Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Big D may be a no-go.

I've caught some nasty virus that has nestled itself down deep in my chest and sinus cavities. The past two nights haven't yielded much in the way of REM sleep, and I am feeling worse than after a 77-mile DNF.

So Dallas will be a game time decision.

But it's not looking good for 26.2 miles....

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ah, virtual friends, how I've missed you. Admittedly, I have only myself to blame for the hiatus. Blogging and running have both taken a back seat to maxin' and relaxin'. While it's been a nice break, the beast is beginning to stir. It's time to get back out there. So what's the plan for the next month? Here are some highlights.
  • Big D Marathon. Next Sunday. I haven't run more than 10 miles in about a month, but I figure, why not? This is a fun race, and I did it in under 4 hours last year, so....
  • Sobriety. 30 days worth. Nell did it a month ago and despite a slight tinge of sadness when others sipped her beloved cabernet, she made it through. And if Seanie-boy can do it, then I've got no excuse.
  • Shiner Bash. A 100 mile ride from Austin to Shiner. With The Legendary Adam H.

Vaya con Dios, amigos.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sore. That's how I'm feeling. I played raquetball yesterday for the first time in, oh, probably 10 years. Ouch.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I haven't run since Saturday.

Beginning last July, I've been almost singularly focused on ultrarunning. I spent the heat of the summer getting up hours before sunrise to log miles around Fort Worth preparing for "The Quad," which I came 23 miles short of completing. Three weeks after the 77 mile DNF, I ran the Cowtown Ultra followed the next week by the Waco TNT.

Over 6 races, I covered just shy of 300 miles.

After Waco, I just felt, for lack of a better word, overrun. I needed a break.
So I'm taking a cue from Scott Jurek: I'm simply not running. It feels good to "hibernate."

How long will it last? Another day, another week--there's no way of knowing. When I feel like running again, I will. Until then, I'll take it easy.
In the meantime, I'm hitting it hard with Dave, doing some spinning classes, and, when the weather improves, getting back on the bike.


I'll keep myself entertained.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Waco TNT (Toughest 'N Texas) is a great trail run that takes place every year in Cameron Park. And it definitely lives up to its name. If you've got a free weekend and can make it to Waco, Texas, I highly recommend this fantastic race put on by Tim Neckar.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I get repeatedly asked why I participate in ultrarunning events. These questions are often followed by admonitions about a forthcoming inability to walk when I reach my 40s and 50s. I've often tried to come up with a response that conveys the deep, almost spiritual clarity and calmness that comes from long distance running, but nothing seems quite adequate to me or satisfactory to my inquirers.

Leave it to Mark to succinctly lay it out there:

Why. It's a question people keep asking me about my ultrarunning, usually accompanied by lots of head shaking, sympathetic looks, proclamations of impending knee disintegration and confident predictions that all runners will sooner or later drop dead on the spot. Most of my road friends think anything longer than a marathon is crazy and my parents keep warning me that one day my legs "will fall off". Needless to say, I try to avoid the subject as much as possible. Fortunately the one person who really "gets me" and understands why I do it (other than other ultra runners) is my wife.

But the question "why" is one I rarely ask myself (unless I'm having a low point during a race, then I will ask it over and over). It's true that ultrarunners have a very short-term (or selective) memory, but why do we keep coming back for more?

The first answer that comes to mind is the social interaction, but let's debunk that right now. You can still enjoy the social side of trail running without subjecting yourself to the rigors of running ultras. A nice 6 mile fun run followed by breakfast somewhere would take care of that.
. . .

The swag? Well, I do love my sweatshirts from Bandera and Rocky Raccoon, my
Trilogy awards, belt buckles, shirts and all the rest of it, but I'm pretty sure there are simpler ways of getting swag than running silly distances so that can't be it either.

So here's the real reason (or at least my reason). There are some people who are natural born runners - they can turn up without any training and run fast 5k or 10k races with little bother. I am not one of them. I have to work at my running and it doesn't always come easy. There are days when I struggle through 5 miles and others when I sail through 50. But I am world class at being bull headed and determined, and I will force myself to keep going. I thrive on challenges, enjoy the mental battle with myself and above all keep a smile on my face. That is why the ultra distances suit me so well. There is something very pure about finishing an ultra event - you can't buy it, you have to earn it. It's not always easy, but nothing worth having ever is.

And like so many other trail runners I like to march to the beat of my own drum. I've never ever felt the need to follow the crowd or to "fit in", so the marginal nature of the sport appeals to me. Sure, I run marathons too but give me a small town race or a secluded trail run over a big city marathon any day.

The sheer feeling of freedom that comes from running through the woods at night with only a full moon for company can be uplifting. I still remember how good I felt during the last miles of Bandera and Rocky Raccoon and I want to recapture that feeling.

One of my favorite ultra quotes is from Keith Knipling: "going for a run always clears my head, but running 100 miles distills my soul."

Monday, March 02, 2009

Pacing the Cowtown Ultra

I signed up the pace the Cowtown 50 km a fews ago. Admittedly, my main motivation was a free entry to the race. And I was still ticked off about the RR DNF. I wrangled Jballs into pacing with me, figuring it would be good to have somebody else around in the event I wasn't quite up to par. We weren't sure how fast we planned to run, but somewhere around 5 1/2 hours sounded about right.

Jballs and I met at my office early Saturday morning and snagged our "Ultra Coach" race bibs and our Ultra pace-group sign, which proudly declared that we would be running the 50 km in "5 : ??". We made our way to the start and lined up amongst several thousand other shivering runners.

So, yeah, about the race day climate. What the hell? Earlier in the week it was in the 80s; on race morning temps had dropped into the 30s with a brutal north wind gusting up to 35 mph.

We chatted with a few folks here and there and hooked up with Jeff and Yumi Davis, a couple from Norman, Oklahoma. Jeff had only started running a year ago, but had already completed two marathons. Saturday was going to be his first ultra attempt. Yumi was running the marathon. We ran about 6 miles with them before we got separated at a rest stop.

By the time we reached mile 7, Jason and I were pretty much running by ourselves, although we chatted with ultrarunners and marathoners here and there. Nell took a few pics as the course meandered a couple blocks from our house, at which point Jason and I detoured for a restroom break, adding about a quarter mile or so to our run.

Just past mile 8, the 1/2 marathoners broke off, and the crowd of runners thinned significantly.

As we neared the neighborhood surrounding Colonial Country Club, Jeff hooked back up with us. (Yumi continued on her own but at a slower pace.) Jeff, Jason, and I would run the next 12 miles or so together, until the brutal winds along the Trinity River would cause Jeff to drop back. Along the way, we picked up several other runners, including Mike and Dave.

Around mile 23, the ultra course split off from the marathon course, and we were on our own for about 5 miles. From mile 23 to 26, the five of us (me, Jason, Jeff, Mike, and Dave) banded together as we fought a killer north wind that did everything it could to knock us over.

Finally, at mile 26, we turned around and got a bit of a tailwind. Unfortunately, at that point Jason and I had lost Mike, Dave, and Jeff. Because we were "pacers" and not "coaches," we felt obligated to keep moving, trying to get as close to 5 1/2 hour as possible.

We steadily passed runners--marathoners and ultramarathoners--over those last 5 miles. I won't lie; it felt good to be feeling so good while others were clearly suffering. It was also nice passing MANY ultramarathoners who had gone out more quickly than we had and who hadn't joined up with us because they wanted to finish faster than our pace.

About a mile from the finish, we hooked up with Ben from Nevada, who was having some calf-cramping issues. We did our best to motivate him, and Ben picked up the pace and joined us as we crossed the finish line.

Official chip time -- 5:39:56. Not 5:30:00, like we had hoped, but it felt good under the conditions.

Jason had to take off for an appointment, but I stuck around and cheered Dave, Mike, and Jeff as they made their way to the finish line. I'm happy to report that all made it in under 6 hours. So we stayed true to our "5 : ??" guarantee.

The next morning, I woke up feeling fine. No soreness at all. I worked out this morning with Dave (who trashed my upper body; thanks, dude).

Next week, another 50 km in Waco on the tough trails of Cameron Park.

Yee-ha!

p.s. Left the Flip camera at home, so no video or pics. Sorry, amigos.

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