It’s been a tough few weeks – from a running perspective. Yes, the year started off with a bang when I ran the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge. From there, my running went downhill.
And not in a good, I just crested a hill and I’m ready to let gravity help me cruise sorta way.
I’ve been challenged from work on a couple of different weeks – the hours have been creeping up as we near the finish line of a major project.
My wife has work travels coming this week which will interrupt my running (kiddos can’t stay home alone while I run in the morning and it’s the time of year the double stroller is firmly ensconced in the garage, behind all the deck furniture.
Work will continue to hit me with more and more hours through the month of February.
The April race I picked, a reprise of my first Ultra (Kal-Haven Trail Race), has been trumped by work and I had to bail on it.
In short, I’ve been generally bummed out and unmotivated from a running perspective.
Dude – don’t be such a downer!
Why do I share this? At first I didn’t think I would. It’s not an exciting / motivating post. But – Ultrarunning is hard. And I thought it was worth sharing that aspect of the sport. Too often you see only the ‘awesomeness’ of the sport. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of awesomeness, but my goal with this blog is to share the experience – the whole experience – of training / working toward my goal of running Western States. That includes the good and the bad. It’s easy to tell you how awesome it is to run through the woods and drink PBR. It’s harder to write about when things are going tough.
What have I learned over the past few weeks?
Keeping my eye on the prize – 2016 Marquette trail 50 (miler this year) – with last year’s 50k pint glass.
Well – it helps to keep life prioritized. As I’ve mentioned previously, running isn’t at the top of my list of priorities. That keeps my running disappointment from becoming general disappointment.
I’ve also learned when you miss a few runs, it’s not the end of the world. And you shouldn’t try to make up for all of that lost mileage in a single day / week / or even month. Keep focus on the goal. For me it’s running my first 50 miler in August and building a strong base to run my first 100 miler next year. It’s not running 10 miles on last Tuesday.
Finally – run when / what you can. A short run is, hands down, better than no run.
It’s January. Some are making new year’s resolutions and some have already broken them. Some are finding success with their resolutions and some didn’t make any.
I’m not really a New Year’s resolution kinda guy. Sure, it’s a point in time to ‘reset’ the clock so to speak, and set new goals – I have a few goals, perhaps we’ll get to those later, but I don’t see why a specific date in the year should signal a time to decide to do something differently. If y’all want to do something differently – do it, whether it’s Jan 1st or April 3rd.
A while ago I was struggling w/the balance of it all – family / work / running / whatever else there is to balance. Some days I’d sleep late and struggle to run and be frustrated if I missed a run. Some nights I was a bit short with the girls so I could get up early and run. Sometimes a work commitment made home life and/or running difficult.
As a result, as I was trying to fall asleep one night I asked myself -> Why do you get out of bed in the morning?
To share breakfast with my girls? Sure.
To go to work? Sure.
To run? Sure.
Coffee? Ummm, obviously.
No, really – why? What drives these actions and which one should take priority?
I gave it some thought, and I came up with the 5 reasons I get out of bed in the morning. These reasons have become the five ‘rules,’ so to speak, that I live my life by. Not only are they my rules, but they’re the priority of how I mange my time / life.
Why do I share these? No, I’m not a shrink …
Running, especially running long distances, is hard to balance in one’s life – especially with a young family at home. It’s incredibly selfish. Perhaps you’ve experienced these same thoughts / struggles and a similar exercise might benefit you.
Do the best I can for my family each day. I adore my girls. My wife / daughters mean the world to me and I want to do the best I can for them every single day. ‘Family first’ has always been a mantra of mine, but I used to let things – like running – or work – get in the way of this. I’d try to rush through the bedtime routine with my daughters so I could get to bed for an early run. Or I’d ignore my wife in the evening as I stretched or slept or worked. Does that mean I don’t ever work now because I want to spend time with my family? No – it just means I make a more deliberate effort to do the best I can for them, and with them, when I get the opportunity. No more rushing through bedtime routine, I cozy up with my wife on the couch more in the evenings. I make a point to return from my weekend long runs early enough to be there when the kids are up so I can make them breakfast and let my wife enjoy sleeping in.
Do the best I can for myself each day. This really has two parts – whatever I’m doing, I want to do it the best I can. Be it work, or running, or playing a board game. If I’m not doing my best, what’s the point? Secondly, it means after doing the best I can do for my family, I’m doing stuff for me. Perhaps it makes be a bit selfish, but hey – you only live once.
Have fun / Relax. I try my best to make things fun. Life should be fun. Life should be silly. If there’s one thing I want my daughters to learn its that it’s ok to be silly and have fun. But with that being said, I am also not a very patient dude, and I have a bit of a temper, so I remind myself to relax and enjoy the ride.
Be good to people. I think people deserve a fair shot. They deserve the benefit of the doubt, in my opinion, to be listened to and respected, unless of course they do something to lose that respect. This doesn’t mean I always have to be nice to people or even like everyone. It just means I am fair and honest with them.
Do cool shit. Life is short and we only get one shot. I want to squeeze as much out of it as possible – be it travel, camping, running, fishing, whatever – and share that with my family.
Torres Del Paine National Park – Chile
There – you didn’t see running until rule #5! Gasp!
That doesn’t mean that running isn’t a priority. Or that I don’t spend many, many, many hours running. It just helps me remember that running isn’t the priority.
I try to remind myself of these rules each night as I lay in bed – thinking about how I did, or didn’t, live up to each of these for the day. Yes, just because they’re my rules that doesn’t mean I always follow them perfectly. I find this nightly exercise relaxing; it helps me sleep and it mentally sets the table for the next day.
So there you have it, in the absence of any live changing resolutions for 2016 – my 5 rules for life.
Why not start 2016 with a bang? While most were still hung over from New Year’s (when I went to bed at 11:57pm – just because I couldn’t care less about the ball drop), I ran 30 miles. Me and almost 340 other runners met in the early morning cold, at Yankee Springs Recreation Area, on the second to run between 10k – 50miles.
I’ve hiked the YSRA many times (I even saw the elusive eastern massasauga rattlesnake there once – Michigan’s only venomous snake), but I’ve never run there. When I hiked there, it’s always been the same 4 mile loop so I didn’t really know what to expect for this two-lap race.
My daughters decorating the most awesome drop bag.
After my typical pre-race meal of PB&J, I headed North and arrived at Yankee Springs, under the cover of darkness, about 7am – an hour or so before the race. A short walk took me over the lodge where I picked up my number, race gloves and a pretty sweet long sleeve tshirt.
After a quick pit-stop at the port o Jonathans, it was back to the car to hang out and stay warm until time to race. I double checked my UD SJ vest, pinned my number to my pants, and strapped on my Yaktrax. Thank goodness I had them along. The ground was covered under a layer of ice from a recent ice storm. They proved very beneficial.
Before the start of the 2016 Yankee Springs Winter Challenge
About 5 minutes prior to the race, I walked across the parking lot, dropped my drop bag, took a quick pre-race picture and took my place at the start line. I find the start of ultras to be very chill and I love that. No Metallica. No pyrotechnics. No jumping around. Just a ‘hello’ from the RD, a quick countdown from 10, and we’re off.
I started out the first lap at a pace that felt very slow. As I’d been running at a low HR for a couple of months, I decided to try to keep it down through the first of two loops. I wasn’t shooting for zone 3 like my training runs, but definitely trying to keep things in zone 4 – as opposed to my first 50k where I jacked myself into zone 5 4 miles into the race and subsequently blew up.
A couple miles in I caught a gal and just kinda hung behind her for a bit. She was running pretty much the exact pace I wanted to run. I didn’t want to pass and force myself to run any faster trying to keep from slowing her down, but I think she didn’t really love having me hanging so close behind either – she felt like she was holding me up. We chatted a bit about running and family and then about 6 miles in I stopped to remove my jacket and let her roll on. My jacket – the UD Ultra Jacket, is sweet. After a few more runs in that, I’ll have a review on here.
At this point I was all alone, where I stayed for the majority of the first lap.
I came up a hill about 8 miles into the race and saw a guy standing with cooler and a radio in the tree behind him …
But … I figured, what the hell? It was only about 3 or 4 ounces, what could it hurt? The first lap – nothing, all was good. I did pass on the chicken though.
Shortly after that, I rolled into my first aid station (third on the course). I had a really odd experience. I could smell the campfire on the way up the hill and shouted something about it smelling wonderful. I walked up and thanked the folks for being there and they all totally ignored me. No one said a word. I don’t know if it’s cause I had my GoPro on, and it freaked them out, or what. One dude was cutting pickles. Another was telling him not to slice his thumb off. And 3 or 4 people were sitting around the campfire ignoring me.
Oh well. I thanked them nonetheless and rolled on – right into the toughest part of the course. Terrain-wise, it was cool – hilly and challenging, but it really slowed me down. I walked most of the up hills and tried to roll through the icy downhills as best as I could. It was in this section that I started to see the gal I ran with earlier in the race.
I pushed on through this section, still trying to keep my HR under control and came out of this to the last aid station. The gal I was chasing chose to skip it, but I stopped to refill my bottle.
They were stoked about my camera.
Hey, are we on camera!?
Me: Do you mind?
Me: Cool, I don’t think the last group appreciated it.
I thought I turned it on, but apparently all I got was this picture. Notice the dude on the right – I thought he was wearing a baby out in the cold. No – it was a dog.
This stop rejuvenated me and I begin running pretty well after this. It was also about this time that I decided to shit-can the heart rate running. I was going to push it into, and through, the second lap.
I caught the gal I’d run with earlier and wished her well. This was her first ultra and she was going to stop for some traction between laps and I rolled into lap 2 feeling very good.
I stopped to take a picture of lap 2, a couple miles in, and that killed my phone. It froze up. Oh well, onwards!
I felt really good the first half of lap 2 and passed quite a few people. Whatever quite a few people is in an ultra, in the winter. Probably more than 5, but less than 10. Not bad in a race of 64 runners though.
At one point I remember seeing an Oreo on the ground.
Damn that looks good! I thought.
Fortunately for me, a couple miles further and I happened on an aid station – and they had Oreos! I choked one down (it seemed hard to eat) and it tasted delicious.
I was still feeling good as I ran into the PBR guy again. I had no intention of stopping – I was running well. But he asked again. And … that’s all it took for me to stop. Now he had a group with him. I chatted a couple minutes and one of the guys I’d passed snuck by.
Then … I ran out of gas. I don’t think it was the PBR, but I think it was just stopping again so soon when I felt like I was running well. I never really got back into the groove.
I skipped the oddball aid station from lap 1 and powered forward.
With about 5 miles to go I passed a guy sitting down. I chatted a minute, he wasn’t feeling well, but he started moving so I moved along.
I continued to slow down and finally Alex (the guy who was sitting earlier) caught me. He wasn’t feeling well and I was gassed so we kept each other company for the last 4 miles in. Alex – if you’re reading this, nice to meet you!
Post race there was chili and beer – how can you go wrong!? Well, you can go wrong by leaving your ID in the car and being too lazy to go get it. So for me, it was just chili.
In the end, even though I believe it is hard to compare ultras because of the varied terrain, it was a 50k PR for me by a long shot. So I guess I’ll take that.
This wasn’t an A race for me, but rather something to keep me training through the fall / early winter. I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to folks!
Aside from my new UD jacket, I received a Patagonia Air Hoody for Christmas. I know you’re not supposed to wear something new in a race, but I did. And it was awesome. I love how the hood keeps the neck warm and when up can be pulled up over the face. I’d highly recommend it.
As I mentioned earlier, I was wearing my GoPro. That was a first for me and here’s a short video compilation from the race …
If you want to see my Strava data, you can find it here. Otherwise, here are the just the splits:
this is where I quit the training for my first 50 miler
From a running perspective, my biggest disappointment in 2015 happened 3 miles into an 18 mile run on a Thursday morning. I can tell you exactly where I was (see picture to the left). Rather than running the 18 miles, I went home and went back to bed for 2 hrs. Yes – 18 miles before work is difficult. But … so is a 50 mile race (I imagine).
With that said … 2015 was awesome. I won’t dwell on the negative, but it happened.
2015 Kal-Haven trail run – look at that sexy form
2015 was the year of the Ultra for me. I ran my first two Ultras – my first in April, the Kal-Haven Trail Race, and the second in August, the Marquette trail 50k. The ‘k’ was supposed to be a ‘M,’ but see two paragraphs prior …
Perhaps it was a bit unrealistic to expect to run a 50 miler during the first year of running ultras, but I figured I’d keep cranking up the mileage. Oh well.
In addition to the two ultras, I ran two marathons. That’s it – four races in 2015. But I ran a PR in all of them! Hey, it’s easy to do when you’re still a relatively new runner!
Ready to high-five my nephew during the Flying Pig Marathon
Of course my first Ultra in April was a PR, especially at the odd distance of 33.5 miles.
In May, I knocked over 50 minutes off my Marathon PR at the Flying Pig in Cincinnati.
In August I ran my first 50k, on trails, thus that was a PR as well (and my favorite race of the year – by far!).
Then in October I dropped another 20ish minutes off my marathon time at the Grand Rapids Marathon. This was also my first sub-4 hr marathon.
Beyond the four races, I also crushed my PR for miles in a year by over 300 miles. It was a very good running year. I hope 2016 treats me half as good. We’ll begin to find out tomorrow – as I line up for my first race of the year, the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge 50k.
Beyond running, 2015 was good to me in other ways…
My 2yr old caught her first fish …
We went camping as a family for the first time (nephew and my daughters) …
Backyard camping with my oldest …
Watched Howie Day from this far away with my wife …
Helped my daughters make snowmen in June …
Took the family to Rocky Mountain National Park …
… and watched my daughters explore the rocks at 10,000 ft near Dream Lake …
I hope you enjoyed your 2015 as well, and have some cool stuff planned for 2016. My big goal for the year is to conquer the 50 mile race that I gave up on last year.
I’d also like to be a better husband and a better dad in 2016. Not to say I was bad in either instance in 2015. By my totally unscientific measure, I was an A-, but there’s always room to improve. Sometimes I focus a little too much on the running … or let my temper escape when it shouldn’t. I will do better in 2016.