Sunday, April 27, 2008

T-6 Days till the Green Jewel 100K

It's been a quiet week in the world so there's not much to share for today's blog. I took it easy for Saturday's morning run and did the winter Buckeye Trail 50K course starting at Lock 29, up the brick road to Pine Lane, all the way to Brandywine Falls, then took the Towpath back to Lock 29. This exact route was 12.2 miles so I ran a few extra minutes to get in an even 13. (I don't like those decimal points in my log!) Due to some "garbage" eating last week, I felt pretty cruddy even though this run should have been refreshing. It's amazing how a few days of authentic Mexican food and my parents' homemade ice cream shop (in Rootstown) can ruin a Saturday morning run. Anyway, the trails are in great shape right now due to a long stretch with no significant rain.

Here's my plan for this week: I'm treating the last 6 days just like a typical marathon taper. My personal rule is to not run any more miles in a given day greater than the number of days before the marathon (or 100K in this case) the last week. So I'll probably run 5 tomorrow and 2 other days in the week I'll get in a few miles. Nutrition wise, I'll start carbo-loading Wednesday night, more on Thursday, and hit the carbs hard on Friday. I'll decrease fiber intake in the last 48 hours and greatly increase salt intake at the same time. Salt helps water retention which I'll need badly this Saturday. Hopefully, I'll pack on a few extra pounds before Saturday.

For Saturday, the event starts at 5am sharp and aid stations will be staggered every 5 miles or so with every other one being manned with water/Heed/food. For me, I'm planning on carrying a Nathan #020 race vest with a water bladder on my back and one or two (I haven't decided yet) handhelds for my electrolyte (Hammer's Heed). I'll also take Pure Fuel all throughout the day...more if it's offered at the aid stations. I'm counting on Greg D. as a running partner for the day. The furthest distance he's covered is 50 miles and the furthest I've gone is 31.2 miles (ie: 50K). So yea, it's a heck of a challenge but we're both really excited to get it on! I just want to thank Vince and Joe (Green Jewel co-race directors) for putting on this event!

I'm planning on taking the camera for the 100K trek so you can bet I'll post some pics and blog the experience soon afterwards. Have a great week!

Green Jewel 100K Website

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Spring is Finally Here

I just love this photo but have never posted it before. It has absolutely nothing to do with today's entry but doesn't it just "feel" peaceful? I took this while kayaking in Alaska during our cruise in 2005. During this excursion, I remember seeing several bald eagles in the trees along the water. Should be a postcard, eh?

Spring has arrived and so have the bikes on the Towpath! Of course, at 5:50am this morning, they weren't a problem but by the time I left around 10:30am, there were floods of bikes at Lock 29. It was a relatively small VR group run today. With the Michigan Trail Marathon next Sunday and many of the "regulars" in Boston this weekend, that was to be expected. Still, we had a great run. In preps for the Green Jewel 100K in 2 weeks, my personal goal was to go slower and get in 25-30 miles....gotta practice going slower or I'll never knock out these upcoming ultras. I did 3.5 before the 6:30am group run. We first headed north on the Towpath to Boston, turned right on Boston Mills Rd. and took this all the way to the Summit Bike & Hike trail....couple of REAL nice hills on this road. After the left turn on to the paved path, we followed this all the way to Holzhauer (sp?)...I think about 5 miles. We turned left again into the housing development and dead-ended at the top of the Carriage Trail. We hung a right turn and took the Carriage Trail down to the Towpath. At this point, most turned left to head back...for 18 miles. I, however, turned right and headed about 1.5 miles to Station Rd. where I turned around and headed back via the Towpath. Luckily, I met up with Chef Bill at Red Lock and he forced me to SLOW DOWN! He kept me company back to the Boston Store where he stopped for the day...he's tapering for Michigan next week. To mix it up a bit, I headed out from Boston and picked up the Buckeye Trail headed to Pine Lane. Unfortunately, I didn't switch up my running gait to LIFT up my feet over the roots and I took a nasty fall shortly after the first climb. On the way down, my left heel on my shoes jammed my right calf which caused an immediate cramp...DANG that hurt! I got up and continued on and took a left on the Valley Bridle Trail just before the rooty section of the Buckeye Trail...obviously, I was having issues with picking up my feet so no need to navigate those roots today! Once back to Pine Lane, I headed back to Lock 29. I was at 25.75 miles so I cooled down on the Towpath to get in an even 27 miles for the day. Oh yea, my "un-official" marathon time was 3:55 for 26.2 miles. Plus, "Mr. Garmin" says I burned a whopping 4100 calories! Yea!
Happy Trails!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Celebrating 35 Years!

With a new job beginning only a few days ago with the government, I nearly forgot what today 35th birthday. SO, at about 4:30am this morning, I planned a great day with a great forecast in store. Since Vince wakes up early, I sent him a text to set up a trail run at 4:30pm at Happy Days...done. I just needed to get to work by 7 in order to leave on time. Thanks to my parents for their annual "Happy Birthday" song they sing each year...that started my day at the office. 3:45pm rung in and on the road to Happy Days from Canton I headed.

We knocked out the Ledges and Pine Grove Trails plus a few out-n-backs to get the time in...kept a pretty swift pace since it was just us. 6 miles cranked out and it felt strange to actually sweat again! 68F and sunny! Vince and Chef Bill were kind enough to let me sample the soon-to-be-released post-run protein Pure Fuel bar. I won't reveal a very key ingredient but I will say....two enthusiastic THUMBS UP! Loved it!

Now off to Vertical Runner to actually replenish my stock of Pure Fuel for the long run this Saturday and pick up a few other odds and ends. Mel is NOT camera shy so here we are at the store in Hudson.

Warm day...sun shining...birthday...time for some 'Bucks! Grande, White Mocha Frappuccino Light, no whip....AWESOME!

The clock was ticking by fast so I had to get home quick to help my daughter practice riding her bike. I got home, opened the card from my girls and WHAM!.....a Starbucks gift card! Yea! Anyway, back to the bike. The training wheel were not off yet so once off, we had "Riding a Bike 101" before we started making our rounds around the cul-de-sac. A little bit more practice and I'm sure she'll be cruising up and down the street soon enough. I did let go a few times and she did great!

What better way to end the day...a view from our front porch at sunset...

Oh yea, I had to come back and add this. I forgot to mention my latest addition to the schedule. The inaugural Green Jewel 100K...starting at 5am, Saturday May 3rd. 100K equals approximately 62 miles. Greg D. and I will be providing each other the support we both need to push through to the finish. The course will follow the "Emerald Necklace" and will showcase the Cleveland Metroparks.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A "Recovery" 15 mile, 2.5 hr Trail Run

It's a gorgeous day here in northeast Ohio...temps in the 50s and sun. This week has been slow-going as I've been lickin' my wounds from Sunday's marathon. I ran 4.8 on Monday...SUPER slow...really just to warm up the legs and release some of that built up lactic acid. I took off Tuesday and got my recovery deep tissue massage from Lori Roosa, LMT yesterday morning. OK, here's my chance to plug Lori for the awesome job she's done for me. Lori started working on me over a year ago and saw me through all 7 marathons in 2007 and my first ultra. During that time, she really helped me stay injury-free and strong. So, I got the massage and yea, it hurt....a necessary hurt, though! While at Vertical Runner afterwards, we planned a trail run for today assuming I'd be back in shape 24 hrs later. Now, I'm singing the praises for Lori...we ended up knocking out 15 miles on the trails in about 2 1/2 hours and I felt awesome. Lori Roosa's contact number is 330-204-6463....I give her my highest recommendation!

Now to the run: it was Vince, Mel, Joe J., and myself at 6:45 this morning at Lock 29. We headed north on the Towpath and cut over to the Oak Hill trail. From there, we covered a variety of trails like the Plateau, Riding Run, Rim, and Perkins trails. Elevation at the start was 700ft above sea level and topped out at 1100 feet and extremely varied in between. Joe turned back early to head to work and Mel turned back at the Covered Bridge on Everett Rd.
Oh yea, why not some more shameless plugs? Fuel was Pure Fuel, Hammer's Heed served as the electrolyte, and Hammer's Recoverite (along with another Pure Fuel bar) served as recovery. I tried the new Dark Chocolate bar...great if you're a chocolate lover!
Happy Trails! Get out there!

Monday, April 7, 2008

20th Marathon complete: Thoughts and a Review

With a bug to "officially" attempt a qualifying run for the Boston Marathon, I toed the line of the 41st annual Athens Marathon yesterday (Sunday) at 9am at the College Green of Ohio University in Athens, OH...a small, very cool college town near the Ohio River in southeast Ohio. The race has been heavily praised by many on as a very well-done race and a great place to qualify for Boston. It is pancake flat and fast. I was a bit skeptical, though. How does a marathon that attracts around 200 marathoners and between 400-500 half-marathoners each year survive for 41 years? Looking back, I can see why. This is a no-frills, low-profile, high quality, extremely well-executed event. With registration at only $35, I wasn't sure what I'd get. That's dirt cheap in today's marathon market.

I had prepared according to the book with a decrease in fiber-rich foods in the last 24-48 hours (ie: Kashi!) and increased the carb consumption, topped off my fluid levels, plenty of sleep and rest, and mentally prepared around the clock...just picture "3:15" on the finish line clock......

We arrived in Athens Saturday afternoon after an easy 3 1/2 hour drive and visited the packet pickup. expo here. Just a packet pickup with nothing more than the quality long-sleeve cotton shirt and race number. Oh yea, no chip in this race, either. That was another surprise...a race today that is certified but doesn't use a chip. Keepin' the costs down! The next part was really cool: for $5 a person, they offered a pasta feed. Basically, we were in a small elementary school's cafeteria and we were told to just find a seat and one of the kids would come take our order. We could choose meat or meatless sauce over spaghetti, salad, bread, dessert, and a drink. Pretty darn cool to have the kids doing this. The pasta feed was partnered up with the school's annual PTO fundraiser. Afterwards, we drove around and headed out to the 13 mile turnaround where Marjie will wait for me between 1hr, 34min and 1hr, 37 min (3:10-3:15 pace)...piece of cake for her to get around. From her perspective, this was a perfect spectator-friendly marathon as compared to the big-city marathons we've visited in years past. Ironic is that there is ZERO spectators!...except for runners' families, of course! We then headed back to the finish line to trace the steps she'd take to get there on race day. No problems so back to our Holiday Inn Express to rest.....turns out, you really DON'T get smarter by staying at one of these hotels (re: remember their commercials?)...Marjie whooped me at a game of Scrabble.

RACE DAY: the forecast called for mid-50s at the late 9am start and upper 60s and full sun very soon thereafter. Outside of being a bit warm for my liking (I prefer low 40s and overcast), it was a great reprieve after the snow belt beating we took this winter. My race day nutrition strategy was as follows: up at 6am, head to the Starbucks down the street for a quad-shot of espresso, a banana, small bowl of cereal, 20 oz. of Hammer's Heed, and one Hammer electrolyte tablet 45 min. before the race. Done. Instead of drinking water race morning (which flows straight through me when fully hydrated), I tried drinking Heed to help prevent having to go to the bathroom early in the race. This strategy worked perfectly as I didn't go again until back in the hotel after the race. It was easy to get in the front of the field due to it's size to ensure I could lock into my pace immediately.
The race started at 9am to a Ohio University's ROTC firing off a cannon...reminiscent of the Steamtown Marathon held each Columbus Day weekend in PA. (RECOMMEND!) The plan was to hit 7:20 - 7:25 per mile. A 7:27 average pace equals a 3:15 finish. With a steep downhill 50 yards into the race, my first mile was quick at just under 7 but I quickly zoned into my target and held it dead on for the next 18+ miles. At mile 1.5, we turn on to the local bike way which is a blend of our local Towpath Trail and the Summit Bike and Hike Trail. All paved and runs alongside a canal and old railroad. Gorgeous area and I'm sure even better once everything blooms. I could tell the bike way falls under a canopy once the trees get their leaves. The water stops (every 2-3 miles) were very well done. Always well stocked and manned by volunteers who had a smile on their face and always announced what they were holding (ie: Gatorade or water) BEFORE we arrived at the stop. No congestion and no need to slow down one bit. At 6.5 miles, the 1/2 marathoners swung around and headed back. You know that cricket sound effect you sometimes hear on TV? The one where it's dead silence and all you hear is the cricket? That's what it felt like one step past the turn-around. All of a sudden, the next runner was a good distance ahead of me and nobody near from behind. That was OK, though. No need to be chasing half-marathoners when I need to stay on the task at hand...continue to hammer out 7:20-7:25 miles.
During the race, my nutrition consisted of a margarita Shot Blok (3x the sodium) every 2 miles and an electrolyte tab at the 1 hr and 2hr point...and of course, Gatorade at each stop...trying to always get about 8oz. and the occasional water. That all worked out well except that I was left with one Shot Blok at the somewhere, I missed taking idea where that happened! At mile 13, there was Marjie and I was dead on schedule. Her perception of me at that point was that I looked strong but looked like I was mentally defeating myself. I remember telling her I was on-target but it was tough going. She shouted words of encouragement to not mentally defeat myself and I held tight onto those I would need to a few miles later.
The mental component: the lack of hills or variety made it somewhat difficult to create distraction from the passing miles. I tried everything to take my mind off the clock and just keep the legs turning over at the same pace. That worked for the majority of the race. At one point, I found my thoughts writing Monday's newspaper headlines outlining my failure to qualify...let's just say I had a few choice words for myself when I realized what my brain was trying to do to me! I re-focused but when I crossed the 19 mile marker, I passed it in a 7:55 mile. That's 30sec deficit that I can't afford to give up more than once or twice. I tried my absolute hardest but could not get the pace back up and it slipped more into the 8min range and eventually over 9min per mile. That was as slow as I'd get. I didn't walk and I didn't give up. I constantly put myself in check to be sure I left NOTHING out there. I wanted no regrets or the "woulda, coulda, shoulda" excuse later on.

The finish was at Pruitt Field on Ohio University campus...a gorgeous track. Once we entered the track, we had to complete 1.5 laps to finish...yea, that meant passing right by the finish line. From Marjie's perspective, it was the easiest finish to get to and the closest she could be to me at the end of a marathon. She was standing there as I entered the gate and followed me around the track from the infield. I have to say...I felt so darn bad when I first saw her because I knew she was waiting for me 11 min earlier and I couldn't wait to tell her I was sorry. With that said, she was awesome about it at the finish and offered her never ending support and congratulations.

Final Time: 3hrs, 26min, 7sec
2nd fastest marathon (out of 20) and 18 sec faster than last November's Richmond Marathon

Post-race: the National Guard was grilling track side for runners and their families (FREE) hot dogs and hamburgers and let me tell you, the smell of grilling, the sun shining, and the race being done was absolutely perfect. There were also a few Gatorades, pretzels, waters, and some pizza. Massages were offered for $15 for 15 thanks....I'm seeing Lori this Wednesday!

While chillin' out, I caught up with a runner who I'd met out on the course...we had passed each other multiple times. He ended up finishing one lap on the track ahead of me. I'm guessing he was in his 50s. Turns out, he has his second pacemaker and will get his third one 2 weeks from now. Talk about inspiration! Here's a guy whose heart simply doesn't function worth a darn but continues to knock out these awesome accomplishments. He's trying to hit a Boston-qualifying times in all 50 states...17 down so far.

We headed back the hotel, showered, and headed for home. With the goal of ingesting lots of muscle-building protein, we stopped at our favorite sushi bar in North Canton (next to Sam's Club behind "The Strip") where I had lots of tuna, salmon, yellow tail, eel, and octopus...YUM!

So where to now? The Buffalo Marathon is in 6 weeks. Before yesterday, I planned to go for Boston again if I failed yesterday. Given that I gave it all I had and wouldn't change a thing, I've accepted that Boston just isn't a possibility for me right now. Instead, I'll still run Buffalo and run it strong, but toeing the line as I did yesterday won't happen. I'll just soak it in, run a good race, and mark New York off my 50-state to-do list. Now it's time to shift training to trails, trails, TRAILS and get ready for the Burning River 100 this THAT is something that inspires me!

Happy Trails, everyone! Time to head out for an easy recovery run...