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!