Blog Subtitle

Reverse-engineering the Ultramarathon

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

And I won a towel, too...

All scenes, whether actual or created, depict authenticated facts.
(Fame and recognition to the first commenter who
correctly identifies the TV show that line is from.)

One of the great things about becoming a runner is that it seems to lead you into trying new things. Races are just the beginning. There are training routes to discover, running groups to join, volunteer opportunities. There are stretches and exercises to be learned to help keep the body in good shape so one can continue to run. There are self-massage techniques.

When those latter things fail you there are new people in other new settings for you to meet. I'd never been to a podiatrist before I started running, nor a physical therapist, nor a chiropractor, nor an orthopedist, nor a cardiologist. I'd never had acupuncture before.

One of the biggest leaps for me was when I started wondering if real massage therapy from a real massage therapist might be a good thing for me. I'm not exactly the epitome of a "man's man" (or I'd be a construction worker or maybe a truck driver instead of a 'software guy') but I certainly didn't see myself as a spa kind of guy either (let alone an 'organic spa' kind of guy). Now walking into Terra Organic Spa to let Rachel work me over seems almost as normal as walking into the grocery store.

None of this prepared me to be any less hesitant about what I did last night though.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

One more run...

It has all become so mind-numbingly perfunctory.

The drive home from work was slow as usual. Roads were getting sloppier as we went and the mix of confident and timid drivers attempting to negotiate them at rush hour meant traffic would pretty much just crawl along.

I was tired when we walked into the house. I knew I would go out for a few laps around the neighborhood loop, but I wasn't exactly looking forward to it.

One more run. In the cold. In the dark. Round and round the little cluster of houses I live in.

I got ready on auto-pilot. Up the stairs... peel off the work clothes... pull on the Smartwool long-johns and the running pants. Do I need socks? Nah. Last night's pair are downstairs with the shoes and still good for a short one. I head down... grab the Garmin... strap it on my wrist. Grab the socks and the shoes... sit down on the bottom step.

One more time through the 'shoeing ritual.' Wipe foot to remove any stuck-on grit... pull on sock... make sure it makes a good seal with the long-johns... pick up shoe... check inside for debris... pull on shoe... lace... repeat with other foot.

Pull on jacket... grab gloves. Hat and running vest are in the garage entryway. Put on running vest... put on hat. Turn on GPS, say goodbye to Karen, and head out through the garage, pulling on gloves as I go.

I pause in the middle of the driveway, carefully working the seal of the gloves with the long-john sleeves while I give the GPS time to find satellites. As usual it takes a minute, and while I wait I do what I usually do: I look up at the sky - as though I expect to see satellites, but really just because I'm outside and I can't help but look up and see what sort of sky I will run under. It is just getting dark. Thick swarms of decent-sized snowflakes are drifting down. I can feel them hit my cheeks. I breathe in deeply, and I sigh.

And a smile breaks across my face.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

2013 Mendon Ponds 50K

That's me - in the red shirt left of center - starting near the back of the pack.
(Photo credit - Richard Detweiler)
This year I finished my third Mendon Ponds 50K trail run. That's three for three. I've run Mendon as my last race of the year each year I've been ultrarunning. It's the only race I've yet repeated, so it's become sort of the key annual measure of how I'm progressing.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

2013 CanLake 50M

(Photo credit - Natalie Werner)
With the overwhelming popularity of trail races in the ultra world it might be hard for a lot of ultrarunners to believe just how beautiful the CanLake 50 is. On the east coast, trail runs can often be very closed-in. You run deep in the foliage and views can actually be few and rare - if you can take your eyes off the trail long enough to notice them without tripping over a root and killing yourself!

At CanLake you're treated to one vista after another of the lake set in blazing hillsides of near-peak fall foliage - and when you're running on roads you can afford to keep your head up and drink it all in. Increasingly, I find myself loving runs on the roads.

(Photo credit - Natalie Werner)

Friday, September 13, 2013

2013 Pine Creek Challenge (Crew/Pacer Report)

'T-Rock' getting it done on the Pine Creek Rail Trail
(Photo credit - Brian Newcomer)
On Saturday, September 7th (and into Sunday the 8th) I had the opportunity and privilege to crew and pace for my friend Tiffany Hrach (pronounced "Rock") in her first attempt to complete a 100-mile ultramarathon at the Pine Creek Challenge.

This story is from my point of view. If you're more interested in a race report from the runner's perspective you'll find that on Tiff's blog, "Hrach Garden."

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What Makes me Think I can do the LAVS?

Google Map from this year's race.
(RIP symbols indicate where runners dropped out of the race.)
What makes me think it is remotely possible for me - a guy who's never run longer than 50 miles - to go 314 miles across five southern states in July heat? Before I say anything else I have to acknowledge that the bottom-line answer is that I don't know whether I can - and what that says to me is, "Go find out."

That's my genetic defect.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's Official - I'm Insane

Image (appropriately) lifted from Psyche Wimberly's blog:
"Run Like Ya Stole Sumthin'"
Imagine this:

You're out running with a good friend who happens to be a pretty experienced ultrarunner with some tough races on his resume: MassanuttenArrowhead 135Badwater, and a bunch more - over 60 ultras in all. Last year he managed to gain entry into the fabled Barkley Marathons, but was unable to finish.

As you run with this friend, you of course talk about ultrarunning. As it happens, another race cooked up in the imagination of the Barkley race director, the Last Annual Vol State Road Race (LAVS), is happening while you're running. Your friend ventures the opinion that the Barkley and the LAVS are the two toughest races in America.

You're an ultrarunner too, but one with just a few races to his credit. What do you do?
  1. Say, "Whoa!" with a sense of awe and wonderment in your voice, and keep running.
  2. Think to yourself, "It's so great there's no end of challenging goal races out there for me when I'm ready for them."
  3. Sign up for the 2014 LAVS as soon as they start compiling the list of entrants (which was yesterday, BTW).
If you chose #1 or #2 you are a sane person. I picked #3.