Saturday, January 30, 2010

Get Ready to Start Marathon Training... Again

Tomorrow is the first scheduled run on the 12 week marathon training program. So today I just wanted to get in an easy medium-long run to wake my legs up and warn them of the abuse I'm about to give them.

I planned to get up early this morning and get the miles done, but I shut off the alarm. I stayed in bed until 9:00 AM! I don't remember the last time I slept that late! It felt GREAT, but I cannot allow that to become a habit. Because I slept late, I only reasonably had 2 hours to get miles in. So I got out the door as quickly as I could and ran just a shade over 14 miles in perhaps the most random route I've ever run in Athens.

Early in the run I saw Barry Pugh so I joined him for a mile or so. I hadn't run with him in a while, so it was good to visit for a bit.

Today was a bone-chilling, wet kind of cold. It was one of those odd days where that if I had started earlier, it would have been warmer. It was 33F with a very light mist in the air and a 8-10 mph wind from the NNW when I started. No matter how you're dressed, you just don't get warm in that weather. You stay wet and cold. I'm still not really warm 2 hours after I'm finished! Believe it or not, I'd rather run in those sub 20F, calm, dry days of a few weeks ago than a wet cold like today.

When I finished, it was 29F and snowing! I'm sure I looked like a madman running through Athens in that snow. I just spread my arms out and looked up to the sky and let it hit me in the face! So there I was running spread eagle style not watching where I was going at a sub 8:00 pace. I hope nobody saw that. I'm lucky I didn't fall. I'm glad no cars were nearby; I could have been run over! (Wait, it was snowing in North Alabama. Of course there were no cars on the road!) Being a true Southerner, I enjoy occasional snow. It's rare enough for me that the novelty far outweighs the nuisance and I love it! It gave me a new energy that I needed for the last 3 miles of the run. It turned a cold, wet, lonely, miserable slog into an invigorating, fun run!

Oh well. Enough rambling for a Saturday. Tomorrow it begins.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Here I Go Again

Training for the Country Music Marathon starts next week. I'll be using an abbreviated 12 week training schedule from Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas. I'm happy to have my buddy Justin Hulsman joining me for training runs, accountability, and the race. If he doesn't break 3 hours, I'll be disappointed because I KNOW he's capable. Me, if I PR, I'll have done something beyond my expectations.

I've been working way long hours and squeezing in time to run has been a challenge. I haven't even checked Facebook since Tuesday! So if you've sent me a message on Facebook, don't be offended. I just haven't had the time.

Anyway... On a whim I decided to do a tempo run today. I did a 4.5 mile warm up in the dark. Then I did 3 miles at tempo pace. I actually extended this to 20 minutes because 3 miles was just over 19:30 and tempo runs should be at least 20 minutes. Then I did a 1.75 mile jog home to put me at just shy of 10 miles total.
  1. 6:32
  2. 6:32
  3. 6:32
Wow. That was surprisingly consistent! I'm thinking my tempo pace should be about 6:35 right now based on race results. Today felt harder than it should have. I've read (either from Pfitzinger or Daniels, I can't remember which) that your body learns what tempo pace feels like and it becomes somewhat repeatable. I'm guessing that's true.

One thing became obvious to me today. I got lazy and out of shape quickly. I've never read the following quote anywhere, but I'm rarely original, so I probably did and I'm just forgetting my source. I kept repeating this today, "Laziness creates more work for later." I have more work to do getting ready for CMM because I've been lazy. Well, I better get busy.

Monday, January 25, 2010

More Thoughts on Mountain Mist 2010

My wife mentioned to me that it wasn't clear to her that this post is mostly an attempt at humor. So, if she can't tell, how can I expect readers who don't know me as well to be able to tell? I'm kidding. I'm not seriously calling people liars in this post. Please, don't be offended. Laugh.

You know, I've heard people say, "Running a trail ultra is easier than running a road marathon." Liars. The whole lot of them, I tell ya. If I ever said that to anyone before, I'm sorry for deceiving you. It was unintentional. I was only repeating what liars had said to me.

I mean no disrespect to the marathon by saying that. I'm not saying that a marathon is easy. However, here's a little simple math for you. 31 > 26.2. And some logic to go with it. Rocks, roots, and mud are more difficult to run on than asphalt. Hilly (~6900 feet of elevation change) is more difficult than flat (~600 feet of elevation change). If you truly race both, I just don't see how the longer, hillier, more technical race can be easier.

I wanted to nap Saturday afternoon, but my legs hurt too badly. I wanted to sleep Saturday night, but I could not get comfortable. My legs hurt. Really, my whole body hurt. I wanted to nap Sunday afternoon. You guessed it. Sore. Last night, I finally got some sleep. I woke up this morning and did an easy 5 miler (9:40 pace). It was the most miserable easy run I've ever done. I do feel better after the run, though. I should have done that yesterday.

But to quote Proverbs (and a good buddy of mine) "...I will seek it yet again..."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mountain Mist 2010

Wow! What an awesome race! Several of my friends had a really good day today and I congratulate them! A few guys that I trained with for this race put a beat down on me today, namely Mark Freeman, Justin Hulsman, and Marcus Farris.

Big thanks to Fleet Feet in Huntsville and Dink and Suzanne Taylor for pulling off another excellent event. Also, the volunteers deserve a big "Thank you!" For some, this was at least a 12 hour day. THANKS!

The folks at Huntsville Track Club continue to amaze me by having results posted already! Results are available here. David Riddle won by over 10 minutes in an amazing 3:58:30 . Dewayne Satterfield won the Masters and was 2nd overall with 4:09:09. Dewayne takes tough to a completely different level. The women's winner was Dana Overton in 5:21:09.

I ran a 5:21:48. That earned me 32nd overall of 247 finishers, which means pretty much nothing.

The Start
I had no idea what to expect today. I had 4 days with no running and little sleep leading up to the race (sound like an excuse?). This was my first attempt at racing a 50k. I knew the course would be a mess. I knew that I was unprepared for the climbs. I also knew that I was unprepared to run beyond 24 or so miles. All of those things were factors (excuses) today.

At the start I wanted to stay near the front pack to be sure I didn't get stuck behind slow runners on the trails. That meant clocking the first mile in 7:15 with no warm up. Even so, I was stuck behind some slower folks going down Walnut Hill. It's a tricky descent, but there is no need to stop like the people in front of me did. Anyway.

As we climbed up Mountain Mist trail to the South Plateau, I settled into a rhythm with Ragnar teammate and CM Marathon training partner Justin Hulsman. There was a guy running near us who would alternate grunts and "woo!'s". I was glad to pass him.

Along South Plateau and Family Bike Trail, John Wiygul joined Justin and me. We had some good conversation and a few laughs. I was conflicted here about how fast to run. I didn't want to use up all my gas, but these are the only fast miles on the course. We ended up running them in the low 8's, which was probably not fast enough. Make hay while the sun shines, so to speak. Still, though, we hit the first aid station really close to the plan at 53 minutes. Just before the aid station I saw Eric Fritz for the first time. He had a great day today, smashing his 5:30 goal with a 5:24!

The First Major Climb
Warpath Ridge is one of the funnest descents anywhere! We flew down this hill! I don't know how many people we passed. They were all courteous enough to yield. Justin commented here on how quickly we descended and how I had become lighter on my feet since we had last run on trails.

Along Power Line/Flat Rock, I had a slip and an almost fall. I was completely horizontal with hands and feet on the ground. No knee or elbow hit the ground, so I wasn't down! That was the only time all day that I came close to falling, which is a bit surprising given the conditions today.

What goes down must go back up, and K2 was just up ahead. Justin and I ran this behind Marcus Farris. He climbed very smart! Walking much of it and running the less steep sections. At the top, we passed Mark Freeman who struggled a bit with the climb. We used Goat trail to recover from the climb, and probably should have run this a bit faster. We hit Aid 2 at 3 benches still on plan at about 1:40.

On Through Stone Cuts
This section of the race was fairly uneventful. Marcus, Justin and I were just running along with some interesting conversation. Where else in the world would a 19 year old and a 26 year old let an old geezer like me hang out with them? Also, along this section I met Mark Fisher who ran a sub 3:10 at Rocket City but was struggling with injury and blisters today. Another fun descent and then on to Aid 3 behind schedule a bit at almost 2:35. I realized that Cold Springs up to Fearn was a portion that I had rarely, if ever, run in daylight!

Based on the way I felt and the split at the aid station, I knew 5 hours was not to be today. I started battling cramps at about 14 miles, and I spent the rest of the day running on the edge of calf cramps. I would push as hard as I could without cramping.

To the Bottom of Land Trust
Marcus really opened his lead on us past Aid Station 3. It was good to see George DeWitt and Carl Smith and other friends at Aid 3. Justin was now leading the way up Tollgate and High trails. I was starting to struggle a little, so I was glad that he was setting the pace now. It would force me to run harder whether I wanted to or not.

But the cramps. Ouch. My legs just wanted to seize up.

I was curious about how Bluffline trail would be. When we hit it, Justin started flying on the descent. I stayed right on his heels and it was awesome fun! It wasn't as slippery as I feared. This year, I have grown to just love the technical descents. I have room for improvement, but I've come a long way on these in just a few weeks. I had to have that today.

Along this descent, we passed Eric Schotz. I've never been ahead of him at any time in any race. Ever. I sure had no business being ahead of him 20 miles into this race. I knew he would pass me back. I am not near his class.

After the descent, my legs refused. I had to walk or cramp. Justin entertained the idea of staying with me, but I insisted that he go on. That was the last I would see of him until the finish line. I walked unless the terrain went downhill, then I ran. I continued this until Eric Fritz caught me again. He asked how I was doing, and wanting some company, I sucked it up and stayed with him to Aid 4. I hit Aid 4 way behind schedule at almost 3:15. Now, 5:30 was my new goal. And given the way I felt, I thought that was ambitious.

One could argue that this race doesn't begin until Aid 4. I sure felt awful to just be starting a race!! I'm not sure how I lost Eric Fritz here. I don't remember if he went ahead of me or if I went ahead of him. Somehow, I was ahead of him at Waterline, but I honestly don't remember passing him.

Railroad Bed is one of the most miserable trails to run. The sharp rocks! The tricky stream crossings! I had been running it at about a 9:30pace during training runs, but all I could muster was an 11:00 pace. This was a lonely stretch. There was nobody in sight. I came up on some stranger and passed him.

Alms House Trail mixes very technical sections with very runnable sections. Again, all my legs would do was 11:20 pace. Oh how I wanted to go faster, but could not. I passed another stranger on Alms House. Then, near the end, as expected, Eric Schotz came flying by. I had no chance at all to even think about giving chase. I kept him in sight as we turned on Waterline, but he was moving!

I caught up with Mark Freeman again here and Eric Fritz was close behind. This was the first time I remembered seeing Mark since K2, but obviously I had seen him since I passed him there and I was catching him here. I stayed on his heels up Waterline. We were both struggling. We spoke of the potatoes that we hoped would be at the next aid station! Also, we commented that all the practice climbing this still didn't make it easier! This is simply the toughest climb in any race I've ever run. Lake Trail at Mount Cheaha is not this hard, in my opinion.

Waterline totally defeated me. I hung on to keep moving to the next aid station. And the potatoes were there!!! I caked them in salt which I so desperately needed. I hung out too long at this aid station. Mark continued. Fritz continued. I stayed and chatted. I was hoping a slight rest would help. I knew that I had to go, though. So off I went after about 2 minutes. The clock said about 4:10. 5:30 was attainable. If somehow I could avoid cramps, 5:20 wasn't out of the question.

Rest Shelter
Either Railroad Bed or Natural Well is the bane of this race. Perhaps both are. However, on that first slightly downhill section, I had been training at a sub 8:00 pace. Hah! My legs would do no faster than 11:00. This was getting frustrating! I wanted to go faster. I know I can run faster. But if I do, my calves seize.

Along this section, the women's runner-up, Kellie Smirnoff, passed me. She was running strong and was the women's leader at this point. I congratulated her and encouraged her to stay strong. I tried to stay close, but my legs wouldn't let me. I noticed that logs and rocks definitely slowed her down. As the trail was getting more difficult, I was able to catch her. She mentioned to me that she is a road runner and this was her first trail race! WOW!!

As we hit the nasty, technical descent from Natural Well, it slowed her down terribly and she courteously let me pass. I was reluctant because I've never been able to run this section well at all. But today was different! I have no idea how or why, but I was able to run this descent! It wasn't great, but it was BY FAR the best I've ever done on this section! I passed Ryan Meulemans here, but I knew he would get past me on the flats at the bottom, and told him so.

And Ryan did. But before he did, Dana Overton, the overall women's winner, passed me. She was running very strong! I tried to stay close, but I just could not. The flats and the ups were just more than I could do. I struggled along the bottom of McKay Hollow.

I was both dreading and wishing for the Rest Shelter climb. I knew it meant that the end was near. I knew it meant that there would be much less mud. But I also knew that it would be a near impossible climb given my cramps and fatigue.

And the climb began. And continued. And continued. I decided to really push. It hurt. The end is near. I passed Eric Fritz and a couple of others near the bottom of this climb. I gained considerable ground on Dana Overton. I ran. I walked. I ran. I walked. I was really giving it all I had. I was going better than most on the ups at this point. At the top, I was less than 10 seconds behind Dana. Could I avoid being chicked?

To the Finish!
Nope. I tried, but she really opened up her lead on South Plateau. I said to myself, run at marathon pace! You can hold MP for less than 2 miles! It's easy, runnable ground. It may as well be road! Run! I ran at about 7:30 pace for about a half mile, and just blew up. I clocked this mile over 9:00. That's not hardly MP! :)

Oh well. I tried. All I wanted was the finish line. I was tired. I couldn't even run a 9:00 minute mile. I was done. I crossed at 5:21:48, the first guy to be chicked. :) Congrats to Dana. She is tough. Very tough.

At the finish, it was great to see lots of friends there cheering the finishers on. Scott Michael was there. It was good to be reunited with Mark and Justin. Patrick Fagerman had an absolutely amazing day and broke 5 hours. Wow! Every time he sees me, he reminds me of our battle at the Huntsville Half Marathon and he reminds me of the outcome. :) I'll have to find a way to come out on top if I find myself in a battle with him in the future! We had some good natured trash talk.

After some solid food and a change of clothes, I hung around with Scott waiting on Matt Davis and Lanier Greenhaw. Matt deserves some big props here. He trained hard for this race and had much of his hard work hindered by sickness the days before the race. I could tell he wasn't well on the ride over. I wondered whether he would DNF or even DNS. But he gutted it out and refused to quit. He probably tolerated a lot more discomfort than I did.

It really is difficult to describe the energy that surrounds this event. The crowds in the lodge, the excitement, the cheers, the known difficulty, the camaraderie, and the fantastic organization all make this a unique event.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Before Mountain Mist

I've been really lax in updating my blog lately. I wish I could say that it's because I've been running too much, but that's just not the case. I've had a couple of people get after me for updates, even this guy, so an update is due.

What Will Saturday Bring?
I have no idea what to expect this weekend. I haven't been in town all week, but word has it that there has been a drop or two of rain and some other nasty weather. First, I pray that all are well who were in the path of the storm. Second, I wonder how the course will be. Mud and slop are givens. Debris? Will the markers still be there?

I had in mind an "A" goal of around 5 hours. That goal assumed good training, good weather, good course conditions, and a good day. Well, I might have a good day, but the others are out! I haven't really set another target because I really don't know what I'll be capable of come Saturday. I'm just going to go as hard as I think I can go. Who knows what number that will be on the clock.

The temps will be warmer than I've been training in. The course will be slippery. Mud will cake on my shoes and weigh them down. I'll be wet for most of 31 miles.

The Week Before
Last weekend, I got in a couple of good runs. Mark and I did a head-lamp-lit pre-dawn 15 miler on the first half of the course on Saturday. We took it easy, except for a couple of sections.

After that, I played about 6 games of racquetball singles. Racquetball is great fun, but terrible cross training for distance running. I wish I could play more often. I've hardly touched a racquet in 6 months and I was still able to compete with the A players. It's also a sport that's about camaraderie. There was a very warm welcome back to the courts from the usual players.

Sunday's 10 miler with Lanier and Carl was a good run as usual. For some reason, we were about a minute off of our usual 10 mile time. On Monday, Matt and I did a 9 miler just for fun.

And that, friends, was my last run. I woke up early to catch a plane to Denver on Tuesday, and it's been crazy since. I've been tapering, I guess, except for the good rest and sleep. My diet has been garbage and my hydration has been out of whack. I've been going to bed late and getting up early with still no time for a run.

I hope to get in 4 or 5 miles tomorrow, but it doesn't look good. I'm typing this in DIA waiting for my delayed flight. Who knows when I'll get in to Huntsville. And tomorrow is absolutely booked from early to late with meetings. An early morning run doesn't look promising and there simply isn't any time later in the day.

Ugh. I'm on the more carbs and fewer miles training plan right now. I should be really tapered and carbo loaded for Saturday.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More Trail Running

I really love running on the trails. There's something about being in the middle of the woods and jumping over rocks and streams that makes the miles melt away. Yeah, the going is slower, but it just feels great to run out there. There is no traffic to worry about. Every step is a little different from the one before. Falling is possible, even likely. (One thing I've learned this year is that when you fall, it only hurts for a little while. If it hurts longer, then you have a good story to tell.) The challenge of the climbs is humbling. The rapid, chaotic descents are thrilling. It's just awesome!

Matt, Mark, and I did a 10 miler mostly on the first half of the Mountain Mist course this morning. There isn't a much better way to start a day. We were able to manage a 9:34 pace, and it felt surprisingly easy. I hope I'm ready.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Dreaded Track

Every now and then, I just have to prove to myself that I can still run fast (well, fast for me). When I do, my body reminds me that it hurts to run fast. I had been doing some hard workouts, but I hadn't done a good VO2 workout since the first week of December. So, I figured it was due.

For Mountain Mist, I haven't been following any written plan. This has been my philosophy.
  1. Recover from the marathon.
  2. Run the trails on the course as much as possible.
  3. Keep the weekly mileage as high as is tolerable.
  4. Maybe the gym isn't that bad of a place.
  5. Run, no matter how uncomfortable it is.
I remembered some VO2 workouts late in the marathon training. I also realized that I had in essence been doing two tempo (trail) workouts per week. That's probably not the smartest plan. So, I decided to do VO2 and tempo this week.

Matt and I did 6 x 800m with 300m recovery jogs, 10.1 miles total. There was no strong finish.
  1. 2:54
  2. 2:58
  3. 2:56
  4. 2:58
  5. 2:58
  6. 2:59
I like"done" those, but I don't like to do those. You know, the same way that anyone could like "ran", but not everyone likes to run.

Oh, and did I mention that today was one of the worst winds that I remember running in? It was brutal and made it feel much colder than it really was. I was prepared for a balmy 24 degrees but running into that 12 mph wind from the north made it feel much more like 15 degrees or so. Those 800s that finished into the wind were brutal.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I Needed Today

I've just been slogging through the past few weeks.

Mountain Mist
Mountain Mist is just around the corner, and I don't feel ready at all for the challenge. I've probably put in more miles on the Mountain Mist course than all but a few of the entrants, but I still don't feel ready. Every time I run out there, my goal pace humbles me. K2 trail humbles me. Rest Shelter climb humbles me. And, of course, Waterline humbles me. Man, this is a tough race.

I've been doing the miles, but it's honestly wearing on me. The trails are giving me a break from some of the nagging repetitive sore spots. My foot is better and my hip is better. But the trails are beating me up in their own way. Just Thursday, when I started, I literally heard my quads say out loud, "You're not doing this again, are you?" Ok, maybe it wasn't my quads, maybe it was my hamstrings. Or my knees. Actually, I think it was Mark. Maybe it was Matt. But my legs were thinking it!

The other thing about trail running is that it's just more trouble. I start most of my runs at my front door, something I can't do for a Mountain Mist run. And, running on the trails makes my wife more nervous. She's concerned that I'll get hurt, and that's not unreasonable. Don't misunderstand. She's wonderful, helpful, and incredibly encouraging and supportive of this hobby. If you've ever hiked or run on Monte Sano, you'd understand. The terrain is rough and it takes a considerable amount of caution and balance to avoid stitches. So there's added stress.

It's just wearing on me. I don't remember the last time I looked forward to a run.

And though my weekly mileage has been there, my long runs just haven't. Yesterday was the first 20 miler since the marathon, and it drained me.

And I haven't even mentioned the COLD. I haven't run when it's above 25 degrees in quite a while. Yesterday, when I stopped for a few minutes to refill, sweat literally froze to my leg. I'm getting tired of temps in the teens.

Sunday 10 Miler
So, today, I really didn't want to slog out a 10 miler in 13 degree weather with an 8 mph wind. I just did NOT want to do it. But Carl asked.

Thanks, Carl.

I was a Negative Nellie for most of the run. Then, at the end, Carl changed the subject during the last couple of miles to something frivolous like popular music or football or something. And I lightened up.

Then, at the end of the run, I ran into Jamie Grantham and Russ Johnson who had just finished up a 12 miler. Then I saw Jeff and Jon doing their run. And they were all in good moods and I didn't hear them whining about the cold. Of course we talked about the weather because it's too unusually cold not to talk about.

But I owe all 5 of those folks, especially Carl, for improving my attitude. I think I'm ready to knock out these last couple of weeks getting ready for Mountain Mist.

I needed today. I look forward to my next run.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2010 Goals

I don't really know what reasonable running goals would be for 2010. I don't know when the rate of improvement slows drastically, but I know that it does. This is all new to me. 2009 was the first year that I had a race that wasn't a PR, so improvement may already be slowing down. I don't know. I'm just going to keep working hard and learning as much as I can about training.

With that, I'll take a stab at some numbers for 2010...
  • Sub 6:00 pace for a 5k
  • Sub 38:00 10k (Ouch. This hurts a bit to think about.)
  • Sub 1 hour 15k
  • Sub 84 minute half marathon
  • (Dare I say it?) Sub 3:00:00 marathon
Those will be challenging. Maybe I won't make any of them. Maybe I'll make some but not all of them. Maybe I'll look back and think they were all too easy.

Yeah, and at some point in time this year, I'd like to weigh 15X pounds and I don't care what the X is. That would probably make those numbers above a little easier. The last time I weighed 15X was over 22 years ago in the 9th grade. That may be too scrawny of a weight for me and I'm not sure I could maintain it if I hit it. But I'd like to hit it.

Also, last year I ran 15 races and helped with 3. I will volunteer at more events this year.

And these are just my running goals. I certainly have room for improvement in other areas of my life, but this blog is about running.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 Running Review

Why not do a year end review? I honestly find it difficult to believe that I've been at this for less than 2 years. Running is so much a part of my daily routine and lifestyle that it seems like I've been doing this all my life.

I ran more than 2600 miles this year, including 15 races. I made more progress at all distances than I expected. I hope I can continue that type of progress for the next 2 or 3 years.
  • The year started with a better than expected 2:06 and 11th overall effort at the Black Warrior 25k in the Sipsey Wilderness. That was followed with a leisurely run at the Mount Cheaha 50k.
  • I had one of my best races of the year at McKay Hollow Madness Trail Run in March. The time and finishing position weren't that great, but that was the only race this year that I can truly say that I gave it everything I had. I had shingles during that race and didn't know it. I hadn't rested for a week before because of the shingles pain. I was in pain, fatigued, and generally miserable. I battled cramps and gave it all I had that day. I left that race and went to the doctor! I'm most proud of that effort, but not necessarily the result.
  • April saw both a 5k and a 10k PR. River City Run was the Alabama 10k State Championship and I was second in the age group and set a PR with a 40:57. Cookie Dash 5k was a last minute decision that turned into a 19:26 PR.
  • I had a miserable outing at the Cotton Row Run 10k with a 41:54.
  • During the summer I learned the effects of heat on race times and had some bad times on some races in the Shoals.
  • Rocket City Marathon training started in August and included several HTC races as part of my preparation.
  • I ran the DC Ragnar Relay in September for the experience of a lifetime!
  • I leveraged my marathon training fitness for good outings at the Monte Sano 15k (1:01:44), the Huntsville Half Marathon (1:28:13), and the Spooktacular 5k (18:52).
  • BQ in December!!!
Another thing that happened this year is the Sunday morning 10 miler through Athens. Though participation in that weekly run has dwindled of late, it's been a very welcome fixture on my calendar. There have been as many as 13 to join for that run. It's been good to get Athens and Madison runners together on occasion for a fun run through my hometown.

I'm still thinking about my 2010 plans.