Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Quick update on the MMT 100 and Atayne's Donation

It is official - I am on the entrants list for the 2009 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. The race is on the weekend of May 16th and is run in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is truly great to be able to return to my home state to participate in a 100-miler. 100-milers in themselves are spiritual events, and to run one in VA is even more so. Finding a connection to the land in these events is almost as critical as training properly, so I should do alright in this one. I will plan on hitting the training hard after Christmas and will keep you posted on my progress.

Also, I just wanted to send a friendly reminder to you all who may not have already taken advantage of Atayne's kindness and purchased an earthy-friendly performance top for yourself or someone else for Christmas. Through the end of the year Atayne has pledged 10% of online sales to the Maine Children's Cancer Center when customers check out with promotional code "livestrongmaine". Thanks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Good news on the MMT 100

It is not official yet, but it appears that I made the lottery for the 2009 running of the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 in May! Check out the lottery results at Ultragood. Yeah! This is great news after my dismal record last year of failing to get into races. So this sets up my goal to complete two 100s in 2009 very well. I got my man Jamie pacing me and all's good!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Still alive...and running

So last week I was feeling tremendously guilty that I had neglected my blog for so long when I came across a piece of salvation: a New York Times article on the "philosophy" of slow blogging. After reading about this "movement" of less than prompt blogging, I mentally signed up and felt immediately better that I, in my small way, was doing my part to slow things in this crazy fast world down. So after a hiatus of a length which I have no idea (point, me), I felt the need to update whatever loyal readers have stuck with me through my rest period on my life.

What have I been doing? Running some, racing more, and committing to my 2009 Ultra calendar. My running has been spotty, no doubt about it. The weight I gained the last couple weeks has to exceed the miles I put on my running shoes. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration but that is how I feel. Anyhow, I am still getting in my 30-35 miles a week, some now on the treadmill because of work and family commitments. There really isn't too much to report that is worth reporting on my running. I am still in that "just running to run" segment of my training. Like all those people who make resolutions, I get serious on New Year's Day. This is when I kick off my training for the upcoming season. Unlike most of those people who crowd the gyms those first couple weeks after January 1, I have crazy races that require me to continue training longer than most stick to a resolution, lest I find myself at mile 50 of a 100-mile race hating myself.

Since my last post I have participated in a couple races; one new, fun run and the other one a stalwart of my racing calendar and one of my favorite races of the year. The first was the 6-mile Blackstrap Hell Trail Challenge, held a few weeks ago at the Falmouth Preserve. This race had it all: stream crossings, lots of mud, rock scrambles, blood (no guts), and busted ankles. Within the first half mile as I jumped into a stream that I thought would barely get my feet wet I found myself soaked and implanted on a muddy bank. The race, put on by Trail Monster Jeff Walker, was maddeningly fun. Jeff had predicted all the runners' finish times and had us all go off at different times to ideally have everyone finish at around the same time. I felt like Lance Armstrong awaiting a time trial start. I had to wait in the chilly air for about 28 minutes before starting off but it was worth it. The only scary point was at the half way point when I was passing another runner as we descended a leaf strewn hill and I landed on my ankle wrong and heard a crashing pop. Never before have I heard an ankle respond in such a way. It was even more frightening when others around me asked what the noise was. The next mile found me hobbling until my ankle worked itself out enough to allow me to run again, although this ankle is still swollen and if I twist it just right I am reminded of my visit to hell. Long story shortened...it was a great race and I look forward to running around those woods some more in the future. For more information, check out Blaine Moore's excellent race report.

Last week I ran one of my favorite local races, the Thanksgiving Day 4-miler in Portland. Why do I love this little race? Well, because it is a race that reeks of family to me, probably due to it being on my favorite holiday and that my family has joined me for it every year since we have lived up here. I bet it will probably be the first race I run together with my daughter Riley. Yes, this race is only four miles but it is a tough four miles. The interesting thing is that of the three times I have run this race in the last four years, my time of 24:41 this year was within about 20 seconds of the prior runnings. So while I haven't been getting faster, I haven't been getting slower either. There is promise there. Kelly and her dad, Phil, also ran and did fantastic. As is their MO, they maintained a smile the entire race. I envy them this gift. And even more special, my parents from Virginia joined us at the race for the first time and kept the kids entertained in between each of the sightings of us running. Thanks Mom and Dad.

Finally, yesterday I entered the lottery for the 2009 running of the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. After last year's overwhelmingly quick sell out of the race (less than a couple hours), the race organizers decided to go with a lottery this year. Entrants have one week to submit an online application and the drawing is December 12th. Given my poor lottery performances last year, I am very hopeful that this year is my year. Stay posted.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Buy Atayne for a good cause

Disclaimer: I have no formal affiliation with Atayne Sportwear and receive no compensation for any promotion I make on their behalf, big or small. Also, I did not know Jeremy Litchfield, Chief Pacesetter of the company, before a random email related to him passed by my desk at L.L.Bean. I am just a consumer who happens to run and who is always looking to do right by his planet.

Having said that, let the endorsements begin. In Atayne's recent newsletter (sent out Friday - sign up for it if you haven't), there was a little story on my family's battle with cancer and how it put us where we are today. When Jeremy asked me if it was okay to add a little on us, I agreed with the caveat that it would be more than just a "guy survives cancer, has a family, and now runs stupid distances". I wanted to make sure people knew that cancer can easily strike young, pretty healthy people who think they are invincible and immune to life threatening illnesses because "they never get sick". My story was just like that. I had a family practitioner who hardly knew how to use his stethoscope and seemed to be more preoccupied with getting me out of his office so he could hit the links. His incompetence and my indifference nearly cost me my life. So never take your health nor "little" ailments lightly. Be your own advocate. LiveStrong.

So I appreciate Jeremy writing up my story and hopefully it will help one person do good for his or her health. At the very least the story will help some young people who have no business fighting cancer - Jeremy has committed 10% of all purchases made using the code LiveStrongMaine. See the excerpt from the newsletter below. This is the perfect, earth-friendly gift to give to your loved ones who run or who don't run but really like cool, green stuff. Heck, buy them two so they will always have a shirt to wear while waiting for the other to line dry!

"In honor of Stephen’s remarkable story, Atayne will donate 10% of all online sales to the Maine Children's Cancer Program when you use the code livestrongmaine. Be sure to put the code in the Coupon/Promotional Code field during check out and push the Apply button. This offer will be good until December 31, 2008."

(Jeremy's inquiry also got me motivated to do something I have wanted to do for a long time, and that is chronicle my experience with cancer - the criminal misdiagnosis to the 5 year checkup which declared me cancer free.)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A quickie

I spent the evening watching the just released documentary, Run for Your Life, on Fred Lebow and the New York City Marathon. While the movie was not as fast paced as my Friday night movie, "Iron Man", it packed a lot more emotion and motivation. The photography and videography was great in the film with the director doing more with still shots than I have ever seen, and the soundtrack was quite "funky". It also highlighted how eccentric we runners really are. If meeting with my buddies on a zero degree day to "run" snowmobile trails isn't proof enough, this film solidifies the notion. Definitely worth a watch for both runners and those who still wonder why people run.

My running these days is not as prolific as I would like it to be but I am still getting in some good ones. Last weekend I met a modest sized group of Trail Monsters at Pineland for a fairly modest distance run of just over 8 miles. In this group were some regulars including Jamie, Lilly (sic?), and (I was thrilled to see) Mindy, who is making her way back to running strongly after a layoff due to a stress fracture in her hip. The run was great as always and we convened for breakfast at a local place called Stone's where Kelly and the kids joined us.

During this run Jamie informed me of a 100-miler that will be in its 2nd year this year in up-state New York called the Iroquois 100. This race is held in mid-September and will be a perfect 2nd 100 next year if I do not get chosen in the upcoming Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 lottery. Jamie also got me thinking that maybe the Iroquois is a wiser choice for 100 number 2 next year given its timing late in the year versus trying to train for a spring 100-miler in a Maine winter. Jamie also nudged me to go ahead with my MMT 100 plans since he wants to pace me there and he is looking for excuses for a spring road trip! I hope I do not disappoint my good friend!

Yesterday I spent 10 miles on the treadmill in my basement because I didn't get to my run into after sunset (and it was raining outside!). I really do not mind the treadmill and in year's past got in some really decent training. It is not uncommon for me to get in a good 2 1/2 to 3 hours on the treadmill in the depths of winter. Versus running slushy roads and slow snowmobile trails, I am able to more closely gauge my effort and pace on the treadmill. It also allows me to watch all my favorite war and sci-fi movies that Kelly does not allow upstairs!

As for near term running goals, I am still in a light to medium maintenance phase and probably will not ramp things up to severely until after Christmas. I do plan on running the Portland Thanksgiving Day 4-Miler, perhaps alongside a visiting Jeremy Litchfield of Atayne, and then the Jingle Bell Run in Freeport in early December. Funny story here. The annual Washington DC Jingle Bell Run was the only run I did while Kelly and I lived in Northern Virginia. So when we moved up to Maine in the late fall of 2001, it only made since that I should run the Freeport Jingle Bell Run. Boy was I naive and woefully unprepared. The race is a 5K and about half way through the race I found myself walking up hills and being passed by kids many years younger than myself. I have not been back to run this race since that first attempt but Kelly has and she currently holds the family record in that race so I am feeling the need to challenge her reign as Wells Household Freeport Jingle Bell Run Champ!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Boston bound

It's been awhile since my last post. As far as what I have been up to, Kelly and I were out in San Francisco a couple weeks ago for her to run the Nike Women's Marathon. I can not say enough about how well she ran. It has been three years since she ran her last marathon (in San Francisco as well) and in this outing she bested her last time by 20 minutes. And true to form she did it while smiling the entire time. Also, not to be forgotten, she raised nearly $4,500 for the fight against blood related cancers (I had one and they are nasty things to fight), thanks to the kind donations of many of you.

One of the many cool things we did in San Francisco was attend the Leukemia and Lymphona Team in Training pre-race dinner. At this celebration we witnessed awesome talks by both John Benoit Samuelson and John "The Penguin" Bingham. Both were tons of fun to watch and in John Bingham's case, hilarious. I found the entire weekend, and especially the dinner, very emotional. Kelly and I ran our first marathon through Team in Training in 2003. We raised over $12,000 and ran the Dublin (Ireland) Marathon, for all those people we know who had fought or were fighting cancer and to celebrate my successful completion of six months of chemo merely six months before. Team in Training is a great organization, and for any of you out there considering running your first marathon or are looking for a way to honor a loved one's or friend's battle with cancer, let me say two things: anyone can run a marathon and TNT is a great way to do it.

As for my running, I have logged nearly as few miles on my running shoes the last few weeks as I have words in this blog. Each year after my last fall marathon I take the time as a rest period. I usually decrease my miles, especially my weekend miles (which time is then spent being lazy with my kids), up my beer intake, and start planning on paper the next year's races.

I have decided a few things over this time.

1. I will run Boston. This will be my third Boston during my almost six years of running marathons. I secured my hotel reservations today and will make a long weekend of the marathon. What a great way to celebrate a 10th wedding anniversary.

2. I will throw my name in the lottery for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run. This is run in my home state of Virginia. I missed the sign up last year because it filled up in an hour. Now I will try my luck in the lottery. If I do get in, it will mean quite a tough winter of long running since this race is held in May.

3. If my duties are still requested and required, I will head out to California once more to pace my buddy Jamie Anderson for the Western States 100. This time I will do a much more rigorous rain dance to ward off any wild fires that might threaten the race.

4. And I am pretty sure I will run for the third straight time in the Vermont 100.

After that I will rest, unless the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile run lottery falls through for me. Then I will try and seek out another 100 with the ultimate goal of running two 100 milers next year. I should also mention that my hope is that Kelly will choose to run the Pineland 25K and another fall marathon. I will let you know about that later.

Signing off. And don't forget to vote on Tuesday! You know for who!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Humbling: My 5th Straight Maine Marathon

First off, let me start with some incoherent mumblings about why I subject myself to the "humbling of the marathon"? Why do I jump into this epic distance year after year, arguably under-prepared, knowing full well that I will suffer? While running distance does awaken senses that otherwise lay dormant in day to day life and the struggle of finishing does make me appreciate my time on this rotating orb even more, I really don't have a good answer for this one. When I feel like a have a good answer it is fleeting and doesn't seem to capture the essence of the reason very well. Maybe this is why I keep running these things, to figure out why I am running them...

So, as even the least astute of you could have guessed, I once more tried my hand at the marathon distance on Sunday at the Maine Marathon and came out on the other side having achieved my goal but in no way without pain. Having said that, I had a rollicking good time, running with new friends from Atayne while wearing one of their fantastically performing running shirts as well as having the pleasure of seeing another friend complete in fine fashion his first marathon.

Let's rewind. Reminiscent of last year, I did not commit to run the marathon until the day before. On Saturday, Kelly, Quinn, and I headed down to Portland and the marathon expo to sign me up. Kelly was already committed to volunteering all day on Sunday, so she wasn't running. I had thought well enough ahead, unlike last year, to not commit to a Saturday morning full of start line set-up with the race director (which totally left my legs cooked during last year's race). So my legs were pretty fresh, too fresh actually from too little training the prior three weeks due to sickness, injury, and travel. But enough with the alibis. Oh yeah, there is one more. Saturday morning I awoke with a cold which left me doubting my ability to hit my goal of qualifying for Boston, and hardly to even run the required 26.2 miles to not be listed as a DNF (aka couldn't finish). The conversation on the way to sign up Saturday went something like this:

Kelly: "Are you gonna run?"
Me: "I don't know. I really want to but I feel terrible and there is no way I can win (!!) the race in this condition."
Kelly: "So what are you gonna do?"
Me: "If I don't race can it will probably save us over $100 including race fees and babysitting during the race. I can then put this money to better use, like getting an iPhone!"
Banker (I mean Kelly): You are not getting an iPhone.
Me: Should I race?
Kelly: I can't answer that for you.

And this dialogue went on the entire trip to Portland (I only asked once about the iPhone) and even into the expo where I proceeded walk around looking for inspiration and motivation for an hour before committing to race. This time was not lost, however, as I chatted with good friends and even met the good people of Atayne, including Rebecca (who seemed to really run the show), Paige, and Mike (who was described as the "sugar daddy" of the operation...I am guessing this has to do with money...I should have asked him about an iPhone). All very nice people whose mission it is to save us from ourselves by cleaning things up and dressing us in nice, clean, environmentally appropriate (meaning less harmful to the mother ship) clothing. And having worn their stuff on Sunday, I give it two thumbs up for wicking ability and for keeping itself looking sharp and crisp during my entire trip around Portland.

Anyhow, I did sign up with about a half an hour left in the expo. On the way home we got some healthy grub from O'Naturals, I dropped Kelly and the kids off at the Cumberland Pumpkin Festival, and I went home and consumed as many freshly picked apples as my stomach would take to help ward off my sniffles.

The apples apparently worked. Also, the fact that I got a few hours more than my standard 5-6 hours of snooze time probably didn't hurt. I awoke a couple hours before the race feeling pretty good but not entirely out of the woods, downed a couple pills, and then headed to the race to get ready for the day. We arrived at 7 AM for our volunteer prep at the Atayne tent (Kelly worked from 7:30 - 2:30 while I joined her at her water stop around noon), our babysitter met us, and then Kelly headed out to do her work. I stayed behind and met Jeremy (check out Sunday's article about him in the Maine Sunday Telegram), the founder of Atayne and native Mainer, who is now living in my home state of Virginia. I was planning on joining Jeremy and his buddy Mark for the 26.2 miles, or as long as we could stay together. Having never run with either of these guys, I had no idea of what to expect. Jeremy apparently had been training hard, and had a marathon PR (destroyed by end of the day) of around 3:23, while Mark was playing it humbly saying he would be happy to hang on with a finishing time around 3:15.

As we lined up, both Jeremy and Mark donned their game faces and iPod headphones, leaving me wondering how this whole thing was going to play out. I had never run with anyone wearing headphones (I am not against them, it just isn't something I use on race day), so I really wasn't sure of the etiquette like do I try to talk to them during the race of just leave them along. (As a side note, I never did ask them about their respective soundtracks. If either of them read this, what were you listening to?) Anyhow, maybe I should have paid more attention to all the pages that Runner's World and Running Times (mirror images of each other now that Rodale bought them) fills with iPod related stuff, but as the race started the iPod thing was no issue as both guys seemed to hear me just fine.

Many of you who have run many miles with me know that I am a talkative runner, hopefully respectfully so and not to the point of being annoying. Well, there was very little rumblings out of me on Sunday as the cannon propelled us to a first mile split of 7:25 which progressively got quicker to a 6:50 by mile 4 and then settled in to an average of about 7:00/mile until the latter stage of the race. All in all the pace was pretty consistent with some mile below and others just above this average pace, but much better than the 7:17 required to hit a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time of 3:10 for the youngest of runners. I had learned just a couple days earlier that my BQ time was now 3:15 since on race day in 2009 I will be 35 years of age. These extra five minutes would prove fortuitous as I paid for these quick early miles over the last 10K.

The three of us, Jeremy, Mark and I, got along swimmingly as we progressed from Portland through Falmouth, Cumberland, and then Yarmouth. Mark had a tendency to surge forward at points (which could be indicative of smoother pacing on his part) but we always tended to come back together. At the half way spot we were all together with a split time of roughly 1:33, well on pace for a sub-3:10. The trip home is a little tough with a few good uphills but overall a net descent which for me left my quads absolutely destroyed. There is one hill around mile 17 which rises only a couple hundred feet but completely squashed me on Sunday. After that hill things seemed to disintegrate for me. Mark pulled ahead of Jeremy and me while we slowed our cadence trying to save our legs for the top. At the top Jeremy was in much better shape than I was. Shortly after that he kept up his pace while I fell off mine enough to lose touch with him but keep him in my field of vision.

My splits from mile 19 on are very telling. Other than seeing Kelly, Riley (who apparently was the star water stop person of the day), and Quinn at the Mile 23.1 water stop and Jamie and Heather hollering encouragement (thanks guys) somewhere around mile 18-19, the last 7-8 miles were torture. After the 7:00 average pace we had held through mile 18, I slowed slightly to a 7:14 pace in mile 19 and the hemorrhaging started there. The following are my respective splits from Miles 20-26: 7:18, 7:46, 7:33(!), 7:53, 8:06, 8:05, 8:59(!!). The last 0.2 miles was run at a respectable pace of 7:30 for the adoring crowds that always gather at the finish lines of these things. In my mind during these last few miles I was witnessing a bloodbath of epic proportions. I was cursing myself for getting into this mess, constantly asking myself why I didn't commit to harder training, while at the same time I was entertaining the conflicting emotions of relief and happiness that I was almost done.

During the last few miles I lost sight of Jeremy but could see Mark only a few hundred yards in front. He was stopping intermittently to stretch out the cramps that were dogging him and I even resorted to a couple walking breaks to stretch out my legs (hence the 8:59 in the 26th mile). In the end, Jeremy busted his PR by over 13 minutes to finish just over 3:09 while Mark came in at just under 3:13 (just shy of a BQ which I am sure he will get next time around if he really wants it) and I finished about 30 seconds behind Mark. So we all got what we wanted: Jeremy and I BQ'd while Mark beat his 3:15 goal. All in all a pretty good day. But next time I will train better! I promise. This is what I said after last year's Maine Marathon debacle but I mean it this time.

Finally, I want to thank Jeremy, Mike, Rebecca, Paige, and the rest of the Atayne team and volunteers for all they did to clean up our race course and training grounds. They left Maine a better place than they found it, which is what all of us should aspire to do daily. Cheers.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Palin and Couric

So it's been awhile since I last posted anything. And right now all I am doing is sharing one of the greatest Saturday Night Live skits with you all. Watch it and cry...in a funny and sad way. I dare you to watch the real interview with Katie Couric and find any where SNL took any great liberties with the dialog. So if you are a McCain fan, ask yourself if you are ready for this person to take office if McCain kicks the bucket...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

2008 Bradbury Bruiser: My Comedy of Errors

Some races just do not turn out the way they are supposed to. The morning dawned perfect with me rising naturally two minutes before the alarm sounded. I had not moved positions since falling asleep early (quarter after 11 is early for this night owl) and felt great. I can't remember the last time I got a solid almost eight hours of sleep. I just knew the race was going to be as epic as a 12-mile trail race on gnarly trails could be.

Fast forward a couple of hours. We arrives at Bradbury ready to race. It's great to see Jamie working registration. As is often the case with me, I sign up the day of the race. After the Ironman corporation took my registration fees for Ironman Wisconsin a couple years ago (my son was born the same week as the race and Kelly wouldn't let me go!), I know wait as long as possible to sign up for races. After registering, I ran into James (in a new jewel bedecked Trail Monster singlet looking dapper), said my hellos, and moved over near the start.

Present were some quick, young guys who had not been present at any of the prior Bradbury races. I knew this was going to be a quick race. After Jamie rang the traditional cowbell to start the race, the quick guys predictably raced off the front. I went with them, as I was feeling great, and hung with them for a few miles through the Laszlo trail and slightly beyond. A few guys sped up a bit and I fell off the front with a couple others, now running in 5th place. With me was Floyd, a roadrunning buddy, and another really young guy. Floyd was having a hard time in his road shoes on the soupy trail, while my Brooks Cascadias were holding up pretty well.

Around mile 5 my first stomach issue presented itself and I had to duck into the woods. As I am seasoned at this type of occurrence (!), I was back on the trail quickly having lost maybe only 10-15 seconds. I could still see 4th and 5th place in front of me and I worked hard to catch them. Within the next couple miles this darting in the woods and trying to catch back up happened two more times. I am not sure what was wrong. I might have had a touch of Quinn's stomach virus from Friday night or maybe it was the beer and barbecue from Saturday night's late meal (post-Maine Roller Derby - what a show). Either way, each time I stopped for this pit stop I lost a little more energy and focus. It was this loss of focus that hurt me the most.

After the third stop I was unable to catch Floyd and the young kid. (Floyd would go on to run a course of his own design and finish as a DNF for getting lost...he did beat me out by a little for Best Bruise at the awards ceremony.) At this point I was all alone on the trail, feeling sapped of energy, with tons of negative vibes coursing through me. As I became more frustrated at having lost the group I had worked hard to stay with, the rain started coming down a little harder and the terrain became a bit more difficult with rocks introduced to the trail. It was just after the mid-way point that I had my first head over heals spill. As I was descending a rocky trail I tripped and landed on my right side and proceeded to roll over onto my back. I was pretty cut up and shaken by this fall but was able to get up quickly and move out. I was a bit beat up from this episode, with a couple good strawberries on the outside of my right knee and gashes on both elbows, the right one which was bleeding down my arm pretty profusely.

Not a mile later I repeated this same type of fall as I was approaching a water station. It was after this fall that DNF'ing embarrassingly started entering my thoughts. My stomach was not cooperating, I was bleeding pretty good, and I had slowed down considerably. As I was heading up one of the only straightaways of the course (a snowmobile trail that dissects the single track trails), four other runners passed me. While I was pretty deflated at this point, getting passed motivated me. I figured this comedy of errors couldn't continue any longer (I was half right) so I might as well enjoy the rainy run and muddy trails.

Besides the side effects of having loose bowels for the first half of the race, open wounds, and a wounded psyche, the rest of the race went alright. As I approached the hardest part of the course, the "O" Trail, I noticed my buddy Jeff approaching. I knew Jeff was a good runner but did not expect to see him running so well having just returned this summer from a nasty injury. I was happy to see Jeff. We ran together on the "O" trail with Jeff giving me some respectable distance; enough for me to correct a wrong turn into some deep water and stay in the lead.

It was shortly after this foray into a swamp that reminded me of Yoda's planet, that I fell for the third and final time of the day. I slipped on a wet root as I was turning, losing my footing and slamming my head into the root. When I hit I felt my head rebound and I just knew I had either lost some teeth or had a concussion. Well, I did neither. At that point I just wanted to laugh while at the same time kneeling to ask God what I had done wrong to deserve this treatment! Jeff was kind enough to stop and check on me. I told him to go ahead and he did so hesitatingly. It's good to have people like Jeff out there who are willing to give up a good race to check on the well-being of another runner. Good karma for Jeff.

The rest of the race found me trailing Jeff with no other runners near us at all. Near the end of the "O" Trail we ran into a couple guys in front of us who had hesitated at an incorrectly trail marker. We hollered at them to continue in the way they were going and I stopped to correct the marker. The "O" Trail is nothing if not cruel. What a way to end a race. It would be fun at the beginning but at the end it is maddening. As I exited onto the snowmobile trail for the final quarter mile I could see a couple runners in front of me but I just had no energy for a kick. I finished in tenth place and about 40 seconds faster than last year when I finished in 4th place. The course this year was slightly different than last year so I am not sure how much time difference that made (good or bad), but either way I persevered through some pretty trying challenges and lived to run another day (heavily bandaged).

Thanks to Ian, Emma, Erik, Jamie, James and all the other Trail Monsters and fellow runners for all their work to produce another great race. Cheers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Back from the running dead

First, I have to apologize for not meeting up with Tommy on his journey through Portland. I had the best of intentions and attempted to muster all my buddies to run but I think my efforts fell flat. My excuses are numerous but feeble, so I will not bore them with you. I did however succeed in helping Tommy out in my native Virginia. My dad and buddy (both in the McDonald Business and big fans of the Ronald McDonald House) secured some lodging for Tommy and my dad is planning on running with him. So I will have to settle with living vicariously through these efforts. Best of luck Tommy and hats off to you. There can't be much more in life more pleasurable than undertaking an effort like this: running for a great cause that reaches thousands.

Having got that out of the way, on to where I have been. I have finally clawed my way back from the running and blogging doldrums. For some reason I lost some motivation the last week or so. This also happened last year after the Vermont 100. Right after the race I was gung-ho to run as many miles as my legs could muster. This lasted a couple weeks when I just lost the interest in logging miles. I suspect that the accomplishment of the race carries me a little and then the reality hits me that my goal race is behind me and there are no other running milestones in the near future. Next year my goal will be 2-3 100-milers to keep me jazzed a little longer. My buddy Ron Farkash of Massachusettes ran the Cascade Crest 100 just over a week ago and just a month after the Vermont 100. I think Ron got it right. Well done Ron.

Anyhow, my laziness (lack of running only, I have been cycling) has not been all for nought. I have been able to spend some great weekend time (morning, afternoon, and night) with my kids since I haven't been running out of the house at 5 AM for a 4-5 hour run. Instead my wife, Kelly, has been doing the long runs while Quinn, Riley, and I take domestic duty. We have ventured out a couple times to bring her snacks and liquids. I like the role reversal. I think I will like spectating for her even more at the Nike Women's Marathon. I plan on grabbing a great cup of joe and watching the runners race by as I am the one who shouts the words of discouragement at mile 13, saying "Only 13 more miles to go!" Also, if you haven't had a chance to donate to Kelly's fundraising efforts and you want a chance to win a free pair of shoes, it isn't too late to check out her fundraising page. She is just $1,500 shy of her goal of $4,000 with her deadline just over three weeks ago. Give until it hurts!

And finally, I learned this afternoon that my new favorite company, Atayne, has signed on as a sponsor of the Maine Marathon. I hope I am not letting the cat out of the bag, but this was just too good to hold in. Jeremy, the founder of the company, will be at the expo and is organizing a group of volunteers to pick up trash from the course which will then be sorted through and all recyclable removed to be used in post consumer products later. Very cool. So check out the Atayne site and buy a "clean" shirt to run healthy.

As for me, I am off to bed. Got a long run to work in the morning!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Four Million Steps

This morning I was visiting a site that I have been following (www.atayne.com) and ran across the following blog post from Jeremy, the founder of Atayne, at "The Story of a Red Shirt" (buy stuff from him). Given my history with cancer, both having it myself and losing loved ones to it, as well as being a parent, I found the story of Tommy and his East Coast run to benefit the Ronald McDonald House very moving.

Any way, check out Jeremy's blog post and then find out when Tommy might be near your hometown so you can go out and cheer him on. Or figure out other ways to help him. I, myself, am looking at getting a group of runners to go out and maybe run a portion of the run with Tommy. Any takers? Tommy's route can be found on his website, Four Million Steps.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A long run and a fall marathon

Saturday I was back at the long run, meeting up with the Trail Monsters at Pineland for an early AM run. I am guessing the group was 12-15 strong at the outset of the run at 7 AM, and included some VIPs. Many of the Vermont 100 participants were there: Jamie, Ian and Emma, Erik, Chuck, and the VIP, Rawfood Frank. If you read my 2008 Vermont 100 Race Report you will recall that I ran with Frank for the first 40+ miles of the race. He is currently residing in Connecticut but we are working on getting him to set up his raw vegan shop here in Maine. Frank was visiting for a wedding and decided to join us for a long run. It was great giving him a tour of our running grounds and hopefully we will see more of him up this way and at other New England races.

The Saturday run was good, taking just over 3:12 and covering 20.25 miles. It was a bit humid but the pace we kept was a nice training pace, especially since this was the first long run most of us had done since Vermont. The deer flies were tame, considering the humidity and recent rainfall. It was really nice getting together with everyone for a long run. I have missed these runs since Vermont, but have been quite happy in my new role of supporting Kelly in her marathon training.

Speaking of Kelly, she ran the St. Pete's 4-Mile Road Race in Portland Friday night and did well, running an 8:46/mile pace on a very difficult course around the East End. Riley also donned running shoes and ran the kid's 1/2 Mile Fun Run, smiling the entire time, just like her mother.

Yesterday I played aid station for Kelly during her 18-mile long run. She struggled a bit, as most of the run was in full sun (and on the road to boot). Riley, Quinn and I met Kelly near mile 11 and refueled her, and as "mama" headed down the road the kids and I went to eat pastries at Maine Roasters Coffee and perused the bookstore. I knew that if we saw Kelly too soon the lure of a drive home would be great (based on how she felt when we saw her the first time) so the kids and I took our time tearing up the bookstore. By the time we left and hit the road, it had been over an hour and Kelly was already home. Good thing because she said she would definitely have taken the ride home!

Today I hit the roads of Freeport solo and had a pretty good run as a follow-up to the 20+ miler on Saturday. I ran a 6.14 mile course in 43:35, which equates to a 7:05 pace. The good thing about this run was that it was done in negative splits, starting at a 7:29 warm up pace in mile 1 to a 6:50 for the final mile. It was also hot and humid, so I felt pretty good about this run. It definitely gave me some confidence for a fall marathon. I haven't run a marathon this year and so I still don't have my Boston Qualifying time for 2009, so I just might hit the roads this fall for 26.2.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Alive and running

Finishing a 100-mile race is exhilarating and sad at the same time. The glory of achieving another goal is the exhilarating part. The loss of goal race is the sad part. The best part of these races is the visualizing the finish and the actual training. The actual race itself is merely the icing on top. It is the metaphorical journey. Now that I have no substantial races on my calendar, I have been in limbo. "Training" takes on a whole new meaning. What am I training for? Nothing really. So I am no longer training but simply running to enjoy movement. Which isn't bad, just new for me.

Since Vermont over three weeks ago I have recovered from my foot pain, put in some pretty serious bike miles, and suffered through a pretty debilitating all-body virus that partially knocked me out for the past week. It's been fun.

Last Sunday I did get out to see my Trail Monster buddies at the Bradbury Breaker 9-Mile Mountain Trail Race, albeit in a different capacity: that of babysitter and spectator. Kelly ran while I took the photos. The weather was perfect for the race with a couple previous days of monsoons to make the course muddy and slippery. All went well with Kelly giving the camera a smile at every turn. I also met a couple nice folks who read this blog - thank you. Ian and Trail Monster Running put on some spectacular races. Job well done once again. Next up is the Bradbury Bruiser on September 14.

So now I have to decide what's next up for me. I have signed up already as Kelly's number one fan, spectator, and babysitter as she trains for the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco on October 19th. If you care to support her fundraising efforts, check out her website. Any and all support is appreciated personally by me.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Vermont 100 Race Report: Take Two

It is very surreal to think that as I write this I am only a couple days removed from running the last mile of my second 100-mile endurance run. As I struggled through those last few miles I did not believe I would ever attain comfort again, much less this soon. It is very easy to see how we so easily become complacent in our comfort, especially given how easily it is obtained. I think this is the reason most of us accept the challenge and put ourselves through the struggle that is the 100-mile run distance. We seek out anything that challenges us; something to get us closer to that primeval will to survive that our early ancestors lived with everyday.

This was my first 100-miler since hitting the 5-year cancer free mark and receiv
ing the declaration that I am a cancer "survivor". I believe my experience with cancer gives me a distinct and decided advantage over those who have not had to go through the ordeal of treating the disease. While I could never quantify the mental toughness and appreciation for life I took away from the chemo ward, it is an enormous driver in my life and is in my mind every step of the way from start to finish line. So there is the source of my motivation. Now on to the race!

We arrived early the day before the race and were greeted by a glorious sunshine and moderate temperatures. Shortly after pulling in, I started setting up our tent site along with my kids, Riley and Quinn, and wife, Kelly. The campsites were situated in a bucolic pasture at Silver Hill Meadow in West Windsor, Vermont, at the start and finish of the Vermont 100 Endurance Run. My Trail Monster buddy, Jamie Anderson, had already arrived and we set up camp next door to him. Having practiced setting up our family tent before, this chore was completed quickly and we headed out to have lunch about ten minutes up the road in idyllic Woodstock. I can now say that the salads and sandwiches served up at Bentleys is an ultrarunner's best friend having eaten there twice now before the big race.

We kept the trip to Woodstock limited to lunch, even though the town is full of quaint little shops. Upon arriving back at the race site, the whole Trail Monster crew was there as was my pacer Brian Manson and his family. Ian and Emma and Ian's parents were setting up camp and had erected a very cool Trail Monster flag. I quickly took advantage of the on-site pond next to our camp with Riley and Quinn taking dips as well. Afterwards we headed over to the race meeting where the race director informed us that it was going to be hot (actually really hot) and while it did not reach the temperatures of near 100 degrees that we were warned might be present, his statement was not far off the mark. The pre-race dinner was fantastic, albeit a bit chaotic, and left us all feeling ready for bed. That is all except Quinn, my youngest child. He would not go to sleep and kept me up quite late. I also had to deal with a big snorer near my tent, whose name I will not disclose, but this did not keep me from sleep long either. Compared to other camping trips and especially those before big races, I was granted a mercifully good night's rest. The next day was going to be long so I was going to need whatever help I could get.

The Beginning:
In the beginning there was Chariots of Fire. Over a loud speaker. And it would not go away. Unlike last year, I was prepared for it so the impact was dampened a bit. In fact, after the first couple minutes of its droning, I was able to block it out. While I do not have anything against the movie or Vangelis's theme song, I just don't understand why we runners can't find another song to use for motivation! After a few minutes of inaction, I uttered the words "it's inevitable" as I slid out of my cozy sleeping bag into my running clothes and moved my soul outside the tent. My body followed shortly after and Kelly and I moved over to the start after indulging in a cup of coffee with my fellow Trail Monsters, Ian and Emma. On the way I followed tradition by joining the porta-john line which was entirely too long and held me up until about one minute before the race start. Miraculously I found Jamie and Ian at the start, Kelly snapped a picture, and at 4 AM the cow bells rung and we were off.

Into the Vermont woods we ran and within the first mile I began sweating. The humidity was ridiculous and was visible in the air, reducing the range of our headlamps noticeably. Jamie and I stuck together and shortly began picking up other runners to form a makeshift club. My Trail Monster buddy, Chuck Hazzard, signed up first, followed by Ron Farkash from Massachusetts, with whom I ran the beginning of last year's race, and rounding out our happy group was Rawfood Frank, a raw vegan chef from Connecticut. We were a motley crew, all offering something different and valuable. Frank quickly made himself indispensable as he quickly began to dole out the most obscure nutritional advice imaginable. For example, who but a select few would know that the "chia" in chia pets is an incredibly nutritious food source? Apparently, as I learned from Frank, it was used by Aztec warriors on their long conquests. I started wondering why we all weren't chewing on the stuff. I for one am going to pull out that chia pet I have had on my closet shelf and bring it to work to begin growing some health. I also learned about the best order in which to eat things (no peanut butter before watermelon to aid digestion) and countless other valuable things as I ran with Frank for over 40 miles.

At the start of the run I had decided to bring my hydration pack given the fact that the handler station is over 21 miles away and I would need to support myself for almost four hours. My game plan was to use Clif Lemonade as my electrolyte source, S-caps and Endurolytes to supplement my salt intake, and then eat whatever my stomach would take. This last part was difficult as it seemed that about every hour I was forced to make a pit stop to void my stomach. I then knew I was going to have to readjust my nutritional plan and go with the flow. This was lesson number one of the day: accept that the best laid plans can come crumbling down in which case you have to quickly readjust and find what will work. Last year watermelon worked really well for me. This year it wasn't, probably due to the heat, but it would take me a little while to figure this out.

The first of the day's handler stations (where a runner meets his or her crew) was at Pretty House, mile 21.1. Into this station I strolled with most of the group from the beginning, having lost Ron but gained Trail Monster founder, GIant Parlin. I was greeted by my early morning crew, Brian and Kelly's dad, Phil, and they promptly set about getting me refilled for the road. This we did quickly and I moved on my way, spending no more than a couple minutes. This was repeated 9 miles up the road at the Stage Road handler station. Jamie moved through this station a little quicker than me and Frank and it took to the top of the "Sound of Music" hill to catch him. The climb to the top of this hill, which hosts spectacular views, is downright cruel and exposed to full sun. Our group grew a bit here and stayed together for awhile, as we descended the hill leaving our quads somewhat burned. It was way too early for that.

The Despair:
Just shy of mile 40 we ran through the Lincoln Covered Bridge, the second of the day. These are spectacular structures and running through them gives one a great view of their construction, not to mention a moment of shelter from the sun. As we came to the aid station that follows, our group was back down to just Jamie, Frank, and me and stayed small the rest of the day. Conversation had settled down as we were all contemplating what the rest of the day was going to bring, especially how hot it might get. I for one was harboring some very dark thoughts of how I might feel if the actual weather came close to the prediction of the day before.

Roughly a mile short of the Lillians Aid Station at mile 43.5 I had the first of my two nose bleeds of the day. This was very energy draining and destroyed my focus for a brief period. I eventually got the blood loss under control and regained my composure. It was shortly after this that my gastrointestinal issues resurfaced and my frustration got the better of me as I headed down the road away from Jamie and Frank to visit the porta-john I knew was at Lillians. Upon rolling into the aid station, I handed my hydration pack to the volunteers who kindly refilled it as I hit the head. My timing could not have been better; as I exited Jamie was pulling up, enabling me to join him. Unfortunately Frank had dropped back just a little and was not with us as we moved forward. I would not get the opportunity the rest of the day to run with Frank, but I did see him every so often pulling into aid stations as I was leaving and every time he had a confident smile and fine form, so I knew he would roll into the finish line in good shape.

It was also at this point that I started to ache a little. The outside of my quads were "pinging" a bit with every footfall and a couple toes started hurting. On top of this I started to get a little bored. Despair hit a bit here as I realized I was hurting and losing focus with not even half the race complete. This was the beginning of the first low point of the day; the first of many. Last year I was lucky in that my first of only one low hit at mile 70, so these early lows were new for me. I have read many times about the physical and emotional roller coaster suffered through long distance events and my knowledge of this made me comfortable that this was normal and before I knew it I would soon enough be running on cloud nine again. This was lesson two of the day: you will hit some extreme lows but there is a 99.9% chance you will pull out of it as quickly as you entered it, the trick is just lasting until that happens.

Also of note was that just before Lillians, around mile 43, I ran across one of the Western States 100 transplants who I had met on a run down from Emigrant Pass during my trip to that race that is now famous for the fact that it was the first ever WS100 to be canceled. He was a Californian who was planning on attempting his first 100-mile race at Western States and when those plans changed, he decided to put his training to use in Vermont. When I caught up to him during the event, he was not looking so good and all he could utter to me was "I'm done". Truer words have never been spoken. He was cooked in every way possible. It was then that I realized I really wasn't in all that bad of shape. Fortunately for me, seeing the pain in this runner's eyes set me straight and pulled me out of my dark thoughts.

The Middle:
Camp 10 Bear appears on the course like an oasis in a desert. We rolled in just before 1 PM and the crowds were thick and I got to see my family for the first time of the day. Runners also greet this stop with a little dread as it is the first medical stop where weights are taken and the doctors perform their "psychoanalysis" of all the participants. As I pulled in with Jamie, we were greeted by my daughter, Riley, wielding twizzlers and a big hug. As my stomach was a little on the edge the best I could do was nibble off an end despite her assurance that they were really good. I quickly checked in with Brian, said hi to Kelly, and moved on to weigh in.

At check-in the day before the race I had weighed in to provide a base line. My weight was 163. Just a few days prior to this weigh-in I had weighed 156 on a certified scale at work. This heavy weight was a surprise, even given the big lunch(es) I had just eaten. Now here I was stepping up to the scale at Camp 10 Bear and reading a weight of 155. I had lost 8 pounds. This was almost 5% of my pre-race weight and enough to justify the medical staff to ask me to sit and hydrate. I quickly beat them to any declaration by explaining how I fine I felt and summarized my nutrition and well-being to that point. To my surprise they sent me on my way. Ian was not so lucky. Weighing in 7 pounds light was enough to bench him for a short period while he downed some pretty serious fluid.

Camp 10 Bear doubles as both the medical aid station at mile 47.2 and mile 70.1. The miles between these two are the hardest of the day, by my estimation. For some reason I feel quite lonely when I do this loop in the southwest part of the course. This is probably because it comes in the middle of the course, so you are tired from the miles you have done and worried about the miles to come, which for most of us are the miles we never covered in training (as training runs rarely, if ever, exceed 50 miles). This loop also comes in the heat of the day. I suspect it was because of this heat that my stomach was still quite unsettled and a bit bloated. I was uninterested in food and was still voiding my stomach too often. Salvation came in the form of a nice volunteer who looked at me at the mile 54.1 Birminghams aid station and said "you've gotta eat something." I heeded her advice, downed my first ever "on-the-run" turkey and cheese sandwich, wagering I had nothing to lose, and headed out with Jamie. I walked for about a quarter mile on a flat stretch through a field, simply to avoid choking on my sandwich. It wasn't too long afterwards that I started feeling better and my energy levels seemed to rise. This was lesson number three of the day: you gotta eat, even if your stomach is screaming no. Without food you are useless.

Throughout this low period Jamie hung with me. It seemed that our highs and lows alternated throughout the day, which was beneficial in that there was always one of us that could motivate the other to move just a little quicker than we probably would have if left to our own devices. It was right after Birminghams, as my food was being turned into energy, that Dan Brendan, whom many have dubbed "Arizona" after his home state, caught up with us just as I emerged once more from a bio break in the woods. By my count, Dan has completed the Ultrarunning Grand Slam (complete four of biggest 100s in a single year) every year since 2004. To this point, he had run 6 100-milers this year. He dispatched some sage advice, telling us to be sure to take it easy during the hot part of the day and to take care of our stomachs with the knowledge that all (or at least most) would be healed as the temps cooled down. We ran with Dan for a couple miles until he headed off in the distance. Last year I was lucky enough to pass him somewhere in the last ten miles and finish a few minutes before him. This year our placement in the final ranking was reversed.

Not quite the end:
At mile 57 Jamie and I reached the Tracer Brook aid station, so named for a nice little stream that was enjoyed by both horses and my kids during the heat of the day. Quinn was just waking up when I saw him at Camp 10 Bear but rearing to go at Tracer Brook after just exiting the stream. He ran up into my arms and his 25 pounds about toppled my feeble body when I picked him up. I got a quick hug from him and decided carrying him was not an option, so I put him down and headed over to feast. It was also here that I learned lesson number four of the day: don't forget a bandanna on a hot day. Jamie had been filling his bandanna with ice at each stop and tieing it around his neck. This served to cool the blood flowing through the carotid artery, and hence your head and brain. Phil happened to have a handkerchief which was pretty small, but enough for me to use. I promptly tied it on and moved along. As I was leaving, Quinn started crying for me and I felt terrible leaving him. I had a moment of sadness as I knew that turning around wasn't an option. I shouted back some words of encouragement to him and moved out, knowing that was the only thing that would get me home sooner.

Not too far up the road I concocted a motivational story for Jamie. I know Jamie well enough to understand he suffers from an acute case of "bucklemania". That is, when a buckle is at stake at a race, Jamie will do whatever he can to secure that buckle. He would gladly run himself into the ground to make sure he walks away with it at the finish. So on top of Prospect Hill, around mile 60, while Jamie was in a trough and I was on a pedestal, I casually mentioned to him that the Vermont buckle for under-24 hour finishers was a "special, 20th Anniversary edition". I myself partially believed this, but I faltered momentarily when questioned by Jamie and then I decided to stick to my story because I figured it couldn't hurt. Not so surprisingly, this lifted Jamie right out of the black hole he was in and I heard him mutter the mantra, "20th Anniversary edition buckle", aloud for the rest of the time I was with him. He was still talking about it the next morning as we watched the last finishers cross the line, and he never showed any disappoint when he received the same old buckle as last year. They are all special, no matter the size or material.

Around the same time I took advantage of Jamie's "bucklemania", clouds started forming and Jamie and I heard some thunder. It was 3 PM and hot. We were tired and in dire need of a dowsing. After hearing the thunder for about half and hour and watching the skies darken around us, our wish was granted as the clouds emptied just shy of Prospect Hill at mile 60. Funny enough I became quite chilled during this 20 minute deluge. I am sure my body was quite confused, having gone through heat and now cold. Even better was that these cool temperatures carried us into the best aid station of the day, Margaritaville at mile 62.1. Mentally I was at the absolute high of the day. I had become super chatty leading up to this aid station, unbelieving of how well I felt. Brian and Phil, my extraoidinary crew, were there to greet me. Exiting this station I knew that we were only one aid station and 8 miles away from our second stop at Camp 10 Bear, where pacers would join us for our run to the finish line.

The miles leading up to Camp 10 Bear were pretty uneventful and not very scenic. We crossed paths with quite a few horses and also had the pleasure of visiting with the deadheads at the Brown School House aid station. I chose not to partake in the eating of the brownies as I did last year, hoping to aviod the stomach issues that plagued me last year after leaving this station. This part of the course, miles 65 to 70, are very runnable and in fact seem to be downhill. This forced Jamie and I to compromise a bit on our race plan of only walking the uphills as neither of us was in any shape to run a straight five miles . Even with this compromise we still covered this section in a pretty remarkable pace of 11:18/mile, this was the best pace we had held since the five miles between 34 and 39 which included traversing the Lincoln Covered Bridge. A big part of this quicker pace was the magical pull of the pacers. It seems like an entirely new race once you meet your pacer. They inject new blood and energy, and after having run 70 miles this is in great need.

The beginning of the end:
About a half mile out of Camp 10 Bear Jamie and I spotted a group of spectators and started high fiving, anticipating Camp 10 Bear was just on the other side of this family. Unfortunately this industrious family had hiked out away from the crowds at the aid station to get an early view of the runners and we were still about a mile away. So we trudged on, passing a runner was just leaving Camp 10 Bear for the first time. He was over 20 miles behind us! The thought sobered us up a bit and we both gave thanks of where we were. Not so sober were the guys who had sat down with a cooler of beer just on the outskirts of Camp 10 Bear. They had offered us a beer 5 hours earlier (!) as we were leaving Camp 10 Bear and here they were, still drinking. Now that is endurance.

Just before 6 PM, almost 15 hours after starting the run, I picked up my once handler now pacer, Brian. I also weighed in for the second time of the day. Remember, 23 miles earlier I had weighed in at 155 pounds, 8 pounds lighter than the previous days weight. This time I was happy to see I had gained 5 of those pounds back. I also felt pretty good as a I grabbed a quarter of a grilled cheese sandwich and sat down to change out of my wet shoes and socks. This took very little time and Jamie and I, complete with our pacers, Brian and Al, set out up a treacherously steep hill which I remember all too well from last year.

Last year I hit my one low of the day heading up this hill. This year I was luckier in that I was feeling okay, but this hill still hit me pretty hard. Finally we did hit the top and were happy to get to running again. About a mile later I turned around to check on Jamie and realized he wasn't behind us. I decided that he must have pulled over for a bio break, and that this was as good a time as any to go at it alone. This departure was sad in that Jamie I had spent over 14 hours and 71 miles running together, having bonded more than we had over the entire year I have known him. During the rest of the night I was able to check on his progress through his handler, Kate, and it gave me comfort knowing he was still running strong.

Brian and I crossed paths a number of times with Ron Farkash, with whom I ran at the beginning of the race. The only problem with the paths we crossed was that he was usually running the wrong way on the course, having to backtrack from missed turns. If I was him I would have fired my pacer immediately, but this wasn't an option for Ron as his wife was acting in that capacity. Remarkably Ron seemed to take the extra credit running in stride and kept ahead of us until Brian and I passed him soon after the West Winds aid station at mile 77. This aid station, also known as the "Spirit of '76" is right up there with Margaritaville in enthusiasm. The crowds were great, cheering for all the runners as they entered, and there was even an acoustic musician there for some entertainment.

The miles with Brian passed quickly and enjoyably, containing the expected amount of humor that seems to follow Brian like the dirt cloud that follows the Peanuts character Pig Pen. Of note was seeing Ron doubling back two too many times and once more being greeted by the Grimm brother's witch from Hansel and Gretel. There she stood, as she did last year, at the entrance of her gingerbread house with the nicest smile imaginable, tempting us to come rest our weary legs. What are the chances this lady would once again be in the same place as we passed her a year later? We took this an omen (not sure if good or bad) and moved on.

The last miles with Brian were fruitful as we quickly covered some good ground. Brian proved to be the more gentle of my two pacers, softly encouraging me when I did run but never demanding, My wife, Kelly, on the other hand was much tougher, prodding me at every opportunity. By the time I reached her at mile 88.6 the full moon was high in the sky and the hour was getting late, having just eclipsed 10 PM. I still had just over 11 miles to go, and at the pace I was running Kelly estimated we would hit the finish line somewhere near 2 AM. This prophecy left me momentarily dazed, but I soon recovered and set about trying to prove her wrong. It was also at this aid station, named Bill's, that I had my final weigh-in. It appeared that my newfound ultra diet of turkey and cheese sandwiches was serving their purpose. My stomach had kept all I had eaten for a few hours and my weight of 162 was now just a pound shy of my pre-race weight. Down the road I went, wondering how I had regained all that weight during a 100-miler, when I am sure the weigh-in from the day before had been heavy.

Kelly and I did a fair bit of walking over the next few miles. Right out of Bill's we hit a long section of mowed fields that are terribly cambered which drops you into some single track which then deposits you at the foot of a hill that seems to never stop. The 3 miles from Bill's to Keating's at mile 92 were my slowest of the day. I clocked a not so blistering pace of 17:48/mile, probably the slowest I have ever run. I am not sure why these miles were so slow, especially given that I felt okay. Last year I ran a pace of 15:02/mile during this section, 2 minutes and 45 seconds faster. Maybe it was because I was enjoying the company of my wife so much since we never get the opportunity these days to just go for a run in the middle of the night (who does?). The walking did enable us to catch up on the events of Kelly's day with the kids. I learned that everyone had a great swim at Tracer Brook but they did not enjoy the storm as much as the runners did (at least those who received no hail). The storm apparently was not kind to the campground; a tree had landed on our tent and many campers' tents were drenched. Kelly did as much as she could to dry all our buddies' stuff out and to ensure we had dry sleeping quarters for the night. Dry or not, I didn't suspect I would mind but I really appreciated her effort, as did many others.

As we crested what had just seemed like an interminable hill, Keating's aid station greeted us. I took in a little caffeine and some chicken broth, and chatted with the volunteers who assured us there was really only one more hill. Based on this statement and my experience over the next few miles led me to believe they had probably lived in this area their entire lives and no longer notice the hills. Right out of the gate the process of struggling up a hill started all over again. The good thing was that we were near the end and as a veteran of this race, I had first hand knowledge of the glory that awaited me at the finish line.

Despite the full moon, it was still quite dark. The orange tint reduced the impact of the moon's light while the high humidity dampened our headlamps to quite useless lighting devices, leaving visibility of the trail quite low. What ambient light we were getting was hardly worthy of leading us through pockmarked horse trails, whose condition was much worse than last year due to the deluge of rain we got earlier in the day and the night before. After the last manned aid station at mile 95, Polly's, I did some quick math and decided in order to arrive before 2 AM, or 22 hours, I would have to run at least a 20 minute mile pace. At this point in the race I had no idea how easy this was going to be since I had no notion of my pace over the preceding 95 miles. When Kelly first joined me she had predicted a 2 AM start and this just seemed too late.
I continued to adjust my time goal as I felt us getting closer and we were maintaining a pretty good ratio of running to walking until a few miles out I decided I would aim for hitting the finish line before 1:30 AM, almost exactly one hour longer than last year. So the race was on.

The trail up the last hill before the finish line is called the Trail of the Bloodhounds and leads to Blood Hill. This trail was a mess and hard to navigate with the lamp on my head so I employed the "fog light" effect and removed the lamp to hold it with my arm extended to the ground. This was extremely effective and did an amazing job of making the traverse safer and quicker. Once we spotted the milk jugs containing the glow sticks on the other side of Blood Hill I knew we were almost home. These jugs have an affect on a person similar to the sight of a stack of presents under a tree on Christmas morning. It almost made me want to break out in song. Descending to the finish line with Kelly was pure joy and we were greeted by my daughter Riley, Thea and Phil, and Brian. The clock read 1:28 AM, and it had taken me 21 hours and 28 minutes to cover 100 miles on foot. Not a bad days work.

After the run I sat with the 100-mile version of the thousand yard stare, unable to focus on much of anything as my body wound down from almost an entire day of running. To go from over twenty-one hours of constant motion to stillness is a very odd sensation, and not an all too unpleasant one. The soreness was all inclusive, running from my neck and upper body to the soles of my feet. At roughly mile 80 I was reminded of a pain I have only experienced in my one other 100-miler, and that is soreness in my pecs and triceps, which hurt from all the bouncing and jostling they suffer through all day. And this was only one of the many weird pains I experienced. I made my way to the food tent, chowed down on some scrumptious spaghetti and meatballs, no doubt leftovers from the pre-race dinner, but to me it tasted like food from a five star establishment. After some eating and sitting, I decided it was time to go clean up and hit the rack. Getting up was not so easy. Even though I had been running non-stop for the entire day, once I sat my game was over. Like the old ultrarunning adage says, "Beware the chair." I eventually made my way to my tent where I was able to clean up and get some rest.

Rest really didn't come all that easy as every move was noticeable. I heard Jamie come in discussing his race (finish: 22:27) with his handler, Kate, but was unable to get up to check on him. The next morning I awoke to Jamie and the others chatting around our campsite, trading war stories. While both Ian and Erik had great runs, finishing in 22:54 and 25:31, respectively, my buddy Chuck had to abandon his race at Camp 10 Bear at mile 47. All in all, this was a pretty good showing for the Trail Monsters on a hot and humid day.

As for the after effects, Sunday and Monday were pretty difficult, but by Tuesday I was ready to run. My measure of this is how well I can ascend and descend stairs. Tuesday morning found me bounding up and down, so I was all set. I am still struggling a bit with an aching right foot (I suspect some type of bone bruise), but my mind is much better off than last year and has even convinced my body that next year we need to do at least two of these 100s. After that, who knows. Anyone up for an adventure race?

The big success story of the day were the lessons learned. I know I need to train to consume more food and liquids. I learned to really manage the ups and downs.
Most importantly, and the final lesson of the day is this: no matter the imagined obstacles, be it weather, training shortfalls, or phantom injuries, trust yourself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It is as simple as that.

Our friend Thea has accompanied us to many races, ranging from 10Ks to marathons, but this was her first 100-miler. She remarked how surprised she was at the anti-climax that is a 100-mile finish line. Her only point of comparison really is to a marathon finish line with all its loud and adoring fans. True, at a 100-miler there is no welcoming committee offering immediate congratulations and volunteers catering to the finishers every need while doling out medals and space blankets. Instead you are welcomed by a few fantastic but sleepy time keepers, a few weary spectators who are disappointed you are not the runner they are cheering on, and any family members who were able to stay awake to greet you. The difference is that an ultrarunner's reasons for running are generally much different than runners of other distances. To commit to running 100-miles, your reasons must run very deep into your soul. Ultrarunners do not look for large crowds of seemingly adoring fans. Truly, all we are looking for is the medical tent and food, to be followed shortly by a locally crafted beer.

Vermont, we'll see you next year!

Monday, July 21, 2008

2008 Vermont 100 completed

Early Sunday morning I completed my second 100-mile endurance run. The Vermont 100 took me almost exactly one hour longer this year than last year but to say I am disappointed would be a lie. I am ecstatic with my time given the high temps and humidity and other environmental conditions, and the lessons learned were numerous. I can not wait for my next 100 to build on this experience. The results have been posted on the Vermont 100 website. Please note that the 100K results are include so you'll have to ignore any runners with bib numbers in the 400s. I do not know my overall placement but my overall time was 21 hours and 8 minutes.

While I plan on writing a more extensive race report in the next few days (no, it won't take three months like last time, and I do promise brevity), I want to give a shout out to a few key people from the weekend. First, thank you to my wife, Kelly, and kids, Quinn and Riley, for all their help. Kelly was instrumental in pulling everyone's tent site back together after the storm hit us Saturday afternoon (our tent had a tree laying across it). Next, thanks to Brian for his excellent pacing and to his family for their support. Next, thanks to Pops and Boo Boo for helping with the kids and for their excellent crewing, all day and all night. Lastly, thanks goes to Frank (google "Rawfood Frank"), with whom I ran almost half the race and learned tons of great nutritional stuff, and my great buddy Jamie with whom I ran about 71 miles. Thanks for all the help. This race would have not been nearly as fun without one of you.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Vermont 100 Pre-race psych up

Two days away from my second Vermont 100 I am not sure what to feel. I am excited that it is finally here but at the same time I am harboring some inexplicable dread. Maybe it is because I am not a fan of repeating courses, especially long distance ones, or perhaps it is because the weather report is calling for temps in the high 80s with high humidity.

Or maybe it is because I don't feel like my training is where it should be. I have a feeling that I am not the only one with this concern. Here are some interesting tidbits I concocted to ease my concerns. From Jan 1 to the final week before the VT 100, I covered 1,114 miles on my training runs in 2007 while during the same period this year I ran 1,120 miles for a variance half a percent. Pretty damn close, and keep in mind I do not use a training plan so this is purely by coincidence. Add in all the biking I have been doing this year and then this year's training doesn't seem all that bad. Also, last year my pace fell off precipitously between miles 70-84 because of my stomach issues. If I run the same race this year as I did last year and avoid the stomach issues for those 14 miles and maintain my normal pace, I can shave off 35 minutes (!) from last year's time to put me at 19:52. I know this is crazy analytics but it helps mentally to think about these things.

Anyway, the race is here and I am going to run it. And it is going to be hot. Those there are the facts. I'll let you know what transpires in my post next week, or you can keep track of my results by visiting the Vermont 100 website.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Catch up, L.L.Bean 10K, and final training

Alright, it's been awhile since I have posted on my training. So let's catch up.

My training has taken a beating the last few weeks. The week of June 16th found me playing the part of single dad as Kelly was on a business trip to Florida. That only left the weekend after her return for serious training. However, Saturday was the Mount Washington Road Race (which I ran) and which subsequently left me with a pretty nasty cold. So Sunday I was feeling terrible and missed a planned long run with L.L.Bean buddy Jim. Sunday night I was dealing with not only my cold but a vomiting son who always shares his viruses with me. Worst case nightmares were visiting my thoughts and I was quite depressed about the prospect of missing out on helping Jamie at his Western States 100 attempt. The rest of the week, before flying off to the eventually cancelled Western States 100, was all about washing my hands and ridding myself of the cold I was carrying. Then I went to California, missed my long training run that was to be my pacing for Jamie, got a few decent runs in, and came home. You know this well if you read my verbose account in my previous blog post.

So what has happened since returning from California. First, I did catch the stomach virus Quinn introduced to the our home. Riley had it when she picked me up at the airport, and I am assuming passed it on to me through all the hugging we did. The stomach virus hit me the day before the L.L.Bean 4th of July 10K while performing my race committee duty. That happened in the morning and the entire afternoon was spent in bed at home. The next morning, 4th of July, was race day and I arose at 3:45 to get to Freeport to start my race committee duty of the day at 4:30. My job was to set up the race course, including mile markers, laying out cones for all the volunteer zones, and setting up the water stops. By 6:30 I was back to the start line and runners were already appearing around the start area. With only an hour to go to race time, my stomach was still really unsettled and I was unsure about racing. I love this race and spent a lot of volunteer time to get it set up, so I decided that I would run and if necessary bail out. But I at least wanted to give it a shot. At start time the temps were perfect and the record sized field was ready to run. The race itself went off well for me, and I hit the first mile in 5:40 and felt really good doing it. At this point, I settled in with a group of guys who I have raced with in the past and paced myself on them. I stayed with this group until the end and clocked in a time of 38:17, 3 seconds better than last year. Considering my early wake time, race set up duties, and ill stomach, not too shabby. Kelly and my father-in-law Phil also ran and did so well (my measure of success is the size of smile immediately upon finishing). Also racing was Riley! She ran the 1-mile fun run and did a great job. Kelly ran with her, and other than a small section at the turn around where Riley demanded that Kelly carry her, Riley ran the entire way and finished with a bigger smile than Kelly, Phil, and me combined!

The day after the 10K race I headed over to Pineland for a final long run before my shortened taper for the Vermont 100 began. I started at 5 AM and ran the first couple hours solo. While I am a big fan of running long with others, I do enjoy the early morning solitude of Pineland. As it is in many places, Pineland is absolutely magical in those couple hours following sunrise. As the sun ascends and the day heats up, out come the deer flies and then everything changes. After a couple hours of running I joined a much larger group that included Jamie, Ian and Emma, James, Jim, and Lilly. Despite some lingering stomach issues and extreme moodiness (due to feelings of lack of preparedness for the quickly upcoming Vermont 100), I finished the day with just shy of 29 miles in 4:32 hours. I felt okay and went on with Kelly and the kids to a post-run, pity party James threw for Jamie's experience at the cancelled Western States 100.

On to last week. I had a good past week. Physically I felt okay with no stomach or cold viruses present. I got some pretty good miles in, probably a little more than typically suggested for taper, but mentally I needed it. I got a few days of cycling into work (total of about 80 miles on the bike this week) and got in one run to work. It was a hot week and I think I chose the hottest, most humid day to run to work. Wednesday morning I set out for the just short of 15 mile run to work and within minutes the deer flies found me. After a mile of battling these annoylingly painful biters, I considered turning around and going home. The problem (designed to ensure I run to work) was that I had no car to drive to work (left at work for the drive home) and it was about too late to get home and bike to work. So I continued on. At the end of the run I was soaked from perspiration and I had been rationing my water bottle for about 45 minutes. The end result was that the run took 15 minutes longer than any of my past runs to work and must have consumed nearly half of my body's hydration! This was one run I will happily forget.

Today and yesterday I got in runs around Pineland. Yesterday I met Brian (my 100-mile pacer), Jamie, and Lilly at 7 AM and we ran for a couple hours (estimated because I thought I had lost my GPS Saturday morning and ran without it only to return home to discover Kelly found it in exactly the spot I had been searching). After about 1:30 Brian took his leave and then Jamie signed off about 15 minutes later. Lilly and I continued on as we both swatted flies from each other's back and had a great conversation. Lilly is somewhat new to our group and wicked smart. She's a physics professor at Bates College and apparently knows as much about biting insects (very frightening amount of knowledge) as she does about E=MC2. I also ran into a buddy from work, Brian O. , who lives near Pineland and often runs there (but whom I have never run into there). Funny enough that the first time I ever met Brian out there I happened to be running with Lilly (professor at Bates) and Brian's wife will start teaching at Bates in the Fall. How about that coincidence.

And lastly was my run with Kelly this morning at Pineland. Today was her birthday and the kids had a sleepover with the grandparents at camp, so we were free to sleep in and run together (just like all our single and kid-free friends). We had a great run around the farm side of Pineland and Kelly got in the 1:45 run her training schedule demanded. The deer flies also joined us but were a little better than Saturday. Kelly did admirably well having not run the undulating trails fo Pineland really at all. She is setting herself up well to set a PR at the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco in October. By the way, she is fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in honor of her grandmother (who lost a battle to leukemia last year) and for me and my 5th anniversary of being cancer free. Give if you've got...I'll post the link to her fundraising page soon.

One last thing. Kelly and I were out and about in Portland afternoon taking advantage of the kids spending the night away and we stumbled onto a new "bier cafe" in Portland. The place is super cool so if you are ever find yourself walking around Portland or sitting at home in need of a very unique beer experience, check out Novare Res. I feel a mandatory Vermont 100 celebration party happening here!