Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ultra Long Post

"I want to thank everyone for coming out today, this is one of the biggest fields we have ever had at this race," said the tattooed race director Saturday morning atop a cooler in a grassy field at Afton State Park. It was around 6:30am, light dew was on the grass and clouds to the east were obscuring the early sun's rays.
"Just remember," He continued "Be safe, drink a lot of water because its gonna be hot. Run as hard as you can, as long as you can....and GO!"
And with that we were off, the first steps into a 31 mile journey through the hills and heat of Afton State Park.
The crowd of 150 people all seemed startled by the start of the race, many (myself included) were expecting a horn or starting gun, not a shout from atop a cooler.
But we began down the hill and for me into the unknown.
50K or 31 miles would mark the longest I had ever run; the previous high was 26.2 a feat I had accomplished 5 times prior to this. All of those had been on pavement and relatively flat, almost the polar opposite of what I was starting here.
I followed the crowd down the dirt path letting many people pass me, reminding myself to take it easy, this was going to be a long day and there is no point in crushing myself early on.
About a mile into the race I found a group to run with. They looked like they knew what they were doing; one was an older guy with crazy hair, no shirt and a flowing gray beard. I called him 'Father Time' he was lean and looked like a piece of twisted beef jerky. His loping pace was fluid and he seemed to float above the ground and he moved effortlessly over the rocks and roots.
Alongside him was 'Marathon Manic Guy' a younger kid in a shirt that said 'Marathon Manic' which I heard him say he earned by running 3 marathons in 15 days. Running behind these guys I copied their strategies, waking up hills, taking it easy on the downhill's.
The three of us never said a word, just moved in silence through the course, the canopy of trees coming together above us forming a shaded route which helped keep the temperature somewhat manageable.
After a few miles we emerged from the trees and into the prairie part of the race. Here the wind was whipping through the tall grass which was nice but there was no shade at all and the sun had cleared the early clouds and was now just pounding us as we followed the grassy trail, sidestepping leftovers from the horses that had passed the day before.
Around mile 10 I felt good enough to move ahead of Father Time and Marathon Manic, neither was carrying water and the heat seemed to be getting to them as their pace had slowed considerably by that point.
Ahead was another group of runners, and they looked like serious runners. There were 5 of them, 3 women and two guys. The guys were tall, skinny and shirtless in tiny running shorts; the women were in pretty much the same attire only with sports bras on.
Try as I might I could not catch this group. I could see them ahead of me on the straight aways, and would catch up to them as we walked up the giant hills but as soon as we got to the top they took off again and I was left in the dust.
It cracked me up, I felt like a fat, loser kid trying to hang with the cool kids at school. I would huff and puff my way up to them, try latch on but then it was like they would notice this bowling ball of a man in their midst and take off again. So I just kept plodding along, one foot in front of the other reminding myself, this shouldn't feel like work. At least not yet.
Watching this pack of 'Cool Kids' as I called them was fascinating. They ran like a pack of deer, everyone had the same type of stride, very fluid, they moved in unison and when the leader got tired they would switch places without a word. It was like they had practiced this before, the whole group moving as one.
And then there was Foke...nothing fluid about his movements, one foot in front of the other, taking in water as often as I could, stopping at the aid stations and pounding down a PB&J sandwich, walking out of the aid station to make sure all the fluids made it into my body and not on my shirt.
At some point the pack ahead of me broke up a bit and I found myself next to one of the guys, he was wearing these 'barefoot running shoes' called Vibrams 5-Fingers. I had read about them and even had a friend who ran in them so we chatted about that and he said this was his 4th 50K race so I picked his brain about what to expect.
Finally after 2 hours and 33 minutes we reached the mid-point of the race. I was in the midst of the 'cool kids' at this point and heard someone say 'Yay half-way there' to which I replied 'What I thought that was the end!' everyone turned (thinking I was serious) and started trying to explain a 50K to me. I told them I was just joking...they didn't think it was funny (but I did! Ha)
At the mid-point I took down a few orange slices, some water melon, grabbed more water for my handheld bottle and took stock of my body.
Actually felt pretty good, I had figured this would take me around 6 hours so according to my prediction I was ahead of schedule.
As I left the aid station and headed down the starting hill to begin loop number 2 I let myself dream for a second about finishing this thing in 5 hours...could it happen? Could I make the second loop faster than the first?
Somehow I managed to leave the aid station ahead of the 'Cool Kids' and now found myself all alone on the trail. I had pretty much been alone most of the time anyway but now there was no one in front of me to remind me to reign it in, or to look to for when to start walking the hills. I did my best not to push it too hard those first few miles into the 2nd loop and after a tough climb followed by a descent, pulled off into the woods to answer natures call.
(That was the best sign I had all day, strange I know, but the fact that I could pee 17-18 miles into a race as hot as it was and as sweaty as I was meant that I was not yet dehydrated, I almost jumped for joy when that happened...the little things I know!)
By the time I emerged, the 'Cool Kids' were surrounding me. At this point my shorts were quite sweaty (and I should mention I don't wear short runner's shorts. I wear shorts that come down past my knees, when they get sweaty and swish around they tend to make a lot of noise, and honestly at one aid station I stopped and was able to wring the sweat out of the bottoms of them)
The 'Cool Kid' with the Vibrams on said in a condescending tone 'Boy you have some loud shorts, why do you wear those?' my reply was 'It's all about looking cool buddy' which got a chuckle out of the group.
Shortly after that we hit the stairs for the second time and the group began to thin out quite a bit.
I found myself behind 'Red Shorts' (a tall, thin, younger, shirtless guy) and 'Girl in Blue' (big surprise here, a girl in a blue shirt and blue visor)
As we made our way up the steps I started laughing as I remembered that both elevators in my apt building were broken, not only was I crushing myself on the hills and steps of Afton but when I got home was going to have to hoof it up 10 flights of stairs to my un-air-conditioned apartment.
Red Shorts asked what was funny, so I told the two of them about my predicament and 'Girl in Blue' said 'Just put a tent up out front!'
These two had been running together for most of the race so I figured they were friends, but on the steps Red Shorts said to me 'Go ahead my legs don't have it' and I moved ahead of him and saw 'Girl in Blue' take off leaving him (and me) in the dust.
At the aid station at mile 20 I caught up to 'Girl in Blue' grabbed a sandwich and some water and began to head out. She had a Popsicle and left at the same time. We started chatting as we encountered a massive hill right away.
This was the longest stretch without an aid station. Roughly 4 miles, you go up one massive hill, down to the river then up another (very steep hill) level off for half a mile then back down to the river.
We talked the entire time and I felt great during that stretch, much better than I thought I would. Since it was the second go round I knew the terrain and knew when I could push and when to slow down, I knew what was ahead and just felt mentally dialed in.
Then I hit that second very steep hill. We made it to the top but once there I started feeling like this might not be the day for me.
My hamstring started to cramp a bit, so I took in more water, my stomach started to slosh around and I felt slightly sick...but 'Girl in Blue' reminded me that we were only a little ways from an aid station and that we would be there shortly to refuel.
Our pace slowed a bit while I worked to get myself back to normal and by the time we got to the aid station I felt good again.
Filled up my bottle with water, took down a gel, and eat some more peanut butter. Here we were at mile 26, about to run past my previous long distance.
As we got to the aid station there were two guys (tough, tatted, shirtless guys) sitting on the bench looking miserable. They both looked ready to drop out of the race, vacant stares in their eyes, elbows on knees, cups of water in their hands just sitting staring at nothing.
Well I thought, I think I look better than those guys!
So we took off, a long stretch of flat gravel along the river. The sun was high up now and there was not as much shade as there had been the first time through.
Girl in Blue and I set a pace of 9 minutes a mile and continued our conversation as the ground moved slowly under us. Then it hit me and my legs started to weaken, mentally I felt like I might be losing it. It was really hot and flat and just nothing. I said I needed to walk for a bit and she could go on ahead since she seemed in better shape than me.
But she said no, and hung back as we walked for a few yards then picked up running again and made it all the way to the 'Meat Grinder' hill.
Finally we could walk...but it was straight up a nasty hill! This was one of the harder things I have ever done, the hill didn't seem to end and every time it looked like there was a slight downhill, it went right into a sharp incline. It literally was a 'meat grinder' and when we made it to the top I felt like I had been chewed up and spit out.
At the top was more prairie, no shade, light wind, and the mid-morning sun pounding us. We wound our way through the prairie and finally could see the last aid station on the course. As we made our way there my hamstring started to tighten again, and so did my right calf (two things that have derailed a couple of marathons I ran) my pace slowed and stride shortened and I got nervous.
Almost at the same time I was tightening up, Girl in Blue slowed her pace and then started to walk up the final hill to the aid station. I couldn't have been happier not to try to push it at the moment.
This aid station was the last one on the course so I had to be smart. I took down two potatoes with salt, a couple of glasses of sports drink, and some water, stretched lightly, filled up my bottle and tried to wrap my mind around what I had left. Just over 3 miles, it was single track in the woods, shaded from the sun's rays; no more massive hills just a few little ones.
Girl in Blue and I took off knowing we had a chance to beat my goal time of 6 hours (she originally wanted to finish in 430 but after a calf injury a few months prior said her readjusted goal was 6 hours) We made it into the woods and I was starting to feel better (at the aid station I was somewhat of a mental mess I dropped two little potatoes on the ground and was bumbling around like Fred Sanford) Our conversation picked up again and the single track running was fun.
After a while she suggested a walk break (first time she suggested one until then it was all me...hahaha) and I accepted gratefully but at the same time I was saying 'sure' I kicked a root and went down in a heap! There was nothing I could do to break my fall and was laughing the entire way.
She stopped to see if I was okay and I just sat there in the dirt laughing at my misfortune! I suffered not a scratch just got dirty and soon we were up and running again.
We made it through the single track stuff and came out in the prairie again and had less than a mile to go. I was nearly out of water but didn't care, it was almost over. Then we came around a bend and saw the finish line, but standing between us and it was a small dirt hill. When I saw it involuntarily I said 'Oh you got to be f-ing kidding me!'
My hamstring was starting to tighten again, my right leg was cramping I was almost there and didn't want to crash before the end and there was this damn hill. (Not really a hill but a mound of dirt, at the time though it looked and felt like a massive hill)
Girl in Blue looked at me and said 'No walking get up it and let's get this over with!' She attacked the hill, I shuffled up it into the straight away to the end, she had gas in the tank and took off. I didn't have much left and let her go, opting to finish on my feet rather than hopping and howling in pain across the line.
But then it was over.
There was a small gathering of people who had finished and volunteers cooking burgers and dogs, a few tents set up with picnic tables. Someone put a medal around my neck, I high-fived Girl in Blue and thanked her for getting me to the end, then found some shade and dropped to the ground 5:33:12 after I started.
My parents showed up a few minutes later, they had missed me crossing the finish line, but to see them (and drink their cold Gatorade) was fantastic! There is something to be said about sharing an accomplishment with those closest to you and this was one of the moments I will never forget....

Monday, March 1, 2010

Still Running

Haven't updated this in a few weeks, between training and work just got busy...
This past week was a good one, 42 miles capped off with a 13 mile run on Sunday. Also this week I did a spinning class and on Saturday ran 7 miles in the morning followed up by a good swim in the afternoon.
This week is a little on the light side, longer runs in the middle of the week but only 9 miles on Sunday. Gonna try to get to another spinning class, and swim again on Saturday.
Really need to watch the late night eating after games. Its tough because you eat so early on game nights that I am starving by the time I get home, and then that messes up your next morning.
Also once its starts getting a little warmer I plan on running in the mornings again...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Week 3

Made it through another week, pounded out 37 miles and all is well.
This was a really good work, I stepped it up on the pace of many of my runs and got in a 10 miler outside on Saturday that was just amazing.
Saturday started out overcast when I got up at 7, the sun night quite up yet as I hit the snow-packed pavement around 715.
During the night, a fog had rolled in and the temps dropped so that condensation froze to all the trees making them look like someone had sprayed fake snow on them.
The air was still, no wind at all, and the city was silent, still asleep.
I ran up to Lake of the Isles and it was just amazing, cresting the hill and coming out of the fog down to the lake, the sound of snow crunching under my shoes, the silence like a blanket covering me, and everything else.
There were a few people running around the lakes, men with beards frosted white as the air froze to them just like it did to the trees.
It was just a beautiful run, one of those days where you wished you didn't have to leave the serenity of the lakes to head back to the hustle and bustle of the city....
Got me fired up to get off the treadmill and do more outdoor runs, but that is all weather permitting until spring finally arrives.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Week 2

Week two of training started out promising...got some good workouts in Tuesday with a 30 minute bike session followed by a 3 mile run, Wednesday got another good run in.
Thursday I ran then played hoops, and Friday was a solid run on the track while Saturday I ran 5 at a fast pace and followed it up with 20 minutes of swimming.
But the problem was not the actual workouts it was keeping to my diet and taking care of that side of things.
Running and lifting is one thing but if you follow it up by pounding down a pizza or a box of cookies you are really not helping yourself reach your goal.
I was planning on a 10 mile run Sunday morning but after staying out late Saturday and getting behind in my chores Sunday and thinking of the Superbowl I tossed that idea aside and instead took a nap.
So while parts of the week were solid, other parts were not...Its an on-going battle to find the balance but I'll keep trying!
This week also off to a good start but the temptations of cookies are hard to pass up...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Remember The Pain

Last week I ran into John Gross, a well known videographer at KSTP in the Twin Cities. John is not just a cameraman, in his career he has been an emmy award winning journalist, camera man for NFL Films, producer etc. He is a jack of all trades and a master of them as well.
John is a great guy to chat with, I have known him since I was a senior in high school when I did an internship at KSTP and got to know him.
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received came from John. We were sitting on a par three at a course in Mpls where KSTP was holding a closest to the pin contest. John and I spent the entire day at that hole filming the shots and interviewing whoever got closest.
As we sat there John asked me what I wanted to do in my career. I told him I wanted to be on air and in front of the camera etc. John stopped me and said 'Everyone wants to be on air and in front of the camera. You need to know how to work the camera and edit, and produce and then you can be on camera.' He went on to explain how the days of a news/sports anchor who only talk on air are over (and this was back in 98) now you need to be versatile and show that you are more than a talking head, that you can write and build a sports-cast rather than read what someone else wrote.
With that in mind; every time I run into John he has a great motivational story for me. He has been around so many inspiring sports stories he is just bursting with them. John is a great storyteller and gives speeches all over the country so its great to hear him tell one one on one.
On this particular day we were a few days removed from the Vikings falling in overtime to the Saints in the NFC Championship game.
John was on hand for the game and said afterwards he was with a group of reporters/cameramen who were talking to former Viking Cris Carter.
Someone posed the question to Carter 'What will you say to the guys in that lockerrom when you go in there?'
Carter's response according to John was simple. 'Remember the pain.' One reporter asked him what was meant by that and he responded, every time you are getting tired this off-season, remember the pain, every time you want to quit, remember the pain, put in one more sprint because of the pain. In everything you do remember the pain.
To me that was an interesting idea, in sports a lot of the time you hear the phrase 'Gotta have a short memory' guys try to put bad stuff right out of their mind rather than dwelling on it.
Guys talk about putting a bad performance 'In the rearview mirror' but here was Carter saying 'remember the pain'
Carter has a point, remember the pain, but I would amend it to say 'remember the pain but don't be consumed by it.'
Mistakes are made, failure happens, no one wants it to happen or is happy when it does happen but its a part of life.
When failure happens remember the pain for sure, but learn from that pain, use it as motivation but don't dwell on it.
After my first marathon (which was a colossal failure) it was all I thought about for a year. How to improve next year, what I need to do during the summer-winter to accomplish my goal the next year. Oh I remembered the pain but I was so wrapped up in it that I didn't enjoy my training or have fun along the journey. I was so focused on the end goal that I blocked out the things that make preparing for a marathon so much fun. It turned into work and the pressure I put on myself drove me crazy at some points.
It wasn't until I was on my way up to Duluth that I realized what I had done to myself. There was a moment on the drive up there that I said 'Just give it everything you have and don't hold back and then you can walk away with your head held high no matter what happens.'
That year I didn't accomplish my goal either (In fact I have never accomplished the goal I set for myself in Grandma's Marathon and while I think about it, I am able to move past it) but I had a great time doing it and learned about myself along the way.
Its always great to run into John, and I am glad that he told that story as I get prepare for the summer I have put together. Carter was right, its important to remember the pain in any situation (sports, job interviews, relationships etc) but keep it as a memory.

One week in...

Alright the first week of training for this summer is in the books...there was some good and some bad but I guess that's what you get in your first week.
Ran a total of 30 miles capped off with a 10 mile run on sunday.
Due to a screwy work schedule I had to run the 10 inside on the treadmill...nothing more mind-numbing than that...thank god there was NBA on so I could at least distract myself a bit.
Woke up today feeling a little beat up, no running on Monday which is good, have to keep to that schedule so I don't end up driving my body into the ground like I have in the past.
This week no work on Sunday so I should be able to get my 10 0n sunday in outside unless the weather is too cold.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Getting Started

This is the first of what I hope to be many posts to this section.
The goal of this blog is to tell the stories of what it takes to make it through a summer of endurance events.
I have set up my summer as follows-

April 18th Half-Marathon in Fort Collins, Colorado
April 25th Get In Gear 10K Mpls
June 6th Olympic Distance Tri Buffalo, MN
June 15th 25K Trail Run In Lutsen
June 26th Tri-Loppett Mpls
July 3rd 50K Trail Ultra
September 14th Half-Ironman Tri, Stillwater MN
October 5th Twin Cities Marathon

I plan to keep this filled with training stories, recaps of events.
More to follow...