the week or two before a race doesn’t make or break you, but it definitely plays with confidence. Couple that with tomorrow being my first race for TeamSKORA, and I’m feeling anything but sure about this.

Of course, here is the obligatory race kit picture. The maroon and orange Dead Skunk Racing singlet, and my SKORA Core – which while not as light as my Phase feel like they’ll be a pretty nice shoe to race in – and my bandanas. Typically I’ve gone with the brown, but my brother got the camo for Christmas, and it’s a tough decision…CBHM Kit