Saturday, December 22, 2007

Like a lab rat with privileges...

If the human equivalent of a rat running on a wheel is the treadmill, then then I guess I'm a lab rat with privelegs. That is, I wasn't forced to resort to a dreadmill to get in my run today (thank God), but I was forced indoors thanks to Mother Nature (the dirty hobag) and her several inches of snow and wicked windchills. I have the "luxury" of an indoor track at the local gym (kinda like a lab rat who gets to run around a maze or something....except I didn't get lost...nor did I get any cheese out of the deal). The track is a step up from the dreadmill because at least you get the illusion that you're actually going somewhere, even if it is in many, many circles.

To make matters worse, I had a 20 miler scheduled today. The track is 11.5 laps per mile so that comes out to a grand total of 230 laps to get 20 miles. That's a lot. Needless to say, I wasn't all that thrilled with the idea and went to the gym with the thought of "only" doing a 15 miler in my head. Why 15? I have no freakin clue. Anyhow, I started out and the first two miles or so sucked the big one.... I wanted to bag it right there. When you've run 23 laps, which sounds like a lot, and you still have 207 to go, which sounds like a gajillion more, it's hard to find the motivation to keep going. But, I eventually got into a groove where my body went on autopilot and my brain basically just checked out (except to click the lap counter every lap) and before I knew it I had 10 miles done. Well, I thought, I've already done 10, what's 10 more? So, I did the full 20 miler, mostly just to spite Mother Nature. You're gonna have to do better than that, beeyatch (just kidding, don't try).

One advantage I've found of running on the indoor track is that the senior citizens walking on it make it seem like you're going really fast. I like to pretend they are racing me and I'm passing them with a wicked fast (I like the word wicked today) finishing kick right at the line. They probably think that I'm a few cards short of deck, but when you've got 230 laps worth of time to kill, you've got to keep yourself entertained somehow. If I have to scare some old people in the process, then so be it. They'll have something to tell there friends about over bridge at the Senior Center tomorrow.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My new Grand Master Plan to BQ

Yesterday I ran a 16 miler. My legs were sore in all kinds of new places after playing basketball for the first time in a couple of years on Friday afternoon, so I wasn't expecting too much out of this run. But, after everything got loosened up, I felt good and cruised along, again, about 15-20 seconds per mile faster than my intended long run pace. I was still feeling fresh toward the end so, with a mile to go, I clicked my ipod forward to my current favorite song, "The Bleeding" by Five Finger Death Punch. I proceeded to crank out a 7:09 final mile (and that only after I noticed at half a mile that I was on sub-7 pace and backed off a little), six seconds faster than my Boston qualifying pace. I can't help but wonder if I just put that song on repeat and let myself get lost in the rage if I can't rip off a 3:10 in Colorado in May??

If you're interested, you can watch a video of the song on YouTube by clicking on this link . WARNING: Do not click on that if you're an old fogey who despises pissed off heavy metal music!! There isn't any cussing, just a lot of screaming and rage. It's actually a love song, from a very dark perspective.

By the way, I've now run for 28 straight days (how'd that happen??). I'm debating whether or not to take today off or to continue the streak, just for the hell of it. I'm sure it's no coincidence that since my current running streak started, the Seahawks haven't lost a game (their last loss was on Nov. 4th, my last rest day was on Nov. 17). I wouldn't want something stupid, like me not running, to interfere with them winning the Super Bowl...better get to it...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

When your daily mileage is higher than the temperature...

...then you might not be quite right in the head.

I ran 10 miles this morning. It was 3 degrees outside. By the time I got done, my black beanie was totally white with frost, my eyebrows and eyelashes had little icicles on them and the part of my facemask that covers my mouth was a solid sheet of ice. My truck wouldn't even start when I tried to leave for work. What in the hell is wrong with me??

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mother Nature needs to take her medication

Anyone who knows me well knows that Mother Nature and I don't really get along that well. It's like a love/hate relationship without the love part. My wife says that it's something I need to accept when I choose to live in South Dakota, but I say I'll live wherever I damn well please and Mother Nature should accomodate my running life.

Case in point: yesterday the old hag was actually pretty kind to me. It was a tropical 50 degrees when I ran in the morning, the first time I've run outside in a t-shirt and shorts for awhile (and probably the last for awhile too). It was all a setup though. Today, it was about 20 degrees, which isn't too bad, but when you add in a nice stiff breeze and the associated windchill, it can get downright miserable. Somewhere between miles 7 and 8 of my 12 miler this morning, I was fairly certain that I was going to suffer frostbite on my hands. Fortunately, my loop put the wind at my back eventually and I managed to thaw my hands out somewhat, which isn't made any easier when you're holding a bottle full of gatorade that is quickly turning to slush because it's so cold.

What's my point? Mother Nature is a dirty, dirty, two dollar !@#$!@%. That's my point. Okay, I'm done ranting.....for now.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Apple pie and HDTV

So, what do apple pie and HDTV have to do with running? Well, let me tell ya. On Turkey Day, we headed to Rapid City for the annual Turkey Trot 5K followed by a gourmet meal at the Golden Corral (don't laugh, it's cheaper and easier than cooking it yourself and then having a buttload of leftovers). If y'all remember, I just set a new 5K PR last month and went sub-20 for the first time in the process. With the memories of how painful that effort was still fresh in my mind, I had absolutely no intention of pushing it that hard again at the Turkey Trot. My number one goal for this race was to win one of the 300 pies they raffle off following the race. This race does not have awards or keep official times; they just give away pies. I was actually so unconcerned about my race time that I ran 4 miles around the neighborhood before we left for Rapid City.

We drove down to Rapid after my morning run and arrived about 20 minutes before the race started. I paid my $5 fee, which got my name in the hat for the pie raffle, and set out for a warmup jog. It became apparent during this warmup jog that I was going to have to make a visit to the portajohn before the race started. Of course, by the time I got back to where they were located, there was quite a line and not a lot of time. I really didn't have any choice but to wait, because if I didn't then something ugly was going to happen during the race. Finally, about a minute before race time, I got into a portajohn and conducted my transaction as quickly as possible. Even so, I emerged to find that I was 40 seconds late for the race start. This is the kind of scenario that haunts my dreams before nearly every marathon I run, but this time I honestly didn't give a damn. I took off running, hit the start button on my watch when I crossed the start line, and set about passing the hundreds of walkers and slower runners in front of me. I spent the entire first half of the race running around people, bobbing and weaving and trying to find a gap that I could shoot through. Even so, my split time at the halfway point was decent (10:41). I was feeling pretty good at that point and had finally passed enough people that I could actually run a solid pace, so I decided to kick it up a little in the second half, just for the hell of it. I would pick someone in front of me and focus on them until they were behind me, then would seek out my next victim. Much to my surprise, I ran the second half in 9:49 and my overall time was 20:30 (according to my watch). I could have easily gone sub-20 again if I had pushed it the whole way and started ahead of the mass of humanity instead of 40 seconds behind it.

Anyhow, the race was actually just a prelude to the real reason I was there: to win a pie. Like I said, they had 300 of em to give out and I'm guessing there were at least 500 people there, so the odds were good, but certainly not guaranteed. I should mention that it was pretty cold that morning; temps were probably in the low 20s. I had built up a good sweat during the race and was actually kind of hot right afterwards, but 45 minutes or so of standing around changed that pretty quickly. As name after name was pulled out of the box, I could feel my toes getting more and more numb. I briefly considered whether a chance at a pie was worth hypothermia and/or frostbite, but quickly dispelled any thoughts of leaving early. Finally, approximately 250 pies into it, my name was called. I picked an apple pie and made a beeline for our vehicle so I could thaw out my appendages. Was it worth it? Hell yeah, it was.

So, that's how apple pie relates to running, now on to HDTV. Okay, honestly it doesn't relate to running, I'm just excited because I finally have one. As everyone in the free world knows, the big box stores have some insane deals the day after Thanksgiving. Well, this year Best Buy was offering a 42 inch plasma TV with 3 years no interest financing. To my surprise, my wife was almost convincing me of it as much as I thought I would have to convince her (does that make sense?). And, to tell the truth, she did the legwork to get the thing. You see, each Best Buy only gets like 15 of these things and in order to get one you have to be there at 3 AM to get a ticket, which allows you to come back when the store actually opens to pick up your TV. But, it's not quite that easy. In order to get a ticket, you have to get in line, which as my wife discovered begins forming Thursday evening. I want to go on record as saying that I DID NOT pressure or encourage her to spend a cold night outside of Best Buy just for a stupid TV, but, ever the trooper, she did it anyway (also for the record, I would have done it myself, but I was back at home watching the wife had already planned on being up most of the night getting our Christmas shopping done elsewhere in Rapid). So, long story short, we have a brand spankin new TV and all I can think about now is how badly I want to skip work so I can stay home and watch football in HD. It's like I'm a kid again, faking sick so I can stay home from school and play Nintendo (hope my mom doesn't read this).

Oh yeah, I ran 71.7 miles last week, my second highest total ever and only 3/10 of a mile short of my record, which I plan on breaking this week. That is, if I can peel my ass from in front of the TV long enough to actually run....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Winter has arrived

If you were in one of those pools where a bunch of people put in some cash and try to predict the date of the first measurable snowfall and you picked November 20, you probably got laughed at. Well, who's laughing now? Not me because A) I wasn't in one of those pools and B) I don't particularly care for snow. But, I live in South Dakota, so I'm gonna get it whether I like it or not.

So, yeah, I woke up this morning to a couple of inches of fresh snow and it was still coming down pretty good. Fortunately, the wind was minimal, so after I bundled up (wearing my running tights and facemask for the first time this fall) running was actually pretty comfortable. I was most concerned about the footing on the unplowed streets and unshoveled sidewalks, but to start out it wasn't bad. The further I went though, the worse it got because it was getting warmer and the snow was piling up, which resulted in a slushy, wet mess that is more tiring to run through than it's worth. So, although the plan called for 12 miles, I cut it short at 10. I actually wouldn't mind running in this kind of weather at all.....if I had someone on an ATV with a snowplow to clear a path for me as I went. If anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas, keep that in mind.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Well, it's been a hell of a weekend and very little of it has to do with running, but you're gonna hear about it anyhow, dammit! First off, as I mentioned in my last post, I took off at the buttcrack of dawn (actually a couple of hours before the buttcrack) to go hunting with some guys from work. We did a lot of walking with no success until, finally, late in the afternoon we spotted a group of mule deer that I was able to sneak (I'm sneaky like a fox) to within a couple hundred yards of. Three shots later (give me a break, it was a long way and they started running after the first one) my buck tag was filled. I came home with a nice 4-point muley, my first South Dakota buck. For the guys out there, he had a 23 inch spread (only a hunter would understand that, just like only a runner would understand that my VO2max is 50).

While I was traipsing around the South Dakota countryside in search of deer, the Montana Grizzlies were putting a good old fashioned beatdown on the Montana St. BobKittens. It was a game for awhile, but the Griz racked up three fourth quarter TDs on their way to a 41-20 win and a perfect 11-0 regular season. They've now won 16 straight Big Sky Conference games, have won 10 straight Big Sky championships and will be going to the playoffs for the 15th straight year (an NCAA record). Their first round opponent is the Wofford Terriers. Come on, really, Grizzlies vs. Terriers? That doesn't even SOUND like a good game.

And, last but not least, the team that causes me more grief than any other, the Seahawks, got some vengeance from the Bears with a 30-23 win today. Coach Holmgren said last week that he was sick and tired of the running game sucking ass (okay, those are my words, but close enough) so he was going to let Hasselbeck sling it. He wasn't lying and Matt lit it up against the Bears.

Oh yeah, and I had a kickass 10 mile run this morning with the last 2 miles at or below my Boston qualifying pace. Sweet.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I love the smell of a 20-miler in the morning

Well, I've been slacking on posting again but, really, not a hell of a lot has happened. I run, I go to work, I come home, I sleep. Repeat. With no real goal races on the horizon, there's not much for me to obssess about. In any case, running has been going fairly well as I've posted 70 mile weeks for the last couple. I had intended on hitting 74 this week, which would break my personal weekly high by 2 miles, but other endeavors are going to get in the way.

You see, I like to hunt. Don't ask me why, because the whole thing seems kind of ridiculous when you really think about it, but then again, so does running. I guess I have a natural affinity for ridiculous pasttimes. I like to fish too, which would also fit into that category. Back to my point though, I like to hunt and this year I scored a highly coveted Any Deer tag for the Slim Buttes area of northwestern South Dakota. This is a hard tag to get (South Dakota awards tags on a lottery system and a lot of hunters throw their name in the hat for this one) so I don't want to waste the tag, or the $45 I spent for it.

Here's where my ridiculous pasttimes start to butt heads. The Slim Buttes are 80 miles from my house, so with driving time and time spent wandering around trying simultaneously to find a deer to shoot and not get shot by another idiot trying to find a deer to shoot, it's a time-consuming affair. I skipped out on 6 miler this past Sunday to drive up there and hunt, with nothing to show for it. This coming Saturday, I had a 20 miler on the schedule and was fully planning on running it and avoiding the Buttes until the other hunters had thinned out. But, some coworkers also have tags up there and are going on Saturday and asked if I would like to come along. I was immediately torn. Stay home and run or go with them and hunt? Ultimately, hunting won out as I just can't pass up an opportunity to avoid wasting money. We are leaving at the insanely early hour of 3:30 AM and will probably be gone until dark, which doesn't leave much room for running 20 miles.....nor will I probably have the energy after a day of hopefully dragging a huge buck out of the South Dakota boonies.

So, obviously my running schedule was going to take a hit. Looking back at my last several weeks of running, I decided that a cut-back week wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for me, so I decided that if I could get in at least 15 miles before work today (Friday), I would be happy with a 55 mile week. Secretly though, in my twisted little brain, I wanted to bag that 20 miler almost as bad as I want to bag a trophy buck. So, I made every arrangement to run 20 this morning: I brought gels with me, I got up a half hour earlier and I thought about 20 the entire time I was running. Generally, when I run in the pre-dawn darkness, I don't have the desire to go more than 12-14 body just does not have enough energy that early in the morning. Today was different though. At mile 10, I was starting to drag a little and was having a hard time wrapping my mind around another 10 miles. But, by mile 14 I was feeling great and by mile 16 (just when the sun was really starting to shed some light on the world) I was flying. The last 5 miles were my fastest even though I wasn't conciously pushing the pace any harder than I had for the first 15. It was a great feeling and ended up being one of the easiest 20 milers I can remember.

So, I bagged the 20 miler (and a 60 mile week). Now for that trophy buck....

Monday, November 5, 2007

And on the 21st day I rested

Without really intending to, I just completed a 20 day stretch of running every single day, twice on a few days. This finally dawned on me yesterday when I actually looked at my training schedule and saw that the last rest day was a few weeks back and the next one was still a couple of weeks away. It seemed like 40+ days in a row might be a little excessive, so I decided to take yesterday off. The thing is, I was actually more sore yesterday than I am on a normal day when I run....I don't know if my legs were in shock that I wasn't abusing them some more, or if it was just the 20 days of running catching up a little bit. All in all, 20 days in a row isn't really all that profound of a feat, I know several people who have gone months or even years (and I will soon be one of them), but it is, for now, a personal record.

The thing is, all that running didn't seem to slow me down any. Smack dab in the middle of that streak was my first ever sub-20 5K and at the end of it was an 18 miler on Saturday where I absolutely, positively could not force myself to run slow. For long runs, I would prefer to go at an easy 8:30-8:40 min/mile pace to save my legs some. But on Saturday, I was consistently reeling off miles under 8:15. I kept on trying to force myself to slow down, but as soon as I stopped thinking about it, the pace went right back up. I actually stopped after five miles and forced myself to walk for 30 seconds, hoping that I could get all the switches and gears reset and slow down, but it didn't work. I had a few slower miles on the hilly portions of my route, but ended up running the whole thing about 30 seconds faster per mile than I wanted to. With two miles left, I said to hell with it and cranked out a couple of sub-8:00 miles just to get done. So, I ended up with the fastest 18 miles I've ever run outside of a marathon. Not sure what that means, if anything, but I'll take it as a good thing for now. And, even after that, I still felt good and ended up hiking around in the woods for three hours that afternoon in a feeble attempt to kill a deer.

Maybe I couldn't slow down on that 18 miler because I was so pumped up from watching the Olympic Trials Men's Marathon that morning. Most people would think it crazy to wake up at 5:30 AM on a Saturday morning to watch some guys run laps around Central Park. That may be true, and if it is, then I guess I'm crazy. I was pulling for Ryan Hall and he flat out kicked ass. He didn't even look like he broke a sweat and ended up winning by a couple of minutes and breaking the OT Marathon record in the process. Freakin amazing. I would be ecstatic if I could run one 4:32 mile and he was running that pace toward the end of the marathon. I'm looking forward to the Olympics in August. An American hasn't won gold there since.....well, hell, I don't know when, but it's been a long time. Ryan Hall is probably our best shot in the near future.

As exciting as Hall's dominating performance was, it was countered by the sudden death of one his close friends and another elite marathoner, Ryan Shay. Shay collapsed just 5 miles into the marathon on Saturday and was given CPR immediately and transported to the hospital by ambulance, but was declared dead on arrival. Apparently, he had an oversized heart and early indications are that he had a sudden heart attack. You occasionally hear stories about marathoners dying in a race, but they are almost always about older, slower runners and often involve heat and/or dehydration. Shay was only 29 and definitely wasn't slow, nor was it hot in New York on Saturday, which makes his death even more shocking. Can you even imagine how Ryan Hall must have felt? One minute, he's on top of the world after crushing a field full of America's best marathoners, the next he hears that one of his best friends just died. Crazy...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Victory is Mine!!!....figuratively speaking, that is

Today I took my third shot at going sub-20 in the 5K. I've run several 5Ks in the past few years, but first started thinking I could break 20 minutes about a year ago and took my first shot at a Turkey Trot last November, finishing in 20:16, which was a big PR but left me wanting sub-20 even more. A second attempt came this past June when I charged out and had a 6 second cushion at the turnaround but then saw that cushion literally melt in the 100 degree heat during the second half. I finished in a disappointing 20:34.

So, today I looked to get the sub-20 monkey off my back at the Halloween Sock Hop 5K (they give out socks instead of shirts) in Rapid City. I've come to realize that I don't have a freakin clue how to train for a 5K, nor do I really care. Almost all of my 5Ks have been run either as part of a marathon training plan or during marathon recovery and this one was no exception, coming three weeks after the Monumental Challenge marathon. I know that my training was far from ideal; in the two weeks preceding the race I ran 13 straight days, totaling 115 miles, none of which included any speedwork. I did "taper" by running an easy 5 miles on Friday and Saturday.
Caid has the Pre-race Stance Down

I ran this event last year, pushing both my kids in the stroller, so I was familiar with the course. It's fairly flat, with a few very short hills. The route itself loops around a city park. I warmed up for this year's race by running the kids' 1K with my 3 year old. He finished in 7:XX, but could have been faster if we wouldn't have taken time to look at the ducks, the water, the playground equipment, the orange cones marking the course, and to show me how he can run and jump at the same time. I guess we need to work on his focus. He had a blast, and is especially excited about the Spiderman socks he got, which he swears helped him run fast and so now he's going to wear them forever and ever. Caiden Sprinting to the Finish

Finally it was time to line up for the 5K. This was the most nervous I've been for a race in a long time. There was a slight breeze, but the temperature was about 70, which is higher than I would like, but better than 100, I guess. I lined up in the front, knowing I would be close to top 10 if I did indeed go sub-20. Just before the start I glanced to my left and saw a local runner named Wally, who I have race several times and lost to several times. I knew that Wally ran 5Ks consistently in the 19:30-20:00 range, so I told myself that I either had to stay ahead of him, or cling to him like stink on poo. There was a Ready, Set, Go! and we were off.

I immediately took off with a group of the top 15 or so runners. Wally was behind me, which was good but I wondered how long it would stay that way. I was immediately uncomfortable and seriously doubting I would be able to keep up this pace, so I knew that I had the pace just about right. As we made a loop around the park I jockeyed for position with a couple of junior high looking kids, but they eventually pulled away. Normally, my ego would be shot, but I frankly didn't give a damn if it resulted in a sub-20. After the loop, we headed out on an out and back where I maintained position, but could hear someone close behind. I suspected it was Wally and at the turnaround, I was proven correct; he was right on my tail. My first half split was 9:53, so 7 seconds of cushion. I was glad to see something under 10, but also wishing the cushion was bigger given how not good I felt. For the second half of the race we backtracked the first half. I passed one guy, who turned out to be in my age group, just after the turnaround and that was it; the field was pretty spread out by that time. I could hear Wally behind me for awhile, but by the time we got back to the final 1K loop, I couldn't hear him anymore....or maybe my ragged breath and thumping heart were just covering the sounds of his footsteps. With about 500m to go, I glanced at my watch and saw 18:XX and knew I had to pick it up. As I came around the last turn onto the final straightaway, I took another peek at the watch and saw 19:19. Now or never, damn it! I gave it what little more kick I had left and surged across the line in 19:46. Sub-20 is mine!! I would like to say that it felt triumphant, glorious, spectacular, or something similarly great, but really I just grabbed my popsicle stick (which declared that I had taken 11th overall) and then wondered if I was going to pass out or not. Turns out, not, but it seemed like a toss up there for a few seconds. Wally finished not too far behind me and congratulated me on setting a good pace, which made me almost feel better than the sub-20. I wonder if he has any clue how many races I've spent trying to chase him down?

1K to Go?? Son of a #*^%$!!!

I ended up with a 1 second negative split and my time was good for 11th overall, as I already mentioned, and I got 2nd in my AG (actually 3rd, but they don't double up on awards and the overall winner was in my AG). So, the sub-20 demon has been vanquished and I can concentrate on loftier goals (BQ) now. Thanks for reading and thanks for all the support!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Runnin to Wal-Mart

How often does someone say, "I'm gonna run to the store." Probably quite a bit. Now, how often do they actually run to the store? Well, I never had. At least, not until this past Saturday.

Ever since we moved to South Dakota, I've wanted to run from Belle Fourche, where we live, to Spearfish, where I work and where we do the bulk of our shopping. I even measured the route one day a few months ago just in case but had never actually run it. Well, on Saturday, I finally crossed that off of my to-do list. The schedule called for a 16 miler. We typically do our weekly grocery shopping at the Wal-Mart Supercenter (insert redneck joke here) on Saturday, after I've gone running. Well, it just so happens that if you follow the back roads (as opposed to the 4 lane superhighway), that it's exactly 16 miles from our house to Wal-Mart. I presented the proposal to my wife on Saturday morning. She questioned whether I really wanted to walk around Wal-Mart all sweaty and stinky. I questioned whether or not she had actually taken a look at some of the people who shop at Wal-Mart.

I left the house at a little after 9 while my wife took the kids to see a little kids' soccer game. After the soccer game, they moved on to Wal-Mart and started in on the shopping. Meanwhile, I chugged along, hoping to meet them there at about the same time they were finishing up. Here's a Map My Run link to the route, for anyone who cares. Take a special look at the elevation's a leg-burner.

The first 10 miles of this route were nothing new to me as this is where I do the majority of my long runs....10 miles out and 10 miles back gives me a good 20 miler. But, I had only seen the final 6 miles one time, when I measure the route, and that was from our car and I've learned from experience that hills don't look nearly as intimidating when you're riding in a vehicle. I also wasn't sure of the location of the mile splits for the final 6 miles because I had failed to write them down during my only drive through of the course. So, in a total departure for me, I ran the last 6 without really knowing what my pace was. As you can see from the elevation profile, the last 6 miles were where the men got separated from the boys...well, maybe not that extreme, but they were tough. I don't think I've ever been so relieved to see a Wal-Mart before.

Upon arriving at our car in the parking lot 2 hours and 17 minutes later, I discreetly shed my sweaty running clothes and threw on some clothes that my wife had brought along for me. Nothing quite like trying to get on a pair of jeans in the front seat of a Dodge Durango when you're 6'3". Then, I went into the store to find that the grocery shopping was pretty much done....perfect timing!

So, mission accomplished. I got my long run in and got out of most of the grocery shopping. How's that for time management?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What now?

Jeez, I'm a slacker....well at least as far as posting on this blog is concerned. I'll blame it on the fact that I don't really have anything to obsess about right now. At least not running-wise, there's always the Seahawks, but I don't want to get into that right now....naughty words are likely to appear frequently if I do.

So, the big question for me is: What now? Over the past 5 months, I've run 3 marathons, 1 50K, 1 half marathon, and at least 5 shorter races. That comes out to an average of 3 races per month (I'm a math whiz!!). Now, I face a 7 month period with 5 races that I know I will probably run. That comes out to less than 1 race per month (I figured that out without a calculator!!). Well, hell....what am I going to do with myself?

I do have a plan, believe it or not. Basically, I'm gonna run. To be more precise, I'm gonna run a lot. It took me a long time to come up with that plan, so don't go mockin it. Okay, really, I do have a more intricate plan in the works. It goes something like this: For the next 2.5 months or so, I'm going to do some basebuilding, putting in 60-70 miles per week at mostly slow and easy paces to get my body used to higher mileage (again). Then, on New Year's Eve, I'm going to launch into my most aggressive training plan yet, a Pfitz 18 week plan that tops out at 93 miles in a week. My target is the Colorado Marathon in Ft. Collins on May 4. My goal is 3:10:59 or less, which will qualify me for Boston in 2009.

My reasoning for this strategy goes something like this: I used the Pfitz 18/55 plan for my second marathon and took 16 minutes off my time. Last spring, for Fargo, I used the Pfitz 18/70 plan and took another 11 minutes off my time. Therefore, more mileage = faster marathon so 93 miles will = BQ. Sounds logical, right? If you don't think so, then keep it to yourself and let me live in my own blissfully ignorant little world :).

There is a second aspect to my reasoning (I know, this is getting really complicated...I told you it took me a long time to come up with this). You see, a funny thing happened to me when I started running marathons. I had already been running for a few years before I went off the deep end and started training for my first mary. And, for a few years, my weight had always hovered between 180 and 185. All of a sudden (well, not all of a sudden, but fairly rapidly) my weight started going up as my weekly mileage did, and before I knew it I was at 220. What the hell? One would think that more mileage would equal fewer pounds, but one would be wrong. Apparently, for me at least, more mileage equals more calories burned but also equals more food in. Of course, a lot of that is my's easy to justify more food with the "I ran 20 miles today, I can eat whatever the hell I want" excuse. There's a point in here somewhere....oh yeah, so I read this article in Runner's World that said by losing so much extra weight you can gain so many minutes for a marathon (I don't remember the exact numbers, but I do remember that it was enough minutes for me to BQ if I lost 15-20 pounds). So, I figure if I can run a 3:18 weighing around 215 pounds, then I should be able to run a 3:10 weighing under 200. And if not, then Runner's World is full of shit and I'm cancelling my subscription. So, this adds another variable to my equation: less weight + more miles = faster marathon = BQ. Hell, if I gain time from more miles and from losing weight, I might just run an Olympic Trials qualifying time (that's 2:22, folks). Well, maybe just a BQ time.

Okay, as if this wasn't getting complicated enough, there's yet another factor. The Colorado Marathon course is touted (by the organizers) as being the #1 Boston qualifier in the country. This is because it's almost all a relatively gentle downgrade and the weather is usually good (i.e. cool, but not too cool). So, that makes it: fast course + less weight + more miles = faster marathon = BQ. Maybe I will get that 2:22.

So, there ya go. I made up for over a week of no posts by rambling on incessantly about a bunch of nonsense. Don't get mad at me about it, you're the one who actually read it...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A great course amidst a logistical mess: Monumental Challenge Race Report

I might have a new favorite marathon. I’ve only run 7, so that’s not really saying much, but still. Maybe I should clarify that I might have a new favorite marathon course as the event itself had some fairly major glitches, which is to be expected when you change the entire thing three weeks before race day. Let me explain (skip ahead if you don’t care)…

The Black Hills Marathon started in the late seventies and was originally organized by a group of local runners and then the Rapid City Visitors Bureau. At some point and for unknown reasons (to me at least), the name was changed to the Mt. Rushmore International Marathon. The course didn’t go anywhere near Mt. Rushmore itself and I’m not quite sure what was “international” about it. Maybe a Canadian ran one year. Or maybe a North Dakotan…they’re close to Canada and it’s a foreign country as far as most South Dakotans are concerned. But, that’s not really relevant. What is relevant is that RCVB decided three years ago to sell the marathon to All Sport Central (of fame) because it was too much work for their limited staff to organize. ASC immediately made what was a largely unpopular change to the course. The original course had always started somewhere in the Black Hills and gone downhill, finishing in Rapid City. It was fast and BQ friendly, so people like it. Understandable. ASC decided that if the event was going to bear the Mt. Rushmore name, it should include Mt. Rushmore. So, they redesigned the course so that it started at Mt. Rushmore, went up and down and up and down some more to Hill City and then went up, up, up to the Crazy Horse Memorial (a mountain carving in progress). The final 8 miles were basically all uphill. It was tough, so most people didn’t like it so much. Understandable. In response to the general dislike of this new course, ASC changed it again for their second running of the event last year. They wanted to keep both memorials in the event so they decided to have not one, but two marathons (and half marathons), one starting at Mt. Rushmore and the other at Crazy Horse with both heading toward Hill City before merging after 10 miles and then sharing the final 16 miles, which included another tough, 6 mile climb as part of an out and back from Hill City and back to the finish. Got it? If you don’t, it doesn’t really matter, just go with it. The plan for this year was to use the same format as 2006 (the dual marathons) but the necessary permits from the Park Service weren’t obtained in time, which forced ASC to go with (or make up real quick) Plan B. Plan B, as it turns out, was a brilliant plan, in my opinion. This year’s course was almost totally different from the previous courses. It started just outside the old logging and mining town of Rochford and followed the Mickelson Trail from there to Hill City. The Mickelson is a Rails to Trails project that traverses the Black Hills for 110 miles. Per railroad regulations when the original tracks were laid, none of the grades are greater than 2%, so no steep hills although there are some long ones. And the crushed gravel running surface is very kind on the legs. Overall, it proved to be a much easier course than either of the old Mt. Rushmore or Crazy Horse courses. Since neither of those memorials were involved in the course this year, the name was also changed to the Monumental Challenge Marathon, which I think is lame, but I guess I don’t always get my way (or at least that’s what my wife suggests on a regular basis). So, with such drastic changes in such a short time you wouldn’t really expect everything to go off without a hitch. Well, they didn’t. I’ll get to that as I tell my tale…

I went into this marathon without much of a goal in mind. You see, I’ve been racing a lot lately. Since setting a marathon PR (3:18:53) at Fargo in May, I’ve run one marathon (Missoula), one 50K (Lean Horse), one half marathon (Spearfish Canyon, also a PR), and five shorter local races. So, my marathon training hasn’t really been all that impressive since Fargo; I’ve basically been stuck in a race/recover/train briefly/taper cycle since then. Given that, I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular at Monumental Challenge, but I knew that the nature of the course would lend itself to a decent time. The new course featured about 10 miles of downhill followed by 8 miles of uphill and then another 8 miles of downhill to the finish. If you were paying attention before, you’ll remember that the grades on the Mickelson are very gentle, so the downhills weren’t quad pounding and the uphill didn’t make me wish I had taken up stamp collecting instead of running. I set my goal fairly arbitrarily at sub-3:30, which would give me my second fastest marathon time. I thought that if everything went absolutely perfectly, I might hit 3:25, but wasn’t counting on it. My basic pacing goal was to run 7:40-7:45 miles on the downhills and around 8:00 miles on the uphill.

The day before the race was a blur of activity. It started with Black Hills State’s homecoming football game against the archrival South Dakota School of Mines, a 58-0 blowout in BHSU’s favor (Go Jackets!!!). Then, it was on to Rapid City to pick up some last minute supplies at the running store (GU and Body Glide), pick up my packet at the expo, and do some carboloading at Olive Garden (I think a marathoner invented their “Never-ending Pasta Bowl” promotion). After that, we finally made our way to Hill City and our hotel, where I was eventually able to crash about 10:00. I slept remarkably well, waking up only once before my alarm went off at 4:15.

I dressed, chowed a couple of bagels and a banana and chugged a bottle of Powerade then made my way to the 1880 Train Station, which served as the shuttle departure point and finish line. I hopped on the first bus leaving the station at 5:00 and the bus driver immediately informed us that there was no way the drop-off schedule was going to work because the organizers hadn’t allowed enough time for each bus to get to and back from the start line. Not a good sign, but being on the first bus, I wasn’t really worried. The ride itself took a good hour, during which I dozed off a little, so I guess I was relaxed. We were dumped off at what we thought was the start line at 6:00, a full hour before the race actually started. It was drizzly and fairly chilly outside; making me glad I had thrown on a sweatshirt and sweatpants and brought my drop bag. I began to suspect that the logistics were a mess when 7:00 was nearing and only two of the supposed 4 shuttle busses had arrived. I first heard that we were going to start the race in waves (it was chip timed) but then we were told that we would be delaying the start to let one more bus arrive. Then, they said it was time to walk to the start line itself, which turned out to be a good half-mile away. When we got there, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a perfectly good parking area right there. So, why then did they drop us off a half-mile away? Who knows….no, seriously, who knows? They did offer up a bus that was already there to escape the rain and warm up, which I jumped on immediately as my feet were pretty much numb by that point. Finally, about 10-15 minutes after we were supposed to already be running, we were herded off the bus to the start line and before I knew it, we were off.

I’ll say this in general about the course: it was beautiful. I typically zone out during a marathon and don’t really see anything, but I did take the time today to actually look around at the scenery. Awesome. Drizzly and cold, but awesome. And I’ll take drizzly and cold any day over hot, or even mildly warm. The temp at the finish was 39 and temps were probably in the upper 30s and maybe lower 40s for much of the race. I swear I might have seen a snowflake when we hit the high point of the course at mile 18, but I might have been hallucinating. In any case, this is actually nearly my ideal running weather. I could have done without the drizzle, but I was fairly comfortable in shorts, a t-shirt and gloves.

Okay, finally, here are some stats for ya:

Mile 1: 7:48 – feeling good, which is good because if I’m not I’m pretty much screwed with a capital S
Mile 2: 7:30 – a little too fast
Mile 3: 7:44 – right on
Mile 4: 7:21 – stop following that girl who’s running the relay!
Mile 5: 7:40 – right on
Mile 6: 7:40 – groovin, eat my first gel, which actually seems to settle my stomach, which had been a little heartburny (is that a word?)
Mile 7: 7:26 – too groovy
Mile 8: 8:11 – stopped to take a leak in the portajohn
Mile 9: 7:13 – trying to make up time and overdid it a little, pull up and chat with a guy for awhile to settle myself down
Miles 10 and 11: 15:25 – didn’t miss the marker, but did apparently miss the split button on my watch
Mile 12: 8:05 – we’re going uphill now, eat my second gel and sense that I may have to visit the portajohn again soon, but not to take a leak if you know what I mean (for #2 if you don’t)
Mile 13: 8:09 – this hill isn’t steep, like I said, but it is consistent; the urge I mentioned before has passed, thankfully
Mile 14: 8:25 – 4 more miles of this??
Mile 15: 8:31 – trying to be patient and not push it too hard
Mile 16: 8:31 – groovin again, but a different groove
Mile 17: 8:34 – I think I can, I think I can, I think I can! (okay, that was totally corny….sorry)Mile 18: 7:45 – downhill again!
Mile 19: 8:18 – uphill again! Didn’t see that in the elevation profile… eat another gel here
Mile 20: 7:33 – downhill again and feeling great
Mile 21: 8:40 – actually felt good except that #2 was imminent and no portajohns in sight so I dove into the brush
Mile 22: 7:33 – back in the groove (again)
Mile 23: 7:39 – man it’s fun not to crash and burn
Mile 24: 8:11 – my body is betraying me, I have to pull over to water a tree
Mile 25: 7:32 – back in the…oh, hell you know what I’m gonna say
Mile 26: 7:47 – starting to feel the toll but oh so close to the end
Mile 26.2: 2:45 – I really don’t think this was 0.2 miles. The course was certified, so the markers must have been a little off along the way, because this was the longest 0.2 I’ve experienced in awhile. In any case, I finished fairly strong and pulled my 3 year old son out of the crowd to run the last 20 yards or so with me.

1st Half Split: 1:41:10
2nd Half Split: 1:46:59
Final Time: 3:28:09
Overall Place: 19 out of 160
AG Place: 4 out of 10

So, there you have it. A decent time (my second-fastest, in fact) on a great course despite some shady logistics. In addition to the debacle at the marathon start, the half marathon start was apparently even more FUBAR (watch “Saving Private Ryan” if you don’t get that). Apparently the half-marathoners had to walk a full mile to their start and when I passed the halfway point, I saw many people still making the walk toward the start even though they were supposed to have started 40 minutes before I got there. I don’t know the full story on that, but it seems that there are definitely some kinks to be worked out. In my opinion, ASC should ditch the whole dual marathon plan and stick with this course. But, as I sadly mentioned before, I don’t always get my way.

My legs feel remarkably good right now, but it’s only been about 6.5 hours, so we’ll see. My legs didn’t really start feeling fatigued until mile 24 or so and were definitely talking to me by the finish, but I’ve had much worse. The Mickelson is much gentler than 26.2 miles of pavement or asphalt, so hopefully my recovery will be swift. Well, what next? No, really, what next? For the first time since Fargo, I don’t have another marathon in my immediate plans. There is a trail race this weekend I may go to depending on how my legs feel and the annual Halloween and Thanksgiving 5Ks, but I’ll be in marathon withdrawal probably until May, when I’m looking to capture that sneaky 3:10 at the Colorado Marathon in Ft. Collins. What’s a raceaholic to do? Alright, y’all, you’ve made it through another of my marathon (literally) reports. Congrats, thanks for reading and a big thanks to my fellow X-Squaders!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Monumental mess??

The Crazy Horse Marathon is no more. The Mt. Rushmore Marathon is no more. What do we have instead? The bastard child of the two, the brand-spanking new Monumental Challenge Marathon! Allow me to explain...

All Sport Central bought the Mt. Rushmore Marathon from the Rapid City (SD) Convention and Visitors Bureau a few years ago after the city determined it was too time consuming to put on a marathon. The first major change ASC made was to move the course from it's location of 30+ years so that it actually went past Mt. Rushmore (the original course wasn't within 20 miles of the memorial). This was an unpopular move from the start because the original course had been a fast downhill one that was PR and BQ friendly. The first year under ASC, the marathon started at Mt. Rushmore, went down to Hill City and then up to the Crazy Horse memorial. That final stretch up to Crazy Horse was a brutal 8 mile climb and people hated it. So, last year ASC came up with the bright idea to have not one, but two marathons, one starting at Mt. Rushmore and one at Crazy Horse with both ending in downtown Hill City. ASC seemed happy and proud of this format, it went remarkably smoothly I'll admit, and the plan for this year was to repeat this double-marathon strategy. Apparently not everyone was so keen on the idea though. In order to do anything besides look at Mt. Rushmore, you need a permit. ASC had gotten into the habit of waiting until the last minute to obtain said permit and this year Mt. Rushmore said "enough of this crap, come back next year and do this on time" (I made that up, but it's the gist of what happened as far as I know). Also, Hill City citizens were disgruntled with the closed roads around town that made them late for church last year, so the city wasn't too keen on granting the necessary permission either.

So, what to do? Well, how about combining two marathons, totally rerouting the course, and changing the name of the whole thing? Sounds like a plan. Oh, and let's wait until 10 days before the race to announce all of this! That's right, I got an email on Thursday night with the news of the demise of Crazy Horse/Mt. Rushmore and the rise of Monumental Challenge from their ashes. I'm going on record as saying that the new name is lame. I'd much prefer "Black Hills Marathon" but, obviously, no one asked me (for some reason). ASC stated that they would offer "registration transfers" to anyone who wished to skip this year's event and come back next year (when the two-marathon thing will supposedly happen again). The chief organizer of the event has stated that he wants to make this a "goal marathon" and attract 5,000 to 15,000 runners each year. Not bloody likely if you continue to commit organizational blunders like this.

Having said all of that I, for one, am in this for better or for worse for two reasons. The first is that Crazy Horse wasn't a goal marathon for me, just something to do for the fun of it that's close to home, and that hasn't changed. The second is that, in my opinion, the new course is MUCH better than either of the old ones. The race will now be run almost exclusively on the Mickelson Trail, which is a crushed gravel path that extends a total of 110 miles across the Black Hills from north to south. It was an old railroad until the 90s, and while there are ups and downs, the grades are very gentle. We'll start just west of Rochford (which consists of a bar, a post office and a community center) and finish in Hill City. It's a point to point course, so no doubling back and covering the same terrain twice like there was last year. The first 10 miles or so are a gentle downhill, followed by 8 miles of gentle uphill, followed by another 8 miles of gentle downhill. I wonder, after running the event on this course, if anyone who matters (i.e. the runners) will actually want to go back to the dual courses? I'm sure some will, but my guess is that far more would choose the new Mickelson course. So what if you don't get to see Mt. Rushmore or Crazy Horse during the if you're really paying attention to some mountain carvings when you're about to run a marathon anyhow.

Anyhow, this Sunday will be interesting for sure. Hopefully, ASC manages to get all of their ducks in a row and can pull this thing off despite all of their own self-generated problems. I'm kind of hoping everything goes perfectly and they decide to adopt the new course for long as they change the name.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Oh so close to back to back wins...

On Saturday I ran the Call of the Wild 5 mile trail race with visions of back to back wins dancing in my head. Last week, I won a sparsely populated (9 total runners) 5K and I felt my chances would be good today. Why, you ask? Well, last year I ran this event (it was four miles on a totally different course) and would have easily won if I hadn't taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque and run 6 miles instead. Oops. This year I was intent on staying on course and competing for the win.

The race itself is a fundraiser for the Spirit of the Hills animal sanctuary in Spearfish, SD, which houses a wild variety of animals without any other home. Tigers, bears, lions, ducks, pigs, cats, dogs, goats,'s like a modern day Noah's Ark, you name it they either have it or have had it at some time. Most of them are either abused and neglected or were illegaly owned pets or former zoo animals. And it's all non-profit, totally operated by volunteers so they are very dependent on donations to stay in operation. There actually wasn't even a fee for the race today, but donations were accepted (yes, I did kick in some cash).

This year's course started at the Passion Play parking lot in Spearfish and wound up and down through some meadows and the edges of the Black Hills National Forest eventually ending at the sanctuary itself. Sizing up the competition, which is always sketchy, I figured there would be two other runners who would push me for first. One was a guy, Mark, who got lost with me last year at this race (we were the only two). The other was Paul, who I work with and I know does a lot of trail running, trail triathlons and mountain bike races. A lady yelled go and we were off. Mark and another guy immediately took off into the lead with me and Paul not far behind as we started heading uphill immediately. I could tell from the start that this might be a struggle as my legs didn't feel all that great and running a long uphill to start the race wasn't helping. But, I maintained my position and within a quarter of a mile pushed into the lead. My hope was that if I went out strong enough, no one would be able to keep up and challenge me later. As it turns out, Paul, who is much more experienced at trail races (this being only my second one) ended up pacing himself much better. We kept heading up and up and then up some more until I finally had to stop and walk a short stretch to get my heart rate to calm down a felt like I was about to bust a rib. Paul didn't catch me, but he got much closer.

Paul did catch me just after the halfway water station and it was here that I learned just how badly I had paced the first mostly uphill half. As the course finally started to head slightly downhill Paul put on the afterburners and I was almost running all out at that point just to keep up. But, I eventually caught a second wind somewhere in there trying to keep pace with Paul. We ended up running a majority of the second half together and nearly got lost once as we ran across an open meadow without a trail and I just barely caught sight of some red flagging on a tree up off to the left. Up until that point we had been running mostly on vary faint two-track roads, but after the open meadow we hit a gnarly, technical single track trail complete with big rocks, exposed roots and low hanging branches. It was downhill on this stretch and once again, Paul kicked it into overdrive. I simply couldn't keep up here as Paul's trail experience won out....I was too damn worried about breaking an ankle to worry about keeping up with him. After this nasty downhill we only had about 0.1 mile to go, but it was the nastiest uphill I have yet encountered in a race. It was literally hands and knees, pulling myself up with trees and anything else I could grab. It was more akin to crawling than walking or hiking. I knew at this point that Paul was gone as my legs were so spent that it was all I could do to keep moving. The seemingly endless uphill finally ended and the finish line was right at the top. This is the first time I've ever walked across a finish line and I frankly didn't care because running in any form was totally out of the question by that point.

So, I finished second overall in a time of 45:44 and for my efforts got the best trophy I've ever gotten: a big polished Black Hills alabaster plaque, not bad for a race where there wasn't even an official entry fee. Next week, on to the Monumental Challenge Marathon for my third and final 26.2 of 2007.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The week in review (9/16 - 9/23)

Okay, actually this will be the "last eight days" in review since I'm tacking on yesterday to last week for reasons that I'll explain later.

This was my last "tough" week before I start a 2-week taper leading up to the Crazy Horse marathon on Oct. 7th. I had a pretty aggressive schedule mapped out for this week considering the mileages I've been running lately, and I actually ended up having to tone it down a little because my body was just flat out tired by midweek. The week ended on a good note though, as you will see:

Sunday - Rest. And by that I mean physical, not mental. I went through an emotional rollercoaster as the Seahawks fell behind 17-0 to the Cardinals, came back to take a 20-17 lead and then ended up losing 23-20. I hate football....

Monday - 9 miles including 6x600m speed intervals on the track. This speedwork session felt much better than the one I did the week before. Hit all of the splits dead on.

Tuesday - 11 miles easy. The goal here is to run a moderate distance on tired legs to teach your body to run through fatigue, like you do toward the end of a marathon (well, hopefully it's at the end, if it's at the start you're pretty much screwed). Mission accomplished; the first 6 miles felt good and then I was tired, but not totally wasted, for the last 5 miles.

Wednesday - 8.1 miles easy. I had 12 miles on the schedule and set out to do just that but the speed workout from Monday caught up to me in a bad way. I was drained by the time I finished my first 6 mile loop. Stubborn as I am though, I refused to stop at 6 miles and headed out for another loop but then common sense finally took over my feeble mind and I turned back 1 mile into the loop.

Thursday - 6 miles in the morning, 4 in the afternoon. The goal here was to get some miles in without abusing myself too much. Mission accomplished again.

Friday - 6 miles recovery. Trying to get as rested as possible for the race on Saturday, which at this point I'm still telling myself I'm not sure I'm going to run.

Saturday - 1 mile warmup and a 5K race. Finished 1st overall, which sounds really impressive as long as I don't mention that there were only 9 runners. Oops. Ironic that I get a victory while running the slowest 5K I've run in over a year. I get an age group medal, plaque, and a bunch of food (much more than anyone should eat after a 5K) for my "effort". The plaque says "Top Male" which for some reason I find funny in a subtly sexual way. I think if I ever organize a race, the plaques will say "Alpha Male" and "Alpha Female".

Sunday - 18 miles. I usually do my long runs on Saturday but pushed this one back because of the race. Honestly, I wasn't really looking forward to it, but it ended up going great, which is usually what happens when I'm dreading a run. Since the race was in the evening and I ran this run early in the morning, I ended up logging 22 miles in about a 15 hour period. "Relaxed" in the afternoon by sitting in the car and listening to the Seahawks-Bengals game on our Sirius radio (we always get Vikings and Broncos games on TV around here). It was a great game, made even greater by the fact that the Hawks pulled this one out 24-21. I love football...

So, less than two weeks left until Crazy Horse now. The goal from here on out is pretty much to not hurt myself.

I raced....and won!!

So, I bit the bullet and ran the inaugural Dewey Decimal Dash 5K in Sturgis on Saturday evening. It's a fundraiser for the Sturgis Public Library and included a 2 mile walk and kid's run. For some inexplicable reason, the folks in Sturgis have a thing for starting races at 5 PM, right in the heat of the day. This was the third 5K I've run there (all different events) and the temps at race time have been 85, 100 and then 95 today. Not exactly conducive to a PR. Also, they have a thing for running these 5Ks up one particular street that includes a pretty good climb. Two of the three events have included this street even though there's a perfectly good, flat, fast route through the city park. In any case, we made the trip down to Sturgis and started off the festivities with the kids race, which my son and daughter (3 and 2 years old respectively) both ran. It was my daughter's first race. The race "course" was approximately 5 parking spaces long in the bank parking lot across from the library. My son, who routinely runs between 1/4 and 1/2 mile with me, was perplexed by this, but went with the flow. They both did great, although my daughter was a little unsure of the whole scene. She's shy and a bunch of strangers yelling and cheering was a little unnerving. The goody bags each of the kids got perked her up though.

The walkers took off just before the 5K started, my wife and sister in law with the kids in the stroller included. Once the walker crowd was gone, it was obvious that there wasn't going to be a high level of competition at this event. All of 9 runners remained to start the 5K. One of them was my sister in law's friend, Jake, who had run a 17 minute 5K in high school.....2 years ago. All nine of us lined up (believe it or not, not all in the front row), the bell rang, and we were off. The course immediately took off up a hill (it was basically uphill for the entire first half) and Jake took the lead with me close behind. I was wondering how fast Jake was going to push this thing and then, as we made the first turn at the top of the first hill, I took the lead. I heard him huffing behind me for a few more blocks and then he dropped back and that was the last I heard of anyone the rest of the way.

Ended up with my second victory ever, the first coming earlier this summer in a 4 mile race where I squared off with 6 other runners. Apparently, I'm quite the cherry picker. Can you tell that there's not much of a running community around here? Anyhow, I ended up running a 21:20, which is over a minute slower than my PR. I had absolutely no ambition to push it in the heat and, after I passed Jake three blocks into the race, I didn't have anyone to push me. Given the circumstances, it's an okay time and I ended up with some hardware and a great post-race meal, so I can't complain about that. Sub-20 will have to wait for another, cooler, day....

Friday, September 21, 2007

To race or not to race?

Tomorrow is the inaugural Dewey Decimal Dash 5K (clever, huh?), which is a fundraiser for the Sturgis Public Library. Bottom line is, we are going to Sturgis because we've already told the kids that they can run the kids' race and my wife is planning on walking the 2 mile walk. What is still up in the air is my status for tomorrow. I can't seem to convice myself either way whether I should run the 5K or not. So, for my own personal benefit, here are the pros and cons:

  • 5Ks hurt. No ifs, ands or buts about it. It's 3.1 miles of pure misery. I could say that I'll take it easy and enjoy myself, but I know damn well that that's a bald faced lie. As soon as the gun sounds, I'll be off chasing somebody who I don't think should beat me. This will lead to me running the first mile way too fast and, consequently, the last mile will hurt like hell and I'll swear that I'm never running a 5K again. Won't be the first time, won't be the last.
  • I hurt. I've had this lingering pain in my groin since......well hell, I don't even know. It just comes and goes, seemingly without rhyme or reason and it's here now. I was convinced for awhile that I had myself a bonafide hernia, but I'm not so sure now. It's definitely in the groin area, but it's more like way up in the nether regions where my leg, groin and butt come together. I'd include a picture, but this isn't that sort of web page. It feels like something is being pinched and generally hurts for the first tenth of a mile or so when I run and then magically goes away.....until I cool down afterwards. Then it screams again. Any doctors out there?
  • The course. One of my burning ambitions is to run a sub-20 minute 5K and this course is not conducive to that. Why go through the pain and misery of a 5K with no real hope of getting a PR?
  • The weather. It's supposed to get up to 90 on Saturday and the race doesn't start until 5:15. I've run two other 5Ks in Sturgis. Both started in the evening and the temps were 85 for the first and 100 for the second. Apparently they'd rather face the heat than get their lazy butts out of bed in Sturgis.


  • It will likely be a small race, especially since we're in the middle of high school cross country season, which should limit the number of high school punks who can smoke me. It's likely that I'll place in the top 3 in my age group. It's also likely that I'll be the only one in my age group.
  • Free food afterwards. It's food and it's free, how can you go wrong?
  • I like to race. It lights a fire in my belly. It floats my boat. It warms the cockles of my heart. It gives me an excuse to drink beer and eat pizza.

So, the cons outweight the pros 4 to 3 but in all likelihood this was a pointless excercise because I'll probably just end up running the damn thing anyway....and then cussing myself out for it as I slog through an 18 miler on Sunday. Why can't I have a normal hobby?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Music to run to

Today's a somewhat exciting day in that Eddie Vedder (of my favorite band, Pearl Jam) is releasing a new album in the form of the soundtrack for the movie version of Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild". The book was based on a true story of a guy fresh out of college who one day just gave away almost all of his possessions and took off on an inexplicable journey across the country, eventually ending up in the Alaskan bush where his body was found by hunters. It's a great book and I'm really looking forward to the movie. I'm also looking forward to the soundtrack since I found out yesterday that it was done by Vedder. I have a dog named Vedder if that's any indication of my obsession with Pearl Jam....I have a Pearl Jam tattoo if you need any more proof. So, this brings me back to my original point, if there was one: music and running. I listen to my ipod most of the time during training runs, never during races. My wife doesn't understand this. I tell her it's so I can talk smack as I leave other runners in my dust. Really, that very rarely happens, so the real reason is that I like to hear the other runners around me so I can get some idea of whether or not they are struggling. The way a person is breathing during a race can tell you a lot about how they are feeling. Back to my point again; here are some of my favorite songs on my ipod right now:

  • Anything by Seether - don't know why it took me so long to realize how Nirvana-like they are, but I like em...a lot. They have a new album coming out soon. Love the new single, "Fake It".
  • Five Finger Death Punch "The Bleeding" - if you've seen the Kill Bill movies (which are awesome) you'll understand where they got their name.
  • Foo Fighters "The Pretender" - Dave Grohl is a genius. Their new album drops soon too.
  • Fair to Midland "Dance of the Manatee" - as the song title suggests this band is a little odd. It's like a fairy tale set to heavy metal. Odd but cool.
  • Anything by Hinder - one of the best new rock bands in world. They're first album has already spawned four or five hits.
  • 12 Stones "Lie to Me" - I was supposed to see them, along with Sevendust and Creed, in Salt Lake City a few years ago but Scott Stapp (Creed's lead singer) had laryngitis and they canceled the show. Sucky.
  • Soil "Let Go" - I like their first album and this first single off their new one sounds even better.
  • Serj Tankian "The Unthinking Majority" - This guy was formerly the lead singer of System of a Down. System rocked (I have a ton of their songs on my ipod too) and this song sounds virtually just like them. Anyone who takes frequent pot shots at George W. scores big in my book (oops, getting political here).
  • Pearl Jam, of course - I think I have "Hail, Hail" and "Corduroy" on my running playlist, two of my favorite songs of all time. "Hail, Hail" is also the ringtone on my cell phone.

Alright, that's it off the top of my head. Maybe you care. Maybe you don't. Maybe you're appalled.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Another week down

Another pretty good running week in the books. Not so good football wise as the Seahawks blew a big one. I know, they can't win em all, but my life would sure be easier if they did. Anyhow, back to running, here's how it shook out:

Sunday - Rest, watched/listened to football (which is sometimes a workout in itself)

Monday - 7 miles with 8x100m strides. Felt good.

Tuesday - 12.1 miles. Felt good.

Wednesday - 5 miles. First run in my new Mizuno Waver Rider 10s. Felt good (do you see a trend here?).

Thursday - 9 miles including 7x800m speedwork. First time I've done speedwork since sometime before the Missoula Marathon in July. I could definitely tell. I won't say that it felt good, because speedwork isn't supposed to feel good. It's supposed to hurt like hell and it did. For those who don't know, 800m intervals are sometimes used to predict a marathon time. You run a bunch of em (usually 8) then take the average of your time and for some people it translates to the time you can run a marathon. Make sense? Probably not....for example, my average time for the 7 intervals was 3 minutes and 25 seconds, which would translate to a 3 hour and 25 minute marathon. My goal for Crazy Horse is 3:30, so lookin good. Of course, it's just an estimate...

Friday - 5 miles with 6x100m strides. Felt good.

Saturday - 16 miles. Started out feeling great, hit a rough patch around 12 miles but then the last 3 miles felt great again. Finished strong, but as soon as I stopped I realized that I was really frickin tired and was pretty sore for the rest of the day.

Total - 54.1 miles

So, only three weeks to go until the Crazy Horse Marathon but I have two possible races coming up before then. This Saturday there's a 5k in Sturgis where I had hoped to break 20 minutes for the first time, but I've discovered that the course is not friendly (i.e. uphill for the first half). So, now I'm not sure if I'll even run it. Next Saturday is a 5-mile trail race in Spearfish. I probably would have won this race easily last year (when it was a 4-miler), but I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up tacking an extra 2 miles onto the course (along with the guy who I had just passed for the lead). Ended up finishing second to last. I'm definitely running this one...some redemption is in store.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The week in review...

Pretty good week of running this week as I start to ramp the mileage back up briefly before tapering (again). Seems like all I've been doing all summer is a couple weeks of recovery followed by a couple weeks of training followed by a couple weeks of taper then a race. Wash, rinse and repeat. In any case, Crazy Horse will be the last hurrah for the 2007 marathoning season, so I'll be able to settle into some more consistent (high) mileage over the fall, winter and spring.

Sunday - Rest

Monday - 8 miles on a new route. It was nice althought the first 4 miles were virtually all uphill, albeit gradual. Consequently, the last 4 miles were all downhill and felt great.

Tuesday - 6.1 miles recovery

Wednesday - Rest

Thursday - 8 miles with 8 x 100m strides. First time I've done strides in way too long. Felt good, but more tiring than they really should have been.

Friday - 5 miles recovery

Saturday - 12 miles easy. Perfect running weather (finally): 50 degrees, a slight breeze, and overcast. It started raining later on in the day, but not while I was running.

Total - 39.1 miles. Should be up over 50 next week.

On a non-running related note, it was a great weekend of football. Be warned that even though this blog is mostly about running, now that football season has started you're gonna hear a lot about it, whether you like it or not. Friday night I watched Belle Fourche High crush Hot Springs 40-13 to improve to 2-0. Also on Friday night, my old high school (Chester, MT) won 50-8. On Saturday afternoon, we went to the Black Hills St. game to watch my sister in law's boyfriend play (he starts at tackle). They lost 14-3 to Wisconsin-Eau Claire, but it was still a pretty decent game to watch. At the same time, my beloved Montana Grizzlies were putting the smack down on Ft. Lewis 49-0. Then, on Sunday, the Seahawks kicked off the NFL season with a 20-6 win over the Buccanneers. So, all in all, a pretty successful weekend for the teams I give a damn about. Looking forward to a similarly action-packed weekend coming up.

Friday, September 7, 2007

I'm in the paper!!

Have you ever Googled your name? Well, I did yesterday and came across this article from the Hot Springs Star about the Lean Horse Ultra:

In true local journalistic fashion, there are several errors such as referring to the second place 100 miler by his hometown instead of his last name and claiming that I took second by 12 minutes in the 50K instead of 8. But, at least the Hot Springs paper actually had a story about the race, which is more than I can say for the local "big" paper, the Rapid City Journal, which only printed the results of the 100 miler a week after the race with nary a word actually written about the race. Way to keep a pulse on the local sports scene, Journal. I like high school football as much as the next guy, but there is actually other stuff going on. This is the same paper that recently referred to a 196 mile relay race (Hood to Coast) as a "marathon" several times. The runners out there will get the joke, for everyone else I'll explain briefly: a "marathon" is 26.2 miles. Any other distance is something else. Okay, I'll get off the soapbox now.

On a totally unrelated subject, fall is sneaking up on us and I'm pumped beyond words. I ran this morning in my perfect weather, 50 degrees with an ever so slight breeze. I'm also in day two of a four day stretch of football bliss: last night was the NFL season opener, tonight Belle Fourche has a home game against Hot Springs, tomorrow I'm going to Spearfish to watch Black Hills St. play Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Montana (my alumnus) is playing Ft. Lewis, and Sunday is the day I've been waiting for since last January, the start of the Seahawks' season. Perfect running weather and football....this is why fall is my favorite season.

Friday, August 31, 2007

I got my Lean Horse schwag!!

Jerry, Lean Horse race director, dropped by my office this morning and dropped off my awards. All 50K and 50 mile finishers got a Black Hills gold keychain with the race logo on it (the 100 mile finishers got a belt buckle, a traditional 100 mile award). I also got a cool horseshoe award for winning my age group, my first ever 1st place award (I've won my age group in a couple of other races but they didn't give awards).

I also officially registered for Crazy Horse this morning. As of this morning, there were 64 people signed up for the full, so looks like it will be a small field (although already bigger than last year's 55). I think word has gotten out that the course is tough and more and more people are opting for the half instead (like I almost did). I've raised $35 for Avera so far (see my previous post)....only $965 to go!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Running for Mom

I just discovered this morning that All Sport Central (organizers of the Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Marathons) has a list of associated charities and organizations that runners can raise money for. One of these organizations is the Avera Cancer Institute, which provides breast cancer research and treatment. This hits home for me because my mom was recently diagnosed with and underwent treatment for breast cancer. Her cancer was detected early and her treatment was aggressive, so her prognosis is good.

In honor of my mom and other breast cancer patients, I feel compelled to run for a reason other than to satisfy my own sadomasochistic urge to inflict pain upon myself for no apparent reason. So, I have set up a donations page through the All Sport Central website and will be running the Crazy Horse Marathon in support of the Avera Cancer Institute. Any amount is better than no amount, so please check out my donations page at and make a contribution.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

From Lean Horse to Crazy Horse

Now that I've put Lean Horse behind me I need something new to stress about, so I've pretty much almost kind of probably decided that I'm gonna run the Crazy Horse Marathon on October 7th (what's with the "horse" theme around here?). I've been wavering back and forth between running the half or full at Crazy Horse and I think I've finally decided that the full is calling my name. For one, I've yet to choose a half marathon when a full is offered, which is why I've only run two half-marathons. For two (that doesn't make sense but I don't care), I've got some redemption issues going on with the second half of the Crazy Horse marathon course. You see, I ran the Mt. Rushmore Marathon last year (race report is on here somewhere). Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse are sister marathons. They start at different locations (Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse.....surprise, surprise) and have different courses for the first 10 miles before merging and sharing the final 16 miles, finishing in Hill City. Hill City also represents the halfway point for each of the marathons. I was cruising along pretty well during the first half of Mt. Rushmore last year, especially considering I had just run the Montana Marathon three weeks prior. Then, after the halfway point, the courses start an almost constant 6 mile climb until finally turning around and heading back down into Hill City for the finish. It was on this climb that my Mt. Rushmore marathon went to hell in a handbasket last year; I was reduced to walking during a marathon for the first time. The result was my slowest marathon time to date.

It was tempting to run the half marathon at Crazy Horse this year to avoid that brutal climb but what's the fun in that? I've got an entire 6 weeks between Lean Horse and Crazy Horse to recover and prepare myself to tackle that hill again. It seems like such a great idea now, but I'm sure I'll be cussing myself out over it come October 7th.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lean Horse results are posted

The results for the Lean Horse Ultra are available at . Looks like red shirt guy beat my by 8 minutes and I was ten minutes ahead of 3rd place. Also turns out red shirt guy was from Ashland, OR, which is where both of my kids were born (we were living in far northern California at the time). Wish I would have talked to him a little bit more now.

The really interesting results are from the 100 mile race. Akos Konya absolutely obliterated the course record. He finished in 15:24, a full 2 hours and 14 minutes faster than the old record. The guy who had set the course record last year finished second and also beat his record with a time of 16:43. That is just crazy fast.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Lean Horse 50K: An almost triumphant ultra debut

Have you ever leaped head first into something without really thinking about it? That pretty much describes my decision to run the Lean Horse 50K this year. I first learned of the race last summer and logged it away as something I might like to do someday with the expectation that “someday” would be a few years away. Flash forward to June of 2007 and I’ve just PRed at the Fargo Marathon and am considering how to go about knocking another 8 minutes off my Fargo time to get myself a ticket to Boston. Honestly, after Fargo, I had absolutely no motivation to run another marathon right away, or even to take a BQ shot in the fall, which I had considered doing at the Roughrider Marathon in Bismarck, ND in September. In fact, I canceled plans to run the Governor’s Cup Marathon two weeks after Fargo, something totally out of character for me. I’ll admit that I was resting on my laurels just a little bit. I did run the Missoula Marathon on July 15, with not great results but also without any real expectation of bettering my Fargo time. One good thing that came of Missoula is that my lackluster performance rekindled my desire to really challenge myself again.

An acquaintance in South Dakota had mentioned that he was considering running the Lean Horse 50K this year. He eventually came to his sense and decided not to…the son of a…. So, the seed had been festering in my head for a couple of months by the time of my Missoula meltdown. Another factor that played a big role in choosing to run Lean Horse was the Western States 100, which my X-Squad teammates Mr. and Mrs. Runamaniac conquered this year. I was very intrigued by the whole ultra scene and started wondering if it was something I would enjoy. Only one way to find the answer to that question. But, I wasn’t about to jump into it whole hog and try a 100, or even 50, miler right off the bat. The 50K distance, only 5 miles further than a marathon, fit the bill quite nicely. So, having already resigned myself to pushing the BQ attempt back to spring of 2008 and with the disappointment of Missoula fresh in my mind, I started making plans to run my first ultra.

I will also admit right now that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I came to discover rather quickly that 50K plans aren’t all that plentiful, even in the vast expanses of the internet. And, 6 week long 50K plans are pretty well nonexistent because, well, that’s just stupid. I eventually ventured to Hal Higdon’s webpage and bastardized his 24 week plan for the Comrades Marathon (54 miles) to come up with a 6 week plan for a 50K. Sorry, Hal. Yes, it did occur to me, several times, that this was ridiculous, but so is running an ultra, or even a regular, marathon in the first place. My 6 week mini-plan basically just borrowed Hal’s structure with easy runs on Monday and Wednesday, a tempo run on Tuesday and back to back long or medium-long runs on Friday and Saturday, with a rest day on each side of the back to backs. Got it? Of course, my plan was immediately derailed by the Spearfish Canyon Half-marathon (a three minute PR) at the end of the second week, so I really only got in two decent back to back long runs due to recovery from Missoula and tapering for Lean Horse. I did complete 12/18 and 14/20 back to backs four and three weeks out, respectively. For the most part, I just put in some miles, no real speedwork, and hoped that my marathon fitness would carry me through. Needless to say, I wasn’t all that confident in my level of preparation, but with my primary goal being simply to finish upright, I figured it was good enough for government work.

The Lean Horse Ultra features three races: the 50K, a 50 miler and a 100 miler. This was the third year of the race and the first year on a slightly different course. Well, actually the course was slightly different for the 50 and 100 milers, but totally revamped for the 50K. The entire course had previously followed the Mickelson Trail (a rails to trails project), which meant that runners had to be bussed from race HQ in Hot Springs, SD, to the trailhead. Also, the races the first two years had ended somewhere along the trail (not sure where, but not in Hot Springs). This year, the race director (Jerry Dunn, also the director of the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon held in June) decided to ease logistics by starting and finishing all three races in Hot Springs. So, the new course started at the Mueller Civic Center in Hot Springs, followed a bike path and some city streets out of town and then jumped onto a dirt road before hitting the Mickelson Trail at about mile 16.5. This meant that the 50K turnaround was about 1 mile before hitting the Mickelson. The general nature of the new 50K course was quite different from the old Mickelson route, which is a gradual uphill. The new course featured a pretty good climb from miles 5 to 7.5 and rolling hills throughout. In total, the course gains about 1300 feet on the out stretch and then, obviously, a net downhill back into Hot Springs. This is far from a technical ultra course like you would find at, say Western States or Hardrock. For the majority, it’s wide crushed gravel paths and dirt roads. So, in other words, this course is about as easy as an ultra in the mountains (yes, South Dakota has mountains) is gonna get.

I, my wife and our two kids made the two hour drive down to Hot Springs on Friday, the day before the race. I was really supposed to be there by 3:00 for the pre-race meeting and packet pick-up but when I knew I would be unable to make it by then due to work Jerry agreed to leave my race packet at my hotel room. We arrived in Hot Springs, checked into our hotel quickly so I could get our meal tickets and then headed to the pre-race meal to eat and meet some fellow competitors. I especially wanted to meet Akos Konya, who has finished 2nd the last two years at Badwater and was running the 100 miler at Lean Horse but found this to be more difficult than I had for some reason thought it would be. For some damn reason he wasn’t wearing a large sign that said “I am Akos Konya” and I didn’t know if it would be appropriate to stand up in the middle of dinner and yell “Akos! Akos!” at the top of my lungs. So, I resigned myself to trying to meet him in the morning before the race started. After dinner, it was back to the hotel for a quick dip in the pool (my kids are attracted to water almost as strongly as our two Labrador retrievers) and then off to bed.

I slept like hell. I woke up at least three times, convinced that it was time to get ready (the first time it wasn’t even midnight yet). My overactive mind wasn’t helping matters. I had one dream where I was late to the start and everyone had already left. I took off after them, but then got lost on the course before I even got out of Hot Springs. I had another dream where I realized that the 50K didn’t actually start until night, which meant that I would have to run in the dark and I hadn’t packed a headlamp. I was finally up for good at 3:45. Jerry had made arrangements with the host hotel (the Best Western) to open their breakfast bar an hour early to accommodate the runners, so I headed down there for some oatmeal and coffee bread then milled around with nervous energy until it was time to go expend it.

The race started behind the Mueller Civic Center, right next to the Best Western. I stepped out of the hotel and for the first time in several months was actually cold. The overnight temps dipped into the upper 40s and a heavy fog had settled in….near perfect running conditions (for me anyhow and, frankly, that’s all I care about come time to race). The Mueller Center was open for us to stay out of the cold until race time. I checked in with the lady with the clipboard and set about finding Akos again and was, again, unsuccessful. Not only is he fast, he’s elusive. At about ten minutes to six, all 200 or so of us herded out to the start line and waited for the misery to begin. I found myself standing very near the front of this crazy herd, then realized that, being a 50ker, I was to the 50 and 100 milers what a half-marathoner is normally to me….someone who’s going to go out too fast for their liking. Promptly at 6:00 the “gun” (Jerry yelling “GO!) sounded and we were off like a herd of turtles.

Little detour here cause I don’t know where else to put this….My nutrition strategy for the race wasn’t really all that different than what I have been doing for marathons (which has had good results….if I actually stick to it). I had six packets of Sport Beans stowed away in the various pockets of my race shorts and planned on taking one at miles 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 28. The big difference was that I was carrying a handheld water bottle with me, which was filled 50/50 with water and Gatorade. I have never carried fluid with me during a marathon and just recently started drinking Gatorade on my long runs. The goal here was to stay plenty hydrated and keep my electrolytes up to avoid the cramping issues I had near the end of the Missoula Marathon. The aid stations were spaced roughly 4 miles apart and my plan was to drink one 22 oz. bottle between each station and refill when I got there. I also knew that the stations would be stocked with a variety of food if I wanted something besides beans, but I was hesitant to try something new right in the middle of the race unless I was really desperate. Back to the race….

So, we were off and I found myself near the front. A few guys took off ahead of me and I don’t know that I ever saw them again. I fell into a pretty good rhythm fairly quickly but with no markers every mile I really had no idea if I was going too fast or too slow. My initial goal had been to run a 4:30, which comes out to 8:40 miles. But, being my first ultra, I wasn’t really too worried about it as long as I got back to Hot Springs under my own power. I fell in with a 50 miler and a couple of 100 milers and basically tried to copy them (keeping the pace easy, walking the uphills even early on, etc.). The biggest climb started at mile 5 and near the top I passed another 50Ker (our bibs had pink stickers, 50 milers had green, 100 milers had none). I wasn’t sure if that put me in first place or not, but suspected that someone was ahead of me still. My nutrition strategy went slightly awry as I ran through the first aid station at mile 4 because, like I said, I was copying the veterans. I stuck with it for the remainder of the race, though, except that I didn’t eat my last bean pack because I just didn’t damn well feel like it by that time.

By walking the uphills and running the flats and downhills, I felt great for all of the first half of the race. As we neared the turnaround I kept expecting to see someone running back at me any second, but that person never materialized. I hit the turnaround (which was unmanned, just a painted line on the road which seemed odd to me) in first place and hit the split button on my watch so that I could determine how big (or small) of a lead I had. The first pink sticker I saw was a guy in a red shirt and he was 2 minutes back. I was hoping for more of a cushion, but thought maybe I could hold on to it.

On the return trip we were going mostly downhill, as I mentioned, but there were still some significant climbs, which I continued to walk. I felt great as I began the return trip, due in no small part to the cheers of encouragement from the other runners I was now passing as they were still heading out. But, by the time I reached the aid station 12.4 miles from the finish, the red shirt guy was right on my tail. Just before the 20 mile marker, he caught me. I looked at him and said “Wow, you closed that gap fast.” He said that he was just putting in a good training run in preparation for a 100 miler in 3 weeks. I saw my visions of grandeur fading quickly. After a minute or so, we parted ways and he took off. I saw him a few times in the distance after that, but it was basically a race with myself for the last 11 miles. After red shirt guy blew by me, I tried to just relax and run within myself the rest of the way. At the 8.4 mile to go aid station, I was definitely starting to feel the fatigue setting in and was actually looking forward to uphills so that I could have an excuse to walk for a little while. Running down the biggest hill to the mile 25 marker felt pretty good, but when the course flattened out for a stretch after that, I was definitely feeling it. It didn’t help that the nice, cool fog was long burnt off by that point and I was running directly into the sun. The heat didn’t get to me as bad as in Missoula, and I never had cramping issues, but it surely didn’t make the experience any more pleasurable.

With about 3 miles to go I reentered Hot Springs and started trying to do some math in my head, a very sketchy proposition under normal circumstances much less after 28 miles of running. I knew that 4:30 was out the window, but finally decided that 4:45 was within reach. By this point, though, I was taking a walk break every now and then, hill or not. I found that the pain in my ankles and calves would grow progressively worse and extend up my legs as I ran and that if I walked for a little bit it would subside and I could then run fairly comfortably again. Again, because there were no markers every single mile, I didn’t really know how far I had to go and tried to use building as landmarks, which was a pretty shaky endeavor since it was so foggy in the morning and I hadn’t really been paying attention. Just as I was thinking that I was going to have to walk for another spell I saw the magical Dairy Queen sign ahead. I knew that DQ was right next to the Best Western, which was right next to the finish. So, instead of walking I gave it a little finishing “kick”, which was really pretty pathetic and surged toward the finish line. I will point out that, besides other runners and aid station volunteers, there were absolutely zero spectators for the entire course. Finally, as I neared the finish line I saw one lady cheering and then Jerry’s wife, Elaine, pointing me toward home. As I crested the final small hill (no walking that one) I saw the very low key finish line (a banner strung between two poles about a foot off the ground) and my wife taking pictures. With my son yelling, “Go, Daddy, GO, GO, GO!” I ran past the lady with the timing device next to the banner and, unsure of where the finish line really was because it wasn’t really clearly marked, just stopped when it she seemed satisfied. First ultra down!!!

So, the stats: I finished 2nd overall in the 50K, 1st in my AG with a time of 4:46:22 (9:13 avg. pace). My first half split was 2:22:13; second half split was 2:24:09. Red shirt guy beat me fairly handily, and seemingly barely broke a sweat in the process. The 3rd overall finisher, and first female, finished about 5 minutes behind me.

The aftermath: I actually don’t feel THAT bad as I write this about seven hours later, but we’ll see what the next couple of days hold. I will say that I’ve felt worse after a couple of marathons. Will I run a 50K again? Not out of the question. Will I ever run a 50 or 100 miler? Can’t honestly say right now, but I think it’s still within the realm of possibility (which makes me worry for my mental health). In any case, I think that any further ultra ambitions will be pushed aside until I’ve taken care of a little Boston qualifying business.

Overall, it was a fun experience…extremely sick and twisted, but in a fun, wholesome way. The event itself was very low key but then again, maybe that’s how ultras are in general. I obviously haven’t run enough to know. Maybe I’ll find out someday….

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

3 days til Lean Horse

I ran my last run before Lean Horse this morning, an easy 5 miler. Physically, I guess I'm as ready as I'm gonna get at this point. Mentally, I've decided that this is by far the stupidest idea I've ever acted on (I have a lot of stupid ideas but, fortunately, I usually restrain myself from acting on them). If I'd actually gone through a long, 50K-specific training plan, I'd probably be a little more confident about the race. But, as it is, I basically did two marathon plans (Fargo and Missoula) back to back and then tacked on some ultra-esque training in the six short weeks I had between Missoula and Lean Horse. I keep telling myself that a 50K isn't THAT much farther than a marathon, but it's not helpin.

So, two days of rest (an oddity in itself for me) and then Lean Horse on Saturday. The weather is supposed to be nice and cool for the next two days and then warming up again (a forecasted high of 90 in Hot Springs) on Saturday. Fortunately, temps early on Saturday should be in the low 50s and the race starts at 6 AM, so it'll at least be pleasant for a couple of hours.

As of now, there are 25 runners registered for the 50K (along with 113 hundred milers and 46 fifty milers). My primary goal is to survive. My secondary goal is to finish in 4:30 (8:40 pace) which may or may not be totally unrealistic for a first timer. If I make it to halfway in one piece, I should be golden because it's all downhill from there. If I don't then, well, they'll probably be able to find me by heading toward the circling vultures.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Leading Ladies Half-marathon Race Report (from the sidelines)

Yesterday was the third running of the Leading Ladies Marathon and Half-marathon, an all-women's race down Spearfish Canyon. I would love to run a full marathon down Spearfish Canyon, but since I have that Y chromosome I don't qualify for this race (sexist pigs :) ). However, my wife and sister-in-law did make their half-marathon debuts yesterday with great results.

I've listened to my wife tell me two things repeatedly for the last several months (yes, I do listen long as football isn't on). The first was that there was no way she would be able to run a full 13.1 miles (this even after she ran 12 in training). The second was that if she did actually make it 13.1 miles, it would take her at least 2 hours and 45 minutes. I told her (repeatedly) that both statements were bull pucky. Lo and behold, I was right, damn it.

The race started at 6:00 AM and the half-marathoners had to be on their bus by 4:45, so my wife and sister-in-law were out the door by 4:15 to drive the 12 miles to Spearfish. I got to sleep in until the extravagant hour of 6:15, a new and not unpleasant experience for me on race day. As a consequence, though, I was left to the task of feeding, dressing and loading up a two year old and a three year old, which is a sort of endurance event in its own right. But, I was ultimately successful and delivered everyone to the finish line at the Spearfish city park with the race clock reading 2:22. This was a totally new and odd experience for me; being the one sitting and waiting instead of being waited for. As it turns out, the experience didn't last long because barely seven minutes after we arrived I saw my wife coming down the homestretch. I pointed her out to my three year old son, who was patiently waiting with a rose in hand. As she neared the finish line and he finally caught site of her, he started yelling "Go, Go, Go!!!" as loud as he could. She hit the line in 2:29 and I believe my words of congratulation were something along the lines of "2:45 my ass". After getting a hug from the designated hugger (yes, the race had a guy at the finish whose sole job was to hug each sweaty, fun, fun), she got her medal and her rose and we settled back down to wait for her sister to finish. Her goal had been 2:40 and she sprinted the final stretch to finish in 2:38.

My wife is already contemplating her goal for next year. When asked, I said "5 hours would be good first marathon goal." She wasn't amused. She also says that she'll never run a full marathon. I said that once too....six marathons ago.