Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ultra training-Part 1

I can't say that I have not ever focused my training on ultra's but in a way I haven't. At least not in the way I'm planning to over the next year. After my first ultra in Feb. 2002 I went back to training for triathlons which had been my main focus for a few years since tearing up my knee playing soccer in 1998. I had entered that ultra more or less on a whim and was only running about 20 miles a week on average and had done two runs over 13 miles in the year leading up to it.

I ran my next ultra in Jan 03 but was still mixing running with tri training. I had a more ambitious plan for the year including the Lynchburg Ultra Series but was basically just using one ultra or marathon as training for the next one. By the time I ran my 1st 50 miler that November I was only averaging 25 miles a week of running and really had no plan.

When 2004 rolled around I was entered in my first 100 at Umstead. The only thing I did specifically for that was to do at least one practice loop on the course each week planning my race strategy to go under 24 hours. Once after my practice lap I walked a second lap just to see how it would feel to walk one. My weekly average in the 6 months leading up to that race was a whopping 29 miles. Really cranking out the miles.

After that I did become a bit more serious and began to lose interest in tri's so I entered more events and increased my mileage to around 45 miles a week over the next few years. The only thing that I did do differently other than add more running was to try and do at least one workout specific to the demands of the next race.

By 2005 I had quit swimming and biking but rather than doing ultra training I was doing a lot of ultra's while beginning to train like a marathoner. That is when I started running with Karla after Massanutten in May. I think I did 10 ultra's that year while doing my long runs like a marathoner and doing twice weekly track workouts on the weeks I wasn't racing. It was hard but I knocked 25 minutes off my marathon pr by 2006 and saw big improvements in my ultra running setting pr's and course pr's all the way through the end of 2007. Of course 2008 was the year of pain and injury as most of you know, 2009 was the return to tri's and Ironman. 2010 to the present was all about Boston training with a return to trackwork, tempo and marathon pace runs. Which brings us up to date.

Now I have decided it is time to get serious and try training specifically as an ultrarunner for the next couple of years and see what happens. No tri training and no marathon training. Details in the next post. Maybe. Stay tuned.

In the meantime , here are some pictures from my "first" long ultra training run last Saturday with The Ultra Angel

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Halfway through 2011 already

With all the training I'm looking a lot younger and more fit it seems.

Ok, nothing else happening this month so lets look back and see how things have gone so far this year.

Things got off to a pretty good start with a decent time on a terribly windy day at the Ocean Isle Beach Half. That was followed by a faster time on a cold wet miserable day at the Goldsboro Heart and Sole Half. Then things got even better when I finally had some good weather at the American Tobacco Road Half in March and ran better than expected with my fastest time since 2006. It was a bit unusual for me to run 3 half marathons in 3 months. I usually don't run that many in a year but this year I had a different focus than in years past.

After coming off the injuries of 2008 I spent June 08 through June 09 foucsing my training on doing my first Ironman. After that I changed my focus until March 2010 on getting a qualifying time for Boston. From that date to this April everything revolved around Boston so the half marathons fit into my plans. But as I posted in April, all the planning was for naught and for some still inexplicable reason I had a very bad day from the beginning.Oh well. Thats life.

But it was now time to move on and I was already eager to move into a new phase and renew my focus on getting back to doing lots of ultra's again. I jumped in head first with the tough Promise Land 50K++ 5 days after Boston and had a wonderful day running with Jenn, The Ultra Angel. Slow time but I felt great and it just doesn't get much better than a beautiful day on beautiful mountain trails with a beautiful friend.

Had a great trip and a fun time in the inaugural New River Marathon in May. I felt much better than expected and got in some good training. After that I spent the rest of the time getting in some good run/walk training in Umstead and started spending a little more time on single track trails, something I had avoided for most of the past two years with my emphasis on Boston training.

I finished up the last of the competition for the first half of the year with my best Boogie 50 miler. And now it is time to really kick up the ultra running and training as we move into the 2nd half of 2011. I'll have that promised blog post on my training for you soon. Stay Tuned.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lightning, bugs and other notes on the Boogie

Lets start with lightning bugs. They were out for awhile this year before the rain but I feel sorry for folks that have only run the Boogie in the past couple of years. That's when the super bright light was installed at the boat landing which now shines all into the trees on the opposite side of the road. Before they had to go and screw that up it was nearly pitch black in that section and it looked like a million stars flashing from the river up to the top of the canopy. What an amazing show it was. I don't guess there is anyway we'll ever get them to turn that light out for the Boogie in the future.

And speaking of the storm, as I mentioned in my report I was never worried about the lightning but that's not to say that I don't have a healthy respect for the power it possesses and I have had times when I was certainly very nervous. It was certainly a spectacular show for awhile and being out on those lonely roads around midnight may have made it seem that more intimidating to some but there were always several seconds between the flashes and thunder so I never felt in danger. As a child I was always fascinated by lightning and my Mother always remembers when she would look in to check on me during a storm, thinking I may be afraid, would find me on my knees with my head through the curtains staring out in wonder. Sometimes I still just open the curtains and watch the show.

Over my 34 years of running now I have been caught in many thunderstorms where I did feel a bit scared, including a couple times in the NCRC August Umstead Series. I remember once in particular a year or two before I started hosting it and the course still ran down powerline hill. Lightning was crashing all around as I began the climb back up and I was actually trying to duck down a little (like that did any good)to avoid getting hit. Last year we got out of the park just in time as a major thunderboomer hit the park and flooded Glenwood Ave.

But the scariest event had to be back in the 90's when I was working in Columbia SC. I was planning an easy 4 miler out and back on a greenway along the river. Just before heading out I could see that a storm was brewing off in the distance. I figured I would be done before it reached the area so I headed out. Bad decision. It turned out to be a fast moving storm and hit just as I got to the turnaround. Violent crashes were hitting in the trees all along beside me and I was nearly sprinting the whole way back and praying the whole time. It stopped just as I finished. Later back in my motel room I heard on the news a couple were killed on the opposite shore of the river at the zoo.

A couple of years ago I was driving to Durham during a violent storm when suddenly a huge bolt hit a tree on the side of Highway 70 right beside me and the concussion was so strong it moved my car like a gust of wind and I could feel it inside the car. Yep that got my attention.

Back to the Boogie. As I said in my report, Doug and all the volunteers are wonderful but this year was even more special thanks to the support of a contingent of Raleigh area cheerleaders. Andy Surrette and the kids were down to crew for Amy and Angela Dukes was there for her husband Bryant. And Amy Schimmel and Lauren Wilkins came down just for the fun of it spending some time riding bikes on the course before dark. All of them offered help but I am used to be self-sufficient at these things after 60 or so ultras without a crew but it was still great to have more smiling familiar faces cheering me through each time I passed by the main aid station. Thanks for the support everyone.

I am also very happy to report that all of my Angel Team did an outstanding job. Lisa "Mountain Girl" Howell improved by 3 minutes over last year and was first woman Grandmaster in the marathon. And in the 50 miler my ladies went 1st,3rd and 4th place overall with Trail Angel winning and improving over last years time by a considerable amount. Ultra Angel in her first 50 mile Boogie was third and Ultramom Amy in her first 50 miler ever did outstanding in 4th. I take no credit for this of course. One of the reasons they are on my Angel Team is because they have proven to be Superwomen, tough as nails mentally and physically. Just wish the Marathon Princess could have been there. She and I ran the marathon together my first year when we had just started training together and I was hoping she would be there again. We need to get Margo down for some Boogie fun sometime too.

I guess that's enough of the Boogie for this year. Next year depends on whether or not I get lucky and have a chance to return to Western States. Stay tuned for more on that.

here are the Boogie results for this year

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bethel Hill Moonlight Boogie 50 mile 2011

OK, I give up. This is not the race to run a 50 mile pr. But is is a race to have a lot of fun sharing a unique experience with a community of wonderful running friends. This year was made more special by having a large contingent from the Raleigh area come down just to offer support.

I rode down with two of my Angel team, Lisa and Jenn. We arrived early so I had plenty of time to meet and greet with a lot of friends before getting dressed to run. Especially enjoyed the excitement that the first timers were showing. It was hot and a little humid, near 92 but not nearly as bad as last year and the forecast was for it to be cooler during the night too so I was hoping for at least a strong run.

Loop 1

Just before the start there was a storm off in the distance and a breeze kicked up and dropped the temperature several degrees. I hadn't really planned on it but found myself running with Jenn early on. We train a lot together and our easy pace is about the same so it just seemed natural. We spent some of the early miles running with Robert Crosby which was nice. I've seen him at ultra's for many years but never have run with him before. We also had the company of Jimmy Ballard in these early miles. As we made our way to the far side of the first 6 mile loop the road was wet from the shower and now steam was rising from the road and the humidity had become oppressive.

We just caught a few sprinkles but as we made it back up to the church, the road was soaked so we had all just missed out on the first storm. Now the skies were clearing and it was just warm and humid. The Surrette kids, Kayla, Drew and Ashlynn were waiting to squirt runners down with there water guns so I let them hose me down before heading down the hill. My plan was to take it a lot easier the first loop this year, so despite feeling pretty good I went ahead and walked just about all of Bethel Church Hill. Finished the first lap about 8 minutes slower than last year and everything was going well. My shirt was doing me no good just being soaked with the humidity so I took it off after letting the kids squirt me again.

loop 2

After a mile or so I began to pull away from Jenn and soon caught back up to Jimmy. We would share the next loop and it was mostly uneventful. As the sun set the moon was out and bright so I was really enjoying having a true moonlight Boogie. However there was lightning in the distance and it seemed another storm might be on the way. We ran a bit of the hill this time but my left foot had been bothering me for a while so I decided to check it out now before it got worse. I have a plantar wart that bothers me sometimes on long runs especially when my feet get wet but there was something else going on. I took off my shoe and saw nothing but when I took off my sock I found a large piece of debris that I had been carrying around since the beginning. Ahhhh, it felt so much better now.

I was a little disappointed that I had slowed down from the first lap and knew the pr attempt was not going to happen so I now planned to just run as well as possible and not worry too much with the time.

Loop 3

While I was sitting Jimmy had gone ahead and Jenn had caught up and continued on. I was still feeling good overall, legs were great and my energy level was fine so I was able to run well over the next several miles. By the time I hit the dog pen aid station the clouds were now covering up the moon and it was getting dark with lots of lightning flashes getting closer. I finally caught up with Jenn at the church at 26 miles so we started off down the hill together. The rain started about halfway down and by the time we reached the bridge it was coming down very hard. Lightning was flashing all around but it didn't seem to be right on top of us so neither one of us worried too much as we walked back up the hill.

Loop 4

We began this loop with the rain still pouring down. I had gotten a little chilly walking and thought about putting on a shirt but it would just be soaking wet and I don't know that it would have helped hold in any warmth so I decided not to put one on just yet. As we began running again though I warmed back up nicely. I was really glad to have Jenn's company at this point. It would be real easy to get discouraged being alone in the dark in the middle of a thunderstorm and it was really nice having her along because in many ways she is a female version of me. We were both fine with the storm and not worrying at all. There were always a few seconds between flashes and thunder so we felt no fear this evening.

As we ran down the road though my fear was I wouldn't be able to keep up with her. She was the one pushing the pace now and I must say I would have probably walked a bit more of this loop had I been alone. She is a natural at this ultra stuff and so efficient and consistent in her running style. Just before turning back up to the hill at the church and the 36 mile point I was beginning to feel my energy waning and my head getting a bit out of it. I realized I had not been taking in many calories over the last couple of hours. We stopped at the car long enough for me to grab some gels and put a Nunn tablet in my water bottle before hurrying on our way. By now the rain had slacked off to a sprinkle and the clouds seemed to be thinning. We talked to Lisa while getting ready and was happy to hear she had improved over her time from last year in the marathon.

We headed off down the hill but Jenn was running stronger than I wanted and kept pulling slightly ahead. Finally as we reached the bridge I had to let her go. I backed off on the flat section but as I began the climb up Bethel Hill I began to feel better again (amazing what a little sugar to the brain can do) so I was running about half of the time going up the hill. I could see Jenn's light up in the distance and was actually gaining ground on her. With about 1/2 mile to go Laura MacLean ran by strong on her way to her finish and repeat her win. I was so happy for her because she had some knee pain and wasn't sure she could run the whole thing let alone win.

Loop 5

Just as I finished loop 4 I caught Jenn in the aid station but she ran on and didn't see me as I stopped long enough to drink 2/3rds of a can of Pepsi. Ahhh it was so good and gave me a boost of energy going into the last loop. I congratulated Laura and headed out into the darkness once again. I was really happy with the way I was feeling and felt I was running as strong as ever. I didn't need anything at the Dog Pen so I just thanked the volunteers one last time as I continued running up the formerly dirt road. Just before I had noticed that the stars were coming out and the moon had set so I was enjoying looking at the skies in the total darkness of that lonely stretch of road. I ran the entire race without a light once again except for the miles with Jenn.

By now I had just about enough fun for one evening so I was happy to reach the church and see the cheering squad one last time. I told them I'd see them in a few minutes, I just had one more little hill to go. I was pushing the pace a little now heading down. With only four miles to go there was no reason to save anything. I had not looked at my watch since finishing loop 2 so I had no idea what my time was now. I was hoping to at least get a course pr and go under 11 hours and felt I should be close to that goal considering how much better I felt compared to last year.

When I reached the turnaround at mile 48 I looked at my time and saw it was 10:19 so I smiled knowing I had the course pr in the bag. I had not even gotten as far as the bridge when I saw Amy Surrette, another of my Angel team and Charles Akers less than 4 or 5 minutes behind me. Wow, they were really doing great and were moving along at a strong pace. I continued up the hill running about half the time once again and crossed the line in 10:46:05. I was picking out my finishers mug when I was shocked to see Charles and then Amy. I was expecting to wait a few minutes to see them finish but they had killed it coming up and were just over a minute behind me. Woohoo ! So proud of those two running an amazing time in their first 50 miler and finishing so strong !

Every boogie, even the ones that hurt are fun but this one was great and I have never felt better. What a great venue to hold a special event like this. Boogieman Doug does a wonderful job putting this together and the volunteers that come out in all kinds of weather to spend the night helping a bunch of crazy runners are awesome.

Here is
a link to some pictures
that Laura took along the way

and here is a link to a bit of un-edited video I took the first two laps

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I do believe it's a lovely evening for a Boogie

Well, I was hoping for "normal" temps this year but it looks like another hot one although it should be a few degrees cooler at the start and hopefully cooler overnight than last year. Forecast is for 92 high and low around 68 with a chance of some showers.

Like last year I am once again attempting a 50 mile pr. Yes, I know that is really a dumb thing to do but I'm going for it anyway. I do hope to employ a slightly different strategy this year so that is some evidence that I'm not insane. Not completely anyway.

Whatever the outcome I do plan on having some big time fun once again. As always there will be quite a few of my ultra friends, MTC friends and NCRC buddies joining in the festivities. I especially like to see the ones coming down for their first Boogie experience. Ultramom Amy Surrette will not only be doing her first Boogie but her first 50 miler. I look forward to seeing one of my Angels getting her first finish here. It has been fun to watch her come so far after sharing a small part in her first marathon 2 years ago. Ultra Angel Jenn is going for her first Boogie 50 after doing the "fun run" aka marathon in 2009. She is an experienced ultrarunner with a couple of 100 mile finishes so she will do great.

I'll be riding down with Mountain Girl Lisa who will be trying to improve on her outstanding debut in the marathon. The Trail angel Laura is returning to defend her title from last year. Good luck to all my friends in both races!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

It's Hot !!!

And I hate it !!!

I don't like summer. I don't like being hot. I don't like running in the heat. For a little over a week it has been in the 90's with high humidity. Nothing out of the ordinary for NC this time of year but I still hate it. I was born and raised in it and this will be my 55th summer in it and I still hate it.

For many years I would hardly run in the summer. Almost never more than 3 or 4 miles and usually in the morning or early evening hours. I hardly ever did a long run and probably never more than 10 miles and hardly ever a race over 5k. (funny thing though my 5k pr was set on July 4th)

With that said you are probably wondering why I now run 5 or 6 days a week, sometimes 12-13 miles a couple of times a week during the mid afternoon heat? And why am I running as much as 4 hours or more on Saturday mornings. And why in the world am I getting ready to run a 50 mile race AGAIN that is known for high heat and humidity ? Well, I've said it before and I'll say it again. I guess I'm just not too bright, or maybe I killed off too many brain cells when I was younger. (Shhhh, don't tell anyone , I'm really from another galaxy).

Well, back in 2002 I ran my first ultra. I didn't go long again until the next year and started meeting some really cool people and finding out about a lot of really cool events but in order to be prepared for doing extra long distances in the Fall I would need to train in the summer. So,it was my desire to push beyond my self-imposed limitations and try to succeed at longer and more difficult ultra's that made me make the decision that I would embrace the conditions, whatever they may be to prepare myself for anything a course could throw at me. One of my favorite lines in a song called "Bottom" by Tool is spoken by Henry Rollins. "I've gone to great lengths to expand my threshold of pain" I think of that line often when it's 97F, 90& humidity, the sun is beating down on me and I've got miles and miles to go.

No ! I have no desire to do Badwater !!! Noooooo !!!!! Is it almost October ?