Oct 30, 2009

Race Preview: NYC Marathon

I'm finally in. I applied for the lottery 4 times, was turned down all 4 times. This may be the reason I hate race entry lotteries - I just have no luck with them. This year, I got in not in the lottery, but on a "three consecutive year loser" rule. At any rate, I finally get to run it.

There is an aura around NYC marathon unlike anything else. Oddly, most of my non-running friends acknowledge it as an enormous accomplishment, with greater reverence than any of my ultras, even the 50 milers. I find this fascinating.

Because of this reverence that people have, I won't bother with a race description, because everyone already knows all about it. It's the NYC marathon.

My plan for the last couple of months was to have a great time with it. My buddy Fraioli, also a fat Italian guy, and I were going to take the opportunity to have a slice of pizza in each boro during the race. How cool would that be? However, as of this writing, it seems that he's going to ditch the race for lack of training, meaning I might have no excuse to avoid actually having to run this thing..

Which, frankly, wouldn't be so bad. A 5:45 finish would allow me to experience the crowds that NYC is so famous for - crowds that would have dissipated for the 6:45 finish I probably would have had with Fraioli.

Either way, I really am looking forward to the whole NYC marathon experience. Come back next week for a report.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Oct 28, 2009

People who think I shouldn't run marathons exist, get NYTimes ink

(This is the 400th post I've written to this blog)

Years ago, I finally internalized the futility of arguing politics with people, especially on the internet, and thus almost never do it even though I retain very very strong opinions. I mostly keep them to myself and reluctantly tolerate others' political rants. Avoiding these arguments has helped me keep friends that I would have otherwise lost. It's a nice perk.

Having learned that lesson, in the past couple of years I have tried, and sometimes failed, to avoid online debates in particular. I'm getting better at it, I swear. But every now and then something comes up and I just can't resist writing about it, or at least spending some otherwise valuable productive time reading people's comments and getting emotionally vested in it.

So when this article in NYTimes came through my feed reader, I knew that if I wasn't careful, the ensuing conversation would descend into a rapidly-downward-spiraling argument that would accomplish nothing. The reason is, this article was talking squarely at me. The Times was printing opinions of people who'd prefer I NOT run marathons.

Stated simply, I have no patience for these people.

I have to leave it at that and resist writing a three-page angry rant here. It would just be a waste of time, as nobody would read it anyway. Instead, I am going to go right into light-hearted mode, and quote some of the funnier opinions of folks who happen to agree with me.

JMF: ...you know you're closer to being Joe Six-Pack that you ever will be to being Paul Tergat. You think Paul is cramped behind a pc someplace ranting about how he's a 'real runner' who can't stand that some people jog the whole way and can't finish in less than 3 hours? But for you 'Real Joggers" - in your little gel pak addled minds, walking it in six hours constitutes being a wooly mouse, and jogging it in 3.5 hours equates to racing through bomb craters and hailstones...
SG: If someone runs a 3:00 marathon, they are still 55 minutes (8 miles back) off the world record. Does that make them a slowpoke fatty?
Shawn D: I'm all for the back-of-the-packers. I say take 10-hours! That way my slow ass times appear all that more impressive :)
Mark: I'm going to have to stop telling people I "run" 100 milers.
legallyillegal: so when some fatf**k does something other than sit at home and have donuts, you're there telling them to go home and have another donut?
B: Shhh!!! If you eliminate the 'casual' or 'walker' marathoner, then you won't get an ego boost comparing yourself to pros & elites that ran past you like you were standing still. How will you feel coming in DFL at 3:10?

There were no shortage of less funny but very insightful comments, either.
Laz: an inherent desire to belittle less talented athletes is a sure sign of an athlete who does not respect his own performance. as a coach, you find that every athlete has their own particular needs. the athlete who belittles others needs to be taught the worth and value of his own performance. the athlete who believes in himself treats other athletes with respect.
Spurgeon Hendrick: Snobby runners can all bite me. Fast runners who complain about slow runners need a reality check. The lady at the end of the article who tells 6+ hour runners, "that’s fine, but you didn’t really run it" ... who does she think SHE is? She's snooty just because her 4:05 time beat somebody by two hours? The elites beat HER by two hours ... Does that mean she "didn't really run it?" And to say, "a six-hour marathoner is simply participating in the event, not racing in it" ... is just plain stupid. Is a four hour marathoner "racing it?" Uh ... no. Is a three hour? Hmmm ... let me think ... the elites will beat him by an hour ... so .. uh .. no. Although I would argue that ALL of the runners are racing against themselves, either against their old PR or against that little voice in their head telling them to quit.Do these elitist numb nuts realize that for some people running the race in 6+ hours requires more effort, more hard work, and more determination than it does for them to run a four hour marathon?
Ed Parrot: But exactly what is the point of saying that someone didn't really run it? I mean, is someone suffering from an insecurity complex or what?
Byron Lane: I've won races that I can't even remember doing, but I can tell you stories from each one of these days on the road with my dad, and so can he. It's my favorite race each year, and probably his, too. Other people can call it a run, a non-race, a fast shuffle--I don't care.
MN: I ran along with a guy who was well into his 80's and had finished every single TC marathon since it began. Started running in his late 50's to keep him off the bottle and from smoking. Hell I'm prayin I can pull that off in 40+ years too and I don't want some douche whose a "real runner" telling me that if I'm not sub 4 hours I shouldn't be there.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Oct 27, 2009

Fat people who exercise healthier than skinny people who don't

(I just realized I made a typo in the publish date, so this is Monday's post on a Tuesday. Sorry.)

via Amby Burfoot's Peak Performance blog

Here's Why Exercise Counts, Even If You're Fat
More and more studies are finding evidence for the "fat by fit" finding, first uncovered by Steve Blair and his many studies at the Cooper Clinic. In case you've forgotten, this line of research has found that overweight individuals who exercise regularly have roughly the same health profile as lower weight people who exercise, and a better profile than thin people who don't exercise. In other words, exercise is the uber-health-enhancer. This review looks at the "how's" of fat-but-fit, and finds that the exercise has significant effects on inflammation, insulin sensitivity, visceral ("belly") fat, and cholesterol even if you don't lose weight. Powerful stuff. Source: Current Opinion In Lipidology.

Here's the study

having said that, i'd still rather be a thin runner than a fat runner.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Oct 23, 2009

Ultrarunning Listserv Gold - How to run 50 miles in 12 hours

A bit of wisdom from Joe Judd of Colorado, who writes,
You are more than ready. I think that 50 miles in 12 hours is very
attainable, especially if it is a flat course.

1) Focus on keeping moving for the whole 12 hours.
2) A run/walk startegy works well for most people. Something like run for 5 minutes, then walk for one minute. I just run at a comfortable pace for as long as I can, then walk when I feel I need to have a break. Getting exhausted is hard to come back from.
3) Don't stop for too long. Keep aid stops to a maximum of around 5 minutes, maybe 10 minutes around dinner time. Remember, if you stop for 5 minutes every hour, you've lost a total of an hour of the race.
4) Most of what you need to overcome is in your head. It's not terribly hard to run a pace of 14:30 per mile. Doing it for 12 hours is another issue.
5) Stay in the moment. It is not a good idea to think of how much longer you have to run. Focus on how you're doing at THAT moment. The hours and miles will take care of themselves. Relentless forward motion!
6) It will get bad. But, then it will get better. It's never a consistent downhill spiral. No matter how bad you feel, you WILL bounce back.

BTW, pretty much all of these things I have learned from the ultra list. Of course, I've had to wade through some bad jokes.
The signal-to-noise ratio on the listserv is pretty darn low, but when something great does come through, it really makes it worth reading.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Oct 21, 2009

knee update and winter race plans

The good news is that I think my knee will be ok for the NYC marathon, which is a week from Sunday, and then for Stone Cat 50M a week from that. The bad news is I'm not 100% sure.

* I haven't tried running on it yet
* I have not felt pain by walking on it since Monday night, including stairs
* I still feel pain when I touch it
* It feels "fragile" or "glassy", if that makes sense.

I have no idea what would have happened had I attempted to continue running on it at the 50K. My gut tells me the odds are 50/50 that it would have been fine or I would have made it worse. I would have been pulled from that race anyway, so it doesn't really matter.

After Stone Cat, the only thing on my calendar before Umstead is a 50K fatass in the new year. I am not sure what I'll do with the downtime. Tony and I are working on something fun for mid-november to early december but that's not set in stone. If I can get a killer airfare deal, I might head to las vegas for the marathon there to see some friends - that's also early december. I promised Rizzo that I'd go do Rocky Raccoon 100 if he'd man up and do the 50, but you should hear him cry on the phone. "I can't do that!"

"So certain are you. Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?"

Those three things notwithstanding, I pretty much have nothing going on for this winter - and I'm kind of happy about that, because that frees me up to spend lots of quality time with Joe on the ski slopes, and focusing on dropping some weight for umstead..

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Oct 19, 2009

Race Report: Mountain Madness 50K - DNF

I'll keep this one short:

* Slept in ('til 7:30)
* 10 minute drive from home to the starting line.
* Cold but not rainy
* Got under way at 9am
* ran with my VT50K buddy Frank for a short distance
* Was going slow on the hilly technical terrain but feeling good & comfortable
* Nice view at mile 5
* Frank passed me at mile 7.9 (or so)
* Ran off the course at mile 8. Spent 15 minutes finding my way back.
* Found the course where I left it, shocked at how I ran off (it was clearly marked)

(here's where it gets important)

* Mile 10: tripped on a root. Rock meets kneecap.
* Steve curled in fetal position for 60 seconds, got up and started walking
* Pain went away after 2 minutes. started jogging again.
* Pain came back after 5 minutes. started walking. Pain didn't go away
* Hit a short asphalt section. continued walking. Pain didn't go away.
* Sat on rock and rubbed that groove at the inside edge of the kneecap. Pain got worse.
* Look at watch. I was on pace to miss the cutoff 10 miles down the road, and even if I didn't, going 20 more miles on that knee didn't seem prudent.
* Called my wife to come pick me up. Started walking to the starting line.
* Dropped.

On the drive out, I came across Frank and two other guys walking back towards the starting line. They were told they ought to turn around, they had little chance of making the next cutoff. Because he passed me right before I got lost, I knew he was at least 15 minutes ahead of me - and healthy - yet he was turned around. Reading the race results, I see the winner took 5:20, and there were 69 finishers, 1 DQ and 32 DNFs, not including DNSs. That's really high for a 50K. It's a tough course.

Maybe next year. It's a great race. I liked it.

* Rested and iced it all afternoon on saturday.
* Sunday: pain on stairs, going both up and down. Rested it all afternoon after church. Iced it at night.

BTW - I overheard a lot of people complain about getting lost. I know I did, but it's my own fault for not paying attention. I saw another guy run right off the trail (he was too far away from me for me to catch him or for him to hear me). He missed a VERY clearly marked turn. I don't know everyone's situation, but it seems to me that the RD did as good a job marking the course as can be expected - it's just, in that area, it's easy to take a wrong turn..

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Oct 16, 2009

Race Preview: Mountain Madness 50K

Let me tell you something - the opportunity for a mid-October 50K through the New Jersey Highlands - is not something to miss. And when that 50K's starting line is less than 10 minutes from home and on the trails I run most often, well, I'd better have a very good reason to miss it.

But I don't have a good reason, so tomorrow morning I'll be toeing the starting line of the Mountain Madness 50K in Ringwood, NJ. And like I said, I'm really excited about this one. I love running on these trails. They're the perfect amount of rocky & technical as single-track can get. Runnable but challenging. And, from the looks of the course, they're taking full advantage of the hilly topography that this area has to offer.

The only challenging factor about this race for a fat slowpoke like me is that, because of the topography, the 8.5 hour time limit might be a bit tough. I'm hoping my rather extensive experience running in this area will make up for that. Weather looks fun, too. It snowed here on Thursday (Oct 15th!) and the mercury hit 32 on my drive home from work. Saturday doesn't look like it'll be quite that cold but the weather isn't going to be bright and sunny either. No matter, as long as it's not muddy like Vermont, I think I'll be happy to be out there.

I don't think live results will be available online, but if you're in the area you might want to come out and watch a little of the race! And, I believe there's still time to register for the 50K or 7.77 mile option if anyone feels up for it! Hope to see you there!

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Oct 14, 2009

Extreme Runner of the Week

An internet message board about running that I frequent has a weekly feature called "extreme runner of the week", a takeoff on their "extreme running" sub-forum - intended for ultra and trail runners. A few weeks ago it was my turn to fill out the EROTW survey, and I'm republishing most of it here for posterity.

Where ya from ?
Flushing, NY. Go Mets!

Where are you now ?
Suffern, NY. They call it that for a reason.

What's Your Sign ?

Do you have a nickname ?

Whaddaya do for a livin' ?
Software Developer

How long you been runnin' ?
Off and on since 1997

Average mileage per week ?

Trail to Road Ratio ?
3:1 in the summertime.. although a significant number of miles comes from the treadmill, as I like to go to the gym during my lunch hour.

How many toe nails ya still got ?? How many toes ?
right now, 8 toenails on 10 toes

Races per year ?
Try to average one marathon or ultra per month. I think I'll have 14 or 15 in 2009, depending on what happens in November or December. This doesn't count races shorter than a marathon.. I think I've had 3 or 4 races in the 5K-25K range so far this year. Will probably add a few more before the year is out.

First Ultra
Lake Waramaug 50K 2008. Finished in 7:43.

Next Ultra
(Updated) Mountain Madness 50K this weekend - but everything is building up to Umstead next march.

Most Notable Performance
Caumsett 50K this past march. Intending to go out slow and easy and just have a good time, I ended up running a 6:47 PR, and a marathon PR on the way to it.

Just how slow are you, anyway ?
I've never finished 50 miles before dark. It once took me 11 hours to finish a 32-mile race. Some people want more than anything to qualify for boston. I hope one day to break 5 hours.. I'm 33 (:

Ultimate Running Goal
To hang with friends in the middle of the pack during an ultra. Back-of-the pack is too spread out for hanging..

Got a dream event ??
Hardrock / UTMB

What is the most EXTREME event or training run you've ever done ?
I entered Rocky Raccoon in 2009 and didn't finish.
The most extreme race I've finished, therefore, would be Grand Teton 50 - 10'000 feet of climbing, finished it after midnight.

Do You XT ?

Do you have a running idol or inspiration ?
I'm a fan of Ryan Hall and Anton Krupicka, but would hardly call them idols or inspiring.

I do find disabled runners, fat runners, old runners, and generally slow runners inspiring - and I wouldn't except the fact that I hear so often people who could be awesome runners making excuses - telling me that they can't run because their knees hurt, or because of some injury in their past, or because they're too old, or something else. No disrespect intended, but while they say that, I think of the amputees who finish badwater.

Running strengths and weaknesses ?
Strengths: Um, I smile a lot during races?
Weaknesses: Everything. I'm built to be a lineman. If I lose enough weight I'd be built to be a linebacker. I'm slow, my form must be pathetic, and I can hardly talk when I'm running at even an easy pace.


A favorite frequent running route
The reason for the frequency of running routes I go to most often is more because of their proximity rather than enjoyment. Having said that, it's a real treat to head up to Mohonk and run there, or to run with Tony at Rockies (where allowed, anyway), or to do some sort of cross-country route through harriman State Park or Ramapo Reservation. But the logistics make that kind of run tough..

A favorite running event & why
Tetons. Great atmosphere, great people, just a really enjoyable event.

An out-of-town run that you'd like to do again ? why ?

Somewhere you've never run but would like to ...
Washington and Oregon.

What does your favorite running shirt say ?? Can we see a picture of You in it ??
Sorry, all my running shirts are either race shirts or solid colors. My favorite t-shirt says "No, I won't fix your computer." It's cotton, I wouldn't run it it.

What's yer favorite running food
Before - Bagel with lox and cream cheese
During - Depends on my mood. Fresh fruit can be awesome. Other times, it's horrible and I want turkey.
After - Greasy Almost-Raw cheddar-burger with lots of bacon & extra cheese!! I want to run a race near Chandler, AZ (javelina?) just so I can have an excuse to eat one of these 8000-calorie babies:

Do you have a favorite saying, quotation or mantra ?
"Enjoy the weather, it's the only weather you've got." (Joe Bastardi)

If you run with music, what are some of you fave running songs ?
I rarely run with music. If I do, it's short high-intensity work and I find music helps - lately this has been a few moby songs. I have an hour-long playlist that I work my way through.
Having said that, I listen to a lot of podcasts Running is my TV time, because I don't watch too much of it. Podcasts are TV for me.. on topics ranging from technology to reformed theology. My favorites are This American Life, Stack Overflow, Mark Driscoll, James White, The Java Posse, Endurance Planaet, TWiT, DrunkAndRetired, Hardcore History, and Common Sense with Dan Carlin.

BEER ! !

Which’s yer favorite ?
Changes frequently. This month I'm partial to Blue Moon. I guess I'm always happy with a nice belgian ale though..

What is the most amout you’ve had
Pre ? Never. I've gotta work on that.
During ?? One can, twice - once at the philadelphia marathon, and once at chicago.

After ? 3 or 4, I guess. I've never gotten drunk after a race..

. . . running that is--


What is the greatest challenge you face in your running now and/or the biggest obstacle you have overcome in the past ?
I used to weigh 400 lbs. That has a rather detrimental effect on your running. Try it some time to see what I mean.
This morning I weighed 286lbs. I don't have a "magic number" where I'll feel like I'm at a weight I'll be happy with, but it's at least another 50lbs away, probably 75.

Have any Trail & Ultra Running fears ?
Not really. Nighttime running used to freak me out, but once I did it a couple of times I was ok with it.

How do you handle the dreaded “DNF” ?
I'm at a point where if I DNF, there's a really good reason for it. The one time I did DNF and later realize I could have finished had I kept moving, I went back the next year and finished the sucker. That was Grand Teton on labor day.

Trail & Ultra training takes up a lot of time. How do you manage to ...
It doesn't take a ton of time in my case. I can run at lunch, or in the morning before the wife and kid are up. Weekend LSDs are a different matter, particularly because I'm so slow (the 20-miler you can do in 3-4 hours takes me 5).

Do you think we need a reason "WHY" to run ? Do you have one ... or more ???
No. I started running to lose weight, and to run a marathon (took me 9 years before I actually ran one, but that's a different story.) Once I got into trail running, I wanted to lose weight so I can run more trails. For me, trail running is the perfect wilderness experience. Hiking is just too .. slow. for me. Plus, the people who run ultras are awesome.

Do you have any rituals or carry any lucky charms or amulets for your races ?

UltraRunning pets or pet peeves ?
I'm pretty free-going, you run your race your way, i run mine my way. I've never seen anyone behave in a way that bothered me - except for bothered people. In other words, the only thing that can bother me is seeing a person get worked up over some other runner's way of doing things.

Enjoy or Hate The Taper ? How do you survive it ?
My whole life is a taper. I never taper. I haven't decided which is true.

Besides running and working out, what other stuff do you like to do ?
I'm a software developer, so I like to think I enjoy that, and sometimes I do. I used to be an avid skier, and would say I still am except that this last season I didn't ski at all.. which bothers me. I love skiing. Running, however, is cheaper. (:


I started running because __I was fat, wanted to lose weight, and wanted to run a marathon__ .

I don't like to run when __I'm away from my family__ .

I am so proud of __a lot of things__ .

My wife/husband/SO thinks I am __neat__ for running trails 'n ultras.

I'd like to run with __anyone__ , because __I love the company__ .

My best line of BS said during a race to encourage a fellow UR consumed in self-pity and thinking of dropping was “__you guys look great__”. (sorry for the boring answer. I'll start working on a better one.)

--Back in the 80's I'd rather be __learning BASIC on my apple ][C__ than sweatin' it out on on some dumb trail run. Of course, now i know better !!

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Oct 12, 2009

Race Report: VT 50K part 2

If you haven't already, please read part 1 here first, for this post is a continuation of that.

After a 1 mile period of running with the 50-mile mountain bikers and super-fast 50K runners, the 50K course once again splits off briefly before rejoining the 50-mile course. It was at this point I started to feel a bit fatigued on the uphills. It turns out that the aggressive powerwalking I did early on in the race was a bit too much for my modest level of fitness, and I started bonking on these hills. I ended up letting Frank get ahead of me on a very beautiful section of singletrack which meandered and switchbacked through the mist in the relatively open forest. I remember thinking that this is the reason to come up and run in New England, because, even on a mediocre day weather-wise, Vermont offers up its own unique beauty and it's really special to be a part of it. I stopped to shoot a short panorama video in this section, and you can find it in the only non-shaky part of the youtube video that goes along with part one of this report.

As nice as that interlude was, however, I was still in the midst of a pretty dramatic bonk, and I was glad at this point to take a hundred brief rests to step aside from the trail and let the numerous mountain bikers pass. To make matters worse, I forgot to check the distance from the last aid station to the next and it seemed it would never come. Finally, the drama of my bonk peaked at a steep uphill at mile 16 or so where I'd have to take numerous breaks to rest, until I crested it and saw that glorious aid station in an open field. I must have spent ten minutes there, sitting and eating a ton of trail mix and just trying to take in as much energy as I could.

There were four miles to the next aid station, and once I did finally get up, I walked a downhill and soon started feeling ok again. Problem was, I ate too much before and my stomach was giving me problems! This was a frustrating part of the race for me, but it actually rather typical in my experience - I'm just a slow learner, I guess.

Once we got to the next aid station, the second-to-last, I tried to "relieve myself" to calm my stomach but was unable to, so ate a little bit (they had grilled cheeses there and it was wonderful!) and went on my way. Before going, however, I overheard someone say something about "lots of gnarly single-track mud to the next aid," and let me tell you - he wasn't kidding. This was where my experience of Vermont went from just another typical long run for me to something "stupid." And, as I said in the previous post, that's the only way I can describe it.

The mud was overwhelming. At Damn Wakely Dam this year, the mud was pretty bad- at points i sunk nearly to my knee. But there, traction was never really a problem. The people who maintain those trails do an incredible job at putting boards and logs over the sections where forward progress would be difficult due to traction. Those boards and logs were slippery to be sure, but at least you could traverse them without too much trouble. In Vermont, the trails, many private and without boards, were literally impossible to run, and walking was difficult. The trails were destroyed and, while I'm by no means an expert on these things, it seemed to me like the damage was such that they were permanently widened due to this event alone. Hundreds of mountain bikers, who's bikes were so gunked up with mud that many were inoperable, were hiking along side us ultrarunners, pushing their bikes. All of that traffic made it a mess that was very frustrating to hike on, and as I said, running was almost impossible.

I finally got to the last aid station with three miles to go and took a seat. The volunteers, who were obviously dealing with frustrations of their own, didn't see me there as I sat for 5 minutes just drinking and eating. I finally asked someone where the water was because I had an empty reservoir in my pack and they pointed me at the correct jug. I hobbled over there, refilled it, and went on my way.

I should have quit.

The last 3 miles of the course was much worse than the previous 6. It's hard to describe. Take the description of that paragraph and multiply it by ten to get an idea of what the 3 miles were like. I won't go into too much detail, but suffice it to say that it was bad enough that I pretty much lost it out there, and it unfortunately colored my experience of the entire race, even though the first 22 miles were relatively pleasant.

When I finally got on the solid footing of the grass ski slopes, I walked all the way back in even though the trail was now runnable, and my only reason for this is I was literally angry at the trail, as if the trail was something worth being angry at. But that's where I honestly was. I finished a rather unpleasant experience and the finish itself didn't make it any better.

Which brings me to the lesson I learned that day:
if a race sucks, DNFing can be a more pleasant than finishing.
I finished, and even now wish I hadn't. It's kind of an ironic statement because I can't tell you how many times I've read about people either regretting their DNFs, or justifying them by saying they don't regret them. I've been there myself, and I know exactly what writing that kind of report is like. However, it turns out that finishing when it wasn't so much a physical challenge, but rather just something to finish, isn't very rewarding when the experience itself isn't pleasant.

After the race, I grabbed something to eat and dried off by the fireplace at Ascutney, hanging with a group of 50K finishers and 50M'ers who missed cutoffs. Those of us who finished were able to ease the disappointment of those who didn't with our stories of the last nine miles. The bottom line for pretty much all of us was, "it just wasn't worth it."

Perhaps on a better year Vermont is an amazing race that isn't to be missed. Some people certainly seem to love it tremendously. But when I come back from nearly every race with a positive story to tell, I'm afraid to say I'm 0 for 2 with Vermont and not all that interested in going back a third time. The first time, I saw a "no-love-for-the-back-of-the-pack" attitude that reminded me so much of several NYRRC races that I won't go back to, and in the second time, I saw that when a race mixes runners with something else, in this case MTBers, it can work out in ideal situations but if anything goes wrong the problem gets intensified by the mixture. Mixing runners with others on the same course just doesn't seem to be a good idea to me. Perhaps I'll expand on this thought in a future post.

Anyway, my official finish time is 8:38, but my actual finish time is almost 10 hours - over 3 hours off my 50K PR. The reason for the discrepancy is they don't have me as having started with the 50-mile runners. I made sure they knew before the race and also emailed the RD directly afterwords to make sure he was aware of the mistake, but it hasn't been changed. Whatever.

Most of my friends finished the 50-miler between 11 and 12 hours. It was a long day for everyone. After the race, Tony and I got cleaned up and drove back home. Since there wasn't much food left for them at the finish line, we stopped after an hour of driving in brattoboro and had huge dinners before continuing through Mass and Connecticut before arriving in white plains sometime after midnight, and finally suffern about 1am.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Oct 9, 2009

Race Report: VT 50K part 1

(if you can't see a video here, please click for the youtube version.)

I started writing this report the day after Vermont. Looking at it now, I'm am trashing that entire document and rewriting - it's amazing what a few days separation will accomplish. I also revised the video above, the current music is not the original music.

To say I didn't enjoy Vermont is an understatement. The entire last 9 miles was generally unpleasant, and I hated every inch of the last 3 miles. Never have I had a more intense "I just want this to be over" urge, and the conditions were not exactly helping me finish faster. I lost my mind out there, and I'm not trying to be dramatic. I really, literally, & completely lost my cool. I was actually angry at the trail and I didn't hide my emotions.

So. yeah. It wasn't pretty and I'm not proud to say that I finished. If I had it to do over again, I would have dropped with 3 miles to go.


Bright and early saturday morning I was dropped off at Tony Portera's house, for together we'd be driving to Vermont and rooming there. After an uneventful and fast drive up on a beautiful day, we checked into the race and then into the hotel, sat back and watched some college football. Soon others arrived, and before long a large group of us, 7 or 8 strong, were eating dinner at an italian restaurant in Claremont, NH where I ordered a stromboli and got a bit more than I bargained for.

Monster Stromboli. I finished the thing, too.

It was not lost on anybody at all that, weather-wise, Saturday would have been the perfect day for Vermont. But we were running on Sunday. At some point that night the rain started and when the alarm went off we sheepishly peaked outside, hoping against hope that the torrential downpours at Virginia Tech we saw on TV football game earlier that afternoon hadn't made it up to New England, but of course they did. I was still optimistic about the day, reminding my friends of the Joe Bastardi quote, "enjoy the weather, it's the only weather you've got." Little did I know that, in our group I'd be the one enjoying the weather, or at least the mud that resulted from it, the least.

Since most everyone in my group was running the 50-miler, and since the 50-miler started over an hour earlier than the 50K start, we were there a couple of hours before my scheduled start and the race organizers were ok with me starting with them - I'd rather just get started rather than waiting around in the morning. There was a light mist/drizzle which would not only stop all day for periods of downright rain.

The first 3 miles of the course are mostly downhill, something that I kind of like about Vermont. It gives me a chance to warm up without really exerting myself, and since it's downhill, if I go a bit too fast it's not that big a deal. I wasn't going to fast, other than another 50K runner or two behind me, everyone went out faster, and I was all alone without a soul in sight within 2 miles. Soon we arrive at the first hill, a 1.5-mile continuous road climb, which I aggressively powerwalked, which I'd regret later. Halfway up this climb I spotted two runners ahead of me and that only increased my pace - I can't resist the opportunity to reel someone in if I have the chance.

Shortly after the first aid station we get on a trail and it becomes very steep for a short distance. This is where I finally caught a guy in red, who turned out to be my trail companion for about the next ten miles. Coming from Minnesota, His name was frank and he had run over 400 marathons, and was working on his fourth completion of the 50 states marathon club. What an interesting fellow. I didn't slow down my aggression on the uphills, however, and we'd go through a period where I'd lose him on the uphills only for him to catch me going down. We'd chat on the flats.

The 50K course splits off the 50-mile course before aid station two and once we got to the aid station at about mile 8, we were told we were the firs 50K runners to come through. We held this first place position up to about mile 10.5, and shortly after we rejoined the 50-mile course with a few of the faster mountain bikers, well ahead of all 50-mile runners.

please click here for part 2.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Oct 7, 2009

Steve's Bucket List: Highest point of 50 states

This is part of a series of posts where I discuss items on my "bucket list." the introduction to the series is here.

denali, highest point of alaska

Many of you know that, for longer than I've been an ultrarunner, I have been a card-carrying member of the Highpointers Club, a club solely dedicated to the preservation & promotion of the highest points of all 50 states, and support those who wish to climb them.

Harney Peak, South Dakota - my favorite highpoint (so far.)

Certainly the longest-term item on my bucket list, I've thus had a goal to climb to the highest point of all 50 states for at least the last 4 years, and have been making steady progress to that end. I won't be finished for at least several years to come, probably decades.

As of this writing, I've been to the highest point of 31 states, including all but two east of the mississippi river

The hardest work, however, has been saved for last. Without exception, all of the highpoints west of and including the continental divide are over 11,000 feet high (only mount hood, oregon is below 12,000'), and all but Hawaii's highpoint involve strenuous hikes with lots of climbing. This is in contrast to the highpoints east of the divide; most are either very low, or if they are high involve little or no effort to climb 'em because they have roads to the top. There are exceptions - Maine, NY, Texas, and to a lesser degree South Dakota, Virginia and Vermont involve at least a couple of miles of hiking with at least 1000' of climbing, but by and large the states east of the Continental Divide are logistical challenges rather than physical. My fitness 4-5 years ago was insufficient to climb most of the states requiring any degree of physical fitness, and it still isn't adequate for some.

On the highest point of South Carolina in November 2004, weighing at least 350lbs.

Needless to say, having completed a couple of 50-milers, including one at altitude in the mountains of Wyoming, the weight I've already lost and the fitness I've already gained will allow me to attain most but not all of the highpoints that are left. Here's a quick summary of what I need, sorted from easy to hard:

Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, Hawaii
These are the only states state highpoints that I'd describe as physically easy. None of them have hike longer than a mile. They're just hard to get to.

Virginia, Minnesota
States that are also very easy, but they do have hikes of around 5-8 miles RT, so it's not fair to lump them with the super-easy ones.

Texas, Maine
These more difficult hikes bridge the gap between the "moderate" and "very difficult."

New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, California, Utah
All are very long days, especially Utah - where it would take an ultrarunner's level of fitness to complete in a day. The easiest routes up all of these are all pretty serious undertakings, and can offer problems with altitude, exposure, steepness or sheer distane.

Oregon, Montana, Washington, Wyoming
Here we add the element of specialized technical knowledge. All but MT involve glacier travel, and in Washington's case, crevasse rescue skills. MT has a technical rock climbing section at the end. Wyoming is 40 miles round trip.

Multi-week expedition up to the highest point in North America. Ambitious by anyone's standards.

Humphreys Peak, AZ - Over 12,000', it's the highest state highpoint I've been to.

So the 19 I have left will certainly take longer than the 31 I've already done, but I would like to start picking off one of those big western highpoints every year. I also hope to complete the Eastern USA in 2010. If I do those two things, chances are I'll above 45 highpoints and learning glacier travel skills by the time I'm 40, just to get those last few elusive states.

I maintain a separate web site dedicated to this little project of mine. You can view it here: http://turzman.com/projects/highpoints/.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Oct 5, 2009

Quick update from the double 50K weekend

Bright and early on Saturday morning I cleared the back of the car, threw a sleeping bag in and headed down to delaware for the first part of steve's double-50k.

6 of these 8 people started the slug 50K
6 of these 8 people started & finished the 50K

A full report on the delaware race will be up in a couple of weeks, but I finished in 7:55, over an hour off my PR, in 7th place. I received the highly coveted Team Slug International "Crazy Horse" award for my DFL finish.

Making a long story short, however, the first 10 miles went very well but I deteriorated after due to the fact that I ran a really tough 50K only 6 days prior (that report will be up this friday, btw.)

Later that night, enjoying a post-run celebration dinner at Waffle House, I realized that yet another 50K the next day would be impossible to finish with the cutoffs. The 6-day separation from vermont would have kept me from finishing Blues Cruise under their 7:30 cutoff, and I definitely would have been pulled early from the sunday race.

If alex and joe were with me, I definitely would have stayed and at least started the race, but since they were not, it just wasn't worth being apart from them another day just so i can get a 10-mile run in, if that.

So I drove home late saturday night, took a long shower, and fell asleep.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com

Oct 2, 2009

Race Preview: Steve's Double 50K weekend

This is going to be a fun weekend.

Tomorrow morning I will be leaving bright and early and hitting the turnpike for 3-hour drive down to kent county in central delaware to make a valient attempt at Team Slug's Russel B. Cheney 50K.
The Namesake's Description of Non-Event, "But one of my all-time favorites: the Race Director personally contacts each potential participant and conscientiously attempts to DIScourage their participation, including graphic descriptions of the deep wood’s voracious ankle-wrapping roots and the moving trail-rocks, terrible grades, horrendous bridge crossings, trail co-use dangers, hazardous lack of close aid-stations, possible perilous overcrowding, slippery leaves and pine needles. Rumors persist of strange creatures inhabiting both the pond itself and the surrounding forest (the trail never being more than a few yards from the water and virtually always within the woods, leaving the desperately-fatigued and confused runner appallingly vulnerable), of participants disappearing and later reappearing in ethereal form, of strange vapors rising from the pond at all hours, and deep snow banks." Russell B. Cheney, Torrance, California
The 10-lap course is identical to the one I ran back in June at the Booty Rumble 50K, where the slugs greeted me and my family with big smiles and bigger downpours - 3 inches of rain fell during the race. I loved the experience and immediately knew I'd be back, and tomorrow's RBC will mark my triumphant return to the swamps of Delaware.

Saturday night I will sleep in my car, Wakely-style.

On Sunday morning I will be in Reading, PA to participate in the Blues Cruise 50K, and this is going to be a tough one. Normally I'd have no problem completing a moderately hilly 50K within a 7.5hour time limit, as my 50K PR (6:47) was on a course that had several hills. But the problem, of course, is the small fact that I will have run a 50K the day before, and I honestly have no idea how my body will handle the back-to-back long runs.

Either I will finish, or I will get pulled. Whatever.

So, the weather forecast looks like fun. I am actually writing this on Tuesday night for Friday publication, so maybe this will change (and hopefully it will), but right now it looks like rain, both days. Heh, just like vermont a few days ago (just wait til you see that report.) At least I won't have vermont-style mud, at least in delaware and probably not in pennsylvania either.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com