Sunday, November 30, 2008
Thanksgiving Day itself was spent at my parents' home with all the usual fixins'...turkey, the best homemade stuffing in the world, cranberries, and my sister-in-laws corn casserole creation...now THAT was good...but full of "bad" stuff for my normal whole-wheat diet. That's OK...it'll get run off soon enough! All-in-all, a relaxing day with family.
Luckily, my every-other-Friday-off at work just happened to fall on Black Friday. I work 9 hr work days to have every other Friday off. I took the opportunity to meet up with fellow VR runners at Happy Days for a post-Turkey trail run. As just over 1 week to Tecumseh, this was meant to only be about an hour and E A S Y. I showed up early for 3.2 miles on the Boston Run Trail and then at 8am, the rest of the crew headed over to the Ledges and Pine Grove Trail. For the day, I racked up a quick 8.7 miles. I should have checked my mileage for the week after this. Last week's mileage was 32 miles so this week should be less as I approach the last 7 days to Tecumseh. Well, I awoke on Saturday morning with the last-minute plans for a family weekend trip to central Ohio including the Longaberger Homestead and an overnight stay in Sugarcreek. Since I don't like to miss more than one day of running in a row, I figured I'd better run on Saturday. With no time crunch, I took a longer loop, watched the absolutely brilliant sunrise, and got back home with 7.7 miles. I log in to my online running log and dang, I now have 34 miles! ARGH! Some taper, eh?! Well, I'll keep it simple this next week. Sunday off, 5 on Monday, 4 on Tuesday, off Wednesday and begin carbo load at dinner, 2.5 on Thursday, travel Friday, and race on Saturday. No big deal.
Our trip down to Longaberger was great. Actually, I'm blogging this morning from the Carlisle Inn in Sugarcreek while the family still sleeps...hard to sleep in when your internal clock is used to waking up between 3:30am and 4:30am every day. On the way down, we took a break to stop in at the Breitenbach Winery outside Sugarcreek. I love the sampling and all the cheese and crackers. Pretty cool place to visit. Now, I'm not a girly man, but I will endure a little "discomfort" and walk the grounds of the Longaberger Homestead, the headquarters of the well-known Longaberger Basket Company. We've been coming down here annually since we moved back to Ohio in 2002. This weekend, they were having a Santa workshop for kids and 20% off everything in every shop...a big surprise since this place is typically high dollar. I've heard of layoffs down here but oh my, this place has been hurt really bad. Every restaurant that used to exist is gone. Much of the manufacturing areas where baskets are individually made have been cleaned out and now remain dark. It was like looking at a graveyard of basket-making workstations. I also thought that given the first shopping weekend and the 20% discount on EVERYTHING, it would be busy. FAR from it. It was a ghost-town. It was what I'd expect on a typical Monday morning, not a Saturday afternoon. I asked a clerk about the financial health of the company and they said 2008 has been a really bad year and just two weeks ago, another 75 people lost their job. I guess when people are cutting their spending, extras like premium baskets are the first to go. We really didn't buy much of anything. We sampled a lot of foods, took a lot of time at Santa's Workshop, toured the basket-making area, then hit the road for the Carlisle Inn in Sugarcreek.
Whether you have kids or not, I highly recommend the Carlisle. Instead of snapping pictures, I recommend checking out their website. Great as a getaway for just a couple or for the family. Great indoor pool and hot/cold continental breakfast. Plus, the decor is just breathtaking in here. A couple of fireplaces, comfy couches, a two-story pair of Christmas trees, and rooms that feel like luxury. If you're in to the Amish shopping experience, just remember that most of those shops are closed on Sunday.
So it's taper week to Tecumseh. Training wise, I'll just be smart early on but have a focused effort on lots of water all week and start a concentrated carbo load on Wednesday. You have to start early and not the day before the event. I actually recommend backing off the day prior to the event. I don't like being stuffed to the gills the night before. It should be a really fun time with 5 other guys joining me on the road trip. Vince has been bold enough to state his predicted times for all of us....3:38 for me. I think that's a bit bold for a trail marathon, but you never know what could happen. I just want to have a good time, run strong, and finish strong. This will be my last major event of the year and I think, the 10th marathon or ultra-marathon of the year, and my 23rd marathon. Oh yea, just because people wouldn't believe me unless I could prove it, I snapped this picture of a road-sign last night. Who on earth would name a road this? Does this mean there is a "Blackwoman" road out there, too?!?!? Good grief!
Happy Trails, everyone!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Disclaimer: in no particular order!
I am thankful for a beautiful wife and 2 beautiful daughters. In my line of work, I see a part of society every day that is lonely and without something this simple. A part of society with multiple physical/mental problems and hardly a soul who cares. I pray with my girls every night to be thankful for each other...mom, dad, a sister, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins...and the list goes on. We can't ever forget or take for granted the ones we surround ourselves with day in and day out.
Friends and Family, thanks for "enduring" my UNnatural approach to our beloved national holiday. I wish you the very best today and in the future. Remember, "overflow with thankfulness everyday!"
To you local runners...
Saturday, November 22, 2008
- Jim Fixx, Best-selling author who died at age 52 in 1984 while out on a run (he had heart disease and doctors say running probably added about 10 years to his life)
Masochist came back to haunt me a short 2 days ago. You may remember when reading my race report that my toes on both feet took quite a beating. Specifically, I feared for my left big toe. Losing toenails is pretty normal for us long-distance runners. For me, I've lost #2/3/4 on both feet multiple times, but never has a big toe been at risk. As predicted, my left nail died off and this week, it was time for removal. If you have a weak stomach, I'll try and spare you the details because just thinking about it gets me queasy a bit, too. In a nutshell, all came off with no problem except for the right side. A bit ingrown, I'd say. Well, if you know my medical history, you know I am highly susceptible to vasovagal syncope. It is the most common cause of fainting. It occurs when your body reacts in an exaggerated way to such triggers as the sight of blood or extreme emotional distress. The trigger results in a sudden drop in your heart rate and blood pressure, which reduces blood flow to your brain and causes you to briefly lose consciousness. There are many triggers out there but for me, there are 3 main ones: sudden sharp pain, dehydration, and illness. Since I have a resting heart rate around 40 beats per minute, the sudden drop causing me to pass out and my heart stops...momentarily. I know this because I was tested in 1997 on the "tilt table test" which confirms this condition. I had all the medical equipment attached to me and sure enough, I passed out and flat-lined. As soon as they lowered the table, my heart re-started. ANYWAY, back to the toenail. You see...the pesky right side was giving me problems and hurt. I gave up on the tugging and grabbed the scissors. When I did this, I must have yanked on it, because all of a sudden I felt flushed...a warm fuzzy sensation starting in my mid-section and moving upward. I knew this feeling as I've had it before. The way to stop crashing to the floor is to get down there first so I got down on the kitchen floor slowly and just waited for it to subside. Usually, this works. I got up after a few minutes and felt totally out of sorts. Marjie wasn't home and my girls were in bed. Luckily, Marjie showed up within 5 minutes and I just sat down on the couch feeling totally "wrong." I was NOT OK. She came in and said I looked as white as a ghost. She laid me down and propped up my feet to get blood moving to my head. Strangely, this was NOT working as it should. I was feeling nauseated and felt the room closing in around me. I felt like I was slipping away and couldn't do anything. (this is upsetting just putting this into words) OK, pause the story for just a minute: one of the reasons I fear passing out so much is what happens when my heart restarts. It's the same every time. Each sense comes back one at a time. 1st: I can hear Marjie saying "Nick! Can you hear me?!" I can hear her, but can't see her, move, or talk back. Then, I can see...straight up at the ceiling. I can still hear her shouting at me but I can't answer. It's like an out-of-body experience....like I'm not alive and "observing" something happening. Confusing, I know. Then, I can start to move and speak...more like mumble. Almost immediately, a flood of emotion hits...I just want to start crying. Then, I start sweating, then get chilled, then sweaty again, and it continues. Oh yea, nauseated, too. It is just awful and it happens exactly in this order every single time, without exception. I've crashed through a shower door (the last episode in June 2006), woken up under a sink in a car dealership's bathroom after passing out and hitting my head on the counter top, and been flown off an aircraft carrier (the USS John C. Stennis CVN-74) after being found on the bathroom floor. OK, OK...back to the story: I passed out laying down with my legs raised and it all happened again. Afterwards, Marjie told me that I curled my arms and hands up like I was seizing while I passed out....and was moaning. I don't remember that...and that's pretty dang strange stuff for this tough ultra-running, never-stop guy! I laid there for an hour...hot/cold/hot/cold, then falling asleep...and finally felt like I could make it to bed. The next day at work (Friday), I didn't feel "right" until after lunch. It took that long to recover. What really stinks about all of this is that after the Rolls-Royce of cardiology testing I had 2 years ago, my cardiologist told me that I would grow more resilient to passing out as more time passes without an episode. So, this just hits the big 'ol RESET button. And so the clock starts tickin' again...
I've been popping ibuprofen for the past 2 days and did so at about 6am this morning in preps for our scheduled VR group trail run this morning. With trail shoes that fit tighter, I didn't want the pain of that toe stopping today's run...and it worked. Today's run gathered up 20+ fearless runners at the Boston Store at 7am for a deep snow, turned to mud trail run. It was only 20F at the start but the woods provided protection from the light breeze and the biting cold. I ended up with a refreshing, but short 13 miles. I did my 20 mile, 3.5 hr trail run a week ago and that was my last long run before the Tecumseh Trail Marathon in a short 2 weeks from now. All in all, I racked up 32 miles this week and will now "officially" begin my taper to Tecumseh starting tomorrow. Vince R., Greg D., Jim Chr., Rob L., and Brandon R. are all joining me on a road trip to Bloomington, Indiana two Saturdays from now.
On the positive side of life (outside running, of course), Marjie and I celebrated 16 years of marriage yesterday. Yea...we got married young. I was only 19...and woundn't have done it any different if I could! I got home at about dinner time and our girls were at their cousins for the evening. We spent the evening at a winery about 25 minutes west of us in Berlin Center. It's called the Mastropietro Winery and I highly recommend it. I had an appetizer of homemade potato chips and a delicious gyro wrap for dinner. Excellent! A catering company actually provides the food and the winery...well, they provide the wine! A tasting station inside the cozy cafe is there for you to try out the options first. We will definitely revisit in the spring/summer and sit outside by the lake. If you go, leave the kids at home.
Happy Trails, everyone!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
So, 28F and snow-packed roads await. Ahhhh, and look up there...there's Mr. Moon once again shining bright to light the way. "You mean to tell me that just as I step outside the house, the clouds part, the flakes cease, and under moonlight I stand?" A week ago I ran 7.2 miles under moonlight so let's try a repeat, but this time, pay attention and run 7.0 miles! I head out and the sound of crunching snow is music to my ears. I don't really love the cold or winter-time for that matter. However, I do love running in the winter and in fresh-fallen snow. The fresh snow and bright moon created an easy path to follow without the LED light of my headlamp. Out I go towards my quiet nook of roller-coaster hills, hiding wildlife, and little or no traffic. It is amazing how such a familiar course is so very different just 7 days later. The trucks haven't plowed yet so my tracks are the first. So far, so good for my Brooks. They feel absolutely perfect. Nothing feels out of place at all. I can tell now that it'll be hard to send them back in February. I just hope they make it to Vertical Runner's shelves soon thereafter. I'm already sold on them.
I get out to where I found the poor 'ol opposum on the bridge around 3 miles last week and sure enough, he lays packed in snow right where I last saw him. I start to wonder if Cigarette Man will be out this morning getting his paper. I'm guessing I won't see him and I'm right. Not a soul to be seen anywhere. I get to the 3.5 mile turnaround and wow, I've been clocking 8:07 miles and it's felt easy. I turn around with the goal to get back home with overall average pace under 8 min/mi. Time to pick it up on this slush/snow/ice mixture and see what these gorgeous Brooks' shoes are made of. I get back to my roller-coaster hills and cruise smoothly over all of them. Luckily, no Honda Odyssey this week going airborne over them. Mr. Moon still shines bright over my head, casting a shadow at my feet. Not quite full, but full of light. There isn't a cloud nearby this time so no need to sprint home. It does, however, look like I've really sped up...kinda feelin' like around 7:30-7:40 pace...a good thing...and it feels great! The cold air does wonders this time of year.
As I approach civilization again, I once again glance at my shadow and feel incredibly thankful for health, my family, my very good friends who I share with, run with, joke with, and cross the finish line with, and lastly...for every step forward. Each one truly is a blessing and I pray I never take it for granted. As I take the step into my driveway at home, I glance down at a very good thing: 7 miles, 2nd half average pace of 7:39/mi, overall pace at 7:53, and 1071 calories burned. Sweet!
So what about "Mental Warfare," the sub-title of today's post? I've heard a lot of talk about this time of year about not being able to just "get out the door" to go run. Let me encourage you to mentally defeat all the urges to stay in...all nice and cozy...and sedentary. You'll be warmed up soon enough and you'll be thankful you got out there. Don't have the correct clothes? Need I refer yet another person to Vertical Runner?!?!? The panels on their walls are nearly falling down due to the weight of so much winter gear. Plus, there are lots of specials going on right now. Just do yourself a favor, don't delay in getting out there....just do it and go...you'll be so thankful you did.
Happy Trails, friends!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
This past week wasn't too shabby. It started out pretty rough at work on Monday but Tuesday brought Veterans Day and a day off. Instead of running the trails, I suited up in my uniform with the intention of speaking to my daughters' kindergarten and 2nd grade classes about Veterans Day. Well, the word spread and after 5 hours at the school, I had spoken to 12 classes in all. I had a blast and I think the kids enjoyed it, too. It was a challenge, however, to switch gears when going from 5th graders to kindergarteners. Comprehension levels is just a tad bit different. A few days later, my daughter brought home a stack of hand-made thank you cards from the kindergarten class. That was the icing on the cake.
Wednesday and Thursday were wisked away as fast as humanly possible with the intent of getting to Friday ASAP. Friday was a day off and a day for a long run on the trails for 3 to 4 hours. With temps in the low 50s and trail conditions ranging from wet to extremely muddy, it was a great run. I parked at Pine Lane and took the Valley Bridle Trail over to Wetmore, followed the BR100 course for a bit, hit Butler Trail, took a right on Langes Run and returned to Wetmore. I then crossed the barricade and circled all of Wetmore. That was the muddiest part of the day and the shoes got totally mud/water soaked. I continued on to the Pine Hollow area off Quick Rd. and picked up Salt Run for a bit, then crossed A/P and jumped back on the Valley Bridle back to Pine Lane. I saw a countless number of deer, especially out around Wetmore/Butler/Langes Run. When there's a train of runners yappin' down the trail, a lot of wildlife scatters. However, when running solo and the only noise is trail shoes on fallen leaves, the likelihood of spooking animals and getting spooked go dramatically upward. So was the case for me. Since the coat of fur on the deer has turned more dirty brown/gray, they blend in with the tall browning grasses. There was one time when we both got spooked...I was so close I could reach out and touch him/her. The highlight was halfway through Butler Trail when I froze in my tracks. Now I'm no hunter, but I know a buck when I see one. I counted either 12 or 14 points on this beautiful animal. I took one step towards him just to get a better look and he took off, leaping high and powerfully. I just don't know how hunters pull the trigger. I, for one, could never do it.
Round trip was 11.75 miles. Once back to Pine Lane, I decided to do and out-n-back to the Boston Store. When the day was over, I logged 19.8 miles in 3.5 hours (remember the odd-ball 0.2 mile extra from my last post?!?!?) and ended up with 40 miles for the week. Not too shabby on a 4-day run week and only 14 days after Masochist. Here on Saturday, I feel like I didn't even run yesterday. All systems go! I will attribute part of today to how I immediately recovered. I made up the recommended Hammer Whey/Hammer Heed recovery drink and drank it within minutes of finishing. I followed it up with a healthy diet the rest of the day with plenty of protein, starting with my favorite Hummus Falaffel Rolled Pita from Aladdin's. YUM!
OK, guys...ever go to Hobby Lobby? Well, neither had I until yesterday. I was searching for some supplies for my 7 year old's school project that my wife said that "Hobby Lobby will DEFINATELY have that!" No kidding. Guys, take it from me: unless you're one part girly, stay away from this place. It is beyond overwhelming. I could not wait to get out of there. Walking in the front door, it was like getting body-slammed with a mountain of Chinese-made inventory of Christmas decor straight off the container ship at the pier. I understand: to some this is heaven. Not to this non-crafty, non-decorating, no-hobby guy. I was in sensory overload. (If it were up to me, I'd have marathon posters and medals hanging on my walls at home with a candle here and there.) I found the tiny little animals that we needed for our project and forgot any soreness from the run and sprinted for the checkout. Ahhh, my 2nd finish line for the day!
OK, feel free to comment on my last topic for today's post. (yea, I know today's post is a bit long but a "blog" is an online diary of thoughts...and mine [thoughts, that is] is spilling over today) It's the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run. It is held June 6th and 7th next year, 2 months ahead of Burning River. It's northwest of Chicago in Wisconsin...or more precisely, here. Essentially, I don't want to wait until August to tackle the distance again. My prime training season is the winter and I will mostly likely (as long as injuries stay away) come out of it stronger and fitter. The KM100 is comprised of 2 out-n-back sections. The first is 100K (62.4 miles) and the rest is about 38 miles, a different out-n-back. From what I hear, it's not as technical as our beloved BT or nearly as hilly, but it does rack up 12,000 feet of elevation gain. Weather is the X-factor. Just about anything could happen. Last year it hit 92F, 100% humidity, thunderstorms, and tornado warnings. It's a total crap shoot....but so is BR100. Support and organization have a great reputation from everything I've heard within the ultra community. The picture to the right is Clementina from Peru holding the hand-made Kettle...the prize for crossing the finish line. Not a buckle, but very unique and a prized possession in its own right. You can vote in my very own poll over on the right side of this page.
Happy Trails, everyone!
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Today, I've included a few pics my dad and I took during our rest break on our drive home on Sunday. They are from the Grandview area of the New River Gorge in West Virginia. Some gorgeous views up there! My recovery has gone very well this week. I had my most painful, but necessary deep tissue massage on Monday night. On Tuesday, I ran an easy 4 miles and felt good. I took Wednesday off for more recovery and tissue rebuilding. Today, I ran an easy 5.5 and again, felt great. This Saturday, I'll be back in my "element" on the trails in the park with friends. I hope to cover around 15 or so all on the trails....ahhhh, it'll feel good! No giant rocks, either! Oh yea, one result of the Masochist I'm not so thrilled with: I've lost the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th toenails on each foot many times over the years so no big deal there. However, I've never lost a big toe nail. I fear the left may be in jeopardy for the first time. I am NOT happy about that! I'm crossing my fingers that it'll hang on, but it's not looking too good right now!
Monday, November 3, 2008
From the very beginning, the aid stations were very well done. One thing I think was great was that they filled 1 gallon jugs with water and electrolyte drinks which made the re-filling process upon aid station arrival extremely fast. No standing in line to refill out of the cooler.
Another thing was the presence of salted/boiled potatoes. I’d heard from many people that this is a great fuel source but I’d never had it before. Anxious to learn if it would work for me, I starting scooping them up each time I saw them, along with the occasional PB&J, M&Ms, bananas, oranges, and the best thing…Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Energy deprivation seems to be a real problem for me in ultras, so the MMTR was yet another day to test some new strategies. I headed out with one handheld, one bag of Clif Shot Bloks, 5 gels, 2 Pure Fuel bars, and a compliment of Endurolytes. Lesson learned from Burning River this past year: don’t wait till Mile 30 to take salt tabs. With that in mind, I took 2 Endurolytes every 45-60 minutes and alternated one Shot Blok and a gel each hour. That, along with the “real” food at the aid stations, should’ve kept me fueled. The longest distance between most aid stations is 2-3 miles. The longest leg is a tough 5.2 mile loop on another challenging trail. This is where I ate a whole Pure Fuel bar. Unfortunately, this was from Miles 33-38 so my mouth was really dry and required lots of fluid to get the bar down which meant I ran out of fluid too early before the AS. Oh yea, another little “incident” on this trail. Due to the extremely rocky terrain all day long, I nearly had my own face-plant when I tripped. On the way down, I grabbed onto a flimsy 1” diameter tree with one hand and with the other hand, dropped my bottle and clinched my right calf. Why? I got the mother of all Charlie horses in conjunction with tripping. My right calf was so tightened up that it felt like a baseball in my hand. Now THAT hurt. I just stood there waiting for it to subside. My AS fuel goal from that point on was to consume as many bananas and oranges which are loaded with potassium to help prevent that from happening again during the race and also after the race when I normally get them. (that worked, by the way)
Back to maintaining energy levels: overall, with temps that climbed into the 70s with full sun (NOT in the forecast, by the way!), I am very happy with how I felt…energy wise. (Looking back at the race’s history, it was a warm day). Nothing upset me at all. The potatoes were great! I loved them and never got tired of them, which I do with PB&Js in the later miles of ultras. One thing I was NOT happy with was the different electrolyte brands. One aid station, it’s Clif and then the next, it’s Moon. I really think you need to stick with one. Not a problem for me personally, but this causes intestinal distress for some runners. I think Clif tastes more like Gatorade and Moon tastes more like Hammer’s Heed…very different tastes, indeed. Luckily, no problems for me.
The terrain: an overwhelming majority of the course is wide, groomed gravel access roads. When not on those, you are tip-toeing through extremely rocky trail. Oh how I appreciate our trails in NE Ohio…much more enjoyable and less treacherous to the body. I’m sure some people take nasty falls out there and get cut up pretty bad. The only really blistering downhill in the whole race is within 2 miles of the finish. By this point, my toes hurt from being jammed all day, my hamstrings were trashed from the uphills, so what’s left? The quads! One last attempt by the Masochism to trash what’s left of my legs. However, this is the best place to have the downhill just in case someone comes through the last aid station at 47 miles very close to the 12hr cutoff time.
Overall take-away: I’m glad I did it. I have zero regrets from preparation, fueling strategy, or anything else. According to the local newspaper, it was the peak weekend for the fall foliage which provided breathtaking vistas to soak in throughout the day. It was also a great to have my dad accompany me to Virginia and provide the encouragement at so many aid stations. This was his first exposure to anything past a marathon and I’m sure he saw a different side of humanity pouring through those aid stations all day. So will I do it again? Highly unlikely. I see value in doing it once and having the whole “experience” but I don’t see the value in doing that type of course again. I guess I’m really not one for getting pleasure out of pain!
Finishing time: 10hrs, 50min, 8sec
90 of 185 finishers
(I'm not sure of the number of starters...that's unofficial right now. A lot of no-shows, I hear.)
For now, I started my recovery immediately at the finish line with Hammer’s Recoverite followed by Hammer’s Whey on Sunday morning. Halfway home, we stopped in the New River Gorge area of West Virginia and took a challenging hike in the “Grandview” area. We hiked the short trail very slowly but it felt good to wake up all the muscles. It was a gorgeous place to take a break to stretch the legs during a road trip. Next up will be my deep tissue massage by Lori tonight (she’s got her work cut out for her!).
I gotta testify to how I feel this morning (that being Monday morning): not too good! My arms feel like I bench-pressed yesterday (definitely didn’t happen), my legs feel like half-formed cement (thank you, lactic acid!), and I feel like I need an IV of espresso (in progress, thank you!). I actually had the intent of a short 4 or 5 miler to warm up the muscles and help the acid to move on out but after my tiptoe out to get the newspaper, that’s not happening. I think I’ll take some long walks in Canton today during my breaks just to get it all flowing a bit. Yea, I’m going to work as scheduled…there’s a weird type of pleasure going back to work as scheduled and acting as nothing happened over the weekend. Inside, I’m shouting for joy. Outside, they’ll only see my coveted Patagonia finisher’s tech tee. “2008 MMTR Finisher” it reads.
Happy Trails, everyone!