Monday, December 12, 2011

The Hangover

As I sit here ready to put into words the experience of my San Francisco to Sin City Challenge weekend, I don't even know how to start or where to go with it.  I was thinking something along the lines of The Hangover and opening the scene with a disaster of a room, but I failed to take pictures and besides, what happens in Vegas blah, blah, blah.  The more I think about it and the meaning of the whole weekend in general, the more I want to cherish the runs themselves and the ability to run rather than too much of the details and silliness that I'm capable spewing.  After all, this was a fundraiser for the Lupus Foundation of America in honor of a friend, Beth Waldrip Urrea and I'd prefer to focus on the what I walked away with from this weekend.  And you'll still get some detail, hopefully just not as much as usual.

Since finding out back in April that Beth had Lupus and then actually reuniting with her in May, Beth has been a huge source of inspiration for me.  In turn, I've hoped that I could pass that along to others and that somehow we could both have a positive affect on people's lives.

So here's the down and dirty...........

Travel Day.........

Left Midland on 6:40 a.m. flight Friday morning, a brief stop in Albuquerque and then a plane change in Los Angeles.  Landed in San Francisco at 11:35 and was getting into my rental, a surprisingly nice small SUV, a GMC Arcadia and on my way to meet two friends at Tony's Pizza Napoletana by 12:20.

I met Jay and Pam who were waiting in the bar for me and then we had some of the best pizza.  Internally I was struggling with it because I don't normally eat pizza until after a race, but I knew I need the calories and carbs so I tried not to stress.  After the first bite that nonsense all went out the window.  I practically licked my plate clean.  During lunch we discussed my sub 9hr goal and Jay toyed with the idea of running the 50 mile race as he had originally registered.  Pam, returning from a stress fracture was racing the full marathon. 

After lunch, we made our way to the North Face store and officially checked-in.  It was there that Jay made it official, he would pace me for the 50 miler.  Jay ran Boston earlier in the year in 2:29:xx and was coming off of a 4th place overall in the Vermont 50. Stud to say the least. He opted not to "race" the 50 as his training hadn't been the quality he wanted going into the race.  I was obviously pumped about this as now I had a "crew" on the course and a pacer, both of which I didn't have for the 2010 race.  At the same time, I was honestly a bit nervous because the last thing I wanted was for this to turn into some kind of death march out there and have not only myself suffer through it, but Jay as well.  We parted ways from the store and it was time to find my hotel.

I arrived in Corte Madera, about 11 miles from the race start and found my hotel, The Marin Suites.  Not nearly as nice on the outside as the internet pictures, but it didn't really matter, it was a place to sleep.  When I stepped in the room it was like stepping into a 1970's apartment, but it was huge compared to the place I stayed in last year so I had plenty of space in the living room to lay out my gear and pack my drop bags.  Got that done and it was time to hit the sack.  I'll leave out the frantic drive around town to find my specific protein bars which I eventually found.

Race Day......

I finally rolled out of bed at 2:30 a.m. after hitting the snooze buttons a couple of times.  I turned on the coffee and made a quick bowl of oatmeal.   While it was in the microwave, I was getting dressed and still trying to decided exactly what to wear based on the weather and the forecast.  For gear/clothing I went with the following:

Shoes:  Brooks Pure Grit
Socks: DryMax
Shorts: North Face Better than Naked
Shirt:  North Face Flight Series fitted technical shirt
Jacked: North Face Better Than Naked Jacket (love this jacket - 2010 model)
I would also go with the Nathan HPL 28 vest to carry nutrition and a single North FAce E50 handheld water bottle.

Jay and I met up in the designated parking lot in the Fort Barry area and caught the short shuttle ride to the start.  Dropped our gear bags and got set for the start.  As it seems is the case before all of my big races, I find myself not quite prepared until the last minute before the start.  We make out way up to the front of the chute and Jay calmly points out a few of the big dogs running.  Among them I see Dakota Jones, Ian Sharman and Michael Wardian.  There are others all around including several top females, but it was not time for star gazing, it was time to run.

Looking back at the goal I made just after last year's event, it was sub 9 or bust.  As I noted earlier in the year, my plan was to be Goode Through December, the theme of my son's football team's season.  I was still wearing my Goode Through December wristband and it was now December. Time to deliver.

As we took off and made our way out of Fort Barry, I tried to contain my adrenaline and run a steady pace.  I didn't want to make the mistake of going out too fast, a mistake I've made on more than one occasion in ultras.  However, as we came to each aid station we were ahead of schedule.  Tennessee Valley by about 11 minutes, then Cardiac by the same, and then increased it to about a 40 minute lead by the time we entered Cardiac aid station the second time at mile 32.9. 

It was from Cardiac on that Jay's pacing was priceless.  While keeping it positive and reminding me we were ahead of schedule, he also kept me moving through the climbs.  And it seems we climbed and climbed and climbed.  When I would fall off pace, he kept moving and that made me keep moving even if at times I felt like I was crawling.  I have no doubt that just his presence and the fear of letting him down kept me moving.  It's crazy what motivates you at times. Today it was a real fear of letting people down.  Jay being right there for one, but my family as well  and Beth.  I didn't want to come up short today.

As we got closer to the finish I was having some doubts at points, the stair climbs in particular.  I would wonder when it was all going to come to a halt.  As with last year, the math was becoming difficult and calculating the required pace to cover 12, 10 however many miles wasn't easy.  Jay would throw out some distances and time and I would get a level of comfort that sub 9 was within reach, but the doubt would come creeping back in.  I didn't want to get too comfortable until I crossed the finishline.

Working uphill.........hard.
Coming out of Tennessee Valley aid station for the 2nd time I had about 1:20 left to cover just over 5.5 miles and break 9 hours.  I was filling pretty good about it, but had one last major climb.  The "$10,000 hill" as I later heard it was called in reference to the prize money at stake for 1st place.  It was a pretty lengthy climb by my standards and I told Jay we would power walk the whole thing and then hammer what was left afterwards. That was the plan and that was what we did. 

It all seemed so familiar at this point even though it had been a year since I had last seen the course.  I knew that once we crested the final hill we could run a solid final 3 miles.  Jay threw out the ridiculous possibility of running a sub 8:30 and I said "let's do it".  Mile 49 was a sub 8 minute mile and 50 and 51 were 7:16 and 7:14 respectively. 22:26 to cover the last three miles.  At one point I had looked at my Garmin to see 6:33 pace, but eventually mentioned to Jay that I was dying.  He wisely said "then back off and enjoy it" which I did.  Once the finishline was in sight I knew we had achieved my goal and when we ran under the finishline it was an 8:28:xx, far exceeding my expectations at the beginning of the day. The exact opposite of 2010.
2010 - the agony of defeat..........

2011 - the thrill of victory.
Jay and me crossing the finish line, an unreal feeling.
 Soon after crossing the finishline we found Pam. She had finished 10th overall, 3rd place female and 1st in her age group.  What a great run for someone returning from a stress fracture.  A successful day all around for our group.  While we were checking the official results she commented that more than the placement itself, she was just happy to be back racing.  That comment to me was one I reflected on throughout the weekend and which I'll address later.

Me, Pam and Jay after the finish.
I ended up 58th, 51st male and 8th out of 70 in the 40-49 age group with an official chip time of 8:28:01, just over 1:47 faster than last year's 10:15:24.  I can't tell you how excited I was and what a great success this was to me.  After what I considered a truly disappointing finish at the Jemez Mountains Trail Run 50 miler in May, I really wanted to redeem myself for no other reason than to prove to myself I was better than that mediocre performance.   After a Diet Coke that I was dying for and lying around for a while, I decided I need to get up and make that drive to Sacramento. I really wanted to hang around for Pam's podium appearance, but I had 6:00 dinner reservations after all with about 15 friends that would be running CIM (California International Marathon) the next morning.

Travel Day......

I gathered my bags and headed to the shuttle for a ride to the car. I knew I must get some food in me soon, anything.  I had just burned over 6,000 calories and I had a full marathon to run in less than 24 hours.  I told myself I would pull into the first place I saw and of course it was a McDonald's. Not exactly what I wanted, but it would work. Two grilled chicken sandwiches and a double cheeseburger for the road.  Walking back to the car was painful.  My feet hurt and for the first time I realized how crazy the whole double idea was.  For the first time I had doubt that I could do it.  Up until then when someone brought up how crazy it was I would respond "Well, they let you register for anything. I haven't run it yet".  Well, it was getting damn close to time to run it. 

I pulled into Sacramento about 5:40, got to the hotel, unloaded and showered.  I had just missed Kevin (whom I was rooming with) and Matt, both looking for PR's at CIM.  I was late getting to dinner, but by 6:30 I was seated and not much later I was eating a nice plate of lasagna. Boy did I need that.  Several runners there including a couple of friends that I saw earlier in the year at Boston, James and Jim as well as Barb and others that I had never met before including Matt and Kevin.  We all post on the Runners World forums as well as FaceBook and have numerous mutual friends, but this was our first actual meeting.  Sort of strange, because it was as if we knew each other pretty well already. We eventually finished up dinner and headed back to the hotel.  It would be an early start for the runners and I was already looking forward to breakfast. 

Race Day........

Kevin was up and out of their early.  I was dragging, but overall felt well. I got my bags packed and delivered them and Kevin's to the concierge to place in the rental car.  We made the decision that us three guys along with the two others making the trip to Vegas would take the rental to the airport.  The plan was to have it loaded and ready to go by 10:20 right in front of the hotel.  CIM's finishline was one block down and one block over. 

I had breakfast in the hotel and kept an eye on the course that ran right in front of the hotel.  I walked out front just in time to see the mens' leaders go by, then the womens' and eventually a few of our runners including Matt, Rachel and Holly.  I missed James, Jim and Kevin in between going back and forth to the finish and the hotel street.  Agh!

Eventually everyone made their way to the front of the hotel by about 10:30, we snapped a couple of pictures and jetted out of there for the airport.  A quick stop to let everyone out, drop off the rental and a shuttle back to the airport had me going through security exactly as planned.  We all made it to the gate about 10 minutes before boarding, no sweat!

James, Erin, Pam, me, Matt, Holly & Kevin moments before boarding the rental car.

A quick flight to Vegas, beer for everyone, land, grab luggage and a ride to Mandalay Bay was going as smooth as expected.  Then, that's where smooth ended.  From that point on through the rest of the night it was basically a glorious disaster on every level, yet it was so much fun to be a part of.  Most disappointing and weighing on me far several miles was the fact that I was unable to hook up with Beth and Rick before the start of the race.  Due to various issues and the crowdedness of the whole event, I eventually found myself running through the Mandalay Bay casino to drop my gear bag and to the starting line to meet up with the other runners.  A couple of attempts to connect with Beth were unsuccessful due to bad cell phone connections.  Once to the start area, not a single familiar face, seriously. 

I eventually found James and his head of perfect silver hair and then within the minute we were off and running.  Less than two miles into the run we found Holly and Jay.  Yes, THE Jay.  He had come in from San Francisco that morning and decided to run the full as well. I won't repeat his exact words, but they were something about peer pressure being a %#*&!  You think?  More on that in my next post.

Anyway, we made our way through the back streets of Las Vegas for 13.1 miles and then eventually the strip and what seemed more like 440,000 runner for another 13.1.  For the most part it was rather enjoyable with the company of the other three until at some point around mile 16 or so I ran ahead to find a bathroom.  Ended up in a McDonald's (should have ordered fries) and then I never found them once I hit the street again just a couple of minutes later.  I ended up picking up the pace in effort to catch up and finished in 4:22:53, a mere 1:31:34 slower than my most recent marathon, but no biggie.  Turns out the others actually stopped off at a liquor store for some carbs and came in just over 5 hours.  Great idea if you ask me.

From the finish until the time we reunited in Kevin's suite at Mandalay along with several other running friends including the Urreas, Carrie who I had been waiting forever to meet,  it was a blur.  We had a few drinks and eventually made our way out into the casino for what turned out to be a 2:30 a.m. dinner and topped it off with some BlackJack in the Mandalay Bay casino until about 5:00 a.m..  I had said I was going to do it, wasn't sure it was possible, but it ended just as I hoped, well almost.  What a night!  What a wild 48 hours!

On a sidenote, I want to congratulate my wife Gina on her first half marathon.  An awesome job out there and I think she amazed herself with what a great run she had.  Two of her friends, Katy and Melissa also ran their first half and were equally impressive.  Great job ladies, I'm very proud of you. 

Are we there yet?

Katy, Gina, Flo and Melissa
Over the course of the weekend, one common thought kept coming back to me.  How lucky I was to be able to run.  Not necessarily compete and run both of those races, but just run.  What started out as a weekend to honor Beth turned into a constant reminder to not take life and our health for granted.  There were more than a handful of runners over the weekend that I came across that were so thrilled to be recovering from injury of some sort.  Pam running TNF, Barb hanging out at CIM, Flo in Vegas, Paul had recovered from a brief stint off as well and we had other friends battling issues.  Another friend, Kevin was still in the process of being properly diagnosed with what appears some type of autoimmune disease and finally a friend back home, Ricardo that had come within a day of lining up for Boston in April and then found himself on the edge of death by early fall due to a various medical issues.  It appears now as if he will fully recover, but not before some serious challenges in his life. 

As I wrap this up, I feel like it's all over the place, a little late being delivered and not the crazy stuff you want to read about a weekend in Vegas, but if you take anything from this, let it be a reminder to value our health and our lives.  Make the most of it and do what you love while you can, not everyone has that option.  Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something and be an inspiration to someone somewhere.  In some cases it doesn't take much and you may already be doing it. And if someone inspires you, let them know, they will appreciate it I promise. 

I want to thank everyone that supported me in this challenge, especially those that contributed to the Lupus Foundation of America.  If you haven't already, you still may do so by clicking on the logo in the upper right hand corner. They can always use your support.  And if not them, maybe another organization that is close to your heart.  I want to thank my wife and family for putting up with my training, crazy diet and everything else that comes along with running.  I couldn't do it without you.  I want to thank Jay for pacing me at the TNF 50 as well as Chris and Kristen for crewing me out on the course.  There's no way I would have reached my goal without you guys being there.  And lastly, I want to thank Beth for her courage, strength and the beauty that she brings out in life.  I know she touches so many people in a positive way.  If  we lived by her example what a difference we could make. Thank you guys and thanks to those of you that took the time to read this ramble, I really appreciate you.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gaining Momentum

Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper than other times to find the positive.  Seems like the last couple of weeks that has been where I am.  Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not complaining or claiming any injustice in my life, it's just been busy.  I've got plenty of positives in my life and certainly happy with the cards I've been dealt, but the running has been a bit stale.  Mainly because I have felt so tired and constantly rushed all the time. 
As expected, football with the 3 boys has taken some time, but traveling out of town for 4 out of 5 games in the past couple of weeks proved to be taxing.  You can only get home at Midnight or 1:00 a.m. in the morning so many times before it starts to take it's toll.  Add to the the final few weeks of "tax season" and I am flat wore out! My mileage is falling a bit short of what I had projected for training, but not enough that I'm really concerned.  It's definitely ahead of where I was last year at this time so that's a positive for sure.

Last Saturday I told Gina that I was going to run to the mall for a training run.  The mall in Odessa.  About 35-36 miles was my estimation.  She just looked and me and told me I was crazy.  Well, Sunday morning I got up, a bit later than planned albeit, loaded my Camelback Octane XCT with G2, gels and protein bars and headed out the door.  A little over 5 1/2 hours later I was walking back in the front door, done.  The last 10 miles were pretty much a struggle, but in looking back I attribute it to the temps getting up pretty high.  If I had got my lazy butt up early and left the house when it was still dark, I would have got back in a couple hours earlier I think I would have been fine.

This past Saturday I volunteered myself to pace a friend in a local marathon.  He was wanting to run a 3:30, about 8:00 minute mile pace so I figured I could help him and get in a nice run as well. As luck would have it, the weather was great.  My stomach, not so much.  I battled some GI issues between miles 7-14 and had to take a couple of pitstops, both times ended up running some 6:20-6:30 pace miles to catch back up with him.  Finally by mile 17 I had caught back up with him and we settled in for the remainder of the marathon.  Just under 27 miles for the run @ 7:49 average pace and when it was all said and done I was feeling very fresh.  The next morning I got in an easy 15 miler and if I would have had more time I would have considered running a full 26.2 just because.  I was feeling quite fine.  Mentally this was nice and to think that I put up a 36 miler the weekend before made me think that things were looking good. 

Overall for the 8 day stretch from Sunday through Sunday, I ran just over 103 miles with two days completely off and a 4 mile day.  That means I averaged just under 20 miles a day on the remaining 5 days.  While that doesn't really mean much as it is the whole 8 days (and really the entire training cycle) that matters, I feel like I'm gaining some momentum heading into my last 9 weeks of training.  Seven of those should be some fairly high mileage (70, 80, 80, 90, 90 90, 90) and the last two will be my taper where I hope to get the legs rested up.

So for now, I'm putting the shovel away as I have dug up a positive note for the training.  An to add to it, I've had a few more contributions come in to the foundation so that has been nice to see that number creep up a little as well.  Maybe I can finish the last nine weeks hard in both departments. 

Thanks and take care!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Goode Through December

The theme for the 2011 football season for the Midland High Bulldogs is "Goode through December" in memory of former Bulldog football coach Don Goode.  The 2011 senior football class holds a special bond and place in their hearts for Coach Goode as this was the last group of players he coached before he passed away from cancer in 2009. The 2011 football team has dedicated the season to Coach Goode and his wife Beverly for their wonderful support and dedication to the Bulldog football family over the years. The hope is that the spirit and memory of Coach Goode and the fight and dedication he instilled in the players' lives will be an ongoing force in the hearts of the 2011 Bulldog football team.

Purple wristbands with the phrase  "2011 Bulldogs - Goode through December" have been made similar to Lance Armstrong's "Livestrong" popular band.  They are being worn by players, students, parents and fans following the Bulldogs this year.  December of course in reference to the time of year when the state championship game will be played. To win it all, you must play and win in December.  This past week I picked up a wristband for myself and joined in with the theme.  The thought being not only for support of  the team, but as a reminder to me that I too must be Goode through December.  I communicated this fact with Corbin and being the young man of many words that he is, his response was simply "sweet".  I told him it would serve as a reminder for him as well as me that it meant it would take hard work by both of  us to reach our goals.  Success doesn't come without sacrifice and I want him to understand that he has to be willing to work harder than the next guy.  I want him to buy in to the dedication and hard work that it takes and hopefully, along with his teammates they will be Goode through December. At the same time, I need to lead the way by setting an example.

Yesterday, after just a few day of wearing the wristband myself, it served its purpose.  Saturday I got in a 20 miler and was looking for the same on Sunday, back-to-back 20's for the weekend.  My running partner on Saturday, Kevin F., with whom I ran a number of my 20 milers with over the past two years in training for Boston, was only going 15 miles.  We met at one of our usual spots and got started at 6:00 a.m..  After a few loops around Midland neighborhoods, we eventually made our way back to our cars right at 15 miles. All the while, I felt like I had some pretty tired legs and was reasoning in my head that the 15 was enough.  I had also hit the weights pretty heavy Saturday afternoon and they felt dead.  I was contemplating calling it a day and being satisfied with a 20/15 instead.

During the run I thought about the prior year's North Face race and my goal of doing much better in 2011.  I thought about Beth and what she must feel like some days when Lupus has taken it's toll on her.  Was doing "enough" going to be good enough to be better?  No, not for me, not what I would expect from my son and not what I expected from myself.  As we approached the cars I told myself "get back out there and get it done, Goode through December, no excuses". A quick fist pump with Kevin, a "nice run, thanks", sip of Gatorade and I was headed back out to finish up my 20. Don't even think about quitting.

So another source of motivation has been found.  Not only in Coach Goode and the Bulldog football team, but in what I expect from my own son as he works throughout the season towards playing in December.  Not expecting anything less than 100% dedication and a "never give-up" attitude, I must expect the same from myself.  A little less than 40 more minutes out on the road and my back-to-back 20's were in the books.  I could get in my car and drive home feeling good about myself, Goode about myself.  While just 67 miles for the week, it put me at 104 miles for the last 6 days of running with 3 days off tossed in there due to recovery from last weekend's race.

With the September 15th tax deadline rapidly approaching, the midnight oil will certainly be burning this week, but so will my desire to deliver in December.  Goode through December!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Shoe 60K

Well, where do I start?  How about I start by saying that while I wasn't expecting the glass slipper this year, I certainly wasn't expecting a steel toe boot either.  Excuse me for saying it, but this race kicked my ass!  Okay, got that out of the way so that you don't have the same delusions of grandeur I had as you read through the is rambling piece of work.

In the days leading up to the race, I had pulled up my training log from the previous year to see what my mileage looked like.  In my favor was that my mileage was up over last year's, but working against me was the fact that I only had one run of 30+ miles since mid May.  Somehow, I felt that not having run the first two races in the series would serve me well in the since that I would be a little better rested.  And in reality, I think it I was better off for it as I stood at the starting line.  What I was unable to compensate for was the heat.  I don't know the exact temperature at 7:00 pm, the start time, but the Weather Channel had a forecast of 103 just a couple hours earlier.  I've read from other runners anywhere from "over 100" to "108".  So I'm sticking with 103.  Does it even matter once it gets over 100?

The race itself starts with an out-and-back of .84 on a dirt road which brings the runners back to the trail and into the hill country.  After that it is four 9.09 mile loops of this.............

This course is crazy because it wanders all over the place back and forth with several little loops.  This is the second year I've ran this and I will tell you that while I know fairly well where I am in the course and what's coming up next, I have no idea of where I am on the map.  The course plays tricks with your mind when you come within very close range of runners that you know are behind you, yet you wonder why they are so close.  Is it possible you took a wrong turn?  Overall the course is marked pretty good, but there are a few sections with a lot of rock outcroppings in which there is no actual trail, but just the rock.  At that point you go from "confidence marker" to "confidence marker", fluorescent ribbons tied to branches or tree limbs.  Once it's dark, there are also glow sticks to help along the way and they do.  I thought the marking this year was better than last's and never felt at any point that I was really lost, but still gave it some consideration a couple of times.

Okay, on with the the race. Three friends that had run the Jemez 50 with me had made the trip down from Dallas to experience their first Captain Karl's race. Nick, Shaheen and Edgar. Notably missing where our two other friends that ran Jemez Mountains Trail Run with us, Amy and Jayna, the remainder of Team Endurasoak, also know as "the purple team"  at Jemez.  We got to the race about an hour before it started and ended up with a parking spot right across a dirt road from the start/finish.  We couldn't have been any better positioned in my opinion.  We unloaded all of our stuff and spread it out so that it would serve as our own aid station.  I filled eight handheld bottles, placed six of them in an ice chest, two for the first loop and set out my gels and Cliff bars that I would eat for each lap.  I was all set.  I had already turned on my Garmin and put fresh batteries in my Black Diamond headlamp. The only thing I was missing was my Lenny & Larry's Muscle Brownies that I failed to buy at home.  Hence, the Cliff bars instead, but I would be alright.

After a brief runner's meeting, we were off.  As always a ton of runners shot out of their pretty quick.  My adrenaline was going and I wanted to chase after them, but told myself to be patient.  Thirty-seven miles in 100+ temperature was going to make for a long night (I just didn't know how long at that point).   The out-and-back was quick and before I knew it we were entering back into the start-finish area and then heading into the trails.  We were immediately greeted by the race photographer before getting to the top of the hill and out of sight of the camp.  Great idea, get some pictures of everyone while they are still smiling and not yet within the grip of death.  Of course they get those as well so there's no escaping it. 

Early, very early into the race
I quickly settled into a nice pace and tucked in right behind three other runners.  Because of the twisting and turning of the course, the trees and hills, I had no idea how many people were ahead of me.  I figured 10, maybe 15 at most.  I wasn't really concerned at this point as I wanted to focus on sticking to my game plan and run a steady race.  Those up front that I could beat, well I'd catch them. If I couldn't, well then I wouldn't. Easy enough strategy for me.  I really wanted to break 6 hours no matter where that put me. 

I followed behind the 3 guys for a few miles until one of them stopped to relieve himself and the other two with him stopped to wait on him.  They too had been talking about the some of the front runners going out too fast and that they would come back to the pack. I was thinking the same thoughts.  Sorry, I don't know you guys and I'm not stopping for you to take a leak.  I probably won't even stop if I need to take one. Three down just like

Before long I came up on two more runners that I had caught glimpses through the trees.  I passed one fairly quickly and then got on the tail of the next, camelbak guy, and followed him for a bit before passing him.  Along the way, I passed two more runners, but got caught and passed by camelbak.  What in the hell just happened I thought, I just got passed.  Rather than try to start racing this guy, I decided to just hang with him.  About one mile from the finish area he turned on his headlamp and I decided to do the same.  It was getting dark and footing on the loose rocks of the trails was a bit tricky.  When I turned mine on, it went off within seconds.  Turned it back on and it did the same thing. I continued this a number of times until eventually the F word started freely flowing from that opening just below my nose.  What in the hell, I put new batteries in it and it tuned on back at car.  Of course, I turned it on and then turned it off there.  Oh well, the only other AAA batteries I had were the ones I tossed in a gear bag that came out of the lamp.  I followed the runner in to the start-finish aid station, crossed the timing matt and turned to run over to my "stuff".  I dug through the bag, found the batteries and replaced them.  Replaced my two handheld bottles and headed back out to the trails.  Camelbak guy was gone. He left me in the dust while I screwed with my batteries, nice!

About 100 yards out I realized I forgot to grab a replacement gel for the one that I took 40 minutes into the race as planned. Gels every 40 minutes for the first 18 miles then switch to a Cliff Bar for each of the last two laps.  I had one left on me and about 90 minutes of running ahead before I was back to my gels. It was already time to take the second one being about 1:30 into the race.  I opted not to go back for more, but just suck it up, maybe grab something at the other fully stocked aid station on the course, about six miles away. 
Oh hell. I had also forgot to down a couple of  Succeed S Caps.  I was making all the mistake of a newbie on the course.  What in the world was I doing? Trying to sabotage my own race?  I had to blame it on the fact that I had got in from traveling at 4:45 a.m. the night before, a 300 mile drive to Marble Falls for the race and the one hundred friggin' whatever temperature that it was.  Stay calm, don't freak about it and just improvise. 

On the way in from the first loop (there is a small section that runners going both directions travel) I passed Edgar going out on loop 2.  He must have been 5 minutes ahead, maybe less if I had been more efficient in the station.  Edgar was coming off a July victory of Ft. Worth's El Scorcho 50K.  I had thought that if I could hang close to him it would give me some confidence in my fitness and endurance early in my TNF 50 training.  He had gone out faster than I cared to run early and knowing how strong he ran El Scorcho I figured he would just open the gap as the night went on. 

For the second loop I don't think I passed one single 60K runner, but I didn't get passed either. No good news, but no bad news.  I realized pretty quickly in this loop that I needed to go ahead and walk anything uphill and I did.  I downed 22 ozs of G2 by the time I got to the unmanned water station that was 3 miles from the start.  That didn't take long.  I decided to stop and fill the bottle with water and started using the strategy of one bottle for water on my head, one for G2 to drink.  I actually dumped the cold water on my head and the back of my neck, shoulders, pretty much everywhere.  Six more miles and lap two was in the books.  On the short two-way section I again passed Edgar going back out.  I also passed camelbak guy going out.  Whoever was ahead of them I had no idea, they were long gone. Neal Lucas and Steven Moore, the 1st and 2nd place finishers respectively in the first two races of the Capt'n Karls' Series for sure and if there was anyone else, I wouldn't know.  Too many people going in and out at this time and it was basically just a bunch of headlamps out there running around. 

As I got into the 3rd lap I actually found myself feeling better.  I was listening to some music fairly loud on my iPod that I had picked up after the first loop and I was trying to convince myself to keep it up, keep moving.  As long as I was running I figured I wasn't giving up ground to anyone behind me and quite possibly could be gaining ground on those in front of me.  For some reason, the halfway point of any run is always a mental hurdle for me.  Whether it be an easy 6 mile recovery run, or a 25 miler, once I pass the halfway mark I know I've got less distance to travel than what I've already done and at that point I'm good.  Saturday night was no different. Where I found myself struggling in the 2nd loop, probably the most difficult for me, once into the 3rd I knew finishing was going to happen, it was just a matter of how long would it take. 

I can't even remember exactly where, maybe halfway through the 3rd loop, I come up on camelbak guy walking.  I stopped and walk with him and asked if he is okay.  He responded yes, just bad cramping in his calves.  I feel your pain buddy, me too in the right calf, but I don't have any S caps. He didn't either, not on him, but back at the start.  Actually, I was given some by a very nice female 30k'er at the water station because once again I failed to take any when I completed loop two.  For whatever reason, I must have looked bad coming in, but she offered some up and I gladly took them. Not Succeed, but Hammer Endurolytes instead and they seemed to do the job.  Well, other than cramping he was fine so I needed to get going.  In doing so, I picked up the pace and sped out of there quicker that what I would have, but I wanted him to think I was kicking it pretty good.  For all I know he didn't give a damn, but if he did, I had no problem trying to break his spirit by hauling ass out of there and trying to send the message "don't even bother coming after me".  I may not have been on pace for my sub 6, but I wasn't dead and my competitive spirit was alive and well.

Before long in the same loop I came up on another walker......Edgar. "Edgar, you alright?"  I was surprised to see him there. He responded "yeah, just tired."  Okay, he was okay and I was feeling fine so I needed to keep going.  I know he wouldn't be walking for long so I wanted to open the gap if I could and maybe catch the next guy. I decided to run fairly hard (which was a relative term at that time) and hold it.  It wasn't supposed to be comfortable out there and I reminded myself of that.  While I may have felt like I was flying and running pretty fast, in reality I was hitting paces of 9:00 at top speed, maybe closer to 10 minute miles most of the time.  The end of the 3rd lap was coming.  I could see the gate that we ran through and then a short downhill run would send me into the scream tunnel of fans....about 20 maybe....okay, maybe the finish line.  However, before I could get there I lost focus and I found myself smacking the ground pretty hard for the first time of the night.  On a good note, it was on pure dirt and not the rocks found throughout the majority of the course.  The worst part was that I was now covered in dirt similar to when you take a chicken breast and roll it in flour.  It was not a comfortable feeling.  I picked myself up, gathered my water bottles and headed in to the finish. 

A quick drop off of the dirt covered handhelds and I grabbed just one clean one out of the ice chest.  I thought I would carry a small flashlight as well since the batteries on my headlamp were fading.  My light had become very dim.  The problem with the flashlight was that it had old batteries in it. I never planned on using it for the race so who knew how long it would last.  I grabbed a couple pieces of banana and I was off on my 4th loop.  On the way out I passed Edgar coming in about the same place that he had previously passed me going out.  I also passed camelbak guy.  Geez, they were closer than I expected, but still a little ways behind me, maybe the same 5 minutes I estimated earlier in the night?

I got moving as best I could, but there was some walking involved in the early section of the loop due to some uphill sections in loose dirt.  That's okay, I decided to stick to the strategy, walk it and run everything else that I could.  I was really feeling decent (all things considered) and told myself again, as long as I was running they weren't gaining ground on me.  I went into my "running scared" mode, most often used in speedwork for marathon training, I was able to kick it in on the 4th loop.  Almost as if I were an escaped convict running for freedom in the woods at night.  Not that I would have earthly idea what that really feels like, but I can only imagine.  I even had the barking dogs. Seriously, my feet were killing me.

Loop 4 was going pretty good other than the concern of being caught and a new fear of my batteries dying.  My headlamp was getting very dim and the small flashlight started flickering. My thinking was that I would ask someone along the way if they had any spare batteries. Really, that was my plan?  "Hey would you happen to have some batteries on ya?" How about just run faster and be done with it.  Well, I tried and I even had myself convinced that I was running faster, but splits don't lie and as I finally looked at them today, wow, I had dropped off quite a bit as I progressed through each loop.  More on that later.

I continued to run best I could, almost wiping out a few times in some of the knarly rock sections and I finally convinced myself to slow it down.  The fatigue was taking it's toll as well as the weak lighting and I had found myself running like a drunk stumbling around in the dark, getting off balance and leaning one way and then the other until I recovered.  While the 10-12 minute miles at this point were not exactly burning up the trail, I didn't care to smack a tree or a rock with my face.  Walk when I had to through the difficult sections, run everything else. 

Eventually I pulled into the second aid station on the course and now I had a mere 3 miles remaining, if that.  Out of desperation I asked the two guys there manning the station if they had any batteries by chance, AA or AAA as I could replace the flashlight or headlamp.  To my surprise and first stroke of good luck for the night, one said "yes", he had AAA's.  Yes!!!  I replaced the headlamp batteries and turned it on.  I felt like I was standing outside of the Griswald's house all of a sudden.  What a difference that made.  The final miles went by rather quickly and I never had the threat of another runner passing me.  Per the results, the next runner was over 11 minutes behind so I guess I actually gained ground on that last loop.

6:43:13 total time and 4th overall.  My splits for the 9.09 mile loops were roughly 1:27, 1:37, 1:44 and 1:49.  I was disappointed during the run that I wasn't going sub 6, but in the end I was just happy to be done and it didn't really bother me that I missed my goal.  The heat was a huge factor and my nutrition errors didn't help me the least bit. I ended up taking in only 3 gels, less than 1/2 of a Cliff Bar and random pieces of banana.  I really believe that being mentally fatigued before the race even started affected me more than I realized.  I know that for my goal race in December I will need to be much more focused or else be ready to accept similar results. A few thing's are for certain, I won't be getting to bed at 5:00 a.m. the morning before, I won't have a 300 mile drive the day of the race and it won't be 100+ degrees in December in the Muir Woods.

Thanks for your time and take care!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday Night Lights

As I draft this, I'm on the Midland High booster club's chartered bus heading north to Amarillo for the first football game of the season. Friday night lights, uncharted territory for me as it is our first taste of varsity football. Being west Texas, football doesn't get any bigger than this. My freshman son Chandler is with me and he will get to watch his older brother Corbin, a sophomore, play for the first time since probably the 5th grade. Being a football player as well, he's always had games or practice when his brother was playing. While I miss the rest of our family not being here with us, this will be a bonus spending some quality time with Chandler watching Corbin and the rest of Bulldogs play.

With The North Face Endurance Championship just over 3 months away, tonight's game made me think a little about what Corbin most likely might be going through. Thoughts of the unknown. He's on the team bus right now loaded with older boys with varsity experience and he's probably about ready to puke from nerves. If he's not yet, he will be tonight when he steps on the field for the first time in front of a huge crowd under those Friday night lights. Maybe some of the same feelings I had when I boarded the runners' bus last year to head to the start of the TNF Championship. I wasn't sure I belonged there. I wasn't sure I was ready for such a challenge, my first 50 miler, but I was there and I just told myself "have confidence and act like you know what you are doing".

When it was all said and done, I was a bit disappointed in my time, but glad I did it, and better yet I walked away ready to tackle it again in 2011 with a vengeance. This morning before he let the house, I repeated some of those same thoughts to Corbin, "have confidence in yourself. You're there for a reason. Make the most out of your opportunities and make something happen out there when you get your chance." I feel like last year's race set me up for a great 2011 race because of the experience I gained. My hopes are that tonight and for the remainder of the season the disappointments are kept to a minimum and that the experience will be setting him up for a great 2012 and even better 2013 Senior season. Good luck tonight Son, you'll do great when you get your shot, I have no doubt.

Post-game post: We won 24-17 in double overtime played similar to NCAA overtime. If Corbin wasn't nervous out there tonight, I certainly picked up the slack. Not sure I can stomach many games like tonight's......unless we're on the winning side of course.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Finding balance

As training starts to ramp up for the San Francisco to Sin City Challenge I am already realizing that the most difficult challenge, at least for now, may be finding some balance in my life.  As a CPA with a public accounting practice and a wife that has her own career, three boys playing high school and junior high sports, as well as a 1st grade daughter, finding the right mix of work, family time and training is a trick.

Individually, I can handle the demands of public accounting, shuttling boys around town for practice and games while taking orders from a six year old daughter and the demands of training for an ultra marathon, but putting them all together and managing them at the same time can be rough.  Maybe impossible???

To add to it, for the first time ever, I'm not the only one in our house training for an endurance event.  Gina is in the middle of training for her very first half marathon and will be running the Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll 1/2 along with a couple of her friends in December.  While this may add a little more to the mix in terms of scheduling activities, I am super pumped about it because she has all of a sudden taken to running like a fish to water.  To hear her make comments such as "I can't wait until my run tonight" and to see her work through injuries with patience and diligence is awesome.  I've never cared if she ran or not, but I have always wanted her to do something for herself that she enjoyed.  Now she is and while the verdict's not out yet, she appears to be approaching the point where one becomes hooked on the sport.

On top of the awesome job that G is doing with her own training, she does an equally and unselfish job in allowing me to get my workouts in.  The last two weeks included 6 Core Performance workouts and 10 runs.  My runs the last two weeks started at the following times 12:06 p.m., 5:30 a.m., 5:28 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 9:51 p.m., 7:50 p.m., 5:17 a.m., 6:22a.m., 6:09 a.m. and 5:42 a.m..  The longest one, a 31 mile long run, finished just before midnight on a Sunday night.  My Core Performance workouts which last right at an hour were at 5:30 a.m., noon and 5:30 a.m. and then 3 more nooners respectively. So pretty much getting them done whenever possible.  In between workouts and work, we had "Meet the Teacher", a scrimmage in Pecos, TX and a booster club meeting for the football team. And to top it off, I furthered my training by "enduring" The Smurfs Sunday afternoon with the 6yr old and her friend. Quite possibly the worst movie I've ever seen in my life.

We've been through two weeks of two-a-days now for the two oldest boys and with school starting today, the youngest, and 8th grader will start football as well. It's just a matter of a couple of weeks before we will have football games on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, not to mention the 1st grader having cheer practice on Wednesday evenings.  While I absolutely love it, it sure make for a busy schedule. 

Now figuring out how to get everything in while the miles increase each week is the challenge.  High hopes of building up to 4-5 weeks of 100 miles/week at the peak of training may not come as easy as it was to sit down and pencil it out on a calendar (as I was doing this morning while waiting to see if I got picked for Grand Jury service), but that's going to be me goal until I decide otherwise.  The last 4 weeks while not entirely pain-free, have been comfortable at 70 miles a week with a mere 41 in the last for the taper week.  Some of the nagging injuries seem to be subsiding and I feel like I'm only dealing with some minor plantar faciitis for the meantime.  Paying more attention to stretching and foam rolling the body and a little less time to the weights has also been a new balance issue.  I recently asked my physical therapist if I should lay off the heavy weights and cut back for a while and his response was "yeah, like for the rest of your life". Ouch, that hurt, but I know where he is coming from.  It was his way of telling me politely that I'm getting old.

Anticipation for this weekend's The Shoe 60K in Marble Falls is building. The third and final race in the Tejas Trails Capt'n Karl's series.  Last year I survived the heat and managed to run a 6:33:01, good enough for 2nd place.  This year, I'm not as concerned about the placement, but honestly would like to run a sub 6-hour race. I can live with wherever that puts me on the results page if I get it.  It's a very technical course run at night and the majority of it in the dark by the light of a headlamp.   Not only will this be a great training run for TNF 50, but it will give me a decent idea of where I stand 14 weeks out from my goal race. Obviously there is a lot of time between now and then, but to start off early with a good race would be nice.

A little more taste of the balancing act before I leave you.  In addition to the Grand Jury summons for this morning and a looming corporate and partnership tax deadline of September 15th, my oldest son has his first game of the season Friday night in Amarillo.  I opted to take the booster club's charter bus along with my freshman son so that I could get some sleep on the drive home of our anticipated 3:00 a.m. arrival.  That might give me a slight reprieve just in time for the 290 mile drive I'll make Saturday morning to the race so that I can be somewhat rested to run 37.2 miles at 7:00 p.m., hopefully finish by 1:00 a.m. and then head back the next morning in hopes of still getting in 4-5 hours in the office Sunday evening.  Yeah, getting through the next couple of months is going to be a trick, but if it was easy it wouldn't be worth doing right?

Thanks for stopping by and take care!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is It In You?

Well, is it?  What is "it"?  I'm not exactly sure of what my definition of "it" is or if I could even describe it to you, but if you ask me, yeah, it's in me.  And it's in you, and you and you (pointing to each person down the line).  It's in all of us.  Finding what that is and using it is the part that many people have problems with and for a large part, "it" goes to waste.  

This past week while thinking of my training and reading a couple of articles, I thought about the source of my inspiration and drive.  What inspires me? Who inspires me? Do I inspire others?  I'm talking about your everyday person.  The regular Joe.  And that's me, the regular Joe that was inspired by a couple of people along the way to get into a gym and to run and my life has forever been changed by them.  A fraternity brother, Kirk Bailey got me into the gym as a skinny pledge in college and some 20 years later a thirty-something year old friend, Michelle Garvin sold me on running my first marathon.  Just everyday people in my life at the time.  Whether it be by a elite runner going distances I've never imagined, friends running weekly mileages I have never hit, or just a "regular Joe" accomplishing a feat that most people would never consider possible, I continue to be inspired regularly, but I'll always give them credit for getting me started.  Today it comes from places I'm not necessarily looking for it to come from or would even expect.  Just recently I found inspiration in an article I read about a school teacher. Why?  She's Anita Ortiz, elite runner, winner of Western States 100 and runs 120 miles per week.  I'm not talking about some spring chicken or college kid, I'm talking about a 47 year old mother of four that totally kicks butt on the course.  Yeah, she totally inspires me.

In large part, I think we are all capable of performing at levels beyond what we've ever imagined.  We obviously have physical limits and may never reach the level that Anita or other elite athletes do, and that's perfectly fine, but I think we often sell ourselves short of what we are capable of accomplishing.  I was talking about this to a friend of mine that happens to be a personal trainer and we both agreed that we are all physicaly capable of much more than we believe.  It's in us, we just have to be willing to venture outside of our comfort zone to find it.

If you're a friend of mine and you're reading this, chances are pretty good that this doesn't apply to you, in fact you probably have inspired me in some way. But if it does, I challenge you to get started today, to set a goal for yourself and go after it.  Whether it be to run a mile or a marathon or more, it's in you and you can do it. Start by running around the block or your local park. Join a gym and start going to cardio classes. Start giving your diet some thought and think about what you are putting into your body. It doesn't have to be drastic changes all at once, but gradual lifestyle changes that will last forever. Take control of your body and take care of it, it's the only one you've got.  Find something that motivates you and get after it.  Chances are you'll love it and before long you'll be inspiring someone that was in your same situation.  Good luck!

And for starters, I'll post an inspiring picture that a friend posted on FaceBook recently to get you started........

Saturday, June 4, 2011

San Francisco to Sin City Challenge

Hey guys!  Just at two weeks past Jemez Mountain Trail Race and I don't feel like I've been able to stop and relax since getting home.  If it's not running one of the kids to the dentist or to practice, it's spending the weekend away from the rest of the family for a baseball tournament.  Work, training, a wife with her own career, teenage boys, a six year-old girl that thinks she's a teenager and just life in general.  How do I fit it in each day?  Does it ever slow down? Will I ever catch up with what I need to get done?  Do you feel ever feel that way yourself?  Sure the pieces are different, but it life seems to be like a big puzzle and sometimes the pieces don't fit exactly so you deal with it. You roll with the punches, some harder than others. 

Then, you see the lives others and wonder if the maybe you're not even rolling with "the punches". Maybe they're just some jabs, maybe not even that.  The things that you think are such a hassle in your life seem to be mere road bumps compared to the punches other people face in their daily lives.  One such life is that of a friend of mine from high school.  Through the powers of Facebook I was reconnected with Beth.  About Twenty-five years since I had last seen her, but still the same beautiful smile I remembered from my high school days.  Still the fun and energetic Beth.  While we didn't communicate directly or message, there were random posts that maybe we "liked" or commented on, but never getting into anything personal.  However, I seemed to notice that Beth's post were always positive, in support of something, a bit of an activist it seemed and not afraid to support a cause.  I found that a nice change from the negative or derogatory comments that could be made through social media, unfortunately even from me at times.  Never from Beth.

In the meantime, I had decided 2011 would bring another charitable challenge for me to follow up on 2010's Boston 2 Big Sur challenge. What would it be, I had no idea.  Who would be the beneficiary, no idea, but most likely a local children's organization again.  Then May rolled around and Beth changed her profile picture on Facebook to a Lupus Awareness logo.  What, Lupus?  Does she have Lupus and I have so selfishly never realized this fact? How did I miss this?  What kind of friend am I that I didn't even realize her situation? A short FB message to her, which I was totally stressed about sending, answered my questions, and with more detail than I expected, but exactly what I wanted to know.  I had asked if there was anyway that I could help and suggested my running and something similar to what I had done last year.

Beth's response was again completely positive and described some of her daily life with Lupus, what she has been through, what life was like before Lupus, her treatments, medication, it was all so incredible to me because through it all, she was still Beth.  Still the fun girl I remembered, yet a woman now with a husband and children and now she was rolling with the punches.  To think of what she had been through, what she deals with and the road she has ahead of her is amazing to me.  From Beth's response that she has graciously allowed me to share:

I was diagnosed with Lupus six years ago, but I have experienced symptoms since the pregnancy of our second daughter in 2001. It has meant radical changes in my lifestyle, mostly because I am incredibly photosensitive. UV exposure triggers the Lupus, and I have to completely cover up when outdoors and wear 50+ sunscreen. Before Lupus, I mountain biked and ran daily. New Mexico has some of the highest UV exposure in the country, so Albuquerque is about the worst place I could live. It has meant changes for my family too. It was difficult explaining to the kids why I couldn't play outdoors. When I throw caution to the wind, which is easy on a beautiful spring day like today, I risk being in bed for a few days with painful joints, fever and unbelievable fatigue. People with Lupus have a 40-50 fold risk of arteriosclerosis than the average population. That terrifies me. So, I exercise indoors now. I'm at the gym daily, taking spin class or doing the elliptical. I miss running but biking is much easier on the joints.

Early onset, lupus created small lesions in my brain and spinal cord, damaged my peripheral nerves and vascular system and has affected my lungs. I took oral chemotherapy for 3 years, which put me into remission. I voluntarily stopped the chemo last year, worried about the long term effects (cancer and liver damage) of staying on the drug. The downside is my photosensitivity and fatigue creep up on me. I came out of remission last fall and had to take high doses of prednisone. I gained 25 lbs, from the prednisone. I've learned to recognize my limits and listen to my body. When I am tired, I rest. I've learned to be less of a perfectionist and planner, I live more spontaneously. I lost a lot of friends early on, who did not understand my sudden need to cancel plans, my need to rest during the day. "I wish I had the luxury to nap during the day." But the friends that have stuck by me are fantastic. And, of course, my family has been amazing support.

Beth and me in Santa Fe
 The decision for me was a no brainer. Beth and the Lupus Foundation of America, Inc. would be the beneficiary of my next challenge, something that coincidentally that had already been brewing due to some crazy running friends. I wasn't totally sold on the idea of doing it, but Beth's response made it a done deal.   Over a period of a couple of years, a number of guys and girls that run marathons had become friends through a Runners World forum thread, "3:20" as we refer to it, meeting in small groups occasionally at various races throughout the country, but most notably to us at the 2010 Boston Marathon where 14 of us met up to hang out and race over the weekend. That culminated with the Boston 2 Big Sur challenge in which 4 of us flew from the east coast after just having run Boston on Monday to run the Big Sur Marathon on Sunday on the west coast. Now this year, a challenge that seemed to start as joke was now gaining momentum.  A handful of the guys were toying with the idea of running the California International Marathon (CIM) on the morning of December 4th in Sacramento, CA and then immediately boarding a plane and flying to Las Vegas to run the Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Marathon that afternoon.  I immediately said I was out knowing that I was going to run  The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 50 mile race on December 3rd. Of course that thought lasted less than a day before I made it known that I was in, but instead of CIM, I would still run the 50 mile race on Saturday and then fly to Las Vegas the next morning to join several members of the 3:20 crew running all or some part of the original challenge.  In a nutshell, I'll be running the 50 mile trail race on Saturday in whcih I hope to break the 9 hour barrier and then running the full marathon on The Strip the next day in which my goal is to avoid the sweep, the 4.5 hour cutt-off.

After reading Beth's response I was just overwhelmed. Not really sure how to describe it, but inspired was probably the best description.  A real person dealing with the punches that life throws at her and it put mine into respective. They're nothing.  Beth was now my "go to" person for inspiration.  Someone that continues to live life to the fullest no matter what, someone to remind me to do the same. Don't make excuses, just do it.

As luck has it, I just happened to be heading to the Albuquerque area for the Jemez Mountains race and had asked Beth and friends from the high school area if they would like to meet up for lunch. As it turned out, Beth was the only one able to make it and join me and some other runners the day before Jemez in Santa Fe.  We didn't really discuss the fundraising, but instead just tried to catch up on what was now 26 yrs since we had last seen each other.  Beth graciously served a our tour guide on a drive around downtown Santa Fe and offered up some great suggestions for dining for our day after the race. In addition, Beth totally surprised me by making it know that after more than ten years since running her last 1/2 marathon she would be training to run The World's Largest Nighttime Running Event , the R'n'R 1/2 marathon.  Woo hoo, go Beth!  Incredible, nothing less than what I would expect from her, but still unexpected if that makes any sense?  She said that spending the day with ultra runners was inspiring to her which was great to hear because the feeling was mutual.

So here it is, our next six months.  Join Beth and I as we will be training for our races and campaigning through this blog to bring awareness of Lupus and the work of the Lupus Foundation of America, Inc.  We hope to provide you with an insight of our training including trials and tribulations along the way, the "punches" we each face in our daily lives and hopefully we can inspire you in some small way.  You get the easy part, provide your support to us in any way possible, even if just your encouragement as it will mean a lot to us.  Or, if you would like, there's still time to register and join us in Las Vegas for the party that we are sure to have after crossing the finishline the night of December 4th.  And remember, what happens in Vegas.......we'll remember forever!  Thanks and take care!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jemez Mountains Trail Run 50 Miler

Okay, I've edited this post to apologize for the's long, but hey, it was 50 you go..........

After a six month hiatus from posting, I'm back with what originally got me started with this blog, Jemez Mountains.  I first came across the craziness of the ultra world and Jemez Mountain Trail Run while reading Dean Karnazes' book Ultra Marathon Man back in 2008.  I was 40 and in the midst of training for my 2nd marathon.  The significance being that it was a Boston qualifying attempt, my goal since hitting the big 4-0. I told Gina at that time that I would run my first 100-miler by the time I was 45 despite the fact that I'd only run one 5K, one 10K and one marathon at that point.  I'm not sure either of us believed it, but it was something to shoot for as a long-term goal.  The idea of doing a 50 mile race for charity struck me at the time and while things didn't quite work out as originally planned, I ended up with both a 50 miler and a fundraising effort, but in unrelated events.

Fast forward about two years and I found myself registered for Jemez, finally. And to boot, I had four friends lining up with me, the first 50 for three of them, nice. With the exception of Amy, the rest of us had just run the Boston Marathon less than 5 weeks earlier and we  all had pretty good races.  Amy had been busy tearing up 50K trails. This would probably be the strongest overall group of runners that I had been with for a race, all of us being in the 3 to sub 3 marathon range.  Of course that meant nothing here as we are all flatlanders with minimal experience at altitude.  Jemez being arguably one of the hardest 50's was certain to provide a challenge for all of us.

We rented a loft in Santa Fe where we would have a runners haven for a few days.  We all flew in to Albuquerque Thursday from different places and then had about an hour drive to Santa Fe.  After lunch at Cafe Cafe and getting in settled in at the loft, we drove another 35 miles to Los Alamos to pick up our race packets.  Incredible views along the way with snow capped mountains.  We were all getting pretty excited just being there and knowing that we were less than 48 hours away from the toughest race we had ever done.

Team Endurasoak:  Nick, Shaheen, me, Amy and Jayna
 A 5:00 a.m. start meant a pretty early rise.  Most of us were up by 2:45 and we headed out of the loft at 3:45.  We pulled into Los Alamos about 4:25 and we had to scramble to hit the porta Johns, check in with our drop bags and get to the start. Even though we had already picked up our race packets Thursday, runners were required to check-in race morning so that race officials would know who was out on the course. After checking in, I quickly pinned my bib on my shorts and headed out the door to the start on the road just feet in front of the cabin.  I found the four others as well as a 5th friend, Edgar, also from Dallas.  He was originally registered for the 50K, but was allowed to switch to the 50 mile on Thursday so that he could join us.  Good idea? 

Amy and me

Inside the cabin just moments before the start
Seems like we were lined up for less than a minute and then we were off in the dark. I was still fumbling with my headlamp, but fortunately had already turned on my Garmin and acquired satellite signal. We quickly hit some single-track stuff that had the 6 of us backed up, to a standstill at a couple of points.  Amy and I got a little restless behind some of the crowd and we forged ahead of the crowd.  We just wanted some breathing room and we found it. In doing so, we unintentionally left the others behind as they wisely had more patience than we did.

We quickly started our first climb of the day, which I later found out was just a teaser.  It was about a 1,500ft climb to Guaje Ridge and ended up being the easiest of all the climbs due to the switchbacks, something the other climbs lacked. Once at the top, we had traveled 7.1 miles in just over 1:31.

Climbing Guaje Ridge

Amy in a pose she would strike a few times, deservedly so

View from top of Guaje Ridge back down on Los Alamos

With the first small climb behind us, we had a short downhill section in which we dropped about 900ft over roughly a mile before starting the ascent up Caballo Mountain.  This was all still single track running and the first of what was considered our real climbs.  It was roughly an 1,800ft climb of what was a 4 mile loop to the top of the mountain and 1,800ft back down.  It wasn't far into it, at mile 10.6 actually, that Nick Clark passed us on his was back down.  That would have put him at 13.4, roughly 2.8 miles ahead of us.  On our way up we were passed by a handful of runners that were obviously much better at climbing than we were.  We hit the the top of Caballo Mountain, 12 miles and at 10,480ft right at 3hours. Averaging 4 miles an hour so far.
Top of Caballo Mountain, 10,460ft.
Coming back down Caballo was probably the funnest part of the day for me.  I followed Amy and she literally flew down the mountain.  We were flying by runners still on their way up as well as most of those that had passed us climbing Caballo.  It was pretty much a wreckless descent to the bottom.  The two miles that took us 50:40 to climb took us less than 20 minutes to cover on the way back down.  The crazy thing is that it felt like we were doing sub 7 pace.  Reflecting on that section, I remember that there was a fair amount of switchbacks along that section as I actually overshot a couple coming down and had to grab trees or tree limbs to keep from crashing.  At the base of Caballo we were 14.2 miles and 3hrs 22min into our day .  Still a lot of miles and climbing ahead of us.

Over the next 2.8 miles we would climb over 1,100ft before reaching the Pipeline aid station, the site of our first drop bags.  It was there that I decided to go with a 2nd handheld water bottle, pick up my first solid food, some Lenny & Larry Muscle Brownies and ditch the arm sleeves.  It felt like it was starting to warm up about now, roughly 9:15 a.m..

Just outside of the aid station was Nate's Nemesis.  I had seen pictures, watched video of a runner's descent and was warned by a friend to be careful at that spot.  Only when I actually stood in front of it did I realize the nature of the drop.  "Holy shit" was all I could think.  I've read from others that the grade decline was somewhere between 50-70%......straight down in other words.

Starting descent down Nate's Nemesis

Oh my!
Once we hit the bottom, the course opened up and we were actually able to run side by side for some length on a dirt jeep track.  The next 4 miles were some pretty decent running and I clocked two of my three fastest miles along the way, a 9:04 and a 9:39.

Valles Grande
The next aid station, Valle Grande would be at mile 21 and just over 5 hours after we had started.  It was here that I would raid the race offered food supply for the first time.  Ruffles potato chips were being crammed into my mouth as if I were in some sort of contest.  The salty chips were heaven. Overall I think I was feeling okay, but to think that I was only 40% of the way there was a bit overwhelming.  On top of that, I didn't realize what lie ahead just over a mile away.  
Aid station at mile 21, just before Cerro Grande Mountain
At the station we would head left and start our run towards Cerro Grande, our 3rd major climb of the day.  The view in this area was unreal.  Once off of the road and crossing through the valley, we commented on how the area looked as if it had not even yet been discovered by man.  We wondered when the buffalo or maybe even a covered wagon would enter our sight.  No, we weren't oxygen deprived just yet, but just amazed with the scenery.

Starting the climb of Cerro Grande
The climb of Cerro Grande was about 2 miles and 1,800ft.  It was in this section that we encountered the talus/rock field that I had seen so many times in photos.  But as with Nate's Nemesis, photos didn't prepare me for the obstacle.  Unreal!  It was in the stretch of mile 23 that we hit the rocks.  Per my Garmin, mile 23 took a mere 42:31 and we climbed over 1,400 ft in that one mile.  I can remember looking at my Garmin during that stretch and seeing a 50:xx pace, wow!

Yep, there's the orange flag, that's the right way, and that's a person up there.

Are we there yet?

No, I'm not a miniature, those rocks are really that big.
Fortunately, the course veered off to the right of the rocks and we then went straight up the mountain.  Or was that better ??  We're still debating which was more difficult. As we got higher I starting feeling lightheaded and a bit of nausea.  I could feel my pulse in my head and knew that the altitude was getting to me.  I looked at my Garmin to see that we had gone up over the 9,600ft and still had climbing to do.  I didn't think it would ever end.  At some point I took the liberty of renaming the mountain The Neverf***ingendingmountain.  I don't think it will stick, but I'm guessing I wasn't the first to come up with that name.
Somewhere near the top of Cerro Grande
In addition to the altitude bothering me, I could feel that my IT band was not real thrilled to be working on this day.  It had started bothering me two weeks prior on a 30 mile training run and I had been trying to keep it from flaring up.  What was a concern entering the day was now a reality, but how would it affect me? We made it to the top of Cerro Grande, 10,213ft in 6hrs, 3minutes and 23 miles in. Mile 23 was a whopping 42:31.  That was an uninterrupted mile, no aid stations, not stops, just slow moving.  Getting to the top and heading down brought another surprise, more of the talus field to navigate through.

Talus on the way down.
It was shortly after navigating through the rocks that I found out that my IT band was NOT going to let me run any technical downhill sections.  Amy took off as she did from Caballo Mountain and I called upon myself to do the same, but the pain shooting through my knee said no way.  I tried repeatedly, but the right knee was very unstable and there was no way I could plant on it coming down. I never saw her again until the finish line. I basically had one good leg and 27 miles to go.  Sonofabitch! 

From the downside of Cerro Grande to Pajarito Canyon, running was sketchy.  There were some stretches that were not too technical and I could actually run them as long as they weren't uphill.  The paces for miles 24-28 were as follows:  16:04, 10:27, 9:51, 11:05, and 12:16. The elevation over that distance dropped from about 9,400ft to 7,900ft.  If it was a smooth downhill, the running wasn't bad, but anything technical brought me to a walk. 
Good running trail through Canyon de Valle
Somewhere in the 29th mile I came into the Pajarito Canyon aid station.  By this time it was about 20 minutes after noon and getting hot.  I stripped off the singlet and applied sunscreen in the aid station, loaded my two handheld bottles and headed back out knowing I was on the downside of the 50 mile course, but barely.  My thinking at this point based on my ITB and knee was "one aid station at a time".  The next one was a mere 4 miles away, all uphill on the way back to Pajarito Mountain.  At some point in this climb I looked back for some reason and then did a double take.  There was Shaheen and Edgar about 50 yards behind me. I had been worried about the Dallas contingency and there wherabouts up until this point.  Seeing the two of them made me feel better.  I didn't stop to wait for them because I knew at the pace I was moving (somewhere between a snail and a turtle) they would catch me prett quick. We weren't together for very long as they were both doing better than me and I had no desire to try to keep up.  I couldn't.  Before long they were out of sight.

Those next 4 miles of virtually nothing but walking took about 1hr, 20 min and seemed like an eternity.  While trying to calculate in my head how long the remaining distance would take, I estimated my arrival to be early Sunday morning.  Actually, I was beginning to wonder at what point I would stop and call it a day.  Climbing back up over 10,400ft, the altitude once again bothering me, the heat of the day and what seemed like no hope to be able to run at all the rest of the day, I had to consider the reality of shutting it down, quitting, previously unspoken words
Townsite Lift Aid station at mile 32.6

View from up on Pajarito Mountain
The peak of Pajarito Mountain was reached around mile 34 per my Garmin reading, the 4th and final major climb. Elevation was just under 10,500ft and there was some relief that the hardest part of climbing for the day was over. It was 2:15 in the afternoon and now everything else would be at a lower elevation and for the most part, downhill. While I found relief in that fact, I was in a great deal of pain and the daunting task of running 16 more miles was almost unthinkable. The possibility of a DNF now was looming larger than ever over me and the probability seemed good.

Making my way down Pajarito I unknowingly missed a turnoff and somehow started running down a jeep track. While my knee was killing me, it was a straight downhill shot and I decided to let gravity take me and run with it. However, the lack of orange flags or ribbons had me concerned until I saw a familiar sight, trail I had already run. As I stopped in my tracks and tried to figure out what in the hell I had just done, I heard another runner yell at me from maybe 40 yards away, “hey, it’s this way” to which I disgustingly responded “yeah, I know, I’ve already been there”. He was headed up a path I had taken not so long ago. I turned around and started my walk of shame back up the hill to where I had just come from. It couldn’t have been more than a quarter of a mile from where I went off track, but it felt like forever. By the time I got there, the same runner was making his way around the orange markers and down a hill that I had missed just in front of me. Maybe a half mile total off of course so not too bad.

I continued to make my way downhill anyway that I could manage, most notably slowly. I just wanted to get to the next aid station and then weigh my options, get some G2 mix that I had because I was about sick of Heed at this point. I came to the ski slope and could see a few runners down below me. From the size of them, I could tell they were quite a distance off and more importantly, I could see just how steep this slope was. Per my Garmin, it indicated that it dropped off about 670ft in ½ mile straight down. Someone mentioned that it was like Double Black Diamond slope, but who knows, I'm not a skier so it really meant nothing to me.  It was steep and that's all that mattered.  I stepped off of the trail and opted to try to go down on the grass instead. It appeared that I’d have better footing with the grass clumps than on the narrow dirt trail with loose rocks. Being the my footing was unstable as it was, I didn’t want to end up rolling to the bottom although it would have been much faster. Earlier I had heard a lot of whooping and hollering off in the distance so I knew that I was close to the next aid station, Townsite Lift, I just wasn’t sure how close.

While making my way down the slope in a sideways and almost backwards manner at times, I was actually passed up by 4 young hikers on their way down. If that wasn’t disheartening, I’m not sure what could have topped it. Once I made it to the bottom, there was another dirt road and I could then see the Townsite Lift station. At the time, I thought it was Pipeline instead which made no sense because I had already hit that station once before. It just shows how well my mind was functioning at that point. As I made my way down the road into the station, I was literally hopping and practically skipping to get in at anything faster than walking pace. It was all I could do to get to the stairs at the decking of the lift and ask a volunteer for my drop bag. Of course the response was that our drop bags were at the next aid station. I quickly looked at my forearm where I had written down all of the aid station mile markers to see that I had about 3 more miles to go. Slight miscalculation.

When asked by the volunteer how I was, and it was quite obvious, my response was not good. He asked what it was and I explained the issue with my IT band. He told me to come up on the deck and have a seat at which point to my surprise I noticed Shaheen and Edgar sitting there. Shaheen had badly twisted her ankle and was done. She was awaiting a ride back to the start and Edgar was just hanging tight with her. Another volunteer came to my side and asked if she could massage my leg to see if it would help to which I said sure. In my head I knew it wouldn’t do much, but it bought me time to think out my next move. She too seemed genuinely concerned and if nothing else, it was at least comforting to know they were great people who cared about all of the runners.  After a couple minutes and downing 3 ibuprofen, I decided to get up so that I could stretch it and see if that helped. I had only done that what seemed like 20 times before along the way without much success, but it couldn’t hurt. The volunteer asked what I wanted to do and I said I was going to the next aid station and that I would evaluate the situation there. He looked me in the face quite seriously and said, I can’t keep you here, but if you leave your’re pretty much committing yourself to the final 14 miles. There no other place from here on in that we could send a vehicle for you should you drop. Wow, now what? I told him to let me think about it and paced around a bit in somewhat of an emotional wreck inside because I didn’t come there to run 36 miles. I asked Edgar if he wanted to go with me and he was game. Neither of us wanted to leave Shaheen alone, but we had some miles left and she was in good hands with volunteers that would take her back to the start. Edgar said to hold on until he went to the restroom, maybe the only true restroom on the course, and then we’d go. Just as we were about to head out the bell was ringing for another runner coming in and it was Nick.  Yes, he was still in it and looking pretty good.  Edgar quickly went over the situation with Nick and we took off out of there.  Nick was going to stay back for a bit. At this point, I was 36.2 miles along and about 10hrs, 15min into the race and it was about 3:15.  I had traveled 2 miles in just over 59 minutes.  Turtle.

The next 3 miles I really don't remember much about them.  About 47 minutes to cover a net gain of 670ft of gradual incline, nothing too steep.  I was able to run the some of it my with my main focus on staying with Edgar.  He did a great job of keeping us going. Before long we we made our way into Pileline Aid Station and were now only 11 miles from the finish at 5:00 p.m., 11 hours into the race.  I reached into my drop bag for the final time and grabbed my iPod.  I needed some "Pearl Jam: Live from Boston".  I thought I had two G2 powder mixes as well, but apparently not, that sucked.  Heed it would be for the distance. A coule swipes of BodyGlide on each rib cage and inside arm and we were out of there.  Well, actually I also filled a baggie of Lay's potato chips and carried that out with me. 

Putting on my iPod at Pipeline. Ready to be done with this thing. 
Coming out of Pipeline aid station was a good feeling.  I had been there once before and finally got the feeling that the homestretch was nearing.  The view up that long road wasn't all that great, but I'd been over worse so I'd deal with it and I felt like with just under 11 miles to go and most of it in the downhill nature, I would make it.  Having Edgar there to run with certainly help me stay focused on getting it done.
View of jeep track out of Pipeline Aid Station

View from Guaje Ridge heading back towards Los Alamos
The rest of the trek in was long. The next 8 miles dropped about 2,600ft and we covered it in 1:30:30, roughly 11:20 per mile, well below the average pace per mile for the entire race.  After that stretch, we were able to get in just over one more mile before my Garmin gave out, battery dead.  Woo hoo, I outlasted the Garmin. While most of the final couple miles seemed to be runnable, there was a lot of walking the last couple of miles on some uphill stuff, including another 15+ minute mile, #48.

Coming back down Guaje Ridge............I think?
 I don't really remember a whole lot other than the fact that Edgar had pulled away at some point and I was content just to finish. I didn't try to keep upwith him, besides the ibuprofen had wore off and my knee was really hurting again.  I once again started to have some concern that the finish I recently thought was a certainty might not be.  However, as we winded our way down Guaje and back towards Los Alamos, he came back into my sight and there we were again.  I was his shadow over the course of the last 5 or 6 miles we and passed 5 runners that I specifically remember passing me somewhere earlier in the day.  While I didn't feel like it was some great accomplishment at the time, it at least reminded me that I wasn't the only one struggling to finish.  Along the way I had been keeping an eye on my watch with hope of breaking 13 hours.  The goal at the beginning of the day of sub 12 was long gone.

As we continued to make our way in, it seemed like we'd never get there and the hopes of sub 13 seemed to be getting slim.  We hit the last aid station and had 1.9 miles to go and just over 30 minutes time to get there. I didn't want to to stop because I was concerned about time, but Edgar needed water and I wasn't going on without him. One of the volunteers convinced me to drink a cup of Coke while they refilled Edgar's water and that was a good move.  Coke never tasted so good.

Sub 13, surely we could do it?  Easier said than done.  It was a struggle as it seemed quite a bit of the last two miles were uphill or rolling hills which brought on a lot of walking by both of us.  As we had left the station I heard one of the runners we had passed coming in so it seemed that he was gaining on us, incentive to try to keep moving, but there was only so much we could physically do.  Did it even matter what placement or time we finished?  For some reason it did to me, I couldn't help it. Coming to the top of every hill and every corner I kept expecting to see something that resembled the finish line or buildings or people or anything that indicated we were close to the finish. Instead, it would just bring another turn, more hills, more trail, a 50K runner. Anything but the finish line and I was growing frustrated.  And to boot, one of the other runners passed us.  He appeared to be paced in for the last mile by his girlfriend or wife as wehad  passed her just after leaving the last station.  I yelled to Edgar "let's go, we gotta break 13" and found one final surge.  Besides that, I didn't want to give up that spot and I ended up getting it back.  I apologize for still being competitive at that point, but a spot in the standings was a spot in the standngs. 

As I came up a hill I saw the sign I had been looking for all along.  Volunteers or spectators letting us know the finish was just around the corner, and it was.  As I rounded that final corner I came up on a female runner that I had traded places with a couple of times earlier in the day.  I probably could have made a complete ass out of myself and sprinted past her as well, but opted not to do so.  She had run a strong race and was really nice to me with concern earlier in the day when I was struggling (I know, at this point you're saying to yourself  "Could you be more specific? Wasn't that pretty much all day").  I was satisfied crossing the line just behind her, done finally, 12:58:15, 54th place overall and an average pace of 15:34 per mile.  Just over 9 minutes per mile slower than my marathon pace. 
Just feet from the finish line

Edgar finishing strong, thanks for the company buddy!
As I came across the finish line there was Amy with her camera and big ol' smile. Looking like she had just finished a 10K. It was so good to see her and know that we had made it. She ended up 5th female with a time of 12:21.......quite studly, but I would expect nothing less from her.  She is the Real Deal for sure!  Edgar was right on my tail at 12:59 and inside the cabin were our two other girls, Jayna and Shaheen, both in safely, but not feeling so well due to their injuries.  They both ended up dropping at the 36 mile aid station. Nick came across not long after at 13:31 with a grin from ear to ear and at that point we were all present and accounted for.  That's what mattered most.

Twinkies?  Tough Twinkies for sure, Jayna and Shaheen.
Once in the cabin it was time to fuel up, I was tired, but so hungry.  I actually had 3 green chili cheeseburgers, sugar cookies, chips and God knows what else.  More junk food in the next hour than I had eaten in the whole year and I didn't even feel remorse.  I must have had lingering altitude issues I guess? 

While I didn't get my goal time, I was okay with accepting that for the time being I am just a middle of the road ultra runner.  What I had done in Boston last month was thrown out the window here.  But that's okay with me because that's what will motivate me for the time being.  Practically the whole time out there on the course I was telling myself "never again will I run Jemez, never ever never".  But it wasn't long after finishing that I started thinking, I can break 12 out there, maybe even 11?  We'll see about that next May.

In the meantime, I want to congratulate all of those that gave it their best shot out there on Saturday whether they finished or not.  Just attempting to tackle such a challenge is awesome and quite respectable.  I always pride myself on being mentally tough, but I don't know that I could ever put into words how difficult that was, both physically and mentally. Not many would even consider attempting such a day. 

I also want to thank Amy for her pictures.  Most of those above are her work as I gave up on my camera at mile 17. It was too much trouble.  So on top of being an ultra All-Star, she's a pretty damned good photographer.  I kidded her that she could have probably knocked off 20-30 minutes had she not taken picutres.  I'm glad she did.  Also major thanks to Edgar.  A guy I just met the day before was a major help in my getting to the finish line Saturday night, thanks man!

Thanks for stopping in for the read and I promise it won't be six months until the next one (I'm sure you can't wait).  I've got something brewing that I want to share with you when all the details are figured out. 

Take care!