Friday, December 14, 2012

The Winter Doldrums or Where is Santa When You Really Need Him?

I just got back from Physical Therapy and like much of life, there was good news and bad news.  More on that later.

Following Tussey Mountain, we along with most of the mid Atlantic and Northeast suffered through Sandy.  My heart still aches for those folks in New Jersey and New York.  I just cannot imagine how they're coping.  We were without power for 12 days, and because I had no way to shower, I skipped on the running.  It turns out that was probably a good thing, because after our power was restored I set out for an easy 4 mile run just to loosen things up after the 50.  I knew immediately something wasn't right.  I was experiencing some major soreness (pain) in my right knee.  I forced my way through the entire workout and made it home, but it was not fun.  I rested a couple of days and tried it again with the same results.  (isn't insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?) 

One of the benefits of working at a hospital is the ability to sometimes get a doctor's appointment without waiting.  I called one of our Orthopedic Surgeons who specializes in sports medicine and he agreed to see me that afternoon.  Following x-rays and a comprehensive exam by Dr. Pavlovich and his athletic trainer they determined it was just a Pateller Tendinitis.  Dr. P explained it was caused by repetitive motion and overuse, as are most non traumatic running injuries.  He showed me on a model how micro tears occur and assured me they will heal.  The good news was he said I could continue to run and not hurt it further.  I tried to do some short runs followed by icing and stretching, but the pain (or more accurately, soreness) persisted.  I'm thinking to myself, we need to get a little more aggressive about rehabbing this baby, so I called Dr. P and asked him for a PT referral.  This was two, maybe three weeks ago. 

My therapist is an athlete and fully understands my need and desire to get rehabbed and back on the road/trails.  She quickly identified a fairly significant difference in the strength of my right hip/leg from that of my left.  She told me all problems begin in the hip.  Ditto with the flexibility, even though I regularly stretch both pre and post run.  Vanessa gave me a series of exercises to do at home along with some new passive stretching and told me to see her in five days.  I rigorously followed her program which even allowed for an easy 3 mile run each day, followed by the ever present ice.  After my next visit, she saw some improved strength and flexibility and gave me some more aggressive exercises and told me I could mix in some 4 mile runs.  Even with a little 4 miler, it really seemed like progress.  After my next appointment she told me I could do a couple of 6 milers with shorter ones in between.

I was feeling "pretty" good and wasn't experiencing any symptoms until 2 or 3 miles and then the soreness would return, but was fairly minor.  I was feeling pretty good about things and decided to do 6 that Sunday.  There was some more soreness, but it wasn't too bad.  I did two 4's the next couple of days and then another 6 and was feeling "OK."  At my next PT appointment, Vanessa said I had improved objectively and told me I need not come back unless things got worse.  She gave me some more aggressive exercises and said to call if I had any problems.  I told her I was going to attempt 8 that Sunday and she said OK, with no negative body language.  I think that must have been too much too soon.  I muscled my way through the 8 with a good bit of soreness the last three miles.  I iced it and stretched and had no residual soreness that day.  I did an easy day on Monday and then tried 6 on Tuesday.  That's when it really began to bother me again.  I did an easy 4 miles on Wednesday and began hurting in the first 100 yards, but was determined to finish the workout.  Thursday was to be another 4 and I did fine for the first 2 or 2 1/2, but then it really began to hurt.  I thought I was going to have to walk home, but managed to finish the workout.

I decided then and there I had to go back to PT.  I called this morning and Vanessa had a cancellation and was able to see me.  I gave her a detailed report of how I felt with the exercises and what had happened  during my runs.  She performed some transverse massage and icing and gave me "the pep talk."  She explained that forcing myself through these painful runs only increases the inflammation and slows down the healing process.  She gave me some revised exercises to do, plus a new running recipe of 3 miles every other day with massage and ice on the off days.  I'm going to see her twice next week.

I'm resolved to not having a quick fix to this thing.  That doesn't mean I'm happy about it, but I fully understand that this type of injury often takes time to heal.  I'm promising myself I won't get down (ask me about that in a few days) and I'll continue with Vanessa's program.  Fingers crossed and promising myself not to do anything "too" stupid.

                                                               Happy Holidays To All,
                                                                                 Jim

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Catching up on Life or Whine Whine

It has been absolutely crazy around here since Highlands Sky way back in June.  It seems like forever since that event.  Speaking of Highlands Sky, I visited Dolly Sods last Friday, just to see what it was like following hurricane Sandy and the devastating snowfall and power outages we experienced here in the West Virginia Highlands.  I just knew I would have to back down the mountain, but the Forest Service guys from the Mon had the road cleared.  Actually I was surprised at the lack of downed trees compared to other sections of the state.  My theory is that due to the elevation, the snow was drier and therefore didn't break down trees like it did at lower elevations.  I may be (probably am) totally wrong on that.

Anyway, following Highlands Sky and my mangled knee, I got back into a training routine for the Wineglass Marathon.  Danielle and I were running that together, and I was really looking forward to being with her during that race.  Training was going well, but most of my running was on roads and forest service roads, so no falling. 

In August, Dan and I crewed for Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness 50 Mile Trail Run.  We had a blast.  The race began at 9:00p.m. and AS workers were up all night helping runners hydrate, refuel, change headlamp batteries and just offering moral support.  Chris Reed (an accomplished ultra runner) and his delightful family helped, or rather we helped them, set up and staff AS5. 

At this point in the summer, I was pretty much just focused on getting ready for Wineglass.  A couple more long weeks and then I would taper.  Then one morning I get this email from Danielle saying she is going to volunteer for the Tussey mOUntaiNBACK 50 Mile Relay and Ultramarathon.  Tussey is held just outside of State College, PA.  It is run mostly on forest service roads and only has 5,000 + feet of elevation gain, so I started thinking, "why not?"  It was going to kind of be off the couch.  I had been maintaining 60 to 65 mile weeks, but no long runs (nothing longer than 20).  I mentally began trying to figure how to get a couple of long runs worked in around the marathon.  I would use Wineglass as a trainer and decided to run a 50K two weeks before Wineglass.  I know that's insane, but I actually felt good during the 50K and only walked about 100 yards during a 6 mile climb.  My recovery was fast (the taper helped), and then I was off to pick up Dan and be on our way to Corning, NY.  Wineglass race day was about perfect (unlike 2011).  It was cold waiting for the start, but very comfortable running, with mostly overcast skies.  Dan set the pace and we went out pretty fast and ran a sub 2 first half.  That kind of scared me and we backed it off a little.  Danielle's knee from the previous year hadn't been bothering her too much, but it began to flare up a little and started causing her some discomfort.  She kept telling me to go ahead without her, but I told her the "deal was we were going to run it together."  I didn't have anything to prove to anyone and we made it through the final 7 miles together.  Dan picked it up in the last mile or mile and a half and finished strong.  I was so incredibly proud of her to tough it out like she did.  We showered and drove back to State College that afternoon.  I was planning on dinner at Otto's, which serves up some awesome vegan fare, not to mention many craft beers brewed on site.  Did I mention their beer is to die for?  So we're driving into Otto's parking lot, which looks extremely crowded for a Sunday night.  As we walked up to the door, there is a sign saying "closed for private party."  What a bummer that was.  So we head downtown to another cool establishment, and believe it or not, it was closed for a private event too.  I was pretty bummed out by then, but we walked back down to College Avenue and the Corner Room was open.  We got some amazing grub and they had Pumpkin Ale on tap.  Not bad at all for a third try.

Between Wineglass and Tussey Mountain (Oct 12 -- 14), the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners put on their annual (hopefully) West Virginia Trilogy on Spruce Mountain.  I volunteered to help crew an AS for day 1 (50K).  Dennis Stottlemyer and the rest of the crew rode mountain bikes into Judy Springs of Seneca Creek.  I chose to hike the 3+ miles and hit the trail before daylight.  It is such an amazing time of day, watching and listening to the world come alive.  I spooked some coyotes who started yipping at me but soon faded into the coming dawn.  I loved that time alone (are we runners all loners?).  It was a perfect fall morning.  Dennis and the gang showed up a little after daylight and we got things set up and ready for the first runners.  Dennis fixed cheese quesadillas which were a huge hit.  I was really sad I wasn't going to be able to help on Saturday and Sunday, but Tussey was coming up the following week and I had to get another training run in on Saturday.

Danielle emailed the Tussey race folks volunteering to help out, but never heard back from them.  I'm glad she didn't, because she crewed for me.  Due to the nature of the course (roads) Dan was able to be at every AS for me after AS2.  The logistics of the race were great and the AS's were spaced so that runners really didn't have to carry much food or water (unlike trail races).  Pre-dawn race morning was  very chilly, but I was dressed fairly comfortably.  My biggest worry was getting overheated and not being able to shed layers.  AS3 at 11 miles was the first AS where crew could meet their runners.  Dan and I planned on me getting rid of a first layer at this AS and then we would play it by ear. 

The Ultra runners were to start at 7:00a.m. and the relay runners started in waves beginning at 8:00a.m.  A little before 7:00, the usual pre-race announcements were made and one of the runners sang "The Star Spangled Banner."  Then we were off into the near morning dawn.  It was still dark, but light enough that we didn't need headlamps.  Since I wasn't as "trained up" as I would have liked, I started slower than I usually do.  I had no idea how fast to run, and just wanted to beat the cut times; that and I had some wild idea of wanting to finish under 11.  After a mile or so of a slight downhill we hit the first uphill.  I had passed one or two runners on the downhill, but as we began to climb, I was passing quite a few runners who were walking already.  I'm thinking, "what do they know that I don't know?"  I made it to the first AS and jammed some chips and pretzels and took a long drink of water and was off.  Here the course turned back downhill, and some of the runners I had passed began passing me.  This would be a pattern through much of the race.  My training in the West Virginia mountains was clearly paying off.  The downhill began leveling off and I settled in with a lady who was a faculty member at some university in Massachusetts.  She actually had been at Penn State for a few years, before going down East.  We chatted about our dogs and children and a young lady caught up to us.  She had been one of the ones I passed on the climb.  We talked for a few minutes and she picked up her pace and was soon out of sight.  She was clearly a good runner.  On the next climb, I passed her again, and on the following downhill, she passed me.  When I caught her on the third climb, I told her she was a helluva runner, but needed to do more hill work.  She laughed and told me she was from Florida and had no hills available.    We ran together for a mile or so and when she picked up her pace that time, I didn't see her again.  She was good, and I regret not getting her name so I could see her time. 

I have a "26.2" tattooed on the back of my left calf, and while I was chowing down at AS3, a photographer was down on his knee shooting pictures of my tattoo.  I thought that was pretty cool and have wondered if they were ever published anywhere.  Just past the AS Danielle was waiting for me.  I got all choked up when I saw here, and that proved to hold true through most of the race.  It meant so much to me having her there for support.  I shed my windbreaker, gave her a hug and told her I loved her and was off.  One of the things I found interesting were the mile markers at every mile.  At first I thought that was going to be a real problem emotionally.  I mean at 1, you knew there were going to be 49 more of the suckers, and at 2, 48, and like that!  After 15 or 20 miles, I kind of lost track of the markers.  I would see a 28 and think, "hey, that's great, I thought it was only 25."  Then they seemed to come quickly.  I actually thought the course measurements were wrong a couple of times.  I wasn't running that fast, but was pretty zoned out.

I waited far too long to try and write this race report, because I forget many of the details and which AS's were which.  I was beginning to overheat and was looking forward to the next AS so I could  dump my long sleeve mid weight shirt and my "hot pink" skull cap.  After coming into an AS (maybe 7) I ate some cookies and a potato and thanked the awesome volunteers (they were great throughout the race) and saw Dan.  None too soon because I had started to sweat a lot.  She helped me peel out of my mid weight and handed me a short sleeve Patagonia  techie tee and my light weight mesh ball cap.  That was much better, and I was able to maintain a comfortable temperature range throughout the rest of the race.  I was feeling reasonably strong and was making the cuts with plenty of time to spare.  I forced myself to eat and drink every 30 minutes in addition to the AS's.  During Highlands Sky, I got all whacked out on my feeding schedule, and even though I was eating at each AS, I basically stopped eating in between.  I pretty much bonked about 3/4 of the way through and made myself a promise that I wouldn't let that happen again. 

Colyer Lake was the setting for AS9.  My stomach had begun to get a little funky by then and I was trying to eat Tums and cookies at the same time.  I don't recommend that, but I didn't want to linger in the AS and knew I needed nourishment, but also needed to calm my stomach down.  I had started eating Vitamin I by then, but was still beginning to experience some major quad pain.  After a high 5 and a hug with Danielle, I started off again.  I had run close to 37 miles without walking, but this next leg proved my undoing.  The climb started gradually but got progressively steeper, and on top of that, it seemed as if I could see that stupid road for miles ahead.  That did it!  As much as I did not want to give in to walking, I said screw it.  None of the Ultra runners were running this section and the relay guys seemed to be having a "little" bit of a hard time with it.  After walking a couple of hundred yards, I was able to mix in some running, but mostly walked to the crest of the hill.  The downhill was a welcome sight, and my quads weren't giving me too much trouble.  As I cruised in to AS10, it was very congested with vehicles in support of relay teams parked everywhere, crew members wandering about and just a general sense of confusion.  This AS was set up off a "T" intersection and the road was very crowded.  I met Dan and she ran with me into the AS.  At this point the course went out 2 miles and turned back on the same route going through AS10 again (but was AS11 this time).  AS10/11 was very busy with lots of spectators, relay runners and support crews.  I remember trying to eat a potato at AS11, but they were out of salt and it was a little hard to get down.  With just a little over 4 miles remaining, I wasn't too focused on eating, but I remembered Highlands Sky and forced down some chips and pretzels.  The salt was really hitting the spot.  I felt like I was living on "E" caps and Ibuprofen by then and my stomach was becoming a problem.  I left AS11 and headed for the finish line, but I was really struggling by then.  The course was mostly an easy downhill the rest of the way, but I just felt like the wheels were coming off.  My quads were totally blown and I felt like I was gonna puke, but nothing came up.  I caught up with a couple of runners who were walking, and passed them.  I was not going to walk at this point.  One foot in front of the other;  "Relentless Forward Progress!"  Within a mile or so of the finish, there was an intersection in the road and a couple of guys were starting up the wrong way.  They asked me which way to go and I took a guess at the correct way.  We ran together to the finish line and crossed within seconds of each other. 

I looked at the clock as I crossed and it said 10:18.  I thought I had mis-read it.  Was I hallucinating?  I had hoped for a sub 11:00, but was 10:18 actually possible?  Danielle was waiting there, just like she had been throughout this marvelous day.  We hugged and she took some pictures.  My stomach started to bother me again.  I didn't puke during the race, but it was going to happen now.  Well actually it didn't, but I got the major dry heaves (that always happens to me) and scattered a bunch of spectators, which I thought was really funny.  Dan got a cold Coke (with fizz) for me, and that really did the trick.  I felt much better after drinking some of it.  We kind of wandered around for a little while till I began to get cold and then it was time for a hot shower.  I gently eased myself into Danielle's car and she took me to my motel.  After getting cleaned up, it was off to Otto's.  They were open this time (YES!).  I ordered a killer IPA and sipped on it.  I just picked at my food and tried to eat as much as I could, but it wasn't much because my stomach was still a wreck.  I did make up for that at breakfast the next morning though.

Tussey RD, Mike Casper and all of his crew did a great job.  The logistics of an event like this are difficult at best and I only hope everyone who participates recognizes that.  The volunteers at the AS's were absolutely amazing.  They were so helpful in filling water bottles, getting food, offering wonderful moral support, and just being part of an awesome day.

I cannot say enough about my daughter Danielle.  She was an amazing crew of 1; a Goldilocks of sorts, not too much support, not too little, just the right amount.  You nailed it Dan.  I love you!

As we enter the Holiday Season I want to thank everyone who makes these endurance events possible, especially the race directors and their committees, and the volunteers who give tirelessly of their time.  Thanks too to all the runners.  Ultra runners are a very special breed, offering advice when requested, moral support when needed, and encouragement always.  Be safe during the coming holidays and short daylight hours of winter.

                                                                      Happy trails,
                                                                            Jim

Friday, June 22, 2012

I Did Not DNF

16 days shy of my 66th birthday, I completed the Highlands Sky 40M Trail Run.  I can unequivocally say it was the most physically challenging thing I've ever done. 

                                                                  I wondered if I would
                                                                                        ever see the finish line.

Those of you who have followed my blog from late winter through race day, know I was terribly worried over cut times through the aid stations.  During the first trainer, I hit the FS Road after 10 Bridges in 5:50.  Even though we didn't push it during the trainer, that time planted just the seed of doubt I needed to worry.  I knew I had left minutes out on the trail, while trying to clear small limbs and such from the trail, but I really was concerned about making Aid Station 4 in the allotted time.  I was really hung up on AS4.

June 16 dawned clear and cool at the Lanesville ranger cabin.  Typical pre-race scene:  lots of energy, runners making last minute checks of fluids/nutrition, lathering on Glide, all the usual.  Dan Lehman was working his butt off trying to get everyone checked in.  Then, without a lot of fanfare, the entire race field was off.  I purposely lurked at the back of the pack, 'cause I was gonna run my race and not someone else's.  I thought the pace was a little fast going up the Red Creek Road, but didn't try to keep up with the main group.  There were 5 or 6 of us running together when we hit AS1 and the pace seemed OK.  (Hollis Lipscom, one of my ER nurses was working as a medic.  His wife Jen is a runner and I believe this was Jen's 4th HS.  Anyway, Hollis and I gave each other a high five and I went through the AS).

After leaving the road, the course began a gentle climb through some grassy, transitioning into forest areas.  As we approached the steeper (that's a relative term) part of Flatrock Trail, it seemed to me as if I was part of an Everest Expedition.  As far as you could see, there was this long line of runners walking the trail.  It seriously reminded me of the lines waiting to navigate the notch going to the summit of Everest.  The walking part was fine, but I felt they were walking too slowly and there wasn't any place to pass.  I began fretting cut times again, and wanted to hit AS2 with a significant cushion.  Remembering Dan's admonition about the Stinging Nettles, I stepped off the trail and speed walked through 100 yards or so of the little boogers, but did manage to pass some of the slower folks in front of me.  When I was a kid, I used to get into the Nettles all the time, but I had forgotten what they were like.  I just figured it's mind over matter and kept going.  Sure enough, the steep part of Flatrock Trail took my mind off the burning, and by the first creek crossing, the burning was gone, to be replaced by burning in my quads.

I hit AS2 with about 35 minutes to spare.  I was really pleased, and thought for the first time, I can really do this.  I jammed a couple of PBJ wedges, refilled my water bottle (the amazing volunteers did this for me), grabbed a handful of pretzels and trucked on down the road towards Boar's Nest.  I was feeling strong and was running more than walking, thinking life's great. Due to Dan's flagging, I saw the Boar's Nest junction and turned left.  I began recalling from the Trainer, the brutal downhill section that was coming up.  I hated that part then and hated it again Saturday.  The only positive thing about it was it was much drier and was mostly cleared of downed branches (thank you Dan).  I managed to make it down in one piece and enjoyed some relatively flat running for a while.  Soon enough we began the climb up the South Fork of Red Creek (does it really have a name?).  I kept thinking someone must have moved the creek crossing.  I kept telling my group that it was just up the trail.  After finally crossing the creek, we began the climb to AS3.  Within 200 yards of the AS I pointed out the skyline (indicating the road), and as soon as I looked up, I took my first fall.  Wasn't bad, just a superficial scrape above my right wrist.  We rolled into AS3 and Hollis was there.  I brushed off all the "what happened to you?" questions, filled my water bottle (by the amazing volunteers), jammed some cookies into my mouth, grabbed another handful of pretzels and set out for AS4.  The splits were still good; we were still about 30 or 35 minutes under the cut time.  I'm thinking, this is good.  Our little group made it up the climb from AS3 onto the flatter portion of the South Prong Trail.  We had a great group of runners in our "pod."  A Navy doc (thank you for your service) from Walter Reed.  She was recently back from Afghanistan, and commented that Afghanistan was easier than HS.  I said, "yeah, but for the IEDs."  There was a nurse and a couple of other folks in our group.  Somewhere around mile 18 or so, I took a seriously hard fall.  Who knows what happened?  I was just on the ground wondering how I got there (I'm such a klutz).  Following a quick self assessment that nothing was broken, I began getting back up.  My knee was flat ugly.  I could look into the wound and see my kneecap.
                                                    At the finish line, some 6 plus hours post fall.
                                                                      Three hours later following much debridement,
                                                                      this baby took 10 stitches.  (Davis Memorial
                                                                      Hospital ER docs ROCK)

Rupa (Navy Doc) Dainer had some Bacitracin in her pack and after a feeble attempt at irrigating the gash, she lathered it up with Bacitracin.  Another guy (apologies as I don't remember your name) helped me up and "checked my nose and eyes" (that wound looked worse than it was) and we all got back on the trail.  "Time's a wastin" and in the immortal words of some famous cowboy "...we're burnin daylight..."  I settled in with Rupa and we're on cruise control for AS4 (my long imagined nemesis).  I told Rupa there would probably be a fight at AS4, as my wife and daughter, Danielle were going to be there, and I could hear an admonition to drop out.  Our little group was still in the sub 30 - 35 minute cut time, so I felt very good about that.  I actually got a little teary eyed coming into the aid station.  It was really an emotional moment for me.  I  believe Cindy was kind of in shock and didn't say anything.  I swapped stuff out of my drop bag with the help of Danielle and Cindy, got my water bottle refilled, had some cursory first aid on my knee (the first responders/first aiders really need gloves -- I preached at the young lady who was helping me, as she was glove less) and headed up the Road Across the Sky, after grabbing more cookies and chips. 
                                                     My old nemesis, Aid Station 4.  Cut off 6 
                                                                 hours, 5 minutes.

                                                   My wonderful wife, Cindy, mother of Danielle &
                                                                    Hillary, Captain of my support crew.  I am forever
                                                                    grateful for your support and understanding
                                                                     over these last several months.

                                                                                    The ever popular drop bag!

                                                             My approach to AS4.  I'm gonna make the cut!  What's
                                                             with all the traffic?  Some guy in a pickem up, nearly
                                                              bumped me as I was going into the aid station.
                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                                               
I felt reasonably strong at the beginning of the road, and managed to run to the first significant climb, where I took the cue from everyone else and walked it.  AS5 had watermelon that was to die for, plus more water (yummmm, water).  At some point on the road, I joined up with Abbi Crowe and her sister.  I settled in with them alternating between running the down hills and flats (there really were a couple) and walking the uphills.  Where was AS6?  I mean, it seemed to take forever to get there, but finally from the bottom of a very long hill, we saw it.  Beat the cut time!!!  Time to celebrate for a few seconds, get more fuel, more water and hit the meadows.

At some point my race plan fell apart, and I can't remember when.  During all of my training runs I worked at "eating" and drinking every half hour.  I did it, religiously for every training run between 10 miles and 50K.  Anyway, I got side tracked.  I think the food at the AS's threw me off.  I ate at every AS, but I know I wasn't getting 100 cals from the cookies and pretzels.  I ate on schedule most of the first 20 miles, but after that, I missed more of the half hour "feedings" than I made.  In retrospect, I think I was getting pretty hypo-glycemic.  Everyone told me "don't forget to eat."  I just went brain dead.  I had Hammer Gels and other easy stuff, just didn't use it.

I think the 6 miles between AS 6 & AS7 were the "longest" of the entire race.  My lacerated knee was beginning to slow me down.  I felt OK on the climbs and level areas, but I began dreading the downhills, and by the time I got to the boulder field I had to force myself to put any downhill pressure on my left knee. I finally rolled into AS7 and the cold water was amazing.  I didn't (read couldn't) eat.  One of the wonderful volunteers was opening a can of potatoes and I thought I was going to puke.  I didn't recognize the signs of hypoglycemia, so I threw down some eCaps, took another big drink of water and headed for Salamander at Timberline. 

Going out of AS7, the trail was very runnable, but my legs were so wasted I could only run a few steps and then there would be a handful of rocks on the trail prompting me to walk again.  I just did not have the confidence or energy to "dance" through them at this point in the day.  The last thing I wanted to do was fall again.  I knew if I fell and hit my injured knee again, I'd probably just crawl off the trail and let the coyotes have their way with me.  When we came out of the woods onto Salamander (a great beginner's slope that goes forever) I thought "we have to go up there?"  Actually  the climb up wasn't as bad as I expected, even though I walked most of it.  I was a little worried about missing the trail back into the woods, but Dan had done a great job of flagging the route and it matched the pre-race briefing perfectly.  Finally, out of the sun and back into the shade of the trees.  Little did I know what lay ahead.

Oh, did I mention the "butt slide" was fun too?  As we started our decent into the valley, the trail got steeper and steeper.  A couple of runners passed me and I caught up with some others, but just fell in behind them.  I was running on fumes by then and had no interest in passing anyone on the steep single track.  I'm thinking to myself, "these mountain bikers are crazier than hell."  I mean, it was bad enough trying to negotiate that section of trail on foot, let alone on a mountain bike.  There were a couple of places where our little group actually had to hang onto small trees to get down the really steep pitches.  I kept looking at my watch and at this point, I was convinced there was no way I (we) was going to make the finish line under 12.  Even after the "butt slide" we were still in the woods for what seemed like miles.  Finally we broke onto a gravel road and soon saw AS8 in the distance.  The final leg!  We were going to make it! 

As I ran into the AS, I saw my family complete with our two Golden Retrievers on the side of the road.  I cannot tell you what a boost that was.  I refilled my water bottle (no food now--what good would it do?), with the help of volunteers, and began running  up Freeland Road.  I was actually running fairly large chunks of road.  I would run the flats and walk the hills.  That seemed to work.  As we approached the intersection with Rt. 32, the course veered left into a fairly large, grassy meadow.  There was a tread, but I was reluctant to try to run much of it.  I nearly twisted an ankle on a rut and a  clump of grass, and the last thing I wanted at that point was a debilitating injury.  I figured I could walk backwards by then and still make the cut.  Across Rt. 32 and into CVSP.  The paved road into the park was hot and totally exposed to the sun.  I ran the flats (mostly) and what downhill there was and walked the uphills.  The trail turned back into the woods and we were inside a mile.  A girl I was running (walking) with told me she had fallen several times on this section, last year.  Don't fall.  Watch your step.  Concentrate.

Bang!  Out of the woods onto manicured grass and then the final yards to the finish line.  I (we) had made it.  So much was racing through my mind at that point.  John Logar was standing at the finish line with his patented grin.  Dan Lehman was dutifully taking pictures of all the finishers.  My daughter Danielle was taking pictures and Cindy was doing a great job controlling our Goldens.  It was over.  Was it as bad as I thought it was 3 hours earlier?

                                                          I can't believe I made it...

                                                          The allusive Finish Line


                                                                     My greatest fans


                                                     A congratulatory hug.  (I know I smell bad)


                                                Danielle and dad, with the ever present dog leash


                                                                                                 
                                                             Triage by "Coach" Logar

                                                             Calling the ER.  I'm on my way.

EPILOGUE:

It's post race day 6 and difficult to put into words everything I'm feeling.  Physically, I'm doing well.  The lactic acid finally metabolized on Tuesday and my quads are totally back to normal.  Had it not been for my stupid knee, my normal  routine of a post race day 1, one or two mile walk, followed PR day 2 by a two or three mile gentle jog would have sped up the recovery process.  But, I feel good.  After my first marathon, back in the late '70's, I had to walk down the stairs backwards for two days.  Following HS, even with my gimpy knee, I could go down the stairs frontwards.  The knee is looking good, although it will be forever ugly, no signs of infection and healing nicely.  Stitches out Monday.  Some gentle running next week.  It's time.

I met so many extraordinary people out on the trail.  I am just so impressed by the women athletes who participate in HS.  In an iRunFar blog last week, Bryon wrote about being "chicked."  I told Abbi Crowe she and her sister "chicked" me.  I think it's great.  I have two wonderful daughters and I will tell you, a woman can do anything a man can do.  Back in the 'bad old days' of the Boston Athletic Club (and others) women were not even allowed to run in marathons because they were the weaker sex.  Well all of you ladies out there may (on the count of 3) thumb your collective noses at them.  Great job!!!  There were so many "trail experiences" I can't begin to mention all of them.  Even though it was a competitive environment, there was a huge sense of comradery too.  When I took my spill at mile 17, everyone around me pitched in to get me back on my feet and headed up the trail.  Seconds here and minutes there all add up, but everyone (throughout the race) really showed outstanding sportsmanship.  I wish I could remember names from the trail, but alas, that is one my several (many?) weaknesses.  I dated my wife for over a week before I could remember her last name.  I know, I'm just lame.

I have rambled much too long.  Before I post this, I want to thank Dan Lehman and his amazing crew of volunteers for a first rate event.  I can tell you, it's not easy being a race director, even for a little 10K.  Way to go Dan!  Next I want to thank Adam Casseday for all of his support and coaching during my months of training.  I met Adam for the first time in Cooke City, MT.  He and my older daughter Hillary went to high school together.  Adam and Kadra are having their first child in August.  I told Adam that will change his life forever.  Adam, Danielle and I are looking forward to crewing at CMMM.  Then there's Logar.  What can I say?  He always makes me laugh and he is a wealth of information regarding the world of Ultras.  He was especially helpful with fueling suggestions, electrolyte management, and always said, "just keep moving forward."  Matt Young pulled me back from the ledge early in my training, when I didn't think I could do it.  Even though we haven't met, we exchanged a series of eMails that got me refocused.  I really regret not meeting Matt at HS. 

Thanks to everyone, athletes, volunteers and families.  /jim


                                                                                                   

                                                                             

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Not Your Father's Shoe Store

I want to give a big shout out (And I absolutely despise that term.  Ever since I heard a certain national candidate use it frequently in the 2008 election cycle, I've been turned off by it.  Personally, I've never used it before this, and probably will never use it again, but somehow it seems appropriate in this context) to Morgantown Running (http://www.morgantownrunning.com/).  I have blogged about the hot spots on my right 5th metatarsal for a while now, and they've just been driving me nuts.  Different friends have offered differing suggestions as to the cause.  Change in shoe size, or swelling feet when they get hot seemed the most logical reason.  I actually Googled the problem, and of course became convinced I had a stress fx, but then that didn't make sense because the hot spots (pain) were episodic, associated only with intermediate or long runs on asphalt.  Otherwise, I had no symptoms.  I've known about Morgantown Running for a while, but have never been there.  Some local runners have gone there for gait analysis and/or to have shoes refit, and I had heard good things from them.  The staff is so much more than just a bunch of part time shoe sales people.  Drue, the guy who helped me, is a collegiate level athletic trainer and is working on his PhD in Kinesiology, in addition to being a Tri-athlete, so clearly, they know what they're talking about. 

I've worn Asics Gel Nimbus for years without any problems.  Last fall, following the Wine Glass Marathon in upstate NY, I began to experience the hot spots.  I took a gear bag full of new shoes, slightly worn shoes, and worn out shoes with me to Morgantown Running.  After I explained at length what I thought was going on and the triggers, Drue had me put on my newest shoes.  He felt the anterior portion of my 5th metatarsal through my shoe, and exactly where I had been having problems was one of the decorative Asics stripes.  Some of the older shoes only had the stripe "painted" on, but the new ones actually have some funky material (plastic?) that makes up the stripe that goes right over the widest part of my foot.  Bingo!  So Drue suggested a bunion pad over the affected area.  I tried it last night, and that may do the trick.  I have to fine tune the placement and do a couple of longer runs with the pads to see if they really do work.  If so, goodbye Asics and I'll have the folks at Morgantown Running help fit me with another brand of neutral shoe.

Race time is fast approaching and the taper is here.  My long run this weekend is only 10 miles followed by 6.  Then 4, 3, & 2 next week followed by two days of rest and lots of pasta and rice.  :-)

I've done everything I was supposed to do to prepare for this adventure.  Now it's just a matter of letting "race day magic" take over, getting in the groove and making the cuts.

The only thing left is to worry about things I cannot control.  Weather at the starting line (what kind of clothes to wear and shed), my stupid foot, and anything else I can come up with between now and 0600 on June 16.  See you at the finish line!!!


                                          "Yes by God, baby we were Born to Run..."
                                                              Bruce

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

2 1/2 Weeks to Go

This past weekend was brutally hot, especially for this time of year.  It's way too early for the temperature to be in the upper 80's.  The high for this coming Saturday is only going to be in the mid 60's so there is hope for reasonable weather come the 16th.  I think we all long for "perfect" running weather for race days, but this year's Boston and two years ago at the Chicago Marathon prove we cannot always (can we ever?) count on "perfect" weather.  Ah, what would life be if we didn't have something to fret about???

Last week I was running repeats on Ellis Ridge Road.  I was descending the back side and saw a runner approaching on the uphill.  I knew immediately who it was.  Casseday and I soon met up and he asked me where I was going.  He then turned and ran down to the bottom  and then turned and started up with me.  I know I was really slowing him down, but Adam is such an incredibly nice guy, he acted like it was nothing.  If nothing else, it forced me to run a somewhat faster pace than I normally do.  We chatted (which I personally found amazing, given I was able to talk at all on the upgrade) on the climb back up, and shared stories.  Adam clearly has some stories.  I kept telling him to go ahead without me, but he would say in another 3/10 of a mile or so.  I'm sure he felt like he had to drive a stake in the ground to prove he was moving at all.  Finally my slow pace got the better of him.  He said he needed to move on so he could get home in time for dinner, or some lame excuse like that.  I mean to tell you, he turned on the jets and was gone.  What an impressive runner!

Saturday proved to be as hot as predicted.  I hit my Forest Service Road at 0730 with a temperature of 61.  I got a new GPS watch for my birthday ( a couple of months early ) and was anxious to see how it performed.  I had marked splits using the odometer on my car.  After 4 miles, my GPS was 0.3 miles ahead of my odometer readings.  Then it seemed to hold steady through the rest of the splits.  My 13 mile turnaround showed as 13.3xx.  The rest of the run, I didn't pay too much attention to the GPS mileage until I glanced at my time and at 18.5 had a message that there was no satellite.  I never did re-acquire the satellite, but finished my mini-marathon feeling pretty good.  Legs were OK, but my feet kept getting hot.  John Logar told me my shoe size has probably changed, so I need to look into that for sure.  The 26 was a good workout.  The heat wasn't a problem for me, but it was mostly shaded.  My personal aid station had not been messed with, so I had plenty of fluids, and alternated 1 E-Cap on the half hour and 2 E-Caps on the hour.  No cramps or signs of heat problems.  I had been worried about "Yayhoos" on their ATVs because of the holiday weekend.  I did see a few, but they were all courteous; slowed down and gave me plenty of road room.  For that I was grateful.

Sunday I did an easy 10 miles.  It was hot again, but the temperature didn't affect me.  My legs were basically dead for the first 7 miles or so.  I guess they warmed up at that point, because I actually began to feel pretty good.  The last mile and a half is all up hill and I felt strong finishing.

I bought a copy of Bryon Powell's Relentless Forward Progress a few weeks ago.  It's a good read dedicated mostly to Ultra/Trail Running.  I was thumbing through it the other evening before bed, and I'm actually beginning to believe I can do this (Highland Sky).  I've trained hard and done everything "the experts" say one should do in preparing for an Ultra.  That coupled with the encouragement and words of wisdom from my informal coaching staff (Adam, Logar, Lehmann, and too many others to mention here) have me convinced I'm ready.  I just need to avoid "out dumbing" myself or doing anything stupid during the taper for the next two weeks.  I've done my last long training run.  I only have a 16 (only?) this Saturday with a 10 on Sunday.  I'm doing the 16 on the Forest Service Road (I don't want my healing boo boo to get wet crossing Otter Creek), but then I'm going back to the trails for my final weekend runs.  I need to refresh my memory on negotiating the rocks and roots on the technical sections of Otter Creek.  I've actually missed it the last couple of weeks.  Following HS, I'm going to just do some fun stuff and explore some trails I haven't seen in the OC Wilderness.  Just a "walk in the woods."


                                            Hillary and Lola at the 1.5 mile mark on Otter
                                            Creek.  Picture must be 4 years old, as Lola is
                                             clearly a pup, compared to her 75 lbs. now.
                                             Otter Creek is very low here.
                                                                     

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Countdown Has Begun or Are We There Yet?

Well, after trashing my knee a little more than a week ago, I don't seem to be any worse for the wear and tear.  Counting Monday the 14th (fall day & 31 miler), I knocked down 77 miles last week. I did a twelve miler 3 days post fall and felt good.  No problems with the knee at all.  On Saturday (5 days post fall) I did 24 and felt good, except for some soreness on the bottom of my feet.  The wound seems to be healing nicely with no signs of infection.  Thankfully I didn't injure the joint. 

I have a 26 scheduled for Saturday.  I hope I don't have to play chicken with ATV's on my training road.  It's a holiday weekend, and I'm sure there will be a lot of them out.  The other challenge is going to be the heat.  It's supposed to get into the 90's in town, so I plan on hitting the road by 0730.  That way I should be back before it gets brutal.  It's that time of year I suppose, and at some point I'll need to become acclimated.  Much of my route is protected by forest canopy, especially in the morning.  The road follows the East side of the Shavers Fork River and is also protected from the morning sun by a fairly high ridge line situated to the East of the road.  Nevertheless, I'll have to be sensitive to fluids and 'lytes, in addition to nutrition.  I stashed a two liter soft drink bottle with water last weekend.  I used half of it on my 24 and hope no one has messed with it.  It's pretty well hidden, so I should be OK.  (as a side note, I hate the fact I'm leaving that crap out there--to me, that's major littering)  It almost seems funny, but I'm essentially going to run a marathon Saturday, and I'm not even thinking much about it.  I guess that's a good sign.  I really am feeling stronger and am probably in the best shape of my life.  That's saying something for a 65 year old fart.  I still have brief moments of self doubt, but they are fewer and farther apart than 2 or 3 months ago.  I think I'm good to go, or will be come June 16.

This is the last big mileage week for me.  Next week my long run is only 16 and the following week, the "serious taper" begins.  I'm not going to do a bonk run.  Back in the day, I used to Carbo Load and I absolutely loathed the depletion part of if.  I'll just keep eating and managing fluids.  200 cals/hour or more.  That's just going to have to do it. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Oh no, a Boo Boo!

Well, we're inside 30 days till Highlands Sky.  It actually seems hard to believe.  Wasn't it just yesterday I began training for this thing?

I had to tweak my training schedule last weekend (May 12 - 13) because the family got together in Pittsburgh to help celebrate Hillary's graduation from Pitt Law.
From left to right, my better half, Cindy; the new JD, Hillary, Danielle & me.  I can't tell you how much their support and encouragement means to me.  Training for marathons and especially ultras is incredibly time consuming and I am often left feeling like I'm cheating these guys because I'm never around.  Nevertheless, we had a wonderful weekend in "the 'burgh."  The graduation ceremony was very impressive and the speaker was none other than Art Rooney, II, President of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  We had the opportunity to eat at some very good, out of the way neighborhood eateries.  One served up a pound and a half of mussels and to make things even better, they had a kick ass beer menu.  Like I said, it was a great weekend and we are all incredibly proud of Hillary's accomplishments over these last three years.

So, my schedule called for a 31 miler on Saturday and I obviously couldn't fit it in that day, so I took a vacation day and planned on the 31 for Monday.  Monday morning was dawning wet with a forecast of continued rain throughout the day.  At 0500 as I sat drinking a cup of coffee and getting ready to walk our two Golden Retrievers, I had thoughts of bailing out, but Highlands being only a month away, I just had to get my head right and hit the road.  The night before, I measured 15.5 miles and set up my personal aid station which consisted of a recycled 2 liter Coke bottle filled with water.  I carried all my nourishment.

My long weekend runs are supposed to be on trails, but the water was high, and creek crossings were going to be a potential problem, so I opted to run on a Forest Service road.  It was 95% unpaved and several miles of it were very rugged (almost technical), so it closely mimicked trail running except for the width.  It was so rugged my Ford Escape bottomed out while I was measuring the distance to my turnaround.

I started my run in a steady rain, which continued for 3 or so miles.  Then much of the rest of the morning was a mixture of light drizzle or just being overcast.  I quickly got into the groove and was enjoying myself.  I saw a Scarlet Tanager (the first I had seen in probably 10 years) plus 4 Wild Turkeys and a big hawk.  It was very cool.  I hit my turnaround in good time (for me), refilled my water bottles, took a long drink and began the return run.  I was feeling pretty good and strong.  I guess I stopped paying attention to the road, which was very rough at this point, and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground looking up.  I got back up, checked myself out (hands were OK, arms were OK, left knee was bloody and dirty, so I sacrificed part of a water bottle (ever cognizant of dehydration) to try and irrigate it and clean it up some and resumed my run.  I ran probably 12 miles back to my car.  My split was only a few minutes off my turn around split (even with the fall) so I felt good about that.  I really felt pretty good (much of the last 10 miles was up hill), but I was majorly upset with myself for having fallen.  Stupid.  Not paying attention.  Yada yada.  When I got to the car, I finally looked at my wound and it was pretty ugly.  Blood all the way from my knee down to my shoe.

I got home and stretched out, then hit the shower.  I washed my wound with soap and water and other than a little stinging, had no pain.  I dried off and was ready to dress the wound and get on with things.  When I pulled back the flap of skin, all I could see besides blood was rotten leaves and gravel.  I knew I needed professional debridement, so Hillary and I headed to our ER.   The timing was great because they weren't very busy and we did not have a long wait.  Dr. Susan Bobes took care of me.  Ironically, she sutured my other knee about 10 years ago after I tried to rock hop across the "infamous Otter Creek" and hit a patch of ice on a rock.  That resulted in total immersion in the creek in February and the ensuing trip to the ER.  Hillary went with me on that trip too.  Anyway, Dr. Bobes cleaned the wound out and put about 6 stitches in it.  Anti-biotics and I was out the door.  The following is a graphic representation  of what my knee looked like, so those of you with squeamish stomachs, you may want to skip this. 

                                                                         

Following a couple of courses of IV anti-biotics and tweaking my dressings, I've been cleared to resume running (only missed 2 days).  I kind of cheated, because one of the docs who saw me (John Logar) is an Ultra runner too, and I knew he'd tell me it was OK to run.  :-)   On a side note, John rode his mountain bike to work yesterday.  He lives about 40 miles away, so it's not just riding up the street.  He saw a sow with two cubs about the size of 10 lb. bags of flour (or sugar too for that matter).  I haven't seen a bear while running since one I saw about 30 years or so ago, although I did follow a bear track in the snow earlier this spring.

I think the moral to this story is that we need to be ever vigilant.  Carelessness puts us on the ground.  So after only one fall in 8 days of running trails, I wipe out on a stupid road.  Go figure!


                                                                 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Come on Man!

My virtual pacer/coach/moral support, John Logar asked me today if I had blogged recently, and clearly I have not.  So as I sit here eating my peanut butter on whole wheat (yummm), I'm trying to put some thoughts together.  Work has been crazy and my better half has been out of town on business a lot recently, so in addition to work and training, I've had to minister to our dogs as well.  It renews my respect for single parents.  Hey, our dogs are like our kids, right? 

Last week was a cycle down week, for which I was grateful.  The previous week I did 24/10 back-to-back, and even though I felt strong both days, I was ready for some much needed recovery time.  I've become a believer in the recoveries, unlike during my marathon training when I pretty much just keep going.  Maybe recovery weeks are helpful for marathons too.  Ya think?

This week is scheduled to be a high mileage week, with a 31 miler on the weekend.  I have to tweak that a little, because we are all going to be in Pittsburgh for my daughter Hillary's graduation from Pitt Law.  I cannot believe it's been 3 years.  She's such a great kid, and I know she's chomping at the bit to get on with her career.  At any rate, back to the tweaking of the schedule.  I'm doing the 31 miler on Monday and then another 24/10 back-to-back the following weekend.  That's going to total 81 for the week, but only because I'm doing that 31 on Monday and not Saturday or Sunday.  It's all time on our feet anyway.

We have had a lot of rain the past week and a half, or so.  Last weekend the trails in Otter Creek were full of water again.  It was like running in a stream in many places.  My concern now is being able to get across Otter Creek itself.  On any runs longer than 20, I have to cross OC three times.  The first crossing is fairly benign, but the next two are scary, potentially (or maybe actually) dangerous when the water is high.  Plan B is to make the first crossing and then run up Possession Camp Trail to the Eastern ridge of the Otter Creek Wilderness, then back down the Green Mountain Trail and pick up the main Otter Creek Trail, all of which are on the East side of Otter Creek (thereby passing the 2nd and 3rd fords).  Two benefits to the new route:  1. from a safety standpoint, I don't have to risk dicey river crossings; and 2. from a mental health standpoint, I'll see some new country.  I'm getting really stale running the same trails every weekend.

Last Sunday I was wrapping up my 10 miler and saw another trail runner.  Doug Williams is from Elkins and he and I used to run a  together lot.  Back in the early '80's we used to talk about doing the Western States 100, but neither of us ever got there.  We've done marathons and many shorter races together.  Doug is a great runner and my claim to fame was beating him out in the last half mile of the Marine Corps Marathon one year.  That happend only once, and will probably never happen again.  We ran the last 3 or 4 miles together, back to the trail head.  It was really good talking with him.  Even though Elkins is a very small town, our paths never seem to cross.  Doug was the Women's Cross Country coach at Davis & Elkins College, and he coached Logar's wife, Jodie (Park) Logar.  Jodie is a very talented runner in her own right.  I believe I made reference to her in one of my earlier blogs.

I talked with my Wasatch buddy, Mark Robbins, yesterday.  He turned me on to some new nutrition that looks very interesting.  Check out First Endurance's website.  Their product (EFS Liquid Shot) makes a lot of sense.  No geling agents, so it gets into the bloodstream much faster.  Designed for & by endurance athletes to be nutritionally balanced with carbs, amino acids, lytes, etc.  It's a little pricey, about $6 a pop, but 400 cals and you can mix it into your water bottles and use it over time, which I suppose effectively reduces the price per serving.  Mark is doing well in the early stages of his training for the Wasatch 100.  He says they still can't get into the high country, but the snow is beginning to go.  Salt Lake must be a pretty neat town.  Big running/biking community, and you can just step out your door and hit any number of awsome trails.

My training is going well.  I'm feeling stronger with faster recovery from my long runs.  I'm doing hard climb repeats once a week, and although I sometimes feel like I'm gonna blow a lung, it's really been helpful.  I still won't let myself walk on those steep climbs.  My weight seems to have settled in between 155 and 157.  I know everyone thinks I'm too thin, but I feel strong and eat like a horse. My BMI remains in the normal range. Adam Cassseday says climbs are like hidden speedwork.  I don't like speedwork, but I think Adam is right.  Wish Adam luck this weekend.  He's running Massanutten Mountain 100 on Saturday.  Adam is another of my "moral support team."  I need all the help I can get, but I am beginning to feel better about myself, and most of the time I seem to be gaining confidence.

To everyone out there who offers me advice, provides support, and otherwise is helpful, I want to say a monster "Thank You!"

Oh, by the way:  I have manged 8 days of trail runs with only one fall.  Knock on wood!!!  Maybe I'm beginning to get the hang of this.
 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Gettin Lazy

Well, not so much with training, as with keeping up with this blog.  If memory serves, it's been a couple of weeks since I've written anything.

A lot has happened in the world of ultra running since my last post.  The Marathon Des Sables was run earlier in the month and last week the world championship 100K was won with an average pace of 6:10 which simply blows me away.  The Masssanutten 100 is two weeks from tomorrow, and 2 guys from WV Mountain Trail Runners club are participating.  Adam Casseday and Dan Lehman will be among the field.  Dan broke a few ribs early in the month, and he's still going to run it.  What an inspiration?  I'm looking for Adam to be a top finisher, if not the top guy.  Dan and Adam have both been incredibly helpful to me in my training for Highlands Sky.  The running community is really an amazing group of people.

My training has been going pretty well.  I did a 23/8 back to back two weeks ago and 23/10 last weekend.  I have a 24/10 tomorrow.  I don't know what it is, but I continually fret before my long weekend runs.  I think I'm just getting burned out on Otter Creek, but it's the most convenient venue for long trails for me.  I guess I'll just keep chugging along.  A few weeks ago, I wrote of the washed out section of trail with the downed tree.  It seems to get more difficult to negotiate each time I pass it.  I just keep my fingers crossed that it doesn't get too muddy.  I can see myself getting down one side of the tree and not being able to get back up the other side.

I feel like I'm getting stronger, but am still filled with self doubt.  Adam suggested I start doing some hard climbs, and I've worked those into my mid week program.  I did my first repeat on the climb last evening and felt pretty good.  1.5 miles of fairly steep uphill, then down the back side and 1.5 back up on the repeat.  Next week is a cycle down week for me.  I'm probably ready for it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I Was Ready to Hang It Up.

Following the Highlands Sky trainer, I was feeling pretty good physically.  I did an easy 8 miles on Sunday following the trainer and last week was a "cycle down" week.  I've not heard that term before, but the Santa Clarita Runners use it in their training schedule.  It was a recovery week, and came at a perfect time.  I could definitely tell a difference in the way I felt with the lighter schedule that week.  Now we're ramped back up again.  Back to that in a moment.

So last Saturday night I was hanging out, reading and just generally relaxing.  For some reason, the funk came rolling back in.  I don't know why I get that way, but I was ready to hang it up.  I felt the same way Sunday morning, when I was scheduled for 8 with nice weather.  I was actually ready to call the race director (Dan Lehman) and tell him to give my slot to someone on the "wait list."  Thankfully I didn't go that far.  I ate, got dressed and headed to the trail head.  After 200 yards on the trail, all of the gloom went away.  I just don't get it.  The emotional ups and downs are making me nuts.  It turned out to be a great run.  Moderate temps and mostly sunny skies.  Much of the mud had dried up which was very nice.  In stead of sucking my shoes off, the dried mud mad for a soft foot fall, almost like running on a high end track. 

I did have one negative experience Sunday.  I passed a couple of backpackers who had 3 unleashed dogs with them.  I'm not a canine phobe, and in more than 35 years of running, I have only had one semi bad experience with a dog, and it wasn't really that bad.  In fact, I kind of fancy myself the "dog whisperer."  Anyway, I stopped running and this little ankle grabber approached me.  I put my hand down so Fido could sniff me, and the little mutt nailed me.  Actually he just tore my running glove and didn't break the skin.  The embarrassed owner said the shots were current.  No harm, no foul, so I headed on down the trail.  The funk is still in remission and I've felt good this week.

My friend, Adam Casseday (Adam is running the Massanutten 100 in Virginia next month), suggested I start working some climbing runs into my weekly schedule, in preparation for the first half of Highlands Sky.  He suggested a couple of routes "in my back yard," one of which I had previously ridden on my mountain bike.  I didn't even think of it, but it really fit the bill.  A mile and a half of continuous uphill, most of it fairly steep.  I ran it Wednesday evening for the first time and felt pretty good.  Ran the entire thing which was a major goal.  I'm going to run one more single on it next week and then begin some repeats.  I know it will pay off. 

I'm feeling stronger and know my training is paying off.  I just have to keep warding off these seemingly spontaneous funks.  Thanks to everyone, runners and non-runners alike who continue to give me support and positive feedback.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Well, that was humbling!

So Saturday was the first of two trainers for Highlands Sky.  The second one is in May and I was going to run it too, until I figured out that is the date of Hillary's graduation from law school, and I'm sure not going to miss that.  Speaking of Hill, she's coming home this weekend and I am super psyched.  First time I will have seen her since Christmas break.  I cannot believe she is graduating in another month.  "Seems like only yesterday...."  Time really does fly.

The trainer really was a good experience.  For one, it gave me the opportunity to see the first half of the course.  I have hiked some of that, but the first 10 or 12 miles or so were new to me and there are places where it would be easy to take a wrong turn.  I still may, but at least I remember the major intersections, I think.  The elevation gain/loss/gain was impressive.  2,000 feet at a 2% grade on the first climb.  Everyone told me to plan on speed walking it, but nah, I'm the tough guy.  I'll run it.  NOT!!!  I am now a confirmed believer in walking when it's called for.  It was called for!

Met some good folks.  I finally got to meet Dan Lehman, the director of Highlands Sky.  Dan couldn't run on Saturday because he busted a couple of ribs in a motorcycle encounter.  I emailed him the other night and shared my experience with the deer and my Harley.  I told Dan I really did feel his pain.  I ran 14 through 18 with a guy from Annapolis.  I don't think he'd done much hill work.  Said he had run the C&O Canal Trail some.  He did pretty well, but I think we were both hurting.  I waited for him at the South Prong Trailhead so he wouldn't go the wrong way, and then didn't see him again after he hit the road.

I'm beginning to stress over cutoff times.  I have no doubt I can finish 40, but the cuts for the aid stations have me fretting.  I guess we'll see what we'll see.  I can't stand the thought of DNF.  Which begs the philosophical question, "Is it better to not try and avoid a DNF than it is to give it all you've got and see what happens"?  I guess we all know the answer to that one. 

Back at the Lanesville cabin, a small group was sitting around de-compressing; eating noodles, drinking beer, talking about the next challenge.  Casseday was still there and he offered me some sage advice, which I of course ignored.  He told me not to be anal about my scheduled Sunday run and if I needed that as a recovery day to take it off.  He said as we get older, it takes longer to recover, which of course I already knew.  Even though I'm 65, I just don't think of myself as older, even though I clearly am.  Anyway, I was pretty beat Saturday night, but felt almost human on Sunday morning, so I hustled through my pre-run routine of Kashi Harvest Wheat cereal with Buckwheat Honey and strawberries; a banana and lots of water.  I threw some cookies in my pack and out the door I went.  After the first half mile, I questioned the wisdom of my decision to run that day.  I was scheduled for 10 (thank you Santa Clarita Runners), but I quickly decided to bail on the final 2.  I ran at a pretty slow (slower than normal) pace, hit the 4 mile turn around and started back for the trail head.  I thumbed my nose at the trail junction where I normally break off and add 2 or 2 1/2 extra miles and kept heading for my car.  As fatigued as I was, I managed all 8 miles with no falls.  That is cause to celebrate.  This turns out to be a down week on my training schedule and it really comes at a good time.  Recovery coupled with shorter weekend runs will allow me more time with Hillary.  I'm really greatful for that.


                           Yellowstone NP with upper Lamar Valley in the distance

Friday, March 30, 2012

Chatin Up the "Neighbors" & Unscrambling a Scrambled Brain

Back in my neophyte running days, maybe '77 or '78, I was midway through a 3 or4 mile run one Saturday morning when one of the "neighbors" (here you can substitute any of a number of disparaging names) rolled down the window of his pickup truck, fully equipped with an Easy Rider Rifle Rack, and "chucked" a loaf of Wonder Bread ("Helps Build Strong Bodies 12 Ways") right at my head. He missed and the rest of the way home I kept telling myself it could have been a can of peaches or something similarly hard. I've had a thousand laughs over that incident through the years, but I also focused in on a survival strategy for running among the "non-believers," the neighbors.

Bond with the neighbors.  Ever since the Wonder Bread incident I wave at every oncoming car or truck while I'm running.  I think it works pretty well too.  On the back roads, I think we all tend to see the same vehicles again and again, at least for the most part.  I really believe by waving, it establishes a relationship or bond with the driver and he or she then has less of a propensity to try and run me down, or throw a loaf of bread at me.  Most, and I emphasize most, folks are really decent and will slow down or pull away from the shoulder to avoid any close calls.

Now that Spring is in the air, many people are out in their yards or sitting on their front porches.  I carry the waving philosophy farther here.  I make it a point to speak to everyone I see within earshot.  Just a simple "great evening" or "this weather is more like it."  I know I'm speaking to the same folks to whom I wave, but I still maintain it helps to build that stronger bond.  Helps them to not sic Fido on me too.
                                                 
Spring is such a great time of the year.  Longer days, warmer temps, less ice and snow (most of the time).  Last week during a road run, I saw a dead Ring Neck Racer.  For you non-herpetologists out there, that is a very small (6 or 9 inch snake).  They are docile, non-venomous, and very pretty.  It saddened me to see this little guy dead.  Still, a sure sign of Spring.

Last evening, as I was running 8 on the Chenoweth Creek Road near its namesake creek and my home, I ran through a large spinner fall of Mayflies.  I think they were Hendricksons or Quill Gordons, but couldn't tell for sure.  Spinners are the final life phase of the Mayfly and get their name from "spinning" above the water just before they fall and lay their eggs in the film, to begin the life cycle all over again.  We'll see the results of that next spring.  These bugs were spinning above the road.  Maybe they were confused, but Chenoweth Creek runs right beside the road where I encountered them.  For ten yards or so, they were so thick, I had to be careful not to ingest one or more of them.  Another welcome sign of Spring.

                                                           "If your heart can believe it and your mind can
                                                            conceive it, your legs can achieve it."
                                                                            Unknown