Sunday, January 27, 2008

Return Home & a new 50K PR!

This past Friday, 34 of my other fellow Naval Officers and I graduated from our school at Newport Naval Station in Newport, RI. That started the long trip home...first a flight to Detroit, a 3 1/2 hour layover, then home to Ohio...arriving just before 11pm Friday night. I told Marjie that Saturday's Buckeye Trail 50K at 7am could end up being a total disaster: 2 weeks being "off-schedule" with running/eating/etc., flight (this dehydrates you), and most importantly, only 4 hours of sleep before I'd have to get up for the race.

Race conditions were ideal. For some time, I'd described in my head the perfect race day: a couple of weeks of sub-freezing temps to harden the ground (the single track Buckeye Trail tends to turn into a mud-fest during this race with above-freezing temps), not too much trail (less slipping and mess on the trail) and a race day temp not too close to 32F and cold enough to keep the ground frozen. This wish was the exact thing we got...19F at the start...25F at the finish. The streams were frozen over, too, so we didn't have to get wet this year crossing them.

This year, the split the field to head 2 different directions which REALLY helped the congestion. (Thanks, Tanya!) 1/2 marathoners headed out to Pine Lane and the 50K and marathon runners headed to Brandywine Falls.

You ever have one of those races where you swear you may be going too fast but since it feels so good, you just go with it? That was me. 3 miles into the 31.2 mile trail run, I was in the top 10. That should have been warning sign #1. By the 8th mile, I was in 2nd...warning #2! Well, I remained there all the way until less than a mile from the finish. OK, back up a few miles: At the last turn around, 2.5 miles from the finish, I saw Todd B. and Dave P. quickly gaining on me. At that point, my level ground pace had slowed but not stopped and my downhill stride and speed were still in top gear. My only chance to save my 2nd spot was to maximize those downhills and keep it moving otherwise. I did that but as I passed the Stanford Hostel, I realized it was only a matter of time. Todd B. was the first to pass and he looked strong as ever. Then comes Dave. Dave, if you're reading this...thanks for the last 1/2 mile challenge...you just had more left in the tank than I did! GREAT JOB to the both of you. Yea, I was definitely ticked at myself for losing the 2nd spot but I know I gave it all. Funny this is...my goal was to just beat my one other ultramarathon from last summer...the summer BT50K where I ran 6hrs, 37min. You might say I'm happy with the results....a 1hr, 50min PR! Only 15 seconds separated the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place finishers. My finishing time: 4hrs, 47min, 31sec. You know, sometimes you just go with the flow and hold on...this was one of those days...one that I am truly thankful for.


A few of my favorite things:

1. The TOP NOTCH Brooks jacket embroidered with the race's logo (see pic above)....kudos to Vince & Tanya!

2. The post-race vegetarian chili: All I can say is "Mmmmmm, Mmmmmmm, GOOD! That was awesome!"

3. Excellent volunteers and aid stations...couldn't do it without you!

Happy Trails!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

19 Miler along Newport, RI Ocean Drive

The sun is shining, it's a bit windy today, but I finally found a spot in downtown Newport with a reliable wireless signal! Talk about going into internet-withdrawal for the last week! I'm very sorry to those of you in the VR Training group for missing the first 2 runs...I'm not being too good of a coach! Hopefully I will see some of you this Saturday.

I had a great run yesterday. I'm a firm believer that when traveling, one of the best ways to discover an area for future days at the location is via a long-run. That was the case yesterday as I headed out from Newport Naval Station's Officer Training Command for a leisurely 19 miler. As I approached downtown along the water, there was a distinct scent of seafood...or should I say, FISH SMELL in the air. I headed down a public pier to find lots of commercial fishing boats and cages for catching crab and lobster. (don't worry, I had some fresh lobster last night...yum!) After entering the busy part of town, one of the first things to catch my eye was this man-made ice rink sitting right in the middle of town. Didn't expect that! If you're a brew-pub kinda person, you'll love it here. First off, all restaurants are smoke-free. Second, these top-notch restaurants are everywhere...in historic buildings, facing the bay, super service, and awesome food/brew. Actually, one thing I thought was: "This would be a great place for Vertical Runner 2!" Anyway, lots of good food and shopping in town. After town (around 4 miles), I headed along Ocean Drive where I'd be for the next 10 or so miles. Here is am on the waterfront next to the statue of General Rochambeau. He left Newport on June 18, 1781 to join forces with General George Washington for their victorious march to Yorktown. Further on down Ocean Drive was Fort Adams...now a Rhode Island State Park. I took the perimiter route around the Fort...quite impressive! The 2nd pic here is me standing in front of the water and you can see in the distance (right of center) the Naval War College...that's where the base is. (you know you can see a bigger version of these pics by clicking on them, right?) Guess what I ran by on the way out of the Fort? Alpacas!!! What?!? Anyway, on with the run. Ocean Drive, as the name implies, outlines this "island-like" area with the ocean. Eventually, after passing many mansions and the Coast Guard station, I hit the water line and boy did that wind pick up. BUT, it was all worth it. I got a couple of really good shots to along the water, too. Diving again into my video efforts, I thought I'd snap a one-minute video of the crashing water. Unfortuately, the majority of what you hear is wind...sorry about that but I didn't know how to get rid of it...I really wanted to hear the crashing waves.

Following this long stretch, I turned onto Bellevue. OK, if you EVER get near Newport (ie: heading to the Boston Marathon), come here and drive Bellevue. Mansion after mansion after mansion....you will not believe your eyes!!! After this, I was back in downtown Newport and proceeded back to base. Great run and somehow, I still squeezed in 39 miles this week! BT50K this Saturday!

Friday, January 11, 2008

USA Marathoning: 2007 Overview

MarathonGuide.com, my favorite site to "shop" for a marathon has just released it's annual report. Due to copyright restrictions, I won't copy/paste it here so here's the link.

Some interesting topics include:
1. Marathon finishers (overall demographics, male vs. female, history since 2000)
2. 2007 Largest USA Marathons (including 2006 and growth/shrink percentage...very interesting!)
3. 2007 USA Inaugural Marathons
4. 2007 Age Group Breakdown (age demographics, fastest age groups, largest age groups
5. 2007 Marathon Finishing Times (by gender)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

14 Mile Pine Lane/Brandywine/Valley Bridle Trail Run

With only a few days before I leave for the Navy Officers Training Command, I saw a perfect forecast for a perfect run on the trails...and the first run with the camera. Not only did I capture some good shots but some VERY amateur video as well. It's made to run best on a broadband connection which most people have today with high-speed internet. I don't like wearing the waist packs (Chef Bill has a handy compartment for his camera on his) so I was struggling to find a way to carry the camera. I picked up an iPod arm band (by Nathan) from Vertical Runner and it worked great. Only a sub-compact camera would fit.

I took off at 9am, sunny skies, and 29F, and very little (if any) wind. Nothing but a tech tee and some running pants were the gear today. Fueled by some Blue Blaze Pure Fuel and also a Chocolate Pure Fuel bar...and washed down by some Heed (by Hammer). I headed out from Lock 29, up the brick road to Pine Lane, and picked up the Buckeye Trail. VERY muddy, I must say. Now it's raining outside to make it worse. I'm praying for some long consistent sub-freezing temps over the next 2 weeks or no rain...or else the BT50K is gonna be a muddy treat!

Remember the wind storm we had only a couple of nights ago? Well, a lot of trees have come down over the Buckeye Trail...between Pine Lane and the Boston Store. This one here is just past the I-80 overlook...about a mile from the Boston Store. It completely blocks the trail, is VERY long, and it 3 feet high. Easy for me to pass but if you're vertically challenged, you may be belly-rollin' over this guy!

I've always wanted a picture of the actual pines that give Pine Lane it's name. Kinda hard to describe it to family without a pic so here it is. This was about the only dry part today as all those protruding roots suck up the moisture and keep the ground dry through this very rooty passage known as Pine Lane.

After arriving at the Boston Store (at 5 miles), I headed up past the Stanford Hostel to the Brandywine Trail. My suspicion was that the river crossing on this trail should be pretty strong considering all the snow that we had last week. About 1/4 mile out from the crossing, I could hear the raging water well and knew it was time to get wet. And wet I did get. OK, here's my first attempt at video...and appreciate the fact I crossed this 3 times (soaked each time) to get this done!


After the stream, I headed up the hill towards the Inn at Brandywine Falls (Marjie and I stayed at this Bed & Breakfast a few months back...highly recommend!...and the best homemade oatmeal and granola!). Here are a few shots I grabbed on the way up the hill. The pic with me in it has me standing before the dropoff where down below is the rushing water from the Falls. GORGEOUS to look at but hard to take a picture of. The other picture is heading up hill towards the Inn. Once I got up past the Inn, I headed down to the viewing platform for Brandywine Falls and that's where I took a shot at my 2nd video of the day. I was really curious how the crashing water would come out on a digital camera and then online. Well, here it is:

After this shot, it was back to the Boston Store, over to the Valley Bridle Trail, up the monster hills besides I-80, and back into the pines. By the way, it's a monster hill to me because at only 0.6 mile in length, it climbs over 200 feet. The Valley Bridle leads back to the Pine Lane parking lot. From there, it was back to the Lock 29.

All in all, it was a great run...logged 14 miles in 2hrs, 10min. Wrapped up the run with some Recoverite by Hammer Nutrition. Lastly, I can't finish up today's blog without a big hearty Thank You to my trusty trail shoes...still proving to stay tough through all the snow, mud, and water!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Heavy Snowfall Kendall Lake Run

Thanks to Chef Bill for posting pics from our deep snow run last Wednesday, January 2nd through Virginia Kendall...these are really great pics. As you can see from the footprint pic, those were the only prints out there...ours! View Chef Bill's blog. And no, I'm not that much taller than he...he was just scramblin' to get in the shot! Love those timers!

I'm doing a 14 miler on the Brandywine, Buckeye, and Bridal trails tomorrow...tryin' to figure out a good way to transport the camera on these runs. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A good way to get a sailor's blood to boil

If you haven't seen the news today, you may not know about the Iranian boats who were approaching 3 Navy warships in the Persian Gulf yesterday in international waters. Instead of giving you the story and messing it up, here's the link. Once you read it, take about 4 min. and watch the video shot from one of our warships showing them getting dangerously close to us...be sure your speakers are on for this. You'll hear us warning them by radio and also sounding blasts to warn them off. This brings back the memories from being at sea! I'm sure the bombing of the USS Cole was fresh in everyone's minds while this was happening. (fyi: many of you don't know I spent 10 years (1991-2001) in the Navy's nuclear power program aboard nuclear-powered aircraft carriers....and now I'm a supply corps officer in the Navy Reserve.) Here's my first ship that I was stationed on back in 1993...the nuclear-powered USS Virginia CGN-38...now decommissioned.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Kickoff VR Training night and a 21 mile run

Welcome to many of you that were at Wednesday night's kickoff meeting for VR Training at the Hudson Library. We had a great turnout on a very frigid evening. Chef Bill just posted his recipes from his cooking demonstration on the VR Training site for download. Yum!

I'd like to try something different: one of the most common questions we answer at Vertical Runner is about what to wear in different weather conditions. As part of my running entries here, I'll occasionally mention what I wore and why. This will hopefully help some of you venturing out in the cold...or very cold for the first time.

Thanks to Bill for a great trail run through Virginia Kendall on Wednesday morning. We racked up about 10 miles in snow that varied from 4-7". We snapped some great pics along the way so I'm guessing he'll post them in his blog soon. We headed from Happy Days, around the Ledges trail, crossed Truxell, did the whole cross country trail, back to Pine Grove Trail, and finished up with the 2nd half of the Ledges trail. It's always great to put the first tracks in the snow...outside of the animal tracks that prevail out there.

With a Navy drill weekend this weekend, I took an opportunity today to return to the asphalt once again and do my marathon training route starting at my home in Rootstown and heading over to the Kent Starbucks and then returning along Route 43 in Brimfield and then back to Rootstown...21 miles round trip. Definately a tough run today with the wind and hills. It seemed with every turn that the wind stayed in my face.

OK, this is a great opportunity to talk about what to wear: when I headed out, it was 24F with a windchill in the lower teens....with no new weather or much temperature fluctuation over the next 3 hours. With temps below freezing plus the wind, it's important to block that wind. A lot of outer shells you buy are wind resistant with a handful being wind-proof. My personal gear of choice for today was Sporthill's 3SP gear...their 3SP line is designed for 0-40F and is windproof and very breathable. I actually didn't wear anything at all beneath the top. I could have with no problem and if I was someone who is cold all the time (ie: Vince!), a baselayer would have been fine. The pants were 3SP as well, Sugoi wind-briefs, then Smartwool hat, gloves, and socks, and lots of BodyGlide. The ONLY thing EVER cold was my nose...but for me, it wasn't nasty enough for a full face cover of a balaclava. Fuel for the run was HEED electrolyte and Apple Cinnamon and Blue Blaze Pure Fuel bars. I kept those in my pant pocket which kept them warm and chewy. Once I got back, I called Mel up at the store inquiring about an ice bath...hadn't ever done one but heard it was beneficial. HECK NO! I lasted one minute and out I jumped. My feet were freezing! Maybe it was that bucket of ice cubes from the fridge that did me in!

My new Canon SD850IS showed up today so hopefully, I'll be adding some good photos and videos in the near future. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

#1 Question of 2007

First off, I've got to answer the question about the picture at the top of my blog. I took that photo on the route of the internationally famous Falmouth Road Race in Cape Cod, MA. The island in the distance is Martha's Vineyard. Our family vacationed in Cape Cod last summer and I ran the race route multiple times while there. Absolutely gorgeous and serene.

OK, that's not the #1 question but this is: "How did you lose all that weight? (45 pounds)" Here's my disclaimer: I'm not a doctor (though I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night! :0), a nutritionist, I haven't read a bunch of diet books, I haven't joined Weight Watchers, and I don't guarantee any of this! However, it did work for me and to me, it's basic numbers and adopting a new lifestyle...not going on a diet. As a matter of fact, I never did go on a diet nor am I on one now. The "diet" is temporary...a lifestyle change can be...well, life-long! So, here it goes:

First, the before and after pictures.......

1. Calories, calories, CALORIES!: It's as simple as this...you burn a certain number of calories every day just by being alive and breathing. That's a fact. If you consume more calories than what you burn, those calories must be stored (ie: fat stores). If you burn more than you take in, then your body turns to those fat stores for energy...thus, a reduction in fat. Understand, when I "cold-turkeyed" my lifestyle in late October 2006, I didn't lose a pound for 5 weeks. I changed everything and stuck to it. However, your body needs to adjust to the changes and that doesn't happen overnight. Once my body figured out what was going on, the fat fell off...and fast.

2. Reduce calories without reducing the quantity: OK, we've established the need to reduce calorie intake. The next step is to identify what you eat that has the following characteristics: quality, filling, low in calories, high in protein, fiber, nutrients, and doesn't contain the "junk" that fills the shelves at the grocery store. Remember, junk in = junk out. Quality in = quality out. This whole talk about calories is a like a double-edged sword. Those things that are bad (hyrogenated, saturated fats, trans-fats, enriched flours, high-fructose corn syrup) are less filling and actually make you crave more of them and result in over-eating and an exponential increase in calorie intake. On the flip side, the quality foods that are good (ie: whole in nature, "good" fats, veggies, fruits) contain far less calories and have a lot of fiber/protein which leads to a fuller feeling...hence, you eat less. If you get this and can implement it, you are well on your way.

3. Know how to shop and read the label: in any food product, the ingredients are listed. The item in highest quantity in that product is listed first. That's where you look first. Next time you're shopping, pick up any soda and read the label...see something called "high fructose corn syrup"? That's SUGAR! A little known fact is that this ingredient actually blocks a receptor in your brain that signals your brain that you're "full." That's right...another double-edged sword...have a BigMac, fries, and Coke...and not only are you eating HIGH saturated fat and monster calories, but the Coke is blocking the signal to say "Stop Eating!" See how easy it is for McD's to sell their 2 Big-Macs for $3?!?!?

Food Label Help:

1. Low Fat vs. Fat Free: boy, the consumer has been blind-sided by the food industry here. Next time you're heading down the salad dressing aisle, hold these two things up side-by-side. The fat-free version is chock full of preservatives and HIGH in sodium..plus, it'll taste horrible. Many times, the low-fat version is low in calories, low in preservatives, and still tastes good. If it contains dairy, they're normally just using low-fat or skim milk. Sour cream and cheeses for sure...always buy low fat, not fat free.

2. Bread products (pitas, loaves of bread, crackers, tortillas): don't be fooled by the "Whole Grain" or brown-colored breads without reading the label. Simply turn that loaf over and read. If the first ingredient has the word "enriched" in it, PUT IT BACK! You are looking for something like "Whole Wheat." There are a lot of wheat breads that are enriched so beware. Also, sometimes the bread is "butter-top"...use your common sense here...you think that's saving you calories? There are lots of options out there...don't worry! My personal favorite is a line of foods by Kashi. No, this won't cost you big time nor do you need to seek out an organic supermarket. If you're a Super Wal-Mart shopper, I have found they actually have the best selection...surprisingly. You'll also find them at your local supermarket...selection could vary very much by location.

About Kashi: EVERYTHING they make has the main 7 whole grains in it. Their products are high in fiber, protein, omega-3s, and they don't contain the junk I've spoken of before. Click on their logo to visit their site. Here are some of my everyday favorites:

a. Blueberry or honey frozen waffles: only 150 calories for the two of them...top with "light" syrup.
b. Cereals...they have many of them and they are VERY good and very filling...and of course, high in the good stuff and absent of the bad stuff. Use skim milk or soy...as to your liking, of course.
c. Granola Bars: very chewy or crunchy (they have both) and a great snack between meals to keep your hunger under control...again, high in fiber and protein = filling!
d. Crackers: a variety such as ranch and cheddar and yes, nothing enriched or bad.
e. They also have frozen pizzas and frozen meals...I just don't eat them regularly.

3. Fruits and Veggies: the more colorful, the better. As you browse the produce section, try to get a variety of colors...they all contain different nutrients and vitamins which are good for you. Apples, oranges, bananas...USE these to get the fiber (helps give you that full feeling) and the healthy by-products that they contain. Oh yea, did I mention "LOW CALORIE!!"? The potato is a veggie, too. Fry it and you've destroyed it's nutritional value and filled it with crud. How about you opt for those red potatoes (remember the color?), bake them, and top with some low-fat sour cream and bacon bits? (one of my favorite meals). Not all carbs are bad! Enriched = BAD, Whole = GOOD!

4. Pasta: as a runner, I need my carbs and lots of them. I can honestly say I eat a LOT of carbs and rarely do I eat something enriched...exception is in a restaurant which sometimes offers no alternative. Whole wheat pasta (love the Ronzini pasta...widely available) is a staple in my fridge. I always make a batch, mix it with some good pasta sauce (remember to read the label), add some extra virgin olive oil (an excellent source of good fats). Topping it with some feta cheese is a great way to finish it off. Now I warn you, the following literally stinks, smells like cat food, and Marjie hates it...but to me, it's tasty and a great power meal! All of the previous but add a can of tuna in water. Yea! Get those omega-3 fatty acids!

OK, there's a rumor out there that cheating every once in awhile is fine. I have to disagree...in the beginning at least. Changing your "lifestyle" is a slow process that your body has to adapt to. Eating bad once a week in the beginning can sabotage everything you're trying to do.

WATER...and lots of it: did you know that the more high fructose corn syrup you drink (sounds gross, doesn't it?), the more you crave...and if you stop drinking it altogether, just a drink of it will turn your stomach and you won't even finish your glass. Your body naturally hates it but you may have programmed yourself to crave it....wonderful syrup, eh?! How about this: water. Water is the number one ingredient in your body! Here's another little known fact: drink less water = body retains what it has (water retention, bloating, yuck!). Drink more and more water = body starts to release it as it knows more is coming...plus it cleans you out and constantly renews your water "stores." Plus, you'll feel SO much better being hydrated! Again, as a runner, it is absolutely critical to stay hydrated. How to do it: forget those 20oz bottles...they go away too fast. I carry a gallon jug everywhere I go. As soon as I get a bit thirsty, down it goes. OK, don't subscribe to "but if I drink to much, I can get hurt and deplete my sodium and possibly die!!!" Do you realize how much that would take? I drink between 1/2 gallon and 1 gallon per day and I'm no where close to that happening to me.

OK, in a nutshell that's it. Yes, I run a lot which burns lot of calories. However, you can do many things to burn calories but I must admit, running does it well!

A Couple of things to help:

1. Keep a log of what you eat...if you actually see what you're eating, you may not eat it!

2. Don't weigh yourself every day. My day is Thursday and that's the weight I write on my training calendar along with my mileage for the day.

3. Change your lifestyle, don't go on a diet, and stick to it. Remember the basic concepts of creating the calorie deficit, putting quality foods in, and protecting yourself from the junk out there.

4. Surround yourselves with others doing this or those that can hold you accountable.

5. Like a marathon, slow and steady....this won't happen overnight!

6. Once you change your lifestyle, it really does become easy. You no longer crave the bad stuff. Knowledge is power here....you understand how to read the label and know how to fuel yourself.

7. Set Goals! A goal not set cannot be met!

Let me know if I can help you in any way! E-mail me anytime!: nickruns26.2@gmail.com

New Year, New PR!

Without further delay, Happy 2008! We had an unseasonably mild day yesterday for the Great New Year's Eve Run (GNYER) at Stow-Munroe Falls High School. Race start was at 4pm and nearly 600 showed up for the challenging and hilly 5K run. The only thing was a south to north wind around 10mph. (that put the wind in your face on the return route to the finish) My only goal was to set a new PR (personal record) for the 5K distance...old PR was set in Virginia Beach 7 years ago on a pancake flat course....19min, 54sec...and the only time I'd broken 20 minutes. I'm happy to say "Goal achieved!" 19min, 39sec. Overall, I was 7 of 37 in my age group and 39 of 579 finishers (top 7%), and an avg. pace of 6min, 19sec per mile. Thanks goes out to Greg and Aaron for providing the motivation and drive to help me reach this milestone! Full Results Here.

2007 Wrap-Up & Good-Bye

2007 was the first year I tracked every mile on a calendar so here's the tally: you'll notice a decrease in monthly mileage surrounding marathons as I tapered down the mileage leading up to them.

January: 159.8 miles
February: 163.5 miles
March: 168.8 miles (ING Georgia Marathon)
April: 146.9 miles
May: 135 miles (Flying Pig Marathon, Cleveland Marathon)
June: 181.2 miles
July: 160.5 miles (Summer Buckeye Trail 50K)
August: 186.7 miles
September: 156.9 miles (Air Force Marathon, Akron Marathon)
October: 164.7 miles (Towpath Marathon)
November: 146 miles (Richmond Marathon)
December: 202 miles (first time over 200 miles in a month)

2007 total: 1972 miles!

Alright, time to move on! No goals to run as many marathons this year. Last year was most likely a one-time occurence. I just want to focus on quality workouts and improve. What better way than to head out for a early New Year's Day run? Knocked out a hilly 7 miler before Marjie headed out to work this morning...not a soul was up...not a light was on!