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 !

Monday, December 01, 2014

Flowers Plantation Turkey Trot 5k

 Since Frank and Karla moved into Flowers Plantation, I have participated in several 5k races in the neighborhood put on by the club at FP. Well actually the first one we ran before they had actually moved into the house last year. They are pretty small low key events. I think the first one had around 20 people and I won  and Karla was first woman ! But they have been making an effort to get more people out and do a better job of organizing the runs. I like coming to them and use them for workouts and visit with the Werners for awhile.

  They have changed the course  a bit each time I have run it but all are within the neighboorhood and no matter which way there are going to be some hills !

 This year for the Turkey Trot they had 79 runners and walkers entered on a cold 25F  but beautiful morning. I checked in and then did my usual 1 mile warmup about 30 minutes before the start. Then about 10 minutes before I do a little jog and a few pickups to race pace. I must say I was not feeling too spiffy and having done no speedwork since the early summer prior to the injury I was not expecting too much. I did have a goal of at least running 7:30 pace but I knew even that was going to be tough with the hills.

  We lined up for the start and a brief course description and we were off. The is a slight downhill for about 100 yards and then a bit of a climb. Not steep but enough at 5k pace to slow things down and I didn't want to go anaerobic this early so I didn't push too hard. Experience pays off here because quite a few folks took off very fast. As we crested the small hill and hit the flats I counted 11 in front of me but it was obvious that some of them were already  hurting. I slowly moved past a few of them and by the half mile I had moved into 5th place with just 4 high school xc boys in front of me.

  I settled in and could hear someone close behind but just focused on my on pace. I must say I was a bit shocked to pass the mile in 7:09. I haven't run that fast since Spring mile repeats and it felt a lot easier than I expected. Shortly afterwards I could tell the runner behind had lost contact. The 4 boys were well in front but in sight so I figured I was going to end up 5th unless my legs starting bothering me causing me to have to shut it down.

  Still feeling good and pushing the pace we turned and went down a steep hill which I knew was just as steep and longer going up having run it a few times in the past including a couple of training runs with the Werners. It was hard going up but I tried to push as hard as I could and as soon as I topped out I tried to pick up the pace again.

  I hit mile 2 in 7:41, not too bad with the climb but I had hoped for a little better. this is where it got a little confusing. One this portion of the course it the road is divided by a meian with some tall shrubs. We passed through the start finish area and continued up a bit of a hill towards the gate house. In the past a couple of the races have made a right turn here but I saw no sign. Problem was I hadn't noticed any of the guys in front of me going back the other way and I tried to peer own the hill at the turn but didn;t see anyone so I went on and made the turn at the gate house. I still couldn't see anone in front so I crossed back over the median to make sure no one behind me was turning. It looked like they weren't so  I continued   on straight and as i passed through the S?F area once again i slowed and asked to make sure where to go. I think all the hesitation and crssing the median cost me 10-15 seconds but I took off on a mission to run the last mile as fast as possible. It was  a race after all.

  Well I was still running strong but then things got weird. It is a half mile to the other gate and turnaround and as I made the turn I saw no one behind me. There were several ruuners within 100 to 200 yards when I made the previous turn so where were they?   I kept  looking but didn't see any for awhile and then noticed a  couple about to turn and go the wrong way back where we had turned after the first half mile. Then as I passed through the  traffic circle I saw a woman coming from the other direction going all the way around it again ! I just kept going, ran mile 3 in 7:30 despite the confusion and finished in 23:06 a bit faster than I had hoped for.

 I then went straight to the guy with the clipboard recording bibs and asked what place I was. He had me in 10th ! Good thing was that they all knew I was clearly way ahead in 5th and the runners knew they had shorted the course by turning before going all the way to the gate. And it didn't affect my age group win. Actually I technically won every age group but the 19 and under !

 Other than the course mix up it was a fun race for me. I and several others that did the full course measured it at exactly 5k. They are going to have chip timing and a slightly altered course for the Christmas 5k and hopefully more volunteers to help keep everyone on the proper course. I will be there hoping to improve a little and use it for the kick-off of my marathon training.

 Stay tuned for more action !