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I have, for some reason or another, not found the motivation to write about running. Really, I haven’t had the motivation to write at all recently. For that matter, I have struggled to do much of anything at all, almost constantly desiring having my feet up on the recliner, taking a snooze, maybe a beer, that sort of thing. It’s not like I feel particularly run down, at least not physically. It’s been a mental lull for a while. And I have been somewhat embarrassed about my behavior and the way “training” has been going of late so actually writing about it has not been high on my to-do list. But I started this thing to keep myself accountable, and so that years from now I could look back and shake my head at 26 year old Mark and all his follies (presumably from an older, wiser, more responsible perspective but who am I really kidding? I’ll just be older).
So what HAVE I been doing? Well, this is where things become relative. I was running on the Company Mill trail at Umstead yesterday when it sort of hit me that I’m being an idiot in my head. Or at least, possibly a trifle too hard on myself. The past two weeks I’ve run almost exactly the same: 101 miles, and a hair under 14 hours. The setup of those weeks was pretty different. Two weeks ago, I ran pretty evenly, with my longest run being 22 miles on Saturday. I also did my first beer mile, three hours after that 22, in 7:45ish. And didn’t throw up. It was a decent showing. Last week I started things off with 28 on Monday. It was hot and I was tired and pushing things a little. I probably shouldn’t be as disappointed with 28 miles right at 8:00 on very tired legs and being pretty severely dehydrated, but I was, and still sort of am. Whatever. The rest of the week was kinda weird. I had a lot of shorter runs, some of them kind of quick, despite the heat. Then a miserable long day Saturday wherein I finished up at 10pm and looked like a raisin from the rain.
Sunday was cool but not really because of the running I did. I went to the Duke Twilight meet with a local runner lady who was quite good company, maybe more on that down the road (I hope). I saw Alan Webb and Robby Andrews run the 800 and Anthony Famiglietti run the steeple. It was pretty awesome. Kind of helped salvage another otherwise meh two weeks.
I didn’t do anything on Monday, except eat a delicious cheeseburger. Yesterday I felt like some of my mojo was coming back. 18 miles at Umstead, slow but relaxed. And I didn’t hate running. In fact, originally I was going to be happy with anything around 10, but I was enjoying myself and my legs felt good so I kept on. This weekend will be the next real test, I’ll see just how recovered I am from Umstead and/or how out of shape I’ve gotten. It’ll also be the first time my family will see me run a race since I did the National Marathon three years ago. That feels like a completely different life, and in many ways, particularly running-wise, it was. So I’m excited that they’ll see me more in my element, running an ultra. And there’s that relative thing again. When I ran that marathon, I thought I was pretty awesome because I ran 3:09 and qualified for Boston. I was averaging maybe 30 or so miles/week. I was not even close to in the sort of shape I’m in now, even on a bad day. So maybe I DO need to be a little nicer myself, or at least cut myself the slightest bit of slack.
Someone on the Ultra List posted something that resonated big time with me; about feeling some sort of running ‘blues’ and being a twenty-something ultrarunner who sacrifices a lot of their social life for the sake of training and races and all that. How there is a very palpable loneliness that comes along with this sort of lifestyle, especially when you’re new to an area. I could have written something very similar. I’ve only been down here for nine months and I’ve made some very good friends but at the end of the day, I still come home to the apartment and it’s just Puck and darkness when I open the door. And Puck is awesome but a cat is not an adequate substitute for a human being, even a really adorable cat. I’ve taken some strides to overcome my myriad social phobias and hang-ups but I still often feel some sense of something lacking, a void. There’s always that letdown following a big race. Umstead was that sort of race, so part of this I know is probably normal, and part of it is just the way I am. Work in progress. Fitness is always evolving, hopefully usually improving. Likewise, mentality takes work too. Social skills require practice. Most of this is only loosely based on ultrarunning but it all seems(seemed) relevant so I figured I’d write it down. As the Ultra List thread awared me, I’m not the only one who feels like this occasionally (or usually). So it’s on to looking ahead to the next race, and the next one after, with the hope of meeting more runners who might someday turn into friends, or at least sharing some happy exhausted time post-race with some good people and filling that void for a few hours.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
As the title says, last week was a week that feels worth a recap. And one with significantly less bitching and whining and all that nonsense.
Mon – off, still tired from Sunday
Tue – 13 miles, 1:47, around Cary, down Harrison and then along Maynard for a while, just exploring
Wed – 10 miles total, ~73 minutes, 2.5 solo (19 min) and then 7.5 (54 min) with the Fullsteam run group (mostly Zane, Matt, per usual)
Thu – 9 miles, 72 minutes, Umstead bridle trail to Loblolly
Fri – 23 miles, 3:16, Duke XC loop, five 4 mile loops + one 3 mile loop at the end, water after each loop
Sat – 17 miles, 2:22, Umstead, included one course loop (1:43ish) + an extension on the Lake Crabtree singletrack
Sun – 18 miles, 2:34, Umstead, basically the same run as Saturday with different extension (on bridle path instead)
Total – 90 miles, ~12:20
So yeah, this started to actually feel like I was training again, at least by the end of the week. Which is funny because it’s really all relative. In 2010, 80 miles was the most I ran in any given week. Now ten extra miles feels like I’m starting to approach normal again. Progress. It was a nice feeling to be able to run with my friends at what felt like a normal effort at Wednesday’s run. And Friday to Sunday, running 58 miles and feeling pretty good at the end on Sunday, was a really encouraging sign. My legs actually feel better than they have been, the worrying aches have been replaced with general and expected levels of soreness.
I was in a pretty good mental place for most of Sunday’s run too, thinking about the coming weeks. As of last Saturday, I’m twelve weeks out from the Philly 24 hour race. Twelve weeks out from Umstead was a week before the 100k. I was nowhere near the sort of shape I’m in now, even if I DO feel heavy and slow — I felt much moreso then. Somewhere in the middle of the Turkey Creek section on Sunday some sort of switch flipped back into the “ON” position in my head. Recovery from Umstead was over, time to stop babying myself and being overly cautious (by my standards). Time to put my head back down and starting grinding. Twelve weeks. That’s ten weeks of A LOT of work and then two weeks to get fresh and ready. This was the last week I’ll be south of 100 miles until July. I’m actually excited to get back into the grind, to give myself less free time to waste doing stuff I will later regret or at least be annoyed with myself for attempting.
If I were the type to come up with names for things and actually write out a training schedule that I’d post on my wall with all sorts of motivational words like “Perseverance” and “Dedication” and pictures of serious looking animals or of Pre to keep me focused (which I am decidedly not), this would be the time to do it. Instead I’ll let Katie’s poster of Trogdor (and the overwhelming desire not to suck) do that for me.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
That is a question I have asked myself many times the past 2+ weeks. It has been an interesting stretch since Umstead. I know I meant to write some other thoughts and general reflections from that race, and I still intend to. But I probably won’t if I’m being honest with myself. Or I will, but they won’t be particularly relevant anymore. I’m not going to bother doing an in depth recap of the last 2+ weeks since the race because, well, that would be worthless. I ran some. 30ish miles the first week, 50ish miles last week. There were more days where I didn’t run than those where I did, or so it felt. Some of the runs felt surprisingly alright, some of them felt downright miserable. My left big toe tendon made its presence known again briefly. I still have random intermittent aches and pains. I guess, in general, I feel like I ran 100 miles in one day.
So if I wasn’t running as much, what else was I doing in order to optimally recover? Of course there was the beer. I deemed my performance worthy of cracking open the Dogfish Head Bitch’s Brew I’ve had since October. And then cracking open beer after beer after beer, virtually depleting my fairly impressive fridge supply. There were some drugs, most of them legal. There was not enough sleep, not even close. I was on spring break last week and spent the early part of it acting like it was 2007 and I was still a stupid undergrad (not implying that ALL undergrads are stupid, just that undergrad Mark circa 2006-07 was a fucking moron more often than not). I spent the second half of the week sort of attempting to recover from the beginning. And also sort of attempting to get back into some sort of regular running thing. My first run last week was 9 miles on Thursday afternoon. I hadn’t run since Saturday. That Saturday, I had felt a familiar and troubling pain on the top of my left foot. And, like the previous time late last year/early this year, I went through the cycle of freaking out that I’d given myself a stress fracture, realizing that was a dumb thing to think, further realizing it was a tendon issue, and being grumpy about it. Fortunately, just like last time, it magically went away on it’s own as the week progressed. Thursday’s run was uncomfortable but by Sunday it was a non-issue. I did my best to cram some running into the end of the week, spending my weekend at Umstead (15 on the bridle trails Saturday, 20 on the single track Sunday). I haven’t felt as bad during a run as I did Sunday afternoon in the last hourish when I was severely dehydrated, my feet hurt, and I was tired.
I don’t know where I intended to go with all this, I wrote some of it a day ago. The point, I guess, is that I haven’t been doing a whole lot of running, and I HAVE been doing a whole lot of livewrong, as Johnny would put it. I haven’t bothered to weigh myself but I’d imagine I packed on at least a few pounds during my binge. I feel pretty heavy and slow when I’ve been out running most days, especially last week. I took Monday off this week because I needed to recharge a little. Of course, I then stayed up til 2am watching the NHL playoffs and then a redbox movie. I know a lot of people, smart people who I respect, have told me not to be so hard on myself, both in general and specifically right now. Something about how I ran 100 miles and ran it reasonably well and that was only two (now two and a half) weeks ago and so OF COURSE I should still feel meh at the best and downright awful at the worst. I got a fortune cookie last night that wasn’t much of a fortune but it was pretty accurate anyway. It said something like, “You relentlessly seek perfection” or something like that. I am the world’s worst perfectionist. I haven’t exactly been living like I care about perfection (or even mediocrity for that matter), but I do. I DID care how I did at Umstead. I DO care about how I’m going to run at the races I have coming up in the next few months. And maybe, probably, I am being a bit too hard on myself when I look at the last two weeks and think that mostly I was just a lazy waste of oxygen. Maybe it was a good thing that I spent a lot of time not running or doing much of anything exercise related. The thing is, I don’t even think I’m particularly disappointed with the running aspect of everything. I accept that I wasn’t and shouldn’t have been able to just jump back into the 120+ miles/week grind. That’s fine. I guess what I’m disappointed in is how I DID choose to spend a good chunk of the last two weeks. Instead of sleeping a lot and resting and relaxing and recovering, I pushed myself more toward feeling burned out and exhausted than most of my big February weeks. And doing stupid crap that also made me go through a lot of money that I don’t really have to waste. Like I said above, I was acting and living like I was a senior in college again and that didn’t turn out so well then. Blah blah blah don’t be so hard on yourself, seriously, you’re just annoying everyone with your ridiculous self-loathing drivel. This isn’t Livejournal.
This whole entry is starting to feel much more like a personal blog than a training-focused one so I guess I should just stop. I’m not as miserable as this probably comes off. Well, sometimes I am. But there is some sunshine — THIS week has been some better. Tuesday I ran relatively pain free. Last night I was back at the Fullsteam run and cruising around Durham with some friends and feeling pretty strong and comfortable (despite the 7:20s we were clicking off, a good minute/mile faster than I’d probably run on my own). I’m resisting the urge to just run until it gets dark after work like I’ll be doing in a few weeks. I’m planning some actual long runs this weekend and feeling excited about it. My social life may be getting eversoslightly less cloudy and less lonely. I should probably stop whining so much. Heh. We’ll see. I’ve got a trail calling me right now and I wanna be done before Community starts.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
Last time I wrote, I had just the one run in the books for last week (albeit a solid one). I ended up with a decent week.
Thu – 5 miles, 42:30 around my cousins’ neighborhood, super buggy, kind of muggy
Fri – 9 miles, let’s say 69 minutes on the greenway to Umstead and back, legs felt so good I had to really reign it in, even did five 30s strides in the last mile
Sat – am: 3 miles slow with a co-worker at the Great Human Race in Durham//pm: 13 miles, 1:48, up the greenway to Umstead, got caught in a thunderstorm
Sun – 15 miles, 2:02 at Umstead from Old Reedy Creek, same run as Wednesday but slower course loop (1:41ish), legs felt really freaking good, threw in a pick-up or two when I felt like it
Total for week — 60 miles, about 8 hours
The week before I ran Stone Cat, I ran 64 miles. Of course, back then 64 miles was not nearly as drastic a taper as it is now. And I just looked back through my log at the actual runs I did. I had a pretty crappy race at Stone Cat and I know there are a lot of factors that go into the success or failure on any given day but maybe I could learn something from the end game last year. For one thing I was running hard a lot. I remember thinking that I was supposed to taper off volume, not intensity. But I think I ratcheted UP the intensity instead, which may have been why I was so shot after only 25 miles in the race. Who knows. All I know is that this time, I barely feel like I ran at all last week.
I saw John again Friday night. I also took my brother who has been suffering from IT band issues. Saturday when I went running my legs felt as close to 100% as they’ve felt in a long time. Yesterday was even better. This week is all about not doing anything stupid, which should seem obvious but I know me well enough to know this is going to take a lot of mental focus. I will not be doing a whole lot of running, obviously. Just enough to keep my legs remembering what running is and so that I don’t start on Saturday and need an hour or two to shake off the rust. Like I mentioned before, I’m not nearly as anxious or nervous about it, I’m also not as keyed up. I was actually chastised yesterday on the phone with my mom for not sounding more excited and enthusiastic about it all. I’m more excited for the people coming here, really. By the time Saturday morning rolls around, I know my legs will be fresh and ready and I will run as hard as I can for 100 miles and whatever that ends up being, fantastic.
Now a rant! Friday as I was running along the airport spur at Umstead, a woman on a mountain bike passed me, then turned around and asked, “have you ever done a Tough Mudder?” At first I didn’t respond because it was so out of the blue but a quick look around revealed I was the only other human anywhere in sight. So I said no. But she wasn’t done! She replied, matter of factly, “Don’t worry, there’s one up here in October.” Then she rode off and that was the end of it. What. The. Fuck? Ummmm, thanks? Clearly, I was really concerned that I had missed my chance. I spent the next mile or so pondering whether maybe I look like the type of guy who would do a mud run. That seemed to be the theme of the weekend too. My cousin and his neighbor were doing one in Charlotte Saturday morning. And then an old friend I hadn’t seen in a few years stopped on her way from NY to SC and hung out Saturday night. We went to Bella Mia, because it’s my favorite restaurant down here and that’s where I like to take all my visitors. It came up that I was running the 100 miler in a week. My friend is an OT and so she immediately asked how my joints are holding up, and telling me horror stories about the runners she’s seen. It’s a similar conversation I’ve had with people I haven’t seen in a while or who I just met when they find out what I like to do. The whole HOW do you do that, what do you think about, do you listen to music, you’re probably going to get injured. When we picked up my brother’s friend, who is about to become a PT, the questions about the prospects of me eventually getting injured continued.
Relating back to mud runs, my friend also asked me if I had ever done a Tough Mudder. She went on to say that if running is not enough of a challenge anymore, “and it seems like it’s getting to that point,” I should try that. And it was there that I really grasped the disconnect. People seem to assume that I’ve gravitated to ultras and run so much because I want the biggest challenge. While it’s certainly accurate to say I like to push my limits and challenge myself, I am by no means bored with running. I am a runner. I am not really much of an athlete (I recently went 0 for 5 in a students vs staff basketball game at my school). I am not a Navy SEAL and don’t aspire to be. I no longer care how much I can bench press or how big my biceps are. While many people find the idea of running for nearly an entire day in the woods akin to torture, I actually LOOK FORWARD to the prospect. I am a runner. I like to RUN, not crawl under barbed wire or leap through fire or any of that stuff. I don’t begrudge or judge anyone THEIR enjoyment of it, but to me it holds zero appeal. My friend mentioned that she had a friend who did something called the World’s Toughest Mudder which was apparently some sort of 24 hour death march in NJ in the winter where people lost toes and were hospitalized and almost no one finished. If I wanted to suffer like that, I’d find a way to enter the Barkley Marathons (which one day I think I’d like to, actually). I think part of my problem is the commercialization of those sorts of races (Tough Mudders, Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, etc etc). They seem to be about cramming the maximum number of people into a space, with waves that go all day. And clusterfucks for parking. Money money money, kind of like how I feel about Rock n Roll races. I gravitate to ultras and trail races and low key local races like the BRRC puts on because the atmosphere jives with my temperament. And it’s not contrived, the trails are what they are, and usually they’re plenty tough on their own. So dear everyone, please stop asking about this. I don’t care about mud runs. I did a mud run already. It was called the Umstead Trail marathon.
Of course the other question was my opinion on Vibrams and other barefoot running things. I really should just print copies of the Hanson’s take on this I read a few years ago, it would save me some time. I’ve started just telling people I can’t wear them because I have webbed toes, but I might start making up more elaborate lies (the webbed toes thing is true though). I don’t mind talking about this subject as much as the previous one though, because I HAVE experience on both ends of the extreme and it’s at least a relevant running related discussion. As I’m writing, I realize I was pretty grouchy and got progressively grouchier as the weekend wore on. By the time we got home from the bowling alley at like 2 am Sunday morning, I was ready for everyone to leave and give me some time to be alone and not have to wear clothes in the apartment and not have to go out til much later than I want to and not have to be conversational and all that. I was probably mostly just tired.
And that’s probably enough for now. I’m gonna have a lot of time this week to think and that’s always a little dangerous. Thursday night cannot come soon enough.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
Not really a recap (or, some words that talk about running-type things in a sorta-chronological manner)
It’s been a little while. I didn’t recap the last week or so because there wasn’t much to recap; at least relative to the previous month or two. I suppose this is what should be referred to as a taper. Not that I’ve ever tapered for a 100 mile race. I don’t think I did that good a job tapering for the 50 last year and that was my last ‘A’ race (and one of my shittier performances from the whole year) and I still don’t really know what I’m doing. I know how to do work and grind week after week but when it comes to the end game, I’m pretty clueless. Luckily there are some (a lot) of people smarter than me and I’ve tried to glean some wisdom from them, but I’ve probably unintentionally ignored quite a bit of good advice in the process. In continuing the theme of putting more importance on enjoying myself (because running is one of the only things I can actually FIND enjoyment in lately) I went ahead and ran for 12 hours just three weeks before the Umstead. Was it too much? Probably. I wasn’t exactly running hard, and I spent about an hour of that time span in the bathroom (at least it felt like about an hour). It wouldn’t have been too bad (TOO bad) were it not for the twenty-some hours of driving that went along with it in the two and a half day span that included the 12 hours of running. Covering 84.5 miles was a good confidence boost that I’ll be able to at least finish 100 miles but my legs felt like garbage last week.
Fortunately John worked me over last Friday and I all the aches and troubling pains subsided enough that I had two decent runs last weekend. First was 22 miles at Umstead included 2xTurkey Creek loop. The next was the Tobacco Road half, sort of. You won’t find me in the results. But I just happened to also be running 13.1 miles starting and finishing at the USA Baseball complex and spending a couple miles on the ATT. I had a bib on too. Go figure. My legs were pretty shot from the longish Umstead run about 12 hours earlier, and I went out hard intending to crash and burn. I got my wish; I felt like crap from miles 8-12. For some reason the last mile went better again, weird. Still, running a 1:25 like that made for a good workout. 51 miles for the week, lots of extra free time.
This week has been junk too. I spent Monday on the recliner watching the entire first season of The Walking Dead and it was awesome. Tuesday managed to top it somehow (well not somehow, in this case awesome company, good beer, ticken chacos, and bar trivia top getting drunk at home watching great television and eating a burrito). Wednesday I got back to it, running an Umstead course loop, possibly the last time I do that in full before the race. I was a little pressed for time because I had to pick Scott up from the airport, operating on less than 3 hours sleep, and probably dehydrated. Still, the plan was to jog easy to the airport turnaround, run a full course loop hardish, and jog easy back to the car. Result? A single loop PR (1:27ish). Not sure how I ran faster than that for a full marathon though, except that I probably ran Manz miles here still.
This weekend, Scott’s still in town and now there are only eight days til race day. Running will be limited, and I think it should be and I’ll have enough distractions to ensure I don’t do something dumb like run hills for four hours Sunday morning. I’m pretty excited about next weekend, but in a way that hasn’t put a whole lot of stress on me unlike last November before Stone Cat. Back then, I had made it a very singular goal that would basically decide whether the entire year was a success or a failure (in my mind at least). Right now, I care, and of course I want to do well, but ultimately I’m just looking forward to seeing some really good friends and some really fast people who I’ve admired a while. It’s March and I have a long year still ahead of me so whatever happens next Saturday, it won’t swing the needle a whole lot in either direction. It’s not apathy, it’s perspective. Or something. At least I AM sure that I still have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m kinda starting to like it that way.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
So it’s the middle of a new week and at this point seems kinda pointless to write a weekly recap, except for the sake of regularity. I obviously already wrote waaaaaay too much about Saturday’s race so I can gloss over that and I think I’ll just throw in a bonus recap of how this week has gone so far (spoiler alert: pretty ok)
Mon – am: 4 miles, 37:15, Duke XC//pm: sleep from 5:30p – 6:15a Tuesday morning, A NEW PR!
Tue – am: nothing//pm: 29 miles, 4:06, BCG to Umstead w/2 x Turkey Creek loop and 7 x super steep hill on greenway on way back
Wed – am: 4 miles, 38 min, Duke XC, drizzle//pm: 21 miles, 3 hours, Duke XC, five 4+ mi loops w/extensions, water after each
Thu – am: 3 miles, 29:30 Duke XC//pm: 14 miles total incl. 5 x mile (5:55, 5:50, 5:48, 5:43, 5:38), 400 slow jog after each, 800 recovery after set then 4×200 (35, 36, 34, 34), 200 jog
Fri – am: 5 miles, 43 minutes, Duke XC//pm: random stationary recumbent biking and foam rolling
Sat - am: 34 miles total incl Umstead Marathon (3:00:36), 2.5 up, 5.5 after, slowish
Sun – am: 16 miles, 2:45, Umstead; first 6ish w/Alicia Parr (who was the Umstead women’s champion!) on Loblolly trail, last 10 miles solo on Company Mill and bridle trails//pm: random splashing around in pool
Total for week — 130 miles again, about 17.5 hours
Mon – am: 3 miles, 29 minutes, Duke XC, legs feeling better//pm: 15 miles, 2:08, Duke XC, three 4+ mi loops and one 3 mile loop
Tue – am: 4 miles, 38 minutes, Duke XC, legs normal again//pm: 15 miles, 2:17, Umstead, did a course loop+ with Kara B who was thinking about pacing a friend at the 100 and wanted to experience the course first, legs felt great
Wed – am: 8 miles, 68 minutes, Duke XC, 2 loops, beautiful morning, legs feel fantastic
So far — 45 miles, 175 miles and about 24 hours of running since last recap.
Tonight I’m gonna get back to the gym and do my weekly squats which I’ve missed the past two weeks (sorry Katie!) and then go to the Fullsteam Run (which I’ve also missed for the past month or so) wherein I’ll try to find some guys who are feeling spry (there always seems to be a couple people at the Fullsteam run who are looking to push the pace) and do another half-assed workout, something in the neighborhood of 25-26 minutes for 4 miles with a few before and after.
I’m really pleased that my legs feel completely recovered from Saturday’s effort already. That’s the cool thing about running “shorter” races (and I say that fully aware that most people don’t consider a marathon short by any stretch) — the recovery is pretty short. I was trying to explain it to Kara last night, the different feeling after that sort of effort vs. the 44 miler I ran two weeks ago. The Sunday run after the marathon felt heavy, like I had done max effort squats the day before. The day or so after the longer efforts, it’s not so much heavy as just tired, like I’d done a bajillion air squats instead. The key to recovering from either, I think, is sitting on my ass most of the rest of the day on Sunday watching sports and eating whatever. I finally talked to my parents about the race and we laughed because now when my mom hears I ran a marathon, she thinks, “So? You do that every week.” Which is essentially true.
I’ve got a little more than three weeks to go before the 100 miler. This is my last higher volume week, after this I’ll start to taper off. Kara was asking me some questions about training on our run last night and the main recurrent theme is that I really have almost no idea what I’m doing. I’ve never done anything like this before, I don’t have a coach to bounce ideas off of (and can’t exactly afford one), Jess just tells me I’m crazy now, I just go out and run, kind of a lot. There is the minimum of structure but really I’m just doing whatever. But more importantly than knowing what I’m doing… I’m having FUN doing it. A lot of fun. I can’t remember the last time I looked forward to going out for a run almost every single day like I do now. A lot of that probably has to do with the weather, and the places I’m running, but still, it’s a new feeling for me and the results are hard to argue with right now. If it ain’t broke, right?
Til next time… RUN HAPPY everyone!
Saturday morning I did something I haven’t done in almost three years. I ran an official marathon, the Umstead Trail Marathon. Since doing the National Marathon back in March of 2009, I’ve run the marathon distance or more plenty of times, most of those times coming in the past year or so, but have not actually run in an actual marathon race. I actually hadn’t planned on running THIS race either, but earlier this year the opportunity presented itself, as Bull City Running had some entries available. I figured that I would likely be doing a long run at Umstead anyway, so why not have some fun and make part of it a race.
Fast forward to this week. After the 10 miler last Sunday and the ensuing drive back to NC, I started the week off exhausted, which is why I slept for 13 hours from Monday evening to Tuesday morning. I spent the week acting like I wasn’t racing by doing back-to-back long runs Tuesday and Wednesday (29 at Umstead Tuesday, 21 on the Duke XC trail Wednesday) and followed that up with a track workout Thursday night. My “taper” consisted of running 5 easy miles Friday morning. The forecast for Saturday was somewhere between biblical rain and The End of the World. I woke up around 4am Saturday to the sounds of the promised rains. Rolling over, I briefly considered canceling my alarm for 6:45 and just sleeping in. But, I seem to have developed an affinity for suffering and misery so at a quarter to seven I was swinging my legs out of bed and going about the process of getting ready. This was actually the first race I’d be doing IN the Triangle area since moving here, and it was real nice not to have to either 1- travel hours the night before to someplace or 2- wake up REALLY early to drive an hour or so to the race site. This was basically in my backyard. Cereal, bathroom, dressed, supplies, bathroom, out the door around 8ish. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the rain seemed to have mostly abated and while still overcast and threatening looking, it seemed like a pretty nice morning for running.
I drove to my usual spot on Old Reedy Creek Rd, put on my Pure Grits, grabbed the handheld full of Perpetuem, and started to jog up to the start. It’s about 2.5 miles from the car to Camp Lapihio where the race start/finish was (and also where the 100 will start/finish, conveniently enough). I got there around 8:45 and immediately saw John Stiner. It was nice seeing a familiar face and we chatted before I realized I needed to go into the lodge and check in. As I was waiting the few minutes before the start, John asked me what my race plan was. I hadn’t really thought of anything specific, my two big goals were to not get injured (VERY big goal, especially with the early miles on wet, muddy singletrack and how much of a clutz I usually am) and to get a good long run in, everything else in my mind would be a bonus. I told John I was going to go pretty hard until I blew up and then suffer to the end. Most of my long runs at Umstead have been pretty comfortable and I feel relatively fine at the end, I wanted to suffer some today, because I’m sure I will at some point over the course of 100 miles.
I had to check in at the timing tent and then I ambled over to the right side of the starting line. As is often the case at races, it seemed to me like there were dozens of people who looked super fast and I figured if I ran about what I figured I would (3:15-3:20), I’d be happy with top 5-10 or so. Considering the week I’d had, I didn’t expect to be particularly competitive, or have my legs be able to hold on for 3+ hours at a hard effort. I said hi to Alicia and Alisha and then lined up about a row behind the front. There was a countdown and then we were off.
The start went up the road into camp, slightly uphill before turning onto the bridle trail for an abbreviated out and back on the airport overlook spur. Right away some guy in a yellow Fleet Feet singlet blasted out to the lead, well ahead of everyone else. Somehow I found myself in 2nd a few steps behind a group of guys. I could hear them chatting and I thought briefly that I should hang back. But then I remembered my goal — run hard — and just went with it. As we turned toward the bridle trail, one of the volunteers cheered out that she hopes we look as happy on the way back in (at the end of the race) as we do now. As we ran the airport spur out & back, it was hard to remember I was in a race. It was Saturday morning, I was running the bridle trail at Umstead, welcome to every. single. weekend. So I was saying hi and good morning to people as I passed them and instead of just saying hi back, or ignoring me which is much more typical, they were cheering and saying good job. It was a bit weird at first. At the turnaround right by mile one the leader already had a sizable lead and I was a few seconds alone in second. As I ran back up toward Company Mill, I began to pass the rest of the field. It’s kinda neat being up in the front of a race on an out & back because everyone starts cheering. Often I feel pretty bad because usually I’m too tired or focused to saying anything back but it was early so I was able to cheer for everyone else too.
Another mile or so and I was turning onto the Company Mill trail, the first stretch of single track. I couldn’t even see the leader anymore by the time I reached it. Instead of my usual caution and slow approach to running the hiking-only trails, especially the downhills, I let loose a little.The trail was a mess from the rain. It was very muddy and slippery in spots, especially the bridges (FORESHADOWING!) and I had to occasionally reign it in to avoid turning slips into outright spills. As I came off of Company Mill back on the bridle, the first aid station was there. I think this was the first time someone cheered for me by name. I didn’t see who it was but that was a lot cooler than “Go 221!” or “Good job runner!” There was a considerable downhill to the bridge on Graylyn and I again just ran hard. Especially on the bridle trails, all downhills basically meant sprint. At the bottom the course turned back onto single track, this time the Sycamore trail. This is the only stretch of the race I haven’t run on yet. It was basically the same as the rest of the single track I’ve run here, some roots, some rocks, rolling up and down, and it was very wet and muddy.
Coming off the trail and turning to go down a hill to the next aid station, I was about 5 miles into the race and at that point had no idea what time I was at (I wrapped my Garmin in seran wrap to keep it dry. I didn’t really care about pace or whatever, I just wanted it to keep track of time, mostly for the running I’d do AFTER the race, and I left my regular Timex which CAN handle rain at school over the weekend). Because it wasn’t really raining, I peeled off some of the wrap so I could see the face. I was apparently running right around 7:00s or just a bit slower apparently. I saw the leader motoring up the hill as I was coming down. At this point, I figured he already had about a 2-3 minute lead! I grabbed some water and took off up the hill. There was a line of runners coming into the aid station as I was leaving, probably only 20-30 seconds back. That was a bit depressing, to have been running relatively hard and everyone else was still right there. On the next stretch of the Sycamore trail, I was just hoping the shirtless guy who had been right behind me would hurry up and pass me already so I didn’t have to wonder when it would happen. I hit 7 miles in about 49:30 and a few moments later, I came to a bridge with some steps. I apparently took the first step too fast because my foot slid forward and I slammed my left shin into the step above. There was loud expletives being yelled for a few seconds. I hobbled off the bridge, checked my shin, decided it probably wasn’t broken, started jogging, stopped and checked it again, cursed at myself for being a careless dumbass, and then kept going.
By the time I was back on Graylyn I was saying to myself that I didn’t want to see anymore goddamn single track (and fortunately for me, I wouldn’t the rest of the race). I was now heading up the same hill I had run down a few miles earlier, my shin was a non-issue. This time at the aid station at the top, I grabbed a water and a honey stinger Ginsting gel. It tasted pretty good and I figured Honey Stinger products have been pretty good to my stomach. To that point I had just been sipping my Perpetuem every so often, and I had a package of honey stinger chews in my pocket for later. This portion of the race course, the Reedy Creek to Turkey Creek bridle trail, is the part of the park I am definitely most familiar with, having run it dozens of times over the past few weeks. The course ran down what is apparently called Corkscrew Hill, which makes sense as it winds around. Again, I was running hard down the hill. I was 9 miles in and I think the watch said something around 64 minutes, which seemed about right. I hit the bridge at the bottom and the long, gradual uphill began. Sort of like last weekend at Club Challenge, this hill didn’t feel particularly bad. In running the 100 course so much, I’ve come to actually enjoy this section, the uphill is never THAT steep, so I can just grind and not slow down all that much. I got to the top which is apparently the Trenton Rd aid station and everyone was cheering and again calling me by name. I did what I had started doing at pretty much every aid station (and would do at pretty much every aid station til the end), stopped to grab a cup (or two) of water and an orange slice. Tasty. I turned and started running the gently rolling Turkey Hill section.
Because this stretch is such a long out & back, on the left side of the trail I could see mile markers all the way up to mile 21. It helped break things up, first I’d come to the mile marker I was actually at, then some time later I’d see one in the opposite direction, always narrowing the gap. For the next 2ish miles from the aid station, down to the two paved bridges, I was just cruising. Around mile 11 I noticed I was right about 84 minutes which meant right on 7:00 pace. I knew that meant if I somehow held that, I’d run about 3:03, much better than I anticipated. I also figured I’d blow up at some point, probably on the next section. The next section is, on the Umstead 100 website, known as the sawtooth 79 because it’s about 2-2.5 miles of fairly steep ups and downs. I was going to treat it just like the rest of the race so far, plod along up the hills as hard as I could and bomb the downhills harder while catching my breath. Somehow, today the hills didn’t seem as bad as they normally do. I definitely slowed some on the ups but I think I made up for it on the downs. And while my legs were definitely a bit tired, they didn’t seem to be getting worse and cardiovascularly I was completely fine. There was an aid station around mile 13 and it was here that people started telling me how far back I was. I wanted to tell them I didn’t care at all, because I had no inclination on going any faster to try and catch someone so far ahead. Although I WAS surprised to learn I was only 4-5 minutes back, I figured the gap would have widened considerably more.
I hit the mile 13 marker right at 1:31. I was just about halfway but for some reason, mentally, I felt even closer to the finish then that. Back onto Graylyn and back down the hill toward the same aid station I was at about 9 miles ago. As I was turning to go down, the leader was heading back up Graylyn, so year, I figured about 4-5 minutes was accurate. I still didn’t care. I stopped again to grab another honey stinger gel and some water and an orange and was off. Before I got back to Graylyn I saw the same line of guys in roughly the same order coming back down. Again I was a little demoralized that while I was slightly further ahead this time, it was only by about 80 seconds. I didn’t take into account that I was feeling the same, if not better, than I had the last time I saw them. Actually, definitely better. In fact, as I turned back onto Turkey Creek trail, I was feeling better than I had at any point yet. And I was going slightly faster. The long back portion allowed me to see most of the field which was really cool. I was a little less vocal but tried to give some thumbs up and smile. It took me a little over 20 minutes to go from 13 to 16, which surprised me quite a bit. As I went hard down the last sharp downhill and came back to the narrow stretch, I realized I was almost back to the bridges and a lot further along than I realized. Cool.
It was a very gradual, mostly uphill stretch back to the Trenton Rd aid station. The whole time I was thinking mostly about the guys right behind me and figuring if they were running as well as they looked and I was running as slow as I felt, it was a matter of minutes before I got caught. I kept the hammer down and as I came back to the aid station, I could hear a trumpet playing Gonna Fly Now from Rocky. At mile 9ish of the Broad Street run I found the actual song exceedingly annoying. But I was feeling like crap and worried about not meeting my goal at that point. Here, I was in a great mood, I was feeling good, I felt very close to the finish even though I had another 7ish miles to go, and I noticed it was a young boy doing the playing. Kind of reminded me of a young Scott, so after grabbing another orange and a water I gave him a thumbs up and a wink as I departed. The next mile or so were downhill, and (SURPRISE SURPRISE) I was running hard. I kept waiting for the inevitable blow up and the longer I ran, the less likely said blow up seemed. I caught a quick split of about 6:30 on this downhill. I noticed I was at 2:18 at mile 20, so I had actually sped up in general somehow. I started to think that if I managed NOT to blow up, maybe I could hold off the rest (as I figured no one else would be going much faster than 6:40-6:50s at this point) and hang on to second place. I got back to the bridge that signified the start of Corkscrew Hill and there was a guy who mentioned I was about 8-9 minutes behind the leader now. This seemed far more likely to me and helped me relax; I WAS running for 2nd place, now I probably wouldn’t even be reminded about the leader anymore.
As the hill leveled out toward the top I could see the aid station and someone was standing with an orange slice, as if they read my mind. I grabbed it and a quick water and was off on the Cedar Ridge out & back. This being a fairly brief out & back, I figured I would see the leader coming toward me any second. It was mostly downhill on the way out and I felt like I was absolutely flying. There were moments on some steeper spots where I was actually going, ‘WHEEEEEEEE” out loud and throwing my arms up like I was on a roller coaster. I can’t remember ever being that happy at either of the other two marathons I’ve done, especially not so late into it. But then I didn’t see him right away. Where the hell was the leader?. I briefly worried I had gone the wrong way until I came to the mile 22 sign. But still no leader. And then, finally I saw him. And for the first time all race he did not look too strong, or like a running robot. He actually looked human, and unhappy. The biker who was escorting him looked up and let out an audible gasp off surprise when he saw me. That made me laugh as I ran by. Only maybe a minute later I came to the turnaround. Already? Cool. I went around the cone and began the climb back up, glancing at my watch. One minute went by, still no one coming toward me. Two minutes. Three minutes. Four minutes. What is going on? Where the hell is everyone? Finally about four and a half minutes after starting my way back I saw 3rd place. And he said something to the effect that the leader was just up ahead and looking bad and to go get him. That was NOT what I wanted to hear really. I could just picture it in my head, catching up to this guy and then having him start feeling better and making me actually race all the way to the finish and still losing. Not exactly what I wanted to do today. I had spent almost three hours accepting the fact that I was going to run pretty well and finish in 2nd, so this was throwing me off. A few guys later, I see Ronnie Weed coming at me telling me the same thing and that I’m gonna catch him on Cemetary Hill. I realize that no one else knew that I wasn’t TRYING to catch this guy and I was not about to try to go harder now because I was closer. I was in the middle of re-lowering expectations in my mind when I came to the powerline cut again and sure enough, there was the leader in the yellow singlet, walking next to the bike and not looking to hot. Balls. I guess I AM going to catch him. As I went by him, I asked if he was ok and patted him on the back. I didn’t know what to do, I’ve definitely felt like crap in a race before (see: Triple Lakes 40 miler last year) and if someone had caught me late in that race (like I was expecting), I’d probably want something similar. I hope I didn’t come off as condescending.
Anyway, now I had this surreal moment where everything hit me. With about three miles to go, I had just blown right passed the machine who had been leading the race and now I was in first and the closest person behind either of us was at least eight or so minutes back. It was very likely I’d win. WHAT?! SERIOUSLY?! SHUT UP! KEEP RUNNING! That’s something like what happened in rapid succession in my head at that moment. I think some people at the aid station were a little surprrised when they saw me, now with a fancy-pants bike escort coming out of Cedar Ridge first. I didn’t take anything at the aid station but I did thank them (at least I hope I did, in my head I did) and kept rolling. I’ve run the stretch from the Graylyn trail junction to Camp Lapihio dozens of times, this is part of my long run loop, there was not much more left to go at all. I kept the throttle down, this was the only stretch of the race, from here to the finish, that I was absolutely all out on. I also realized that I would very probably come close but not quite break 3 hours. I was ok with that. The guy on the bike asked me if I wanted anything, water, gel, etc. I said no thanks. People on the trail I passed were cheering, which now just felt cool. I wondered how surprised John would be to see me coming through first. I hit Cemetary Hill (which until last week I didn’t realize had a name) and made myself treat it like the end off a long run, which meant push hard. I actually caught up to the biker before the top, at which point he mentioned no one had done that before. I think he was just being nice. At the top I knew the rest was mostly downhill. The turnoff finally came into view, I made the right and headed for the finish stretch. As I went back onto the camp road I remembered what the volunteer had said at the beginning of the race and I made it a point to smile and thank the volunteers here. I wasn’t feeling as good as I had at the beginning, I was feeling BETTER. As I barreled down the final downhill stretch, I could see mile 26 and a volunteer was talking into a walkie talkie, probably mentioning my imminent arrival. The road rounded and the finish came into view and I could hear people clapping and cheering and all I can remember is feeling really pleased and smiling. I crossed the line first in 3:00:36 and got my pint glass (seriously, I love getting beer-related race things) and my bat plaque that said “1st Place Male”. Baller.
John found me and we talked for a little bit. People were asking me how I felt. The honest answer, pretty good. I just ran a 9 minute PR on a fairly hilly course and won the race and I didn’t hurt myself, so yeah, I’m feeling pretty damn good. We waited around for the next runner to come in. The guy in the yellow singlet must have rallied as he came in about ten minutes later for second. Apparently he had started cramping, ugh, been there, sucks. I grabbed some food and then headed out for a few more miles. I decided not to run quite as much as previously planned, the effort made up for the lower volume in my mind. And I wanted to get back and eat a free Moe’s burrito and have John work on me a little bit and see everyone else finish. I’m happy I got to see Alicia turn for home as first female (WOOT! REPEAT CHAMPION!),making it a very good day for the Bull City Track Club. I know I had to run the race myself, but without people like John (who keeps my legs from falling off), or Kim and Jason and the folks at Bull City Running (who run the greatest running store in the world, by far), or the countless volunteers who were always so friendly and helpful, I doubt I would’ve run nearly as well. It was so cool hanging out after the race, seeing everyone else come in, talking with a bunch of other runners, like Alicia and Alisha, Josh, and Shannon (who is also running the Umstead 100) and is practically my neighbor. They wanted to know about my plans for running the 100 (which I still have only the bare minimum of an idea about, aside from ‘I’m going to run it and hopefully finish before April 1st’). After everyone had finished, I helped John pack up his car and walked the 2.5 miles back to mine. I stopped to sit on the bench that overlooks Lake Crabtree for a few minutes, just relaxing and taking in what turned out to be a nice afternoon. I decided that it had totally been worth it getting out of bed this morning.
This post is long enough, as usual, so I’ll add a separate for some of the really cool pictures I found from the race. Also this will give me a chance to check facebook and give proper credit where it’s due.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!