Sunday, November 15, 2009

11/15/2009: Ready for JFK 50

A few weeks ago I would have told you JFK would probably be a disaster, but I've whipped myself into pretty good shape very quickly.

Before Marine Corp Marathon, I think trying to train for both MCM and JFK ended up with me not really training effectively for anything at all. But the disappointment at Marine Corp got me pretty focused.

Yesterday I ran a fantastic last long run. I headed out for 22 miles on local trails, some of which are very technical and hilly. I can't remember ever running this loop in less than 3:15 and was hoping just to match that.

I prepared for the run by drinking heavily the night before with Princeton friends. It was Rita's birthday and ended up being a really fun night. We haven't hung out with that crew in too long, so it was great to see everyone.

I finally dragged myself out to run around 2pm the next day. I didn't bring a watch but did check the time on the way out. I was planning to push pretty hard and see what happened.

I felt solid throughout the run and brough it home hard with a big kick at the end. I checked the clock when I got home and saw 2:55. Damn! 20 minutes faster than I've ever gone on that loop. Sub 8s on pretty technical trails.

In short, I'm ready for JFK. The last 3 weekends have been:
  • 16 miles on trail followed by tough 50K race
  • 11 miles followed by 37 miles in the Massanuttens with ~ 7K climbing
  • 22 trail miles in sub 8s

So here we go! Wish me luck at JFK. Hopefully my stomach will hold up. If it does, I'm ready to push really hard and try to post a fast time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

11/12/09: Henry David Thoreau

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading the work of Henry David Thoreau. My high school English teacher Mr. Keating was quite influential in many ways. He taught me how to write, instilled a deep importance in maintaining cultural awareness, and introduced me to all sorts of excellent literature. He was also a badass runner with a masters 5K PR in the low 17s.

Thoreau is a very interesting figure who I can certainly appreciate now more than when I was in high school. He was an abolitionist, a naturalist, a tax evader, an anarchist, and environmentalist, and an individualist. Recently I’ve been re-reading Walden, Thoreau’s great experiment when he spent two years on his own in the Massachusetts wilderness. I challenge anybody to read Walden and not want to spend some time in the woods.

Much of Walden is more philosophical and intellectual, but it is also infused with countless passages extolling how much Thoreau truly loves nature. As an example:

“This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself. As I walk along the strong shore of the pond in my shirt sleeves, though it is cool as well as cloudy and windy, and I see nothing special to attract me, all the elements are unusually congenial to me. The bullfrogs trump to usher in the night, and the note of the whippoorwill is borne on the rippling wind from over the water. Sympathy with the fluttering alder and poplar leaves almost takes away my breath; yet, like the lake, my serenity is rippled but not ruffled.”

I think a big part of why I and other ultramarathoners do what we do is a deep love of nature. I fondly remember hiking and camping with my dad when I was younger. I never thought about it much as a kid, but I’ve always loved the mountains and being out in the wilderness.

The million dollar question is if I really just love nature, is running ridiculous distances really necessary? Wouldn’t a good hike or simply sitting outside suffice? That’s a fair point, but there is something about running that lets me enjoy nature even more. I seem to just be more in tune with what’s around me, and running helps me clear my mind to better enjoy my surroundings. That still doesn’t quite get to why such long distances are necessary, but I suppose that covering more ground does let me see all the more of my surroundings.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

11/8/2009: Back in Business

I headed out to my usual spot in the Massanuttens for a final long run before JFK. I had a great day and ran 37 tough miles in 6:45.

When I started out, it was a mere 32 degrees. By the end of the run it was almost 80 degrees. That's a big swing!

I knew it was going to get warm, so I started out in just a sleeveless shirt and shorts. I was freezing my cahones off for about 10 minutes, but the monster gnarly climb to Sherman's Gap warmed me up quickly. I've written about this climb before, but each time I'm surprised at how tough it is. I'd guess you climb 1,500 feet over 3.3 miles, but the tough part is that it starts out very flat and gets progressively steeper. My legs felt pretty good though, so the climb went well.

I descended back down to the valley and decided to take a new trail. The next 9 miles or so (18 total with the out and back) was all new to me. I was up on the ridge the whole time. While this lets you avoid the long continuous climb up from the valley, it has its own challenge of non-stop steep descents followed by steep climbs, as the ridge is consistently rolling and never flat.

Running is also more technical up top with lots of rocks. The massive amount of leaves on the ground didn't help either. I had to slow down a bit and really lift my legs higher than I'd like to avoid the visible and hidden rocks.

I hit the turnaround in 3:10. I was still feeling decent, but it was starting to get warm! I've been running in colder weather for a while, so it was a bit of a shock for it to be over 70 degrees. I started drinking a lot more and soon realized I'd run out of my 90 ounces of water I brought with me.

I had to slow down on the way back both because I was getting tired and conserving energy since I didn't have as much water as I'd like, but I still made pretty good time. I was mostly out of water with 4.5 miles to go, but I ran across some friendly mountain bikers who hooked me up. With some fluids in my system, I pounded down the mountain to finish the run strong.

For the first time in a long time, my muscles were cramping at the end of the run. Part of it is that this is by far the longest run I've done since Tahoe. It also doesn't help that I haven't been doing much mountain running. The rocks/leaves combination certainly played their part, too.

Nonetheless, I finished with more left in the tank, which is always a good sign. I drove myself over to Mcdonalds (which I do try to avoid) and did some quick refueling with a big milkshake and their new snack wrap.

As you probably realized from the Mcdonalds stop, but stomach held up really well. I do think I finally figured things out and have a good system going now (fingers crossed).

JFK 50 is up next, and I'm pretty pumped. Training hasn't been ideal, but these last two weekends will really help a lot. I'm a bit worried about having enough speed to post a fast time, but I think sub 7:30 should be doable (I ran 7:51 two years ago).

It's good to be back and feeling good!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

11/6/09: JFK 50 Prep

This fall has definitely been tough for training. I’ve been travelling a ton for work, Jen and I have been gone a lot of weekends, and I was a bit sick a few times. However, I’ve still had some great runs, and I do love running in the fall. Temperatures have been awesome for running, and foliage in DC was actually much better than usual this year.

I’ve been focused primarily on getting ready for JFK. There were a few parts to that plan:
  • Focus in the early fall on getting faster while keeping a good mileage base
  • Run Marine Corp Marathon in a decently fast time
  • Cram in some long runs to finish JFK prep (Potomac Heritage 50K on 11/1 and long run on 11/8)

Early fall training was tough due to time constraints mentioned above, but I got in decently good marathon shape. Unfortunately, the Marine Corp Marathon was a terrible disaster. My stomach seized up at mile 10, I violently threw up at mile 14, and I eventually pulled out at mile 20 after running 6 miles literally on empty. I’ll hopefully post some more on my recent stomach issues, but I think the main problem was that I massively overhydrated (go figure). The good news was I ran the first 10 miles in 6:50s with no problem. I also got to see the mayor blow by me while I was throwing up. He was definitely having more fun than I was.

This last weekend I ran the Potomac Heritage 50K. I had a blast! I was coming off a big training week and ran 16 miles the day before, so my legs were far from fresh, but everything went well in the race. My stomach finally held up really well (I think I may have figured out at least some of the issues now). I love the trails that the course covers, which are all my hometown trails. I also got more adventure than I could have hoped for. It rained leading up to and all during the race. This made for some slippery mudfests, some dicey creek crossings, and a thigh-deep crossing of a fast moving stream. I finished strong in 5:14.

The last piece of JFK training is a big long run in the Massanuttens. I’m hoping for something in the 35-40 mile range if all goes well. After that it’ll be drinking taper time.

I haven’t been able to train for this race as much as I’d like, but hopefully I can at least beat my time from 2 years ago.

In other news, I’m officially signed up for the Boston Marathon now. Duh-Fitz will be running with me, which will be so much fun, I may just pee my pants.