Dec 27, 2010

Preview: Across the Years 72-hour race

Put us all on a 500-meter track, and set a clock for 72 hours. Count how many times you can go around.

Like most people, I initially thought I'd hate this type of race. I have no idea how many people still hate this format after trying one, but I didn't. After doing the first half of a 48-hour race on a 1-mile course earlier this year, I knew I wanted to do it again.

So when the opportunity to do ATY-72 came up, I jumped on it. And now, 37 hours from the start, I'm pretty excited, kind of scared, and filled with eager anticipation.

The race is held in the western suburbs of Phoenix, and if you go to the race's web site (, you'll be able to track my progress. You'll also get to watch me go by on one of two webcams, and, most interestingly, you'll be able to send me a message - which gets printed out (like on paper) and placed in my personal mailbox. I would LOVE to get mail from you!!

As far as my typical twitter or facebook updates from the course, I would like to but am limited by the battery life of my phone. At the very most I'll be able to send them irregularly. Follow that stuff if you like, but I believe a 4am PST (7am EST) check-in to that web cam will be much more interesting..

As far as strategy, well - eat before I'm hungry, drink before I'm thirsty, walk before I'm tired. It all won't matter in the end as long as I keep going. I was thinking about some sort of involved sleep strategy, but right now I'm leaning toward the "try to stay awake and moving the whole time" idea, even though I probably won't be able to by the second and especially third night. But we'll see.

The race asked me to state a goal upon registering, and I said 150 miles.

Dec 23, 2010


In January 2009, I completely expected to have lost a tremendous amount of weight in that year. By december 2009, this image really resonated with me,

Anyway, considering the failure, I knew - FOR A FACT - that 2010 would be different. I honestly had the mindset that if I wasn't under 220 lbs by September that it would have been shocking.

Right now, this image is really resonating with me:

Since I'm actually heavier than I was this time last year, I've found myself very introspective in the the last month or two. Many of my habits are downright self-destructive and many of the things I do are not well-received by others. As a result, I'm trying to figure out what goes through my mind when I make bad decisions. The only rational conclusion I've come to is that what goes through my mind is irrational. That's interesting, but not very helpful. I automatically try to willpower myself into "good" or "right" behavior and the results have been disappointing. While a forced rational mindset sometimes overpowers an emotional predisposition to irrationality, such an approach is mentally taxing and difficult to maintain over the long term.

So the real question is this - what are the emotions that cause this and how do I address them? This is a difficult topic for me because I am not prone to consider my own emotion beyond any superficial level, and definitely not prone to discuss it. For this reason I sometimes envy people whose lives are an open book; parts of mine are locked tight. Perhaps, however, that is the root cause of my self-destructive habits: it's a result of internalizing. Or, perhaps it's something else. I don't know.

Obviously, I still have a lot of thinking to do.

Dec 20, 2010

2010 Rockland Lake Turkey Trot: 49:59

I've done the Rockland Lake Turkey Trot 3 times. All three times, it has been an overcrowded mess.

The main problem, from my perspective, is that people don't line up where they're supposed to. It wouldn't surprise me one bit to hear that the front half of the pack at the start is majority sub-10 minute per mile runners. So, as a 10-minute-per-mile runner, when I start in the back 20% of the pack where I'm supposed to be, well.. it's a problem.

The first mile, which is uphill, is so crowded with walkers that it's downright dangerous. Trying to pass groups of people casually strolling along 5 abreast while I'm trying to stay under 10 minutes per mile is impossible. I did so much zig-zagging in the first mile that I probably actually ran 2 miles.

There are a bunch of problems with this race, but this is what infuriates me the most. This has been a problem all three years I've run the race.

If I had it to do over again, I would have much preferred to do that Thanksgiving half or full marathon at Van Cortlandt. Maybe next year.


The Rockland Lake Turkey Trot is a 5-mile race with rolling hills in the first two miles and a completely flat final three miles. It is by far the largest race in Rockland County, probably with five times more participants than its nearest peer. In each year I have run it, my goal has been to finish in under 50 minutes - maintain a sub-ten minute per mile pace.

Because this is such a popular race, it is necessary to get to the start very early. The massive parking lot at the north end of the lake nearly fills up, and they set up the course so that the starting line blocks the entrance to the parking lot. (???) So for the last 15 minutes before the start, people can't park. They highly encourage packet pick-up ahead of time, so there was nothing to do after arriving but hang out and wait for the start. The company I work for paid the entry fees for fifteen of us to run it, so having friends to hang out with was not a problem. In fact, if not for the freezing temperatures, it would have been quite pleasant.

Team dressbarn waiting for the start. Photo by Carl Cox.

The first mile of this race was, as always, stupid. I won't belabor the point here; I already mentioned what the first mile is like. I'll just say it sucked. Time for this mile was 10:27.

1/4 mile in, smiling for the camera, but otherwise unhappy weaving through the crowd. Photo by Carl Cox
The second mile is still very crowded and frustrating, but only stupid-crowded on the uphills. I was otherwise finally able to get into a bit of a rhythm. Time: 9:53.

By the third mile, the crowd has thinned out enough that I don't have to weave everywhere trying to pass people. We start this mile coming off a long gradual down hill into flat, so I was cruising. This was my fastest mile: 9:43.

Mile four was where I started questioning my pace, wondering if I'll be able to maintain it through mile 5. I was staring to feel very uncomfortable. But since the first mile was so damned stupid, and I knew that I definitely wouldn't break 50 minutes if I slowed down, I decided to keep pushing, risking a crash-and-burn in mile 5. However, looking at the split (9:59), I must have eased off a little bit. I had to pick it up again in the fifth mile.

As a result, mile five was the crux of this race for me. Doing the math in my head, I had to really push the pace to have a hope of clearing 50 minutes. Gone was the normal sense of euphoria that the finish line was soon approaching, this was all about survival. I thus ran 9:46 in this mile, my second-fastest.

And my final time: 49:59.

I am pleased that I managed to break 50 minutes this year, because I honestly didn't think I'd be able to. However, in the grand scheme of things, I am disappointed that this is the worst time I've had in this race. My fastest time was in 2008, 5 days after the JFK 50 miler, was 48:34. In 2009 I ran 49:47. And in 2010: 49:59. This is trending the wrong way!

New entries for Steve's blog are published on Mondays and Thursdays at 10:00am NY time

Dec 18, 2010

Listserv Gold Part IX - Old Guys at Multidays

This post probably would have gone by unnoticed if Across the Years 72-hour wasn't looming less than two weeks away. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), the author is, once again, Joe Judd. I think this is the third or fourth time one of Joe's posts have made ULG.
from joe judd
to UList List
date Thu, Dec 16, 2010 at 5:26 PM
subject Re: 60 year old peeps (not the Easter candy)

If any of you folks decide to get yourself into a 72 hour, or a six day, you better watch out for those 'old guys'. They'll kick your butt. Oh sure, you may be young and fast. But by the middle of day two, you'll be heading to a comfy room to lick your wounds, thinking "I'm happy with my miles." Meantime, the metronomes will be out there, patiently moving forward.

I talked to Ed Rousseau at a 72 hour. I believe he was 69 or 70 at the time. He told me that he had stopped twice during the race. Once because he had been out in a driving rain overnight and just couldn't get warm. So he sat in the heated car for 20 minutes. His other stop was 10 minutes sitting in a chair. That's over 72 hours! I arrived on the final day of the race for the 24 hour. I never saw him moving at more than a brisk walk. But Ed NEVER stopped, while people one third of his age were crying for mommy and calling it a day.
Ultrarunning Listserv Gold: Where 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.

Dec 16, 2010

Miwok 100K Trail Race: May 7, 2011

The Miwok 100K (62-mile) trail run in the hills of the Marin Headlands (above San Francisco) gets many more entries than they can accommodate. So in order to run it, most of use have to enter a lottery. Well, luck shined upon me yesterday when the lottery results were announced: my entry has been accepted!

Why is Miwok such a popular race? Why am I so eager to run it? Check out this video:

Singletrack - the track for me!

The other reason Miwok gets so much attention is that it attracts the best ultrarunners in the US. The competition up front is so fierce that, to many, it has become a de facto 100K championship race. So while I'm enjoying an amazing day towards the back of the pack, guys like Krupicka, Roes, Wolfe, and Mackey and gals like Crosby-Helms, Moehl, Sproston, and Arbogast will be up front, with ultrarunning fans all over the USA monitoring their progress.

Miwok 100K Trail Run web site

Steve is taking a break from writing regular updates to this blog.