Mar 31, 2015

Umstead 100 Brain Dump, 2015 edition

Seeing as this is a brain dump (and not a report - I think too much about reports and they never get posted), following is the result of my brain taking a dump.

(If you'd like to read a properly written Umstead report, consider mine from 2012.)

Friday, talking to Banfield:

B: "I think you can finish in under 24 hours. You should go for it."
Me: "You're nucking futs. I'd be thrilled with 27."

Of all my friends, it's only Banfield (and maybe McNulty) who might think I had a realistic shot at 24 hours, but holy hell if he wasn't right. I finished in 23:38. This amounts to a (nearly) 2 hour 100 mile PR, 5 hour course PR, and, most importantly, I caught my plane. I had a 12:05pm flight that would get me to a 4pm wedding in New Jersey after finishing a 100 mile race in North Carolina.

I "reckon'd" (we were in the south. when in rome..) 27 hours is what I needed to shower, return the car, and get on the plane in time. The plane departed thirteen minutes after the last runner finished. I've never had any goal in a 100 other than to finish, and now I'm pressuring myself to actually perform well at a 100. 100s are hard enough. Additional pressure to get a certain time? Crazy talk!

Yet, in order to run the race and attend the wedding (not mutually exclusive), I had to finish in 27 hours, or only finish 7 laps. Finishing 8 laps and attending the wedding: try it, just to be badass (and never pass up on an opportunity to be badass.)

Honestly, if it wasn't for a 30 minute flight delay which caused us to be 15 minutes late to the wedding, the day would have been a rare period of absolutely perfect execution.

Just for fun, here's a photo with Tammy and Fred at 5:45am on Saturday (race started at 6am):

Here is a photo with volunteer pacer Alex at 5:45am on Sunday, right after finishing:

Now here is a photo with Anders, at the wedding, 5:45pm:
Wedding guests make good posts to lean on.
The race started at 6am. Sunset was around 730pm. To catch my flight, I could relax if I reach 75 miles by midnight. I wanted to relax, so I pushed early from the start. The 12.5 mile split times were 2:22, 2:27. 2:32. and 2:59. My first four laps were all under 3 hours, and my 50-mile split was 10:21, a monster PR. Well now I can see that a 24-hour finish is in reach. Snit. Try not to think about it.

Gentry and I had a conversation about this. As best as I can recall-
Me: "I've got to stop thinking about breaking 24. It's driving me insane."
G: "Don't worry about it, just run."
Me: "I know, but how! I can't stop thinking about it."

(We had a remarkably similar conversation in the previous lap about a potential sub-10 50.)

As an aside, I love Gentry. What a great guy.
Friday Registration Photo. L-R: Banfield, Tursi, Gentry, Jim
Except then, lap 5 was under 3 hours as well and in fact faster than lap 4: 2:57. I had finished 100K, and the sun was still up. Lap 6 was in 3:08. I beat my 75-miles-by-midnight-so-I-can-relax goal by over 90 minutes. And then I couldn't relax, because I had 25 miles to go, and if I wanted the silver buckle, 7:30 to do them in. I could longer time to say, "it's too early to think about it." I had to go for the buckle.

I have walked marathons in 7:30, and know I can do this. I just need to remember to run downhills and not waste time in aid stations. Lap 7 was my first lap when I really started hurting. I was still moving well, but it became work at this point. A few miles in, Tony lapped me and we talked for about 5 minutes while walking up Cemetery Hill (He finished in 19:25). Tony is incredibly smart about ultras and I was invigorated by the conversation. Then, towards the end up the lap, I lapped Fred and we talked walking up the other side of Cemetery Hill (Fred has had better days.) He and I ran together for the first 20 miles, so I was surprised that I put 12.5 miles on him in my next 60. He finished in 27:58.

Speaking of not wasting time in aid stations, that was critical. I never stopped for more than 30 seconds on the back aid station, and never more than 5 minutes at HQ aid station (and then it was only twice.)

Lap 7 back aid station conversation. 12:19am. Mile 82.
"Potato Soup."
"Ok we're getting that for you. Would you like something else?"
"We have burgers, dogs, pizza.."
"Just the soup"
He hands me the soup and I'm immediately out of there. Thinking about how laconic I must have sounded to that guy, I made sure to yell, "thanks" as I left. I'm such an asshole.

Another thing that happened in lap 7 was, as I passed a group of runners with volunteer pacers, I was told by one of them that, last year, there were more pacers than needed and that they were disappointed that they didn't have anybody to pace. I was surprised. In previous years there weren't always pacers available. I wasn't going to use a pacer, but boy it sure would be nice to have someone to keep me talking and moving in lap 8.

So when I finished lap 7 (in 3:26), I requested a pacer, and sure enough several were available. So when Alex came out, we exchanged greetings and then I got straight to the point: "We have four hours and five minutes to do this loop. Keep me talking, and make sure we're comfortably enough under four hours that I don't get worried."

I'm not sure I could have done it without Alex. There were times when he was definitely pulling me along. Maybe I could have, maybe not. But the primary benefit was I relief: I could defer some of the responsibility to him, and get out of my own head. We did a lot of math calculating what our lap splits had to be. And every time we had a split faster than required, we'd say "we bought ourselves a couple of minutes." And he kept me awake. I was definitely staggering and swaying a bit in lap 7, and that mostly stopped in 8.

Other thoughts:

I missed out on the second sunrise. Pity.

It occurred to me that 100 milers are categorically different than 50 milers. A 50 has more in common with a half marathon than a 100 has in common with a 50. This is the truth. Sent from above. Don't even think about arguing.

It was cold! Which I'm fine with. I managed to generate enough heat all night long (for a good time, take that statement out of context) to stay comfortable during the race. But as soon as I stopped moving, I started shivering uncontrollably whenever in cool temps, and this continued even after arriving in NJ. In fact at the wedding I wore my overcoat most of the time.

My "DFL Ultrarunning" shirt gets lots of attention. People love it. But I was doing so well that several people commented that it's inappropriate. "I know, I'm so bad I can't even DFL right." Still proud to be on Team DFL. Be sure to check out the podcast, where I occasionally make an appearance.

According to the preliminary results, I finished in 77th place out of 145 100-mile finishers, 258 starters, and 291 entrants including non-starters. There appear to be 88 finishers of the 50. We don't know how many of the 50 finishers intended to go 100, but it's safe to say the 43 who did more than 50 but less than 100 did. Eleven people started but did not finish 50 miles. There were five people who finished under 24 hours but after me (I can't even DFL the silver buckle right.)

The DFL Silver-Buckler finished in 23:50, and the first post-24 finisher was 24:17. That's a 27-minute interval with no finishers. And I know exactly why. If it's in reach, you push that last lap to make sure you reach it comfortably. Nobody wants to finish in 24:01. And finishing in 23:59 sounds like a very stressful last ten miles. In fact I made sure to tell my pacer that we ought to finish with at least 10-15 minutes to spare, so we can be relaxed in the last few miles.

Not once did I say, "this shit ain't right", but not because it suddenly became "right." I merely forgot. So to be clear - staggering and sleep deprived, far from home, through a dark forest at 3am in sub-freezing temps to reach some number in less than some other number just for a belt buckle that's this color instead of that color while worrying about making a wedding the next day - that shit ain't right.

Have you ever been to the delta terminal at JFK? It's like 14 miles long. I looked at my arrival gate.. B45.. and knew. I had a long walk ahead of me. After walking about 2 miles towards baggage claim I saw one of those little bus tram things driving by. I flagged him down and asked for a ride. Turns out that they'll just give you a ride.. just ask. Holy smokes that was a sweet ride. I was soooooo happy. Trust me - if you're ever returning to JFK via delta after an ultra.. flag one of those bus tram extended golf cart things down. You'll be glad you did.

My phone was in airplane mode during the race to save battery, but every now and then (6 times I think) I turned on the network to see what was going on. I saw encouraging messages, both via text and facebook. People were watching, encouraging, pushing me to the goal. I really appreciate that.

Letter from the Governor
I'm always impressed by how well organized Umstead is.
Memorial Service for recently-passed Umstead RD Blake Norwood. It was very nice.
That's Joe Lugiano speaking in the photo.
Blake's stuff
Old and busted, new hotness 
And the wedding! Totally worth going to. Amazing! Congrats Lynette and Leon!!

Several people have asked me what I weighed during the race. I don't know exactly, but on Wednesday after the race my bodyweight was 278lbs.

I was interviewed on the subject of my race on the DFL Ultrarunning podcast. I understand it will be available in episode 46 (not yet published.) When it is published, you can find it here:

Finally, some new photos have surfaced. 

Running with Fred. Photo courtesy of Free Race Photos facebook page
Photo courtesy of Ray Krolewicz.
Returning on the airport spur on lap 1. Photo courtesy of Ray Krolewicz.
Walking up the hill to HQ. Photo courtesy of Ray Krolewicz.
Photo courtesy of Free Race Photos facebook page
Bombing down the hill to HQ. Photo courtesy of Ray Krolewicz.
Holding my new Buckle. Photo courtesy of pacer Alex.

Hamming it up for the camera with Fred. Photo courtesy of Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run.

Photo courtesy of Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run.
Photo courtesy of Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run.

Eric has posted his episode of DFL Ultrarunning in which he interviewed me for an hour or so on the topic of this race. You can find more information here:

Mar 6, 2015

Steve's rules for a running streak

The United States Running Streak Association has a definition of a running streak that says:
The official definition of a running streak, as adopted by the Streak Runners International, Inc., and United States Running Streak Association, Inc., is to run at least one mile (1.61 kilometers) within each calendar day. Running may occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill.
This is different from the rules that existed when I started my streak back in 2010:
The official definition of a running streak, as adopted by the United States Running Streak Association, Inc., is to run at least one continuous mile within each calendar day under one's own body power (without the utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices).

Running under one's own body power can occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill. Running cannot occur through the use of canes, crutches or banisters, or reliance on pools or aquatic devices to create artificial buoyancy.
.. which bums me out because when somebody asked me, "what are the rules for your streak?", I used to have a clear, unambiguous, specific, measurable, external document to point to. It wasn't something that I came up with on my own, and it was something that people agreed to.

The purpose of this post is to again regain a specific, measurable, clear, unambiguous set of rules for my personal running streak, and for those of my friends who agree with me. When someone asks me what my rules are, I can point them here. Let me be clear that these are rules I personally have adopted; they're no longer the rules of some governing association. Let me also be clear that I have no intention of creating a competing governing association. I won't be handing out membership cards, charging dues, writing a newsletter - none of that. I'm just writing rules that I adopt and that my friends have adopted.

Some of my friends have adopted a more strict version of these rules; for example, a 12-minute-per-mile minimum pace, or a 2-mile minimum distance. Rules like that are not in conflict with these rules. They're simply more rigorous.

For the purposes of this post, I am adopting the former rules of the USRSA, unchanged. I feel the rules are very clear, but for the benefit of people who would like crystal clarity, let's dive into each of the terms.

"One Mile"

5280 feet, 1.61 kilometers. Use the most accurate measuring tool available to you. If all you have is a GPS, it is in the spirit, though not required, to run slightly more than 1 mile to account for the inaccuracy. If you have a measured mile, use that instead of a GPS. Keep in mind that "four laps of a high school track" is actually short of a mile, by about 30 feet. If you stop at four laps you did NOT achieve the mile.


Continuous means no stopping for any reason. At least one mile in your run should be continuous. If you were planning on only running 1 mile, and you have to stop at a red light at 0.9 miles, then run 1.9 miles and make sure the last mile was continuous. Walk breaks are not allowed in your continuous mile.

* Sudden turns (including 180ยบ turns) are OK as long as there was no interruption in the running.
* Stopping, even for 1 second, breaks the continuity.
* Tying shoes, letting your dog pee, traffic lights, reckless drivers, earthquakes, lightning, seeing old friends, and being asked for directions are all good reasons to stop running. But if that broke your continuous mile, you need to restart it.

"Calendar Day"

The 24 hour local-government-recognized period from midnight to midnight. If your travel plans mean that you'll be in more than 1 time zone in the same day, then either time zone will work. If you are on a long haul flight going west such that you literally skip a day, then either change your travel plans or run on the plane.

"One's own body power"

Treadmills: OK
Holding on to a fixed part of the treadmill while running: NO!
Water running: No
Trekking Poles: No
Prosthetic: An artificial limb which replaced a real one, including a "Blade" is OK.

Questions and answers

Is there a minimum speed?
No. It can be 20 minutes per mile, but you have to be running/jogging/shuffling. It matters not if some people can walk faster than you can run.

What is running and what is walking?
From "Running is defined as a gait in which there is an aerial phase, a time when no limbs are touching the ground."

Can I puff on my albuterol inhaler?
This was asked in jest, but a serious answer would be to refer you to this. Neither my rules nor the USRSA mention anything about PEDs, but I think everyone would agree that performance enhancing drugs are against the spirit of the streak. However, I have taken aspirin and ibuprofen, which did assist me in my streak. I don't think the drugs I've taken are on the banned substances list (which, by the way, is a clear, unambiguous, external, specific, measurable set of rules. It's nice when those exist, right?)