Back in the Running Game Again!

I thought I had it out of my system! I ran for several years and really enjoyed it. But I reached a point where I felt “I’d been there done that.” So I thought I’d retire from competitive running. As it turns out I guess I was only taking a break! Little did I know!

So, how did it happen? After all the years of trying to get my grown daughter into running she finally entered the arena – after I had already quit! Then she started pounding me to run a race with her. So I started playing a game by telling her that I might be entering a race she was in, with no intention of entering. She likes the shorter distance stuff which I think is for young people and not for those of us over 50 runners. Short distances seem to be just a “speed only” race which lends itself to youth – in my opinion. With longer distance races it seems to level the playing field when strategy enters the field. That distance for me begins after 30 plus miles which is known as an ultra distance.

Then I get a message on my phone… Hey dad I’m running the McKay Hollow Madness trail race on Monte Sano, you in? Then in a moment of weakness I found myself on ultrasignup giving them my money and the training began. Only problem is the short distance of 7 miles – I don’t stand a competitive chance. Oh well, it’s a start and we’ll be running our first race together which will be awesome. As an added bonus my two son in law’s are running it as well. It’s a family affair.

Due to the date of the race I was not able to train as much as I’d like and hey it’s only 7 miles. I’ve run as far as 50 – but I was in great running shape. Not the case this time. The McKay Hollow Madness, like other races on Monte Sano, was a legit trail race. That 7 miles felt like a 7 mile climb! When I finished I realized I don’t need to run if I’m not in great shape.

When all was said and done I finished 42 out of 96 with 19 that DNF’d overall, and 10 out of 18 in my age group with 3 that DNF’d. In my age group only 3 were older than me that beat me. So, overall it was a good first race back from my running retirement. Plus and the real “win” was I got to spend time with my family!

So, what’s next? Well let’s just say I’m into some serious training and I have a race lined up and entry fee paid… Could be the longest distance I’ve ever attempted… Stay tuned…

My Walter Mitty Life

I’ve always been amazed at what people have been able to accomplish in their lifetime. I enjoy reading about people that have done a lot of crazy things in search of adventure. I loved the movie the Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  So in light of this, I decided to write down all the crazy things that I’ve been able to do – so far in my life. I would encourage you to do the same because you probably have lived an awesome life that others might enjoy reading about!

These may not be in a chronological order but here we go:

Once lived in Cuba – dad was in the Navy

Registered myself for the first grade without my parents knowledge – walked to the school and went to the office to register – who does that?

Owned several motorcycles – Suzuki Trailhopper, Yamaha 100, Honda XL-125, Honda CR-125, Suzuki RM-250, Yamaha FZ-1, Yamaha V Star 1100

Started college at 17

Earned a private Pilot License just after High School

Ran a small sport airport on weekends for free flight time

Flown in homebuilt airplanes, flown in a world war II fighter – T6 and almost crashed

Once started building a homebuilt airplane – EAA Acro Sport II

As a child rode a Trailways bus to my grandparents

Set trot lines in a creek at night

Hunted quail on my grandfathers farm

Fished  in Ray Scott’s personal pond (founder of Bass Masters)

Was a Chimney Sweep apprentice

Held the ribbon for the Flying Mayor to tear while flying inverted – worked several airshows

Once searched for a skydiver whose chute failed to open while attempting a state record high dive

Got lost on my first cross country solo flight

Got to go whale watching in Boston

Visited the John Lennon memorial in Central Park New York

Saw a play on Broadway

Visited the Rocky Mountain national park

Saw Cirque Du Soleil’s – La Nouba

Been on two cruises – Nassau Bahamas,  Cozumel

Visited Key West – saw Hemingway’s House

Have vacationed in Disneyworld

Visited Elvis’s – Tupelo home and Graceland

Visited Beale street in Memphis

Attended a Superbike race at Barber motorsports park

Crashed a motorcycle on the street while skipping school

Was a passenger in a car that was totaled in a crash

Have seen a Gutenberg bible in person

Walked down Wall Street

Walked around Times Square

President Carter lectured in one of my Seminary classes

Attended a Professional Bull Riding event (PBR) with VIP tickets – was in room with Ty Murray

Had my picture made with Evil Kenevil and Roy Clark at a celebrity golf tournament

Was a High School softball and basketball official

Have coached basketball

Have been with rescue team while dragging bottom of a river looking for a body

Have been a Police Department chaplain riding with officers on patrol

Graduated from Candler School of Theology

Served multiple churches

I’ve run a 65 acre ranch for delinquent boys

Worked at an all girls treatment facility

Ultra-runner – Longest race was 72 miler, multiple races of 31 miles, marathons, etc…

Non-christian concerts that I’ve attended – Styx, KISS (in the early days),Commodores with Lionel Richie, Doobie Brothers, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Elvis – yup, Elvis!

Became a PADI(Professional Association of Dive Instructors) scuba diver with multiple certifications – Open, Advanced, Rescue, Nitrox, Divemaster

Lettered in tennis in High school

Set several state records in competitive powerlifting

Was once a personal trainer

Have participated in multiple sports – Jr. High basketball, baseball, softball, football

Taught myself to juggle – 3 and 4 ball, rings, Diablo, various balancing tricks. clubs

Owned several cool cars – 72 Chevy Nova,Datsun  240 Z, 55 Chevy 2 door hardtop, 68 Chevy Camero

Married to the same wonderful lady for 33 years as of this writting

Great kids and son in laws

Had throat cancer but survived – at least as of this day!

I’m sure there is a ton I’ve missed. But I have tried to take John 10:10 seriously when Jesus said I have come so you can live the abundant life.

Accepting Christ was the greatest thing I’ve ever done. Getting married and raising kids has been the second greatest thing I’ve ever done.

Take time at some point and write down all you’ve been able to accomplish, you might be surprised at how good a life God has given you. As a bonus others might be interested in reading it – I know I would.

Split Head and the Dizzy Fifties!

I completed another ultra race – 31 miles and some change on Monte Sano.  Here are the details from the race and my new training routine.

I decided to try a new diet this year called the Primal Blueprint in hopes of losing some belly fat. I combined that with heart monitor training. Heart monitor training is designed to help you race faster by training slower. You use a formula to determine your minimal and maximal range and keep your rate within those limits when training.

Heart rate training was incredibly frustrating in the beginning. I had to run a LOT slower than I was accustomed to in order to stay within the parameters set. But over time I graduated to a faster pace while keeping my heart rate low. Win, win!

The day before the race I began to monitor what I ate – if you recall this was the same race last year I lost my cookies and continued to do so for the rest of the day!  I decided not to eat after about 4 pm. in hopes of eliminating a repeat.

The race starts at 6:30. I want to be there an hour before the start – parking is sometimes a nightmare. This means I need to leave the house by 5:30am., which means I need to get up around 4:15 – 4:30am. That’s early folks!  I get up on time, get all my nutrition in the car, load all other gear, extra shoes, socks, blister repair kit, hydration pack, etc…  standard ultra fare for any race day. Find a great parking spot, set my phone alarm and try to relax until race time.

Alarm goes off. I get out of my car. Whatta you know! All the skinny people have shown up once again.  They ALL look more serious than I do. That may have had something to do with my decision to only do one long run per week leading up to the race. Of course I still ran multiple shorter runs but my longest run was probably no more than 13 miles. I was pretty loose figuring I’d start off near last and see if I could pass a few before the 4 or 5 hours passed. Yup, it takes a while for a 54 year old to run an ultra these days.

Things were going as scheduled for most of the day.  I had already decided I wanted to enjoy this race. Being out in the woods in the solitude of nature is pretty awesome – until my legs start to hurt! I spent a lot of that time talking to others but eventually I pretty much center on praying. All my nutrition decisions were going well so far.  No gels, just bananas, peanut butter sandwiches, some Gatorade and Coke.

Then it happened. One of my goals in every race is to not fall.  I know, I know, it sounds funny. But many ultras are run in the late fall and early winter.  That means that leaves are all over the trails. Add sunlight, shadows and leaves and you have a wonderful hiding place if you’re a rock. I use the term rock loosely, think more of an iceberg concept. The tip of the iceberg is just a small sign of what lies beneath. Same is true of rocks on many trails but certainly true on Monte Sano. If you’re even afforded  the  luxury of seeing  it, it looks like a small rock that you could kick down the  trail.  Usually not the case! What you see is just the tip of the unmovable boulder that lies underneath.

So here’s the usual chain of events for me and many others… Eventually your legs start getting really tired and want to cramp. Combine that with the fact that if you ever start leaning forward, as when one kicks a rock (attached to a boulder that’s not going anywhere) and you get a worst case scenario.  The perfect storm – leaves, shadows, rock, cramping legs, leaning forward and I can’t get my legs back underneath me. Then it happened, I went down.  I went down harder than any time before.  Picture in slow-motion… Legs are  tired, I’m cramping, I hit the tip of the rock, I start leaning forward, I try as hard as I can to get my legs back underneath me, not happening, I go down in briers then something happens that has never happened – I hit my head on a rock! Seriously, are you kidding me? Then I realize that it REALLY hurts. I reach up with my awesome yellow Nike running gloves, I pull it back down, BLOOD. Seriously?  I’ve cut my head? My knees are cut from briers and now  I’ve got to figure out if this could  be bad.  So I begin  to rub my head, just seemed like the thing to do to assess my situation. My gloves are getting bloodier and bloodier. Because I’ve been a lifelong fan of boxing I decided to jam my index finger into the cut like they do a q-tip in a cut in boxing.  After about a total of 10 minutes I get the bleeding to stop well enough to continue – I’m only half way done so I have to complete the race – right!

From this point forward when I run by the medical folks I do my best to turn my head or whatever it takes so they don’t see it.

Eventually I finish the race in one of the goal times that I set for myself and all is good.  My head still stings but I don’t think much about  it until a lady about 8 feet away says what did you do  to your head?  At that point I took a cut head selfie to see how bad it was. It actually took a few weeks  for all the scabs to disappear. Whatever!

All in all another great ultra with another great story.

Not because of the fall but this may have been my last ultra.  Been there done that. Will continue to run shorter distances for exercise but probably no more ultra distance stuff – but who knows?

 

Delano 12 Hour Endurance Race 2016

delano-parkShould I or shouldn’t I?  Do what?  Attempt to enter a 12 hour endurance race?  Still haven’t reached my limit so why not?  How do you set goals for something you’ve never done before?  Just take a stab…

Goals:

  1. Show up
  2. Finish
  3. Sub Goal 1 – Finish an ultra distance of over 31 miles
  4. Sub Goal 2 – Go farther than longest race attempted – over 35 miles
  5. Sub Goal 3 – Run 50 miles!

The story…

Race starts at 6am. So I have to leave the house no later than 4:30 am so I need to get up at 3:45 am.  Everything is already laid out – clothes, change of clothes, food, drink, visor, etc…  Like most races I can’t sleep so I’m up earlier than usual.  Take a shower then load the car and head to Decatur for my first endurance race.

Now for those who don’t know about endurance racing…  They are timed events, simply run as far as possible in the allotted time.  You can drop at any time.  It’s chipped timed, which means you wear a timing chip on your shoe and it keeps up with your laps. Pretty simple right?  Did I mention 12 hours.  This one will be from 6am until 6pm if I can hold out.

As I get to the race I get one of only a few parking spaces left.  I’m early because that’s just me!  Now it’s time to get some rest.  I pull my jacket up on me, recline my seat, and close my eyes, about 45 minutes until race time.  All went well for about 5 minutes.  That’s about how long it took someone to find the parking spot across from me, backs in and leaves his lights on – which of course were now shining in my eyes and they weren’t turning them off!  So yes, I turned mine on and flashed them on and off SEVERAL times to no avail.  OK, whatever.

Eventually it’s time to get to the starting line and I recognize my 2 nemesis have shown up.  The 2 ladies that pass me toward the end of what seems like EVERY race we’re all in.  But they are really good runners and they always let me run with them so it’s all good.  We all toe the line and the horn sounds…  Were racing.  Now racing is a relative term in ultra racing.  They all at some point become a trade off of running vs walking.  You can choose to run a lot and slog toward the end of the race, or walk too much and not finish well.  The optimum solution is to hit a sweet spot of combining the 2.  You just have to have done it enough to know what you’re body is telling you and listen to it.

Did I mention that most timed races are oval anywhere from 1 mile to 3?  Delano? 1 mile loop!  So now the race is also mental having to deal with the same 1 mile for 12 hours.

There’s an old saying in ultra running – if it hurts to run and it hurts to walk – then run! So you know at some point it becomes all about who’s willing to suffer the most.  For me, ultra running is a big head game, you must overcome the mental aspect.

So throughout the day my strategy was to never stop.  Literally, never stop.  In the end it worked out pretty much like I had planned – FOR ONCE!  Unlike the Dizzy Fifty Ultra where I messed up my nutrition, I hit this one spot on.  What did I eat throughout the day?  Peanut butter sandwich triangles, fruit and a lot of Mountain Dew.  Every so often i would slow down to grab something to eat while still moving for the most part.  I would walk just long enough to gulp down any liquid without spilling it all over myself, and I did that for 12 hours, only going to the restroom once.  I was for the most part moving for 12 hours.

What about those goals when all was said and done – glad you asked. I saw 35 miles plus, pass with time still left on the clock.  Then I had to make a decision.  Could I actually get to the 50 mile mark?  I started to calculate my time per lap and realized if I could keep this pace for the next 4 hours then I could do it with about 10 minutes to spare.  But what it was going to do to my body to keep this pace may not be worth it.  So that occupied my mind for a lap or two.  I mean, if you’re not an ultra runner, nobody really understands running 50 miles, what it does to you mentally and physically.  Even if I did it, who else would even care?  Well, I would!  I still had a goal ahead and I’m goal driven. So for the next several hours I kept the pace, then I started to really try to speed up – some.  Yes it was a gamble as I could cramp and not make the 50.

In the end I made the 50 with 15 minutes to spare.  As I came across the finish line for the last time, the race coordinators were encouraging me to run that last mile.  Nope, I’m good!

Finished 18th overall out of 80 runners that day in the 12 hour solo.

Finished 5th out of 17 in my age group.

 

2016 moment of weakness!

Mountain Mist1It seems to happen every race. I’m in the middle portion and all I can think about is I’m not sure when I’ll do this again!  Those thoughts usually hit when you feel like you’ve been running forever.

It happened last year during the Mountain Mist. It’s billed as the southeast’s toughest trail race.  That alone should make you want to skip it.  But NOOOOO!  That’s not how I operate.  That would be too easy. If you read my 2015 report on this race then you remember that it rained the day before and then snowed that night.  Not exactly great conditions to run in. But that’s part of the allure of trail racing – to see how much you can physically endure.  Why else would people run 31 plus miles, 50 miles and even 100 mile ultras?  I remember at some point of the 2015 race saying that running in these conditions just isn’t fun. It was just nasty!  Even after missing the last cutoff time I remember thinking that I’m glad I entered, but I’ll never do this one again.  I was fine with a DNF (did not finish) ran the best race I knew how to run and it just wasn’t good enough on that day.

But then it started as it often does for me, on the drive home.  I started thinking about what I had done wrong, in training and on race day.  Once I spoke with Eric, who has been my unofficial coach, he pointed out a key point – on a course as muddy as that one you can’t try to go around all the mud.  You must run through the mud!  Running around  the mud had cost me precious time.  I was ok with that, learned something for the future.  My legs were cramping, I was cold, it was  muddy and wet, I missed my last cutoff, I’m good.  I tried, don’t really care if I ever run that one again.

But then something happened this year. In a moment of weakness I found my hands on the keyboard and before I knew it I had somehow registered for the 2016 Mountain Mist!  What?  How did that happen?  I’ll tell you how…

Last year I had the hopes of Grand Slamming with the Huntsville Track Club.  To Grand Slam you must complete these 4 races:

Dizzy Fifties 50k on November 21, 2015,
Rocket City Marathon on December 12, 2015,
Recover From The Holidays 50k on December 31, 2015, and last, but by no means least,
Mountain Mist 50k on January 23, 2016.

Last year though I had  to miss the Recover Ultra, so I was out  of the Slam…

But this year I had finished all of the required races and finished top 10 in my age group at  the Recover from the Holidays a few weeks ago.

Then I made  the mistake of texting Eric to  let him know about my finish at the Recover from the Holidays Ultra and he subtly reminded me that I was on track to Grand Slam.  I had no intentions of running  the Mist but now I’m in – again.

I honestly question whether I’m in good enough shape to finish but I will line up at the start and see if I get pulled again!

So that’s how, in a moment of weakness, I registered for a race that I said I’d never run again.  Never say never!

Recover from the Holidays – 2015

HTCAnother 31 mile ultra in the books!

At the end of each year the Recover from the Holidays ultra is held on December 31 – New Years Eve.

It’s somewhat of  a misnomer to even have the word “recover” as part of this race name.  Not much “recovering” takes place in a 31 mile endurance race!

Here’s the skinny on this one, at least as I experienced it.

For me, it starts the day before.  It’s all in nutrition the day before.  Get this part wrong, and months of training are out the window on race day.  I decided on Chic-fil-A for lunch.  Original chicken sandwich and a side salad – with buttermilk Ranch.  Perfect choice and will go with this in the future.  But here is where things get dicey – dinner.  I like to eat early around 4 pm.  For this one I decide on a breakfast burrito that I’ll create myself.  I should have stopped there.  Two eggs and shredded cheddar cheese on a tortilla. But then I decided to make a side of grits – love grits!  Good there.  But then I decided a little fat would be nice.  So I decided on some bacon.  Not 1 slice, not 2 slices, not 3 slices, but 4 slices.  Seemed like a pretty good choice.  In retrospect too much bacon fat – can’t believe I just said that!

Race starts at 8 am. at the Huntsville Cross Country Course on Airport rd.  This is when it gets really interesting as  I have never run this course For whatever reason I was under the impression that  it was a pretty flat course.  Note to self – go run the course in advance when possible.  The race starts with a loop to spread everyone out then you run the same 3 mile loop 9 times.  Course was not flat!  Had one killer hill.  Not killer like you might have on Monte Sano, but it was tough since you had to go down it and back up it 9 times or so.  Now, if you’re not a runner, going downhill just thrashes your quads and knees. There were several long grinding uphills that weren’t necessarily steep but taxing nonetheless. Overall it’s a fantastic course.  Just enough flat parts to get your breath for the next uphill.  Then there was the really flat field run to the aid station which you passed on every lap.  GREAT aid station, coke, Mt. Dew, Poweraid, soup, candy and so much more.

When all was said and done I finished, which is always my first goal.  No real mishaps on this run.  Just had a great time and I’m really sore.

Following the race I was extremely hungry!  Problem, I was muddy and pretty sure I had a not so pleasant aroma!  But I was only a few miles from my favorite Mexican restaurant – Little Rosie’s.  You’ve already guessed what I did!  I went to Little Rosie’s in all my running gear.  Muddy legs, shorts, compression socks, and that lovely aroma!  It  was one of the best chicken burritos I’ve eaten.

This will be one that I will probably do again in 2016, including Rosie’s!

2015 Rocket City, Altercation and Huntsville PD

Rocket city

Here’s the skinny on my attempt at another Rocket City Marathon (26.2 miles).

From the start…

If you read my snafu from the 2015 Dizzy Ultra 31 miler then you know I got sick mid race.

So, for this one, my last meal was at 4pm on Friday..

Clock is set for 4:10am.  I get up at 4 pm., figures when I’m getting up mega early I’d get up even earlier than I needed.

Laid out all my gear the night before.  Car packed night before.  Like getting to a race one hour before.  Normally takes me about 40 to 45 minutes to drive to the VBCC in Huntsville.  WRONG!  Get there way to early!  At first can’t find where I need to park.   The deck I thought was to be open was blocked off.  Finally find a top secret entrance to the parking deck. No one else is parking there.  I start to wonder if my car will get towed.  Then, the super power of common sense kicks in – I don’t even care, I’ve got a great parking spot – for now!

Because I’m too early I decide to recline my seat in my awesome 1999 Ford Explorer with over 300,000 miles – more on that later as it comes into play before I get back home!  With my Ford it can start with a drive and end with a hike!

With about 45 minutes before the start I go into the VBCC.  Wouldn’t ya know it, all the skinny people have shown up – again.  While all the superstars are stretching and jogging, I find a seat and try to get some sleep!  I never stretch before a long race anyway.  I just usually get out of my car and go run 26 – 35 miles – HARDCORE!  Today I’ve decided to look like a marathon superstar and race without a handheld water bottle or my usual hydration backpack – in retrospect I can sum this up for you…  Didn’t take long for my thirst to remind me I’m no superstar!  They did have aid stations fairly close to each other so it wasn’t so bad!

The announcer then told all runners to find their way to the starting line.  A TV station had their drone flying above for the start.  I have already found my Pacer.  I decided on a pacer as I was hoping to finish in under 5 hours.  The pacer would assure me that I would finish in 4:55 or less! If I can keep an 11 minute pace for 26.2 miles and 5 hours.

Started off well but let’s cut through the chase.  I held on to the pacer for over 13 miles stopping only long enough at each aid station to drink a cup of water.  Now what’s awesome for the Rocket City is that they have a spirit trophy for teams alongside the road that show the most spirit.  There were HS drum lines.  HS cheerleaders…  Full classic rock bands, etc…  Somewhere around 13 miles I started to slow a little.  Just enough that I started to see my pacer start to pull away.

Over time I started to realize that with the heat I was not going to make my goal of under 5 hours.  It was at that point I started to really enjoy the race – using that term liberally.  Once you reach a certain point in the race you realize that just running a slow and steady pace will not be far behind the time accomplished going all out.  So I now set another time goal and start trying to make that time.  That was 5:30.  Not too far behind my original goal.

The course takes you all throughout Huntsville. Old historic downtown, little five points and out to and through the Space and Rocket Center.  You actually get to run under the Rockets that you see from the street.  Best part is the Huntsville Police Department stops ALL traffic for the race.  So you never have to stop for traffic!  WoooooHOOOOO!  It’s awesome.

Awesome except for the pain!  Seriously, running on pavement for long periods of time just beats you down.  Your legs just ache.  Since I’m a running hack, my legs begin to hurt early in races then It becomes a head game of how much suffering I can stand and for how long.

As with the majority of Ultra and Marathon runners there comes a time where you will start a walk/run strategy.  Since I ran the majority of the first 13 miles I needed to start a walk run to maximize my potential for a good finish.  Now, when employing this strategy your walking portion has to be a power walk, not a mall walk pace!  Toward the end I was starting to just pick a point to run to hoping I could trick my mind into running more than my body wanted to.  The superstars don’t have to do this but again, I’m no superstar!

When I reached the 25.2 mile marker something interesting happened.  Part of the race takes you through a rough part of Huntsville.  In the morning when we past the government assisted housing there was a man just sick at his stomach throwing up everywhere. Lovely.  But this time, in the same area, something more was taking place.  I run by there two men… Standing nose to nose while one screams at the other.  Apparently the smaller of the two had the “f bomb” as one of his spelling list flash cards as a child, as he kept using it in as many sentences as he could.  He really knew that word and wanted to let others now too! It did not take much to realize this wasn’t going to end well as they were about to fight.  Luckily there were police nearby and I told them about the altercation that was taking place and they sent a car to take care of the issue.

Now I’m running in a group.  I now decide that I want to race with just over a mile to go.  I pick out a few people that I decide will not beat me!  So the race begins for 1000th place and a mile to go!  I begin to actually pass quite a few people then get on the shoulder of another man who has no clue I’m about to blow past him.  But I decide to do it strategically to beat him down and break his will.  Cause I’m racin’.  So the finish line is inside the VBCC and it’s awesome as you come from outside to inside with people cheering and clapping and you get your finish line picture.  So I get on his shoulder and he’s not even aware – stealthy I am.  Not fast but stealthy – I’ll take stealthy over speed any day – Ninja like!  So, as we make the last turn from outside to inside, finish line in sight, the crowd is roaring as I begin to pass with incredible speed to beat him at the line!  Awesome!

Time?  5:26.  Accomplished my plan B goal!

After the race, I get my hat and my metal and drink 3 cartons of chocolate milk!  It was the greatest!  But all I was really craving were the 4 Mountain Dews (Real Men drink the Dew and not Sundrop, which is only a Mountain Dew wanna be).

Another Rocket City is in the books and now there’s nothing left but the drive home.  I walk up to the deck.  I notice that it’s now half full (half because the all finished before me!).  I open my door, go to sit down and all but get a hernia as I forgot that when I arrived I had reclined the seat and I fell backwards.  Wonder I hadn’t pulled something.  That would be my luck, run a 26.2 mile race and pull something getting into the car.

That’s my story of the 2015 Rocket City, Altercation and Huntsville PD, and I’m sticking to it!

Next race?  Probably the Recover – 31 mile ultra in a few weeks.

I don’t have time to write anymore on this a I need to go running!

Agony of Defeat – Dizzy 50 2015

running feet 2The Dizzy 50k, that’s 31 miles, ultra has come and gone for 2015!  It wasn’t pretty and I failed 50% of my goals!

Goal 1 – Finish the race!  Always my number one goal.

Goal 2 – Beat my time from last year.

So here’s the short of it all.  It all ended in the agony of defeat as the old Wide World of Sports once said.

My demise began on the Friday before the race.  I usually watch what I eat that close to a race (I use the word race liberally).  Not this time.  I was hungry alright!  So Julie and I usually have a lunch date on Friday and Saturday. So, since I had to drive to Fleet Feet in Jones Valley, I decided to eat at my favorite Mexican restaurant – Little Rosie’s Cantina at Whitesberg and Airport road.  Ordered a chicken burrito smothered in cheese – awesome!

After eating that wonderful meal we headed to Fleet Feet, picked up my race bib and headed back home.  Then dinner time rolled around. Got a hankering for Village Pizza.  You know, they say to carb up before race day!

Went to bed feeling like a million bucks!  Had one of the best nights of sleep ever, before a race (again using this term liberally.)  Woke up at 4 am. as the race starts a little after 6:30 am. or so.  Packed the car – you’d be surprised what you need to carry for all the “what ifs”.  Left on time and arrived on time.

Once again, all the skinny people have shown up!  When I run ultra’s apparently you weed out all those not really interested in running and mostly suffering.  I’m really just an ultra hack because I don’t appear to be as serious as some that show up.

Today I will be running with Jonathan, a guy that is part of my church.  I enjoy running with him and I have convinced him to enter this race.  I have given him all my running secrets and he is ready to go.

The starting gun mis-fires at the start but we start anyway – little did I know this was a sign of things to come.

Jonathan, who is 20 years my junior, choses to run at my pace despite my protest.  He usually has a faster pace than I do.  But he insists!  So off we go running in the woods for what we know will be over 7 hours.  That’s right 7 hours.

The first several miles I couldn’t feel any better.  I’m sucking down my GU gels (provides calories and caffeine) and chasing it down with Gatorade.  Then it happens around mile 15, keep in mind that’s just he halfway point.  I hear a rumbly in my tummy!  I’m getting nauseated.  I can now hear the Gatorade sloshing in my stomach.  It’s important to stay hydrated when you run long distances and I seem to have overdone it.  Now I’m in 2 races, one against trying to actually finish and the other against my stomach.  Eventually the inevitable happened.  Without getting too graphic, the volcano spewed. I was no longer carrying the bulk of the Gatorade inside me.  But you still have to stay hydrated so I had to replenish what I lost with more Gatorade, water, and gels, if I had any hope of completing my goal of finishing.  I had already written off the second goal.  It just wasn’t going to be my day.

Ever tried to run 15 miles with an upset stomach.  If you haven’t let me tell you it isn’t pretty. The volcano erupted no less than 6 times that day.  But I eventually FINISHED, and let me tell you I was finished!

While Jonathan finished with a great first ultra time (I eventually convinced him to leave me as I was sometimes having to walk to settle my stomach) I finished about 25 minutes slower than I had hoped.

Oh well, maybe next year.

But for now, that’s behind me and this weekend I’ll be running the Rocket City Marathon!

Woohooo,  it’s only 26.2 miles and I get to run throughout downtown Huntsville while all the cars have to stop!  🙂

2015 Georgia Jewel Race Report

PinhotiMy 35 mile ultra marathon on the Pinhoti Trail in the North Georgia mountains is in the books!

Was  I able  to finish or did I DNF (did not finish)?  Here  is a detailed description of the toughest race I’ve run to date.

Arrived at the host hotel at about 3 pm. the  day before the adventure was to begin.  All went well and we checked in without any hitches.  Race briefing was to take place at 5 pm.  Asked if I really needed to attend since i was only running the 35 miles and not the 50 or 100 mile option.  I had already set up a time to eat with my daughter and son in law at 4:30pm.  I like to eat early on race day to let everything settle.  At the last minute I decided it would be best to attend the meeting considering I would be in the middle of a trail I had never run before for 35 miles.

I won’t miss another race briefing!  Key piece of information – forestry commission marks their trails with markers that looked very similar to the ones marking the Georgia Jewel course.  Only difference is that the Georgia Jewel markers had a piece of reflective tape so you could see them in the dark.  Something you might want to know.

Another point of interest was the trail director was not at the meeting because his truck was stuck in the mud while delivering water to an aid station.  Water was rising at some crossings, etc…  Things that made everything more interesting.  And did I mention it had been raining all day and would be on race day?

After the meeting we had a wonderful dinner with my daughter and son in law then we all hung out in our spacious room.  Seriously, it was huge.

Eventually it was time for bed.  Alarms were set.  That’s right alarms, as in 4,  2 cell phones, a room clock and a wake up call.  Miss the bus at 5:30 am. and the race is over before it starts.  So what time was the alarm set for?  4:30 am. Georgia time – 3:30 am. my time!  Ended up getting up at 3 am. my time to start  the day.  My hydration pack was filled with water and other needed items to be running in the wilderness.  At  the last minute I removed my flashlight as the race start would be at 7 am.  This would prove to be a mistake.

Arrived at the Dalton Convention center at 5:15.  Checked in so they would know I was there and they could  track me throughout the race for safety reasons.  Two school buses arrive on time and we boarded the bus that would transport us to the 35 mile ultra starting line. These school buses were not made for tall people!  I felt like I had to do a split just to get into my seat! I had wondered why we needed to board a bus at 5:30 am. to get to a 7 am. start.  Didn’t take long for that to be answered.  We started to go up and down steep hills and declines.  An omen for what the race would become.  We eventually reach our destination, the starting line in the rain.  For whatever reason running makes you go to the bathroom!  So in good race  fashion everyone begins to  line up at the bathrooms.

After everyone finishes, most board the bus again just to stay out of the rain, as if that was going to make a difference in the big picture.  It’s still pitch dark, which gets me wondering, what time is sunrise?  As I ask around cell phones reveal that sunrise is at 7:30 am.  Well that means I had good news and bad news.  Good news is I have a  flashlight.  Bad news is it’s in my room.  Someone recommends to run with someone that  has a headlamp until sunrise.  Makes sense and I don’t have any other reasonable options.  Hey, I’m a plan “B” guy anyway.

At 6:50 am. we gather for a pre-race meeting, have a prayer then wait on the countdown and off we go.

My strategy was start slow and not get  caught up in those wanting to start fast due to race adrenaline. Then, try to run a mile then walk one minute where possible.  I would power walk serious climbs.  If you’ve never run an ultra, this is pretty standard strategy.  For most ultra running it’s all about strategy.  You are forced to run a lot to make any cutoff times but  if you wait to walk until you just have to, it’s too late.  It’s an endurance race that will last all day so strategy is key.  My goal was first to just finish, as this was the longest race I’ve had to date, secondly to finish under 10 hours.

Did not take long for the climbing to start.  When I spoke to Eric who gives me coaching advice, his first  words when I told  him I was running this was, “That’s a hilly course.”  Now Eric is a local ultra running superstar, so I did not take his comment lightly.

Here’s my overall description of the race….

  • Yes it was hilly!  More accurately, it seemed like we climbed for half  a day then descended the other half!  Any strategy of running for a mile then walking for a minute was pretty much out the window for the majority of  the race.
  • Rained for much of the day.
  • Started to develop a heal blister about midway.  Never developed a blister where it happened – due to the steep inclines.
  • Ran much of the race solo.  Hours at a time without seeing anyone until I reached an aid station.
  • Very woodsy trail.  Something hitting you in either your face, calves or arms for a good portion of the race.  i once was dodging something with my feet only to look up and have a branch in my mouth!  🙂
  • I think the last people to travel that trail were Louis and Clark 🙂
  • It was one climb after another.  Then the decent.  Quad buster running at its best!

Now for the detailed part….

  • At one point  in the race I said  something I never  thought I’d say, and I was excited about it…  I looked at my GPS watch and told myself  that  I only had 15 miles to go.  That’s when you know it’s a tough race for you, when you get fired up that you’ll be finished in a mere 15  trail miles!
  • Thought I was lost twice
  • Two others said  that most GPS watches were off by a little on this trail so we actually had less than 10 miles to go.
  • I eventually see a race representative, I’m thinking I must be getting close to the finish.  How much further?  3 miles.  I thought I was closer so that was not beneficial.
  • Then I had heard about  the steep downhill at  the end of the race to the finish line and thought I was on it – wrong!
  • The steep downhill was on a busy, busy street (2 lane) where cars are going over 50 miles per hour!  Very little space left to run on  the smooth asphalt which meant running in the brush on the side of the road.
  • Eventually I can see the finish at the Dalton Convention center – still on the busy road.
  • On the last part of  this downhill I look over my shoulder and see a runner making up some ground on me.  So far I have not fallen the entire day!  Awesome for me as when I go down I go down HARD.
  • Then it happened.  After seeing this runner making time I turned to make it to the finish.  Before I knew what happened  I was rolling end over end in the brush on this busy road.  My leg then cramps so hard I grab it in dire straights.  Wow did it cramp.  But this is a race and someone was about to pass me – again!  I knew I had  to roll over and try to stand up ASAP, no matter how bad it hurt.
  • I did.  They did not pass me.  I did finish the Georgia Jewel 35 mile ultra in 9:03!   I met both my goals!  Wasn’t pretty but I met them.

As I  write this two days later,  I’m still having a hard  time moving around! My quads are toast!  As I sit here in pain I sometimes wonder why I run Ultras knowing it’s going to eventually hurt during and after a race.  Then about 2 seconds of having  that thought I answer – because I love pushing myself to see what I can endure.  I still haven’t met  my limit.  But  I will  say that this race was incredibly hard due to the massive climbing –  in my opinion, and  for my level of fitness.  Your mileage will  vary.  But for me it was the hardest so far.

I would highly encourage anyone to sign up for this race next year.  It was really well run and had great volunteers.

But, the Pinhoti Trail is one to take seriously!

So what about the future?  I have the Dizzy Fifties 30 mile ultra then the Rocket City Marathon.  I also have some other  ultras in mind.  Ultimately I think I would like to try some 50 milers.

35 Miler Around The Corner!

Georgia JewelWho doesn’t enjoy a good 35 mile run somewhere in the Georgia mountains?

It’s that time of year again, time to run the ultras!  I can’t wait.

In fact I couldn’t wait, so I’ve entered a 35 mile trail race in Georgia!

The picture to the left is part of that race from what I understand. Those two dots are actually people!

The 35 mile race has a 30 hour cut off time.  That’s right 30 hours.  I  don’t think it will take me nearly that long but throw in a few of those steep hills and who knows?  My last 30 plus mile ultra took me about 7 hours.

The most interesting part of running ultras is being in the wilderness alone often not seeing other runners for over  an hour at a time.  Yes, thoughts creep into your head making you wonder if you took a wrong turn on the trail somewhere – that really happens.

I’ll let you know how it goes as it is a rain or shine event!