23 December 2007

2007 Year in Review: My First Year as a Runner

Two summers ago I called my dad, who was living in Southern California at the time, just to talk. He answered the phone a bit out of breath. I asked if he was okay.

“Yes,” he said, “I just finished a run on the PCT.”

I knew he had been running lately, trying to get back after a few years away. He ran all those years I was growing up. I would ride my bike next to him on some of his weekend runs. One of the clearest memories of my childhood was when I strapped a portable radio (the ten pound variety – an ancient relative to the I-Pod) to my bike so we could listen to a Houston Astros game while he ran. I don’t remember him ever running in races; he just went running.

“How far?” I asked while I flipped through channels looking for something to watch.

“Oh, just over 28 miles,” he said. I smiled and waiting for him to say he was joking. But he didn’t say anything. So I had to ask.

“Isn’t 26.2 miles the farthest you’re supposed to go?”

“Only if you want it to be,” he said.

At that moment the couch I was sitting on began to feel less comfortable. I felt a twinge in my back and tightness in my legs. What was I doing on my Saturday when my fifty-two year old father was out running illegal distances? I needed to start running.

Sure, I’d run some before. I spent four years in the army and we ran several times a week, though the distances usually weren’t long. And since the army is a chain that is only as strong as its weakest link, every run was bound by the speed of the slowest person in the formation. Great for building esprit d’corps, not so great for cardiovascular endurance. After the army I tried to keep up with some form of running. Two miles today, maybe two and a half tomorrow. I’d go a month or two without running then the next week I’d run three or four times. I thought four miles was my physical threshold. I kept at it like this for six years until the short phone conversation with my dad.

I spent 2006 running more. But I had no plan and no real goals. As a result I made relatively little progress. I did build up to ten miles a couple times before losing it all by taking too much time off. By the end of 2006 I was not much better off than the year before. All the while my dad was running ultramarathons in the mountains.

What could I do differently in 2007? How could I call myself a real runner? My dad told me I needed to sign-up for a marathon in the fall. It would give me a goal and would focus my training. I never had a desire to run a race of any distance. Not a 5K, not a 10K, not a marathon. Why spend all that money on something I can do for free right outside my front door? He asked me why I hadn't done any of those things outside my front door. Okay, you got me, Dad. So I signed up for the 2007 Portland (OR) Marathon. And that’s how 2007 began – my first year as a runner.

I ran some races, accomplished some goals, ate some cookies. My 2007 races are listed on the right for those interested. So, instead of going back through the year and reviewing my races I would like to highlight some of the things I learned as a runner.

A few things I learned during my first year as a runner:

Cotton socks are a runner's enemy. They've maybe done more to contribute to our nation’s growing waistline than McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken combined.

It’s not a good thing to brag about making a pair of running shoes last “the entire year.”

A dog is a perfect running partner.

Not everyone loves dogs, even some of those that own one.

There are at least 40,000 people in this country who love running.

Trail running excites me in a scary sort of way. I wish I would have been as excited in my math classes growing up.

Many of the most beautiful sights in the world can only be seen from places you can’t get to by road or car or sidewalk.

Ice is a knee's best friend.

The more you run the more chocolate chip cookies you can get away with eating.

Running is an inherently selfish activity. (But don’t tell that to the guy wearing a memorial vest at the JFK 50 for his son killed in Iraq.)

My wife has more patience with me than I could have ever hoped for.

Having a blog makes me accountable.

Runners support other runners.

Stretching is optional. But so is injury-free running.

My most memorable runs were when I left my watch at home.

New Mexico is the most beautiful place in the United States.

No matter how hard I try, I will most likely never break the marathon world record.

Scarlett Johansson will likely never have lunch with me.

I can run a marathon.

I can run an ultramarathon.

I'm officially a Maniac.

Ultrarunners are some of the best people you’d ever want to hang around.

The human body can go as far as you want it to.

Running if fun. I love it.

It doesn't get any better than going on a run with my dad.

So there it is. 2007 is just about in the books. Thanks to everyone who tagged along for the ride this year. It's been a huge success and a heck of a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to an exciting 2008.

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season.


18 December 2007

Keep Running?

Four miles tonight brought me to one thousand since I started tracking my mileage in April. I think that's pretty cool.

But just when I was beginning to think I was pretty hot shiznit I came across this story from ESPN.com. This guy has run a few miles, too. And I think he combs his chest hair. Awesome.

I wonder if anyone wants to try something like this for 2008. At least one mile a day for the entire calendar year. Hmmm....

Keep running!

17 December 2007

Easy Does It

I've been in perpetual recovery mode during the past four weeks since the JFK 50. My left knee is still not quite ready to go full speed. I haven't put in more than 20 miles in any week since JFK. It's getting a bit frustrating. It feels like the same thing that was wrong with my right knee this summer. So I've been doing the normal stuff - rest, ice, massage, ibuprofen, etc. I have six full weeks before the Rocky Raccoon 100. So of course I'm a bit anxious about getting ready in time. I was hoping to come out of JFK and keep putting on the miles, but that hasn't happened. Oh well. I've recommitted myself to the gym during these next six weeks. I need to refocus on my legs and core. I've even inked gym workouts into my running schedule. I think this will help out my knee tremendously. Until now I've always just gone to the gym when I felt like I had time - which wasn't often.

I love winter running. (Pause) Not.

But seriously, I don't mind running in the snow as long as it isn't below ten degrees or the snow isn't slushy. Today temps rose above freezing for the first time in a couple of weeks and everything is slush. I took the pups to the park and Sadie and I played catch with snowballs. It's cute watching Shasta run through the snow with her short legs.

Keep running!


09 December 2007

8 on the 8th - Race Report

The gun went off almost without notice. I took one final look at my competition before I sprinted to the lead. I planned for this to be the last time I saw anyone else. My goal was to win and to win big.

Overnight temperatures had warmed up to balmy 25 degrees. I felt like drinking a lemonade.

The course was fairly straightforward this year. Here's the course description from the race's local RD:

Make the first right and drop down the hill to Grand Ave. Take the first blacktop path past the railroad track right and run behind the Mexican restaurant with the unsalted tortilla chips. Keep along this path until you reach the train that is now a real estate office. Veer left on the wooden bridge and keep Sadie close. Sadie likes to pee on this bridge for some reason and I didn't want her to slow me down this time.

Stop at the intersection with no crosswalk and wait for an opening to cross. If the wait is too long it is okay to pop into the sandwich joint on the corner and get a drink or catch a bit of the game. When you can finally cross you want to pass the waterfall and follow the path along the fence line. Be careful not to take the first right as it will lead you into the icy creek. Just past there will be a bridge. Take this bridge and be thankful for feats of engineering. Keep along the blacktop path until you can see kids skateboarding. You think you're crazy running in the icy weather? Those skateboarders are even crazier trying to drop in on the icy ramps. Be prepared to call 911 as you pass them, but don't make eye contact. Run fast but try not to look like you're running from them. Make it look carefree like the first scene in "Chariots of Fire." But keep your mouth closed and your head straight or they'll think your loony.

Pass the softball field on the right and say a quick prayer that this is where Sadie doesn't want to stop for a #2. If she can hold out longer she'll have a nice brushy area that you don't have to clean up after her. Every second counts on this race and you can't afford to stop just for her selfish needs. The fence line will continue on your left and go straight ahead at the intersection. Don't forget to blow your nose when you reach the "Congested Area" sign. Now Sadie is in the clear for a bit and can run around the field or jump in the icy creek. She jumps in the icy creek, of course, and shakes it off running next to you. The lady up ahead is just walking, but you can't remember if she's in the race or not so just to be sure you should sprint by her as fast as you can yelling "Sucker!" When you pass the bend on the left you can slow down because she can't see you anymore.

Be careful at the next intersection, because no matter how many times you hit the crosswalk button no one will stop for you. In fact, they actually slow down a bit and then speed up and laugh just as you begin to step into the street. If they drive a foreign car it's okay to yell obscenities at them. If they stop to confront you, remember that you're the runner and can "probably" outrun them if you need to. Follow the path to the left and behind the apartment complex. Don't - I repeat - don't ever look toward the apartment complex as you pass behind it. These people leave their curtains open as though there were not a public path only ten yards away and you don't - I repeat - don't want to see these people walking around their house in their underwear. Believe me. If you happen to catch a glimpse call for a medic immediately.

Now you can keep on this path until the turnaround. Stay to the right because really big people in really tight shorts will no doubtingly zoom by on their bikes and try to hit you. They will be annoyed that you're running with Sadie off the leash and they will likely mutter something of the sort under their breath as they pass. Smile, though, because the patches of ice on the path will almost certainly make at least one of them crash.

You're all clear until you reach mile 4. The turnaround point is also when you will realize that there are no aid stations on this race. Too bad, so sad.

Now turn around and do everything above in just the opposite way.

But on the way back, at around mile 6.73, stop. Go home and watch a movie. Get something to eat. Do some laundry. Then later in the night go back out for the final 1.27 miles. This will give you your best opportunity of finishing the 8 on the 8th in exactly 8 hours.

Final race stats:

Sadie clean ups - 0!
Old ladies passed - 1!
Old ladies on bikes passing me - 2
Minutes attempting to re-pass old ladies on bikes - 3
Minutes recovering from re-pass attempt - 7
Acquaintances seen along the route - 2
Rabbits Sadie chased - 3
Rabbits that climb a tree while being chased by Sadie - 1
Number of tree climbing rabbit jokes in this blog - 1
Total miles of the race - 8
Date of the race - 8th
What I did for lunch - Ate
Total race time - 8 hr 8 sec

I'm not sure if I won, yet. But I have a very good feeling. Official race results will be posted soon. Special thanks to Nancy (a candidate for nemesis) for putting on this race. What a great idea.

Keep running!

02 December 2007

another season closer to summer

My left knee needs a bit more rest. Snow is coming down regularly. Mountain trails likely won't be runnable until spring - snowshoes or x-country skis only. Sadie loves to eat snow and catch big snowflakes. Tuesdays are still my favorite day of the week.

Sadie and I went up to Moscow Mt. to see if the trails were runnable. A lot of my favorite 5.5 mile loop was runnable. There had been some x-country skiers ahead of us to pound down some of the snow. But as we got higher the snow was just too deep to run. We had some fun hiking though.

It's going to be interesting to see how my training progresses in the snow.

In traveling/other running news: my sister, Megan, has decided to make the trip with me to South Africa this summer as I attempt the Comrades Marathon. This will be our second major trip together and it will surely be a wonderful time. A few years back we spent five weeks together lollygagging around Europe. Jeanie, unfortunately, is unable to make any significant travel plans as she is reaching crunch time with her grad school progression. So... plane tickets to South Africa...gulp. Megan and I are starting to do the planning and researching and we knew tickets weren't going to be cheap. But still. Maybe I need to get sponsorship or something. Are there any savvy international travelers out there who know of secret airfare deals? Or anyone who knows of anyone who has a friend of a cousin that lives next door who is looking for someone to sponsor for this summer? :)

I've been double tagged. By Bruce and Dr. Stonielove. Most of you have seen or done this already. Here are the "rules" to being tagged:

(1) Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.

(2) Tag someone else at the end of your post by leaving his or her name as well as links to their blog.

(3) Let them know they are TAGGED by leaving a comment on their blog.

Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.

Now here is my bit:

1. Michael Bolton is without a doubt my favorite male vocalist of all-time.

2. My first and only spelling bee ended with the word elephant when I was in the second or third grade. To this day I still have to spell it more than once before I get it right. Jeanie always makes fun of me - she made it to the finals of a national medical spelling bee when she was in high school.

3. I am #130 on this list! Which means that I have two months from today to get ready.

4. I do everything right-handed - expect for changing the turn signal in my car.

5. My idea of a perfect night is a glass of wine and a Reese Witherspoon or Hugh Grant movie. And ice-cream.

I tag GD.

Keep running!


25 November 2007

Catching Up on Calories

So, this week I've been eating a lot and not running a lot more. Just trying to bring balance back to the universe. Oh, and I've watched a football game or two.

My JFK 50 high is still running at full throttle. If my knees weren't so sore I'd be outside right now running another 50 miles. Or at least a mile or two. Temps all week have been in the low 20's and there's a nice layer of snow on the ground. Winter training is now in full swing - read football wathing and not running. :)

Actually, I'm thinking about possibly maybe contemplating signing up for the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile trail run in February. Hee hee hee. Why not, right? I only live once. I almost signed up for it already this week but I knew I should probably hold off a few more weeks because my JFK 50 high is surely clouding my ultrarunning decision making process right now. I would consider the Rocky Raccoon my hometown ultrarun. It's run at Huntsville State park just north of Houston, TX and about 30 minutes north of where I grew up. This is the state park my family grew up going to. Long before I started running and even heard about ultrarunning and long before I moved up to Washington I used to ride my mountain bike around the Rocky Raccoon course. Am I ready to run a 100 right now? Probably not. But I have a couple months to put in a lot more miles. And it's about time for me to go home to visit family and friends. So, I can make this a dual purpose trip. More to come on the decision.

Keep running!


19 November 2007

JFK 50 Mile Race Report

What a weekend. Wow, I'm exhausted on so many levels.

Dad and I went in with a few simple expectations: enjoy each other's company on some beautiful trails and go as far as we can.
5:00 am wake-up

Race day started with a 6:20 am "mandatory" pre-race briefing in Boonsboro, Maryland's high school gymnasium. Looks like most of the veteran racers knew to skip it because the gym had nowhere near the over 1,400 people who were running (the JFK 50 is the largest ultramarathon in North America.)

"Welcome everyone yada yada yada don't leave trash on the trail yada yada yada be nice to others yada yada yada run for a long time yada yada yada good luck. Oh, and by the way, the race starts in less than 20 minutes over a kilometer away from here on Main Street - a kilometer that won't be counted toward today's mileage so sad too bad. Good luck to those who will try to make it to the starting line on time."

Our first tactical race dilemma was whether or not to wait out the lines to the bathroom now and try to get to the start line in time or to go straight to the start line and try to hold out until the porta-potties at mile 2.7. We voted "now" and jumped in the long lines. By the time we started our trek over to the starting line there was less than 10 minutes to go before 7am. Two of my sisters and my dad's wife wanted to see us off at the start. We were about two or three blocks away from the start (it was every bit of a kilometer away from the gym) when we heard the gun go off and saw the mass of people move forward. There were dozens (50-100?) that didn't make it to the start on time and we all began to run to catch up with the pack. Dad and I fought the temptation to run fast to catch up because we didn't want to burn out too early. Heck, we still had 50 miles and one half kilometer until the finish. So we took it easy and pretty soon we were pulling up the rear. The first 2.7 miles is an uphill climb on paved roads to the Appalachian Trail (AT) trailhead. We walked a most of this to be on the conservative side.

Watching everyone head to the start
as we wait in the bathroom line.

Clocks says 2 minutes until the start.
Still a good three or four blocks away
and there are still a lot rushing
to get there in time.

Wait for us!

Stick person crossing up ahead.

Dad did a few training runs on the AT section and this was the part he was looking forward to the most. Like me, trails are what gets our blood going. For the past couple weeks he's been having some semi-serious issues with his right foot and even ran the idea by me of not starting the race. I shot down that idea and told him he has to at least start it and run through the AT section with me even if he's on crutches. The JFK portion of the AT is about 13 miles long. There are only two words that can describe it: beautiful and rocky. The colors were amazing.

We both felt good on the trail and we were able to pass a number of people who weren't as sure footed on the rocks. I can't say enough about how beautiful the trail is. We hit the first major aid station at around mile 9.5. We were doing good on time and didn't stay long. All day we were in and out of the aid stations quickly. Fill up with water and grab a handful of pretzels or a pb&j and eat on the hike back up the trail. At each aid station we always passed a handful of other runners.

One of my concerns coming into the race was my stomach and how I would handle the fueling for nearly 12 hours. Even on training runs of around 5 hours or so I would have trouble eating more than the smallest amount of anything and in the back of my mind I was worried I wouldn't be able to get enough fuel with out getting an upset stomach. To this point in the race I was doing okay.

Dad would pace the downhill and flat sections and I would pace the power-walking uphills. The next few miles of the trail seemed to get increasingly rockier. As beautiful as the fall colors were, those big, fat, beautiful leaves that had fallen to the ground were making it a bit difficult to see your footing. Both of us had a few near face dives but were able to correct our vertical positions before any damage was done. Some people weren't as lucky. There were a few who came off the AT all bandaged and bloodied.

Looking good.

Bouncing down the trail.

View from the AT.

A lot of the trail looked like this.

My sisters Melanie, Lisa, and Megan drove up from South and North Carolina for the weekend to hang out with us. My cute little munchkin neice Zoe (Melanie's) came along for the ride, too. This was my first time to meet here and she is absolutely precious. The girls (I'm told that I'm officially still allowed to call them girls because they're my little sisters even though they are "women") and Janie, Dad's wife, met us at the bottom of the AT. It was so great to see them and our spirits sky rocketed through the roof. What a wonderful thing they did to come out and support us. We hugged all around and grabbed a bite to eat. We stuck around an extra minute at this station just to soak in the moment of being with them. But then we ran away.

Goodbye, sweet Appalachian Trail who we loved so much.

Megan and Lisa braving the cold.
29 degrees at the start, though
it did warm up a bit later on.

Lisa, Megan, Melanie
and Zoe (in stroller) waiting
for at to come off the AT.

We're alive.

Mmmm, pb&j...

Off again.

The next major section of the race was approximately 26 miles on the C&O Canal Towpath. This section was absolutely flat. Dad had been worried about this section since we signed up for the race months ago. His strengths are on the technical trails and not on flat paths were speed comes more into play. The plan was that I would set the pace for this section with a lot of running/walking intervals and that we would simply keep on chugging along using each other's company as a mental diversion for the monotony that many people had written about in previous years about this section. No sooner did we set foot on the towpath that we realized monotony was not going to be a factor. There are only two word that can describe this section: beautiful and flat. Anyone who says they are bored on this section should reexamine why they are running. The views were on the verge of being surreal. It was spiritual. Hopefully my photos can even give you a glimpse. Maybe this year was different than others. People were saying the leaves had turned later this year and so maybe previous years weren't as colorful. So I won't take it for granted, that's for sure.

On the towpath.

Potomac River.

C&O Canal Towpath

Somewhere shortly after mile 20 Dad began pushing me to move on without him. He was concerned that he was slowing me down and he didn't want me to miss a cut-off. I went into the race with only two results as an option for the outcome of the race: we finish together or we drop out together. This race was about us doing it together. I knew I was in the shape I needed to be in to finish - but that wasn't the most important thing for me. I wanted to have this experience with Dad. I wanted us to cross the finish line together. This wasn't about me. He's the one who got me running in the first place. He's the inspiration. I wanted to show him that I was with him all the way. We talked about it for awhile as we were plugging along and it was only then that I began to realize that maybe there would have to be another option. I could see in his eyes that he would have been disappointed if I dropped with him. If we couldn't finish together than the next best thing would be for me to finish for both of us. We were still moving though but were slowing down enough that the cut-off time was now a factor for the mile 27 aid station.

In my pocket I had a list I compiled from the website of the cut-off times at the various aid stations. At the "mandatory" pre-race briefing the race director mentioned that in previous years the cut-off times had been slightly miscalculated so this year they adjusted them. I didn't know if the cut-offs in my pocket were the new ones or the old ones. Since I carry my phone to take photos I was able to call ahead to my sister to have her ask the official at the station what the "official" cut-off time was at the mile 27 aid station just in case my list of cut-offs was obsolete. She asked and was told it was 2:00pm. This was 15 minutes later than the list in my pocket. At his point Dad made up his mind to drop at mile 27. Not only was his foot uncooperative but he was beginning to have back spasms that were hunching him over. Still, we were moving fast enough to make it to the aid station before 2:00pm. At around 1:35pm we saw Janie. She had walked from the aid station to meet us and walk in with Dad. We asked how far we were from the station and she said about a 10 or 15 minute walk. She told me to go ahead and she'd walk in with Dad but I said that we're still doing good on time even though we were walking and that I wouldn't leave him until we reached the station so all the girls could be there for the separation.

Another great view of the towpath.

Just another Saturday stroll.

We walked into the station just a few seconds after 1:50pm and filled up with water. Two other runners were just leaving the station. This was when we heard someone say the cut-off had been 1:45pm. WHAT!

We tried to stay as calm as we could and explain that we had been told 2:00pm and so we had paced ourselves to make it here according to that. One of the timekeepers was, to put it simply, being a little jerk about the whole thing. I knew from the race rules that if you missed a cut-off and were asked to leave the course and you didn't leave then the race director would have the power to ban you from all future JFK 50's. I understood this and know that they have to have these types of rules and, anyways, what makes me an exception, right? But they had just let at least two other go who were clearly after the time cut-off so I knew they had a little bit of flexibility to play with in terms of the hard rules. I asked what would happen if I just kept running and passed all these people before the next cut-off and the jerky guy said the RD could disqualify me or ban me. We tried to explain to them the situation and how I was just pacing my dad into the final aid station before he dropped and that if I would have know it was not a 2:00pm cut-off then I would have run sooner blah blah blah. Finally, another official came into the mix and it turns out he was the station chief and the Assistant RD. He understood our situation and said that if I could make the next cut-off then he would see no reason why I couldn't keep going and that if I finished it would be official and I would have nothing to worry about. "But," he said, "you still have to make the next cut-off."

The next cut-off was at 3:00pm...7.3 miles away. I looked at my watch and it was 2:00pm. All the negotiating had taken nearly ten minutes. Dad asked if I could make it and I said, "I will." So I turned around and took off.

7.3 miles in one hour is an 8:13 min/mile pace. An 8:13 min/mile pace between miles 27.1 and 34.4 was fast enough to worry me. As much as I wanted it I honestly didn't know if I had enough in the tank to do it. But a fire had been lit underneath me and I was going to do everything I could to get there. For me. For my dad. For my sisters who drove up to support us. If I could just make it there by 3:00pm then I knew I would be in good shape because that would give me 4 hours to finish the last 15+ miles and that would be very doable.

I pushed hard and passed started passing people one by one. I had so many emotions running through me at this point. Frustration at the entire cut-off fiasco. Sadness that Dad couldn't keep going with me. Desire to prove those last aid station guys wrong - especially jerky guy who made a sarcastic comment under his breath as I ran off like, "yeah, if you think you can make it." Sadness that the runners who I was passing in this section were also unlikely to make the cut-off. I saw afuntanilla on this section and said a quick hi. In any other situation I would have at least stopped for a bit to talk with her. I felt bad at the time but knew I had to keep going to try to squeak in beneath the cut-off.

With about 15 minutes to go before the cut-off at the mile 34.4 aid station I picked up the pace. Each corner I turned that didn't have the aid station at the end of the straightaway made me pick up the pace a bit more. 7 minutes to go and I told myself that I still had a mile to go so I kicked it up as fast as I could. Still just a bit left in the tank. 3 minutes to go and still nothing in sight. 2 minutes to go and I feel that I'm sprinting at this point. Please oh running gods just let me get to this aid station in time and I'll promise to never skip a workout again. 30 seconds and I make a turn in the bend of the trail and still nothing. I know I'm sprinting now just to get to the next bend. 10 seconds. 5. 4. 3, 2, 1... Tears are welling up in my eyes when my watch reads 3:00pm and I push even harder. This was not they way I imagined it ending. Just then I hear some clapping and around the next bend I see the station. I sprint in at under 3:01pm and scan the crowd for men in black suits with stopwatches yanking people off the trail. But everything looked "safe." There were a handful of runners stopping to fill their water and another handful just left to continue on the trail. I didn't want to wait around to hear anyone say the word "cut-off." I filled up quickly and was off down the trail. Aid station transition less than 15 seconds. I made it.

I knew Dad, Janie, and the girls wouldn't be at this station so there would be no way for them to know if I had made it until I arrived at the next station after mile 38. These next four miles I was able to lower the gear and walk a bit more. My adrenaline was still pumping hard so I had to force myself to take some deep breaths and slow down. Still over 15 miles left but I was finally in a good position. These next four miles were mostly a blur. I kept a nice even pace and was still passing quite a few people. I was tired. I wished I could eat something because I was hungry. I took salt tablets regularly throughout the day and a flavored electrolyte tablet in my water bottle at every three aid stations. Sports drinks are too sugary for me and the tablets seem to work just fine.

Coming into the next aid station - labeled "38 Special" - there were some great signs posted along the trail. "Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups." "Free limo service to the finish line - available Sun-Fri only." (race was Saturday) I saw Dad and the girls waiting and I was now 10 minutes ahead of the cut-off. They were so excited to see me and were glad that I had made the cut-offs like I told them I would. I'm sure they didn't know how hard I pushed, though. Or how close I came to not making it.

If everyone has a low point during these races I was going through mine at this point. Dad kept telling me to "eat some soup. Eat something. You have to eat something." But I couldn't. I couldn't even think about trying to down anything other than water. I could squeeze some orange juice in my mouth. That was about the only thing I could do. The girls were cheering me on and I told them all that I was very tired and that I just needed to keep moving on because there were still 12 miles left. I told them all good-bye and then turned to head back on the trail. I took about three steps away from them and then all the emotions I'd been running with for the past 11 miles came up in one big swoop. With tears in my eyes I turned around and walked back to them and gave each of them a hug and thanked them for being there. I wanted them to know that I was giving it my all and I wanted them to be proud of me. Of course, most of what I was thinking I couldn't say because the tears wouldn't let me with fear of making a big scene that would make Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan proud.

Mile 38

Oranges are good.

Sometimes it's hard to say goodbye.

I had been calling Jeanie periodically for quick blog updates. Which, by the way, were mostly only one or two line grunts like "Mile 9. Ahead of cut-off. Bye." or "Ugh, me running still." and which she obviously had some extra fun with. Anything entertaining in those "live" updates were her doing. So, no, I really wasn't running with my laptop. :)

At the mile 42 aid station I took an extra minute to try to down a cup of warm chicken broth because I was definitely feeling on the weak side. To my surprise it actually hit the spot. It was just what I needed. I drank another half cup and was off. 8 miles to go and I had climbed out of my low point. I was feeling good and knew that I was going to finish.

The last eight miles were off the towpath and onto paved country roads. There was a nice little climb off the river and I felt good power walking up. Yes, the power had finally returned to the walking. As much as my legs didn't want to feel that pavement after 42 miles the views of the countryside were almost worth it. It's beautiful country out there. There were two little girls playing in their driveway cheering the runners on and the younger of the two, probably 4 or 5 years old, was shouting out words of encouragement that she had obviously heard from someone else. When I ran by she yelled at the top of her lungs, "Good job! Your almost halfway there!" That when I thought about those crazy people who run 100 mile races. At this point they would be almost half way there. Why am I running ultras? I don't know if I ever figured that one out.
Sometimes my legs felt like rubber.

Climbing up off the river.
8 miles to go.

The sun set around mile 45 and I was on cruise control. I couldn't think about anything but moving forward. One thing I learned from my first 50k a couple months ago was that if it hurts walking, run. If it hurts running, walk. I saw everyone at the 46 mile aid station and it was another shot of energy. There was no doubt now that I would finish. Cheers and high fives and mini celebrations. The crowds at the aid stations were getting bigger and bigger and the race progressed and the support from everyone was awesome.

The final couple miles were along the side of some pretty busy highways. This seemed odd and a bit dangerous. There were officers stopping traffic at intersections to let runners move through. One final turn and then a straight shot to the finish line. The last half mile or so was a bit up hill and just over the crest I heard the loudspeakers from the finish line and then I saw the lights and then I saw the finish line. I didn't have enough left in the tank for a sprint finish, but I had enough to run in and raise my arms in the air. I could hear my sisters yelling my name and then I saw them in the darkness just outside the ropes and ran over to high five them as I passed. My name was blared over the loudspeakers and I crossed the finish line in 11 hr 14 min 49 sec. Someone draped a finisher's medal around my neck and then my dad popped through and gave me a big hug. I finished the JFK 50. (results) (official race photos)

Finish line chute.

Finish line photo.


We're at the finish together.

Do I look ready for another 50?

There were refreshments inside and we all went in to enjoy. What a great feeling it was. I'm so lucky to have had my sisters come up and to have been able to run 27+ miles with my dad on beautiful trails. I wish my brothers could have been there too. I wish Jeanie had been there. And my mom. Everyone. This was one of those experiences that you wish all those you care about could have shared with you.

Zoe, Melanie, Megan, and Lisa

This should be a high that lasts a very l o n g time.

If I wasn't hooked already to this ultra thing then I guess you can call it official now. :) I'm going to sit back and enjoy this thing for awhile. But not too long, Sadie wants to get back out on the trails.

Special thanks to Janie and Melanie for use of some of their photos.

17 November 2007

JFK 50 Mile Ongoing Race Day Updates

So the guy with the jet pack was disqualified, but luckily they don't seem to mind if I carry my laptop to make ongoing updates to my race report.

9:10 am: Mile 8. I thought internet access would be iffy on the Appalachian Trail, but here's to modern technological conveniences! So I missed the start of the race. The line to the bathroom was really long. Apparently some modern conveniences are still lacking. But I caught up at 2.5 miles and now Dad and I are running on the beautiful Appalachian Trail.

11:05 am: Mile 16. We saw Melanie, Zoe, Lisa, Megan, and Janie (my Dad's wife) at the second aid station. We are 30 minutes ahead of cutoff, and are trying to stay as close to cutoff as possible to conserve our energy (and stay in the race!). We left the Appalachian Trail and are feeling great!

2:16 pm: Mile 28. Dad dropped out following a cut-off time fiasco at the last aid station. I printed a table with the cut off times from the JFK website a few days ago to carry with me in th race, but the race officials announced at the beginning of the race that some of the times had changed. I didn't know whether the table I printed from the site include the old cut off times, or the newer ones, so I have been calling my sister periodically and getting the station cut off times from the race director. She told us the cut off time for the last station was 2 pm (my printed table said 1:45 pm) so I walked with Dad to the station after he decided he was going to drop out. When we walked up at 1:51 pm they told us we missed cut off. After the volunteers at the aid station discussed our situation with the race directors, I have decided to KEEP RUNNING, however, the volunteers said the race officials may decide to never allow me to enter the race again because I did not drop after missing the cut off time....

3:59 pm: Mile 38. Currently all alone in lead, but may have taken wrong turn...Getting tired.

4:40 pm: Mile 42. Got something to eat and feeling much better now. I'm going to finish. Got 8 miles left. I'm way ahead of a lot of people and kicking butt.

Around 6:30 pm: Mile 50. I am a JFK 50 Mile Finisher! Finish Time - 11 hours 15 min.

Congratulations Scott!! From your wifey (and ghost writer), Jeanie

Aroun 9:00pm: Hotel Room. First I want to thank Jeanie her help with the updates. She couldn't make the trip but was with me the entire way as my virtual crew member. :) I'll have a full race report with some great photos coming up in the next couple days. It was a crazy day and there are a lot of great stories. What an emotional roller coaster. What a great support crew Dad and I had. We couldn't finish together today - but it will happen in the future. More to come. Wow, I've finished a 50 mile race. Pretty cool, huh?

14 November 2007

Race Day Updates

For those interested, check this site throughout the day on Saturday as I will attempt to coordinate and post updates of my progress at the JFK 50. I'll be carrying my laptop on the run and will try to connect wirelessly at aid stations. :)


12 November 2007

From One Washington to Another

Now only hours away. I hear the drum beating quietly, slowly. What the hell am I doing? 50 miles? Is it too late to back out? (gulp)

I'm off to DC in a couple days. Maybe the enormity of all the memorials and statues and buildings will put this measly little 50 mile race in a bit more perspective. I'm mean, c'mon, 50 miles is like a drop in the bucket compared to the distance between the earth and the moon, right? We'll be in DC for a couple days before we head up to Boonsboro, Maryland for the Saturday morning start. My sisters are also driving up from the Carolinas for the weekend and I finally get to meet my little niece Zoe!

I had another record breaking taper week. I feel rested and in relatively good spirits. Sadie hates the taper weeks. She's getting more antsy than I am and is bouncing off the walls wanting to go run. She's addicted. I'm still having to do the old "I'm going away for business" routine on race weekends. It would kill her to know that I'm going on these epic runs without her.

Next stop: JFK 50 Mile!

At least I don't have to run there.

Keep running!


04 November 2007

Taper, by Scott

So, what do I do with my first ever taper week? Go to the playground!




I wish there was a shot of my back flip dismount from the swing. Actually, it was a double back flip twist.

Not running never felt so good. I think I may join the circus. Just kidding. But seriously, I might.

Keep tapering!


28 October 2007

This Trail's Not Big Enough for the Two (or Four) of Us

Maybe the 19 degrees on Friday was just a fluke. Yesterday and today have been warm (60's) and sunny. I have a feeling that my wish-upon-a-star has come true and we're going to skip winter altogether. Wahoo!

Sadie and I went out for about 21 miles yesterday. We explored some new trails. Ran through a smoldering section of the forest. It looked like a controlled burn, but the trail was ash for about a mile and some of the stumps were still on fire. I was a bit worried that it was too hot for Sadie to run on, but the freezing temps the night before left a layer of frost and ice over much of the trail and I guess cooled the ashes a lot because Sadie was actually have fun running through the soft stuff. It was horrible to breath, though. Just a few acres burnt and I had to eventually turn around and go another direction. I can't image how horrible it is to breath the air down in California with all those fires.

Near the end of the run we turned a corner and Sadie stopped in her tracks to look down below. Momma moose and baby moose. They were on the switchback section of the trail below us. Momma moose was sure to get between us and the youngster. Sadie made sure that she got behind me. What a wimp. Not one bark or growl or "Don't worry, Scott. I'll scare off any wild animals in our path." Nope, she just looked at me like, "Hey, you're the one with more cortex so you should be coming up with the bright idea. Not me." So with all my cortex I decided that the smartest thing would be to pull out my camera phone and click a few quick photos. I figured at this point I had already been 18 miles or so and if momma moose wanted to chase me there was no energy left in the tank to escape. After a few pleasantries we moved along and had to get a little creative with an off-trail detour around momma and kiddo. None of the photos show the calf clearly but in a couple you can see a few extra legs under momma and in the top photo you can see kiddo's rear behind momma's head.

Today I put in another 14 miles. 5.5 this morning and then 8.5 just before the sun went down. The 8.5 felt really good. I wanted to finish my highest mileage week ever on a strong note. I hit some hills and really pushed hard. Sadie even looks a little tired after this week. Well, not really, but I like to think that I've tired her out. It's funny because yesterday around mile 20 she picked up a stick and dropped it in front of my as I was hobbling down the hill. She wanted to play fetch! Didn't you just run 20 miles you crazy dog?!?

Two week taper and then race week. I feel strong and confident - though I'm still have trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that I will be attempting a 50 mile race. Those kind of thought are the ones that start giving me the butterflies even three weeks out.

I know I say this a lot, but I don't care because it's true - This is so much fun, isn't it?

Keep running!


26 October 2007

Need Sleepy

Man I've been tired this week. I don't know if it's a lack of good sleep or if it's an accumulation of my miles adding up. It probably has a lot to do with the super super super busy week at work. My mind is numb. Maybe it's because I've been a vegetarian this week. Maybe more on that in a future post - in the unlikely event that it lasts. I know that now is probably not a good time to start radical dietary changes... Whatever it is, I've been low on energy.

Three weeks until JFK! I have a big weekend planned mileage wise. I'll see how my energy levels are and take it from there. For once I want to go into a race nice and rested.
The taper weeks are going to be a beautiful welcome.

I woke up this morning to a brisk 19 degrees. The season's first scrape the ice off the windshield/motorcycle morning. Only a handful of rides left before ice takes over the streets. Wasn't it just a month or so ago that I was running in 102 degrees?

There have been a couple decent runs so far this week. My main goal at this point is to stay injury free. Easy runs, generous walk breaks - just get the miles in. Shasta joined us yesterday for six miles. That ties her PR for distance. I'll never get tired of the looks I get when people see Shasta running along with me and Sadie. She has so much fun...most of the time.

I've been doing quite a few runs along the side of a rail line lately. It's virtually an unused track and the "path" along side is very rocky. Running on the rocks is my attempt to train for JFK's rocky Appalachian Trail portion of the race. Sadie met some horses and made friends. But she doesn't care about the horses as much as she cares about pouncing into the grass to stir up a rabbit or grouse. She's the best running partner a guy could ask for. She licks my wounds and urges me to keep going. I still haven't told her I'm going on an epic 50 mile race without her...

Jeanie's doing well. Things seem a bit more manageable after having a week to look at things.

A couple big runs this weekend and then taper. I'll try to grab a few photos along the way.

Keep running!