Weekly recap 2/13 – 19 (and ramblings)

I had a third consecutive solid week, and ran 100+ miles for a third consecutive week, a first for me. I’m not going to dwell on that, it’s just a byproduct of the fact that I’m being consistent, I’m healthy, and I’m trying to get a good amount of time on my feet in preparation for all the long races I have this year.

Mon – am: 3 miles, 29 minutes, Duke XC loop//pm: 21 miles, 2:56, 7+ loops of the Duke XC course
Tue –  am: 4 miles, 36 minutes, Duke XC loop//3p: 4 miles, 33:30, Duke XC loop//8:30p: 6 miles, 55:30, Cary Parkway
Wed – am: 3 miles, 28 minutes, Duke XC loop//3p: 7 miles, 58:30, Duke XC loops+//6:30p: 7 miles total, incl track workout (100, 200, 400,400, 800, mile, 800, 400, 400, 200; 200 slow jog after each, everything around 5:30-5:50 pace), 1.5 up/1 down
Thu – am: 3 miles, 29:30, Duke XC loop//pm: 19 miles, 2:43, four long Duke XC loops+some additions (cold, rainy, muddy, miserable)
Fri – am: 3 miles, 29 minutes, Duke XC loop//pm: 8 miles, 63 minutes, Duke east campus loops (also did some squats in between the runs)
Sat - am: 44 miles, 6:02, Umstead, three 100 miler course loops (1:41, 1:42, 1:41:45) + running back and forth to the car (~1 mile) in between loops, first one with Alicia Parr, last 30 miles solo. Felt GREAT!
Sun – am: off//pm: 6 miles, 54 minutes, treadmill at the Y

Total for week — 138 miles, ~19.5 hours

For those following along, obviously this is yet a new new Monday – Sunday high in terms of both mileage and time. However, going from last Sunday through Saturday’s long run, I logged 148 miles and a little over an extra hour. Like I said above, the specifics and personal bests and all that are nice but ultimately not as important as the net result, which is hopefully that I’m going to be in good shape to run 100 miles in six weeks and some 12 and 24 hour races later in the year. More generally, I feel like if I CAN handle the mileage without breaking down, the MORE I run, the better it will be because I’m certain I haven’t maxed out my aerobic capacity. With six weeks to go before Umstead, I’m finally starting to feel like maybe I WILL be ready. I spent a lot of time running loops of the Duke XC course, mostly out of convenience as it’s across the street from where I work. But also because the surface is soft and it’s fairly hilly compared to other runs I could do which keeps the speed in check and (I hope) will make me stronger. Plus it’s a good mental toughness workout to just run loop after loop when I could bail every 25 or so minutes.

Saturday’s long run went so much better than I had expected. I intentionally did my weekly squats and other random leg lifting workout Friday afternoon and while I didn’t go as hard as other weeks, I went hard enough to leave my legs feeling pretty heavy Saturday morning. I wanted to start the run with tired-ish legs. And then somehow I cruised the first 14+ miles with Alicia feeling just fine, a little worried that we were going to fast and the last hour or two would turn into a death march. Never happened. I stayed on top of my fueling (tried out some Perpetuem and mostly Cliff shot blocks and Honey Stinger chews). I was almost metronomic as far as speed, each course loop within a minute of each other. And the last mile of the day was sub-8:00. I never hit a point where I started flagging or feeling significantly more tired. I also ran faster through 40 miles than I did in my 40 mile race last year (by 15 minutes). And I’d say the run I did Saturday was more difficult than the Triple Lakes race course. So… improvement? I guess.

Ramblings time! A lot went through my mind over the course of almost twenty hours of running last week. And of course as I sit here, I can’t remember most of it. I do know I hit a bit of a low point around Thursday/Friday. Mostly just semi-depressed about how ultimately futile doing what I’m doing is. Blah blah existential crises about how there really is no meaning behind what I’m doing and ultimately I’m going to die and is this really how I want to have spent the majority of my life? The answer I came up with is… better than the alternative. The alternative being get drunk far too often, eat far too much (or, basically as much as I’m eating now), sit on my ass and play video games, etc etc and then I’d be fat, miserable, unlovable, kind of a socially inept jerk, as opposed to now where I’m just a miserable, unlovable, kind of socially inept jerk with off the charts measures on virtually every possible test of cardiovascular fitness. I was drawn to ultrarunning in large part for the social aspect, the big camping, cookout party-type atmosphere I saw at Finger Lakes (which I’m very excited to return to again this year), and yet here I am, spending in inordinate amount of time alone still. And it’s still by choice. I’m sure any distance runner who’s spent any significant block of time training seriously for something has felt similarly. The fact is, most of the time, especially, when I AM running, I like the solitude. It’s more comfortable for me. Even when I was regularly going to Fullsteam runs, if the handful of people that I’ve gotten kind of friendly with werent there I’d find myself finishing the run, getting a beer, standing around awkwardly watching pretty much every other runner socializing away and wondering how it’s possible for me to be this disconnected from a group of people who should actually GET it. And then I’d leave and be mad at myself for spending the money on a beer when I had some at home in the fridge. I do a lot of things thinking, “this will be a good chance for me to get out of my comfort zone and do something social.” And I almost always end up getting home mad at myself for wasting the time and money. Which leads to me being less and less inclined to do so. Jeez, this got a bit depressing. And this is threatening to get pretty significantly unrelated to running and waaaaaay more personal than most people who read this blog really care so I’ll cut it there.

Fact is, I’m pretty content most of the time. Whenever I sit down to write, I’ve always found it easier to write about the negative stuff than the positive. I’m pretty uncomfortable with happiness, in general and specifically with discussing it, like if I do, I’ll ruin it or something. It’s why it’s so easy for me to look past any sort of accomplishment and focus on things I could do better next time. Which I suppose is a good trait to have if you want to keep improving, but I wonder if I’ll ever REALLY enjoy anything I do or accomplish. It’s why that Dogfish Head 120 minute bottle is still sitting in my fridge almost five years after I bought it and why the bottle of Bitches Brew I picked up in October will probably be there for at least a couple years too.

Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!

February 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm 3 comments


This is what 19 miles and almost 3 hours of running on muddy, wet trails in cold, miserable rain looks like. I was NOT very happy yesterday while running. I wanted to stop after about two miles when my shirt was so wet it was clinging to my stomach and chest and making everything even colder than it already was. Obviously I didn’t. I wonder why the right leg got it so much worse than the left.


It’s been a while since I was THIS much of a mess after a run. It looked much messier in person (as opposed to the crappy computer camera quality). Fun times.

Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!


February 17, 2012 at 10:29 am 2 comments

The woods

For the past few weeks, pretty much every morning I find myself doing the same thing — slowly jogging three or four miles on the cross country trail that encircles the Duke golf course (which has an entrance conveniently located directly across the street from where I work). Two or so weeks ago, there were men out doing some tree work along a stretch of the trail. Chainsaws. The smell of gasoline and sawdust and pine needles. Every morning since then I have meant to get back and blog about it and then I get caught up in work and put it off. But I have a longer-than-usual break so here I am.

Every morning when I run by that stretch, particularly when the tree work was actually taking place, but even now when there’s less gasoline and sawdust and more just pine and a scent I can best describe as ‘the woods’, the same memories and emotions hit me. I immediately remember the fun parts about working in Maryland state parks. I remember all the chainsaw work I got to do, how I loved the smell when I was felling a tree, how exhausting it could be, how awesome it was. I remember running out my front door and being in the woods immediately, often without another human being for a few miles (save my roommates), and forcing myself to realize just how lucky I was to be where I was at that moment and how most people would love the opportunity to have what I have available to me. Part of me really misses working in the park. There was a lot that I don’t miss, and I love where I’m at now and what I’m doing and, for the most part, my life is as I want it to be (for now), but there are few things more fun (and exhausting) than starting a chainsaw and cutting down a tree and doing it well and then cutting it into logs and hauling them into the woods. 

Every morning, now, I run along the west end of the golf course loop and that’s what I think about for a few minutes. It’s peaceful, it’s a trifle wistful, it’s a nice break to the monotony. I’ve always known I prefer trails to roads, running along any surface that’s not paved, through trees, birds chirping, squirrels scampering, the woodpeckers going to town, an occasional fox scurrying along; it’s nice to get that reminder so regularly. And I always take a moment to think about how lucky I am at that moment.

Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone

February 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm 1 comment

Weekly recap 2/6 – 12 and whatever

I finally have put together two decent weeks in a row! Hallelujah! Praise Cthulhu! Or FSM! But yeah, two weeks of the highest volume running I have ever done and right now as I write this on Sunday night, a little drunk, a little tired, I am surprised at how GOOD I feel! Here’s the recap, then I’ll babble about dumb crap:

Mon – pm: 23 miles, 2:59, downtown Raleigh, first 15 with Jessalyn, last 8 solo a little quicker
Tue – am: 3 miles, super slow on Duke XC trail//3p- 3 miles, slightly less slow on Duke XC trail//830p: 13 miles, 1:51 on treadmill at Y
Wed – 5:30p- 12 miles, 1:39, Umstead and then Cary Parkway to Y, then some squats and other lifting at Y, then 8:30p- 6 miles, 55:30 back home along Cary Pkwy
Thu – am: 3 miles, super slow on Duke XC trail//pm: 13 miles, 1:49 on Duke East campus loop, bathroom pitstop at mile 5
Fri – pm: 12 miles, 1:27 at American Tobacco trail (soft side), 2 easy, 4×1 mile quickish/1 mile easy (6:20, 5:00*, 5:50, 5:47 for quickish miles, 2nd mile cut short at 0.9 to take shit in woods), then 2 miles steady ~13:40, then 1 mile easy
Sat – am: 29 miles, 3:58, at Umstead, 2 loops of Umstead 100 course (1:43:45, 1:38:15) plus some extra
Sun – 16 miles, 2:18, at Umstead, started with some fast ladies from BCTC, ended with just Kate as everyone peeled off to do slightly less

Total for week - 133 miles, a little over 18 hours

The distance covered represented both a Mon-Sun and an overall any-seven-days personal high, ever. Last week I had set the seven day high at 132. The numbers are not particularly important, the time on my feet is, at least I think. To be completely honest, I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing. I figure I have a 100 mile race in seven weeks, a 12 hour race a few weeks after that, and two 24 hour races later this year. The more time I spend running, and un-injured, the better. So that’s what I’ve done. I feel pretty good. I’ve slowed down and just run more. Although this week’s average pace for all miles is somewhat faster than last week’s, probably mostly because of Friday’s pseudo-workout and the quicker long run on Saturday. Either way, I have no business feeling as good as I do considering what I’ve done the past two weeks. My legs actually felt like they could go a lot longer today. This bodes well.

A few random thoughts: today’s run was nice. I started with five awesome, fast ladies from the Bull City Track Club. Most of them are running the Boston marathon this year. We ran some of the bridle trail and some of the single track at Umstead. I’d say at least 85% of the running I do in a given week is by myself, so it’s nice to do some miles with other people. The main issue is that it’s hard to find someone who wants to run upwards of 2 hours during the week, although Jessalyn has done that a few times already, including last Monday. I kind of like doing the long, long runs solo as it helps not just with the physical stuff but with some mental toughness too (at least I think it does), but the other runs, like today, are much better with some company. I think I’m doing a better job of branching out and trying to be more social, at least within the running group. I went to the Bull City spring kick-off event at Fullsteam tonight (how can you argue with free Fullsteam beer?!) and actually talked to people instead of just standing awkwardly by myself drinking beer and reminding myself how much of a loser I am!

Another thing that I wanted to mention that amused me — Friday night I was on the phone with my mom. She asked me about what my plans were for the weekend. I mentioned that Saturday I had plans on running 28 miles (obviously I overachieved) and her response was simple, “Oh, that’s not too bad.” That’s not too bad. For a 28 mile run. I had to laugh, out loud. The type of running I have gotten into, this ultrarunning stuff, has completely skewered my mom’s perspective on running. Most people in the world will never even attempt a marathon. For the ones who do, it’s a gigantic achievement. And a marathon IS a big deal. But the distance (not the race, there is a big difference) is not a big deal for me anymore. I did my long run yesterday and was absolutely fine this morning. Ho hum. A year or so ago, telling my mom that would have elicited serious concern and worry for my safety and well-being. Now it barely registers. I have ruined my parents as far as realizing what constitutes a significant distance to run. It kind of put into perspective just how far I’ve come in a year. Last year, at this time, I was still thinking my goal for the fall would be to race a fast half marathon. Oh younger Mark, if only you’d known what your future held. So naive!

This week I’m looking to run similarly to the past two — lots of miles, lots of time on my feet, lots of time on the trai. A longer long run at Umstead this weekend, maybe another sorta-workout, hopefully some more running with people (apparently my pace fits perfectly with all the women in the track club that are running Boston this year, why the hell would I complain about that?!)

Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!

February 12, 2012 at 9:22 pm 10 comments

Disaster averted

Those who have read this blog for a while will maybe remember about a year ago I wrote about a particularly awful incident that happened to me while doing mile repeats at the Goucher College track. Running-wise, I felt great that day. Strong, smooth, crushing my workout. Unfortunately an hour or so before I decided to head to the track, I ate some leftover spicy quesadilla. MISTAKE! The short of it was that I did two full mile repeats and the third one was cut to a 1200 as I was sprinting down the homestretch directly to the track-side port-a-potty. I didn’t make it. It was the first time I had run so hard, I’d crapped myself. Not bad, but enough to make me bag the rest of the workout. I’ve had a number of close calls and near misses before and since. Until last night, they had all been directly related to Mexican food consumption combined with track workouts.

Last night was different. Originally I HAD planned on doing a baby workout, just to get my legs moving faster than the slow slog I’ve been doing 99% of the time. OF COURSE, by yesterday afternoon I was running to the bathroom every half hour or so. UGH. To make it worse, I hadn’t even eaten anything particularly delicious (or spicy) the night before. My GI system just decided to hate me. I amended plans and headed to Duke’s East Campus loop. Only a little over a mile and a half, and with a Whole Foods across the street from the where I was starting, just in case anything went awry.

Things DID go awry. I didn’t notice it on the first loop. But by the mid-point of the second, I was feeling some distress. Stupidly, I went on for another loop instead of heading to the bathroom. Halfway through the third loop I was in emergency mode and I still had about a half mile at minimum to go before I could get the Whole Foods bathroom. I cursed myself for not having the forethought to bring some toilet paper, as at least then I could have ducked behind one of the big bushes dotting the loop. Instead I trundled on as some dude came flying past me. This will be important in a second. With about a quarter mile to go I honestly thought, “Goddammit I’m going to shit myself right here.” I didn’t. I slowed it down and waddled across the street. I was trying to find a balance between moving fast enough so as to get to toilet ASAP while going slow enough to not cause a second catastrophe. As I got to the door, I noticed the runner guy who had gone flying by me minutes earlier entering the bathroom. And as I entered the bathroom I heard him narrowly missing a catastrophe of his own. I chuckled to myself, “THAT’S why he was flying. I empathize.” My empathy was short-lived, as I realized there was only ONE toilet! I briefly considered going to the women’s room. I briefly considered crapping in the urinal. Or the sink. I didn’t. I beared down; not moving made the problem much less dire. Finally I had managed to get in there.

I went back out and jogged another 8ish miles, my stomach somewhat less of an issue but still VERY uncomfortable. It seems I must have just caught some sort of stomach bug. Occupational hazard of working with 300+ children on a daily basis. I had other thoughts I thought I wanted to write about on my morning run the other day, but I forgot them.

Til next time, RUN HAPPY (and with some toilet paper in your pocket) everyone!

February 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm 4 comments

Weekly recap 1/30 – 2/5 (and some introspective musings)


Second, a quick recap of what definitely the best week of the year, training-wise, (not saying a whole lot) and probably ever (saying a little more) for me.

Mon – pm: 23 miles, 3:19ish at Umstead mostly (with a loop of the 100 course in there)
Tue – am: 3 miles, 30ish (Duke XC loop)//3p- 4 miles, 36ish (Duke XC loop)//830p- 8 miles, 73ish, Cary Parkway meanderings
Wed – am: 3 miles, 28:30 (Duke XC loop)//pm: 15 miles, 2 hours, downtown Raleigh with Jessalyn who is also on the BCTC listserv
Thur – am: 4 miles, 37:30 (Duke XC loop + mile of hills)//pm: 16 miles, 1:58:30 on the American Tobacco Trail (soft side)
Fri – am: 3 miles, 29 minutes (Duke XC loop)//pm: 8 miles, 66:30 on treadmill @4%, preceded by my weekly squats and stuff, followed by another much needed and super helpful John Stiner massage
Sat – pm: 32 miles, 3:48 at Umstead, two 100 course loops (1:46, 1:47), plus some extra on the bridle trail
Sun – am: 6 miles, 57 minutes on the greenway to Umstead and back

Total for week: 125 miles, almost 18 hours

Both the time and the distance are, by a lot, Monday to Sunday lifetime highs for me. However, from last Sunday to Saturday, I had run 132 miles which is a general seven day high. Throw a freakin parade, right? A year or two ago, I would probably be looking to tell as many people as I could all about this. While I may have stopped short of full out bragging, I would have made a pretty big deal about it. I have a slightly different perspective on it now. I AM very pleased with how the week went. Monday’s run really set the tone for everything. It helped that pretty much every day it was in the 60s and sunny (at least until the weekend) and all I wanted to do when I got out of work was run. I had no major plans for the weekend (aside from the Super Bowl yesterday. GIANTS!) either so I was able to run as much as I pleased Saturday. It all added up. I remember back in January of 2009, I ran 93 miles one week in training for the National Marathon. I thought I was hot shit, I thought that 93 mile week was going to make me soooo good. Now I understand that one good stretch of seven days (or hell, one good month even) doesn’t magically make you a good runner. Consistency, that’s key. This week isn’t going to make the rest of the year a success. But it IS a very solid step (or, lots and lots of steps) in the right direction. I finished the week feeling about as good as I did at the start, which is a great sign. And both mentally and physically, I feel hungry for more. When I walked in for my massage Friday, John mentioned that I looked like I had started training in earnest again, something about my face. I guess it shows.

Semi-related… Part of why I love going to John has nothing to do with the excellent work he does, it’s almost like a two hour therapy session. I go in, I get my body fixed, AND we talk (mostly about running) and I always find I leave with my mind in a better place too. There have been thoughts rattling around in various stages of clarity for a while now. One thing I probably knew but didn’t admit to myself until this week was that I was at a really low point. Physically, I’ve been a little beat up since November, but it’s been more mental and emotional. I’ve run, I’ve even raced, but I haven’t enjoyed a whole lot of anything. I’ve been trying to find enjoyment and purpose and fun in the things I’ve done the past few months but it’s been a major struggle. This always seems to come up this time of year for me, and despite the nicer weather than most winters, it seems to have happened again. However, the overriding emotion I was feeling on Monday afternoon could probably most accurately be described as bliss. I was (mostly) alone in the woods on a beautiful early evening with the sun setting over the trees and my legs felt good and everything felt as it should be. I had intended to run about 18 and added an extra 5 because of that feeling. And that theme pretty much dominated the week; running more mostly because I felt like it. It was such a nice change from the way I’ve operated for so long; being semi-obsessed with the numbers, the number of miles I have to run in a week in particular. Sure, I knew I wanted to run a good amount last week but I didn’t have a specific number in mind. I felt good, I was running easy, so I ran a lot more than usual, and it felt great. I ran primarily for the sheer joy that the act of running brought me, not because I felt like I HAD to do it. Honestly, there were precious few moments when I actually even thought about upcoming races and goals while I was running, even while I was running the course at Umstead, a race that is drawing ever closer.

Another thing that turned into a more coherent thought on Monday was how while my life is far from perfect, I have a pretty sweet deal going on right now, at least for what I want out of life in the immediate future. I’m a single guy. I live alone. I have a job that, while demanding, allows me to mostly leave work at work so when it’s quitting time it becomes ME time. I have no real major responsibilities or attachments to anyone or anything other than me. So if I get home from work and decide to spend 3-4 hours running, I can do so without having to worry about coordinating dinner with someone else, or not spending enough time with someone else, or any of that. It’s a double-edged sword for sure, there is a great amount of loneliness that goes along with it, but it’s (mostly) by choice. My cousin (who is awesome, a couple of years older, married, and has two kids) was joking with me last night saying that it’s good and all that I have this running, but wondering if I ever want to have sex again, or eventually get married, have kids, etc. The short answer is yes… someday. Would I love a scenario that allowed me to have both? Of course. IS there a scenario like that possible? I’m sure there is. A lot of people seem to make it work. For me, it goes a lot deeper than just not having or not willing to sacrifice the time to find other people or cultivate something with someone. Ultimately, RIGHT NOW, this is working for me, mostly. There are rough times still, and I’m sure there will be many more, mentally and emotionally, but it’s hard to argue with, or compare to, the feeling I had for almost 18 hours of last week. I could go on for a while, but this has taken enough of a tangent for one day and I have a nap to get to.

Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!

February 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm 3 comments

Weekly recap 1/23 – 1/29

Another week, another slow start. Fortunately, by the end of the week, I was feeling better than a week ago and was a bit happier with how things went in general.

Mon – nothing
Tue – 3 miles very slow on the Duke XC trail in the afternoon
Wed – 7 miles total (3 mi, 39 minutes on treadmill @15% followed by 4 miles, 30ish minutes at Fullsteam group run)
Thu – 21 miles total (am: 3 miles slow on Duke XC trail//pm: 12 miles around Umstead then down Cary Parkway to the Y, did some squats and other lifting, then ran 6 miles back home for an 18 mile evening)
Fri – 20 miles, 2:38, 12+ loops around Duke’s East Campus loop
Sat – 10 miles total (830a: 7 miles, 47ish minutes on the soft side of the American Tobacco trail followed by a slow, relaxing 3 miles at Durham Market Run with some lovely ladies)
Sun – 13 miles, 1:47 along the Black Creek greenway to Umstead and back

Total – 74 miles, a little over 10 hours

Last night I was a little disappointed with myself that I hadn’t run as much as I had originally intended to this weekend. And then I realized I somehow put in 74 miles and over 10 hours this week, despite only running 10 miles through Wednesday. So another week that started off kind of meh and ended up being pretty solid. I experienced some Achilles soreness Thursday toward the end of my 20 miler, but being proactive and diligent about rest and recovery seems to have kept it under control. It’s a miracle I ran at all Tuesday. I had a 45 minute window from the time I worked with my last class and the time I had to be in charge of a bunch of 3rd-5th grade girls so I just jogged across the street to the trail. I needed some me time to break up the 12+ hour workday. Friday was a bit impromptu. I felt good so I kept running. My entire Saturday was spent running, then eating, napping or lying around with my feet up, then more eating, and back to sleep. I must have gotten an extra 3 or so hours of sleep from naps. Sunday was the best I’ve felt since before the 100k. If I didn’t have to be at my 6 year old cousin’s birthday party I would have run for hours.

I would have liked to get a bit more “running” on the treadmill at 15% in throughout the week and that’s a goal for this coming week. I don’t have mountains out my front door and I know it’s not quite the same but it’s better than nothing. I also want to spend more time on the Umstead course, especially some long runs next weekend. Overall, the volume will inch closer to where it was most of last summer and where I’d like it to be most of this year. I actually DID manage to sleep more, drink less, eat more vegetables, continue my once a week squats commitment, and some of the other extraneous crap I beat myself up about on an ongoing basis.

I’m still about 10 pounds too fat and I can clean up the eating some more to help with that (Friday’s lunch was a GIANT slice of cake, cookies, chips, twizzlers, you get the idea). The beard will stay away for the time being because 1- I’d like to get laid again, eventually, and 2- I’m not in shape yet. I’m gonna try to get an extra half hour or so of sleep per night this week, drink less beer (which shouldn’t be hard because I’m running out of the everyday stuff, leaving only the special occasions stuff and while I love the NBC Thursday night lineup, new episodes of 30 Rock, Parks & Rec, and The Office does not qualify as a special occasion), and be less of an outward misanthrope (inwardly, all bets are off). What DOES qualify as a special occasion is the Super Bowl. And the GIANTS in the Super Bowl against the Patriots, again. I will be wearing my makeshift Eli jersey Sunday night and rooting like crazy for New York. And this post has officially gone off the rails from training and whatnot so here’s a good place to end it.

Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!

January 30, 2012 at 10:09 am 2 comments

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