Monday, September 29, 2008
I got to church on Sunday morning and a friend asked: "Run any marathons lately?"...joking, of course. I said "Yea, yesterday in Akron." The common astonished look was there, common to many of those who consider us "insane." Of course, I couldn't let it go there. "I ran a 50K for about 7 hours last Saturday, too." I forget his exact words, but the general idea was "crazy," "insane," "nuts,"...take your pick. OK, follow me back to my aimless thoughts while vacuuming on Sunday night. After the massage, all I really cared about was getting to bed as soon as I could so I could run in the morning before work. Honestly, the words that sprint through my head were "I've gotta run tomorrow just to maintain my sanity at work tomorrow." I don't know what it is. An addiction? If so, commit me! "Hello, my name is Nick. I'm addicted to running." (the group replies: "Hello, Nick!") Heck, I could fill the first meeting of "Marathoners/Ultra-Marathoners Anonymous" with many of you! Maybe it was only TWO 2.5 mile runs mid-week last week. It was worth it, though...the recovery plan worked and worked well. I felt great after Akron and I see a quick recovery on the horizon.
This morning, I set the alarm for 3:35am. I popped up like a jack-in-the-box and brewed some espresso and was on the road by 4:30am. Super thick fog this morning and made worse by the corn fields on my route trapping it in the low areas. It was just me trapped inside a 5 foot cone of light created by my headlamp. I couldn't see a thing out in front of me. The run ended up being incredibly refreshing 5-miler, prayer-full, and full of thoughts about my wife, kids, and basically an inventory of life in the now. No better way to start the week. My new Brooks Defyance shoes got their first time on the pavement, too. Nice shoes! No problems at all...I actually dropped a 1/2 size in this pair of Brooks but they fit perfectly.
Anyway, there you have it. Here's to sanity and the flood of post-run endorphins! Run on, friends!
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Afterwards, I met back up with Chris K. from Rhode Island who I met back in January while on active duty in the Navy at Newport Naval Station in Rhode Island. We ran together until Karen and I dropped back. Even though he's not local, he's a VR Mean Green Tech Tee wearin' runner up in RI! Congrats on a great 3:41:13 finish!
The shoes on the right are my brand new pair of FREE Brooks....gotta love this sponsorship!
5 weeks to Mount Masochist 50 Miler down in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia! Time to get back to the trails...just in time for the fall season.
Happy Trails, everyone!
Friday, September 26, 2008
Jump ahead 11 years, almost to the day. I've got the pre-race jitters this morning as if it were years ago. I am SO thankful for this!!! Why, you ask? It's because the excitement of the marathon, the expo, the packet pickup, the pasta load, the starting line, the FINISH line, the medal...I've been very afraid that it would get "old" as the numbers got racked up. Guess what: it doesn't. Just because some training runs eclipse the 26.2 mile distance, the "experience" of the marathon is special every single time. With Akron, it's even more exciting. With a running community alive and well, I'll know more people at the starting line than at any other marathon I've ever done. That's just the icing on the cake. How awesome is it to combine friends and family in such an awesome experience?
Best of luck to all running Akron tomorrow. It is a finely done event and should be a blast. Personally, I can't wait to read all the funny/encouraging signs along the course. I also look forward to the neighborhood parties from miles 21-23. Soak it all in!
Happy "Akron Marathon," everyone! (I'll make just this one exception away from the trails...just this one!)
Thursday, September 25, 2008
This week has been an experiment in recovery. With 6hr, 50min on the trails of Mill Creek Park last Saturday, how fast could I recover? I had a plan and so far, all is well. I took Sunday totally off. Monday, I took a very casual "jog" (oooohhh, that's a cuss word to us "runners") around the neighborhood for 2.4 miles. It's purpose was to "jog" loose the lactic acid trapped in the muscle fibers to help foster recovery and also to make the pending deep tissue massage more effective. Monday night, Lori came over and gave me perhaps, the deepest deep tissue massage I've ever had. She stripped out my calves, worked those hammies hard, and often, I was doing my best not to come straight off that table in pain. However, she is AWESOME and 100% of the time, I am sore from the massage the day after then feel awesome afterwards and recovery is fast on track. Ditto this week! I've been drinking lots of water and eating well all week and took another (jog) this morning for another 2.4 miles and yea, I'm feeling well. This isn't my typical taper routine but this week, it's all about rest and recovery in a short period of time. I won't run again until 7am Saturday when the gun sounds in downtown Akron.
So if you're running Akron this weekend, you should be drinking a LOT of water and carb loading...especially today. More today than tomorrow. Plus, don't pig out tomorrow night like many do. There's only so much you can do 12 hours from the start so be sure to be doing it NOW.
Saturday is going to be a blast! So many are running that I know and for many, it's their first marathon. For you, HAVE FUN and just worry about finishing! You'll never forget crossing your first finish line. Then, go get your free Brooks! The weather is looking great with start temps in the low 50s and highs in the low to mid 70s. A healthy dose of cloud cover would be the icing on the cake. Best of luck to all running Akron this weekend! I'll see you out there! In fact, many are meeting before the start between 6:30am and 6:45am. Check out the details and where to direct friends/family to at the finish inside Canal Park.
Happy Trails, everyone!
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Before you read on, turn up your speakers and watch/listen to my compilation from yesterday's YUT-C 50K Trail Run in Mill Creek Park (Youngstown, OH). Enjoy! (FYI: pics are in order from race start to end)
I've also uploaded the photos to Facebook and they should be viewable with or without a Facebook account here.
Yesterday marked Ultra #5 since my first one in 2007 at the Summer Buckeye Trail 50K. Back then, I was new to trail running but quickly got hooked. That HAD been my slowest time at the distance...6hrs, 37min. However, with trail ultra-marathons, it's hard to compare apples to apples because the race conditions/terrain/weather can play such a major role. The YUT-C (Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic) 50K (aka: 31.2 miles) is in it's 4th year of existence and is a fine example and representation of what the Northeast Ohio Ultra-Running community has to offer. Bob Combs (Race Director and veteran ultra-runner) and his excellent team at NEO Trail Club have really put together an excellent event. Superb support, aid stations, and volunteers were present as well.
If you look at the map, the race circumnavigates 3 lakes and connecting streams: Lake Glacier, Lake Cohasset, and Lake Newport. Simply put, the course begins at the Old Log Cabin (just below the well-known Gardens at Mill Creek Park) and heads east around Lake Cohasset (figure 8 style). After a climb up the steel staircase, we go through some ball-fields (which grew in number of kids each time we passed) and then on to some fresh trails. Here's where the first loop got interesting. Someone, perhaps myself, must have really ticked off some yellow-jackets, because I got stung 3 times within 10 seconds! Then, I heard other runners screaming behind me after I passed! These bites hurt and I've got the irritating itching and holes in the skin today to prove it. One got me on my right thigh (as you saw in the video above), another at the bottom of my rib cage on the right side of my back, and the last on my right bicep. The back one and the leg really hurt and swelled. The swelling eventually went down about an hour later. This section also brought with it the Monkey Hills. Very steep, slow-movin' areas to carefully navigate along with some logs, notably the "Love Log" that we had to cross. (see Kim's blog to see all about the Love Log...I think she snapped 3 pics of her crossing it...on each loop) At 4 miles, we reached the first, and main aid station: the Covered Bridge. We would pass by here 5 times. Typical "ultra" fare was offered like Heed, water, Coke, salt tabs, gels, peanuts, PB&J, M&Ms, pretzels, bananas, oranges, etc. GREAT volunteers and a very well done aid station. These encouraging volunteers would come in very "handy" later on when their prodding would be needed most. We leave there and keeping the "figure 8" pattern in mind from the map, we head to the west side of Lake Newport, but first passing the waterfall/dam that it spills over. We circle around Lake Newport and on the east side, hit some asphalt for about a mile. See that smiley face? That would be the volunteer course-markers with a sense of humor...that helps in an ultra! The loop around Lake Newport, in my opinion, was a breeze compared to the other loop, especially that first 4 miles. We returned back to the Covered Bridge where we again circled Lake Newport. OK, if you're following the "figure 8" analogy, we only have the left/upper part of the "8" to cover. Once we finished loop #2 of Lake Newport and visit #3 to the aid station, we headed to the western side of Lake Glacier and Lake Cohasset. This side was very rocky, a bit challenging, but still nothing like the Monkey Hills. This is where I finally met up with Kim (who you saw in the video). Kim and I are fellow-bloggers, see each other posting to the ultra-listserv but have never actually met. Kim had just finished "removing" the V-8/Ensure/Coca-Cola combination from her stomach when I saw her...thanks for the intro, Kim! We walked/ran for a bit and then I took off again. The "figure 8" completes at the Old Log Cabin which marked 25K or the halfway point. Now it's 2 more loops around the "top" part of the "8" which is Lake Cohasset and Lake Glacier. At this point for me personally, I was not feeling too good. The hairs on my arms and legs were standing at attention indicating I was pretty fully dehyrated...not a good sign. I have zero explanation for this since I started well-hydrated, the weather was favorable, and I was drinking well so far. Usually, I can narrow it down to something, but not today. Anyway, I continued on, slowing as I went, and completed another loop and arriving back at the Old Log Cabin at Mile 23. Here's where Mr. Vince Rucci came screaming through the finish at just over 4 1/2 hours...an awesome 4th place finish...and a small 7.8 miles in "front" of me! I was lingering a bit here and eventually Bob Combs looked at me and said: "Hey, we really like ya and we'd love you to hang out some more, but you need to get the heck out of here and get going!" Enough said. Out I went. For this last loop, my entire abdomen hurt, I wasn't really sweating much, and it was a pure mental battle. I kept telling myself: "Remember what you feel like right now. You feel like crap! Remember this tomorrow (ie: TODAY!) when you get all siked up about that next hovering ultra. Remember how bad this stuff makes you feel!" OK, I remember all that self-talk...but dang, this "craziness" is addicting. Can't you relate? I got through the Monkey Hills for the last time, crossed the Love Log, and arrived at the Covered Bridge at just under 28 miles. The aid station captain (I don't know his name) told me an inspiring story he heard the infamous Dr. David Horton tell once. That was enough motivation to get me moving again. I ended up back at the Old Log Cabin in 6hrs, 50min. All my VR buds were there, basking in the sunlight, rooting me in. A very tough day. My most difficult 50K to date and the slowest, but still another finish line crossed. For that, I am thankful. Again, many thanks to Bob Combs, Jim Harris, Brian Musick and the many more whom I don't even know. You did a great job!
Happy Trails, Everyone!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I've heard this question more times than I care to count. Unfortunately, I've never come up with a clear-cut answer to best communicate: "Why?" Sure: simple responses of "Because I can" or "To lose weight" are common responses but come on, isn't there something deeper to explain the "Why?" Not to discount someone who runs 2-3 miles a few days a week, but once someone gets to running regularly 30 or more miles a week (I picked that number out of the clear blue sky), something must be driving this. Goal setting? Sure. Lose weight? Yep. Run a marathon? Oh yea, baby! OK, so let's keep that running going through the cold northern winters where cross-winds of 20-30mph with air temps below 20F exist and the miles just keep on getting logged...perhaps with an increase. Is it really worth it? Do the "why" answers above justify this craziness? I can tell you by drivers in my hometown that they don't think much of me trudging along the snow/ice covered roads in January. Who am I to be out there?? "Why?" OK, now let's take a step on the "wild and crazy" side of running. If running multiple marathons (like 7 in 2007) becomes just not enough and the idea of ultra-running comes into play, "Why?" on earth would I (or YOU) subject yourself to the tearing of muscle tissue, dehydration, pain, time for recovery, and the higher risk of defeat that an ultra-distance event brings? "Why???" While I may not have finished my first attempt at the 100 mile distance last month, the question of "Why?" was certainly present with me out there when pondering what to do while injured. As my mind told me and the great friends who were supporting me, if I can still sustain forward movement, then I must continue. It was at the point, shortly after the 50 mile Snowville Aid Station, where the "forward movement" issue became the one and only stumbling block. The pain had become such that movement on flat/up/down terrain was incredibly painful. Mentally, there was no option to drop. The "Why?," disregarding the physical obstruction, was clear: "Because I can. I set a goal. I prepared. There is no quit." Reflecting back nearly 2 months later, I have zero regrets. I couldn't have prepared for what happened, but it did happen. The day for redemption will have to wait, but it will come. Most specifically, it will come at 5am on August 1, 2009 at Squire's Castle.
The physical body is an incredible, miraculously-created machine that is capable of amazing things. Looking at amazing athletes like Lance Armstrong or others that continue to "Wow!" the public, some folks were just wired the exact way to perform extraordinarily. For the rest of us, we can only strive to get better, improve ourselves, and explore parts of our true grit that can only be found when taken to the extreme. That's my "Why?" answer when it comes to past and future ultra-running events. It's not about an award (sorry, I wasn't wired for those!), a bib number, the medal, the pats on the back...it's about pushing myself to areas not previously visited and explored. When I ran the Green Jewel 100K back in May 2008, it poured rain for nearly all 62.4 miles and 13hrs, 9min. I finished wanting more! I felt better and better after the 50 mile point. I must admit, though, that the relationships and people I meet along the way, also answer part of the "Why?" I get out the door before 5am most days. The volunteers that freely give of themselves, the dedication of race directors, the communites that support the events, and my fellow runners who join me, provide guidance/inspiration...they are all part of the "Why?" I run. I value all of them (you)...more than they (you) know.
I'll see you on the trails...
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
Wednesday night was the day to get the entire shower door replaced since it's been leaking pretty bad. It was never really fixed correctly after I went crashing through it a few years ago after passing out in the middle of the night. Long story...but let's just say I am thankful to be alive and not being paralyzed. I have vasovagal syncopy and while getting up to use the bathroom, I fell backwards through the shower door and my neck landed on the threshhold that you step over to get in the shower. After being strapped to a hard wooden stretcher, being hauled out sideways through my maze of a bedroom, I spent the whole night with a neck brace on in the ER until they were sure no neck injury existed. Like I said, I'm thankful for every running step I take.
Sunday was very relaxing with sunny skies, low humidity, and temps in the low 80s. After church, we headed over to my brother's house for a birthday party where my girls got to ride their cousin's pony. Amazing that such a powerful animal can behave so well with little instruction except for a 5 or 7 year old on her back tugging at her reigns.
(from Amby Burfoot’s “The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life.”)
Happy Trails, everyone!