Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Just call me Mr. July: A Ghost Town 38.5 Race Report

The Ghost Town 38.5 is the first ultra I ever ran and I ran it in its inaugural year in 2006 when it was all on road. At that time I was the only person I knew who had run an ultra and my triathlon friends unanimously agreed that I was crazy. Now the Ghost Town is about 2/3 on dirt road or jeep trail, I know several people who run ultras and several of my triathlon friends are now also running ultras so any accusation that I may be crazy is either qualified, “Running 50 miles/100 miles is crazy” or has simply fallen away and replaced by statements like “I doubt I'll ever run 50/100 miles but who knows” or better yet “I'm running the Leadville 100 this year.”

This year it just so happens that my history with the race has been commemorated in print. When the GeekGrl and I arrived at packet pickup the Race Director, Susan, said I needed to look through the swag bag before leaving. We dug in and came across a 2010 Ghost Town 38.5 calender and there I was in the month of July pictured running down New Mexico State Highway 157, a registered Scenic Byway. The calender was funded in part by a grant from the National Scenic Byway Foundation so part of the deal was that a picture would be included that included New Mexico State Highway 157. I was surprised to say the least and now I just think it is hilarious that I am in an ultrarunning calender, a calender which ultrarunning titans Andy Jones-Wilkins and Jamie Donaldson both now have (we'll say hanging prominently on their wall at home). Another runner featured in the calender is my annual Ghost Town friend and competition Marcus proudly holding his finishers certificate from that very first Ghost Town race.

I just had to report on that calender because it was just such an unusual occurrence but of course the real event of significance was the fact that this was the first race of my year long running alongside the GeekGrl. One thing that I learned quickly was that the year of running together will not only be something great to do together but it will held me considerably with respect to my pacing. The one significant problem that I continue to have trouble with is starting out too fast. I know that you are always supposed to start out slow in an ultra but I really don't seem to have an appreciation of just how slow so I usually start off around a 10:30 mile, which feels slow by the time I'm all trained up, but after a while I start slowing to a crawl and wind up with average paces that have put me in at 27 hours 30 minutes and 29 hours 45 minutes for the two 100s I have finished.

What I found after this one race was that if I start out at a slower pace, say 14:30, I don't really experience any reduction in average pace over long distances and maintaining an average pace of about 14:25 per mile would bring me in at 24 hours for 100 miles. Now I'm not saying that I can expect to finish a 50 or 100 at the same pace that I start but I do know that I can certainly limit my overall reduction in pace. I think of this one ultrarunner that I have been in races with named Raj Patel who is very good at starting out slowly and finishing strong. At both Lean Horse and Javelina I left him behind right away not to see him again until about 25 hours later when he goes blowing past me to end up finishing an hour or more before me and he at least looks good when he finishes while I look like a 200 year old man with scoliosis.

So as far as the race went it was great, we had great weather and both the GeekGrl and I did a good job at taking care of our nutrition. We finished up in 11 hours and 16 minutes, we were not last and we did not suffer the most. I have to report on this one guy who for some reason decided to do this race, his first ultra, in Vibram Five Fingers and, get this, his longest run in the history of his life was 10 miles! He was a really nice guy, I spent some time running with him when the GeekGrl passed him just to keep him company a bit and to see how he was doing because he was looking pretty rough. He told me that the only reason he was still making forward progress was because he kept sticking his feet out in front of him to try and break his fall. Also during the course of the race a new course record was set for both men and women and for the fastest time run by someone who live at 1000 feet above sea level or lower. Additionally, for the first time ever there was a 100% finish rate, pretty cool.

Our next race that is definitely on the schedule is the Old Pueblo 50-mile Endurance Run on March 6th but we may stick something else between now and then. In the mean time it is training, training, training for both of us...we had a bit too much holiday cheer.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Oh the finish lines we will cross: My goals for 2010

In 1999 I met the GeekGrl for the first time. I had just gone through a difficult divorce but was wrapping up the course work for my Ph.D. She was a struggling single mom who had just completed her first master's degree and lost her mother to heart problems. The GeekGrl had three kids and I never planned on having any. Our very first interaction was me giving her a wink while I was rummaging through a storage room looking for overhead projector sheets to make slides for a class I was teaching and she going to tell on me for getting into drawers that I was supposed to ask for help before going into.

It didn't take long before both of us knew that we wanted to marry the other but we were also both gun shy so we didn't talk about long-term plans we just started spending increasing amounts of time together. We had about six months of separation early in our first year as she had already planned on attending graduate school at the University of Alabama and I was already heading to Dallas, TX for my internship. It could have been much worse, we could have been more than 600 miles apart, but as it was we drove back and forth regularly to spend time with each other. The GeekGrl became disillusioned with her graduate program and she and the kids moved to Dallas to live with me and she and I were married shortly thereafter in July of 2000.

In the 10 short years we have metaphorically crossed many finish lines together. We have raised three kids, earned advanced degrees, begun new careers, purchased two homes and experienced several personal and professional accomplishments with each others support. We even crossed one finish line together quite literally when I ran alongside my bride for her very first marathon.

So it is that this year my goal is to marry the GeekGrl all over again signifying the beginning of our new life together after 10 years of marriage. We will renew our vows on December 5th at this year's Las Vegas marathon. Between now and then it is my goal to run every race and cross every finish line by my wife's side.

I think this will be my best racing year ever!