Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I have seen the Promise Land (and it's beautiful ! )

After 4 long years I was really looking forward to returning to the site of one of my favorite 50k mountain ultra's. I had raced here 4 times and in 2005 swept all but the first and last 2.6 miles segments on the gravel road as a training run. Due to nagging injuries and then concentrating on first doing an Ironman and then qualifying for Boston , I have been away from the trails for too long.

Now that Boston was behind me I was almost giddy with excitement as I met with the Ultra Angel Jenn for the ride up to the camp in the Blue Ridge Mts of Va. Rain put a damper on some of the Friday night socializing but it was still wonderful to see so many of my ultra buddies that I had not seen in 3 or 4 years in some cases. Many that I met and shared many miles in these very mountains. It was also good to see the excitement of some of my Triangle area friends that were getting ready to experience these gorgeous but challenging trails for the first time.

The rain continued through the night but I slept well in the tent. I wasn't too excited to get out in the morning at 4:30 am though but it wasn't raining too heavy and the 47F temperature wasn't bad so I climbed out and tried to stick to my normal routine to get ready for the start. Because of not training on the trails and just having run the Boston Marathon 5 days earlier I had no plans to race the course this year. I just wanted to get back and use this as a kick start for my training for the Tahoe Rim 100 miler in July and what better way than to do a difficult 34 miles in the mountains on tired legs?

With that in mind I had two goals for the day. #1 was to get to the finish and not suffer. #2 was to try and stay with Jenn for as long as possible while still concentrating on goal #1. Jenn was hoping to improve over her time from last year but her training has not been what she would like so she wasn't too confident.

The race started promptly with nearly 300 starters and I was happy to find that the rain stopped shortly afterwards. It is also dark for the first 45 minutes or so of the race so after a short distance running we fell into a powerwalk as the gravel road leading to aid station #1 gets progressively steeper and we don't want to burn up too much energy this early in the race.

I will spare you the blow by blow account of this race since I wasn't really racing. If you want more of a course description you can read my blog in the archives from April 2007. I also was carrying my camera and took nearly 30 minutes of video so you can see bits of most of the sections of the course. I'll be posting those on youtube soon if you haven't already seen them on facebook. Look for a post with the links soon.

Anyway in summary, after the first long climb I felt ok but was worrying that they may not hold up so well by the tougher climbs later in the day. I had no splits from my previous years so I had no idea how our pace was looking compared to years past. It didn't matter to me but I would have liked to have known so I could tell Jenn how things were going. We were having a splendid time and I was enjoying spending the day with my frequent training partner and dear friend.

By the time we reached the top of Apple Orchard Mountain the first time around 13 miles I was feeling fantastic and taking in all the sights that I am usually in too much of a hurry to appreciate. It's hard to sightsee and run here with all the rocks and roots along the trail. My energy level was steady thanks to an intake of Pringles, Cheez-its, M&M's and Hersheys chocolate.

In the latter mils of the race it was obvious that Jenn was not having a great day but a steady one. At this point I could have pushed and moved on ahead but I was in no hurry. She was getting blisters on both feet too which was causing her to slow down. After the final climb she told me I should go on ahead but I told her I was content to stay with her. A little later she sat down to tend to her blisters so I sat down to clean out my shoe which had a total blowout. Amazingly I had no problems with blisters even with so much debris going into my shoes the last 12 miles or so. Finally we got up and ran the rest of the way down the last 4.5 miles to the finish.

It was my slowest time ever but I thoroughly enjoyed spending the day on this gorgeous course with The Beautiful Ultra Angel. I never imagined I would feel as good as I did. My legs held up great and it wasn't until we had reached the final downhill on the gravel road that my quads were hurting. I sure wish I could have felt this good at Boston last weekend!!!

A fantastic weekend. So wonderful to see so many friends and hopefully I will be seeing many of you more often now as I once again turn my focus on being Ultraman again.

video part 1.

video part 2.

video part3.

video part 4 to the finish.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Heading to The Promise Land 2011

Getting very excited about traveling up to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia for my 5th time running the Promise Land 50K. This is one of David Horton's races and part of the Lynchburg Ultra Series and Beast Series. My 1st time was in 2003 as I began my real 1st year in ultra running and it was the toughest one I had done up to that time. It took me over 8:30 that year and I didn't think I would ever make it up that last climb. For those of you unfamiliar with the race, it is a very difficult trail race over several mountains including twice over Apple Orchard Mountain and across the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Race website

I have not done a trail ultra since my dnf at Masochist in 2008 and very little single track running since then and since I just ran Boston 4 days ago, I don't expect to run fast this year. Mainly I just want to return for the fun and beauty of the course and see a lot of ultra buddies that I have not seen in years. This is also the kickoff of my training for the Tahoe Rim 100 miler which I am doing in 12 weeks. Yep, marathon training is behind me for awhile now although I will continue to do some speedwork and tempo runs as part of my ultra training.

I'm traveling to the race with the Ultra Angel as she goes for her 2nd run here. I wasn't able to make the trip last year as it didn't fit the plan. A couple of other Raleigh area friends from the NCRC will be making there first attempts at this tough course, Mike Walsh and Charles Akers. It's going to be big fun. I hope to shoot some video this year since I'll be taking it "easy"

here is my race report from 2007

here are the pics from 2007

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Boston Performance (or the lack there of)

Everything was perfectly aligned for me to run a great race on Monday as I wished the ladies luck and headed towards my starting corral. My training had gone great ever since I had laid out the plan last December. I was feeling wonderful and confident and the weather was exactly what I had hoped for, around the upper 40's with a tailwind. Surely this would be one of my best races ever.

I entered my corral with about 5 minutes before the start and spotted Jeannie Craig, a runner from Virginia I had met at Promise Land several years ago. We chatted for a few minutes and then the wave of runners began moving forward. Although I was behind 9,000 runners in my wave, we reached the starting line in just a few minutes and were able to run immediately. I planned to run very conservatively the first mile and not worry about the pace. Even with the crowd I had only minor problems running evenly because they do a good job of seeding the runners at Boston. The first mile begins with a steep downhill and then a small hill up to the one mile mark. I hit that in 8:44 which was fine and then decided to kick it up a notch the next mile and try to get close to my goal.

My fantasy goal was a pr which would be an 8:11 overall pace or anything under 3:35:15 which I ran in 2006 at Myrtle Beach. I knew that was probably out of reach so anything under my 2nd best of 3:44 would have made me very happy. Mile two was getting close to goal in 8:17 and I had 24 more miles to go to to gradually chip away at the pace. Mile 3 was 8:18 and I was a bit disappointed in that because I had tried to pick it up a little more and it felt like I was running much faster. Finally I hit mile 4 in 8:12. I was thinking that it was too hard to run that fast but I know sometimes in a marathon it takes 7 or 8 miles to get settled in comfortably.

Well, mile 5 took 8:36 and I now knew that I was not going to run fast today. Already I was struggling with a pace that should have felt like an easy workout so I made the decision then to relax and be happy to settle for something between 3:40 and 3:45. I don't know what was going on but I felt as if I were running a minute per mile faster in a 10k race. I could only hope that things would take a turn for the better. Of course I wasn't totally oblivious to what was going on around me. I was running the Boston Marathon after all and I was remembering sights along the course and how it was with Karla 5 years ago.

I was approaching the 10k split which would be the first time my friends tracking me could see my time and it was very disappointing to already be 1:30 slower than I'd hoped but even worse was how I felt and I was still slowing down. The next few miles were a struggle. There was no resurgence of energy and as I passed 10 miles it was obvious that I would not even be close to a 3:45 today. In frustration I slowed down and the only question now was how much would I blow up and suffer the last 16 miles. I just decided to spend the remainder of the race trying to take in as much of the experience as possible.

I made my way into Wellesley and was listening for the roar as I approached the gauntlet of college girls. If I had been on record pace I don't know if I would have taken the time but since I was just slogging along now I would make sure I picked out a pretty one and get me a kiss. They were out in full force and about halfway down the line I spotted a beautiful blonde young lady and she planted a nice one on me. I was happy with that but just as I neared the end of the line I spotted a stunningly beautiful brunette so I had to get another kiss for good measure. Actually the way I was feeling I think I would have rather stayed there a lot longer getting kisses than running but it was time to move on.

Just past the ladies I went through the half in 1:54 but every mile was getting slower and the next one took me 10:10 and I was feeling terrible. Nothing was helping. No gels or gatorade could save my race today and by mile 15 I was already taking some walk breaks. Just as I approached the 16 mile mark I spotted my buddy Fred "Doom" Dummar up ahead escorting Ivan Castro. I knew then if I was catching up as slow as I was going that Ivan wasn't having a good day either. We were entering into the Newton Hills now and it took me 3 more miles to finally catch up to them. I ran along talking to Doom for a few minutes. I had done some calculating and figured that if Lisa was having a good day that she would probably pass me near the 20 mile mark. I told Doom that she should be by soon and then I moved on ahead.

Sure enough just a short way past the 20 mile pint, Lisa went by looking strong. It would have been nice to try and run with her for awhile but there was no way today. Heartbreak Hill comes in this mile and when I got to it I was determined that I was not going to take a walk break here. It was slow but I made it to the top and then hit the downhill to mile 21 at Boston College. They were by far the biggest crowd and loudest spot on the course. I soaked up as much energy from them as I could and slogged on my way. For many miles now I was wishing I had known I would not be running fast. It was so tempting before the start to not even try and just run with The Princess again and now I was really wishing we were together.

The next couple of miles were just awful as I continued to move even slower and by mile 23 I was ready to just give up running at all and walk it in from there.I have actually felt better at the end of some 50 and even 100 mile races than I felt at this point. The only thing keeping my mind off the discomfort was remembering the sights and emotions of my last time here 5 years ago. i finally spotted the Citgo sign way ahead but you can see it nearly 1.5 miles before you get to it, but at least I knew how far it would be when I got there. I was now having to walk more often to fend off cramps in my calves.

Finally I made it to Fenway Park and the 1 mile to go point in the race and knew that it would all be over soon. Kind of sad to work so hard for two years to qualify, hope to run a fast time only to be wishing now it was all over. As I approached the turn onto Hereford St, the crowds were loud and encouraging but no amount of cheering was going to make me feel any better. In fact, sad to say it was annoying me at the time and I just wanted to be left alone in my misery. I know they meant well and I appreciate that but my motivation comes from within. I walked that block and then began my run to the finish on Boylston Street. And then finally it was over. And I beat Batman by a couple of steps I guess that is something.

I slowly made my way to get my space blanket. As soon as I stopped the wind began to feel cold. Next I got some water, claimed my finishers medal , and my food bag. then I had to find my drop bag and then a long walk to the family meeting area to wait for Karla. If I'd had a good day I had planned to go back up the course until i found her and run the last couple of miles with her but now I could barely walk and just wanted to sit for awhile. Tried to change into some warm clothes and the legs were cramping horribly. A nice lady helped me stretch my right calf and then as long as I sat still I was ok. As I sat waiting , I was hoping that Lisa had continued on to a pr and praying that Karla would make it through with no problems. Finally after about 45 minutes, Karla walked up looking ok but she didn't see me sitting on the curb until I called her name. When I saw her smile and knew she did ok, I felt 100% better.

I still don't have a clue what could have caused everything to fail me on this day. For some reason it just wasn't meant for me to run well. I know the training was on track, I had tapered and I was hydrated before the start and even ran with a 24oz water bottle the first hour so I wouldn't have any problems with crowding at the water stops. I even checked my bioryhthms when i got home and they were positive too. The only thing I can think that caused it was not buying those negative ion shoe inserts at the expo !

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boston 2011, a celebration of friendship

Looking back now, it is still a mystery exactly why I made the decision to pace Karla in the Myrtle Beach Marathon in Feb 2005. I had not signed up for the race , had no intentions of going to the race and had a full slate of ultra's to run including the Uwharrie 40 miler the weekend before. I barely knew her and had just run with her once on Jan 1st of that year. Our lives are guided by the decisions we make but sometimes and I certainly believe in this instance my decision was guided from above. That one decision led to my miracle of qualifying for Boston in 2006, sharing that day with Karla and the very special friendship that led to this past weekends celebration of life in Boston.

Although my race didn't go as I had hoped (the gory details will follow in another post) I am still very pleased with the trip and sharing the long weekend with great friends. Once again her husband Frank was along as well as his son Eric and his girlfriend Andrea to cheer us on. Lisa our wonderful training partner the past two years and her husband Mike were along too. Lisa as most of you know qualified in the same race as Karla and I last year.

While we were at the Athlete's Village in Hopkinton I had just enough time to wait in the port-a-potty line with the ladies before heading over to my start since my wave would begin 20 minutes before their wave. As I headed off I gave Karla a hug and despite my best effort , we both got choked up for a minute. 5 years later and I still get emotional every time I think about it. Sometimes I wonder if I ever will be able to not get emotional about it. I hope not. But that passed quickly and
it was all smiles now. this was and is a celebration after all and we were back at The Boston Marathon and healthy !

Here is a link to some photos from the 2006 race. I ran with Karla's camera and Frank was able to take a few at a couple of points along the way.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Race strategy

I've been trying to come up with a plan on exactly how I would like to run the race but I'm having a difficult time. when I began almost 34 years ago, running seemed so simple but nowadays it just gets more and more complicated.

First off is what to wear. I used to just pick out a pair of shoes that worked, some socks, a pair of shorts, a shirt and I was good to go but now I guess I have to accessorize to maximize my potential. So, to start I'll get some kinesio tape. Then I'll have to get some compression leg sleeves, maybe some like these from zensah and while I'm at it I should probably wear the compression shorts too. I'll probably need one of these bandana's too.

I have learned in the past couple of years that we were "Born to Run" which means we're suppose to run barefoot or at least in some $100 "minimalist shoes" In case you haven't read the book I am quoted in it so I guess I should give it a try. I'm thinking I'll start the race in these Vibrams Five Fingers, then about half way I'll stop and take them off and barefoot it the rest of the way.

I've have also learned that I am obviously too dull and incapable of running for hours without some form of electronic entertainment. I guess actually being in tune with myself and taking in all the senses of the race environment isn't good so I need to listen to music to keep me motivated. In fact I am so dumb I don't even know what music to listen too so there is a website that will make up a playlist for you ! It will not only make me faster but smarter as you can see from this quote on the website.

"Studies have shown that listening to music during exercise works wonders on the mind and body. Not only can it improve results by acting as a motivational tool and as a distraction from fatigue, but it can help improve lung function and it might even make you smarter."

I won an ipod at a race two years ago but it is still in the box. I'll have to get one of my sons to help me figure out how to use it and put in a playlist of songs that I will probably hate. That should motivate me to run faster and by the end I'll be a genius !

Now, as far as the correct way to run, I'm really having a problem deciding which way is best so I'm thinking of a three pronged approach here. I always thought the fastest way to run was to run all the way but according to Jeff Galloway I should take walk breaks. It doesn't make sense to me but when asked by a lady in his monthly Runners World column if she should try to run the whole way in her next race, he answered , no that many of his runners ran faster with the breaks. Hmm, I wonder how many walk breaks he took when he qualified for the Olympics? But who am I to question.

I think what I'll do is use the Gallowalk plan for the first 10 miles. Then for the next 10 miles I will switch to the "Pose Method". Obviously my running form has been completely wrong all these years and it's a wonder I have ever been able to finish a race let alone nearly 400. I will probably be getting tired the last 6 miles and have a hard time holding form dso I will switch to some "Chi Running" the last 6.2.

Well what do you think ? will my plan get me to the finish line in record time?

Shipping up to Boston

Half a day of work and then packing up for the trip to Boston for the marathon. I hope to be able to keep everyone updated on all the fun this weekend and I will have some more post up on my blog, Many of my friends and family have expressed an interest in keeping track of us in the race so here is what you need to know.

The race begins on Monday the 18th with the elite women at 9:30 and then the elite men and wave one starts at 10 .I am in wave two and start at 10:20. The race will be televised on Universal Sports but don't look for me since I won;t be running with the Kenyans this year. There will be athlete tracking on the race website ,

You can also sign up to have text or email messages sent to you courtesy of ATT. It is quick and simple to sign up for that. go here.

My bib number is 17486. If you want to follow anyone else it's easy to look up their bib number on the website. Just go to entrants and put in their name.

I want to thank all of you in advance for all of your support and encouragement as I make these final preparations. Whenever I am running these long races of marathon or beyond I always think of my family and friends that are thinking about me and find strength and comfort knowing that people really care about me. And now with facebook to keep so many of us in contact so easily, it is really cool to have the support of hundreds of you from so many parts of my life.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Why Boston ? Part 2

Over the past 33 years I have competed in nearly 400 races and triathlons. Many of these have been in beautifully scenic races, big ones little ones, short ones and 100 milers as well as an Ironman. There have been too many wonderful experiences to pick a list of favorites without leaving out a lot of them but without a doubt the Boston Marathon 2006 was the greatest experience of my running life. But it wasn't the history or the tradition or the time I finished the race that made it so special. No,it was because I had the honor and privilege of running the race beside and witnessing the courageous effort of my dear friend and training partner Karla. Most of my friends know the story but for those new readers that don't know it, she had just under gone two surgeries for stage 3 breast cancer 6 weeks before the race and was about 3 weeks into chemo therapy as we lined up for the start of the race.

It was actually a miracle of sorts that I had even qualified and without her I never would have been able to do it. I'll never forgot the sick feeling in my stomach when I got the call from her to report that the biopsy was positive just 9 days before I was to run my last chance for qualifying at the 2006 Myrtle Beach Marathon. My pr was 3:47 and I would have to knock 12 minutes off that time. Now we didn't even know if Karla was going to be able to run at Boston but if there was any way possible and the doctors would allow it she was planning to run. And after all the miles we had run together in every kind of heat and cold, dark and rain, I knew I had to be there for her.

Of course I did pull off the miracle and just barely qualified but as I crossed the line with a huge pr and a BQ instead of smiling I burst into tears, my heart breaking for what I knew The Marathon Princess was facing a week later.

In the end all turned out well. We had the wonderful experience together at Boston.

If you haven't read the stories , here are the links.

Part 1 tells of of the beginning of the plan and my first attempt to qualify at Richmond in Nov. 2005.

Part 2 covers the Myrtle Beach qualifier

Part 3 is the Boston 2006 race report.

Karla and I made an agreement that when she was able to return to full strength that we would once again train to qualify and return to Boston to celebrate and race it hard. Her treatments took nearly a year and then it took another full year for her to recover back to normal after the ravages of chemo-therapy and radiation. Finally in 2009 we decided it was time to start planning to comeback as soon as I got my Ironman finished in June. By now we had a new friend and training partner, Lisa "Mountain Girl" Howell working towards the same goal and in a near storybook tale all 3 of us qualified in the same race at the 2010 Tobacco Road Marathon. Fortunately we were all three able to get into Boston this year despite the race filling it's entry limit in 8 hours !

Karla just had another checkup and after 5 years since the first diagnoses is cancer free and strong as ever. Sadly she has been struggling with foot injury issues since last Fall so she will not be in top shape but at least she is well ! And that my friends is why I'm so excited to make my return.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Why Boston ? Part 1

So whats so special about the Boston Marathon some of you may ask. Perhaps a legitimate question today with probably 500 marathons in the USA alone and many overseas. Every major city in the USA has one with many having more runners than Boston. And amongst all those marathons there are certainly more scenic routes, easier courses , harder courses and many are extremely well organized.

Lets look back to when I was just a lad born in 1955. As I was growing up I was only aware of the marathon when the Olympics would roll around and in those days coverage of the event may have just been a few moments. It wasn't really until Frank Shorter won in Munich in 1972 that most of America became aware of the marathon and that event is credited with the start of the first running boom. And then there was the Boston Marathon which I vaguely remember seeing a small report in the newspaper each year. It really wasn't until I saw an article with a photo of Jerome Drayton winning Boston in 1977 that spurred me to begin running.

By that year there were still just a couple of dozen marathons and 25,000 runners completed one in 1976. There will be more than that in just this one race this year alone. And of all those Marathons, Boston is the oldest having began in 1897 after the first of the modern day Olympics. By the 70's when I began running it was still one of the top competitive races in the world and with it's tough qualifying times it was the dream of nearly every serious runner to one day be able to compete.

Of course the standards to get in are much easier than they were back then but it still takes either a great gift from God or for most of us a whole lot of hard work and determination along with some luck to make it in.

So the history and tradition is a big part of the reason why it means so much to me to be able to go and race Boston this year. The fact that the race was a part of the reason I began running in the first place and that to participate you have to run a quality marathon makes it that more exciting that I will once again have a chance to participate

I would suggest to anyone with any interest in running to read as much as you can on the early history of the race and marathoning in general.

Part 2 coming soon !
Posted by runjoey at 9:22 PM
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