Friday, March 28, 2008

My Endurance Challenge

I don’t know quite what to say. I’m slightly embarrassed because among those people I like and respect so much even my actions seem to be a bit beyond the pale. Rather than fumble on I will let the quotes of others express the gist of what I am thinking and how I feel.

"We take these risks not to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping us."
- Scott Crabb

"I refuse to tip-toe through life only to arrive at death safely."
- Scott Weber

So here it is – my challenge to myself is to run an iron distance triathlon and a 100 mile endurance run in one month. I have chosen the Vineman on August 2nd and the Lean Horse on August 23 & 24th.

I decided to add the El Scorcho 50K to my race schedule on July 20th so I would have the experience of one race that went through the night so that I could get some ideas for Lean Horse.

Now I’m heading out this weekend with fellow Outlaws Mike, Tim and Maria to run the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon through the sandy deserts of southern New Mexico…lets just call this one a recovery run.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Just a Gigolo: A Grasslands Ultra Race Report

In case any of you were curious I can now confirm that 50 miles is a long way to run. I started the morning with Garmin malfunctioning and I had some bad lower GI problems and was running late for the race.

However, I got there 5 minutes before the start and once I hit the trail things started to improve, all except the GI problems but they cleared up after maybe 12 or 15 miles. The course was nice and the volunteers were great and the race was well supported with aid every 2 to 4 miles. The sports drink they had was Succeed, which seems to be the ultrarunning world’s Gatorade Endurance Formula. This is the first time I have ever had it and it worked great and had a very light flavor…I could not have done Gatorade that long.

I started the day taking a lot of pics with my new wrist camera and it was very easy to use and worked like a champ, well, except for the fact that it didn’t take any pics but instead made a pleasant “beep” every time I hit the button. I’m not sure what went wrong because I used it successfully at home. I’ll have to take another look at it.

I was running pretty well for about the first 40 miles. Once at mile 28 some guy in an SUV saw me walking up a hill and he shouted out his window, “Hey, yu better geet on thu stick, yer slowin down.” Thanks buddy. Then about mile 31 me and a guy from Philadelphia ran into a group of 5 or 6 horseback riders sitting astride their horses on the trail. They were just sitting there and I chatted with them a bit and turned up the trail, which had suddenly become a narrow single track. I ran along for a bit and the guy from Philly was close behind. Suddenly I came to a giant puddle in the trail that had no way around except through some brambles. This did not look right and I didn’t notice any shoe prints on the ground. I looked up the trail and saw what appeared to be a white blaze; we were on the “white” trail at that time and were following white paint marks on the trees.

I went ahead and went through the brambles and ended up getting caught up in some barbed wire, which definitely sucked. I ran a bit further up the trail and then saw that what I thought was a white blaze was a broken branch that had been sun bleached giving the appearance of being white…DAMN! Wrong turn. I started to run back and came across the horse people again and I asked if they had been following a trail with white marks all over it and they said “I don’t know this is the first time we have been on it. We don’t know where we are.” Great.

Me and the Philly guy ran back to where we had first encountered the horse people and there was the right trail as big as day. They had been parked right on it and from our vantage point they had completely obscured the trail. What’s more it was freakin COVERED in white blazes! I guess when you aren’t doing any of the work and are just sitting on your ass nothing really matters.

I finally made it in to the central aid station/drop bag area at mile 39, at least that was the official mileage I also had a “bonus mile” under my belt. I grabbed more gels and ate one and headed out feeling surprisingly great. I was running well and then I had my one and only fall of the race. I did not feel particularly energetic after that fall. When I got up I was pretty sore and could only shamble down the trail.

The fall seemed to make my whole body tighten up and it was difficult to get back into a rhythm and then at mile 41 or so Garmin gave up the ghost…frankly I’m surprised it lasted that long considering the trouble it had given me earlier in the day. I eventually loosened up a bit, both figuratively and literally. I was running well again and since nobody was around I decided to have myself a little sing so I started belting out the song that that had started threading it’s way through my head, “Just a Gigolo” by David Lee Roth…seriously I do not know what occurs in my brain on these ultra events but what can I say I’m an 80’s guy. The song was going quite nicely I must say, that is until I stumbled on to an aid station that was secreted away in some shrubs. The volunteers were quite discreet about the whole, um, incident.

Shortly after departing the aid station I was suddenly overcome with fatigue and I could not take another gel and the fluids I was drinking didn’t seem to have any effect good or bad…I was just flat. I started walking a lot and not walking particularly well. It was at this point I noticed that my feet were swollen in my shoes and it felt like I was wearing children’s shoes, there was pressure everywhere and my toes were smashed up against the front of the toebox…about 7 miles to go, crap.

The next few miles was a real slogfest but there was a bright spot when I can across another aid station that, while I was chatting with them, offered me “Genuine North Carolina Moon Shine” Ok, I have had Guinness in an Ironman but moonshine in an ultra…should I, nah! I know I only had a few miles to go but those could be exceptionally long miles especially the way I was feeling. I ran on and by maybe mile 47 started feeling better again and started running far more than walking.

The rest of the run was uneventful and when I got to the finish the GEEKGRL was waiting for me and got some good photo ops. I headed to a nearby pond on her recommendation and waded in to the cold water, it felt fantastic! The youngster came down to the pond and seemed kind of grumbly and I asked him how his first marathon went and he said, “I’m never doing that again, that was hard!”…kids. I congratulated him and told him all the usual stuff that would appeal to a teenage boy, “your so tuff”, “the girls are gonna be impressed”, “none of your friends can say $hit to you now” etc…and he seemed pretty pleased.

I’m beat, running 50 miles is tough. I ended up running it in 10:28 something. I might have met my sub 10 goal were it not for the wrong turn or the GI problems or the fall but who cares, right? It’s all in a day’s work.

Enjoy the pics.
Oh yeah, Blink's shades were in da hizouse, you didn't think I'd forget now did you buddy...just a gigolo.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Trouble, She is a Brewing

I got into this endurance thing 3, or was it 4, years ago with a little old sprint triathlon. That has, um, grown somewhat. Next thing I knew it my lovely bride, the indefatigable GeekGrl was by my side at Ironman Kentucky and is now a Marathon Maniac.
It just so happens that this weekend for his spring break my 16 year old son will run his first marathon! He has conquered the Olympic Triathlon, he has conquered the half-marathon and he has conquered the 25K so now while I run my first ever 50 mile run my son will thrown down with the 26.2!

Now both mom and I were very clear with him that he needs to run with mom for the first 20 and then if he feels good he can cut lose for the last 6.2, you see his training hasn’t exactly been up to speed. We figured this would be a decent compromise, he is raring to go and we are concerned parents who know just how ugly a long day can become for the under-prepared and uninitiated.

What have we created?!…lord help us.

In related news I just ordered a GoPro Digital Hero 3 Megapixel Waterproof Wrist Camera to take on my ultra runs. I have got to tell you I loved shooting picks at the Black Warrior 50K and I loved posting them. This little baby weighs just 4 ounces, has a neoprene wrist strap, is waterproof to 100 feet and is mounted on a hinge so it folds back flat against the wrist when you are not taking pics!

The way I see it I will never run fast enough to be able to compete in any meaningful way, just competing against my self and whoever I happen to be near in the last few miles of the race so why not get the picks.

Finally, on my long run today I began to formulate an endurance challenge for myself that is simply diabolical, it makes no sense, serves no purpose, is ill advised and should most likely be avoided. On the positive side though it is likely to be good for a few puzzled head scratches and a few incredulous “You did what?”s

Oh, and I’m not telling you what it is, not yet anyway. It is not a single event and it is not the most difficult things you could possibly conceive of it’s just, well, unlikely.

I’m also puzzling over three possible names for the “event”…”The Iron Bones Challenge”, “The Endorphin Junkie’s Nirvana” or “The Endurance Freak’s Folly”

If you are so inclined, pick a title.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


No, not THAT kind of rage, I’m still the same mild mannered Sweetness. The Rage I’m talking about is the Rage in the Sage half ironman in Las Vegas, NV – Sin City – the Domain of Johnny Tri and the Form. Me and fellow Outlaws Mighty Mike, Sluggo and the Iron Maiden will be heading out and doing the half with Johnny Tri to test our fitness so far in prep for IMCdA and Outlaw “the Silver Bullet” will be doing the Oly distance with Form. There is a sprint distance race run at the same time too but I don’t know anyone racing it.

I must say that I am really looking forward to this race. I’m lovin’ the ultramarathon stuff but you know triathlon is still my home. The other thing is that ever since I did Silverman I have kind of fallen in love with racing out at Lake Mead…that place is what our sport is supposed to be, clean, clear lake, tough bike course with smooth roads and, well, I haven’t run out there yet because in Silverman you leave Lake Mead National Park and enter the City of Henderson where you complete your run but I expect it will be a tough run too, some climbing some dirt, some sand and even some tunnels.

There is no Clyde division in the Rage half because this is its first year so the RD wants to see how it goes, see what the numbers look like before probably adding Clydes and Athenas next year. The Sprint and Oly do have Clyde and Athena divisions.

I also anticipate a good race because I have already exchanged two e-mails with the race staff, that is two within the period of about an hour! That kind of responsiveness always bodes well for a race. According to the race staff I spoke with there are 100 people registered for the half so far and a total of 600 registered across all three events. There are fewer than 200 slots left so if you want to come out and throw down with me or JT in the half you had better get on the ball!

Rage baby Rage!

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Bad Decision that Almost Was

In my never ending quest to find a pair of trail shoes that actually work for me I ordered a pair of Asics GT 2130 trail shoes and they came in today. My immediate thought was that I was going to hit the trail for a little run, maybe an hour, not much. Sure, today is a recovery day and I have run 45 miles in the last 4 days but my legs feel good so why not give them a spin, right?

More likely than not it is a fortunate thing that I still had about an hour drive before I reached home because by the time I arrived I had decided against the run and instead am taking my recovery. I was imagining myself twisting a knee or pulling a muscle or something and then spending the next couple weeks cursing my fate and possibly even missing my debut at the 50 mile distance 12 days from today.

I’m getting better at high miles without injury and I am hoping for a big payoff come IMCdA…we’ll see. This last weekend was my second week of training and I did the same hard, hilly ride but this time it was already a little faster and a little easier. I was able to throw in an 8 mile time trial, which also went well and the next day got in a 23 mile long run and the only trouble I had with that was running out of nutrition.

Now it’s taper time and I am going to do this one right, just like I would for an Ironman.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

IMCdA Training Begins

This weekend was my first official weekend of IMCdA training and it’s off to a good start. There is a group of seven Outlaws who will be doing CdA and four of us hit the double secret bike route that we will be training on in order to crush the bike this year. This route contains a lot of climbing and a nice long flat to time trial. The beginning of the bike starts with about a 6 mile long downhill followed by about 10 miles of flat with a bunch of shorter climbs in the middle followed by another 10 mile flat and ending with a 6 mile climb, which is a real grind.

The coolest thing about this route is that the middle section containing all the repeated shorter climbs is the section that can be extended quite a lot so we can do this route as a 48 mile ride all the way up to a 110 mile ride and the amount of climbing is always insane.

This weekend we started things off with a 48 mile bike with 2944 feet of climbing followed by a 4 mile run. Sunday I headed out for a 16 mile trail run with fellow Outlaw Mighty Mike that included 1598 feet of climbing, it was a tough weekend but tolerable. I think it’s going to be a good year!