Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Laurel Highlands Fears

I'll be honest. The Laurel Highlands 70.5 mile race scares me. Though I have completed it twice, 2 of my career DNFs have come on this course making it my most failed to complete course. Laurel is not easy, but if it was I probably would not keep coming back to do it. I love challenges!

This year the biggest fears weighing on my mind both stem from my achilles injury. My achilles injury caused me to need to take a month off from my training so of course I worry about being physically prepared come race day. Race day will be a little over 8 weeks since I injured my achilles and I worry about being strong, healthy, and not re-injuring it over the course of 70.5 miles.

Ultimately June 14th is going to come sooner rather than later. I think my ultimate plan is to just adopt the mantra. "Don't think. Just do. Become the Terminator. Finish the objective."

EDIT> It's my fault for not explaining my fears about the Laurel Highlands 70.5 Mile better, but it's not about being healthy. I am back to full health. It is my fitness that is still not where I'd like it to be. I do believe I can and will complete the race. If I didn't believe I can finish the race I would not do it. Like Mike reminded me, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. That is the main reason along with great support and friendships that I can and have completed the races I have. I thank you all for being a part of my support and success. It truly does mean a lot to me. Laurel is one of my 2 main goal races this year.<

Thanks for reading.

Run Like a Horse,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Winter Running

How has your Jan/Feb running been? Did you end December with a bang, but begin the year with a dud or a thud? Maybe your running has been consistently GOOD so far this year like mine. It may come as no surprise to anyone that whenever my running is consistently good through the winter my running year is really strong.

Consistency is the key here. Notice I did not say your running needs to be strong in the winter. Strong is a relative term. In comparison to our running the rest of the year our winter running is not usually as strong, though you could argue we sometimes have to be strong to run in the winter months. Consistently good running though the winter will make you a stronger runner come the rest of the year.

Maybe injuries have put you on the sidelines and now you have taken too much time off or your just starting to recover. I had this problem last winter. It wasn't until March that I started to get back into it and then due impart to poor training the first part of the year I got injured again. Here again being consistent is the key. When we are steady with our training throughout the year, especially in winter, but without over training, then our chance of and frequency of injuries decreases. Another huge factor for strong running and preventing injuries in winter is strength and core training. As our running decreases some in winter it is a great time and almost a necessity to supplement our running with strength and core training.

If you have been in hibernation mode and now find yourself saying "Oh crud!" about that upcoming spring or early summer race it will be alright. We can't change the past. All we can do is move forward from here. Ease back into it and simply be consistently good in your training. Sign up for a race to give yourself a goal and target to work towards. Buy some new gear that you will need to get out and run in. Just don't point fingers at me when your spouse asks what your spending money on now.

I am not saying that running in the winter is easy, but like most things that are challenging it is worth it. I have found myself trundging(trudging + running) through the snow a lot this year, but I have been consistent and I fully believe 2014 is going to be great running year for me. I hope your training has been consistently good and you have a great year too. Thanks for reading.

Run Like a Horse,

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Post Goal Race Accomplishment Syndrome

Post Goal Race Accomplishment Syndrome or PGRAS for short is a depression, funk, cloud, or rut feeling sometimes experienced by endurance runners within the year following completion of their big goal race such as a 100 miler. Symptoms can include, but may not be limited to a "What Now" feeling, lack of motivation, and a loss of mojo, zen, passion, along with an increase in around the abdomen, buttocks, and thigh regions.

Today I am speaking as former sufferer of PGRAS in hopes that I might offer some help to some of my friends currently dealing with PGRAS and anyone else who might be affected by PGRAS.

The first things you need to know is that the year after your goal race accomplishment can and probably will suck and it will not be easy, but ultimately that really depends on you. I have 3 things that can help you get back to "your" normal.

1. Mix in a little or a lot of non running training activities in addition or in place of your running to spice it up. Try doing things such as swimming, weight training, biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, cross fit, yoga. The point is to find something fun to get and keep you moving. I can speak from experience and say that too much time off will only lead to an increase weight, injuries, and just plain bad luck in general it seems.

2. Set new goals. "He who fails to plan, plans to fail." Not having any goals makes you like a rudderless ship getting tossed around by whatever the day or race may throw at you. When things go great it is no problem, but when things go poorly it is just plain miserable. I wouldn't necessarily pick out another really big goal mind you less we become an accomplishment junkie always having to have a big goal to strive for so we can push ourselves. Pick out goals that are fun but still challenging yet attainable with "reasonable" effort.

3. Have fun!!! What makes us passionate about running? Remember why we run in the first place. For me it is for fitness, to see how far I can push myself, and for FUN. I accomplished my one 100 mile finish. 100 miles is the farthest distance I have any desire to cover and I finished it so I am good. That takes me back to "what now" right? Well I can still see how far I can push myself in how fast I can complete certain distances and courses. Let's not forget the other two reasons I run: fitness and FUN. I would dare say that if we did not somewhat enjoy running we would not do it all. So let's go back to what it is about running that makes us passionate about it. Get out on some group runs with a crazy friend or friends, take it all in, live in the moment, and remember to just HAVE FUN. Make this your number one goal for the year after your goal race accomplishment. To quote a great friend who is very inspiring and fun loving, "Breathe in. Breathe out. Life is good my friends."

I would be remiss if I didn't add a bonus step to the recovery process. Celebrate your accomplishment! Live it up and take pride in what you have done. Look back at just what you have accomplished and let it be the fuel that helps drive you forward and propel you into new adventures.

Hope I was of some help. Thanks for reading.

*Mick Quen is not a registered physician. His medical license comes from Whole Grains University in a box and he accidentally poured milk on it and had to hang it up so it would dry off. His findings and opinions may be pure horse manure.*

Run Like a Horse,

Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 Running Goals

I make New Year's goals. I don't care for resolutions. Once you break them or slip up it can be hard to find motivation and to keep going. Goals on the other hand give you something to shoot for. I like the quote, "He who fails to plan, plans to fail." 2013 was a down year for me. Maybe not so coincidentally I also didn't have any goals for the year. This year I won't make the same mistake. Here are my  2014 running goals:

4. Run a sub 4 hour marathon
Not a major goal and possibly not realistic. The only sub 4 hour marathon I ever ran was my first one in 2001. I may not even shoot for it, meaning I may not even run a road marathon. We'll see how the year is going when I get closer to the price increase deadline.

3. Get back to my normal speed in a 5K
I only ran one 5K this year. My time was not surprisingly a disappointing 23:19. To meet this goal and be satisfied I need to get back down to around the mid 21 minute range so a 21:20 - 21:40 would be good.

2. Beat my PB Oil Creek 100K time
This year I had a horrendous race and therefore a not very good time for me in the OC 100K, 18:59:11. That had nothing to do with Tom Jennings as RD or all the great volunteers. The heat really crushed me. I was not ready for 80 degrees in northwestern PA in October. To meet this goal I have to beat my 2010 time of 17:44:24.

1. Have fun!!!
In 2014 I am running my favorite races that are within 3.5 hours driving time. Last year I forgot that one of the three major reasons I run is for the enjoyment of it. I didn't have any new distances to challenge myself, my fitness was not great due to injuries and too much time off, and I forgot to just have fun. This year I plan to make sure I have fun running my favorite races. Hopefully I'll see some of you at these races.

Thanks for reading. What are you goals for the year? Feel free to add them in the comments.

Run Like a Horse,

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Not Your Average Horse

Not your average horse or runner for that matter.

Race horses tend be strong, lean, and built for speed like Thoroughbreds or Arabians. The majority of runners tend be lean or at least pretty light weight. I on the other hand tend to weigh a bit more. Using the horse analogy I would say I am built more like a work horse also known as Coldbloods. Most people think Clydesdales, Belgians, or Percherons, but I prefer Jutlands.

Every so often I get reminders that I am not built like your average ultra runner or regular runner for that matter. The most recent reminder being that my Christmas present, the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest, just isn't big enough for me. It comes in two sizes, S/M or M/L, and after reading reviews that said the larger size ran large I figured I would be alright. Then again I think the biggest chest size listed by reviewers was 39''. I have a 45'' chest and the vest is listed up to 41'' so I took a chance.

It just didn't work out for me. I may try to exchange it for the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest, which gives me 2 more inches in the chest, but not sure about it. I really do want to get a hydration vest with the bottles up front though. I really like Saloman S-Lab Advanced Skin Hydro 12 Set Pack, which goes up to 46" chest, but not willing to pay $185. I had been eying UD vests for awhile waiting for them to go on sale so when they did I seized the opportunity. I will be following the Saloman vest waiting for it to go on sale as well. My biggest hesitation with it is the black color as black really attracts the sun and the heat kills me. I will still probably take a chance on the Saloman vest though.

I hope you run happy no matter what type of horse you are and that all your tack fits and works well for you.

Run Like a Horse,

Monday, December 23, 2013

2013 Running Year in Review

We'll start with the numbers: 13 races(one 100K, one 60K, two 50Ks, one 6 hour, one 27 miler, one marathon, two half marathons, one 12 miler, one 5 miler, one 5K, one DNF) and 302.7 race miles for career totals of  244 races, 55 ultras, 22 marathons, 30 half marathons, 12 DNFs, and 3883.6 race miles. 13 races in a year is the least amount of races I have run since 2007, where I also ran 13 races. 302.7 race miles is the least I have run since 2006, when my total for the year was a mere 177.2 race miles.

To sum up 2013 in one word: Perseverance. I am not superstitious, but 2013 was an unlucky year for me. I have never had a problem with injuries and bad luck in running until 2013. Another factor may have been the "what now" feeling after completing the "big one" by completing the Oil Creek 100 Miler the in 2012.

Three weeks after the 100 miler at Oil creek I ran a 50 miler and two weeks after that I ran another 50 miler. That caused me to finish 2012 with the start of what could become an achilles injury so I took off some time. Too much time and it led into the start of 2013. When I did start running I managed to slip a couple of times on the ice on the bike trail at Belmar. I didn't initially notice a problem and whether it was that or my Hokas were past their mileage, I later developed a problem with a ligament or muscle on the inside of my knee that would plague me from March until May when Dr. Dan pinpointed the problem at Katie's race.

I thought I was back on track and my training started to pick up until I severely rolled my ankle in my Hokas at Mohican the second weekend in June, where I suffered my first DNF in 2 years. That put me on the shelf for 6 weeks and it wasn't until late October that I started to feel somewhat strong again.

Perseverance is the key word. 2013 was a rough year. My times were poor and I had some bad races, but finished all but one of them. I only felt good and like I ran a good race at two races this year. They were the Gristmill Grinder Half in April and Dances with Dirt 50K in September on my birthday. Oh yeah I actually did somehow manage to win the 6 hour endurance race I ran at the end of October too.

I also accomplished 2 fairly significant milestones in my running career this year. On March 9th I ran my 50th ultra marathon. On May 5th I completed my 100th half marathon or longer race distance. I ran my first marathon back in October of 2001, but most of those(91) were from 2006 to May 5, 2013.

I kept moving forward though and I actually feel like I am finishing this year stronger and more healthy than I did the year before. My strength training and running are both back on track and I am looking forward to next year, where I will be running my favorite races throughout the year. 2014 should be a great year and lots of fun. Hope to share the trails with some of you. Thanks for reading.

Run Like a Horse,

Long overdue 2012 Running Year in Review

I know it is almost an entire year late, but here is my 2012 Running Year in Review. First by the numbers: 24 races(one 100 miler, one 70 miler, three 50 milers, one 34 miler, three 50Ks,  one 28.4 miler, one 26.5 miler, two 30Ks, one half marathon, one 10 miler, one 16K, one 10K, one 4.6 miler, five 5Ks, and one 1 miler) and 599.4 race miles for career totals of 231 races, 49 ultras, 21 marathons, 27 half marathons, 11 DNFs, and 3580.9 race miles. The 599.4 race miles are the most I have ever run in a year and chances are good will probably be the most I will ever run in a year in my lifetime.

2012 was my most triumphant year. I overcame all obstacles while accomplishing all but one of my running goals for the year and it pretty much went according to plan. Here's a look at my goals and how I fared with them.

7. Be about 10 lbs lighter than I was at most points of the past year
This is the only goal I didn't complete. My 2012 weight was lighter than my 2011 weight for that same date all year, but once my weight got lower it was not 10 pounds lighter than the previous year. My lowest weight of the year came on 25MAY at 209 pounds.

6. Officially finish the central section of the Baker Trail 50 Mile
Mission accomplished. It was a hot day and therefore a rough day. At some of the points where I wasn't doing well I took time to run with friends. I finished it though and knew I was better for it. 

5. Get into and finish the 50th anniversary of the JFK 50 Mile
I did get into and finish the 2012 JFK 50 Mile. It was my second fastest 50 miler I have run and faster than my other 2 JFK finishes by almost 30 minutes. For being a 50th anniversary of the race they really didn't have much that was special about it or separated it from previous years. I am happy to have done my last flat marathon running stretch along the C&O and I do not plan to return again unless I get bored or nostalgic.

4. Finish the Laurel Highlands 70 Mile and redeem a previous DNF
Thanks in large part to running at a great conservative pace with my friend, Scott McCray, for the first 46 miles and the pacing/chasing of my friend, Eric Ripper, in my last 24 miles the Laurel Highlands 70 Mile felt like a breeze. Those factors and God's favor led to a PR by 1 hour 42 minutes.

3. Finish the year with Zero DNFs
God blessed my training and racing in ways I never could have imagined in 2012. Glory be to God that I finished every race I started this year. Not just that I finished every race, but I finished the races that meant the most to me strong.

2. Finish the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile and redeem a previous DNF
I completed this goal, but I will admit it took a little help. Hurricane Sandy dumped some snow that remained on the second half of the course where the elevation is higher. This prompted the RDs to give us a compassionate extra 30 minutes. I am very grateful as I needed 11 of those minutes to make this finish happen.

1. Finally finish a 100 miler at the Oil Creek 100s and redeem a previous DNF
This was "The Big One." As goal #3 suggests this came to fruition. The weather was perfect minus some rain at night. I didn't push. I went out slow and let the race come to me. It worked to perfection at Laurel and was equally effective at Oil Creek. My race strategy was Loop 1: Warm Up Loop - 8-9 hours. Loop 2: Stroll through the Park - 9-10(17-19) hours. Loop 3: Victory Lap - 10-11(27-30) hours. Going Home Loop: The Celebration 2-3(29-33) hours. It was amazing how God blessed me. My times stayed right inside these ranges the entire race and made for a great race and a triumphant finish. It was especially meaningful to accomplish this on my home course with so many of my friends running or volunteering. My wife was volunteering and she know's how much it meant for me to finish and how special it was for her to be there.

Thanks for reading this way overdue review.

Run Like a Horse,

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rookie to Veteran

One of the biggest differences between myself now and myself the last time I took on the Mountain Masochist 50(54) miler is experience. When I last ran Mountain Masochist 5 years ago in 2007 it was my 6th ever ultra and it became my 3rd ever DNF. The cut-offs got me at mile 40. This year when I take on Masochist it will be my 48th ultra. Needless to say I have a bit more experience going into Masochist this time. I have not completed every ultra I have entered. As a matter of fact I have DNFs in 9 of those attempts, but I have always gone 36.5 miles or longer in every attempt.

This got me thinking about when does one shake the rookie tag and also when does one become a veteran?
 Do we stop being a rookies when we stop making rookie mistakes? If so then I am afraid most of us will forever be rookies. I think it comes down to experience and what we learn from those experiences we have in races. A fair ranking system might be the high school and college system of Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, and 5th Year Senior. Most of us take 2, 3, or 4 years to start to "know" what we are doing in an ultra, though some of us need that 5th year to figure it out. As for "knowing" what we are doing again it comes down to experiences and what we learn from them.

I got hit hard my Freshman and Sophomore years of ultra running. I suffered my 2nd and 3rd ever DNFs  in 2007 and my 4th, 5th, and 6th DNFs in 2008. After only suffering DNF #7 in 2009 I felt like I had arrived only to be humbled big time my Senior season with DNFs 8, 9, & 10. I learned from those defeats. I wrote them down to remember them and took notes about what contributed to them. Sometimes it took a while to actually put into practice what I learned though.

I happened to check out Dig Deep Run Long recently and saw that I had gone from being listed as a Distance(whatever your longest distance finish is) Finisher to a Veteran1 meaning I have run over 1000 ultra race miles. Dig Deep Run Long mostly uses Ultra Signup to calculate your Ultra totals, but DDRL will also let you add races that may be missing from Ultra Signup. Based on DDRL's measurements I took about 5 years to achieve Veteran status from the first Ultra I ever ran at JFK in 2006, though not my 1st ever done. I hiked most of a 50K Volksmarch in Heidelberg, Germany in 2004. I went over the 1000 mile mark with my last ultra of the year last year, Tussey Mountainback 50 Miler. Of course I hit 1000 miles sooner than that if you count my 448.1 miles from  9 DNFs mileage.

So when do we achieve Veteran status? Do we have to log 1000 ultra race miles? I don't think so, but you can't argue there is experience gained in that feat. When you get there you just "know" it. You "know" what you are doing and for the most part you "know" what to expect going into a race. You "know" how to train and prepare. You "know" you have done it before and you "know" you can do it again. If you've trained and prepared you "know" what you are capable of.

That said I truly believe most of us are capable of so much more than we ever dare to dream or imagine. Much more than we "know."

Run Like a Horse,

P.S. For the record I am still chasing that perfect year(no DNFs) since my start in 2006 where I finished the only ultra I did that year. 2 more races stand between me and a perfect year, but deep down I "know" I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Friday, August 31, 2012

My *Current Top 10 Ultras List plus 5

This started out as a reply to my good friend Ronnie's comment in my last blog post. I felt it was too long to be a reply comment so I opted to make it into it's own post. My top 10 list changes as I run new races. Past events rise or fall too when I rerun them, compare them to other events, and my experiences change. Most of my experience and therefore recommendations will be in the PA/OH/WV area. So here is my current top 10 favorite list with 5 bonus listings for diversity.

1-Megatransect 25-26 Mile Challenge -Lock Haven, PA(not an ultra by distance, but it is more challenging than some ultras)

 2-Oil Creek 100s(100Mile, 100K, 50K) I am biased as this is pretty much my hometown ultra)-Titusville,PA 

3-Heidelberg Voksmarch 50K -Heidelberg, Germany(I love Heidelberg. You never forget your first)

4-Laurel Highlands Ultra 70 Mile -Johnstown, PA

5-Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run -Davis, WV

6-Hinson Lake 24 Hour Classic -Rockingham, NC

7-Ironmasters Trail Challenge 50K -Gardners,PA

8-Hyner View Trail Challenge 50K/25K -Renovo/Hyner, PA

9-Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50(54) Mile -Lynchburg, Va

10-Capon Valley 50K -Yellow Spring, WV


11-Baker Trail 50 Mile Challenge North section -Brookville, PA
12-Run Between the Suns 12 Hour -Dempseytown, PA(biased again, right in my backyard)
13- Triple Lakes Trail Race 40 Mile -Greensboro, NC
14-JFK 50 Mile -Boonsboro, NC
15-Ouachita Trail 50K- Little Rock, AR

Hope you might check out some of these races or that you may have already run some of them. Feel free to comment or ask questions.

Run Like a Horse,

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mind Not at Ease

My mind is not at ease after being unable to finish the Baker Trail 50 Mile under 11 hours and having to settle for an 11:56 finish. Looking ahead to the Mountain Masochist 50(54) Miler, where I will need to cover an additional 4 miles in less than 12 hours gives me an uneasy feeling. I am still going after Masochist. The weather will change, Masochist is a different type of course than Baker, and I have 8 weeks before I will have to fight that battle.

That said I do realize that every race where I push on, don't quit, and I finish after a difficult start or stretch during the race makes me stronger. It adds another piece to my foundation and another tool to look back on in future events.

In Baker this year I felt horrible for about 9 miles from mile 17 to mile 26. I was mostly in the sun, on the road, and climbing. I was hating life and miserable, but I kept pushing forward. Somewhere around mile 26 the course started downhill and took us back onto the trail and into the forest's shade. Some clouds even came out and veiled us from the sun's heat too. I came back to life and had a great day from that point on. I am so glad for the God-given grit and determination that helped me not drop out of the race and miss the joys that came after my struggles.

I'll leave you with a quote that stood out to me from a running article I read yesterday.

"An ultrarunner’s biggest challenge is not about being physically fit enough to handle the race, but to be mentally tough enough to keep emotions intact and force your beaten body forward."

Run Like a Horse,