Friday, June 29, 2012

Race Prep for Saturday...and the Forecast

In just over 24 hours, I'll embark on my longest effort to date since my last 100 mile finish in October 2009...a 12 hour endurance trail "race" in Franklin, PA...about 90 miles to my northeast of my home in Ohio. I've always wanted to run a timed race vs. a distance race just to see what I could do. The most common timed race is the 24hr race and is often on a roughly 1 mile groomed course. This one is on a 5 mile trail going around a lake. The main beach/concession/pavilion area will serve as the start/finish for the day and each loop and will have the main aid station for us.

I'm feeling pretty good, actually. Am I undertrained? Oh yes. But, I'm in the kind of shape that at the drop of a hat, can head out and run 20-30 miles without a in point, the cruise ship a week ago or the "Rabies Run" a month prior to that when I did a full marathon trail run into the night with zero preps. No problems, no injury, and nearly instant recovery. So, I'm curious where my endurance and capability truly lie. This should serve as a good test.

Mental, mental, mental....yes, many will CALL me mental for doing this but I'm talking about the name of the game. It's all mental. Physically, I can run for 12, 24, or more hours. Mentally, though, I'll want to quit long before that. It's navigating those mental barricades that is key to success. I know from experience that when it sucks the worst, to keep reminding myself that it will turn for the better...eventually. Believing that, though, in the "heat" of the moment is the problem...but it's also the key to success.

Besides mental, eating and drinking regularly is a must and paying close attention to my body and what it's truly saying is equally important. No need to do something so bad to where I don't return home or injure myself so I can't run anymore. Many folks know what a DNF is: "Did Not Finish." It's what I got next to my name at the 2008 Burning River 100 after dropping at Mile 55. What we ultra runners affectionately call it, though, is "Do Nothing Fatal." Be smart, not stupid. If the time comes, live to run another day instead of not running at all.

So I'm putting my list together and mentally prepping this morning. I'm going to set up a little station at the start/finish with a folding chair and have a little fun with it. People will have no doubt whose chair it is. Let's just say it'll be a combination of my Brooks sponsorship mixed with Old Glory. I'm also going to take my cooler out there and put some goodies in there like a few homemade hummus wraps that I'll make tonight. I make a killer homemade hummus so I'm going to put a thin layer atop a wheat wrap and stage that for when the craving hits...perhaps a few Reese's chocolates, too. I'm also going to take a few extra tech tees if I just need a fresh change of clothing to feel better and anew along with a new pair of socks if need be. Bug spray with Deet will also be there. Hot, humid, and near a lake...yea, I think bugs/flies could be an issue so I want to plan for that. Besides that, I'll just wear a waist pack and/or handheld with fluids and some of Heed's Perpetuem staged and ready. Perpetuem has electrolytes in it but also protein to interrupt the body's turning to cannibalizing its own muscle for fuel. It basically interrupts that from happening and provides fuel. It's thick and not good tasting but was a huge part of finishing my 100s in 2009.

For now, though...time to eat well today and keep the water intake going. As you can see by the forecast, it's going to be a thick, high sweat morning with humidity dropping a bit as the sun reaches its peak in the sky. Overcast would be perfect as to block the direct rays but no matter how you cut it, it's going to be a steamer. My goals? Hmmm....don't really want to put that out there except to say I really want to run all 12 hours and not stop early which many will most likely do. I want to see what I have and to gauge if I really want to challenge a 100-miler again in 2013.  If I do, I have my eye on the Bear 100...a 100 mile race from Idaho into Utah with a 21,896' climb and descent...and a 36 hour time limit vs the normal 30 hours...a tell-tale of difficulty. It sounds intriguing to me and after watching the video, Dancing the Bear, it certainly has me very interested. It's held the final weekend of September each year.

Have a great day and weekend, everyone. My next post will be the post-race report on the Run Between the Suns 12 Hour Endurance Run.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Back to Burning River

Back from vacation and stepping stones already exist between now and when school goes back into session....good grief! We're not super busy in our home but we do have major events that never span over a week apart between now and the end of August. First off, I'm running in my 12hr trail race in (gulp) 3 days time. Two weeks later is my 2nd 50K of the year, the Buckeye Trail 50K, and two weeks later is the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run that I ran and finished in 2009 in 27hrs, 11min. In between those weeks are other things, too, but regarding running "stuff," that's the near-term schedule.

Forecast for Saturday for my 12hr? 90F. (gulp x 2)

Forecast for Buckeye Trail 50K? That's easy. Hot. Always is.

As for Burning River, the answer is "no"...I'm not running 100 miles again...yet. Instead, I was asked to pace a friend from the East Coast for the final 35 miles. Tom Sperduto ran the Oil Creek 100 with me back in 2009, it's inaugural year. We didn't meet but we were some of the last folks who finished the race. This year, he's doing a "grand slam" of 100 miles in a very short period of time. His first was the Kettle Moraine 100 earlier this month then two weeks later he did the Mohican 100. Both, he finished. The "Kettle" was actually my 1st 100-miler back in 2009. Next, he's running Burning River with a 4th 100-miler a week later. Tom lost his mom at age 40 to breast cancer and is now 40 himself. He's doing this to raise money for breast cancer research and all my job is to do is to help keep him moving forward for his final 35 here at Burning River, a course I know extremely well. Relentless forward motion, staying awake, and "eating, drinking, and peeing"...gotta help ensure all systems keep going for his 3rd grand slam finish. I think my schedule for the next month will prep me well to not fail Tom. Interested in checking out his fundraising efforts or maybe helping out? Here's his site.

Along the same vein of support and "being there," my routine read at 3:30am brought forth this today. It's from FamilyLife's "Moments with You" series and while not tied to pacing at a 100 miler, it shares some similarities. I'd like to share it not because I'm pacing but because I believe in it when it comes to family and close relationships and well, I've felt the gravity of this in recent times. It most certainly tugged at my heart strings. Enjoy and let it soak in....

"Gary Thomas, author of such inspiring books as Sacred Marriage and Authentic Faith: The Power of a Fire-Tested Life, tells the story of two American soldiers who became fast friends during their preparations for combat in World War I. Though they had known each other only a short time, the camaraderie of battle and their shared dreams of postwar life quickly cemented their relationship.
One day, these two buddies crawled from their foxhole with the rest of their unit in an attack on the German forces. After a valiant fight, the order was given to retreat. But only one of the two friends returned to the trench. The other had been hit by German gunfire and was lying about 50 yards out of reach.
Against his commanding officer's orders, the other soldier crawled out of the ditch to go find his fallen comrade. Hugging the ground and dodging enemy bullets, he worked his way across the bloody, corpse-littered ground until he finally located the friend he sought. Finding him semi-conscious, they were left with only a few seconds together before he died.
When the man returned to the trench with the body of his soldier friend, the ranking officer flew into a rage for this flaunting of his order. "Was it worth it for you to risk your life?"
"Absolutely, sir. Because when I turned him over, he looked up at me and said, I knew you'd come.'"
That's the kind of loyalty we are called to in all our relationships--especially in our homes and families. Your spouse needs to know without a doubt that when you are needed, you will be there. Your children need to know they can count on you, not just in a pinch, but also in their most routine of expectations. When they need you, can they be sure you'll come?"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

White Horse

"I pity the fool!!!!!" ... who misses mornings like this. 50 crisp degrees, star-filled sky, and dew resting upon the rolling cornfields. The air smells so good, too. Days like this it's EASY to be thankful. On "our" run this morning (that's right, I got my running partner back), we enjoyed an easy, rolling 6 through the countryside and on the way back spotted our favorite horse...a beautiful white horse that always roams a large field no matter what the season of the year. Mighty, strong, peaceful...I love just to pause and literally say "Good morning!" Here she is. (I don't know if she is a "she" or a "he," actually.)
As we got back, dawn was breaking, birds were singing and eggs/toast made. A great way to start the day...6 miles through the countryside, mostly enjoying the birds in silence and absorbing the gift we have to share with each other.
Brooks Pure Connects providing the perfect ride...along with Old Glory and the Bald Eagle. :-)


Monday, June 25, 2012

Thoughts on Writing a Book

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts…
I’ve been toying with the idea of putting my thoughts on paper in a larger format beyond a blog and something more permanent…as in a book of sorts. I’ve been encouraged by countless friends and family to do it but have felt the “nudge” to do it. Sometimes, you just need to wait for that light to turn on deep inside and I feel it did yesterday. For now, I’m just trying to organize my thoughts and throw some bullets out there which I suppose could be possible chapters. But first, I think it’s important to establish the “why” of heading out on such an endeavor and say what exactly is the purpose or reason behind the effort.
With social media, endless running blogs, and books like Scott Jurek’s “Eat & Run” book that I’m currently working through, there is an over-arching theme in many…the pursuit of something transcendent, something pure, something ….”more.” Almost always, I want to reach through the screen or into the book and shake them because I feel I’ve reached that point or better yet, “tapped into the well” of never-ending fulfillment and joy. Not only have I found it, but I see it in so much around me. Undoubtedly, though, I’ll offend. I’ll offend because it’s counter-cultural here in the U.S. and discounts claims made to the “Universe” or any other inanimate “thing” or “idol” out there. No, I’m not close-minded and no, I’m not being judgmental. I simply believe wholly that the answer is right there in front of every one of us should we choose to see it…and accept it. Running is not a means to grab onto it, either. However, running has enabled me to dive and dive deep. So much that I can’t imagine plugging music into my ears on a run. That would essentially shield me from experiencing something monumentally over the top. So why? What’s the purpose? To tell my story from that of an imperfect person, a selfish person, an out of shape person to that of a person who has sacrificed family time for multiple 100 mile finish lines…to a person who has deployed to war only to have priorities thrown into the blender, life re-organized, to now…where I am now, where running, my spirituality, service to my country and my family co-exist…and what’s coming up. Call it a running meets spirituality autobiography of sorts, I suppose. Will anyone read it? I don’t know but I feel like I need to write it.
Some initial thoughts on its framework: 1) Childhood and the pursuit of perfection; 2) Early marriage and joining the Navy as a teenager; 3) Introduction of Long-Distance Running; 4) Our Family Expands; 5) Return to Ohio and Introduction to Trail Running; 6) 100 Mile training and Finish Lines; 7) Re-Joining the Navy and Deploying to War; 8) Welcome Home; 9) Life’s Reset Button; 10) Return to the Trail
Of course, there will be a few themes constant throughout and traceable to the present. I would also like to incorporate inspirational quotations to begin each chapter and training/life advice to close out each chapter.
Care to comment or opine? I’d appreciate any feedback you’d care to share. Thank you!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

10 Miles...Upward and Outward

I woke up this morning not necessarily on the wrong side of the bed, but simply "off" a bit...surely you've been there, too. Frazzled...alone...I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I not only wanted to run, but I needed to, so I did. I hit the pavement alone today, unfortunately, so I got some Casting Crowns ready on my iPhone and headed on out on my aged Pure Connects...still amazed how they are holding up under a 200lb guy...only a few millimeters between my foot and the earth.

Weeds? Yes. Beautiful? Yes.
Breathing, pace, form...all distracting me as I headed out on my very private, quiet, peaceful 10 mile run through the farmlands near where I live. As one who has gone the distance for over 30 hours, I understand the mental part of running and it's role. It is something to be controlled or it will wreck even the shortest of runs. For today, running was far more enjoyable and easy if I simply didn't think about...wait for it...running. I unplugged and soaked it all in and let my mind wander into the future. The future of today and what we'll do as a family and the future over the next few our future in the coming years. I ran by countless farms, corn that is FAR higher than "knee high by the 4th of July," saw about 15 baby calves at a cow farm, and the remnants of a late night party where the fire was still smoldering. I missed my running partner but I kept my thoughts on the world around me, my bride, my girls, and how thankful I should be. I also thought about that cruise again and how so many (the overwhelming majority) in this world are focused on self. We are all born a selfish person thanks to that Garden long, long ago at The Fall. Choosing daily to be selfLESS is doubt. The intangible benefits from living that way, though, far outweigh anything this material world can ever...EVER provide.
One of our most favorite spots on our route. Regardless of the season or time of day, it's beautiful.
So 10 miles are done on a gorgeous Sunday morning. Another run to ground me and put me where I need to be....arms outward and upward instead of hanging down and pointing inward. This will certainly be a mantra I'll repeat in 6 days time during my 12hr race. By the way, I never did turn on my music this morning. Plenty of creation around me to keep my mind occupied. :-)
Post-run power breakfast. Strawberry yogurt over organic granola topped with fresh blueberries and raspberries.
Have a great Sunday and last week of June, everyone.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

DC, Reading, a Cruise...and more running

Three+ weeks off...really needed it, I think. Whether you've ever written or not, you do need time to recharge those batteries and I got it. Honestly, I could write several chapters over the last 3 weeks but I won't bore you...instead, I'll stick to my handy-dandy bullet format. Nice and easy and I can share the biggest amount in your shortest amount of time available. Nice, eh?!

Bermuda Sunset at the pier
- 8 day cruise to Bermuda, Boston, and Newport, RI done. I think that was our 7th cruise since we got married nearly 20 years ago. Things certainly have changed over that time and it absolutely, positively matters where you sail out of. We sailed from Baltimore, MD instead of the normal Florida sailing into the Caribbean. Among the many things we learned: 1) it's amazing how angry and bitter so many people can be on vacation. 2) Even more so, it's amazing how people's manners are left ashore (if they even have any). 3) If you're a single guy/gal looking for eye-candy, don't sail on a ship out of Baltimore. 'nuf said. 4) Just because you're going to Bermuda, it doesn't guarantee hot, sunny days. We had one overcast day with a cool breeze and the second day ended with us running in a torrential downpour. (that was actually one of our highlights) 5) WAY better times can be had never purchasing an overpriced excursion and simply getting out there and exploring. 6) Many times I felt like I was on a cruise for the National Association of Nursing Homes...if there is such a thing. 7) Some of the most amazing sunsets and sunrises are had at sea. 8) Running 20 miles on the top of a cruise ship IS possible. (June 21st = 80 laps = 20 miles) 9) You can fry just about anything...and everyone will eat it. 10) I slept more this week that a month back home...combined. 11) I am perfectly happy just "being" with my matter what we are doing. 12) I will never volunteer for the "Love and Marriage" outtake of the popular Newlywed Game show from the 80s. 13) Everyone has a mirror in their stateroom. Please use it and make decisions not just for yourself but on behalf of fellow cruisers. 14) Scandinavian women's hair look like butter. 15) Boston is awesome. We MUST go back and explore more. 16) If ever given the opportunity to go back on active duty and be stationed at Naval Station Newport, I will JUMP at the opportunity. 17) Cake vodka? Yep...that with pineapple juice created my favorite cake...the pineapple upside down cake....well sorta. :-) 18) I'll never get tired of playing rummy for hours with my bride...and beating her silly. 19) Just because food is served 21.458 hours per day, doesn't mean you need to eat 21.458 times. 20) You really don't need to gain weight on a cruise. An endless supply of fresh cut fruit and salad ingredients made some really yummy meals! 21) It'll be awhile till we cruise again. Wilderness, solitude, and family are in our future.

Front door of the Supreme Court
- Prior to our 8 day cruise, we took 4 days and as a family, devoted it to visiting our nation's capital. We did it cheaply, too. We got a hotel just inside the beltway in Maryland, used points for one free night stay then prepaid the other two nights for significant discounts, then used the train system for all transportation. We never moved our car until we left for home. Debt-free vacationing is AWESOME! Our girls were real troopers, too, with miles of walking in 90+ degree heat. They had a great time and hardly a shred of complaining.

- I'm currently reading Scott Jurek's new book, Eat & Run. Scott is a 7-time straight champion of the Western States Endurance Run, which is actually being run as I type. Western States is basically the Super Bowl of 100 mile races out in California.  His new book is basically autobiography meets vegan recipes meets running advice meets inspiration. It's very interesting and both my wife and I are working our way through it. Prior to DC, I received an advanced copy of it due to my sponsorship with Brooks (he is sponsored by Brooks) and in it was his book tour schedule where he was doing group runs in city after city then having talks and book signings. Well, he was slated to be in DC when we were! So, on our first day, I wore my running gear all day and went out to Arlington, VA and was able to run with him. I did get him for a few minutes during the 3+ mile run. I did my best to recruit him to our trail running hotbed but he clearly loves the high elevation runs out west...but does plan to retire in less than two years from professional running when we wants to run some midwest 100s "for fun." Yea, right! Here's where he signed my copy of his book.

Scott and I post-run and my signed copy of his book. :-)))
- 80 laps aboard a ship? Yep. Well, it kinda went like this: "Running" woke me up at 4:22am. Yes "it" did. I kissed her good morning (that kiss represents a promise to each other every morning and NEVER do I get up without doing it.) and told her "don't ask what time it is...I'm going running." By 5:03am, I was running...topside, Deck 10, on a steel deck in minimalist Brooks Pure Connects, on a 1/4 mile ready for sunrise. Honestly, I had no intention of running more than 6 but as I progressed, it felt effortless, I was alone, and I figured that she was still sleeping so why not keep running??? I had no food or fuel to speak of...just an empty cup for water. So, every 6 miles, I stopped and refilled the cup, went to the bathroom, and kept on going. I had a mantra and ritual I'd do each lap to keep track of my progress since one could lose their mind keeping track of this. A little over 3 hours later, I finished and called down to our stateroom and I'm thinking I woke her up (she still denies this!) and asked if she was ready for breakfast because I sure was. 20 miles sea!
The beginning of June 21st

A little bit later after the sun cracked the horizon

Gorgeous, isn't it? Too bad I was nearly the only one onboard who saw it.
- Speaking of running, this time next week I will be about 90 miles to my northeast in northwest PA. I'm running my first timed race...a 12 hour trail race. It'll be on a 5 mile loop around a lake in a park. Basically, I just run for as long as I want and hopefully, for 12 hours, and see how far I can go. "Why?" you ask? Because I can. I honestly can't wait to go. It's been awhile since I pinned on a bib number.

- Speaking more of running: the 100 mile bug is nippin' at my heels again. I will reevaluate how true that nibble is after next week's 12 hour trail race. I don't have a particular one in mind...some ideas, but no details yet. I want to know if this desire is valid and next Saturday will help me make a sound decision. If I do, I will train very differently this time around and how I organize my training will be overhauled.

- My favorite quote so far from Scott Jurek's book is "Sometimes you just do things." His dad used to say it to him when Scott (as a kid) would ask the "why" of doing something. His dad simply replied "Sometimes you just do things." That stuck in his head as he ran, ran, and ran some more and pushed himself to crazy limits. I love it and it really explains much of why I run. Yea, it doesn't explain JACK but that's the point! There isn't an explanation. "Sometimes, I just do things." ~ Me.

- Under favorite posts over on the right, there is a link to the 7 Baby Steps to getting out of debt. There are some of you out there who read this who are doing just that or have arrived. This cruise was the first one we took debt free. Paid for in full (not on a credit card) before we went and every cent paid for in cash. We owe nobody a cent. We haven't had a credit card in almost 2 years now and have no intention of ever going back. We are proving it can be done, especially when my wife is off all summer and not working. Keys to success? A written plan (budget), teamwork with your spouse, and sticking to that written plan. We're not debt free completely...we still owe on our home and nothing else, but we re-financed that from 30 to 15 years and pay more on every payment to principal. We believe we can do it in 10 years, though...and we will. No better time to start than TODAY!

That's enough for now. I could go on but the evening is growing old, the sun is lowering, and family time is at the ready. I'll do my best to start writing again...I really do miss it.