Wednesday, December 24, 2008

12/26/2008: Top 5 Races

First a really quick training update. Last week didn't go quite as planned. I was traveling for work one day and then got food poisoning on Thursday night. I was doing a treadmill workout running 5:50 miles and realized something was horribly wrong. Luckily I avoided throwing up on the treadmill, though that would have made for an excellent story. I ended up hitting 50 miles for the week, so it could be worse.

This week went much better and was the start of real training again after 5 easy weeks following the Philly Marathon.
  • Saturday - 10 mile trail run, stairmaster, lifting
  • Sunday - 22 mile trail run
  • Monday - 6 miles easy
  • Tuesday - 10 miles easy, lifting and core work
  • Wednesday - 7 miles w/ 4.5 @ 6:30
  • Thursday - 8 miles easy
  • Friday - 7 miles easy
  • Total - 70 miles

I'm also trying to focus more on cross-training and lifting, so I try to include that in my training updates.

So now for my 5 favorite races that I've run. Woohooo!!!

1) Vermont 100 - hands down my favorite race for many reasons. First, Vermont will always have a special place in my heart for the sense of accomplishment I felt with finishing my first 100. It was a tremendous feeling crossing the finish line close to midnight knowing that I had just prevailed in running 100 miles across rugged, mountain terrain. It's a beautiful course with tons of great scenery and amazing volunteers. It was also a lot of fun to have Jen and my parents there. They were an awesome crew, and it was great to run with my Dad part of the way while I was still feeling strong.

2) Diablo Marathon - this was a GORGEOUS course. By far the most scenic race I've done. It's definitely a tough marathon, with 8K feet of elevation gain over the marathon (14% average grade), but I felt good the whole way and really enjoyed the course. This was a race that I didn't want to have end because I was having so much fun and enjoying the scenery so much.

3) JFK 50 - like Vermont, this will always be a memorable race since it was my first 50. It was also unbelievable to be in an ultramarathon with 1,400 other people. Who knew there were so many other crazy people out there!

4) Philadelphia Marathon - I like the Philly marathon for a variety of reasons. First, the race is a really nice size. It's fun to do bigger races, but Philly is nice because it isn't TOO big (18K). When you start having over 30K people, races can be a bit more of a hassle (parking, buses to the start, corrals, etc.). Second, it's a really nice course. The first time I ran Philly, I was surprised at how much of the course goes through parks and cool historic areas. Third, our college friend Roz lives in Philly. It's great to visit with her and staying with her makes the marathon very convenient. Oh yeah, it was also nice to set a PR here .... twice.

5) Flemington Turkey Trot - I've gotta give this race a shoutout. It's been a semi-tradition for me and Steve for 6 or 7 years. Most every Thanksgiving we drag ourselves over and run this race with varying degrees of seriousness. One year I did this just a few days after the JFK 50. This is one of my favorite races mostly for the memories. Steve's motivation for running (thinking running behind cute girls), starting in the very back and seeing how many people we can pass, Steve getting beaten by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the year my dad showed up and posted and age graded time that beat mine, etc. May the semi-tradition continue!

So these are some of my favorite races. What are your favorites?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

12/14/08: Training Log and 2009 Plan

After taking 2 weeks off after Philly, I started building back up this week. I didn't do any long runs, but I did hit the track. The workout actually went surprisingly well given how little I've been running. I seem to be able to maintain speed much better than I used to. Here's the day by day runs:
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: 8 miles easy
  • Monday: 7 miles easy
  • Tuesday: 8 miles easy
  • Wednesday: 7 miles. 10x400 @ 82 with only 100M jogging rest
  • Thursday: 7 miles easy
  • Friday: 5 miles easy
  • Total: 42 miles

I've also been doing some more planning for 2009. On the right I have the current plan listed out. I'll probably add a few more races and may end up not doing a few of the ones listed, but this is the rough plan.

In general I'd like to race a lot more next year. I really enjoy races, soI might as well do them more often. This will mean that I can't peak for all the races, but I can do a lot more of my long training runs as races, which will be more fun than running solo.

I plan to do a lot of 50s with marathons as hard training runs. I'd don't plan to actually go all out in any of the marathons or try for a newmarathon PR next year. I do want to break my 50 mile PR though. I'm excited to shoot for this at the JFK 50 in November. I had a lot of fun there last year and hope to improve significantly on my 7:51.

I hope some of you can join me for some of these races next year!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

12/7/08: Rest and Recovery

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

I don't have too much to report since Philly. I ended up taking the last two weeks off. I've been training hard all year and planned to take a week to recover. However, I got sick on Thanksgiving and unfortunately stayed sick for over a week.

Being sick was no fun, but it did force me not to run for two weeks. I went for a run again today and felt great - fresh and rejuvinated. I'll probably take it somewhat easy for the rest of December (40-60 mile weeks) and then really fire it back up in January.

While I'll keep the mileage lower, I do plan to try to get back out with the Road Runners and do some faster running. Hopefully I can maintain the speed that I built before Philly even when I go back into ultra training.

I've been spending a lot of time figuring out my racing plan for 2009. I'm still thinking through a few things and will post about that soon.

Monday, November 24, 2008

11/25/08: Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

The 2008 Philadelphia Marathon started out COLD. It was about 25 degrees when we woke up and probably still hadn’t gotten above 30 when the race started.

We had quite a crew running that day. My dad came in to run the half marathon. Jen ran the 8K. Our college friend, Roz, and her two roommates also ran the marathon. So we all froze our butts off together waiting for the race to finally start.

My game place was roughly to run 6:40s in the first half, which would put me around 1:27. This would give me some cushion for the slowdown that I now know will happen after mile 20. I also felt like this was a pace that would be a bit challenging but wouldn’t totally kill me.

The gun went off, and I took started at a pretty comfortable pace. I’ve done enough marathons now to avoid the tendency to get excited and start too fast. I didn’t see the first mile marker, so I had to just hope I was running the right pace. I came through 2 miles in 13:00, which was a little bit faster than I expected but not by too much.

Then I basically started churning out a bunch of miles between 6:10 and 6:30. It was faster than I had planned for, but I really was feeling surprisingly good and relaxed. I ran into a guy from the DC RoadRunners, Kevin, who I train with pretty frequently around mile 4. He typically finishes in the low to mid 2:50s, so I knew I was moving pretty fast to have caught him. I ran with him until about mile 9, and it was nice to have the company.

My only low point came somewhere in mile 9. Kevin was quickly pulling away, so I was worried that I was slowing down. I just didn’t feel comfortable pushing the pace anymore though, so I let him charge ahead (he went on to finish in 2:49 – amazing!). I must have also missed a mile marker, which made me even more nervous that I might be slowing down.

Around this time I got a weird cramp in my side too. It was definitely too early for that to be happening. I was pretty worried, but figured all I could do was keeping running and hope it would get better. Well, luckily it did. When I came to the next mile marker I discovered I actually rant the last 2 miles in 6:25s. Game on.

Mile 9 has the biggest hill on the course. The nice thing about running ultras in the mountains is that hills just don’t seem so scary anymore. This hill was like a bump in the road compared to Agony Hill or Suicide Six in Vermont.

I came through 10 miles in 6:27 pace and the half at about 6:30, which put me just under 1:25. My legs were definitely starting to get tired, but I was pretty I sure I could manage faster than 1:35 in the second half.

I kept charging hard for the next 4 or 5 miles and managed to stay in the 6:40s. But I started to really hurt between 17 and 18. I was struggling to stay on pace and keep focused. Mile 19 to 20 was another low point. This is right before your turn around at mile 20, so you’re really tired at this point and still running away from the finish, which is very mentally difficult.

I finally turned around at mile 20 and between heading back to the finish and the boom box blaring the Rocky Soundtrack, I had nice boost that carried my through the next mile (hearts on fire, baby). My legs were screaming by mile 21, though. I was fighting with all I had to hold on. I was still managing to hold 6:55 to 7:00, but I was fading fast. I was also starting to feel like I was going to throw up.

By Mile 23 I had the stop drinking at aid station to keep from vomiting. My legs were also hurting badly. It was worse than I had felt in previous marathons, and similar only the pain towards the end of the 100. I think my ultra training really paid off though, because I was able to push through the pain much better than in previous marathons. I don’t think I ever went slower than 7:20.

I keep charging with all I had towards the finish. I went by Roz and her friend somewhere around this point as they headed in the other direction. They both looked great and shouted encouragement for me. I was unable to speak at the time and managed only a vague point/wave. They both went on to great finishes, so congratulations to them! Roz's other roommate, Stacy, also went on to finish her first marathon. Welcome to the club, and congrats Stacy!

By 24 I knew I was going to make it under 3 hours, but I really wanted it to be over. As much as I hurt and as delirious as I was getting, I was able to feel excited that I was finally going to do it.

I hit the 25 mile marker and tried to push with all I had to get to the finish line. I was struggling mightily and on the limit of how much I could handle. After the 26 mile marker I had something vaguely resembling a kick and pushed it over the finish line in 2:55:43.

I could barely stand up let alone walk, but I was thrilled. I made it! After training so hard and so long, I finally went under 3 hours (and with room to spare). I teetered over to Jen and Dad who were right there to congratulate me and take care of me. I also forgot to grab a finisher’s medal, but luckily they reminded me to grab one.

Dad had ended up with a great half marathon finish. My parents are moving soon, so he’s been running around like crazy. It wasn’t his fastest half marathon, but it was still a great time, particularly given how tired he was going into it. Jen also had fun running the 8K despite a brief battle with frostbite 2 miles in. She is the only person I know to have stopped in the middle of a race to massage feeling back into her feet.

Well it was definitely emotional to have achieved a goal I worked so long towards. I was elated and totally spent. It took me 45 minutes to slowly hobble to the car that was only a few blocks away. After a short nap, I actually felt a lot better. The day after I felt surprisingly good too. I seem to be able to recover much more quickly from marathons now.

This was a memorable experience and a big milestone for me. That being said, I’m already excited about what’s next. I’d love hear plans that any of you have as well. Hopefully I can join you all for some races. Keep on running, keep on making it happen.

11/22/08: Pre-marathon musings

Breaking 3 hours in the marathon was one of the first goals I set in running. I start running about 5.5 years ago, and began training for my first marathon 4.5 years ago. I started my marathon training without much of a time goal, but somewhere along the way started to talk myself into thinking I was capable of going under 3 hours.

Ah, the folly of youth (I say at the ripe old age of 25). I ran the New York City marathon 4 years ago and was definitely humbled by the distance. Or perhaps more accurately, I got my ass handed to me.

I ran the first half in 1:30, right on pace. Most people hit “the wall” in a marathon at mile 20. I, however, hit the wall pretty soon after the halfway mark. Not good. I slowed down some and struggled to get to mile 20. After that I basically jogged it in with quite a bit of walking along the way. At one point, medical volunteers ran out onto the course to make sure I was ok. You’ve got to look pretty bad at the end of a marathon for that to happen.

I finished New York in 3:24, pretty far from the 3:00 I had deliriously hoped for. All in all, I still loved every minute of it and was still decently happy with my virgin marathon effort.

It took me a while to recover from New York and 1.5 years to talk myself into doing another marathon. I signed up for the Nashville Marathon and ran it with none other than Dylan Fitz, the outstanding runner and free-style walker with the best fashion sense you could ever find. Let’s just say the ladies loved his marathon outfit.

I had a lot of fun, but the race ended up going even worse than New York. I dropped somewhere around mile 14 and took the shuttle of shame to the finish. Dylan is a man among men and graciously stayed with me to cheer me up. I don’t know if it was me foolishly giving blood the week before or something else, but I just didn’t have it that day.

Well now I was REALLY fired up to kick ass in my next marathon. I quickly signed up for the Philadelphia marathon the following November. I knew it was a fast course that usually had good weather, so I planned to at least qualify for Boston and hopefully break 3 as well.

I trained like an animal. Throughout the DC summer heat, I ran 70 – 85 miles a week and crushed myself with tons of insane workouts. I toed the start line very overtrained and with some nagging pain in my right calf that happened when I ran the Marine Corps marathon as a training run right after an 85 mile week, my highest mileage week every at the time. I was determined though.

I gave it all I had. I again ran the first half right on pace, just under 1:30. I stayed on 3 hour pace until mile 20 this time, but the inevitable slowdown happened again. I held it together much better, though, and still managed to average somewhere around 7:40s in the last 10K to finish in 3:04. Still didn’t hit 3 hours, but I was ecstatic about qualifying for Boston.

I did pay a steep price for the overtraining, though. My calf was in rough shape after the marathon. I took a few months off to give it time to heal, but it wasn’t getting any better. I finally went to an orthopedist and was diagnosed with tendonitis. The good news is that a stiffer pair of insoles was all I needed to do the trick. My doctor told me I also needed to take it easy and not train quite so hard. Naturally I immediately signed up for the JFK 50 miler and started ramping up for that (my orthopedist hates me and actually yells at me when I come in there with some injury from some crazy thing I’ve done recently).

Having finally gotten a time I was pretty happy with in the marathon, I turned my attention towards ultras. It was only when I missed signing up for the JFK 50 before it filled that I thought to run Philly. It had been 2 years since my last marathon, and I’d lost a lot of speed in my ultra training. I also had only a few months to train before the race with a big break for the wedding and honeymoon right in the middle, but I figured why not? I hoped to finally break 3 and figured I’d have a good time even if I didn’t.

This time around I trained smarter and made sure to overtrain/injure myself. I cut back to only do 2 workouts a week, which I did with the DC Road Runners most of the time. Workouts are definitely more fun with company. I was also more flexible with my training and made sure to take days off when I was feeling too sore and tired.

As a result, I felt really good when I started Philly this time around. In my next post I’ll give a much too detailed account of how everything went.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

11/7/08: Weekly training log

  • Saturday: 17 w/ 12 @ 6:45
  • Sunday: 18 mile trail run (Bull Run)
  • Monday: 10 miles easy
  • Tuesday: 9 miles easy
  • Wednesday: 8 miles w/ 4 @ 6:30
  • Thursday: 8 miles easy
  • Friday: 8 miles easy
  • Total: 78 miles

This was the last big week of training before the Philadelphia Marathon. I am definitely in need of a taper now. On Saturday, I ran with the DC road runners and felt pretty good. Most of the run was closer to 7:00 miles, and then I really pushed the pace at the end (sub 6:30). I finished strong and was feeling pretty good.

I love the Bull Run trail, but Sunday was a pretty tough run. Between tired legs from the day before and staying out too late partying on Saturday night, it was pretty painful. My legs were tired for pretty much the rest of the week. I was also traveling for work on Wednesday and Thursday and had to run on a treadmill, which I really don’t like.

I’m pretty excited for Philly and looking forward to resting up and letting my body recover from all the hard training.

Monday, November 3, 2008

10/31/08: Halloween Week Training Update

  • Sunday: Off (trashed legs)
  • Monday: 24 @ 7:05
  • Tuesday: 8 easy
  • Wednesday: 10 easy
  • Thursday: 12 w/ 4 x 1mi @ 5:43
  • Friday: 7 easy
  • Total: 71

This was one of the best weeks of marathon training I’ve had. Sunday’s long run was fantastic. I was hoping at best to hit 7:20s for the 24 miles, but I ended up running 7:05 pace. I felt really smooth the whole way and had a lot in the tank at the end. It was perfect weather, and this was one of those days were you feel you can just run fast forever. Hopefully I’ll feel that way when I toe the line at Philly.

Wednesdays track workout was also a really great run. My legs were still a bit tired from Sundays long run, but I went in hoping for 5:50 mile repeats. I managed to run 4 repeats in 5:43 and felt great the whole way.

I’m really starting to get my speed back and think things could go really well in Philly.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

10/26/08: Weekly Training Log

This week's training started out with a 12 mile run on Saturday and the Potomac Heritage 50K on Sunday, so I was pretty tired for the rest of the week. I ended up skipping my usual track workout on Wednesday night because my legs were still too sore.

I managed to talk myself into mile repeats on Thursday morning, but I only ended up doing 2 since my legs were STILL sore. I was able to hit 5:45 for the repeats, so I was happy with that part. Her's the breakdown of the week:
  • Saturday - 12 miles easy
  • Sunday - Potomac Heritage 50K in 4:58
  • Monday - 7 miles easy
  • Tuesday - 10 miles easy
  • Wednesday - 12 miles easy
  • Thursday - 7 miles w/ 2 x 1mi @ 5:45
  • Friday - 6 miles easy
  • Total - 85 miles

I ended up running 85 miles for the week but was pretty tired by the end. I took an unscheduled off day on Saturday to give my legs a bit of time to recover.

Jen and I also helped out at the Brooks section of the Marine Corp Marathon expo. We were there with a bunch of other people in the Brooks ID program, and we had a great time meeting everyone. There were a lot of fast marathoners and some ultramarathoners as well. The people who work for Brooks were also awesome. They gave us a lot of free gear for volunteering our time, so Jen and I made out pretty well.

Hopefully I'll be able to get my legs back next week and get in some more hard runs before Philly. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 20, 2008

10/20/08: Potomac Heritage 50K Race Report

On Sunday I ran the Potomac Heritage 50K. It's a really low key "race" that the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club puts on.

I did a lot of hard running with 80 miles total the prior week (including 12 miles the day before), so I wasn't really planning to go all out. I was just looking for a good training run and to get some company while running.

The race starts at someone's house in DC. When I got there I saw Keith Knipling, who is an extremely badass ultramarathoner that lives in DC (he's won several of the hundreds in Virginia). When we started running I decided to try to hang with Keith. He's definitely faster than me, but I figured it would be fun to meet him. I also had no idea where I was going, and he knew the course well.

The first 9 miles were fairly flat and runnable. We were running at a pretty good pace, probably somewhere around 7:30 miles. The weather was perfect, and I was feeling good and having lots of fun.

The race really started after the aid station at mile 9. That's when we hit the Potomac Heritage Trail, which can be really rocky and technical in spots. The next 16 miles or so were on the PHT. I stayed with Keith until Mile 13, and then he took off and dusted and me. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

I haven't done many serious long runs since Vermont in July, so things started getting tough about halfway through the run. My legs were fine, but I've lost my ability to eat and drink on the run (my major weakness in ultras).

My stomach went steadily downhill, but I was still moving at a decent pace. At mile 29 I finally hit the breaking point and threw up on the side of the trail. While I was throwing up, the woman who had been running in 3rd place passed me. She was nice enough to make sure I was ok. I told her I would be fine and that she was running a great race.

I felt MUCH better after emptying my stomach and just cruised in the last couple of miles. I finished in 4:58 and 3rd place. I definitely could have run a lot faster if my stomach cooperated, but it was still a really good training run and lots of fun.

Hopefully I can do a lot more running with the VHTRC in the future. There are a lot of cool people in the club, and they put on great events.

10/17/08: Weekly Training Log

Well it’s been a great week of training. DC had beautiful weather, and I had some really good runs this week. Here’s the breakdown:

Saturday – 19 miles with 15 hard at 6:46 (ran w/ DC Road Runners)
Sunday – 18 mile trail run at Seneca Greenway
Monday – 7 miles easy
Tuesday – Off (traveling for work)
Wednesday – 12 miles with 7 x 800 @ 2:46
Thursday – 10 miles easy
Friday – 8 miles easy
Total – 80 miles

I was especially surprised by Saturday’s long run. I hadn’t done any long runs or speed work in 3-4 weeks with the wedding and honeymoon. I started out running with the lead pack and figured I’d see how far I could make it. They really started pushing the pace around mile 7, but I was able to hang on.

I did pay a price for it, though. Between that run and the following day’s 18 mile run, I was still a bit sore for the Wednesday night track workout. I still ran pretty well, but the workout was a bit harder than it should have been.

I’m also starting to get my race schedule set for next year. I signed up for the Bel Monte 50 Miler on March 28th. It’s on a pretty serious course out in George Washington National Forest with 11,000 feet of elevation gain and descent. This should be a really fun, challenging race, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m also planning to sign up for some 50Ks in February and March and may do a 50 miler/and or 50K in April.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

10/14/2008: Honeymoon running!

Well it has certainly been far too long since my last post. The big news is that I got married on September 19th! It was a beautiful day and everything went really well. Jen and I then headed to Greece for two weeks for our honeymoon. We had an amazing time.

We actually did some great hiking while we were there. Our first stop was the island of Naxos, which is home to Mt. Zues, a 3,000+ foot mountain that is the highest point in the Greek islands. It was a really fun hike up it and was very technical and rocky. The view from the top was also unbelievable.

Our hotel in Naxos also had a treadmill, so I did a few quick runs on the last two days we were there. At the next island, Paros, there wasn’t really a very good way to run. I didn’t mind the relaxation too much though. We also went on a nice hike again one of the three days we were there. Santorini was an ideal place to run, and Jen was really good about letting me head out early in the morning to get an hour of running in. Santorini was formed by a massive volcanic eruption 3,500 years ago, so the island is basically a half moon shape with a thousand foot cliff at the edge going straight down the ocean. There is a great stone path/trail that runs all along the edge of the cliff. I ran along that most morning we were there, and Jen and I hiked the whole path one day to get to another town on the island. It’s tough to imagine a more beautiful place to run. Now I’m back training hard again. Usually I feel like I lose a lot of fitness on vacations, but I came back with my body feeling rested and ready for hard training. I ran 52 miles this week from Monday to Friday and had a great track workout with the DC Road Runners Wednesday night. The workout was 20 minutes hard, 2 minutes rest, 15 minutes hard. I ran 6:08 pace for the first 20 minutes covering a bit of 3 miles. In the 15 minutes, I ran 6:00 pace for 2.5 miles. This is very fast for me, and I was shocked that I was able to run so well after being on vacation. I’m really feeling good about Philly and looking forward to it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

9/15/08: Training update

Two weeks ago I decided that I needed a down week to do some recovery. I took a couple of days off and hit 46 miles for the week.

The time off did wonders. Last week I ran 84 miles and got in a fast long run with the DC RoadRunners and a good track workout (5x1000 @ 3:20).

This is my last week of training before heading off for the honeymoon. I'm hoping to get another 80+ mile week in and some good speedwork. I'll let you all know how it goes!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

9/3/08: Ultrarunning nutrition

A lot of people have been asking me about what I ate/drank when running the Vermont 100. When I tell people, they usually think I’m even crazier (if that’s even possible).

When I ran the JFK 50 last fall, I did practice eating and drinking on the run, but I still wasn’t very good at it (especially the eating part). I probably had fewer than 1,000 calories over the course of the race, which is not a lot considering I burned well over 5,000.

I had only one gel and a bit of water in the last 16 miles, and I coasted in on fumes. I just barely made it to the finish line of 50 miles, but I knew I would be in big trouble if I tried to run even further.

In the 8 months between JFK and Vermont, I worked to find a nutrition system that could keep me fueled for hours on end of running without upsetting my stomach. It wasn’t easy, but I think I finally have it figured out.

I’ll start with what I’ve found doesn’t work well for me:
Gatorade: When I say I’ve run 100 miles, most people think I must consume 10 gallons of Gatorade. I actually drink almost no Gatorade regardless of how long I’m running. It’s occasionally fine at the beginning of a run, but it just doesn’t sit well in my stomach, especially after hours of running. Some ultramarathoners drink it, but it seems that there are many others like me who avoid it.
Gels: Gels are a staple for a lot of marathoners and half-marathoners. I use them quite a bit for runs under 20 miles. My favorite are e-Gels, which are actually popular among bikers but don’t seem well known to runners. However, when I go beyond 20 miles, I don’t want to go anywhere near a gel. After I’ve had two or three gels, I just can’t stomach them anymore.
Hot Food: A lot of ultramarathoners really like hot food, especially in the latter half of a 100 miler. Chicken soup is really popular, and a lot of runners will turn to burgers and pizza if it’s available. Dean Karnazes is well known for eating an entire pizza while running in is ultra-distance adventures. I’ve never had any desire for hot food while running, though. I think if I did try it, there would be a decent chance that the food would come back up.

So here are the things that do work really well for me:
Salt pills: It’s incredibly important to keep your electrolytes and salt intake in balance when running for a long time. Since I don’t drink Gatorade, I really need to pay attention to this. I need to use salt pills for any run over 3 hours (2 hours if it’s hot outside). On these long runs I’ll typically have the first one after an hour and then again every 40 – 60 minutes. I use a kind called Succeed caps, but there are a few other varieties out there as well.
Water: It’s simple, but it works. I’ll drink only water on any run up to 30 or 35 miles. It’s really important to have the salt pills in combination with the water, though. Without salt your body has trouble absorbing the water, which can make you feel both dehydrated AND overly full of water.
Clif Shot Bloks: I prefer these to gels in the first 20 or 30 miles of a run. They have more calories (200 per package) and go down pretty well. Whereas I cut off eating Gels at 20 miles, I can usually keep going with these until mile 35 or so.
Clif Bars: I REALLY like Clif Bars (both when running and when just snacking). I usually bring them along in any run over 25 miles and will have one around mile 15 and a second around mile 25.
Ensure: It’s a bit embarrassing, but I do actually drink Ensure. 8 ounces of Ensure has 350 calories and lots of protein. It’s about the fastest way you can get a big energy boost. I’ll bring Ensure along for runs over 30 miles as long as it’s not too hot outside. I have a harder time stomaching it when it does get hot.
Soda: I start to really crave soda after 4 or 5 hours of running. It’s a fast way to get a lot of calories, and it’s easy to stomach since it’s liquid. Ginger Ale has the added benefit of helping to settle your stomach. The hotter it gets, the more difficult it is to stomach sold food. I’ll rely more and more on soda when it gets hot on runs.
Fig newtons, cheez-its, pretzels: These snack foods have good number of calories and some salt as well. A baggie or two of these is great on runs over 30 miles.
PB&J: This one was new to me, but I had a LOT of PB&J at Vermont. I would estimate I had around 7 sandwiches. The longer I run, the more “regular” solid food I crave. PB&J has a lot of good fat, protein, and carbs to keep you going.
Boiled potatoes: This is a staple for ultramarathoners since it has so many carbs and is so easy to eat. A lot of people cover the potatoes in salt, but I prefer mine just plain.

Below is what I’ll bring for a few of the typical runs that I do:

Easy 20 mile run
Nathan handheld filled with water (I’ll try to refill this at least once in water fountains)
2-3 salt pills if it’s hot out
1 E-gel
2 Clif Shot Bloks
35 mile trail run
Nathan 020 filled with water (70 ounces)
10-12 salt pills
2-3 Clif Shot Bloks
Clif Bar
Baggie with Fig Newtons & Cheez-Its
Nathan handheld with water or soda

So that’s some insight into my crazy eating habits while I’m out on the trail. Hopefully it will give you some ideas of what to experiment with when you’re out running.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

8/30/08: Eye of the Tiger

I've been dying to sign up for a race this fall but ended up missing out on both the North Face 50 and the JFK 50. I finally decided to go to Rocky's home town and run the Philadelphia Marathon.

I would definitely prefer an ultramarathon or a trail race, but I think it'll be fun to try to run a fast marathon again. I set my marathon PR there in 2006 and it's a very fast course, so hopefully I can put up a good time even though I'm a slow ultramarathoner now.

So for now I'll do more speed work and temp workouts to get ready, and then it'll be back to the trails in 2009!

8/29/08: Weekly Training Log & Trail Pictures

I had another great week of training. I've been working some crazy hours, but I've still been able to squeeze my runs in, and I got to 81 miles this week.

Saturday: 14 miles easy
Sunday: 28 mile trail run
Monday: 7 miles easy
Tuesday: 10 miles with with 8 hilly, faster miles
Wedensday: 8 mile trail run in Boston
Thursday: 7 mile speed workout (3x1mi in 6:00, 5:48, 5:36)
Friday: 7 miles easy

I felt really solid in the long trail run on Sunday even though it got very hot by the end of the run. Wednesday was also an awesome run. I was up in Boston for work and found some trails near the hotel I was staying at. I went to Callahan State Park, and the trails weren't too hilly or too technical, but it was very scenic and lots of fun. It was certainly a step up from my usual treadmill runs when I'm traveling for work.

I was also pleasantly surprised with the speed workout on Thursday. My first two speed workouts after 6 months of only endurance training were pretty terrible. I guess the third time is a charm. I need to make it a priority to do speed work once a week even when I'm training for ultramarathons. I think they really help for any distance.

Below are some pictures from the Sunday trail run. The run was entirely on trails right in Washington, DC. I'm always amazed at how many trails are inside DC and how scenic they are, so I tried to take some pictures along the way. Unfortunately, most of my pictures were terrible, and the memory card filled up before the best part of the run (Rock Creek Park). At least a few of them turned out well.

(Entrance to the Glover Archebald Trail)

(This trail runs for 3 miles right through Northwest DC)

(I don't know what this is, but it's right off Glover Archebald and looks pretty cool)

(Battery Kemble park, which links to Glover Archebald)

(Random creek in Glover Archebald)

I'll try to get more Rock Creek Park pictures some other time.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

8/22/08: Weekly Training Log

This was a pretty solid week of training. The ramp up after Vermont is going well.

Saturday: 26 miles on the Appalachian Trail
Sunday: 12 mile easy run
Monday: 7 mile easy run
Tuesday: 10 mile hill & trail run
Wednesday: Off (traveling for work)
Thursday: 9 miles w/ 6x800 in 2:57 (200m rest)
Friday: 6 mile easy
Overall: 70 miles

I'm trying to focus a lot more on speed and cross training. I didn't get to the gym much this week because I was working long hours, but the track workout on Thursday was good. It was extremely tough, and I should have run those intervals faster, but I've done almost no speedwork for 6 months. Hopefully I can keep forcing myself to get out to the track once a week and get some speed back.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

8/17/08: Appalachian Trail Adventure

I've been laying fairly low since the Vermont 100 trying at first to just recover and then nursing a bit of a knee issue, which I think was due to waiting too long to get new shoes.

I'm finally feeling mostly better, though my knee isn't quite 100% yet. The weather was beautiful this weekend in the DC area and Jen was out of town, so I figured what better time for an adventure out on the trail?

I decided to head to the Appalachian Trail where is crosses through Harper's Ferry. I haven't run on the AT except for the 16 mile stretch in the JFK 50, and this was only a 1:05 minute drive from where I live. The plan was to do somewhere around 25 miles, which would interesting since I hadn't done any mountain running or runs over 14 miles since Vermont.

(Shenandoah River in the morning)

I woke up at a5:15 and was on the trail by about 7am. After a little section through the town of Harpers Ferry where the Appalachian Trail Center is location, I went over the bridge that crossed the Shenandoah river. The two pictures above are from the bridge, and it was a really cool sight. There was a lot of fog, which made for a really beautiful sunrise.

Once I crossed the bridge, I headed up into the mountains. The first two miles went straight up, and I was already tired when I hit the top! I eventually hit my stride and started running pretty well. I felt good for the first 3 hours, but the last 1.5 hours were a struggle. Terrain was pretty tough and rocky, and it had been a while since I'd run this long.

All in all I had a great time, though. This run kicked my butt, but the bright side is that I'm sure it'll be a good jumpstart back into serious trail running. I'd definitely like to explore more of the AT, and I'd also like to go back to Harpers Ferry just to hang out some. I highly recommend a day trip there.

(Pretty much the only part of the trail without rocks of hills)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

8/13/08: Feels like the first time

The title for this post is great song by Foreigner. Which song by Foreign isn’t great? Oh yeah, “I want to know what love is.”

Anyway, I had fantastic run yesterday morning. It’s the kind of run that makes me remember why I love running and why I started running the first place. The weather was beautiful. August has been unseasonably nice in DC, with daily high temperatures in the 80s and almost no humidity.

I woke up early to a crisp, cool day. It was in the low 60s without a cloud in the sky. I headed out for a nine mile run on one of my favorite trails that runs along the west bank of the Potomac. The Potomac Heritage Trail is surprisingly rugged and remote feeling considering that it runs right in the center of the DC area.

It was simply a fantastic run. My legs felt great, and I was moving at a good pace. There was a low lying mist over the river, early morning sun shining low through the trees, and beautiful waterfalls along the side of the trail. It doesn’t get much better.

On a less exciting note, I didn’t manage to sign up for the North Face 50 or JFK 50 before they filled up. I’m especially bummed about JFK 50 since I was really looking forward to going back this year and trying to beat my time from last year of 7:51.

I’ve been looking around for races in the area, but I can’t find any ultras in the area that aren’t already full. There are just too many people doing this crazy sport! With the wedding and honeymoon this fall, I really don’t know if I’ll want to spend the money to travel somewhere (like the Stone Cat 50 mile), so I may not have a big race again until 2009.

I do have big plans for 2009 though (maybe a topic for another post), so the main thing is that I continue training hard without a race to motivate me. I seem to usually be pretty good in the motivation department, so hopefully that won’t be a problem for me.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

8/9/08: Olympics!

It's been three weeks since I finished the Vermont 100. Recovery has been going pretty well. After about a week and half, I was able to start running again. I'm getting back into training now and feeling pretty good.

I've also been fortunate enough to have Brooks agree to sponsor me. I've been running in their shoes for a while now, so it's great that they'll be able to help me out.

The really exciting thing going on now is the Olympics. There are a lot of great American distance runners, and I'm excited to see what they can do. What are your predictions for the Men's and Women's marathons? The fields are very stacked this year, so I'm curious to see what you all think. I'll let you know my predictions shortly. Whatever happens, I'm sure they will be very interesting races with the crazy conditions in Beijing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

7/22/08 Vermont 100 Race Report

I successfully completed my first 100 miler, finishing in 19:20 and 11th place. That's the short version. Here's the long version:

The leadup

My fiancee and I took off early Friday morning to head up to Vermont. We flew to Hartford, rented a car, and drove to the race headquarters at Silver Hill Meadow. I got my race number and did my medical check.

We had some time to kill before the pre-race briefing, so we drove up to Woodstock to hang out for a bit. Woodstock is a pretty, quaint town, and we had a good time burning a few hours there.

We got back for the 3:45 pre-race briefing. Pretty much the only part of this I remember is the race director telling us it could get into the 90s, it would be humid, and we might have thunderstorms. I nearly wet my pants. Not ideal conditions for my first 100 miler.

I loaded up on as much food as I could stomach in the pre race dinner. My parents then arrived, and we headed to the hotel we'd be staying at, which was about a half hour away.

I got all my bags and gear ready while they had some dinner nearby. We talked about the game plan for the next day, and at 9 I tried to get to sleep.

Unsurprisingly I wasn't able to fall asleep for a while. When I did finally fall asleep, the people in the next room got back and started to make a lot of noise. They were pretty noisy for the next few hours, and I had gotten very little sleep when the alarm went off at 2:30.

My fiancee got up and headed to the start line. My parents would be joining later in the day so they could get some rest first.

At 4am they told us to get on out of there and the race was on.

Part 1: Start to 21 (00:00 to 03:30)

Believe it or not, this was actually the worst part of the race for me. We took off into the night and soon hit the first trail section. It was very humid and misty, so it was a bit tough to see the trail well. My legs felt good, but my stomach was definitely not right. I wasn't able to drink a lot, and I was eating way less than I should.

I started to really get uncomfortable around mile 10, but I just focused on powering through it. I think I had actually eaten too much before the race, and my stomach just didn't want anything else. From miles 0 to 15 I had only drank one bottle (about 20 ounzes), had a Clif shot block, and eaten one gel. My stomach is always my biggest problem, so I was definitely worried that I was getting in too much trouble early on.

At mile 15 we crossed the Taftsville covered bridge, which was in a very pretty area. About a half mile later, I got to the aid station and was about to blow through it since I had my Nathan pack with me, which still had tons of water and food left. Then I saw the soda they had out and thought that I should refill my bottle with that and see if that would snap me out of my funk.

There was a lot of uphill coming out of mile 15, and I slowly sipped away at the Coke as I climbed. I could feel it boosting energy, and my stomach started to slowly settle down. By about 18 miles I felt good enough to eat a Clif Bar. I was back on track now and having a good time. There was some really pretty trail in this section and some great views in the couple of miles coming into Pretty House.

I also started talking to guy I recognized from the Diablo marathon out in California. I had come in 4th there, and he was ahead of me in 3rd. We came into Pretty House together.

I was great to see Jen for the first time here. I told her that I wanted to refill my bottle with ginger ale and ice. It was starting to get warm, and I figured the ginger ale would be a great way to get some calories and continue to settle my stomach. The aid station didn't have ginger ale, so I settled for Coke and ice. Jen said she'd have ginger ale for the next aid station. She's the best!

I got out of there quickly and headed on down the road.

Section 2: 21 to 30 (3:30 to 5:05)

The guy from the Diablo marathon caught me a little ways down the road, and we ran together for a while. There was a lot of uphill in this section, and I hiked and ran it pretty hard. I started to really notice that I was passing a lot of people on the uphills.

At all the aid stations in this section I was refilling my bottle with ice and Coke. I was drinking nothing but soda at this point. I was also hitting the S-caps pretty hard as it was already very hot.

Around 26 or 27 I had an Ensure, which was a bit tough to get down. I love Ensure in the cool weather, but I have a really hard time stomaching it in the hot weather. This time was no exception, and my stomach wasn't so happy with me.

Around mile 28 we hit Sound of Music Hill. This is one of the highest points along the course and has some fantastic views. We then started the descent to the Stage Road aid station. Some of the people who I passed on the uphill went by me again on this downhill section. This was another consistent theme of the day.

I came into Stage Road feeling pretty decent. This was a much more involved stop than Pretty House. My Nathan 020 pack had served me well up until now, but the aid stations would be close enough together from here on out, so I dropped it off with Jen. She had also bought Ginger Ale, so I filled my bottle up with that and ice. I grabbed a baggie with more S-caps, and Jen had a baggie ready for me with pretzels, cheez-its, and fig newtons. She told me she needed me to eat more. She got my hat out and we put a bunch of ice it in before I took off. Jen was doing a fantastic job taking good care of me.

Stage 3: 30 to 47 (5:10 to 8:05)

I took off running from Stage Road. The bottle full of ice and ice in my hat felt great. I continued doing this for the rest of the day, and I think it was hugely important in keeping me cool.

On the big climb coming out of Stage Road the lead horse passed me. It was really fun to see the horses throughout the day. I used the time spent hiking uphill to eat some of the food Jen had packed for me.

I felt great over these 17 miles. I continued drinking tons of soda (a full bottle every 3 miles at this point) and was keeping pretty cool. I was pushing the pace pretty hard over these 17 miles. There were also some more great views, and I was having a fantastic time. Around mile 35 or so I passed the guy from the Diablo marathon (I guess he had beaten me out of the aid station). I told him to keep at it and went by.

It was around mile 35 that I also started feeling my legs get tired. Not bad tired, but noticeably tired. Now the run was getting serious. There was a monster of a climb around mile 38. It seemed to go on forever, but I was making good time up it and felt good.

From the top of this hill we had a nice long downhill into the next aid station. I had a half PB&J sandwich here, which would be the first of many. As we got close to Camp 10 bear, I made sure to finish my bottle since I was worried about whether my weight would be down. I came into Camp 10 Bear feeling great and excited to see my crew.

My Dad joined Jen here and would be with her crewing for the rest of the race. They hooped and yelled as I came in, and it was a great feeling. They were a bit worried and asked how I was feeling. I said "are you kidding me? I'm still enjoying this!" I weighed in and had only lost one pound. Fantastic! I asked Jen to get me more Ginger Ale, ice, and a baggie with PB&J and turkey. I also took a few Tylenol 8 hours here.

Stage 4: 47 to 57 (8:10 to 10:05)

I took off feeling really great. As I ran down the road I munched on the PB&J and turkey. The turkey wasn't going down so well, but the PB&J hit the spot. Then we hit a completely ridiculous uphill. I hiked this as hard as I could and finally hit the mile 51 aid station.

They refilled my bottle with Coke and asked how I was doing. I told them I felt great and took off down the road. My stomach started to feel a little worse. I wasn't totally sure why, but something felt off. When I got to the next aid station at 54 or so, I grabbed a boiled potato. They asked if I wanted salt, so I said sure! I ate the potato and nearly threw it back up. At that moment I realized what the problem was. Salt. Too much of it. With all the S-Caps and soda I was drinking I had somehow gotten way too much salt in my system.

I eased off drinking the soda and tried to just cruise the rest of the way to the mile 57 aid station. I ran a bunch of the way with a guy I'd been see-sawing with along the way. He'd run Vermont 4 times and was giving me lots of good tips on the course. He's also stopped at the mile 54 aid station and taken a swim in the pond. Gotta love that.

I came hauling into the 57 aid station feeling better already now that I'd slowed down drinking the soda. I asked for water this time instead of soda (the first thing aside from soda I'd drank since mile 15). I also took some Tums to help settle my stomach. Jen made me another bag of food, I refilled my hat with ice, and I was off.

Stage 5: 57 to 62 (10:07 to 11:05)

The guy I ran in with had already taken off with another guy who got in before me. I quickly caught up with them but was moving faster and went right on by. This is the longest climb of the course. It is 3 miles straight uphill and the top is the highest part of the course. I felt great in this section. I actually ran a good amount of the uphill and hiked hard up the rest. I was eating pretty steadily at this point as well. I was still having PB&J and also ate some boiled potatoes. Jen had been slipping them into my food bag all along even though I wasn't asking for them. They were actually going down really well, and I was grateful.

At the top I ran into a woman who I had seen in front of me at various points throughout the day. We chatted for a while, and she said she wasn't feeling so well. I ended up moving on ahead to the Margaritaville aid station (she later smoked me going into the next aid station, and I never saw her again).

I felt fantastic at Margaritaville and had another quick stop. I sat down for a few seconds and let my crew get me ready to go. I was pretty excited that the next section would be my last section run alone, so that got me all fired up and ready to go.

Section 6: 62 to 70 (11:08 to 12:40)

Well it rained pretty much the whole way in this section. I had taken my singlet off at Mile 62 since it was just getting so wet. This was probably a smart move since it would have really been soaked in this section.

I passed a lot of people in the first half of these 8 miles, but most of them re-passed me on the downhill coming into Camp 10 Bear.

I still felt good at this point, but I wasn't thrilled about how wet my feet were and how muddy the course had gotten with the downpour.

My spirits were certainly lifted when I came to Camp 10 Bear though. My mom was there this time along with Jen and my Dad. They all cheered loudly as I came in. I weighed in, and my weight was exactly even. What a relief.

I got my shoes off quickly and popped a blister. Apparently no one around had a pin, so I had to take one of the safety pins holding my number to pop it. I duck taped over the former blister, put my socks back on, and got laced up again. Another bottle refill and food baggie and I was ready to go. Best of all, my Dad would be pacing me for the next 7 miles!

Stage 7: 70 to 77 (12:46 to 14:20)

This was by far my favorite part of the course. I always love running with my dad, and we were having a great time. We hit a long, steep uphill right away and immediately passed two runners.

I was feeling great and charging hard thanks to the mental boost from having dad there. It was also great to get him to see what this ultramarathoning thing is all about. He's a big runner himself and does half marathons. We had a great time enjoying the views and hammering away at the course.

Somewhere around this point I also developed a race motto. At my charity site, one person who donated left the simple message of KATN. Kick Ass Take Names (thanks, Rita!). Well that's what I was doing. I ended up not being passed once after mile 70, and I just kept picking off runners.

Dad and I passed four people in this section. As we came to mile 77, I was sad to see him go, but looking forward to meeting my next pacer.

I still felt remarkably good after 77 miles. I couldn't believe I hadn't crashed yet. I was still running hard, my stomach felt good, and my legs were holding up well. I grabbed some potatoes, refilled my bottle and hat, and took off with Gabrielle.

Stage 8: 77 to 88.5 (14:12 to 16:40)

I didn't know anyone other than Dad who would be able to pace me, so I requested one from the folks organizing the race. They found Gabrielle, who was kind enough to offer to help out in this race after really enjoying the Vermont 50K.

We chatted for the first few miles and got to know each other. It was really great to have company out there. After I few miles I started to really tire for the first time. It became much more of a mental struggle around mile 80.

Running hurt a lot, so I actually dreaded the flats because I still refused to let myself walk flat parts. Running the downhills was also getting really painful. I actually looked forward to the uphills as I got a break from running, and hiking still felt ok. Even running the more gradual uphills didn't feel too bad.

Bit by bit we made our way towards Bills aid station. I really wanted to get there before dark. I had planned on grabbing my headlamp at 77 but had forgotten in the excitement. Gabrielle had one, so we could make do if we had to, but I was really hoping it wouldn't come to that.

Gabrielle was doing a great job at distracting me. She kept up a pretty consistent stream of conversation, which was great. We finally made the climb up into Bill's and did manage to get there in daylight.

I was certainly happy to see Jen and Dad again. I weighed in with my weight still dead even. I couldn't believe it. 88.5 miles, and I hadn't lost a pound! I ate a bit of fruit, which was the only thing that looked good. It was getting harder to eat at this point. Since my weight was still even and I only had 11.5 miles left, I wasn't planning on eating a whole lot more.

I had asked at mile 77 for dad and Jen to find out what place I was in when I came into Bill's. Dad told me I was in 13th. Good lord! 13th place in my first 100 mile race! I was really fired up now. Then a guy who came into the aid station after me left. My dad sad "well, guess you're 14th now." He didn't have to tell me twice. I shot up, grabbed a bag of fruit Jen had made me and took off with Gabrielle.

Stage 9: 88.5 to 99.5 (16:45 to 18:10)

I quickly caught the guy who left the aid station just before me. Gabrielle and I took off motoring at a good pace. It started to get quite dark, and it was pretty tough to see when we hit the next trail section. It was getting really misty and foggy again.

Nonetheless we continued to make good time. Around mile 90 or 91 we saw a porcupine, which was pretty cool. At first I though I was hallicinating and then I got worried that it was a skunk (the mind doesn't work so well after running 90 miles). I finally realized what it was, and I guess I can say I've seen a porcupine in the wild now.

There was a big climb into the mile 92 aid station, but we finally made it. I spent very little time here and we kept on chugging. I was just trying to run as much as possible at this point. It was really getting tough, and I was starting to have to dig deep. We did pass someone in this stretch, and the poor guy looked terrible. He could barely stand, and I hope that he was able to still finish.

I willed myself to keep running, and we finally go to Polly's. Polly's was pretty cool. It was really foggy and misty, very few people were there, and there was a guy playing bagpipes. It was very surreal.

I didn't need anything else at this point. I said bye to Jen and Dad and took off on a mission to finish the last 4.5 miles.

Stage 10: 95.5 to 100 (18:12 to 19:20)

We ran a lot coming out of Polly's. Gabrielle and I ran most of the next 2.5 miles. I just really wanted to finish. At this point I knew I was going to make it. I also knew I would make it under 20 hours, which was insane to me. I never thought I'd get anywhere close to that time. We passed one more guy, putting me in 11th place.

The last two miles were brutal. We hit a steep, rugged uphill trail that had thick, thick mud. A few steps trying to run in that, and my legs just gave out. My right calf pulled or something and I was just toast. I knew I was close enough that I would still finish, but I had no choice but to slow down some.

We kept inching closer and closer. I had thought I would start to get excited and feel a rush of adrenaline, but I was just so spent. I'd been pushing so hard all day I just wanted to get it over with.

Gabrielle gave me some great motivation and kept me on the right track (I almost certainly would have gotten lost without her). We finally saw the glowing gallon jugs and crossed the finish line. I was ecstatic. I hugged Gabrielle, hugged Jen, hugged my Dad. I couldn't believe I finished the Vermont 100 in 19:20. I was overwhelmed. And tired. And my legs hurt.


I limped over to the main tent and collapsed on a cot. A medical volunteer asked me how I was. I said I was very tired, but felt fine and was very happy. He asked if I was cold. I said I was extremely warm. He responded by putting a blanket around me. I've done enough races by now to know that I would get cold very soon, so I didn't fight him. Lo and behold, I asked for another blanket a few minutes later.

The plan was to hang out for a bit, have me eat some food, and then head back to the hotel. Jen got me some chicken soup, but one sip of that and I almost threw up. My stomach just totally shut down. I ended up eating nothing for 12 hours! Trying to sleep that night was quite an adventure. My legs hurt so much I could barely sleep at all.

It was such an amazing experience running this race. I still can't believe how well it went. I also want to thank everyone for making this possible. I couldn't have done it without Jen, my parents, and Gabrielle. They were the best crew and pacers I could have asked for. I also owe a lot to the volunteers who put on such a fantastic race. They do such a great job with aid stations, course marking, and everything else.

It was truly an unforgettable experience.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

7/16/08 The Final Countdown

Well, it's almost time. Just a couple days left to the Vermont 100.

It's been a wild ride training for this thing. I've definitely pushed very hard. Training started about six months ago at the beginning of this year. I've run over 2,100 miles over these last six months.

Some more training stats:

  • 31 runs over 20 miles
  • 17 runs over 25 miles
  • 11 runs over 30 miles
  • 4 runs over 35 miles
  • 1 50 mile run
  • 18 weeks of 80+ miles
  • 11 weeks of 90+ miles
  • 3 weeks of 100+ miles

I definitely feel ready and well conditioned now. The only doubt in my mind right now is the weather. It's supposed to be 90 degrees on race day with thunderstorms. Not quite ideal. Oh well. I've come too far to let weather stop me.

Hopefully I'll be posting a victorious race report here shortly. Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

7/6/08 Back in the saddle again

As I mentioned in my last post, training wasn't going so well for while. Well I definitely had my comeback this weekend.

On Friday July 4th I did 22 miles, which was pretty rough because I hadn't been running much in the prior week. I took it pretty easy on Saturday and then headed out to the Massanuttens on Sunday.

I woke up at 4 and drove out to the trailhead where I volunteered for the MMT 100. My plan was to run 8-10 hours if things went well. This would be a pretty long run given that I was only two weeks out from Vermont, but I hadn't done a run this long in training yet. This was my last chance before the big day.

I brought a ton of stuff with me and planned to swing back to the car once in the middle of the run to restock.

The run went even better than I could have expected. I ended up running for 9.5 hours on an extremely rugged, mountainous course. I estimate that I covered 50 miles and 20K of elevation change based on the MMT 100 course description. It was a beautiful area, and there were some fantastic views whenever I got to the top of a mountain.

My legs felt great and my stomach held up really well. I was eating and drinking a ton and still felt like I had a lot of energy when I finished. The only tough part was that the course was very wet from all the previous rain, so my feet were pretty soaked for the whole time. I ended up with some pretty nasty blisters, but they were nothing that taking it easy for the next few days won't fix.

By far the highlight of the run was when I circled back to the car to restock. There was a family hanging out by the trailhead, and I said hi to them. The father said hi back and asked how far I was jogging. I said that I'd probably run about 32 miles. He asked how long that had taken, and I said about six hours (it was not quite even noon at this point). He looked pretty sure that I was crazy at this point.

I then proceeded to chug 20 ounzes of ginger ale, eat three handfuls of cheez-its, refill my pack with water, refill my water bottle, grab a few more clif bars, call jen quickly to say I was ok, and headed back out the trail. I think I might as well have been an alien.

Anyway, this run was a fantastic confidence booster for Vermont. If I feel as good as I did today, I should definitely be able to finish.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

6/28/08 Tough Times

On the whole my training has been going really well since the start of 2008. This last week hasn’t quite been ideal though.

Last Saturday morning I planned to wake up at 3:30 in the morning planning to run 50 miles on some trails that are 15 minutes from my parent’s house in New Jersey. I was up for the weekend for Jen’s first bridal shower.

I made some careful preparation and hit the trail while it was still dark. It was a beautiful morning with great weather. My legs felt good, and I really love running these very scenic trails. Unfortunately my stomach just didn’t cooperate.

I don’t know if it was eating Quiznos at a rest stop on the drive up the night before or something else, but I was not doing so well. I made it through 30 miles and then called it quits.

I really wanted to get a run of around 50 miles in before the big race in Vermont. However, this weekend is my bachelor’s party (woohooo!) and then I’m only two weeks away from the race.

On Thursday night, I decided to give running 50 another shot. I took off from work around 5 and started running. It was extremely hot and we were supposed to get thunderstorms, so I decided to run on the treadmill at least until it cooled off.

Yet again it was not meant to be. My stomach was bothering me again, and I had started getting sick the night before. I think it’s just a relatively minor cold, but it started slowing me down after 25 miles. Between that and my stomach acting up, I had to call it quits after 30 miles again.

My stomach is a big concern for me up in Vermont. I just seem to have a really hard time stomaching enough calories to keep me moving. I’m going to take another shot at a really long run next weekend even though it’s only two weeks out from Vermont. I think I’m in good enough shape to recover in time.

It seems like me finishing Vermont will definitely come down to my stomach. A few years ago I would not have guessed that would be the hardest part. I guess I’ll just hope for the best.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

6/15/08 - Little Running Deer

This weekend I was in Chicago with Jen to do some wedding preparation. Since Vermont is only 5 weeks ago, my goal was to fit in some good training around the schedule we had set for the weekend.

You may know this, but Chicago is flat. Insanely flat. There also aren’t lots of good places for ultramarathoners to run. There are some trails around Jen’s house, but they are all paved and relatively short. I finally took the time to research trails nearby and found two promising candidates within a 20 minute drive. The plan was to run one trail Saturday morning and the other Sunday morning.

I was told on Saturday that I had to be back by 10, so I woke up at 5:45 and planned to run as long as I could before I had to go back. I got on the trail at 6:15 and was definitely pleasantly surprised. It was a beautiful forest preserve with lots of double track and single track trail. The forest even had some hills! There were at least 20 mile of trails, so I would have of exploring to do.

Lots of the trail (especially the single track) was very muddy, but I was having a great time. The area is also called Deer Grove, and I can see why. There were deer everywhere! While I was running I had a random thought pop into my head (that happens a lot if you run long enough). I thought back to when I was in Indian Guides with my father. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this, it’s kind of like Boy Scouts (though probably a bit less intense).

So when you’re an Indian Guide, you get to choose your Indian name (not very PC, I know). Most of the kids my age chose fierce things like “mauling bear” or majestic things like “soaring eagle.” Well, I chose “little running deer.” I don’t know why. I didn’t know why then, and I still don’t. But today I felt like it was an appropriate choice. I certainly do a lot of running, and here I was running around with all the deer.

I ended up having time for 22 miles on Saturday. My legs felt more sluggish than I would have liked, but all in all it was a good run.

Sunday was certainly a much more interesting experience. I woke up at 5:45 again to drive to the other trail. The trail looked very promising and seemed very scenic. It also went for over 30 miles in one direction, so I was planning on doing a 30 mile out and back run.

Well about 2 minutes in I came across a section of the trail that had been flooded. And I mean FLOODED. For a few hundred feet it was calf deep water. I started fording my way through it and noticed that there were 18 inch carp swimming around me. It is definitely not a good sign when you are trying to go for a run and fish are swimming around your feet.

I figured I’d just try to power through and hope the rest of the trail was better. After two relatively short sections of flooding there was a monstrously flooded section. It was probably well over waist deep, but I didn’t bother testing it out. Luckily I was able to bypass that section by diverting up to a grassy area.

After this third section it seemed like clear sailing. I had at least a mile of dry trail. Then things took a turn for the worse. It was knee deep for at least half a mile. After fording through this for a while, I decided that was enough. I turned around and found a way back to car that avoided the initial flooded sections.

I figured I had gotten four miles in at best. To finish the run, I was going to drive to the trail I ran the first day for the other 26 miles But now a huge thunderstorm was rolling in. From bad to worse. It started lightning, so I gave up and drove back home. Sad Will.

I drowned my sorrows by eating a really big breakfast. Then all of a sudden the sun came back out. It was still on 8am, so I had plenty of time left to get a good run in. Game on! I drove back to the trail I ran on the first day and started up again with my shoes still soaking from my earlier adventure with the fish.

It did end up pouring again for a little bit on the run, but the lightning stayed a ways off and I was able to keep going (though a bit wetter for it). I actually felt great today, which is a bit unusual since I ran 22 the prior day. I felt so good I decided to make it a 35 mile run. I kicked it in feeling really strong. I drove back to Jen’s house where she had a smoothie waiting for me. Life is good. It was a great end to a day that started out pretty rough.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

6/10/08 - Heat Wave!

I hate Washington, DC. Or at least that’s what I find myself every year at about this time. The heat wave has finally hit full force. After a beautiful spring, it has been over 95 degrees and very humid for the last four days.

Unfortunately, this heat wave has coincided with some pretty intense training for Vermont 100. The worst day by far was last Saturday.

In my schedule I had planned for 40-42 miles. Unfortunately, the forecast planned for 99 degrees and 90% humidity. Not a good combination. My plan to deal with this was to wake up crazy early to run in the dark as much as possible and do two loops on nearby trails so I wouldn’t get too far from home.

I woke up at 3:30 in the morning and hit the road at about 3:45. It was so humid that the air was covered in a dense haze, and there was extremely limited visibility. I took off on some hilly roads, and all my clothes were totally soaked through within 5 miles. Awesome.

After about 7 miles, I hit the Potomac Heritage trail. It was about 4:45 at this point and still totally dark, so I switched on my head lamp. The Heritage trail is fairly rocky, hilly, and technical, so running in the dark on would certainly be a good training run.

Another challenge would be that the stream crossings were running high, and my feet got wet early on the trail. Unfortunately, it was so humid that my feet never dried out at all. They were soggy and wet for the whole run. Just one more thing to deal with, I guess.

I ran 6.5 miles north to the end of the trail and then turned back around. Daylight came roughly at the turnaround, which was kind of nice. The sun wasn’t high enough yet for it to get hotter, so the increased visibility was much welcome.

Halfway back on the trail I ran into an eagle. It just sat in the middle of the trail staring at me. I slowly moved closer, and it started to hiss at me! I kept moving closer to see if it would fly away, but it wasn’t budging. I was playing chicken with an eagle and losing. Eventually I bushwhacked my way around the eagle and kept on moving. It was a pretty cool sight to see and a nice distraction from the hot weather.

I came off the trail at 20 miles and ran another couple of miles to where I would pick up the next major loop. It was decision time now. If I started the other loop, I’d be committing to about a 42 mile run. I was extremely hot by now, but I still felt ok otherwise and had been drinking well. I decided to go for it. I gave my fiancée a quick call to let her know I was all right and set out on my way.

Now it truly became a mental test. It was getting hotter and was still incredibly humid. I’d been running for almost 4 hours in this weather, and it was starting to take a toll on me. I kept pressing on and tried to just will my way through it.

Around mile 25 my stomach started to not feel so great. I wasn’t able to eat much more, and it was even getting harder to take in fluids. I think it was the heat that was making it so hard, but this definitely wasn’t a good sign.

I kept plodding on, and by mile 30 it was clear that I wouldn’t make it the whole way. Luckily, I had my cell phone with me. I called my fiancée at mile 32 and asked her to pick me up at the closest road, which would be at mile 35.

Those last 3 miles were pretty rough. My stomach was in really tough shape, it was hot, my legs were hurting, etc. I finally made it there around 9:45, just about 6 hours after I started.

Well it certainly was not a fun run, and I didn’t make it the full distance I was hoping for, but I was still really happy overall. I got in a lot of mileage in really terrible weather and proved I could make it through some tough conditions. Also, I didn’t get any blisters despite running with wet feet for the better part of 6 hours. That was definitely a good sign.

I’ve continued my regular training since Saturday. 15 on Sunday, 10 on Monday, 8 on Tuesday. It’s been the same type of heat and humidity, but it hasn’t seemed as bad after surviving Saturday. Let’s just hope the weather is better in Vermont!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

6/1/08 Training Update

This last week was another really good training week. It started with the 38 mile trail run I wrote about in my last post, and I managed to get in 100 miles over the course of week.

This week I also did my first nighttime trail run. I've been told that practicing running at night is hugely important, so it was definitely time for me to try this since I'm only 1.5 months out from the big race (it's on July 19th).

On Wednesday morning I woke up pretty early to catch a flight to Boston for work. I flew back that night and got home around 10pm. I was pretty exhausted, but I made myself lace up and head out the door. Before I left I grabbed a water bottle, my headlamp, and some clif shot blocks.

The plan was to run one of my favourite routes through DC that is about 14-15 miles long. Most of the route (probably 9 or 10 miles) is on the Glover-Archebald trail and trails in Rock Creek Park. Despite the fact that you're inside DC, these are really nice trails that actually feel pretty remote.

Well nighttime trail running was certainly a different beast. This was my first time using the headlamp, and it took some getting used to. I found depth perception to be pretty tricky. It was also a bit unsettling/spooky to be running in the middle of a forest at night. I started to get used to it though and was feeling pretty comfortable after the first few miles.

Overall the run went really well. I'll feel much more comfortable running with my headlamp in the future, and I actually managed a pretty quick pace for the run. I finished in a little under 2 hours, which is about how fast I run it on a good day (let alone at night).

This weekend I've been taking it easy and not running. For the last four weeks, my mileage has been 92, 100, 90, and 100 miles. This is definitely the breaking point for me. I was in bad need of a few days off. So I'll take this week easy and the hammer out some big training weeks for the next month. After that, it'll be time to taper and run the Vermont 100!

Well, that's it for now. Next weekend I'm hoping to run 40 to 45 miles on Saturday. I'll let you know how it goes!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

5/25/08 Training run at Bull Run

On Saturday, I woke up early and headed out to Bull Run to do a training run for Vermont. Bull Run isn’t my favorite trail in the area, as it isn’t quite as scenic as some of the other trails in the area, particularly the trails out in the Shenandoahs. However, it is very convenient to get to and has some fairly challenging terrain that makes for good training. The goal was to run the whole trail out and back, which would total 36 miles. This would be my longest run ever aside from the JFK 50 in last fall.

I woke up at 6 and was on the trail by about 7. It was a perfect day for running. It was about 50 degrees when I started and 70 degrees when I finished. I was running with my Nathan 020 pack filled with water and a Nathan handheld bottle filled with Gatorade. I brought along a bunch of food and Ensure and was hoping to take in about 2,000 calories on the run. I’ve had a hard time getting in calories while running before, so this would be a good test of that before Vermont.

I felt pretty good for most of the run. Bull Run is fairly hilly, but I’d run out in the Massanutten Mountains the week before, so the hills didn’t seem so bad. I felt pretty strong until mile 18 or so. I was bonking and got worried because it was way too early in the run for things to be going downhill. The only thing I could think of was that I was a bit low on salt, so I took an extra Succeed and started drinking more Gatorade (I’d been drinking mostly water up to this point).

I started feeling a lot better a few miles later and didn’t bonk again for the rest of the run. I did run out of water and Gatorade with about 5 miles left, though. I’d brought about 110 ounces of fluid with me, which is way more than I usually drink, so I was surprised that I ran out. It was a good sign though that I was able to drink a lot throughout the run. Because I’d been hydrating well up to that point, I was fine for the last 5 miles.

I ended up getting lost a few times when I accidentally took the detours for horses, so I think the run ended up being somewhere around 38 miles. I covered almost 7,000 feet of elevation gain (calculated based on reading that the Bull Run 50 race has 9,000 feet of gain) and finished up the run in 6:30 (just over 10 minute miles).

I was definitely slowing down toward the end and hiking more of the hills, but I still felt really strong at the finish. I definitely could have gone for a while longer (though I would certainly have backed off the 10 minute mile pace). All in all, this was a great training run for Vermont and was definitely encourage. I’m planning two more big training runs of 40+ miles before Vermont, and hopefully they’ll go as well as this one did!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

5/20/08 The 100 mile week

This week was something of a milestone for my running. It was my first 100 mile training week!

Saturday: 24 miles
Sunday : 30 miles
Monday: 9 miles
Tuesday: 13 miles
Wednesday 11 miles
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: 8 miles

My mileage has been on an upward trajectory for a while now. When I was running 5Ks, I’d built up to 50 mile weeks. When I started running marathons, my mileage peaked closer to 80 miles. I bumped it up to 90 miles when I trained for the JFK 50.

A lot of people, runners included, think the mileage I run is kind of crazy. Well, they’re probably right about that, but it does seem to work for me.

When I was training for marathons, I found that I had a really hard time running 80 mile weeks and also incorporating speed workouts, tempo runs, and harder long runs. I pretty much got injured every time I trained for a marathon.

What I’ve found since when training for ultras is that I can handle 90 – 100 a week as long as I cut back on the hard, fast runs. The beauty of ultramarathons is that you don’t need a whole lot of fast running in your training. The one thing I do try to focus a lot on is hill workouts. While I try to do them frequently, I’ll run them faster or slower depending on how I feel. I’ll also occasionally throw in some speedwork if my legs feel fresh and I feel motivated.

Basically it seems that I can handle high mileage training as long as I’m smart and listen to my body. I’m a firm believer that different things work for different people, and this seems to be what works for me.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

5/15/08 My First Post

Well, this is officially the first entry in my blog. For starters, credit for the title goes out to Danny Brome. Danny Brome loves the Boss. Danny Brome also loves streaking and Chinese Downhill, but those are different stories.

Now I will answer two questions you may have at this point.

1) Who am I?

I’m 24 years old and live in Arlington, VA. I graduated from college in 2005 and moved down with my girlfriend (we went to school together in New Jersey near where I grew up). We got engaged last fall and are getting married in September.

I’m a consultant with a small company called APT. I really love my job, but it’s not the kind of thing that sounds really exciting, so I won’t bore anyone with any more details.

2) Why do I like running so much?

Well, I hated running for most of my life. I was also really bad at it. Running a mile in gym class was a terrible, painful experience for me.

Sometime during sophomore year in college, my girlfriend convinced me to go on a run with her. She kicked my ass. I don’t know if it’s my general competitiveness or specifically getting beaten by my girlfriend, but it seemed to be a powerful enough motivator to get me running. I had been lifting weights every day for years but started layering in 2 miles runs a few times a week after lifting. I basically ran just enough to get faster than my girlfriend (yeah, I was a real gentleman).

Well at the end of sophomore year I just got tired of lifting. My dad was a professional weightlifter, so I always tried to follow in his footsteps. I just wasn’t built for it, though. I basically said screw the lifting and upped the running to 5 days a week with my distances getting more towards 5-6 miles.

I lost 30 pounds pretty much immediately and started to actually get respectably fast (or at least not embarrassingly slow). I started running road races in the fall of 2004 and really loved it.

My Type A personality really started kicking in, and my training got very regimented. Speed workouts, long runs, tempo runs, all that fun stuff. I got my 5K time down to 18:33. Not crazy fast, but I was really happy given that my first 5K was 21:07.

Next I started pushing the distance. I started running marathons, and my first two did not exactly go smoothly. I finally got it right on the third try in 2006 and ran a 3:04 at Philadelphia. After following it up with a 1:23 half marathon, I’d again gotten to the point where I was happy with my times.

What would I do next? Go longer of course! In the fall of 2007 I took my first shot at an ultramarathon, the JFK 50. I started training more on trails and really loved it. JFK went really well (7:51), and I was hooked on trail running and ultras.

Now I’m gearing up for my first 100 on July 19th and getting really excited for it. More to come about that soon.