Tag Archives: marathon

Hitting the ‘Reset’ Button

Deep breath … I’m hitting the ‘reset’ button.  There, I said it. It’s official.  For as great as my 2015 was, from a running perspective, 2016 has been just as far in the opposite direction.  For those who’ve followed my blog, I’m sure this isn’t a surprise.

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My miles are lacking.  My motivation is lacking.  I haven’t been blogging as much as I’ve liked and basically been absent on twitter.  Why?  It’s not fun to talk about running when running isn’t fun.  I came to that realization this morning – prepping for the Marquette Trail 50 felt like a chore.  And I have enough of those already.

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running when it’s fun!

Running should be fun.  I was reminded of this yesterday while listening to a podcast, hoping to get the inspiration to knock out my scheduled 22 mile trail run this morning, before my wife left at 10am.  This required me to get up in the 3s.  I don’t like getting up in the 3s.

Anyway, back to the podcast – it was great.  Diz Runs.  Check it out.  In this episode he was interviewing Sally McRae.  She’s one of the reasons I got into running ultras.  The video ‘Western Time‘ by Billy Yang sucked me right into the idea of trail running and ultras.  I had a lot of fun with it the last year and a half.

But recently things have changed.  I got off to a bad start this year and have felt like I’ve been playing catch up ever since.  Playing catch up is hard enough.  Playing catch up while training for a 50 mile race is pretty much insane.  And probably stupid.  Which is why my knee hasn’t been feeling good.

During the podcast Sally made a comment about one of the runners she was training – very nervous about running a particular distance.  Sally asked her if she’d feel better if she ran the shorter distance and the runner answered yes, and that’s what Sally recommended – because running should be enjoyed!

Flash forward to 3:15 this morning.  I woke easily, walked downstairs, began working through my stretching and that’s when I came to the realization (while thinking about yesterday’s podcast) this wasn’t fun.  And remembered, yes, running should be fun.

So … what do I mean by ‘pushing the reset button?’

  1. I’m not running Marquette.
  2. I’m going to find joy in running again w/o the pressure of training for a race.  Whatever distance / terrain sounds fun, that’s what I’ll run.
  3. I will get back to running consistent 20-25 mile weeks before I pick another race to train for.  I do have a couple in the back of my mind (Detroit Marathon / Stone Steps 50k in Cincy in the fall), but I’m no where ready to commit.
  4. I need to spend some time working on my core strength.  And my knee.
  5. I need to drop about 6-8lbs.

Dude – you’re not running Western States!

Yes I am.

Remember, this blog is my journey to Western.  Good.  Bad.  Whatever.

Another thing I learned from the podcast yesterday – you can have a bad year.  Sally had one that she basically had to scrap due to injury.  Then she came back, built a strong base, and came back and crushed it.

I’ll be back to crush it.

Tentatively – I think I can push my first 50 miler to Indiana in April.  And then Mohican in June.  But we’ll see how the rest of 2016 goes.

For now – I’m going to grab a beer and enjoy this beautiful May day!

Have you ever hit the reset button?  How’d it go?

What’s your favorite beer?

Cheers!

 

 

 

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No head. No heart. No feet.

Ultrarunning is hard.

I was supposed to run 20 miles this morning for my log run leading up to the Marquette Trail 50 mile run in August.  Except I only ran 5.  Actually I covered 5 miles, but most of the fifth mile was spent walking, reflecting and watching satellites zoom overhead.

Yes, ultrarunning is hard.  And I’m likely dropping from the Marquette Trail 50 miler again this year.

After the 50k I ran on January 2nd, my running imploded.  I intentionally took a couple weeks of rest / relaxation after that race, and then some things happened at work over the course of a few weeks – some planned and some not – that impacted my ability to run what I wanted / needed to run.  After that much time of inconsistent running, my head was out of the game.

Within the last couple weeks I realized that if I’m still running the MT50, and I still planned too, I had to start training seriously.  Except – one can’t just jump right back into training for an ultra without really training to train for an ultra.  It was foolish think I can hop right back into running 35 mile weeks right out of the gate after not running that kind of mileage for a few months.  And so I sit here with a with pain in my knee and pain in my foot.

Just after starting my fifth mile this morning, I stopped to watch a satellite zoom across the sky.  Once I started hobbling forward again, it was only a couple minutes before I stopped again.  My heart wasn’t in it.

At that point I realized I had – No head.  No heart.  No feet.

It’s also at that point I realized ultrarunning is hard.  It’s not just training for the miles, but it’s training the mind.  It’s training yourself to get up at crazy hours.  It’s training yourself to run through shit weather.  It’s training yourself to push through pain.  It’s training yourself to sacrifice time with family.

What I learned this morning is – you can’t just jump back right to where you were.

So with that … I don’t know.

I don’t know what’s next.  Will it be an ultra?  Or a marathon?  Half marathon?  I’m not sure.  I need some time to heal my knee and my foot.  I need some time to rebuild my head and get my heart into training for something again.

 

2015 was a very good year …

Let’s just rip off the band-aid …

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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.

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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!

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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…

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My 2yr old caught her first fish …

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We went camping as a family for the first time (nephew and my daughters) …

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Backyard camping with my oldest …

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Watched Howie Day from this far away with my wife …

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Helped my daughters make snowmen in June …

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Took the family to Rocky Mountain National Park …

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… 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.

Happy New Year!

What’d you like best in 2015?

What are your goals for 2016?

Fueling and Hydration

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Fuel for the 2016 Yankee Springs Winter Challenge

My race fuel for the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge arrived.  As I pack it away in my race vest, prepping for the coming race, I’m thinking about hydration and race day fuel.

I’ve spent much time trying to figure out the best way for me to hydrate / fuel for my training and races – either by trying different things or reading about what works for others.

I’m a runner w/Crohn’s disease, so that affects what I put in my body pre-race, and during the run.  I typically go for things that are low in fiber / carbonation the day before, and during, my race.  Those two items don’t sit well with my Crohn’s.

I love beer, but it’s not what I choose to carbo-load with.  The carbonation in it is very uncomfortable for my Crohn’s.  I’m also a big fan of Clif bars, but they don’t go near me before a race.  I’ve tried it; it wasn’t fun.  After a race, sure, they’re both usually the first thing I consume.

I’m sure things vary from person to person, but I thought it’d be worth sharing where I’ve landed.  Perhaps it helps.  Or perhaps it at least gives you some things to try – even if you’re not a runner with Crohn’s (and I’m guessing most of you aren’t).

A couple of my baseline rules are:

  1. No beer / chicken wings / Chinese / ghost pepper sauce the night before any race, or a training run longer than 6 miles.
  2. Drink water.  All the time, regardless of whether I am running the next day.  Staying hydrated makes me generally feel good.  If I’m not enjoying a Michigan beer, or a stout cup of coffee, I pretty much only drink water.

I wear a UD SJ 2.0 vest to accommodate my fuel / hydration (amongst other things – we’ll get into that in another post).  I love this vest (you can see it in the picture below).  At this point, it’s pretty much like wearing a seatbelt – I wear it on every run.

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recent grocery run, featuring the Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0 vest

Training run: If I’m running less than 10 miles, I fill both bottles with water only.  I don’t need both bottles full, but I like the balance it provides having them equal weight.  My watch alerts me to drink every 10 minutes and I rotate between the bottles to evenly distribute the weight through the run.

If I’m running 10 miles, or more, I fill one, or two, bottles with two scoops of Tailwind – one caffeinated and one non-caffeinated.  Each bottle provides me with 200 calories and 16oz of hydration.  Since the calories and electrolytes are in the liquid, I don’t have to mess w/carrying gels.  Or stuffing messy gel packets in my pockets.

If it’s a really long training run, I’ll utilize the 70oz hydration pack that slides into the UD vest, and mix it at the same ratio of 200 calories per 16oz – half caffeinated and half non-caffeinated.

The combo of raspberry buzz / lemon Tailwind go together very well.

Marathon: Two 16oz bottles can’t get me through a marathon and a 70oz hydration pack isn’t very conducive to running fast.  After doing some research I found that some folks mix their tailwind to a higher concentration.  I tried this during my last marathon and it worked fabulously.

In each 16oz bottle I mixed 4 scoops (4o0 calories – again half and half) so I was carrying 32oz with me and 800 calories.  At the end of each mile I took a small squirt of liquid – alternating between bottles, again to keep them balanced.  This made the bottles last through the marathon.

I tested this ratio prior to the race to ensure my body was good with it.

However, since I wanted to drink more than 32oz over the course of the 4 hours+, I supplemented the hydration side with water at each aid station.

The bottles in the vest took care of the calories / electrolytes and the extra water from the aid stations kept me hydrated.

I ran a PR at that marathon – 3:56:58.

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ultra setup – a stick of Tailwind in each

50k: I move slow enough during an ultra to carry the hydration pack, but I don’t – that’d be dumb with the aid that’s available.  Pre-race, I fill both of my 16oz bottles with 2 scoops of Tailwind (200 calories each bottle).  This time I mix one bottle caffeinated and one bottle non-caffeinated.  I start the race with these in my vest along with a number of Tailwind sticks.

Rather than alternate drinks in each bottle during the race, I typically down an entire bottle first.  This makes refilling one bottle, vs. two partial bottles, much easier at the aid stations.  That convenience is worth more to me than the minor imbalance the bottles create.  At aid stations, I fill the empty bottle and fill with one of the aforementioned Tailwind sticks, shake, and go.  It works out pretty quickly and stuffing the empty Tailwind packet in my pocket isn’t as gooey and sticky as an empty gel.

The Tailwind provides me the calories / electrolytes / hydration I need through the race.  So far, I haven’t had to eat anything else during an ultra.  But – I haven’t run anything farther than 34 miles yet either.

Pre-race: There are times in life I still feel like a big kid.  My pre-race dinner is one of these occasions.  I eat Kraft mac and cheese w/hotdogs.  Seriously.  It’s a bland meal, provides some extra carbs, and is comforting as it reminds me of childhood.  The salt in the hotdogs make me drink a little extra the night before the race.  It’s wondrous.

The morning of the race I get up and eat a peanut butter and jelly a couple of hours before I run.  Again, simple and bland – easy on the ole’ gut, but it helps me start the race without feeling hungry.

After that it’s me and Tailwind until the finish.  So far that’s worked out well.  We’ll get a chance to test it again in a few short days.

How do you fuel / hydrate for races?

Do you choose different methods for different distances?

What’s your pre-race meal of choice?

 

 

Who needs luck? Just go out and enjoy the race.

A few minutes before I left the office yesterday one of my coworkers stopped by to wish me a Merry Christmas and chat about the family.  Since he’s a runner too, the conversation always eventually ends up with us chatting about recent or upcoming races.  He has a long training run this weekend as he then begins to taper for not one – but two marathons next month.  Whoa.

Have fun and enjoy them!

A lot of people do, but I don’t generally tell folks ‘good luck!’ for a race.  Most of us aren’t elite athletes that need a little extra luck to earn a place on the podium anyway.  And really – what is luck?  Per my friend Google, luck is …

  1. success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.

As runners, we’re involved in many actions for months leading up to a race – obviously the running, but there’s also the stretching, foam rolling, eating well, proper rest and mental preparation.

Thus, I personally don’t believe in ‘luck’ for a race.

I too have a race in early January – the 50k Yankee Springs Winter Challenge (though … I don’t know whether we will get any winter before the start).

I view it, as I do with all of my races, as the reward for all of my aforementioned actions that lead up to it.  It’s the reward for the early mornings, running through the rain, missed drinks with friends on Friday nights, good runs and bad.  I know I have put in the time training and preparing, I trust that training, and now it’s time to enjoy!

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For me especially, being that I’m a #darkskyrunner, races are even more special.  For one, they’re during the day (or at least most of the race is during the day).  Running through the daylight and seeing the scenery of ultras is awesome and one of the many reasons I run them.  I also run alone during almost all of my training, so being around other people during a race brings an exciting vibe that I don’t normally get.  It’s fun to meet new people and share stories (and a beer) with them.

Who needs luck?  Just go out and enjoy the race.  Have fun.  You earned it!

Week of 11/9/15 in review …

Miles this week: 33

2015 YTD: 1044


I’m back.

Running-wise / health-wise, I feel like I’m finally back in action.

Guess what else is back – my appetite.  Holy moly, I packed on quite a few lbs. this week.  Beer will do that.  And donuts.  And more beer.

33 miles isn’t a huge number for me, by any stretch, but after the ankle issue post-GR Marathon, struggling through a chest cold and crawling out of ‘The Hole‘ I’m finally content with my running this week.

*sigh of relief*

Monday’s run was awesome.  I wasn’t expecting clear skies, but the stars were out (sweet!)  Not only was I treated to a beautiful sky full of stars, but I saw another meteor (double sweet!).  Seeing the stars is one of my favorite things about the early morning running.  Unfortunately we’re getting into the time of year, here in Michigan, where it clouds over until April.  Better enjoy them while I can!

Friday was supposed to be my first of the weekend double.  The weekend double is the biggest difference between training for a marathon and an ultramarathon.  When I was marathon training, I loved sleeping late on Sunday.  With ultramarathon training I don’t get that anymore – it’s back to back long runs.  That is, unless you move the weekend double to mid-week and go to work as a zombie.  This is the approach that I like to take, at least some weeks, so I can still sleep late on Sunday.  (By late I mean 6:45am today – kind disgusting really …)

Anyway, back to Friday – I was supposed run 12.  I’d done some reading recently about HR training and I thought I’d give it a go.  Seriously – how slow would it possibly be to run at 146 BPM?

SLOW!!!

I made a couple of laps around the blocks near here (they’re big – I live in the country) but then I had to bail due to Taco Bell from the previous day’s lunch.  Fire sauce doesn’t mix well with ultra running.  If you’re curious, that was a 10:25 pace for 8 miles @ 146BPM.

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Saturday was scheduled for 14 miles so I took the opportunity to run around Gull Lake.  I haven’t done that in awhile so that sounded nice.  I took the opportunity to run without a headlamp again for part of the run.  It’s very calming and relaxing.  Again I went for the HR training and ran at 146BPM.  When I say ‘ran,’ that’s somewhat deceiving.  There were definitely sections where I had to walk to keep the HR low, but this is a somewhat hilly course.  I also noticed the longer I went, the more easily my HR elevated.  That got me to thinking why … I don’t have an answer yet, but it’s something I’m going to look into.  I finished the run at 10:48 pace.  Slower than the first run.

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Venus as seen while running w/o Headlamp

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Good morning!

Today was the third HR training run.  I target 146BPM again and again I was even slower.  For 6 miles I clocked a blazing 12:05 pace.  WTF is going on here!?  Was it the beer I drank last night?  The coffee I drank this morning?  I don’t know.

What I do know – HR training isn’t for the ego.

I plan to stick with the HR training for at least the next couple of months.  I’ll write a post when I’m finished and let y’all know how it went and what I learned.  Based on what I’ve seen so far I’m definitely curious about what’s causing the HR to elevate higher than it seems like it should be.  I’m also curious to see if my pace eventually starts to drop.  That’s what’s supposed to happen.

Aside from the running this week …

I had a wonderful visit with some family I haven’t seen in awhile.  While in Columbus I enjoyed some Skyline Chili – my absolute favorite.  Damn that stuff is good.  I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

My wife texted me Friday afternoon about a last minute babysitter.  Someone was back from college and in need of beer money.  I jumped all over that and we enjoyed a very good dinner at Four Roses. If you’re in the Kalamazoo area, check it out.  Very good food!  I recommend the maple mustard ribs.  They also have an awesome beer selection.

Speaking of awesome beer selection, we hit Bell’s Brewery after family photos yesterday afternoon.  For anyone who loves IPAs, they have a double Two Hearted Ale on tap at the restaurant.  It was fabulous!  Their food is amazing too.  I recommend their smoked wings and poutine (duck poutine!).

Today we took the girls out for a hike before lunch.  Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy does a tike hike once a month in their local preserves.   Bow in the Clouds has a creek so my kids were definitely in.  That means they have something to splash in and throw rocks in.  Score!

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Bow in the Clouds Preserve – Kalamazoo Michigan

That about wraps it up – how was your week?  Did you enjoy the miles?  See anything cool or drink any good beer?

What makes you think you can run 100 miles?

What makes you think you can run 100 miles, anyway?

I can’t.  Not yet anyway, but that’s the beauty of all of this.  Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day.  But I crave the challenge.

At one time I couldn’t run a half marathon.  Or a marathon.  Or a 50k.

I remember the exact spot – 4.5 miles into my first 6 mile run thinking to myself ‘how in the hell am I going to run a half marathon (twice beyond what I still haven’t finished) in a few months??’

I continued to train, fought through pneumonia and knee pain, and finished my first half marathon in as planned.  And it felt Awesome!  I was exhausted, but knew immediately I had to do it again.

I went through a similar experience when training for my first marathon.  It was a 17 mile run day, and I was 14 miles in, and felt like total shit.  I was gassed, it was later in the day than I normally ran, and I just wanted to get home to my wife and kids.  I thought … the actual race will be over an hour longer more – what’d I get myself into!?

I continued to train, fought through a dog bite with rabies vaccine (that’s a story for another day), and another knee injury that sidelined me for over a month, and finished my first marathon as planned.  And it felt Awesome!

Just as I finished a 16 miler training for my first ultra, I thought to myself ‘that was a good run, time for some waffles and coffee … oh shit, I have to run double that, plus some in a couple months for the race.’

I continued to train and completed my first ultra (Kal-Haven Trail run – 33.5 miles) in April of this year.  I loved it and knew as soon as I finished that I needed to do more – go farther.

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first ultra!

See – I’ve never been a good runner.  At least I haven’t considered myself good. Hell, I don’t even know what good is.  Does it mean you can run X distance in Y time?  All I know is when I ran in high school everyone beat me.  I haven’t gotten any faster.  I do believe I have endurance – I enjoy pushing myself physically, and mentally, to run farther.  I enjoy the planning that goes with it and the race strategy.  I enjoy being outside in the quiet.  I love it.

Ever since ran that first marathon, I’ve had this thought in the back of my mind that I’d run a 100 miler some day.  And now I’ve picked the race – the June 2017 Mohican Trail 100.

I’ll spend 2016 training for a summer 50 miler and build upon that into 2017 for my first 100 miler.  I’ve already started putting together the list of races for 2016.  I’m guessing there will be another 50 miler in there between August 2016 and June 2017 as I prep for Mohican.  If anyone has a suggestion, let me know – something in the Michigan / Indiana / Ohio area would be best for me.

And that’s how I plan, in a nutshell, to run a 100 miler.

Thoughts?  Advice for anyone who’s run a 100 miler?  I’ve read a 50 miler is twice as hard as a marathon.  And that a 100 miler is 4x as hard as a 50 miler.