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.