Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ten spots left until the price goes up. So register now!
In the meantime, here are a few more pics from the Cowtown Ultra --

About 12 miles into the run:Welcome to the Ultra portion of Cowtown (miles 24-29):It was little bit loney:Finally heading back to join the marathon crowd:

Cruising to the finish line with 31 miles and change in the bank:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

2008 Cowtown Ultra (50km) Report

Respect the distance. That’s what I’m calling this one. No matter how many marathons and ultramarathons I’ve got under my belt, going 26.2 miles or longer is no joke. And in my hubris, I might’ve been a little guilty of not respecting the distance.
Self-portrait at the race start.
Having run a 50 mile race a few weeks ago and 53 miles in November, I was feeling pretty good about last Saturday’s 50 km race. This being the 30th anniversary of the Cowtown, the organizers saw fit to add an ultramarathon to the run. The course would be the same as the marathon until mile 23, at which point the ultramarathon would stay on the Trinity trails for a 5 mile out-and-back. No worries. Right?
Hanging with Toot* just before the race start.
Around 7:00 a.m., I parked at my office and walked the few blocks to the race start. I met up with Toot* just before the 7:29 a.m. start. (No Jballs—he had hurt his foot while playing with his little brother the night before the run.) Toot* and I stayed together for a couple of miles before I bailed on his quicker pace.
Runners coming down Main St. courtesy of Cowtown Camera Girl.
I settled into 9:30 minute miles and kept the pace until about mile 18, when the sun came out and the liberal walk breaks kicked in.
Pic of runners cruising by Texas Beer Company taken by Cowtown Camera Girl.
Just before TCU, I ran into Nell, Ezra, and Frandog, snapped a couple of pics, and motored on. 10 minute miles were now the norm. Somewhere between mile 23 and mile 24, the ultra course split off and I found myself jogging alone along the trail. At one point, a couple teenage girls on bicycles rode by and asked, “How far is your race? Is it a 5K?” I smiled and replied, “Yeah, give or take a few miles.”
As I neared the turnaround, I noticed that the race directors had chosen to make us run up a short hill to the chip-timing mat. Why such masochism? Why? Ugh. Heading back, I came upon fellow Marathon Maniac and El Scorcho alum, Steve Grady. We chatted for a bit before continuing on our respective ways.
Very bad self-portrait in front of "Mile 30" sign.
At mile 28, I rejoined the marathon course, walking more frequently, but actually feeling pretty good overall. Just a little tired. I started running again, stopping only briefly for a bad self-portrait at the mile 30 sign.
Finally, I rounded the corner onto Main Street and crossed the finish line in 5 hours, 37 minutes, 34 seconds. Tired, but not hurting. 31 miles and change in the bank.
After receiving my medal and finishers shirt, I walked back to car, drove home, took a shower, and loaded up the family for a post-race lunch at Dutch’s with Nell, Ezra, Jballs, and Toot*. Mmmmm… burgers and beer.
* Nickname subject to change.
The family went to Ol' South Pancake House for a pre-Cowtown dinner. Here's a pic of Ezra helping me decide what to order. I'm trying something new this time. Rather than eating a big meal the morning of the race, I'm enjoying my tasty breakfast the night before the long run. I'll eat a smaller (but not too small) breakfast an hour and half or so prior to the 7:30 a.m. start.
And laid out here on the dining room table is all the junk that will be accompanying me on today's 50km jaunt around Fort Worth.
*Note: I took these pics with my new Nikon Coolpix camera. I picked it up on sale yesterday. Now that I finally have a small camera I can slip in my pocket, I plan to take and post more photos. So if you like pictures, you're in luck. If not, oh well....

Friday, February 22, 2008

Photo snagged from here.

"The people that I have met are not foolish; they are aware of how tired and cold and hungry and frightened and hurting and discouraged and disoriented and how possibly injured they will become. They know they will face great physical, mental, emotional, and possibly spiritual challenges as they make their way to the finish. This is what they are racing against. This is their challenge. This is what I admire."
- Carolyn Erdman (from

At lunch today, Jballs, M. and I are walking over to Sundance Square to pick up our race chips and take in the Cowtown Marathon expo. Tomorrow, Jballs and I will be running the 50km; M. is going for his first marathon.

We figured a visit to the expo would be a nice, relaxing way to spend the lunch hour.

And then M. came across a report that Sundance Square is scheduled to have a special visitor around noon.

Should make for an interesting crowd downtown -- marathoners and Hillary supporters.*

*Note: This post is in no way meant to support or detract from any political candidate. This blog is apolitical (mostly).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I have a good job that for the most part I enjoy.

But what I really want is more time to run, bike, swim, weight train, etc.

I need a sponsor. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Recently, at Rich's urging, I pulled a bunch of marathon medals from the nail upon which they'd been hanging in the back of my closet and put 'em on display at 26.2 Bling.

Before: my medals hanging in the back of the closet.

After: medals with Ezra J.

(Pictured: 2001 Mardi Gras Marathon, 2001 NYC Marathon, 2002 Mardi Gras Marathon, 2004 Marine Corps Marathon, 2005 White Rock Marathon, 2006 Marine Corps Marathon, 2006 White Rock Marathon, 2007 Mardi Gras Marathon, 2007 Waco 5-0 50km, 2007 Big D Marathon, 2007 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, 2007 Andy Payne Marathon, 2007 White Rock Marathon, 2008 Bandera 50km, 2008 Rocky Racoon 50 Mile) (Not pictured/lost or no medal: 2003 Houston Marathon, 2007 San Francisco Marathon, 2007 Ultracentric 12-hour, 53 mile run)

So... what else is happening these days?

Well, I've got the innaugural Cowtown Ultra this weekend, a 50 km in and around west Fort Worth.

Then it's a week off before I run my second Waco 5-0, a tough little 50 km in Cameron Park.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

111 folks have signed up for El Scorcho '08. Are you one of them?

The price goes up once we hit 150 entrants, so if you haven't registered yet, save some dough and get on it, amigos.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Extreme Sports and Religion: The Faith of Ultramarathon Man
I recently came across this article/book review where the author/critic discusses Dean Karnazes' book and compares his devotion to extreme sports, namely ultrarunning, with religious faith.

I already had the title for this post planned out. Three letters: DNF. I made the decision at the Far Side aid station at mile 23.5. My legs were exhausted. I was barley shuffling along. Running? No. No running. Walking slowly. Very slowly. I had hit the wall and there was nothing left. I was done.

But let’s start at the beginning.

Friday mid-morning, I left Fort Worth for Huntsville, arriving in time to stop by the Court of Appeals in Houston (where I clerked my first year after graduating from law school). After a quick visit with some old friends, I headed back north to Huntsville State Park for the course briefing and packet pickup.

Each time I run an ultra-event, I make new friends, and the pre-race activities are more enjoyable. Unlike prior events, I had traveled to Rocky Raccoon by myself, so it was nice to see some folks I knew from past runs. After snagging my packet, I grabbed a seat and listened to Joe Prusaitis and his staff get us up to speed on what to expect the following morning.

Photo snagged from Anthony P's site.

I left the briefing excited about the run, but a little nervous that I wasn’t fully prepared. While I’d run the Bandera 50K a month ago, I’d done zero long runs since. The furthest (or is it farthest?) I’d run over the past four weeks was 8 miles. I justified it as tapering for the 50 miler. We’d see.

My alarm was set for 4:30 a.m., but I awoke at 4:11 a.m. and was out the door by 4:30 a.m. Because I was staying at a friend’s house in northwest Houston, I had an hour and fifteen minute drive to the Park, plus a pit stop at Waffle House for a hearty pre-race breakfast of 2 sausages, hash browns, 2 eggs, and a pecan waffle with syrup.

I arrived at The Lodge (race HQ) about 15 minutes after the 100 mile race began. I checked in, dropped my bag, and took a seat inside until they called us to the starting line 40 minutes later.

Photo snagged from Bad Ben's site.

Daylight had finally seeped over the land as we stood out front waiting for the run to begin. I found myself casually chatting with nearby runners about this and that, anything but the task at hand. At mile zero, you can’t even think about 50. I was wearing my El Scorcho shirt (good advertising) and had several conversations at the start (and throughout the day) about our midnight run in Fort Worth in July.

And then before I knew, Joe gave us the ten second countdown and I was quickly on my way.

Too quickly, might I add.

Some minor back story.... Despite, or perhaps due to, my anxiety after leaving the race briefing, I decided I need some inspiration before the race. So I called two buddies (the only two, besides the folks running RR, who somewhat understand my inexplicable enjoyment of extremely enduring endeavors) and laid down the gauntlet.

“PR or DNF,” I told Jballs and M. “I’m going out fast and am either going to break my Ultracentric time or crash and burn.”

What the hell was I thinking?

So… true to form, I pushed the pace. (Note to self: unless you’re an elite badass, it’s never a good idea to find yourself passing lots of runners during the first 10 miles of a 50 mile race.)

Map snagged from RR50 site.

The course is mostly single track with wooden footbridges traversing the lower, swampier sections. Unlike Bandrea, which was mostly exposed and 90% evil rocks, Rocky Raccoon primarily consists of dirt trails running under a tall growth of pine trees—which makes the ground nice and soft and covered by a bed of pine needles. There are lots of gnarly roots, but they’re manageable and not too difficult to navigate. While there is minimal elevation gain, the course is rarely flat with rolling hills throughout. There are aid stations sprinkled anywhere from 2.9 to 4.1 miles apart--3.7 miles from The Lodge to the Dam Road aid station, 2.9 miles from Dam Road to the Far Side aid station, 2.9 miles back to Dam Road, 4.4 miles to the CampSite aid station, and finally 2.9 miles back to The Lodge.

No problemo, right?

Photo snagged from Bad Ben's site.

The first loop went well. I was keeping a 10 minute per mile running pace (way too fast so early in the run) with walk breaks on some of the steeper inclines. However, because there weren’t that many steep inclines, but rather mostly gentle, albeit sometimes longish hills, I ran too often when I should’ve been taking walk breaks. (Second note to self: again, unless you’re an elite badass, always enforce walk breaks early in a run. You’ll need them later.)

I ran for a bit with a couple of guys who had flown in from New York for the 50-miler. They were going for sub-10 hours, which sounded pretty good to me. I stuck with them for most of the first loop, but they eventually pulled away.

About the time I got to the CampSite aid station (about 13.5 miles into the run), my legs started to exhibit just the slightest twinge of tiredness. Not a good sign with 37.5 miles to go.

Back at The Lodge, I changed into a sleeveless shirt to account for the escalating temperatures now that the sun had emerged. After retying my shoes and fueling on a PB&J and Gatorade, I jogged back out onto the course, naively confident in my ability. It had taken me 2 hours, 55 minutes to finish the first loop.

The race had dramatically spread out over the last 3 hours, and I found myself alone much more on the second lap, which was good. For the most part, I tend to prefer solitary running. My mind wanders, I take in my surroundings. It’s my own personal Zen meditation.

My legs were getting progressively heavier. Fatigue began to set in. The sun was gleaming through the trees, warming me considerably. Salty residue was beginning to cake on my brow.

Photo snagged from Crockett's site.

And then the bottom fell out.

Walking up toward Far Side, it hit me. I was exhausted. My legs hurt. Actually hurt. Not an acute pain, more of an overall ache. It reminded me of when I was a kid, and I would get leg cramps. Walking didn’t help. Stopping didn’t help. My legs throbbed. I was on mile 20. 13 miles back to The Lodge seemed like an eternity. 30 more to finish was a pipedream.

I walked slowly onward, telling myself to just keep moving. I grabbed my cell phone and sent a text message to my running buddies, “Mile 23.5,” it said. “Crash and burn in progress.” My tank was empty. Stick and fork in me, I was done.

Photo snagged from Crockett's site.

Over the next 10 miles, I tried to run, but it wasn’t too pretty. My controlled stumble didn’t increase the speed and only increased the pain. Leaving Dam Road for CampSite, I began to entertain thoughts of hanging it up. I’d never quit a race before, but the thought of running another loop was overwhelming. I rationalized dropping from the race, telling myself it was the smart move. I had multiple reasons for letting this one go—33 miles would be a respectable distance, I would save my legs for another day, I could drive home a day early to see Nell and Ezra, I could limit recovery time, etc. By the time I reached CampSite, I’d made up my mind. Once I reached The Lodge, I would hand in my chip and leave the race. DNF.

A few yards after leaving CampSite, I found myself walking alongside a guy who was doing the 100 mile run.

“How’s it going?” he asked.

“Not good,” I replied. “I think this is about it for me.”

“You can do it, man.”

“Nah, I’m done. My legs are shot, I’m exhausted. I’m going to call this a ‘training run,’ hand in my chip, and head back to Fort Worth to see my wife and kid.”

“Alright, man. I can understand that. Good luck.”

Then he was off, and I was alone on the trail.

And then… something funny happened. I got a little pissed off. This is bullshit, I thought. You took off work, drove to Huntsville, got up at the ass-crack of dawn for this. And now you’re just going to call it a day? Yeah, you’re hurting. So what? Everyone out here is hurting. Even if the last loop takes 6 hours and you walk the whole way, you need to suck it up and do it. Pick up your damn legs and move.

So I did. I started running. Not just a hobbling jog either. I started really moving. I forced my stride further apart. I ran uphill and downhill. It was painful at first, but then the blood started flowing and, strange as it was, it felt good.

Before long, I passed the 100-mile guy. “Wow,” he said, “what got into you?”

“I don’t know, but I’m going with it.”

“Keep moving, brother!”

I got to The Lodge feeling a lot better, but still doubtful about finishing. The generous aid station volunteers asked me what I wanted. “Not sure,” I said. “I’m thinking that may have been my last loop.”

“Come on, man, you can do this.”

I contemplated. I ate some PB&J sandwiches. I drank some Coca-Cola. I thought some more. I looked at my watch. It had taken me 3 hours, 50 minutes to run the second loop—nearly an hour longer than the first loop had taken me. I grabbed a Gatorade.

Screw it. Let’s go.

Before any more doubt could sink in, I started running.

A mile or so into the final lap, I hooked up with Joe from Colorado, and we stayed together for the next 7-8 miles, motivating each other and telling stories. Joe's companionship really helped. While I might call myself a solitary runner, sometimes we need another person around to keep us moving. Thanks, Joe.

After Dam Road, I pushed the pace, and Joe bid me farewell. The 4.4 mile stretch to CampSite seemed to take forever, but once I arrived, I knew I had it in the bag. Following some advice I’d heard recently—“Don’t make love to the aid station”—I didn’t dawdle, slamming my Gatorade and ham sandwich quickly. 2.9 miles to go.

2.9 miles took longer than it normally would've--about 40 minutes or so--but I made.

And then I was done. 50 miles. 10 hours, 11 minutes, 5 seconds. A PR by more than 16 minutes.

Thanks to all of the volunteers. You were marvelous, absolutely marvelous. Thanks to my fellow runners who shouted words of encouragement. You kept me motivated. Thanks to Joe for keeping me moving. Thanks to Nell and Ezra for supporting me and letting me disappear for two days to run around in the woods like a crazy person. Thanks to M. and Jballs, whose ridicule for a DNF played in my mind as I considered dropping.

Next year, I’m going for the 100. I.I.T.S.

Monday, February 04, 2008

*** UPDATE *** Official Results -- 10 hours, 11 minutes, 5 seconds

Rocky Raccoon 50 miler -- The quick, abbreviated, and not 100% accurate summary:

First 16.667 mile lap took approx. 2 hours, 55 minutes.
Second 16.667 mile lap took approx. 3 hours, 45 minutes. Strongly considered quitting. Almost DNF'd.
Last 16.667 mile lap took approx. 3 hours, 30 minutes.

Approx. finish time: 10 hours, 14 minutes. New 50 mile PR -- about 13 minutes faster than Ultracentric.

Detailed race report coming. Will update with official times once they are online.


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