Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 in review

In many ways, 2008 has been a frustrating year. For the first time in nearly a decade since I tore my knee up playing soccer, I have been dealing with pain and injury over most of the year. Prior to 2008, I have really had some great years with my running,achieving goals and taking on challenges I could have only imagine in my dreams that I would be doing at this age. Over those years I've been doing around 10 to 12 ultra's a year and 5 or 6 marathons, I have only completed two ultra's this year. I did complete 6 marathons but all of them but one were slow by my standards.

Like all years there were other ups and downs but we're not going to dwell on the downs. It's time to move on and look back on all the good things about the year. And there were some very good things because they were times shared with my friends, and that is always the best part of any year.

January got off to a good start at the Frosty 50K. I was hoping for a 50k PR, I missed it but ran my fastest race here in my 5th time running it by over 30 minutes. And afterwards I had the coolest blister ever.

February got off to a good start too with a road-trip to Tybee Island with two of my closest friends, Jerry and Karla. This one was my idea and they just went along for the fun as I attempted to qualify for Boston. I failed but we had a great trip anyway and I got to see several other MTC members there too.

Two weeks later we all went down to Myrtle Beach again for the marathon. It's a great race and a lot of fun because so many friends and aquaintences from the NCRC and MTC run it. I was just planning on running with the Marathon Princess this day which is about my most favorite thing in the world to do. She was a bit disappointed in the time but it was a pleasure sharing the miles anyway.

March was mostly training and then the Umstead Trail Marathon. I like the race and seeing a lot of good friends but in 4 races there I have never ran well. This year was again a slow miserable experience but I got to run practically all of it with my partner in pain, Tony Rouse and that is always a good day.

April and the Umstead 100. I love this race although most of the time I just volunteer. This year I had high hopes of running well and improving my 100 mile PR. I still don't exactly know what happened out there. My legs hurt all day but they weren't a factor in my dnf. But even in such a disppointing result, there was much good going on. Especially gratifying was seeing several friends run their first 100 milers, most notably Dorothy Hunter and the most lovely Jenn. I didn't get to pace the Trail Princess Anita for the first time in 3 years but passed that duty on to my friend Eric Nesbit who did a great job keeping her going and in the process covered nearly twice as many miles as he had ever done. I'll will be taking back over the Princess pacing duties in 2009.

In May I headed off to the Dakotas for the first time ever to run the Fargo Marathon with the amazing Italian running machine and close and dear friend Margherita. I knew I didn't have a qualifier in me but was hoping to run with Margo but I began fall apart before I ever reached the 9 mile mark and had a miserable race. Once again though I had wonderful companionship and got to see a part of the country I'd never seen.

A few weeks later in June, I was back on a plane to the Dakotas but this time to South Dakota with Frank and Karla. This was a great trip and so nice to visit with Karla's family and see where she grew up. We ran the Swan Lake marathon together and although it was another slow one it was a joy to run my 8th marathon with her. And afterwards I had a great vacation in the Black Hills. Cool !

A week later though and I had to drop out of the Boogie 50 at the 1o mile mark. I just couldn't stand the pain any longer and there was no way I could run another 40. I took a couple of weeks off and they got a little better.

As soon I as I got home I rejoined the YMCA to began swimming and cross-training. Margo had gotten me interested in signing up for a triathlon in Wake Forest and I had two weeks to get ready for it. All the Scotts were there as well as Frank and Karla andI thoroughly enjoyed it, my first one in 3 years. And then I got stupid and signed up for an Ironman next year.

And then in July I was back at one of my favorites, the Grandfather Mountain Marathon. I knew there would be no fast time this year. I just wanted to run it for fun and hopefully not damage myself. After the first mile I joined in with a couple of lovely young ladies from Raleigh, Camilla and Lori but after about 5 miles they were going faster than I wanted. About that time I saw my Trail Angel struggling so I dropped back to run with her. We ended up spending the rest of the race together making it my slowest but most enjoyable GMM ever.

Over the next couple of months I would do more biking and swimming than running and participated in a few more sprint tri's. In July I went with Bill and Margo to Burlington for one . Then in August I did one in Chapel Hill. Margo and the Werners were there but it was especially satisfying to see Jenn do her first Tri and do it very well. My last tri was one in Hillsborough that I shared the trip with Margo again.

Over the next several months I mostly just trained but my running mileage was half of normal and the pain wouldn't go away despite the treatments I was getting. I did a couple of more tris and a couple of 5 k's but was really hoping to be able to enjoy the Autumn running.

In October Jenn and I went to the mountains for a nice training run on the Mt Masochist course. I was surprised that my legs felt pretty good and was hopeful they may be getting better but once I was home they hurt again. We went back Nov. 1st to run Masochist. I was not confident at all but just wanted to run as much as I could with Jenn. It actually went better than expected for a while but then I couldn't hold the pace and eventually dropped out at 33 miles. But it was so nice to see Jenn's big smile as she made the finish. I was so proud of her once again.

And then there was Derby 50K. Nice and slow but thankfully my legs held up one final time with very little pain and although it was slow it was the easiest 50K I've ever run and the best job of pacing myself.

And then I quit running. Almost 5 weeks now. Things are feeling a lot better and I hope to test things out on the first.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of my friends an readers in cyber-space.

All I wanted for Christmas is a new pair of hamstrings. I didn't get them so I'll have to do the best I can with the ones I have. They have finally felt a lot better the past couple of days but I'm still waiting at least another week to try running.

Friday, December 19, 2008

So how is the swimming going?

Thanks for asking. Well, mostly very boring although I seem to be able to get into a groove after about 15-20 minutes and then the time seems to pass quickly.

I'm actually very happy with the way things are going right now. My weekly yardage totals are the highest they have ever been. Back when I used to compete regularly in triathlons in 1999-2004, I never swam as far as I'm doing now in training. My usual workouts in those years were 1,000 to 1,200 yards. The only time I ever swam further was in a few of the International distance tri's I competed in and one half-Ironman swim. Since I have started back swimming over the last 6 months, my workouts now are almost always at least 2,000 yds with one long continuous swim each week of at least a mile. Last week I swam a new mile PR and today I did my longest continuous swim ever of 1.5 miles.

I would rather be running.

The legs continue to improve but I am going to hang tough and wait at least two more weeks before trying them out.

Friday, December 12, 2008

14 Days and Counting

14 days. That how many days it's been so far without running. If all goes according to plan, it will be another 3 weeks before I test things out and see if I can finally run pain-free again. I sure hope I can finally put this injury behind me and begin the new year with a fresh start. There is always some discomfort when you train and race hard but this has been the first time I have had anything like this before. It has been a very frustrating year as I've tried to cure the injured hamstring only to have it keep hurting. Compared to the problems I was having in the summer, I feel great but I finally had to accept that I will have to take time off to let it heal completely.

In the meantime, I have and will continue to spend more time in the pool to stay in shape and be prepared for the upcoming years' schedule of triathlons that I will be using to prepare for next June's Ironman. I'm also doing some weight work in the gym. I should be lookin' good by June! I am already swimming faster, longer and stronger than I was in my earlier years when I competed in triathlons from 1999 to 2004.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Derby 50K 2008

5:37:10. If you had me last year asked what I would have thought about running that time at this years Derby, I would have said, very disappointed. But as I was nearing the finish this past Saturday, I was and still am thrilled with the time and my race.

I've said it many times before that I love this race for many reasons but I almost didn't come run it this year. I have had so my set-backs with my injuries this year that I was afraid of doing further damage and I also knew I probably was not in shape to run it anyway. Things had seemed to be improving very much lately but then on Tuesday before the race I did a 10 mile run and by halfway I was hurting and by the time I made it back to my car my hamstrings were a mess. So knowing it was probably foolish to come run, I decided to do it anyway. I really wanted to be there and I also was going after my 5 Year Veterans Vest. I didn't care about the time but just had two goals this year and not 3 like last year. One was to finish and two was to not do any further damage.

I drove down to Pinehurst Friday night and then awoke Saturday morning to see a cold rain outside. Great. I would get to be slow AND miserable. Seeing the friendly faces of my MTC friends when I arrived in Derby quickly lifted my mood and the rain almost stopped completely as the time to start arrived. It was about 43F but calm and I knew I'd be warmed up soon as long as the rain held off. And then, Mark Long the RD sent us on our way.

I began at a very conservative pace, something new for me here. In the previous 4 years I had been seeking a 50K pr and was successful in that endeavor in each run. This year would be all about making it to the finish as comfortable as possible. I found myself running alongside Jimmy Ballard and we were having a nice conversation for a couple of miles but then I slowly began to pull ahead. The segment to the first aid station is the easiest of the course so I was relaxing and enjoying the easy running. Soon enough but probably 5 minutes slower than last year I came into the aid station which was being run by the Doom family. Just said Hi and grabbed some water and started back up the road.

The next section is where a few hills start and I was thinking this year I'd be walking almost all the hills but I was feeling good and fresh and decided to go ahead and run them this first lap. I'm glad I made that choice because I felt great and was soon arriving at aid staion 2. A cup of ginger ale and I was quickly out again. I spotted my buddy Tony Rouse walking up ahead so I took off to catch up to him. I was thinking he was going to miss his first Derby because I didn't see him before the race but when I caught up to him and Eric Fogelman, I found out that they had started early and were on their 2nd loop. I walked with them for a coupe of minutes and then we began to run together. Eric dropped back to talk to someone as we arrived at the dirt road so Tony and I ran on. It was great to run with him since I haven't seen him since the Boogie in June where we were running together until I dropped out in pain at 10 miles.

The next couple of miles passed quickly and we cruised up the hill to aid station 3. Just before we arrived it began to rain steadily. I left just ahead of Tony and assumed he would catch me but that would be the last I would see of him. For the remainder of the race I would be alone except for a couple of minutes later on when I would pass someone. Only two people would be passing me today which kind of surprised me as slow as I was going but it is normal in the race for things to spread out quickly.

My left hamstring was beginning to hurt but I found myself running in a good rhythm so I was just going with the flow. As I arrived at aid station 1 again, my leg was in quite a bit of pain and I was beginning to worry. Susan D. offered me some ibuprofen but I declined since I had taken some before the start and took off running again. Despite the pain I was still running well and feeling strong so I once again decided to run the hills. By now the rain was a little harder and a breeze had picked up and now I was getting cold. The only thing that was really bothering me were my hands . I hadn't worn gloves and wouldn't have needed them if not for the rain. I just pulled my hands inside my sleeves, but by now they were soaked and not offering any warmth as I ran directly into the wind.

The next several miles were pretty miserable but amazingly as I ran up the hills to the end of loop #2 my legs had quit hurting and my energy level was great. I was very happy that the rain was stopping just as I finished the 2nd loop. I continued to run easily toward aid station 1 for the last time but expecting at anytime for the crash to come. I just couldn't believe how good I still felt. As I left and headed up the hills for the last time, I was expecting to have to walk some of them but once again I had no problem, although I was beginning to slow down a bit. I was drying out and warming up a bit now although there would still be an occasional sprinkle, so I was much more comfortable this last lap.

I passed the marathon point in 4:40, about 42 inutes slower than last year but I didn't care because I was doing much better than expected. Surely I would start to suffer soon I was thinking to myself but the miles continue to fall behind me and as I hit the dirt road with roughly 5k to go I knew that today there would be no crash. I thanked God for giving me the strength to run so well today and enjoy a great race.

In all my years and many 50k's I have never been able to run all of one without walking. Even in my past two fast pr years, I had to walk a little up the last hills. So now I had a new goal. Run up those last hills for the first time. When I got to the end of the dirt road and began the climb I was again amazed that I didn't even feel the need to walk. Not walking was easy. I didn't have to dig deep or anything. I just ran like I was out on a regular training run and when I made the turn for the last 2 /10ths to the finish I was so happy. I had truly expected at the start to be well over 6 hours and exhausted but instead I felt great and thought I could easily have gone on and run a good 50 mile time. Awesome !

Thanks to Mark and the wonderful volunteers. It was a cold raw day out there for them sitting and standing around for hours and they stayed upbeat and friendly all day.