Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Lonely Princess, Parts 1, 2 and 3.

 To make it easy, I have put all 3 installments of the story here in one blogpost with notes.

 When I wrote the original story I had no idea that there would be any sequels and surely didn't imagine the ending at that time. The first one was actually inspired by a recurring dream I had been having for for several years but I can't recall having it for several years now.  Other characters although inpsired by several real people have changed over the years.

                                        THE LONELY PRINCESS

This is a short story I wrote in April 2005 on the back of a scrap sheet of paper after pacing at the  Umstead 100 miler.
It was a rough draft and I never finished it and now I don't know where it is so I am re-writing now while I sit here in front of my computer. Hope you enjoy it. This note was written in Sept 2006.

   He was a mostly normal boy who enjoyed doing normal boy things. But even at an early age he could sense that he was a little different from most of his friends and although he enjoyed playing with others, he enjoyed spending time alone with his thoughts. Many hours were spent in the woods behind his home, sometimes just sitting in a tree thinking.

  And he loved to read. He was quite good at reading at an early age and although the school library only allowed two books at a time to be checked out, they made an exception for him and allowed him to take home three at a time. History, biography, science, mystery, fantasy and fiction were all pored over and absorbed to feed his voracious appetite for knowledge, entertainment and yes, escapism. His favorite books were of the fantasy ge
nre, especially those having to do with knights and dragons and brave, adventurous deeds. He was mostly a happy child, but a part of him always felt there was something more out there and he was afraid he was missing out on it.

    After a while it was becoming harder to find books that would be of interest that he had not already read. in the school library . So one day, not having much luck finding anything of interest, he appealed to the librarian for help. She replied, yes I think I have just the book that you are looking for. She went to a nearby closet and returned with an old dust covered book that obviously had not been touched for years. As she handed the book to him, he cast a skeptical look her way. The title was " The Lonely Princess". Yes, he did enjoy reading of castle's and kings and knights in shining armor, but this looked like a girly book to him. The librarian insisted that he give it a look so he stuffed it into his book bag and went to class.

   There the book stayed for several days until boredom led him to retrieve the book and give it a look. Just as he suspected, there were no jousting knights or dragons to be fought in the book but what he did find was a story more compelling than he could have imagined and it became his favorite book, one that would be read and re-read over and over again.

   It was the story of a beautiful young Princess who was mostly normal. But she was not content to sit around in the castle looking pretty. She had a yearning for adventure that needed to be fed. All of her court could not understand why she couldn't be happy like a normal Princess would be. She had all the finest clothes, jewelry and people waiting on her hand and foot.  But she was not happy. She felt there was something more out there and she was missing it. She dreamed of leaving the castle and seeing the world, seeking adventure and slaying her own dragons.

    So one day she slipped out the castle , into the forest and began to run. And it felt good. So the next day s
he ran again only further. And soon she was spending nearly all day just running. Through running she was finding the freedom and adventure she needed . Of course the King and Queen didn't understand her strange behavior and tried to discourage her but this only made her desire to run even stronger. She didn't understand it either. She wished that she could explain but it was no use. So she just ran and ran.

   Years past by and the boy grew into a man. The book was packed away and over the years became a distant memory. And life began to take it's toll on the man. But even through all the hardships he still dreamed of adventures and exotic locations even though he knew that's all they were. Dreams.

  And then one day he stepped out the door and just began to run. And it felt good. So the next day he ran further and then further still. And through running he found something that was missing in his life. His friends and family didn't really understand it. Why the need to run so long and far? He wished he could explain it to them but he wasn't really sure he understood himself. But as he ran he smiled to himself for he knew that long ago and faraway there was a beautiful Princess that understood.

                            THE SEARCH FOR THE LONELY PRINCESS 

 This 2nd installment of the story was written and published originally in April 2007 and like the first one it is fiction but with a bit of reality mixed in.

    Progress had slowed to a mere crawl as the runner inched his way forward up the seemingly never ending climb. Even at this slow pace his heart was pounding at it's maximum rate as it tried in vain to bring enough blood to the skin surface to save the runner from over-heating. Finally, he could walk no more and slumped down, exhausted on a rock in a small patch of shade to escape from the relentless mid-day sun. His eyes burned as a river of salty sweat streamed down from his head and body forming puddles at his feet.

   What kind of cruel sadist would stage a 50 mile race in the middle of August on this rock-pile called Massanutten? But more importantly, why was he here running it in the first place? If it was always this bad he would quit he thought as he tried once again to lie to himself. Although he could never really explain it to anyone, deep inside he knew what drove him forward. And why he would continue to run until he would one day be unable to rise from his bed to greet another day. He had to because it was the spiritual string that connected them.

   He slowly removed his cap to wipe the sweat from his brow with his soaking wet shirt sleeve. Then he looked at her picture, scanned from an illustration in a child's fairy tale book that he had taped under the bill of the cap. At times like these he found comfort in talking to her. Even as bad as he felt, a smile crossed his face as he realized the absurdity of the moment. If they questioned his sanity before, what would they think of him now sitting on a rock in the middle of an ultramarathon in August talking to an imaginary Princess.

    He had been in love with her as long as he could remember now. For countless years, he had searched unsuccessfully to find her. As a child she began to come to him in dreams and they would

 play together innocently as children do, not yet understanding the definition of love. Then for many years the dreams stopped as the boy grew to manhood. But one night after a long absence, she returned to his dreams, now as a beautiful young lady. And as they recognized each other they would gather in a tearful embrace at the joy of finding one another. But then the dream would end and the Princess would be gone leaving the man once again alone.

   Over the many years he searched from face to face, eye to eye hoping to find her, believing that she truly existed. Several times he would meet someone and think the fairy tale would finally come true. But always it would just turn out to be more of a nightmare and the woman would merely be a Damsel in distress. Psychologist have a term for it, "white knight syndrome". Try as he may, he was unable to save them from themselves and in the process he began to withdraw from the world as he grew weary of the search. No, the True Princess would not need saving, nor did he. They just needed to find each other. And so despite the seeming hopelessness of the search, he could not let go of the vision. And as he searched and searched in vain, still she would come to him, the same dream repeated time and again over the decades.

   And now here he sat, parched and exhausted on a rock on a mountain, talking to an illustration. Long ago a big part of him had given up on finding the Princess. She still came to him in that same dream, but she was always the same as she had been so many years before. Still the same young, beautiful face with long black hair flowing gently over her tender shoulders. But time had not been so kind to the runner. The dark hair of his youth was now thin and gray and his face was showing the weathered stress of the passing years.

    Placing the cap back on his head, he slowly stood and stretched before once again heading up to the summit of the climb. And as he began moving forward, he knew he would not give up on his search. No, they would never feel the reality of that embrace in this lifetime, but somehow, someday across the barriers of time and space , they would be together. In the meantime he had a race to finish. She would understand.

                                 THE LONELY PRINCESS. FOUND !! 

Ok, here is the 3rd and final installment. I actually had this pretty much written in my head since writing part 2 back in 2007 but couldn't bring myself to write it. Recent events seem to have brought it back to mind and I decided it was time to finish it. It was hard.

    "Looks like I may get to run in some snow this afternoon. I know how much you used to love running with me with the big flakes falling around us" he said to her. Of course she made no response. She had been here in the nursing home for nearly two years now and any memory she may have had of those days were long gone, wiped away by the terrible dementia that had slowly but surely taken over her mind. For many years she had been his closest friend and confidante as well as running partner. In fact he called her his Princess although she was not "THE" Princess.. No, they had never had that type of relationship but they did love each other in the way that dear friends do.

    Although her mind and memory were gone he still came to visit every weekend. Usually he would come to visit after his run and tell her all about his adventures but today he came early before running . He stood and leaned over to give her one last kiss on the cheek and quietly turned to leave. He missed her so much but she was lost to him.

    It was just a short drive to the trailhead which led to the mountain summit. The skies were overcast and gray with a calm in the air and he could smell the snow that was forecasted to began falling shortly. He stepped out into the cold and began to shuffle at first but as the old muscles began to warm the motion became fluid and he felt young and alive again. The run always was there for him as it had been for over 50 years although he was now always alone, all the friends who had shared the miles dead or moved on.

   Still, he tried to get out everyday but his favorite run was the one once a month up to the mountain. It was here that he felt most at peace although it was now tinged with a bit of sadness as he thought of those special ones that had shared the miles with him so many years ago. The miles passed quickly as he bounded over the rocks and roots along the way so familiar to him that he could nearly run with his eyes closed and he savored every moment. The snow was starting to fall now lightly at first but soon the flakes had become huge. Oh, so beautiful and it brought a smile to his face. But now the trail was becoming steeper and the wind was beginning to pick up and he noticed the chill cutting into him.

    He soon passed a young couple of hikers that were descending from the summit. They said things were getting bad and they had turned back and advised him that he should do the same. He thanked them for their concern and assurred them that he would be turning around very soon once he got to the scenic overlook. He hated lying to them but he really didn't need them worrying about him. He would be going to the summit today.

    Quickly now the ground was covered in white and conditions were deteriorating but on he ran. Slowly his energy was failing and he began to shiver as he moved ever slower up the steep trail. Confusion started eating into his mind and the smooth stride was becoming almost a drunken stagger. He expected this having suffered hypothermia before in high moutain races before and oddly he welcomed the feeling today. Only a mile to go to reach the summit and by sheer will and determination he continued on, one step at a time.

    And then suddenly as if from a dream, through the near whiteout blizzard conditions he saw someone coming down from the top and in a moment he recognized her. She was just as she had always been, forever young and beautiful, athletic with the long flowing black hair as illustrated in the book of his childhood. She stopped in front of him with a huge warm welcoming smile and said, "I have been waiting for you !" Tears began to stream down his face and without a word they embraced as if they had known and loved each other a lifetime.

    Slowly Ranger Smith and his crew trudged forward through the foot of freshly fallen snow. There had been one lone car in the parking lot at the trailhead this morning and he was not feeling very hopeful that this was going to be a rescue. The young couple had reported when they came off the mountain late afternoon the day before that there was an older gentleman running up toward the summit. All the team could do was wait out the storm and hope for the best but after years of patrolling these trails he knew that with little opportunity for shelter that it would have been nearly impossible for anyone to surive the night up there.

    Although it was expected, it never got easy  finding a body. Slowly he approached the scene and a puzzled look came over his face. Too many times he had done the same but never before had he seen anything like this. The old man was sitting with his arms wrapped around a tree as if holding on for his life but strangest of all he could swear that there was a smile frozen on the face of the old runner.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Lonely Princes. Found !

    "Looks like I may get to run in some snow this afternoon. I know how much you used to love running with me with the big flakes falling around us" he said to her. Of course she made no response. She had been here in the nursing home for nearly two years now and any memory she may have had of those days were long gone, wiped away by the terrible dementia that had slowly but surely taken over her mind. For many years she had been his closest friend and confidante as well as running partner. In fact he called her his Princess although she was not "THE" Princess.. No, they had never had that type of relationship but they did love each other in the way that dear friends do.

  Although her mind and memory were gone he still came to visit every weekend. Usually  he would come  to visit after his run and tell her all about his adventures  but today he came early before running .  He stood and leaned over to give her one last kiss on the cheek and quietly turned to leave. He missed her so much but she was lost to him.

  It was  just a short drive to the trailhead which led to the mountain summit. The skies were overcast and gray with a calm in the air and he could smell the snow that was forecasted to began falling shortly.  He stepped out into the cold and began to shuffle at first but as the old muscles began to warm the motion became fluid  and he felt young and alive again. The run was always  there for him as it had been for over 50 years although  he was now always alone, all the friends  who had shared the miles dead or moved on.

 Still, he tried to get out everyday but his favorite run was the one once a month up to the mountain. It was here that he felt most at peace although it was now tinged with a bit of sadness as he thought of those special ones that had shared the miles with him so many years ago. The miles passed quickly as he bounded over the rocks and roots along the way so familiar to him that he could nearly run with his eyes closed and he savored every moment. The snow was starting to fall now lightly at first but soon the flakes had become huge. Oh, so beautiful and it brought a smile to his face. But now the trail was becoming steeper and the wind was beginning to pick up and he noticed the chill cutting into him.

  He soon passed a young couple of hikers that were descending from the summit. They said things were getting bad and they had turned back and advised him that he should do the same. He thanked them for their concern and assurred them that he would be turning around very soon once he got to the scenic overlook.  He hated lying to them but he really didn't need them worrying about him. He would be going to the summit today.

  Quickly now the ground was covered  in white and conditions were deteriorating  but on he ran. Slowly his energy was failing and he began to shiver  as he moved ever slower up the steep trail. Confusion started eating into his mind and the smooth stride was becoming almost a drunken stagger. He expected this having suffered hypothermia before in high moutain races before and oddly he welcomed the feeling today. Only a mile to go to reach the summit and by sheer will and determination he continued on, one step at a time.

  And then suddenly as if from a dream, through the near whiteout blizzard conditions  he saw someone coming down from the top and in a moment he recognized her. She was just as she had always been, forever young and beautiful, athletic with the long flowing brown hair as illustrated in the book of his childhood. She stopped in front of him with a huge warm welcoming smile and said, "I have been waiting for you !"   Tears began to stream down his face and without a word they embraced as if they had known and loved each other a lifetime.

  Slowly Ranger Smith and his crew trudged forward through the foot of freshly fallen snow. There had been one lone car in the parking lot at the trailhead this morning and he was not feeling very hopeful that this was going to be a rescue. The young couple had reported when they came off the mountain late afternoon the day before that there was an older gentleman running up toward the summit. All the team could do was wait out the storm and hope for the best but  after years of patrolling these trails  he knew that with little opportunity for shelter that it would have been nearly impossible  for anyone to surive the night up there.

  Although  it was expected, it never got easy  finding a body. Slowly he approached the scene and a puzzled look came over his face. Too many times he had done the same but never before had he seen anything like this. The old man was sitting with his arms wrapped around a tree as if holding on for his life but strangest of all he could swear that there was a smile frozen on the face of the old runner.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Run The Rock 50k + Report

 It's all in the timing.

 I wasn't too happy with the forecast for warm muggy conditions especially considering not having too much chance to acclimate this early in April. but you take what is given to you and make the best of it so after a brief pre-race meeting we all lined up for the 8am satrt with already 66F and 98% humidity. Just before the race I got a message from my friend Kara, Laura's sister,  that she was going to come and run a few laps with me but at the last minute she decided to sign up for the race !

  My plan was to go out easy the first lap and then see how I felt. The course was  alternating between two laps of about 5.5 miles and 5.1 miles with an aid station set up at the start /finish area. Kara and I were going to try and stick together for the first lap and then see what happened,

 The first lap was about like I expected and pretty much uneventful. We were drenched from the humidity by mile 2 and it was just going to get warmer.  I was enjoying the lovely trails that I had run on so many years ago as well as the company and conversation and I was feeling pretty good overall. My right hip was doing a lot better too so I was hopeful it was not going to be a problem. About the 3 mile mark the course goes onto an out and back spur  about .9ths of a mile down to the river and then back up so we were able to see all of the other runners at this early part of the race.

 We made it back to the aid station in 1:03 and Kara took a break to make some adjustments to her hydration pack so I headed out onto lap two by myself. The next loop, the Campbell Creek Trail is where I used to do  almost all  of my training on back in the early 80's so I was looking forward to seeing it again.
 It is hillier and rockier for a big portion than the first loop so although it was shorter it took a bit longer. My favorite part of the trail is a relatively flat section along the creek and I was still running well along there but I knew it was a long climb back up. My time was  about 1:01 which sounded good but then I looked back in the archives and I used to run it in 44:30 on a normal day in 1983 !

 By now the small field of about 60 starters was very spread out so I was not seeing too many others. It was getting warmer too. I stopped to take a picture and I was so sweaty it was hard handling my phone and I really didn't want to waste too much time. I decided then that I would be dropping off the shirt and waist pack  at the end of the lap so no more pictures.

 I made it back around to the out and back spur but was confused at the T intersection. On the first lap we just followed the other runners but now I wasn't sure which way to go and there was no directional sign. I remembered a left turn so I went left. Grrrrr, I soon found myself almost back to the parking lot. I debated going on and telling them I would do the spur twice the next time around but decided to go ahead and retrace my steps. I figured it cost me about 8 minutes so not a huge detour but 8 minutes more than I wanted to add to my race time. All 4 of the people I had passed that lap had passed me back but I was able to reel them all back in by the time I finished the lap in 1:13.

 Overall I was only  7 minutes behind what I had as a goal for halfway so I was still close to what I wanted but it was getting hotter and pretty miserable out there. I headed back onto the Campbell Creek loop feeling ok but defintely getting tired and slowing. I almost made a big mistake mostly just from being tired. On the long downhill in the first mile of the loop on a very rocky section that you do not want to fall at, I stumbled and was out of control flailing around trying to regain my balance. Both upper hamstrings are rebelling and to make matters worse I am careening straight toward a big tree. Fortunately I regained control just in time and a minute later my angry glutes and hammies calm down again.

 The remainder of the lap was uneventful but I was really getting tired and dreading the long climb back up. I was even considering  calling it a day. I am really not used to the trails right now and combined with the heat and humidity I really didn't want to fall into a death march. Of course I didn't want to quit either and I needed the miles and experience  and so I'm glad I didn't listened to those demons because I never really felt any worse after that and I took good care of myself and was still moving along at a decent pace. But that's getting a little ahead of the story !  I finished that lap in a slow 1:11, whined to the  aid station workers about how tough it was  and then went to my bag under the picnic shelter for another protein shake, which I had been doing each lap.  I actually sat down for 30 seconds to drink it but popped back up not wanting to waste anytime.

 Back out now on lap 5, the 3rd and last time for this part of the course. Each time I was wanting to take the short side trail to the overlook but didn't want to waste time.  I got some encourageing words from a boy scout troop out for a hike that made me feel good. Finally made it to the spur and about halfway down I see Kara coming back up ! I'm thinking wait a minute ! How did she get in front of me? I didn't see her behind or in front of me on the spur at lap two so I had to have been well in front by nearly 2 miles. I went on down to the river and made the turn back up and Icaught up to her at the aid station which I reached in 1:22, my slowest lap of the race. It was 80F by now and I was looking forward to getting this over with.

 Kara and I headed out on the final lap together and we figured out that somehow she had made a wrong turn on lap 2  doing an out and back following some other confused runner or two and then totally missed the real spur on lap 3 which explained why I didn't see her that lap.

 Our pace was quite a bit slower now and we enjoyed some really nice conversation and learned a lot more about each other which was really nice. She is a wonderful young lady. We made it down to the creek and I stumbled over some roots but once again remained upright and a few minutes later she almost went head first into a ditch but caught herself and was able to land on her feet.  A few minutes later she told me to go ahead but I said no  we just have a little climb and then some more flat running so we walked a minute and then got her running again.

 I was actually feeling pretty good now and smelling the barn as we ran along the creek. She once again started walking and told me to go ahead. and once again I said no, I'm not in a big hurry and we can finish this together. I walked until she caught up and then I convinced her to just run a little bit more and we would be back to the bridge and then we could walk the big climb back to the finish.

 And soon enough there we were and before long we were back to the top and ran the final 1/4 mile o the end. Big hugs and then it was time to sit down and enjoy some food !! That last lap was 1:17 ad my final time was 7:08. I had hoped for about 6:30 but with the conditions that just wasn't going to happen.

 Overall it was a very nice event with great volunteers. Other than the one confusing turn there was nothing but good things about the race and I would definitely recommend any of my trail running friends to check it out in the future.

 For me I got to get in some great training, share some miles with friends and enjoy a great day with a bit of a confidence boost for the BIG One coming up in June.

 Stay tuned !

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ultraman Returns ! A Raven Rock 50k Preview and a little training update

 Yes, now that the Boston Qualifying marathon is finally taken care of  it is time to turn my attention back to ultrarunning for a few months. With Western States coming up in just 10 more weeks I need to focus on training for the long trails again.

   A week after Wrightsville Beach I officially kicked of the training with my first time on single track trails since last June ! During the marathon training I wanted to stay off the trails needing the more specific workouts to achieve that goal on the road. Now that it is time to return to ultra trail running I need to make a few adjustments.

 One thing that I have found over the past several years is that I do my best ultra's coming off of marathon training. All my pr's from 50k , 50 miles and 100 miles are proof of that. So with just a few adjustments that will focus on some specific skills needed for Western States. I will mainly continue with the training that has gotten me to this level of fitness but with the following changes.

 First of course is returning to the single track once a week for short but fast efforts to get used to running over rocks and roots and climbing short steep hills. Every two or three weeks I will subsitute a long greenway run with a longer trail run with some run/walking practice.

 I will be doing some occasional hill repeats including some long downhills to prepare for the pounding at Western States.

 I have already added a weekly session on the stair master at the gym which played a huge role in keeping me fit during the injury last summer. and I am adding some fast walking on the treadmill at 15% grade also. And thats about it otherwise still doing some long runs on the greenway, still doing some tempo runs and lots of miles at marathon pace. 2 out of the last 3 weeks I have had amazing 10 and 8 mile runs with Laura Frey at marathon pr pace and faster while she is cutting back to get ready for Boston on Monday !

 Which brings us back to Raven Rock. As part of my training I know I need some experience going ultra distance on the trails and the timing on this one was great to fit into my schedule. I am really looking forward to returning to the park. In the early 1980's I used to train on the trails there frequently while living in Fayetteville and Hope Mills. I logged hundreds of miles over several years but I have not been back there but once since then and that was over 15 years ago.

 It is typical of trails in central NC with roots and rocks and short steep climbs and a few longer climbs as the trails go down by the Cape Fear river and then back up bluffs along the way. It is going to be great to run them once again.

 When I signed up I was only looking to get in some training and have some fun but I am always a bit competitive and I have found a new inspiration to push it just a bit harder tomorrow !

 It seems that on the ulltra signup entrants list they have us ranked with an estimated time of finish. Lets just say I don't quite understand the ranking system and was a bit perturbed to see myself ranked 26th of 54 ranked entrants. (there are another 19 or so unranked)

 Looking at who they have ranked ahead of me I know I usually finish ahead of at least half of them and my pr's are faster than about the same and on top of that the predicted time is 7:57. I've run faster than that on a 34 mile mt race with 8,000ft of climb so I expect I am going to be a lot faster than that. We shall see but I am taking on the challenge of proving those rankings very wrong !

 here is a link to the park website.

 and here is a link to the race website.

 Stay Tuned ! 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Wrightsville Beach Marathon, a success story of sorts

 As race morning dawned, I was once again feeling confident with my training and hopeful that the hip would hold up for me. I made the drive to the finish area where I met up with Laura and we caught the shuttle back to the start a few miles away at the beach. The temperature was about 10 degrees warmer than forecast but I was hoping that it wouldn't rise too much as they day went on and that it would remain overcast although now there was no rain  projected.

 Laura went off to warm up for the half marathon and I just did a very slow 1/2  mile jog on my own, just enough to loosen the hip up a bit.  I have to say this race had the best music to pump me up as we made our way to the start.  Nothing like a little Master of Puppets to get the adrenaline going.

  Finally the race started and I went out as planned at a conservative pace for the first mile, content to let anyone that wanted to blaze by me to help themselves. Target pace was anything better than 8:23 per mile and I wanted to be 20 to 30 seconds slower than that for the first mile. I accomplished that with an 8:56  and was happy that so far the hip flexor was just a bit of slight discomfort and the piriformis was fine.

 I picked up the pace a bit as the sky begin to get a bit lighter now. I was a bit too skippy for mile 2 so I backed off the pace again. Whoops too much. Finally mile 4 was right where I wanted it to be. Everything was feelling good and it was time to just settle in. Mile 5 was right where I wanted it. For the next 10 to 15 miles I wanted to be in the 8:15 to 8:20 range and gradually make up the time lost in the first 5 by the halfway point. As long as I was running within my range I should have no problems holding the pace because the course was very flat making it easy to run steady.

  The miles clicked by rather uneventfully and by mile 10 I had made up the deficit and shortly after that we marathoners split from the halfers at about mile 11. Of course the field thinned out quite a bit from there but still plenty of other runners around. I had hope to have a one minute cushion by the 13.1 poiint and I nailed that. Mile 13 in 1:48:12 and at that pace if there had been a 13.1  sign at that pace I would have been almost exactly 1:49 ! Yep things were looking good.

 The next mile was along the beach road and they had the course coned off for the runners in a very narrow area with the drains to send rain water to the ocean so I was being very careful. I caught up to some slower runners and finally I just had to make a quick move outside the cones to get around them before relaxing again. I must have relaxed too much or fallen asleep because that mile 14 was about 25 seconds too slow and that kind of made me mad so I pushed the pace back up and mile 15 was right back where I needed it but with that much of my cushion was gone.

 I was beginning to feel a bit warm now but thankfully my wish for it remain overcast was coming true. I was getting sweaty as it was still quite a bit humid too and I was thinking I should have opted for a singlet instead of the Umstead 100 shirt I was wearing.  Soon after we back along the wide open Military cutoff road, the most boring part of the course but I was moving well and gradually passing by slower runners. My pace was still very close to where I needed it . I was slowing a little but only a few seconds per mile.

 Around 18 I still had a 30 second cushion and I was thinking now, just get to Laura and she can pull me to the end. Before the race we had planned that after she ran the half that she would try and meet me in Landfall at about the 20.5 mile mark. Fatigue was starting to set in but I was still moving well and close to pace. And then just as the course turned back into Landfall and the 20 mile mark, I somehow I had slowed down too much and when I saw the 8:47 I cursed out loud to myself as now I had zero cushion left.

 I immediately pushed the pace back up and begin looking ahead for Laura. When I did push the pace though I was getting a side stitch so I was trying to hold on and make the stitch go away.

 I can't  tell you how happy I was to see Laura at almost exactly the 20.5 mile mark running towards me. She checked on my condition and I told her I was dead on pace but no cushion and I had  a stitch.  She took over with her normal pep talk telling me how great this was and that I had this. I wish I had been feeling her confidence and excitement at that point. That mile 21 was great as I dropped back to 8:18. The 3:40 was still there but the wheels were coming off. That mile felt much too hard and although I was trying to stay with her I was now breathing and working much too hard. I was giving it everything I had but slowed to a disappointing 8:49 mile and there was not going to be a comeback.

 It really wasn't all that funny at the time but  we had some great laughs about it after the race. Over the next few miles Laura would not give up on me and was encouraging  all the way. I knew that the BQ was over now but she wouldn't let me give up. Each mile got slower and harder but as bad as it hurt I wouldn't back off the effort and as she would tell me something positive I was mumbling  , nope it's over, I'm done. Still she constantly reminded me how I never give up and as bad as I wanted to just walk it in by mile 24 I was not about to let her down so I trudged on. And when she would tell me to surge I would still do it for as long as I could which by now was not but a few seconds. before I was shuffling again

 We finally reached that last mile and she is still bouncing with excitement and telling me that it is still a great time. I am so thankful she is there and I just want the pain to end but I am still putting in surges to try and hold the pace until finally we made the final turn with 200 yards to go to the finish line. I had expected her to leave me at 25.5 and take a short-cut  over to the finish line but at the last minute she had decided to stick with me so we crossed the line together.  I just wanted to collapse at that point as we hugged and I shed a few tears as I thanked her for being there for me.

 My friend Mark Manz was there at the finish and the three of us helped me hobble over to the big tent to get some food and sign me up for a massage. It was while we were finally sitting down that Laura who was still so excited and raving about how great I did, asked me if there was some way we could find another race soon for me to  try for 3:40 again qualify for Boston. I came so close and if I could just stay healthy now it was going to happen. And that was the moment when I remembered and the reaction  I got from her next was priceless. I told her, we didn't need to find another race because I had just qualified by almost 7 minutes ! Because of the timing of my birthday and the 2016 Boston race day I could quailfy as a 60 year old and I only needed a 3:55 ! After that I think everyone near us in that tent knew I was going to Boston !

 . I am so happy to finally have the pressure off and know I am going to get to go back and even better that my most amazing training partner who is a huge part of the reason I am going will be there too ! But that is a long ways off so we'll talk about all that much later Just know that I am not going to settle for that 3:48. It has gotten me to Boston but I truly believe that if I can stay healthy now and build from this level of fitness that the marathon pr will happen. But that has to wait until the Fall because now it's time to get ready for the next big thing. Western States training has officially begun this weekend !

Friday, March 20, 2015

Wrightsville Beach Marathon Preview part 2 or the X Factor

 As I mentioned in the last post, it was Stiner Massage that got me back to running again and hopefully has finally solved the issue with recurring hamstring issues I have had since 2008.

  I was able to successfully complete the OBX marathon in a run/walk of 4:45 but that is a long way from being able to pr 4 months later !  I had a long way to go and a lot of work to do to even think about the possibility. But as most of you know I am stubborn and determined and I am surely not afraid of working hard towards my goals and making it hurt.

 I was already nearly back to my normal mileage and ready to add some real training into the mix but my confidence was low that I would be able to get anywhere near the condition I needed to be. When I signed up for WB I was hoping to start the training from a 3:40 to 3:45 condition but now I was starting back at near zero. The prospects really were bleak  and to make things even worse I found myself ready to enter this shortened marathon buildup minus any of my training partners.

 And that is where the X Factor comes in. Well actually a bit earlier in a way. I have had the pleasure of calling Laura Frey my friend for many years now and we have been big supporters of each others running for all that time but had never run together and I didn't really imagine we ever would. For those of you that don't know her, she is an elite masters competitor and is currently training over 100 miles per week consistently as she prepares for Boston and these are not slow easy miles ! Her slow easy pace is faster than my tempo pace and she does 20 milers sometimes at my 5k race pace ! No one I know is more dedicated to their running than she is and I am inspired daily by her commitment every single day no matter what the conditions to get in her workouts and she does it while still deserving mother of the year award for how she takes care of her  3 kids.

  It just happened that she was injured with a stress fracture while I was out with my hamstring and during that period we were pushing and encouraging one another in our cross training as we tried to maintain as much fitness as possible. Once we were both finally able to run again the support for each other was still there and growing stronger. I think their was divine intervention going on but for whatever reason she stepped up the support as if knowing instinctively that I needed someone to believe in me and help push me to achieve my dream.

 And so there I was in early November full of doubt but  determined I was going to give everything I possibly could to this training cycle ready to push my self as hard as I could. Miles, tempo runs marathon pace runs whatever it took I was going to endure. I stepped up the already hard crosstraining working the glutes, the core and doing  even more with the weights.

 So I was still surprised when Laura agreed to run with me one Friday. it just happened that Friday was her easy day on the schedule and her easy pace just happened to be the pace I was hoping to run my tempo runs. I was a bit nervous that I would not be able to even stay with her and I was afraid that after one run she would figure out I was just too slow for her and it would be a one time deal.

 Much to my surprise and pleasure we had a wonderful time together and I nailed the workout. We had already started looking ahead to the next one and have now been meeting just about every week since then on what we call Fun Fridays, which are the highlight of my running week. We have done fartleks and repeats of half miles and miles and even marathon race pace runs.

 Now you know I am not afraid to make it hurt but I have never been pushed so hard in my life. On most of these runs by the end I am nauseous, having stitches and most of the time end up dry heaving !  But she is so patient with me and is constantly encouraging me along. I now if I had been doing these workouts alone I would have backed off the pace  but she believes in me so much that I didn't want to let her down  so I would never bail on a workout no matter how much it hurt and as a result I would reach a new level I didn't think possible each week. It was just so wonderful to have someone that if she desired could leave me in a cloud of dust at a moments notice but she instead runs along monitoring my stride and breathing and making me feel that my success was almost more important to her than to myself. And best of all it really was fun and we are always laughing even when about to throw up !

 And in addition to the running she is my # 1 cheerleader and refuses to let me  get down when I feel frustrated or doubting myself. In other words she has been the most awesome friend and training partner I  could ever hope for and know matter the outcome this Sunday I know I would not be anywhere nearly  as well prepared as I am thanks to her .

 I had originally wanted to be in shape for a pr of sub 3:35 but I am going to go conservative and just go for the BQ of 3:40 which is another thing. All my desire to go to Boston again was goneafter events beyond my control  but I still had a burning desire to go for the time and the pr and that was what driving me. But now thanks to  Laura I am determined to go to Boston one more time and I am already saving up for the trip !

Wrightsville Beach Marathon Preview or why am I here.

  Lets go into the way back machine for just a few minutes to explain why I am running this race in the first place. Old friends and followers probably know most of this but here is a chance to catch up with the story.

  I have qualified  for Boston 3 times and run there twice in 2006 and 2011. In each of those qualifiers   I only got in by less than 1 minute !  After my last time qualifying in Sept of 2010 they made it harder for me to qualify by 5 minutes even though I moved up an age group. I had trained as hard as I could and ran well but it now seemed impossible thatI I would be able to improve as I got older so I put that behind me and planned to concentrate on my ultrarunning goals.

 But then in summer of 2012 I began to train with Amy to try and get her in and it just so happened that she needed a 3:40, the same as I needed. It was during the training and workouts with her that I realized how well I was handling the workouts and my confidence was restored that I may yet have another Boston in me and possibly even a pr.

  Well the target was Tobacco Road in March of 2013 and I gave it a good effort but came up short. I went back to ultra's for a few months and then my next attempt was in October at Wineglass. I  had suffered  a hamstring injury  in August but gave it a shot anyway. After holding pace for 16 miles the leg gave out on me and I  ran/walked/ limped it in.

I recovered quickly and training went well for my next target at Myrtle Beach in Feb 2014. I was well prepared and on pace through mile 19 when I turned into the 30+ mph headwinds and slowly felt my race once again going away from me. Another solid effort but much too short once again. I was already committed to ultra's again so after a great Spring with a 100 mile pr and a 6th place finish in my first multi day with 211 miles I was ready to focus on an early Fall last attempt to get into the 2015 Boston. By now it was really less about Boston since my major incentive for going again no longer was there for the 2015 race. Now it was all about the time and defying the aging process.

 And so, in great shape and ready to begin the focused training for the Erie Marathon in early September  I was hit once again with a hamstring injury while out on an easy 6 miler  the first of August !!! Once again I had to start over. By the planned race day the leg was so messed up I couldn't even run to the mailbox so I had to cancel the race. And to make matters worse I had a trip of a lifetime planned to run a marathon in Verona Italy on Oct.

 Enter John Stiner at Stiner Massage. He had been treating my friend Laura Frey and she had told him
about my injury. He contacted me and said he was pretty sure he knew why I  kept hurting the hamstrings and said he was sure he could help. In desperation I went to see him and the next day I was able to run 3 miles  with half the pain I had for the previous 2 months. and with another visit and religiously practicing the exercises he gave me I was able to run/walk the full marathon in Verona and 4 weeks later at OBX.

 Which brings us to getting ready for Wrightsville Beach now and my goal of running a pr for the marathon 9 years after setting my pr and at age 59. Crazy thinking huh ? But that is for another blogpost. So stay tuned.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sweetheart 5k and weekly training update

Every now and then I like  race the shorter distances for fun and see how the speed and training are going so I signed up for  a Valentines Day 5k in Rocky Mount.  Of course I am in the middle of marathon trainng but racing helps to keep you sharp and is a good workout at a faster pace.

 Normally I would expect a flat course in Rocky Mount and in fact I ran my 10k pr there on a very flat course in 1984. But I heard this one was a hilly course and I found out that there are indeed some rolling hills in the neighborhood where the race was held.

  It was a cold morning in the upper 20's by race time with about a 10mph breeze but after my warmup I stripped down to the racing shorts and lined up after speaking to a couple of friends. I hadn;t felt too zippy in my warmup but then I was coming off the two highest mileage weeks of the past year and no taper along with a lot of hard runs over the past few weeks. I normally don;t feel too good in the warmup anyway and somehow I usually perform a lot better than I expect one days lke that.

 Well I got off to a good start and even with the hills I ran the 1st mile in 7:04.I couldn't tell how many were in front of me but I was guessing top 20 and by the mile I was already reeling in some of the quick starters and was settled in. The next mile was a bit harder and by halfway i was already making my death noises but I was still picking off other runners. Mile 2 was 7:14 and ther were 3 other runners in sight that I had a shot at so i just kept pushing.

 I passed one guy and soon caught up to another with half mile to go up a short steep hill. After that was a nice downhill and i tried to put as much space between us as possible. We made a turn with about 1/4 mile to go and a nasty uphill to the 3 mile mark. I was giving eveything I had and despite the hill ran 7:13 but he passed me just before the top and I had nothing left. The last 1/10th I was dead, gasping and nauseous. there was no kick to the finish !

 My time was 22:18, not bad consideirng the course and my training so I was pretty happy with it. Turns out the guy that passed me cost me first in my age group but at least I got 2nd and was 10th overall out of 188 finishers although about 1/3 of those were walkers and little kids.

 So here is how the week went.

 Mon. Feb. 9th 
  Nothing ! Decided to take a rest day after more than a month  without a day off.

 Tues. Feb 10th
10 easy miles on the ATT in 1:28:13

 Wed. Feb. 11th.
 6 miles in  51:14 on the crabtree greenway. Did some strides and the pace was pretty spiffy considering the easy effort over most of the run.

 Thurs. Feb 12th
6 miles along the neuse greenway in 52:01. Again an easy effort with 1 minute surges each mile to liven things up a bit.

 Fri, Feb 13th
 Another 5 miles on the neuse with 30 second surges each half mile on the return trip. Exact same overall pace as the day before !

 Sat. Feb 14th.
 Sweetheart 5k plus 2 mile warmup and cooldown.

 Sun. Feb 15th.
Planned 10 but quit at 8 after batttling wind gust up to 30mph on a 21 F morning. This was suppose to be an easy day !

 And the usual cross training with 2 days with the weights, a body weight day and 4 core  workouts,

 Stay tuned, just 5 weeks until the big one !

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Training update week ending 2-8-15. 6 weeks to go !

Things continue to go better than I could have hoped for at this point and I am having a lot of fun in the process. I ended up with 54 miles which was actually a cut back from the previous 2 weeks of 60 and 64 ! But it was a good quality  week ith 3 very hard workouts which I was very happy to do very well. Here is the breakdown.

 Monday Feb. 2.
 An easy 6 miles but a good pace, 8:44 average on the day after a hard 20.

 Tuesday Feb 3.
 10 miles in 1:23:00 or 8:18 with the middle 8 at a little better than my marathon pr pace !

 Wednesday Feb. 4
 A recovery day with an easy 6 but still at 8:43 pace.

 Thursday Feb 5.
 another easy day and short on time so I did 5 at 8:48 pace.

 Friday Feb 6.

 another awesome Fun Friday with Laura Frey. today was fartlek with 8 x 3 minutes with 1 minute recoveries. 5 of the 8 were under 7:00 pace and the total workout was 7 miles at 7:37 pace including the wu and cd miles. And in the middle of all that was a segment of a 22:45 5k !

 Saturday Feb.7

An easy day with 6 a little slower  at 8:57 pace.

 Sunday Feb 8.

 A short but intense long run, 14 miles at 8:21 pace which is 2 seconds pe mile faster than my BQ pace. 1 mile wu and cooldown. In the middle was 3 miles at 8:14 pace, 2.5 miles at 8:08 pace, 2 miles at 7:58 pace, 1.5 miles at 7:46 pace and 1 mile in 7:31 with 1/2 mile recoveries.

 So another very good week which aso included 5 core workouts, 2 weight sessions and one body weight day.

 I expect fewer miles and ess hard running in the coming week but I do have a 5 k coming up next Saturday for fun and a test of where things are speed wise. Stay tuned !

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Another exciting week as the journey continues. Training update week ending 2-1-2015

I can't say enough how exciting it is to have my training going so well right now. I would have never believed that after barely being able to run just 4 months ago that I have not only fully recovered the fitness I had before but I am doing workouts better than I was a couple of years ago and even going back to 2005-2006. But then that has been my goal ! So lets see what has me so excited !

 Monday Jan. 26
 This was an easy 6 the day after my long run but I had a lot of zip and was already doing a progression when I had a chance meeting with Laura out doing a time trial. She ran the last half mile with me and of course it was close to my tempo pace !

 Tuesday Jan. 27
    Ok, this was just awesome. 2 year ago while training with Amy to prepare for Tobacco Road Marathon we did a 3 x 3 mile at marathon pace workout which we stretched out to a half marathon and she set what was then a pr. I decided it was time to try it again and nailed it ! All the sets were faster than 2 years ago  and faster than my marathon pr pace. The whole workout was 2 mnutes faster in 1:47:56 ! A real confidence boost.

 Wednesday Jan 28
  Short on time but it was an easy day anyway. did 5 miles and had a lot of zip even after the tough run yesterday !

 Thursday Jan. 29
Another easy day and I forced easy this time because a hard one is coming up Friday !

 Friday Jan. 30

 Yay, another fun Friday with Laura! Todays pain was a planned 3 x 2 miles at tempo pace with just 1/4 mile recovery. Nailed it !  Averaged 7:30 pace even with slipping on icy bridges and a 15mph gusting wind in the last few miles. As always she was great in bringing out more effort out of me than I would have given on my own. Total 8.5 miles and even with recoveries , warmup and cooldown the average pace was 7:51 !

 Saturday Jan. 31
  Finishing up the month with an easy 6 on the gentle rolling hills at home. Decent pace but i could surely feel the hard run from Friday.

 Sunday Feb. 1

 Finished up the week with a strong 20. Was hoping to have a good one in me. I made a last second decsion as i was walking to the trailhead to do the same workout Laura was going for but at my paces of course ! 10 miles at 40 seconds slower than marathon BQ pace then 3 x 2 miles at BQ pace. I was happy to have some zip and had no trouble bumping up the pace and was faster than needed on the repeats !

 So, there it is. Finished up the week with 64.6 miles, the best week so far since the injury. And lets not forget the cross training. 6 core workouts and 2 weight sessions at the gym. Today was suppose to be a body weight day but I decided I could just rest after the long hard run.

 Stay tuned. I am looking forward to another strong week but maybe a few less miles. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Training update Week Ending 1-25-15

 Ok, it's time for another boring blogpost.

 Well, I must say I am quite happy with the way things are progressing after just completing another great week. My total for the week was 60.5 miles which is the most training miles in a week since last January  ! I am hoping that continued good health and weather will allow me to keep things close to this level for awhile now although I  will probably have a cut down week in a few just before the final push for Wrightsville Beach. So here is how it happened.

 Monday 1-19. This was a great start to the week with a 4 x 2 mile at marathon pace with 1/2 mile recoveries. Actual pace was 8:00 so it was faster than my marathon pr. Total 11 miles for the workout.

 Tuesday 1-20. I was feeling the effects of  3 of the previous 4 days of hard or long workouts so this was an easy 6.

 Wednesday 1-21.  This was another easy 6 but I was feeling a whole lot better than expected  and the pace was a lot better than the day before.

Thursday 1-22. Thought about some Umstead hills but I had a hard workout planned with Laura for Friday so resisted and did another easy 6. First 3 slow and then progressively faster coming back.

 Friday 1-23. Another awesome , hard but fun workout chasing Laura.  8 x 3 minutes at 5k race pace with just 1 minute recoveries. As usual with her, my warmup and cooldown were at or faster than marathon race pace, and the 4 middle miles even with the recoveries were at tempo pace ! Get strong or die !!

 Saturday 1-24.  Easy 6 from home. I was feeling the hard Friday run but still a good pace and a negative split.

 Sunday 1-25. Finished up the week with a strong long run. The greenway  had a lot of tricky sections with black ice from the previous days rain freezin over nite. Plan was to go easy for the first 10 and then hopefully do a progression run the last 8. The ice slowed me a bit on the first 12 but by then the ice was melted in most places  and the workout went even better than expected with the last 4 at marathon pace and faster.

 So another great week and of course I am still doing as much cross-training as I can.  A total of 6 core workouts including double on Wednesday. 2 weight workouts at the gym and one body weight day at home.

 thats it for now and hopefully I can post another good report for you next week.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Training update week ending 01-18-15

It's been two weeks since the last update so lets see what I have been up to lately.

 Mon. 1-5. I was short on time but made the most of it with 5 miles including 4 at tempo pace.

 Tuesday I was able to get in a strong 10 miler.

 Wednesday was an easy 5 and the beginning of my "mini taper" for the race coming up on Saturday.

 Thursday was another easy 4.

 Friday I hoped for an easy 3 or 4 but later at work and then the long drive to North Myrtle Beach so I just rested.

 Saturday was the Ocean Isle Beach  Bridge Run for Food Half Marathon. You can  read the report on the blog if you want to know more but I ran slower than hoped on a very windy day. 1:45:17 and still won my age group so a good day and an idea on how the training is going.

 Sunday I just did an easy 3 mile recovery run at home.

 Weekly total was 40

 During that week I did 5 core and or glute workouts, one body weight day and one weights at the gym for a pretty solid week including a race. Normally i would have backed off more but this was just a test and a part of the training.

 Monday 1-12. I just got in another easy 5 but felt pretty good.

 Tuesday I headed over to Umstead. Wanted easy but wanted some time in my park. Tried to keep the effort easy most of the way snce I am recovering but had a good pace and felt ok on the hills

 Wednesday was a long workday after doing some family duty all morning but i wanted my run fix so I squeezed in 4 easy around Lake Lynn before dark and then back to work.

 Thursday I was still in recovery mode and got in an easy 5 from shelley lake to the mall.
Had a nice massage from Stiner in the morning getting th kinks out from the race.

 Friday was the return to marathon training and my favorite day, getting pushed by Laura The Honey Badger. this week she had cooked up a 6 mile descending tempo run bracketed with 1 mile warmup and cooldowns. Ice on the greenway and bridges made it a lot harder than it would have been but we still pretty much nailed the workout. First 3 were dead on or a couple of seconds fast. A few seconds slow on the last 3 but still each was faster and under the conditions I was thrilled with that although I was about to die on that last 1.5 miles. If she wasn't pulling me I know I would have backed off and bailed on the last one for sure.

 Saturday I had planned on taking it easy but the forecast was for rain on Sunday so I wanted to get in my long run. Wasn't sure how it would go on tight sore legs from the killer friday workout but it ended up going much better than expected. Ran faster than I thought and was nice and steady for 10 and then picked up the pace by about 20 seconds over the last 6 with the lastest fastest !

 Sunday I waited until the rain passed and got in an easy 3 recovery run.

 Total was 47 miles for the week.

And as always back to normal with the cross training with 3 core and glutes, 2 weights at the gym and a body weight day challenge.

 So a solid two weeks and eager to continue with the hard training for the marathon coming up in 9 weeks !

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ocean Isle Beach Bridge Run for Food Half Marathon

  Made my way down to the beach for my 3rd time running this event. My goal was to try and run about 1:40 but I knew things would have to go perfectly for that to happen. Training has been going well but I still don't feel as though I am quite back to the same shape I was pre-injury.

  I arrived about 45 minutes before the start and was a bit disappointed that it was already a windy morning. It was cold too but that wasn't bothering me.   I did an abbrieviated warmup and then lined up where I was able to see and speak to some friends, Bren Crowson, Charles West, Mark Long and Irene Russell.

  I should have moved up a little closer to the front because even though I didn't want to go out too fast I got behind some slow folks and it took awhile to get around them. After the first block we turned directly into the wind, a steady 12-15 mph with gust in the 20's. Combined with running over the bridge the first time it made for a tough first mile. I tried to hold back and was pretty comfortable in 8:10. We made the u-turn and I was trying to check out the competition and see if there were any other old guys in front of me. 

  Headed back up the bridge and tried to keep the effort under control while using the tailwind. Pushed it a bit on the downside and hit mile 2 in 7:42. Soon after that we turned and headed up the beach road and back into the wind. I was just trying to keep up a steady effort without fighting the wind which was coming from the opposite direction from the 2011 race. Mile 3 was 7:46 and mile 4 was 7:51. By now I knew that 1:40 was out of the question and I was thinking more like 1:42 to 1:43. Mile 5 was really tough as it was directly into the wind and a very exposed section of the course and I slowed even more to an 8:04.

 I was very happy now to have mostly a tailwind coming for the next 5 miles. I didn't want to push too soon though so I just tried to re-group and settle in. Mile 6 was 7:47, not quite as fast as I was hoping. I began to put in some 10 second surges at the beginning of the miles but even though I tried to pick it up I was disappointed not to be able to and mile 7 was only a 7:56. I pushed again and although mile 8 was a little better in 7:41 I just didn't have the strength I was hoping for or the push from the wind. Mile 9 was slower again in 7:52 and now my goal was to just hold on and hope for 1:43:30ish.

 Just before mile 10 we turned into a neighborhood with a tight  180 turn and I could just feel my energy wane and had a hard time coming back up to speed. Hit that mile in 7:57. I was passed by a woman, the only one to pass me in several miles and I tried to hang with her and push the last 5k. We made the final u-turn at about 10.5 and now I had that headwind to deal with for the last 2.5 and it was not fun ! The volunteer at the turn did tell me i was first old guy but I had seen a man with a while beard well ahead of me so I was hoping he was not in my age group a least.

 Mile 11 was an 8:02 but I was fading and fighting the wind. Despite my best effort I couldn't hold the pace and was getting a stitch at mile 12 in 8:34. Grrrrrr. Gave it all I had and picked it up just a little for mile 13 in 8:25 and a final time of 1:45:17.

  I walked straight to my car to message Bella and get my coat and long pants and gloves to wait out the awards ceremony. Even though I was way off my time I was still able to win my age-group.

 Despite the slower time, I have to feel pretty good about the effort. I have been training very hard and the previous 4 weeks I had gotten my mileage back up to pre-injury levels along with some killer workouts. The hard work combined with just a 3 day taper and with the cold and windy conditions  make me pretty happy with the progress that is being made. The race predictors put this at close to what I need for my BQ so I have to think that things are on track with 10 weeks of training to go.

 Stay Tuned, more coming soon !

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Training update week ending 1-4-15

 Things are continuing to go  well with the training with the overall focus still on getting a fast marathon time in March.

 Monday I got the week started off great with 11 miles. I  added another mile to the marathon pace stuff that I had done the previous weeks with 2- 3 -2 mile repeats at a bit fastter than goal pace with one mile recoveries.

 Tuesday I decided to take a rest day for the first time in 3 weeks. I did go to the gym for weights and then got a massage at Stiner Massage in the afternoon.

 Wednesday I got in a good 10 mile  hill run from the  Art Museum into Umstead  taking the Turkey Creek option.  Felt ok and had a good pace.

 Thursday was  5 easy miles to start the new year on a late beautiful afternoon. Great pace for the easy miles and very consistent pace too.

 Friday and it was time to run with Laura again. I let her pick the workout. Warmed up two miles which were averaging faster than my marathon pr pace ! Then 5 x 4 minutes with 2 minute recoveries. Planned on 7:15 pace but first was about 7:08 and they just got faster. Last one included a hill and it was the fastest. Boy Howdy it was hard and hurt but very satisfying. We were joined this week by Bill Parquet. Oh and the cool down was ridiculous fast with the last quarter back at tempo pace ! Total was 7 miles at 7:42 average.

 Saturday I just put in an easy 6 at home.

 Sunday was 10 miles on a freakishly warm and humid day for January. Almost 70 F with 100% humidity. Just not used to to those conditions  so it was a bit miserable. Pace was about the same as usual for a long run but I was dying the last few miles.

 So despite the day off I still ended up with 49 miles for the week. I also got in 4 core adn glute workouts, 2 wegihts sessions and one body weight day !

 Gonna cut back a little this week and no fun Friday with Laura since i am racing next weekend. Stay tuned for that !

Friday, January 02, 2015

Looking ahead to 2015

  Normally as I am writing this annual post, I have just about planned my entire year of racing and  have entered most of the events. However this year is a bit different and in some ways a bit strange.  For several reasons which I just won't be going into I have lost my motivation to look forward to a few events and find that I have no interest  now to plan on doing them anytime in the forseeable future.  Don't get me wrong ! I have not lost my motivation for running ! In fact I still have a burning desire to train to do my best and I look forward to my everyday runs and workouts. I still have some serious goals and I am working harder than ever to achieve them. It's just that some changes have occured which I have no control over that  are going to make things a lot different.

  One good change is I have over the past couple of months had some new friends and training partners that are dedicated to helping push and inspire me to be the absolute best that I can be this year and I am looking forward to sharing those miles with them and you can hopefully look for the results in this blog. 

   Before I get into the specific events that I do have planned let me mention a couple of goals I am aiming for. First is to get a Boston qualifier. Actually I think I can get that pretty easily since I can now qualify at the easier 60 and over standard of 3:55. But my real goal is to qualify under the 55-59 standard of 3:40 and if at all possible I still believe I have the pr sub 3:35 in me and that is the ultimate goal. The other big goal is to get my buckle at Western States.

 So here we go.

 January 10th I am returning for the 3rd time to The Run for Food Half Marathon at Ocean Isle Beach.  I will be using this mainly as a test and workout but I do hope to have a good race and hopefully some decent weather. I would like to match the 1:39 that I ran at Tobacco Road last March but will have to wait and see if I am back to full strength yet. Hey, thats what test races are for !

 February 14th I am running the Sweetheart 5k in Rocky Mount. This will be another test to see how the speed is progressing and a marker to plan more workouts in the coming months. I was able to run 22:26 on a hilly course in December so I am hoping to running in the low to mid 21's by this one.

 March 22nd is the big one with  The Wrightsville Beach Marathon. If things continue to go well with the training and I get lucky with the weather then I plan to go for the pr !

  In April my attention will turn back to the ultra's and training begins in earnest for Western States. On April 18th I will get in a good workout at the Run The Rock 50k in Raven Rock State Park. It is a very challenging single track race that will be great training and should be a lot of fun. I used to train many miles in the park in the 80's and early 90's but haven't been back in nearly 2 decades now.

 Training continues for WS in May and I am pretty sure that I will be running in the Gamelands 50k  on the 23rd to get in some more ultra training and have some fun.

 And then in June on the last weekend is the big one, Western States 100. As long as I can stay healthy I am confident I can take the lessons I learned there in 2007 and get myself successfully to the finish.

  Beyond that I really don't have a clue what I will be doing the remainder of the year. A lot will depend on how things go at the two key races. I may be looking at a fast Fall marathon. I do have a few other goals and I may turn my focus to them. I still feel like I have another 100 mile pr in me. I would also like to try and set a 24 hour pr so that may be some options.  Another thing I am mulling over is to start a redemption tour and over the next couple of years go back and finish the 100's that I have dnf'd over the years. And who knows I may just decide to focus for a few months on racing shorter distances.  Well, there is one thing pretty much set in stone and that is a return to Derby 50k ! Whether I go hard or take it easy again depends on how the calender fills up after I see how WB and WS go.

 So thats the plan for now. Thanks always for the support from all of you reading this and stay tuned !

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year in review 2014

 What a long strange trip it's been. Truly a year of big ups and downs both in my running and personally. However as always I will look at the successes as building blocks for the future. And as for the letdowns, I hope to take the lessons learned, put then behind me and look forward to bigger and brighter things.

I was a bit worried as the new year began after struggling with the upper hamstring issue for most of the last half of 2013 but despite that I was able to maintain a high level of fitness and once the injury was finally over I was quickly able to go right back into a high level of training.

 And train I did in January. No races with the focus on getting ready for Myrtle Beach and I was having a lot of fun with a lot of great workouts even though a lot of those were done in some really yucky cold and wet conditions.

 February brought me to Myrtle Beach in great shape and confident in a good attempt at the PR. I was running great and on pace for most of the race but steady winds in the upper teens and 20mph range with gust into the 30's made it tough and mostly a headwind the last 7 miles were too much for me. A good time of 3:49 under the conditions.

 March 1st , just 2 weeks after  MB and I returned to the Umstead Trail Marathon for the first time in many years mainly to use it as a training run for the upcoming 100. It was a near perfect day to run and I was surprised at how well I ran and even just using it as training I improved on my course pr by about 5 minutes boosting my confidence even more.

  Just two weeks later and I was in the Tobacco Road Half Marathon. With the way things were going I was hoping for a  1:40. Well, it was another perfect weather day and even after the two recent marathons I felt fantastic and ran 1:39:03, my fastest half in 8 years !
April and finally it was time to go for the 100 mile pr at Umstead. The weather was about as good as could be hoped for and the support of so many friends and volunteers made it a special weekend. Everything clicked and I got the pr by an hour and seventeen minutes and never had any problems for the entire distance.  Although I normally don't use pacers I make an exception here so I can share the experience with my closest friends and had some wonderful company with Laura MacLean, Lisa Howell and Karla Werner making the pr all the more special.

 May started off with a trip to the OBX and my first running of The Flying Pirate Half Marathon. With the great races leading up to it I was hoping to run about 1:40 on this course but a combination of warm weather and lingering fatigue from Umstead and I struggled the last 5 miles slowly falling apart. Oh well, every race can't go perfect !

 And then less than 2 weeks later was an amazing adventure as I made a venture into the unknown at 3 Days at the Fair, a 72 hour race in NJ. Having never attempted a multi day ultra before I had no idea what to expect especially after the first 24 hours and 100 miles and really no idea how many miles my body and mind could handle. I set a rather lofty goal for myself and kept focused on it the entire 3 days. Amazingly I was able to achieve my goal and added a mile for icing on top of it for a total of 211 miles.

 June and most years that means it's time to Boogie. I had a goal  of running it to set a course pr. I finally figured out that under the conditions and toughness of the course it is not a pr course so just the pr for a Boogie would make me very happy. My confidence was high that I could do it with the way the past year had gone but the only question was how much the beat down just three weeks before in the 72 hour race would be felt. Well, I did have a tough stretch in the middle miles but overall had a very good race and i was able to get that course pr by 32 minutes and finished 16th of 97 starters.

 In July I returned once again to Grandfather Mountain Marathon. I had hopes of running sub 4 but I could tell right away I just wasn't recovered enough from May and June's big ultra's so I slowed down and was able to have  fun and run my 2nd fastest time ever in 8 years of running it.

 Unfortunately a couple of weeks later I was being bothered with an upper hamstring and periformis issue and on  an easy run with a friend my left hamstring gave out on me. I joined a gym so that I could crosstrain but the leg was not healing. August was a wash and by September and still not being able to run I had to cancel my trip to the Erie Marathon.

 By mid September I was getting desperate  wanting to run and  I had a big trip to italy coming up the first week of October. I made an appointment with John Stiner Massage on a referral from my good friend Laura Frey. The guy is a miracle worker and after a 2.5 hour session  of testing and treatment I was able to run 3 miles the next day. Another visit and I was ready to go to Italy.

 The Verona trip and the marathon were wonderful experences but being way out of shape, the race was a tough challenge. A run walk from the start helped keep the suffering to a minimum but still one of the hardest for me. At least I got through it and didn't re-injure myself.

The rest of the month I gradually begin to build up my training mileage and things were progressing faster than I had expected. I was able to run OBX marathon, again with a run walk but improved my time over Verona by over 20 minutes and felt a lot better doing it.

 A couple of weeks later and I placed 5th in a hilly 5k in 23:06 which surprised me that I  could run that fast already on a tough course and not hurt !

 I finished up the month with my 11th annual trip to the Derby 50K. I had a very respectable time there as my training continued to go very well with huge improvements in my condtion.

 December is usually an off month as far as racing goes but I did go back to Flowers Plantation for one more hilly 5k. This one went even better with the overall win and an improvement to 22:26.

 Another thing that is excting for me  as I continue now with my training for another BQ attempt next Spring is I have a new training partner for some of my harder and fast workouts. Laura Frey has begin meeting me on Fridays when we don't have races  for tempo and or VO2Max runs. She is much faster than me as she is an elite masters competitor so it is great for me to have someone  like her that can  really push me.  I really appreciate her friendship  and the encouragement and inspiration that she gives.

 Thats it for the old year. Now look forward to what the future holds ! But that is another post Stay Tuned !

Sunday, December 28, 2014

training update week ending 12-28-14

 The last full week before the end of the year and it was a great one !

 Mon. Started off strong when I had some zip to start so I repeated my 3 x 2 mile marathon race pace workout. 10.3 miles total  at 8:35 pace

 Tues. 5 miles easy but better than expected.

 Wed.  another 5 miles easy but felt even better than yesterday

 Thurs. 6 Christmas miles and felt great. Easy but 8:44 avg.

 Fri. Another awesome workout with Laura. 5 x 1/2 mile repeats. I planned about 730 mile avg pace. Reality was 7:10 down to 6:48 pace and the recoveries were close to or faster than my marathon race pace ! Great fun confidence boost and  a blast being pushed by the honey badger. Total 6 miles at 7:44 avg !

 Sat. A tired but solid 16 miler. Slow 9:19 avg but I did negative split and picked it up quite a bit the last 3 miles.

 Sun. Another easy 6 to bring the weekly total to 54 miles again !

 And as always a solid week of cross-training. 6 core and or glute workouts, 2 weight workouts and one body weight day.

 Very happy with the way things are going now and enjoying it quite a bit. I am looking forward to another solid week ahead. After that a mini taper for a half marathon test race Jan. 10th. More on that later. 12 weeks to go before the marathon ! Stay tuned !

Monday, December 22, 2014

Training update thru Dec 21st

 Happy Winter Solstice and Merry Christmas !

  The training has been going very well since the last update 2 weeks ago. I am  now officially into the marathon training period for Wrightsville Beach next March.

 I kicked things off for real with the 5k race/test last weekend and then  finished up the week with 44 miles, the most since the injury in July other than the week with OBX and Derby races. I was a bit tired the next two days after the 5k which I had followed up with a 10 miler the same afternoon but still got in some good miles. On Friday I was once again able to get in a killer fartlek/tempo workout with Laura and we were joined by two other fast ladies Pauline and Erin who are both aiming for a marathon at about my pace in March.  It was a real confidence boost for me to be able to hold the pace and finish the workout strong.

  I normally don't like to do a long run the day after a hard workout but I got in a good 14 miler on Saturday and an easy 5 on Sunday gave me 54.5 miles for the week ! That is right back to where I was averaging pre-injury and I am hoping to stay at least in that range from now on.

  The cross training is still going strong too with core, weights, body weights and glutes all in the mix. I have added an extra day wih the weights now since August and I am stronger than ever and I will continue with that until the final taper phase of the marathon. I enjoy the workouts and the way they make me feel and look !

 So Stay Tuned and I will have another update after the new year !

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Flowers Festive 5k

 Short Version. I won !!!

 I returned this morning for the final 5k of the year in Flowers Plantation. The course was altered from the one we ran at the Turkey Trot three weeks ago to make it easier to understand and avoid the confusion that caused quite a few folks to go off course but by doing so it added a few more hills to an already hilly course.

  The weather was a bit warmer in the low 40's making it about perfect for running fast. I'm not sure how many entrants there were today but there were fewer and the cross country boys didn't seem to be here as I sized up the competition.

 As we started I was immediatly in the lead but I could hear footsteps close behind. This first mile was identical to the one before other than the start hard been moved about 200yds up the road on a slight hill. Since I don't race  the short stuff too often and haven't done any speedwork in several months I can't judge my pace at these faster speeds too well these days. As we began up the first hill I was already feeling the effort and in my mind I was thinking there is no way I am going to run 7:09 like I did three weeks ago for the first mile.

  I could hear the footsteps a little closer but I never looked back.   Finally hit mile one going down a hill and I have to admit I was shocked but pumped to see it was a 6:51 !! Oh yeah !

  But then of course we headed uphill and I was already making my death groans and gasp and I could tell the guy behind me was gaining on the hill. The course leveled out and then down another short hill and I opened the gap a bit but then back uphill and the footsteps were getting louder again. He didn't catch me and as the course got easier again I just put the hammer down and pushed. In a couple of minutes I could no longer hear the footsteps and was hoping I had broken him because I was really hurting but I didn't want too back off. I knew I had a shot at a big improvement and I wanted every second.

 We made a right turn onto the new section of the course which was an out and back spur. Down a hill and then up a hill and then I hit mile 2 in 7:25.  A big slowdown  but that was a very tough mile and it was still 20 seconds faster than 3 weeks ago. Just downhill from there was a u-turn and I was not happy to see that my gap on 2nd place was not as big as I had hoped. I tried pushing up the hill but it was hurting so much and I was about to get nauseous.

  I tried to gather myself on the down for the next hill but I could hear him gaining. We turned and had a short steep down hill and then the mountain loomed ahead. A very steep tough hill with half a mile to go . I  could hear him getting closer but he was hurting too. I was bracing myself for the inevitable pass. I thought I was going to throw up and I wanted to back off so bad. 2nd place to a guy 20 years younger than me would not be bad and I was still ahead of pace. But I'm just not wired that way. As the gradient of the hill finally eased off some I begin to channel my inner Honey Badger. I could hear Laura's voice in my head saying to surge now and break him. And it worked. I kept him from closing the gap anymore and as soon as we made the final turn and a nice easy downhill I put the hammer down one more time and the footsteps behind quickly faded away.

   A slight 200 yard uphill finish and I sneaked a peak over my shoulder and no one was there. Woohooo !

  22:26 which is a 40 second improvement over 3 weeks a go on a tougher course ! Something is working in this comeback !

 Stay tuned. Big things coming !

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Some thoughts on getting in the Western States 100 for 2015

 I just wanted to share a few thoughts on my luck in the lottery and finally getting into Western States and after this I won't be talking about it again until the Spring. I have other important stuff to focus on for awhile with the training before I can even start to plan on WS training.

   I know a lot of you share my excitement but a lot  of others don't. The race certainly has it's detractors and there is a lot of criticism of the race for various reasons. Yes, the entry fee is very high and a lot more than than any other ultra I have every done. Yes,  I have done  many races a lot cheaper that offer a great value  and even some FA events are fun and  have great organization.

  And yes there are more scenic races but WS is still a beautiful place. It's certainly not thetoughest course  but it is a very difficult challenge. And yes getting in is difficult but with so many people wanting to get in and the restrictions on the number of runners it is the best way to insure that as long as you qualify that eventually you will get your chance. It is what it is.

   So why is it so important to me and why the excitement to get in ?

  I began to run in June 1977. In September of that year I found a copy of Runner's world magazine and it had a short report of the race. Keep in mind that at this time my longest run had been 3 miles and I had never known that average guys like me could run in road races. I was almost in dis-beleif that anyone could run that far but I was intrigued with the idea of ultra marathons. A few years later and after  a lot of miles and my first marathon I was reading more about ultra's.  The old Racing South magazine would cover some Southern Ultras including Strolling Jim and several others and I learned of the now legendary Ray Krolwiecz. And in 81 or 82 a new magazine called Ultrarunning started and I subscribed to it for a year. And I even sent a SASE to David Horton for an entry into the first Mountain Masochist 50 miler ! Good thing I didn't enter because I would have had no clue what I was doing.

  But after that first marathon I decided to stick to the shorter distance stuff, 5k to 10 milers but I still loved to read about the marathons and ultra's. I remember that ABC's Wide World of Sports actually did a special for two or three years covering Western States.

 Well many years passed and then I found myself with an ACL tear playing soccer in 1998. I had not been doing a whole lot of running in the decade of the 90's and had lost my comptitive fire a long time before. But after the injury I realized how much  I missed running and all I wanted was to be able to run again. Fast forward a few years and the knee was doing great. On a whim I entered the 2002 Holiday Lake 50k thinking that I had always wanted to run an ultra so why not now. I caught the ultra bug an did my 1st 100 in 2004 and put my name in the lottery hat.

 I finally got in for the 2007 race and as you that know me are aware I blew it. There was no reason I should not have finished that year other than I made stupid mistakes. I didn't run another 100 for another 4 years as I felt I needed a break from the longer ones until I entered and finished at Tahoe Rim in 2011. I was now ready and eager to gain my redemption at WS. 4 years in the hat and now i will finally get my chance to get the buckle that I have been thinking about for 37 years.

 Stay Tuned.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Training update thru Dec.7th 2014

 It's been a month since the last update. My focus over this past month has just to slowly build my mileage back to pre-injury levels and have some fun doing it. I was already commited to running the OBX marathon and Derby 50k races long ago so I have just used those as long training runs.

 It hasn't all been easy running though. I have continued to throw in a few hard workouts along the way. The best ones have been a couple of Fridays where I was finally able to run with long time friend Laura Frey. She is way too fast for me for my normal paces but on her easy recovery day I can get in a good tempo pace ! So we have gotten together for a couple of those and hopefully we can continue to share these workouts whenever it fits our schedules. It was nice to have Pauline join us this past Friday for the fun.

  I also ran the 5k before Thanksgiving for fun and as a test to see where my speed is at right now. That went better than expected. The crosstraining is going great and I am still doing lots of core, body weight and free weight stuff at last 6 days a week.

  Now that Derby is behind me and I have had a week to recover it is time to  go into the final training for my Boston qualifying attempt at Wrightsville Beach on March 22nd. I have a 5k this coming weekend again and then The Ocean Isle Beach Half marathon in January but other than that it is all focused training for the marathon for the next 14 weeks. After the 5k this weekend it is time to get some speedwork done !

 Stay tuned for more details.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Derby 50k 2014 or the streak continues

It's been going on long enough now to call it tradition. If it's Thanksgiving weekend it is time to head South for the Derby 50k. This year I would be going for my 11th consecutive running of this little gem of a race in the tiny Richmond County Community. ( The race crosses into Montgomery County each of the 3 loops).

   Over the years I have set pr's, run with friends and sometimes suffered but always enjoy the great atmosphere of this low-key Mangum Track Club Event hosted by Mark Long and some awesome volunteers. It's a 3 lap course in a very rural area with rolling hills so although it is a bit challenging it can provide an opportunity for some fast times as well as be an event for first time ultra newbies and each year there is a good mix of first timers and veterans. I arrived around 7:15 and spent the time before visiting with many friends that always seem to be there.

  Coming into this years event I knew going in that a pr was way out of the question  since I am not back to 100% from the injury and it would take that at this point for me to have a shot at it. So my plan this year was to have fun, get in a good long endurance workout and hopefully not crash and burn. But I am a bit of a dreamer and miracles do sometimes occur so I was ready for anything.

  The weather this year was looking perfect. Start in the mid 30's and warming up to about 50 with only slight wind.  I lined up with the idea of just running how I felt, no pushing the pace but no walking either for the first lap and then re-assess the situation. I started off easy over the first hill just past the start and then settled in to my comfortable normal easy run pace on the gentle down hill to the mile mark. I was a bit surprised it was about 8:40 since it felt a lot easier than that.

  Everything was feeling good and around the 1.5 mile mark I fell into pace with Mark Johnson, Justin McLamb and Walt Robinson. We were having a great time chatting as the miles passed quickly. I had no need for anything from the aid stations so I just kept cruising on by and feeling good. Just past aid station two, Justin and Mark began to pull away and I had no desire to chase them and wear myself down so Walt and I continued on sharing the beautiful morning. I was still feeling pretty good  and the pace was a bit faster than my pr pace. We ran the mile long hll from 8 to 9 in a decent time but by mile 10 I could tell I was going to be in trouble if I kept up that pace. 

  As we came into the first lap I stopped at my car just long enough to grab my water belt and a protein drink and walked through the aid station while I drank it. Walt had gone on ahead so I was going to be spending the remainder of the day alone as things were very spread out by now. I am not always the smartest in these ultra's but I headed out on lap two planning to run/walk the hills and hopefully not blow up. I was getting a bit tired and had another 21 miles to go. I had about a minue cushion over pr pace but that would be gone quickly !

  A mile later I was getting a low battery message on my garmin which surrprised me since I had just charged it two days before and not used it. Oh well. I continued on doing the run/walk as planned. Nothing was hurting but I was a bit tired. Passed by aid station  one and stayed only long enough to take a gel and moved on. Same thing at aid station two. Going up the mile long hill was a lot harder this time around and slower with the run/walk but I go it done.  I finished up the lap same as before with a quick stop for another protein drink and drank it while Mark re-filled my water bottle.

  As I headed out on lap 3 I was a bit surprised to have a bit of a resurgence of energy and a little zip in the legs. this was a good feeling so I just went with it. My pace over the next couple of miles was close to what I ran the first lap but then of course I was still doing some walking on the hills so I was going to be a lot slower overall. Stopped at aid station one again just long enough to take a gel and thank them for being there and then took off  on Sycamore Lane, may favorite section of the course.

  I tried to run as fast as I could on the slight downhill and passed the marathon point in about 4:23. I was quite happy with that because that was 25 minutes faster than my time at the OBX Marathon just 3 weeks earlier and I was still feeling pretty good. But I was slowing down by the time I hit the dirt road. As I came into aid station two for the last time I took a gel , thanked them and headed out saying I only had 5k to go and anyone can run a 5k right ?

  But there was that mile long hill into a slight wind to contend with once again. It was slow but I got to the top and it was mostly easy cruisng from there. I ran strong to the finish in 5:22:48 which was good for 19th out of 69 finishers and 16 minutes faster than my time last year. My last lap was actually 3 minutes faster than lap two so that made me happy too.

 As always, afterwards I went inside to enjoy a delicious sphagetti dinner provided by the local church ladies and  visit with friends that had finished.

 Once  again a wonderful way to spend the Saurday after Thanksgiving. Thanks to Mark and the volunteers and if nothing happens I will be back next year for # 12 !

 Thanks to Kevin Spradlin for all the pics.

 Stay Tuned !