Apr 30, 2010

April Recap, May Goals

What I look like 5 minutes after running hard in a half-marathon. Photo by Carl Cox
Ran 7 out of 30 days in 7 distinct workouts
Total Mileage: 40
Weight on April 30: 305.0

Ran 93 out of 12 days in 96 distinct workouts.
Total Mileage: 428

My stated goals for April:
"I don't know. I think I'm just going to run."

And, I guess, that's what I did.

Sitting here on April 30, it's easy to think that it was a total slacker month. And it was. But, looking at the individual workouts, there were some really tough ones - workouts where I actually accomplished something. Check this out:

* I ascended the Palm Springs Tram Road in under an hour (doesn't sound hard but it is)
* I ascended Bear Mountain via the AT in under a half-hour
* I got a 10-minute PR in a half-marathon

So really, the only place where I can legitimately say I slacked is in # of days off, total mileage, and nutrition. But boy, did I slack in those areas.

At any rate, I'm looking forward to May with eager anticipation. There is a 48-hour race where, as I said in a previous post, my goal is to run 100 miles. I'd also like to restart a streak, too. I don't know if it'll continue past the 48-hour race, but I'd sure like to try. My three streaks of 50 days or more ended with difficult ultras (50 days ended with the JFK 50-miler, then 60-something days ended with Damn Wakely Dam, then 80-something days ended with Umstead 100.) In my experiment-of-one, the only way I can maintain some sort of consistency is when I try to maintain some sort of streak. So it appears that's what I have to do, and I will start up again tomorrow, May 1.

And that brings me to May goals:
1. Run 31 out of 31 days
2. Run 100 miles at the 48-hour race, and 200 miles total
3. Weigh 280 on May 31, losing 25 lbs
4. Complete 5 ascents of Bear Mountain, including one double-ascent

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time

Apr 28, 2010

Crewing at Badwater

In my "2010" post in February, I speculated that I hoped to crew a friend at Badwater.
Mon-Tues July 11-12
Badwater crew (maybe)
This depends one two factors: 1. will Tony get into the race, and 2. will he choose me (out of lots of interested people) to be on his crew. Unlike most crew candidates, I have no intention of ever running Badwater, but I do want be there to see what it's like. Either way, I intend to join Tony for a trip up Mount Whitney on July 14.
Well, I'm please to announce that not only did Tony get in, he invited me to be on his crew.

What is Badwater?
Tony running badwater in 2009
Badwater is one of the most difficult foot races in the USA. Held in Death Valley in the middle of summer, participants race their way across 135 miles of asphalt from below sea level to the 8000+ foot Mt. Whitney Trailhead, passing two mountain ranges on the way, in temperatures that can reach 130ºF. It can reduce a grown man to tears (and I have a video to prove it..)

Badwater doesn't provide any aid to runners in the traditional sense, and its rules require every runner to have their own dedicated crew of 2-6 people and 1-2 vehicles. Apparently, runners tend to have choices as far as who crews for them; there are many people who want to get on a crew because it increases their odds of being selected to run in the race. (For the record, I have no intention of ever applying to run.)

Ok, but what is a crew?
This will be my first time, but from what I can gather, I understand that crew members:
* Pace the runner
* Provide basic medical care (we're lucky to have a physician on our crew)
* Prepare food and drinks to the runner
* Provide clear-headed advice to the runner (who may be experiencing dementia)
* Do everything possible to get the runner across the finish line.

I want to support Tony! But I'd be lying if I said I was doing it for completely selfless reasons (though that is a part of it.)

Being on a Badwater crew is a very difficult job with a lot of responsibilities in extreme conditions. It's probably as close as I'll ever come to running the race. As I said, I have no intention of ever running Badwater - but that doesn't mean I don't want to experience it. And the fact that I can experience it with Tony and a few other good friends -- all the better.

So what's the plan?
Conveniently, Alex and Joey are going to be in California the same week as the race. My parents (who live there) are putting him in a sea camp at Dana Point Harbor. This is good, Death Valley is dangerously hot in summertime and is no place to have a 6-year old running around. The weekend before the race is prep on Saturday and race briefing on Sunday. Race itself is Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday is a rest day (I've always wanted to explore the Alabama Hills a bit), and Thursday a few of us are hiking up Mt. Whitney, which is the highest peak in the lower 48. Maybe a little poker on Friday in Vegas and return home that weekend.

Who else is on the crew?
Meredith, Eddie, Eric, Herb, and Chris. Tony has a post on his blog introducing all of us.

Who is this Tony fellow, anyway?
Tony running away with a sub-20 Umstead 100 finish last month

Tony has a blog, you can read more about him there. (:

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time

Apr 26, 2010

48-hour Strategy

Next on my schedule is a 48-hour race on May 14-16. It's a race where, rather than racing a distance for time, you're racing a time for distance. Typically run on some sort of short loop, these timed events are a lot less common than distance events, especially timed events longer than 24 hours.

This race, in its first year, is being directed my Rick McNulty of the New Jersey Trail Series. Called Three Days at the Fair, this race is less than a 1-hour drive from my house, making it logistically easy for my family to come and see me. Also, a number of friends will be there, and any opportunity to run with them is worthwhile.

As far as goals, I only have one: 100 miles. I'll have plenty of time to do it, so it's just a matter of keeping going. Everything I do on top of 100 is just gravy.

So, here's the question. How do you strategize for a 48-hour race? Stop by your local Barnes and Noble and you'll find dozens of choices about how to run a marathon - but there aren't exactly a plethora of books on the topic of timed races, especially 48-hours.

The answer, as is so often the case, is the ultra list. Search is a powerful thing. Following is the result of research conducted entirely by searching about three years old ultralist archives in gmail.

I think what I love about the multiday events in general is the patience it teaches you. You learn not to think about the whole experience but one lap or one mile, or just the morning at a time. For a very goal oriented person I learn that in other things in life when I'm getting impatient can be attacked the same way. I have heard all my life to take things a day at a time, but its not until I started doing multiday runs that I learned it.
I am on record as noting that a lot of finishing or persevering in ultras, particularly at 100mi, is between the ears, not below the waist.
John P:
I've always had that same problem with sleep deprivation and found out late that all I really need is about 15 minutes sleep to clear the brain. (snip) If you end up with 2 6 hours sleep breaks that's 1/4 of your time and I don't
think any amount of breaks is going to help your body it is just your mind.
Tim E:
The lesson I think/hope I learned: You need a plan and you need to stick to it. I had thought that I'd just figure it out as I went along, sleeping when I got tired, eating when I got hungry, etc.. Well, after 30 hours of running, you're tired no matter what, and it was just too hard for my addled brain to distinguish between "need sleep" tired or "ran a long time." You need to budget for sleep the first night. You need to plan for the times when you'll be feeling like crap - I've made it through some 100's never feeling even a quarter as bad as I felt at ATY. My advice - think everything through! Everything. And have a plan for every contingency. You probably already know what works well for yourself - I thought I did, but forgot most of it after 40 hours. Write it down, if necessary.
As Deb Sexton indicated the strategy is different for different people. I have run 48 hr, 72 hr, 6-day, and 7-day races. I never had any plan for sleeping. I stayed on the course as much as possible. When I felt I had to lie down for awhile, I did so. I never lay down for more than 2 hours at a time during any of those races. In the 6-day and 7-day events, I slept about 4 hours a day. These are exercises in sleep deprivation. I shall be at ATY 72 hour sleeping as little as possible.
Carl L:
the idea of sleeping and waking up really sore and stiff is correct. the idea that you wont get moving again is INcorrect.

you feel horrible like that and you start hobbling around. it's weird and
crazy feeling. 2-3 miles in you are moving ok and all of a sudden you think, "holy crap, i'm moving decent again, if i wasn't doing it i wouldn't believe it!"
Gary C (edited to contain only general information):
in my opinion 48 hours is the most painful ultra race
(i didnt like that part)
but it most rewards forward motion.
(i liked that part)
you dont have to go fast, but you need to go as much as possible.

one important thing is to not get caught in any extended periods of walking
(if at all possible)
i tried to make a point of never walking more than a quarter mile at a stretch.
it doesnt matter if you are running well at any given point.
focus on maintaining decent form and you will cover respectable distance.
if you cant run more than a quarter mile at a time, then walk frequently.
just dont allow yourself to walk more than a quarter mile.

there will be some rough stretches.
but if you perservere, things will get better
(before getting worse again)
at times, you might (hell, you WILL) feel like you are at the very end of your endurance
an hour later you might (hell, you WILL) be cranking out miles as if you were fresh as a daisy.
dont know why, but that is how it is.

being mentally prepared to suffer is important.
just remind yourself that your suffering will only go on for a finite time.
you will not be suffering the entire remainder of the race.

sleeping 4-6 hours is tantamount to quitting.
it is a 48 hour race, and 48 hours can be done with no significant stretches of sleeping.

naps of 10-15 minutes are all you need.
for me, one of those was usually sufficient for 48 hours.
i would take it around 22 or 23 hours, and by the time i was scheduled to take another
(around 40 hours)
i usually chose to pass on it, because the finish was so close.
i always scheduled a second nap anyway
because it gave me something to look forward to during the grim part of day 2.

it may not seem reasonable, but a 10-15 minute nap is more refreshing than 4-6 hours
if you are in continuous running mode.
there is not enough time to get stiff, or for your body to waste resources by starting to heal,
but your sleep sensor knows you went to sleep, & that will satisfy it for a while.
apparently the sleep sensor is not too adept at telling how long you slept,
altho later on it will let you know that it caught on that you tricked it (smiling to myself)

lastly, KEEP MOVING.
actually this applies to all ultras,
(i routinely used to beat people without ever moving faster than them anywhere on the course)
but especially the 48, where it is all about movement.
dont dick around at the aid station.
if what you want isnt there immediately, pick it up next lap.
dont piddle around with your feet or your gear.
if you absolutely MUST deal with a hotspot or something,
have all your stuff ready, get after it, and get it done.

if you stop moving and you arent asleep or taking a dump, you are wasting time.
the 48 hurts too bad to waste time.
Ray K:
As for 48 hour strategy it all works. I have run 131 day one on no sleep, and hung on to go well over 200 miles. I have slept 5 of the first 20 hours, then ground out the last 28 hours to go well over 200 miles.

I have slept some of each night to (you guessed it) go well over 200 miles.

At ATY I ran/slept parts of every day/night for 72 hours and barely broke 200 miles (go figure).

Make no plans, run what the day offers, do not eat too much (it makes you sleepy) don't be afraid of stiffening up, you will be tired/sore/tight regardless, so have fun, run 30-60 min longer than you think you can before you take the nap.

This is great stuff. Definitely will help me reach my goal of 100 miles.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time

Apr 23, 2010

Listserv Gold Part VII - Early Morning Running

Ultrarunning Listserv Gold: I quote something I found inspiring, interesting, or generally valuable on one of the various ultrarunning email distribution lists I subscribe to. To view all editions of ULG, please click here.

Watching the sun rise during a run is immensely satisfying - Photo credit: Bill Rhodes

Brad L asks:
I've been telling my wife that I'm going to start running in the mornings, yet I never seem to be able to get myself out of bed and going... <snip> This would be a TOTAL change in my lifestyle. I'm an evening/night person and move ULTRA SLOW in the mornings. I do believe that it can be done, and
I know many of you folks have schedules similar to this.

Can anyone offer me some advice on how I can make these lifestyle changes?

Christine B responds:
Sorry but my advice (being a morning runner for 3+yrs) is just do it. Don't attempt long runs that force you out earlier than 5am. Start out determined to do it and you will reset your body clock. But be warned you may not see much of the evening. I may not be the best example but I rarely see 9pm weeknights. I run from my door 3-4 days a week and go off road on weekends. It was hard at first but is a routine that now works great. My alarm is set for 5am but my eyes open 4:45ish and I'm out the door after a glass of water and bite of a banana by 5:30 at the latest. All year round. Even in the dark, cold winter.

You can do it - start tomorrow.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time

Apr 21, 2010

Report: Hook Mtn Half Marathon - 2:17:45, PR

This last Sunday I was really glad to have managed to run 2:17:45 at The Hook Mountain Half Marathon - a ten-minute PR.

What it looks like to finish with a 10-minute PR after leaving it all on the course.

The race coincides with a 5K run and walk. Everyone starts together, and the half-marathon runners split off the 5K course at about 2.5 miles. It is completely flat for the first four miles or so, then with rolling hills for the next two miles which finish with a steep drop (down Hook Mountain), then a 3-mile out and back which is completely flat except for a steep hill at the turnaround, then, at mile 9, 2 miles starting with a steep climb up Hook Mountain and then rolling hills, and finally 2 miles of flat back to the finish line.

The race's namesake hill, at mile 9, is what everyone talks about before, during, and after the race, and I've run it enough times to know that it's only as hard as you make it. While very steep, the hill is short enough that you can walk it without raising the heart rate too much and without much detriment to your race time. Yet, it's not so short that you can't haphazardly run it at your regular pace and expect to crest it without crashing.

Even though I was getting tired, I decided to run the hill as hard as I've ever run it - figuring that, if I crash and burn, I'll deal. It's only a half marathon, after all.

Passing walkers as I near the top of Hook Mountain

I was literally dizzy as came over the top, but recovered and finished the race with nothing left in me at all. It is rare that I run a race that hard, and consider my effort in terms of both intensity and endurance (at the same time) near 100% of what I'm capable of. Definitely took a great deal of mental toughness to keep going at that pace in the last couple of miles. In fact, I was unable to breath deeply for a couple of minutes after the race - short, shallow breaths were all I could manage.

Ironically, my perceived effort was unusually slow - I felt like I was running sub-10 minute miles (and by now I know what sub-10s feel like), but was disappointed to see I was running 10:15s to 10:30s. So, for whatever reason, I was slow. But that's not the point. I ran my heart out and I'm proud of what I accomplished.

Finally, while I am really glad I was able to dig deep and pull out a sub-2:20 time, especially on that course, it's taxing. It's rare that I work that hard in a race, and I honestly don't think I can perform at that level more than a few times per year. The recovery is as slow as any race I've ever run, including the utlras. Here, on Wednesday morning, I'm still experiencing general fatigue, not to mention aches and pains.

As I mentioned in the preview, my company played a big part in this race, sending 50 people to participate. There were 7 of us who did the half (the rest did the 5K) and I was dead f'ing last among us. But - my 5K split in the half marathon (something like 31:30) beat all but 5 of the 40+ coworkers who were doing the 5K. (:

Here are the half-marathon results:

68 Gary (legal) 1:42:35
116 Derrick (payroll) 1:49:01
233 Scott (construction) 2:01:04
282 Cathy (incentives) 2:05:36
283 Richard (real estate) 2:05:38
328 Michele (merchandising) 2:08:45
399 Steven Tursi (IT) 2:17:57

473 finishers

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time

Apr 19, 2010

Running Hope Through America

This morning I was lucky and privileged enough to be able to see the start and run the first three miles of Lisa Smith-Batchen's project to run 50 miles in each of the 50 states in two months.

Lisa Smith-Batchen and Sister Mary Elizabeth Lloyd. Photo by Tom Sperduto Photography
The project, called Running Hope Through America, has a goal of raising $1,000,000 to benefit orphans of AIDS victims in third world countries. Sister Mary-Elizabeth Lloyd, who is participating in the project with Lisa and will run many of the 2500 miles with her, has an organization called AIDS Orphans Rising, in which she provides care and support to the kids orphaned by parents who died of AIDS.

Sister Marybeth being interviewed in pre-dawn hours this morning, immediately prior to the start
The start of a 2500-mile run begins just like the start of every other run. At 5:30AM, we stepped on the course and just started running. In New Jersey, she is doing a number of 1.5 mile laps in a park near Morristown. There were about 40 of us who ran with her the first lap, and maybe 20 on the second lap. True to form, Both Lisa and Sister MB were super-excited and thrilled to see everyone there - and their excitement was contagious. I was truly thrilled to be there. I reluctantly left after two laps (work responsibilities prevailed), but it was very much worth the 90-minute round-trip drive for a 3-mile run.

Please visit the project's web site and support Lisa and Sister Marybeth! http://www.runhope.com

(Hook Mountain Half Race Report will be posted on Wednesday)

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time

Apr 16, 2010

Race Preview: 2010 Hook Mountain Half Marathon

On Sunday, I'll be running the Hook Mountain Half Marathon for a second time. This race, which happens every April at Rockland Lake and Nyack Beach State Parks, coincides with a 5K (which I've run once) and includes an ascent of the road that leads to the notch north of Hook Mountain.

The hill, which happens at about the ninth mile, is the crux of this particular race and what everyone will be talking about in the Post-Race Tent. It's not particularly long - somewhere between a quarter and a half-mile in length and maybe 300 feet of gain - but it is wickedly steep. According to a friend (and I believe him), it gets to 19%.

Because of this hill, the course has a reputation of being difficult - however, it is mostly flat and actually kind of forgiving. Even the hill, due to its short length, isn't that bad, though I may have a different opinion come mile 8.5!
Poster of the Core Team that was put in various places around the office.

The company I work for has gotten behind this event in a big way, and due to the awesome efforts of coworker Cathy Cox, 51 of my coworkers will be there to run the 5K or Half! Entry fees were paid for and we all got RaceReady shirts to wear at the race! There were ten of us in a core committee that helped her, and we were referred to as the Inspire/Dream/Achieve team. It will be fun to involve my job with what I'm passionate about when it's not 9 to 5.

Goals? Well, I'm pretty sure a half-marathon PR won't be a problem - it's currently 2:25 and my training has indicated that I can do that pretty easily. So my B goal is 2:20, A goal 2:15, dream goal 2:10. 2:10 in particular is a number that I'm pretty sure I can achieve right now on the perfect day, even on this course.

Come back Monday for a report! (Hopefully it won't be late like this preview.)

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time

Apr 14, 2010

Palm Springs Tram Road - April 8, 2010

Last Thursday, on April 8, Vince and I made our regular trek up the Palm Springs Tram Road.

I think this was my fourth time up. My goal, as in the other three times, was to do it in under an hour. As I recall, my first time took 1:05, the second time took 0:58 (pr), the third time took 1:02. This time, it took 0:59:35.

Valley Floor, on the bottom of the road. The asphalt visible here ascends 300'-350' in about 2/3s of a mile. This is the most gradual part of the run, it gets much steeper the higher you go.

So, what's so special about this road? Every October, there's a race that runs up it. We use the same starting and finish line. From the race's brochure:
You start at 500 feet elevation and climb to 2,643 feet elevation in
3.7 miles (6K). The steepest part is the last 1K to the finish.
If you think about those numbers - averaging 579' of elevation gain per mile - you realize just how steep the road is. The average steepness is comparable to the average gain of the climb up Bear Mountain in New York - Not Perkins Drive, but via the much steeper Appalachian Trail - but more than twice as long and high!

The top of what's visible in the previous photo

The start

Joey took off ahead of us, but had to drop when he got to the truck. That'll teach him for going out too fast!

Hammering my way up. I felt like I was well above redline for the entire second half.

Crappy photo, sorry. But this is the same road, from about ten miles away. You can see it underneath the COMMERCIAL AIRPLANE in the FOREGROUND.

Another aspect to the tram road is its deceptiveness. When you're on it, it doesn't look nearly as steep as it actually is - it only feels that steep. The alluvial fan you're ascending is so flat that it looks level (see the difference?). Looking up the hill you wonder why you're so tired - until you look down below to see just how much higher you are than the valley floor you were just on.

Photos don't do it justice, but here we are 1500 feet above the valley floor, and it's about 15 miles to the start of the hills opposite the valley.

You see the same signs in Death Valley

2000 ft sign

Near the top

Finally, we're in the low desert in Palm Springs. Summertime highs are rarely below 100F, routinely above 110F, sometimes 120F. It's hot, dry, and there's no shade or water. This being the spring, starting at 9AM, that wasn't a huge problem in this case; it probably got to about 80F. I did get thirsty, but the distance is short enough that it never became a problem.

Joey, who was waiting at the top, running down to meet me.

The glorious sweaty finish in 59:35! I was exhausted.

I had barely started to recover when Vince came up the road.

His time was about 1:02

Having caught our breath (and got a drink!) we get a photo at the top, having celebrated a job well done.

I try to get together with Vince and do the Tram Road about every time I go to California. But one of these days, I am going to have to Man Up and accomplish the real challenge Palm Springs has to offer: Cactus to Clouds.

Trailhead of one of the most difficult hikes in the USA.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time

Apr 12, 2010

Race Report: Warrior Dash Southern California

Official results are in! I finished in 1971th place out of 5339 on Saturday - In the top half of the field!! And by a big margin - 37th percentile!! This is the first time I've ever come in the top half of any race.
Age group: M/30-34
Place in age group: 297 out of 633 - 47th percentile.
Chip Time: 37:03.75
Gun Time: 5:37:43.60
Average Pace: 12:02

If I subtract 5 minutes for the time I waited in line for that cargo net obstacle, I finished in 32 minutes. Yay!

Original Post
Ok, as suspected, it's just a 5K with some obstacles thrown in. But it was still fun, because 5Ks are fun.

Warrior Shwag

For obvious reasons, I didn't bring my camera on the course with me. This is unfortunate because, perhaps more than any other post in the history of this blog, this post is worthless without pictures. I'll do my best to describe the obstacles, then show you the pics that were taken by my wife at the finish line.

Update: Here is an image of the fire pit, courtesy Warrior Dash's twitter feed:

Going over the obstacles:

Hustle up and over giant straw bales
There was a mile of running before the first obstacle, presumably to thin out the crowd. Good idea. These hay bales were stacked in staircase formation about eight feet high.
Clamber over rusted wreckage in a junk yard
Five junked cars, that looked a little like what they put on the lawn of your high school during "don't drink and drive" week. We had to climb over them. Probably the most dangerous obstacle of the course. You could cut your leg!
Climb over a wooden wall
As I stepped over the three walls, each only three feet high, I wondered, "why bother?"
Crawl through a pipe, called "Tunnels of Terror"
About what I expected. 20 feet long, 3 or 4 feet in diameter. Hands and knees, crawl.
Traverse a Gully on Wooden Planks
the planks were about 6" wide and maybe 20 feet long.
Run through a ravine filled with tumbleweeds
The "ravine" is the same as the "gully" I just walked over on wooden planks. The "tumbleweeds" were actually "bales of hay" that were the same as the first obstacle, only not stacked.
Trudge through waist-deep water and over logs
It wasn't super hot, but warm. And it was definitely dry. Jumping in the lake and wading for 50 feet while climbing over the four 18" diameter logs was kind of refreshing.
Speed-step through hundreds of tires
I found that stepping on the tires, rather than in the tires, was faster.
Climb over cargo nets
"Three at a time" is what I kept hearing the volunteer shout at people as I waited three to five minutes for my turn at this obstacle.
Run through fire
The "warrior roast" was duraflame logs lined up, side by side, for about 15 feet. I felt the heat as I jumped over them. Neat.
Crawl through mud underneath barbed wire
Plenty of room under the barbed wire for hands-and-knees, belly crawl not necessary. Some people even stayed on their feet, ducking under the wire. I didn't feel that fit the spirit of the event, so it was hands-and-knees for me. (:
The field, about a quarter-mile in. I'm apparently visible somewhere in this photo.

Joey running up to meet me at the finish line.



Ok, I know it's hard to see, but this is a picture of the actual course. Starting from the right, runners are going up the hill, speedstepping through tires. Then, there is the cargo net, which is the big block on the near horizon. Right before running down the hill again is the "warrior roast", or fire obstacle. Then we actually go into the lake for some wading and log hopping, Then we run back up the hill. Not visible in this picture, to the left, is the mud pit with barbed wire and finish line.

Want to clean up? Go jump in the lake!

The very clean and disease-free lake.
A staff member told me that there were 9000 people signed up for this race, which took place in 30 minute waves over two days. Tons of people.

As far as time, I forgot to stop my watch at the finish line and I can't find results on the web site anywhere. I was probably somewhere around 35 minutes. Not counting the 3-5 minutes of waiting my turn for the cargo net obstacle, that puts me at 31 minutes, give or take, which is fine for this race. I was really very surprised at how many people I passed after a mile, but I guess I shouldn't be; this isn't your typical race and it didn't have typical racers. So there were a ton of people who apparently unable to run more than a mile or two, and who walked the last half of the course.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time

Apr 9, 2010

Race Preview: Warrior Dash Southern California

Update: see my report by clicking here.

It's probably not fair to the Warrior Dash people that all of the drama over Tough Mudder (and yes, there has been more since my last post) has lessened my motivation to run any of these races. However, I will do my best to put that aside tomorrow. After all, the race organizers promise "The craziest frickin' day of my life" and I wouldn't want to keep them from accomplishing that, would I?

So, here's how the craziest frickin' day of my life will play out. In the 3.08 "hellish" miles, I will:
  • Hustle up and over giant straw bales
  • Clamber over rusted wreckage in a junk yard
  • Climb over a wooden wall
  • Crawl through a pipe, called "Tunnels of Terror"
  • Traverse a Gully on Wooden Planks
  • Run through a ravine filled with tumbleweeds
  • Trudge through waist-deep water and over logs
  • Speed-step through hundreds of tires
  • Climb over cargo nets
  • Run through fire
  • Crawl through mud underneath barbed wire
Tunnels of terror.
After the race, participants get a free beer and live music. We eat turkey legs and revel in our glorious accomplishment. The organizers love to play up this aspect of the race, by the way. The email I got yesterday started by saying,
The battle is on! Your moment of glory awaits. Below you will find the need-to-know Warrior knowledge to ensure "the craziest frickin' day of your life!"

So even if it's not the craziest day of my life, I'm sure I'll have a lot of fun. And if I don't have a lot of fun, at least I'll have a sweet piece of schwag to take home with me:

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time

Apr 7, 2010


Joey is having a good time here

The opportunities for running here in California, especially if I'm in the mood to run hills, are pretty plentiful - and I'd like to say I've taken advantage of them here. After taking nearly a week off after Umstead, I got runs in both days this past weekend - one was an easy 2.5 miler around my parent's neighborhood, the other was a climb up this thing called Arlington Mountain, adjacent to my parent's house where we're staying.

Summit of Arlington Mountain
Arlington Mt can be seen for miles from all directions, and has commanding views of Riverside and Corona. It is covered in recently-built cookie-cutter homes that are ubiquitous to this area and they go literally all the way to the water tank that marks the summit. It is a steep climb, and the paved route I take to the 1853' summit gains about 750' in about 1.5 miles.
The climb up Arlington is actually a decent fitness test for me, as the ability to ascend it completely without walking is something that I have tried twice prior to this trip and failed once. On Sunday, my third attempt, I ran the entire thing successfully, so I guess that means my fitness is better than the time I didn't make it.

If my running streak were still going, I'd have a lot to add. Even in "River-tucky", there are great places to train all over the place. Dirt paths, which as far as I can tell are used for off-road recreational motoring, have created a panacea of running paths through short steep hills that, when run hard enough, can wear out the most fit of runners.

Lotsa hills. Arlington Mountain visible on Horizon to the right.

More ambitious days, of which this trip will have none, can head up one of the four county highpoints visible from my parent's house. There are few places in the USA where you can see that many county highpoints at once, but my parent's house is one of them. "Peakbagging" is a minor pastime of mine and I spend a lot of time thinking about these mountains when I'm here.

Santiago Peak, 5689', highest point in Orange County. Locally known as Saddleback Mountain

Mt. San Antonio, 10,068', highest point in Los Angeles County. Locally known as Mt. Baldy

San Jacinto Peak, 10,834', highest point in Riverside County. Photo shot from ~70 miles away.

San Gorgonio Mountain, 11,503', highest point in San Bernardino County and in Southern California.

I have climbed two of these big mountains - Santiago and San Jacinto. San Gorgonio is probably next on my list.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time

Apr 5, 2010

Race Report: Umstead 100-mile Endurance Run, 2010

My twitter log actually provides a decent race report.

Awake. Dressed. Getting ready to leave hotel. Race starts in 93 minutes. #Umstead100 4:25 AM Mar 27th

The morning was uneventful. We got there and hung out in the headquarters building, until it was time to start. I ran the first lap with Meredith Murphy, who not only helped the lap to go by lightning-fast, but also is a wonderful source of ultrarunning wisdom and a great companion.

7 miles down, 93 to go. #umstead100 7:38 AM Mar 27th

Umstead consists of 8 laps of a 12.5mile course, with an aid station a little more than halfway through. I had a minor logistical problem at the very start when I realized that I had sent both of my water bottles to the mid-loop aid station - the result being that I had to run the first 7 miles without a water bottle. It wasn't a big deal, I could hardly get dehydrated, especially in the cool of the morning and the slow pace.

Got my bottle!

Lap 1 in 2:45, on my planned pace, to the second. 7 laps to go. #umstead100 8:51 AM Mar 27th

I had planned that I was going to run the first 50 in 12 hours, which would give me plenty of time to run the second 50 in 18. In order to accomplish that, I figured I'd have to average 3 hour laps for the first four laps. So I figured out that a first lap time of 2:45 would be sufficiently conservative and get me to my goal ok. There was no problem there.

Lap 2 done in 3:00. Revising my 50 mile split goal to 12:30. Felt I was putting too much pressure on too early to do it in 12. #umstead100 12:02 PM Mar 27th

So at this point I had done 25 miles in 2:45. My best time for the marathon (26.2) was 2:42. That seemed very conservative ahead of time, but on the day I felt I was pushing a little hard in the first 25 if I wanted to finish the next 75. However, it was already too late and my early-race enthusiasm would prove to be problematic later on.

Mile 35. Things are starting to get ... Interesting. #umstead100 2:45 PM Mar 27th

I was predictably tired. Also, the shoes I had started giving me problems after the marathon point or so, where the toebox angles too hard on the outside. After a decent amount of foot swelling, the pinky toe starts to rub against the outside causing a painful situation. Fortunately, my tried-and-true trail runners were in my drop bag, and I was able to change and have a pain-free pinky the rest of the race.

Meredith, nursed her daughter at the end of every lap, caught my while I was changing my shoes and we did the "sawtooth" section of the course together. Meredith is fast! I stayed with her for about 4 miles but let her go ahead after that.

Meredith in the foreground, bottom of the course's nastiest hill in the background.

On lap 4. Feeling good as long as I go slow.. #umstead100 3:30 PM Mar 27th

After hammering out lap 3 with Meredith, I decided that I would go very slow in lap 4 to try to recover. Notably, I walked the entire sawtooth section. Unfortunately, going slow did not seem to delay the onset of real fatigue.

Good news: 30 minute PR on my 50 mile split. Bad news: I feel like death. Went out too fast. #umstead100 7:38 PM Mar 27th

Lap 4 was pretty tiring, and I really started to feel the result of those first two laps. The first two laps were done in about 5:45 - The second two had taken me closer to 7:30. The race was slipping away and I knew it. Everyone I talked to seemed to be at least a lap ahead of me and that demoralized me. When I got into the aid station and saw Alex and Joe for the first time, I really wanted to drop right there and go back to the hotel with them - and I almost did. After a couple of tylenols, however, good sense prevailed and as the sun was setting I went out on lap 5.

Out on lap 5. Almost dropped. #umstead100 8:08 PM Mar 27th

Proving the adage, "It never always gets worse", the first half of lap 5 went very well and I had no problems until about 5 or 6 miles in.

Really tired at mile 56, way too early to be this tired. #umstead100 9:48 PM Mar 27th

... and by "tired", I meant "sleepy." This was very odd to me.

Apparently I was staggering around the trail. Getting caffeinated but the clock is ticking relentlessly. #umstead100 10:16 PM Mar 27th

Just had a redline. Waiting for it to kick in. I think I'm behind the cutoff now though. #umstead100 10:29 PM Mar 27th

When I finally got to that aid station I was relieved to get a hold of a Redline. Redline is a hyper-caffeinated energy drink that could knock an elephant out of a coma. After slamming it, I sat there in the aid station, next to a space heater, for about 20 minutes as the cutoff passed. I had stopped caring. I knew I would stop caring, and in retrospect, sitting in aid stations, not slow pace, would be the self-sabotaging that caused me to fall behind..

When I got out of the aid station, I happened upon Ray Krolewicz, a lap ahead of me and very tired. RayK is a bit of a legend in ultrarunning circles, eccentric and fun to be around, he can claim a sub-14 hour 100 mile finish from when he was in his prime. Tonight, he was just out there having fun despite his fatigue and I had the pleasure of walking with him for an hour or two through the sawtooth section.

Tapping out. 2 hrs behind cutoff at last lap's pace. Hard to get back out there when I can't finish. Got 100k and a PR at 50M. #umstead100

But when I did finally get to the main aid station, I was already well behind the cutoff. The previous lap, which had taken 4.5 hours, caused me to do an ungodly amount of math in my head, and I had decided ahead of time that I couldn't finish in time. And that was a fact. I did not *want* to go back out, and when you combine that with the fact that there's nothing really to go back out for, throwing in the towel becomes very easy.

Alex and Joe really enjoyed their time at Umstead, and the race really is one of the best I've ever run. The combination of top-notch organization with laid-back attitude is hard to come by, and Umstead is a great find on that front. Before the race was over, Alex had already decided that she wanted to come back next year, and I think I'll be there myself.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time