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,

Friday, August 24, 2012

100 Mile Motivation

Here is a quote from a pre-race  speech before the Leadville 100. I did not run the race, but this quote very much sums up running an ultra, especially a 100+ miler. I hope it motivates you in whatever race you run in this life.

"When the going gets hard. When the time comes and I promise the time will come. When the legs are dead. When the heads done. When the lungs are burning. One time believe, believe with me and dig deep. Take one more step. Turn that step to two. Soon there's an aid station. Keep digging. Soon there's another. Soon before you know it your at the finish line. Your husbands, your wives will be there crying. Your boyfriends, your girlfriends, they'll be enjoying wishing they were with you. Your children will never see a more proud moment of you........Do this and find out that you are better than you think you are."

Run Like a Horse,

Friday, June 1, 2012

It Is Gonna Be Hot So.....

It is gonna be hot this year. I am sure if you have been living in the PA region of the country this is not news to you. The heat is my personal kryptonite. When Mother Nature turns up the heat I tend to wither and crumble.

So what does this mean for my running schedule this year? Should I cancel all my races from now until the end of September? If you know me at all you know that is not an option. 

I may not like the heat, but the truth is there is nothing I can do about it. The weather is one factor on race day that is completely out of our hands. I may pray and hope for most race days to range from the upper 40s to lower 60s with partially sunny to overcast skies, but when race day arrives with 90 degrees, high humidity, and sunny skies that is entirely beyond my control.

What is still in my control is how I prepare for and react to the weather. I can't claim to have done any great preparation for the heat other than being out and training regardless of the temperature. I surely have not put on layers like Tom Jennings or anything like that.

So that only leaves my reaction. Ultimately my intended reaction will be 1. Hydrate well. I need to hydrate on schedule and adjust it as needed during the race. 2. Run mentally strong. For me this means keeping within my race strategy by (a) breaking the race up into small goals like running strong till the next climb, getting over the next up hill, or just running to the next aid station (b) breaking the race up into different sections like first half, first quarter, day time, night time, second half, home stretch (c) remember my training and all I have done to prepare for the race (d) take in the sights and smells around me to take my mind away (e) think about the finish line and it's food and friends as it gets closer and closer (f) thank God and give Him the praise and the glory for the ability to be out there enjoying His creation for another day and for giving me the strength to go one more step, one more mile, one more race!

Thank you for reading. 

Run Like a Horse,

Monday, February 6, 2012

2012 Running Goals

Better late than never. As I mentioned I have been busy with work and life so far this year.

I don't do resolutions and I encourage others not to either. Once a resolution is broken it is done and over, but goals are something you can keep pursuing and working towards.

Without further ado here are my 2012 running goals in order of priority from least to greatest.

7. Be about 10 lbs lighter than I was at most points of the past year
Priority: Low
I know it may be a surprise that this is a low priority, but I am not really worried about my weight. That said I do know I can ran faster and easier if I weigh less. I will be happy to see progress and that is what this goal represents. Last year I started back into fitness routine on 21MAR weighing 232. My lowest weight of the year was on 11OCT at 213. Currently I weigh 220.

6. Officially finish the central section of the Baker Trail 50 Mile
Priority: Medium low
In 2009 I finished this section, but did so unofficially. I got lost on the way there and didn't start till 2 hours after everyone else. It took me 25 miles to catch an aid station before they shut down and packed up so there was no record or proof of me having run the first 25 miles. This year I want to "officially" finish and earn my rolling pin for having completed all 3 sections.

5. Get into and finish the 50th anniversary of the JFK 50 Mile
Priority: Medium
JFK was the 2nd ultra I ever completed and the first one I ever ran. It is not often you get to run in the 5oth running of an event and this being a 50 miler makes it neat as well. I have completed it twice before, but I would love to do it again on the 5oth anniversary.

4. Finish the Laurel Highlands 70 Mile and redeem a previous DNF
Priority: High
I have attempted Laurel 3 times and 2 of those times the Laurel course combined with the heat have bested me. The only year I successfully completed the course I was aided by 30 plus miles of rain to keep me cool and the temperatures down. I intend to even the score this year even if I can't completely redeem my last DNF as it included the 7 mile detour because of the bridge over the turnpike being replaced.

3. Finish the year with Zero DNFs
Priority: High
As an adult I never failed to complete a race until 2007 when Laurel humbled me for the first time and Masochist got me later that year. 2008 was a learning year with 3 DNFs, 2009 was a great year with only 1 DNF, 2010 saw me take some lumps with 3 DNFs again, and only 1 DNF last year. I want to return to perfection this year and break the streak of years with DNFs and the 3-1-3-1- cycle.

2. Finish the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile and redeem a previous DNF
Priority: Very High
Masochist remained outside my grasp after I failed to complete it in 2007 until this past October at Tussey. I always said I would have to run a sub 11 hour 50 miler to feel I would be able to complete Masochist since Masochist is actually a 54 miler. At Tussey I ran 10h18m and now have the confidence to able to redeem my DNF at Masochist.

1. Finally finish a 100 miler at the Oil Creek 100s and redeem a previous DNF
Priority: Off the charts!
3 hundred mile attempts resulting in 3 DNFs including 1 at Oil Creek. For me to feel "successful" as an ultra runner "I" NEED to complete at least one 100 mile race. This for me is what defines "my" running career. I want to be able to say I have completed a 100 mile race. Oil Creek is pretty much my hometown ultra and it would be especially fitting for my 100 mile finish to come there.

Run Like a Horse,

Monday, January 30, 2012

6 Factors That Made 2011 Great

There were six specific things that individually and coupled together worked to make this year so great for my running.

1. God's blessing and His healing power. I know it is God alone, who has given me the ability to run and heals my body from day to day and week to week. He truly is my Strength, my Hope, my Provider, and my Healer.

2. Forefoot striking. A midfoot to forefoot strike is so much more efficient and better for your body. Heel striking is like putting the brakes on every time your foot lands, whereas a forefoot strike propels your foot forward. A forefoot strike also allows you much more control when you land on an uneven surface and therefore makes you less likely to roll your ankle or get injured. I really focused on changing my foot strike and becoming more of a forefoot striker after rolling my ankle in May.

3. Downhill running. I really worked to run the downhills hard yet also allow my body to slightly recover on the downhills. On downhills I focused on leaning forward, but keeping my stride under me and my hands low and relaxed, and of course landing on my forefoot and not my heels.

4. Crossing the center line. Roger Niethe shared this tip with me at Baker. When walking up hills during a race swing your arm across the center line of the body. This recruits more muscles in your legs and hips, which shares the work load and helps your muscles to be stronger and less fatigued later in the race. I credit this tip with faster times from 27AUG and every race after that.

5. S-caps. I have been using S-caps for my electrolyte and salt replacement during longer races for a couple years. Just this year I learned that if I am already have leg cramps that opening one of the capsules up and placing the contents on my tongue causes it to go directly to cramps in less than a minute. This made a huge difference on the final long downhill of Tussey, when I needed to be able to run the downhill, but leg cramps were preventing me from running.

6. 100-Up Exercise. This simple running exercise invented by W.G. George helps reinforce a natural forefoot stride that "is incapable of harm when practiced discretely." I have been using this exercise on my non running days since the end of November and feel it has been helping me develop a more natural and efficient forefoot stride.

Thanks for reading.

Run Like a Horse,

2011 Running Year In Review

Here is my 2011 Running Year in Review by the numbers: 36 races(two 50 milers, one 40 miler, four 50Ks, two marathons, one 25 miler, one 30K, two 25Ks, three half marathons, one 20K, one 19K, one 10 miler, two 15Ks, one 9 miler, two 10Ks, ten 5Ks, one 1 mile, and 1 DNF) and 549.5 race miles giving me career totals of 207 races, 38 ultras, 21 marathons, 24 half marathons, 11 DNFs, 2981.5 race miles. I also had 50 mile and half marathon PRs and my 2nd fastest marathon time ever. All Glory to God!

 My year started out rough with slowest 50K of my career at the Frozen Sasquatch 50K(8:17:25) on 08JAN, but it was later eclipsed by an even slower one at the Glacier Ridge 50K(8:32:47) on 09APR. The end of April saw me pick up my only DNF of the year at the crazy and super tough Muddy Marathon on 30APR. On 16APR I did shave 26 minutes off of my previous running of the Hyner View Trail Challenge 25K(4:20:47). I hit a high point with my 3rd fastest marathon ever at Pittsburgh(4:27:59) on 15MAY. Unfortunately the very next week I rolled my ankle badly while hiking when I jumped over a log onto a slanted bank. This set back slowed me down, but not enough to keep me from running 4 more races before completing the beautiful Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run(10:10:43) on 18JUN.

From here my year just took off. On 13JUL I shed 43 seconds off my best 5K time of the year at the Fredonia Firemens 5K(21:59), but 10 days later I shed another 28 seconds at the Oil City Fireman's MDA 5K(21:31). On 27AUG I completed my 3rd section(2nd officially) of the Baker Trail(11:47:20). On 10SEP I ran a 1:07:01 9 mile race at the Mantua Potato Stomp, which would have been a 10 mile PR if it had been a 10 miler.

In October things really shifted into high gear. The first day of the month saw me complete the Megatransect(6:20:28) for the 3rd time and shave off 54 minutes in the process. One week later I ran the Oil Creek 50K(6:16:08), which was 6 miles longer than Mega, 4 minutes faster than my Mega time making it my 3rd fastest 50K. The next week I ran a half marathon PR at the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon(1:39:32) only to follow it up with a 50 Mile PR at the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile(10:18:42). The significance of the 5o mile PR is that it gives me to confidence to pursue redeeming a previous 50 mile DNF at Mountain Masochist. The first weekend of November I ran my second fastest marathon ever at the Inland Trail Marathon(4:08:22) and two weeks later I ran my fastest 5K of the year in 21:04 at the Oil City YMCA Turkey Trot 5K.

This was an incredibly blessed year. It wasn't without some hardships and lows, but they make the high points that much more special. God richly blessed me and my running this year. I pray that He was glorified.

Run Like a Horse,