Monday, December 28, 2009

Runner-up again and battling Mother Nature

Normally, finishing a football season with a 14-1 record would seem like a pretty successful season. But when that 1 in the loss column comes in the national championship game for the second straight year, it tends to put a damper on things. Call it egotistical, but just getting there is no longer good enough for Montana Grizzly fans. The Griz have gotten there 7 times, but only won it all twice, which just sucks. So, needless to say, my Christmas vacation got off to a rough start as I watched the Griz blow a 14-9 halftime lead and basically get dismantled by Villanova in the 2nd half. The final score was close, 23-21, but Nova did what Montana usually does to opponents, and totally dominated after halftime. Only a long TD pass for Montana with just over a minute left made the game appear as close as the score indicates. Well, it was fun while it lasted, I guess. Now, we get to find ourselves a new head coach (Bobby Hauck left for more money at UNLV a few days after the championship) and try to get back there next year (and maybe actually win).

As for running, I was hoping to get a bunch of it done during my week long Christmas vacation, but Mother Nature had other plans. I started off well enough, putting in 39 miles in the first 4 days of the week, but then it all went to hell in a handbasket. A winter storm warning turned into a blizzard warning and we were basically snowed in on Christmas day, bringing to an end my streak of running on Christmas (I'm not even sure how long that streak was, but at least 5 years). The blizzard extended into the 26th, closing down the gym and basically the city of Belle Fourche in general, so my solid running week turned south real quick with two straight unscheduled rest days. After digging out on the 27th, I was able to get back at it, but it looks as though my running will be restricted to the indoor track for awhile. There is way more snow on the city streets than there are places to pile it, which leaves little room for two cars to pass each other much less for a runner to fit in there. Not to mention that the semi-packed snow makes for absolutely crappy footing. It's times like this that make a move to San Diego sound pretty damn appealing.

Jeez, what a downer of a blog post, huh? I'll try to come up with something more upbeat for next time. Some unseasonably warm weather would help in that regard...

Monday, December 14, 2009

One for the ages

I'll warn you right now, little if anything about this post is going to deal with running. I've got football on the mind and, in particular, what may go down in University of Montana lore as "The Game of the Century".

On Saturday afternoon, the top-ranked and undefeated Montana Grizzlies played 5th ranked Appalachian St. in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs. As I mentioned in my last post, this game pitted the two most dominant FCS teams of the past decade against each other for only the 2nd time. The only other meeting was also in the semifinals in Missoula in 2000 and the Griz won 19-16 in overtime. This meeting was expected to be just as close and it did not disappoint.

The game started off well for the Grizzlies. After forcing a turnover on downs on App State's first drive, the Griz marched downfield and capped off their first drive with a great 39-yard run by Chase Reynolds to go up 7-0. After that, the Griz offense kind of stalled out, but the defense managed to make enough plays to keep App St. off the board. But, you can't keep a player like App St. quarterback Armanti Edwards off the scoreboard for long and before halftime App St. managed to punch in a TD and a FG to take a 10-7 lead.

The 2nd half started out much like the 1st half with one exception: the weather. It was cold but clear when the game started, but by halftime a winter storm had begun blowing in, bringing gusting winds, below zero windchill and snow. The Griz were unfazed, however, and took the opening drive of the 2nd half methodically downfield to take a 14-10 lead. Again, Edwards and App St. struck back and scored another TD for a 17-14 lead. As the weather worsened, so did the field conditions, making it difficult to pass efficiently into the wind or to kick field goals. This was evident as Montana blocked one FG attempt by App St. and their kicker missed another badly in the 2nd half. However, when it was the Grizzlies' turn to try for 3, kicker Brody McKnight punched a relatively short field goal straight through and the game was all knotted up at 17 midway through the 4th quarter.

The missed field goal attempt by App St. gave the Grizzlies the ball back with just under 4 minutes remaining. The Griz mounted a drive and were soon nearing FG range, although under the weather conditions, a field goal would have been a risky proposition. As the Griz penetrated further into App St. territory, they were set back by a 10 yard holding penalty that put them back at the 25 yard line facing a 1st and 20. Up to that point, they had largely been pounding at App St with the run (Chase Reynolds ended up with 193 yards rushing) but the Griz coaches decided to gamble on first down and dialed up a fly route into the end zone. Jabin Sambrano, perhaps the fastest guy on the Montana roster, streaked up the left sideline and Andrew Selle laid up an absolutely perfect pass that dropped right into Sambrano's arms (see picture below) as he slid through the end zone, dragging both feet inbounds before falling out of bounds. The play was reviewed by the replay official, but it was clearly a catch and the call on the field was upheld. Touchdown Grizzlies and with 1:30 left, they now held a 24-17 advantage. But, had they given Edwards too much time?


Well, Armanti Edwards hasn't achieved legendary status for no reason. After the kickoff, the Mountaineers were faced with 75 yards of frozen turf to cover in just under a minute and a half. They drove down field with Edwards finding receivers open as he scrambled around the backfield to avoid the Montana rush. Eventually, App St. faced a 4th and 10 at the Montana 24 yard line with 25 seconds left. Edwards connected with receiver Brian Quick, who was tackled right at the first down line. The officials measured and App St. was given a new set of downs, literally by the nose of the football. Edwards then dumped a pass off to his running back that took the ball down to the Montana 3 yard line with less than 10 seconds left. On the next play, Edwards had an open receiver in the end zone, but Montana linebacker Brandon Fisher (son of Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher) got a hand up to tip the ball and send it incomplete. This set up the final play of the game, with 2 seconds left from the 3 yard line. Edwards fired a pass to his left and hit his receiver just inside the end zone right in the hands, but as he dove to catch the pass it slipped through and fell to the ground, giving the Grizzlies one of the more dramatic victories in their history.

So, now it's on to Chattanooga for the 2nd straight year where Montana will face the Villanova Wildcats in the national championship. Last year, the Griz came up short in the title game, losing 24-7 to Richmond. Hopefully, that experience will drive them to get some redemption this year. If nothing else, history is on their side. Montana has been to the championship game 6 times prior to this year. They have a 2-4 record with both wins coming in odd numbered years (1995 and 2001) and all four losses coming in even numbered years (1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008). Also, both times the Griz won the championship, their starting QB was a Montana native (Dave Dickenson from Great Falls in '95 and John Edwards from Billings in '00). In all four championship games they lost, the starting QB was from outside of Montana. So, being that 2009 is an odd numbered year and that Andrew Selle is from Billings (the same high school as John Edwards), it's virtually a lock that the Griz will win this one. May as well call up Vegas and put the paycheck on it. Plus the fact that they are a damn good team looking to erase last year's loss to Richmond from memory. Of course, Villanova is good too, or else they wouldn't be here. In fact, this is the first time since Montana played Marshall in the '96 championship that the #1 and #2 seeds will face each other in the title game. Just more proof that the BCS system is effed up and that they should implement a playoff like FCS. In any case, the Griz are playing their best football of the year right now and I think they ride that wave of momentum into Chattanooga and bring a 3rd trophy back to Missoula. Montana 27, Nova 13. GO GRIZ!!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Frigid temps and the Final Four

Well, I've gotta hand it to Mother Nature: November was pretty sweet. After a cold snap in October that made it seem as though early winter was setting in, we actually got a solid month of fall weather in November with highs in the 50s many days. In other words, perfect running weather. To be doing long runs in late November in shorts and a t-shirt is pretty awesome. But, of course, winter couldn't stay away forever and as soon as December started, the cold air moved in. From highs in the 50s and 60s to highs in the single digits with negative windchill. Such is life in South Dakota.

Regardless, my running went fairly well last week. I had at least 3 runs where my mileage exceeded the temperature, but I wasn't really cold on those runs. The relative lack of wind helped a ton, along with some judicious use of layers. For example, for my long run yesterday it was 10 degrees with a windchill of around 0. I layered up and headed out and ended up logging 16 miles and was never once really cold. In fact, after wearing my facemask for the first mile I pulled it up and never put it back down again. This morning, I headed out for a 7 miler before work and it was all of -1 degree outside. I was cold for the first mile or so, but after that felt fine. If the damned wind stays away, the cold can be very bearable. It's actually got me wondering just how cold it could be and still be okay to run outside if the wind wasn't blowing. I don't really want to find out, but I'm still curious.

Okay, enough about running. Time for some football talk. It's been an interesting two weeks if you're a Montana Grizzly fan. The Division 1 FCS playoffs started on Nov. 28 with a 1st round game against South Dakota St. After spotting SDSU a 34-14 halftime lead and then proceeding to fall behind even further, 48-21 in the 3rd quarter, the Griz reeled off 40 unanswered points in the last 20 minutes of the game to pull of a miraculous comeback and win the game 61-48. That win earned the top-seeded Griz a berth in the quarterfinals where they were 9-1 all time and 9-0 when playing in Missoula. Stephen F. Austin University from east Texas rolled into Missoula and was greeted with temps in the 20s and windchills even lower. Apparently, SDSU had awoken the sleeping bear in that first playoff game, because SFA never stood a chance. The Griz capitalized on 10 turnovers to rout the Lumberjacks 51-0. Coming into this game, SFA was the highest scoring team in the nation. Not anymore. Since falling behind to SDSU 48-21 in that first game, the Griz have now outscored their opponents 91-0 in the last 5+ quarters of football.

The win over SFA sends the Griz into the Final Four of the FCS playoffs where they will play Appalachian St. in Missoula this coming Saturday afternoon. This is the matchup many people have been looking forward to. Montana and App. St. have been the two dominant programs at the FCS level for the last decade. They rank 1 and 2 respectively in games won and have won a combined 4 national championships (3 by App. St. in 2005, 2006, and 2007 and 1 by Montana in 2001) in that period (Montana also won a championship in 1995). Montana has also finished runner-up three times (2000, 2004 and 2008) in the last 10 years (and also in 1996). Despite all their success, the two teams have only played each other once before. In the 2000 semifinals, the Griz scored a TD in overtime to beat the Mountaineers 19-16 in Missoula. This year's game should be another barn burner. Montana brings in a perfect 13-0 record and seems to have hit their stride at the perfect time. App. St. brings an explosive offense led by QB Armanti Edwards, the 2008 Walter Payton Award winner (FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, he's also a finalist for this year's award). The winner will face either Villanova or William & Mary in the national championship.

Of course, I'm heavily biased but I really think the Griz will pull this one out playing at home. Very few visiting teams leave Washington-Grizzly Stadium with a win and the way the Griz have played over the last 5 quarters of football has been amazing. But it's gonna be close; App. St. is too good of a team to not put up a fight. I say the Griz force Edwards into a turnover or two and take advantage of the Mountaineer's relatively soft defense to win the game 31-27. And then it's on to Chattanooga for the championship! GO GRIZ!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Slacking

Man, I really am a first class slacker, when it comes to blogging at least. Really, I've been running quite a bit, just not writing about it. Over the last three weeks, I've logged 71, 73 and 77 miles and felt mostly great doing it (except for a crappy mid-week 13 miler in that third week). Best of all, I've started throwing in some tempo work or a track workout once a week and I think it's woken my legs up from their ultra-training slumber. Since I started doing these workouts, my paces in other "easy" runs has quickened. Also, my last three long runs (16, 18, and 20 miles) have felt awesome. There's nothing quite like reaching the end of a 20 mile run and feeling as fresh as a daisy (well, relatively speaking).

As for racing, I haven't done any since the trail series ended and don't really plan on any serious racing for quite some time. I am running the Turkey Trot 5K in Rapid City on Thanksgiving but it'll be more of a fun run than anything else. I'll be pushing the kids in the double stroller so my wife can run solo (aren't I nice....plus it gives me an excuse to go slower). Really, the main reason I'm running it is to get my name in the hat for the post-race pie raffle.

My biggest non-running obsession right now is college football. More specifically, Montana Grizzly football. The Griz finished their regular season last weekend by beating the hated Montana St. Bobcats 33-19. That win capped off an 11-0 regular season for the Griz and gave them their 12th straight Big Sky conference title and 17th straight playoff appearance. They also earned the top seed in the FCS (that's Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision, as opposed to the more familiar Bowl Subdivision) playoffs. In the first round they face the South Dakota St. Jackrabbits. By earning the #1 seed, the Griz have homefield advantage all the way up to the championship in Chattanooga, should they make it that far again (last year they lost the championship to Richmond). I'll be glued to my computer/TV the whole way. GO GRIZ!!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wrapping up the trail series

Wow, I've been slacking....here it is Friday and I still haven't updated this thing. I actually have something somewhat interesting to talk about too. Last Saturday was the unofficial and unsanctioned South Dakota Trail Running Championship on the Flume Trail outside of Rockerville. This was the final race in the 2009 Black Hills Trail Series. Doing some simple math (the kind I'm best at), I realized that in order to finish in 1st place in the men's open (39 and under) division, all I needed to do was earn 3 points (8th place). And that was only if the guy in 2nd place, who hadn't shown up for the previous two races, showed up at this race and won, earning 10 points. Well, as it turns out, he didn't show up, which means that I didn't really need to be there either, but I didn't drive all the way to Rockerville just for shits and giggles, plus the race was free, so I signed up for the 16K (there was also a 10K) and hit the trails.

A 16K works out to 9.6 miles in American. But before we started the race director told us that the 10K course was actually a little short and the 16K course was actually a little long, which I guess means that they balance each other out. In any case, the 16K course was kind of like a figure 8 with a short out and back section between the two loops. We took off in a mass and as soon as we hit the trail, I realized that maybe I had probably lined up a little further back than I should have, but in reality maybe it was a good thing because it forced me to run a little more under control for the first half mile or so until the trail widened out and I could start passing some people. Consequently, the front runners in the 16K got out ahead of me quickly and I had no idea how many of them there were, not to mention that I had no idea who was running 10K and who was running 16K. So, I just cruised along on some fast section of trail for the first couple miles before we hit a hill. The hill didn't even seem all that bad at first, but suddenly my pace went from 7:30ish to 11:20ish and I found myself powerhiking to try to get my heart to stop hammering against my ribcage. The biggest hill was right after the 10K and 16K courses split, which really made me wonder if maybe it would have been smarter to run the 10K, but I pressed on and was soon rewarded with a long downhill stretch. But, of course, this was the section of trail that was an out and back, so I knew that every step downhill now was a step I would have to take uphill on the way back. The downhill did help me get my running legs back though and I was able to cruise through the second loop at a decent clip but by that time all of the 16K runners ahead of me had pulled away and I had pulled away from all of those behind me. I basically ran the last 7 miles of the race without seeing a single other runner. I did see some dude hiking, who managed to point me in the right direction when I spaced out and veered slightly off the leaf-covered trail and a few bowhunters who were probably pissed off at the number of runners traipsing through the woods and scaring every deer within a 16K+ figure eight area. Eventually, I made it back to the big hill in between the two loops (it didn't seem so bad going back over) and then headed down the other side toward the finish. As my Garmin clicked past 10 miles and it still didn't seem like I was very close to the finish, I realized that this 16K course wasn't just a little long. Turns out, it was almost a full mile long as my Garmin read 10.5 miles (a little over 17K) by the time I got back to the trailhead (and no, I didn't get lost....that I'm aware of...and if you don't know you're lost, are you really lost?). Time was being recorded on the honor system and as I wrote my time down next to my name I counted the 16K runners who had already finished and saw that I had taken 8th place. Just what I needed (but not really)!

So, over the course of 7 months and 5 races (I missed the July race because I was running the Missoula Marathon that day and there wasn't a race in August), I managed to amass enough points to win the men's open division of the trail series. I've described the series before as being like NASCAR....sometimes the guy who wins the most individual races doesn't always win the overall championship. I didn't win any races, but I showed up to most of them and managed a few top 3s and top 5s here and there and that was good enough. Overall, it was about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on (seriously) and I'm looking forward to doing it again in 2010 (that rhymes). My reward for winning the division was a cool hunk of rock with a 1st place plate on it and free entry to one of the series races next year. Maybe not quite as nice as what the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion gets, but still pretty cool.

Oh, and besides all that, I had a great week of running. I logged 71 miles for the week, my first time over 70 since before Lean Horse. There seems to be some physiological response when I run 70-80 miles....that mileage range just seems ideal for me and I have some of my best runs in that weekly range. So, I plan on keeping that up for awhile.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Slogging along

This wasn't the greatest running week I've ever had. Being sick last weekend left me feeling pretty crappy for the first few runs this week and feeling crappy makes getting motivated to actually go running pretty tough. The good news is that I had planned on cutting back my mileage this week anyhow, so I actually ended up close to my target mileage for the week and showed some signs of life toward the end.

Monday - Rest. Still sick and actually used sick leave because of it for only the 2nd time that I can remember.

Tuesday - 5 miles. Between my throat burning and regular coughing fits and just a general lack of energy, this run pretty much sucked the big one.

Wednesday - 6.3 miles. Throat still burns, still coughing, but not as bad. So it just sucked the little one. I also played basketball at lunchtime, which left me totally winded.

Thursday - 8.5 miles. Felt much better than the last two days, but still not great.

Friday - 9 miles. I woke up at 4 AM to run, said to hell with this and went back to bed. Ended up running after work and had a decent run, although it was tougher than 9 miles really should be.

Saturday - 6 miles. Since I ran Friday afternoon and then got up early on Saturday to do this run (we went to Rapid so Shannon could run a race and then the Grizzly game was in the afternoon, so it was the only time I could do it), it was almost like a double. My legs were still feeling Friday's run.

Sunday - 16 miles. The first two miles went great. Must've still been pumped up from watching Meb win NYC (more on that later). It was all downhill after that. Not precipitously downhill, just a steady decline. I neglected to take a gel with me and I think I paid for it because the last few miles were pretty rough and I felt like I was starting to bonk.

Total - 50.8 miles

Sunday morning was the 40th running of the New York City Marathon. An American hadn't won the men's race since Alberto Salazar did it in 1982. I was 4 years old. Going in, it was expected that an American might have a shot, but if you woulda asked a 100 people who that American would be, I'm guessing at least 95 would've said Ryan Hall (myself included). Instead, it was Meb Keflezighi who shocked the world and claimed the victory. Even better, American men took 6 of the top 10 spots (Hall finished 4th), signaling that the recent east African dominance of the sport might be coming to an end. Meb's story is a great one. He had never won a major marathon before, although he did win a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics. After failing to qualify for the US Olympic team in the marathon and 10,000m in 2008 and then suffering a stress fracture in his hip, many people thought his career was over and he actually considered retiring. But, he fought back and proved everyone wrong. A great win for Meb and a great moment in American running.

I've also gotta brag about my Montana Grizzlies. Their biggest game of the year (so far) was this past weekend against Weber St. Last year, Weber beat Montana in the regular season and the two ended up tied for the Big Sky Conference championship. The Griz got revenge in the quarterfinals of the playoffs and went on to the national championship game. This year, Weber and Montana were again favored to duke it out for the conference title. Montana entered the game ranked #2 in the FCS, Weber was #14. Both have prolific offenses and less than prolific defenses, so it was looking like an old fashioned shootout was in the works. What happened in reality was far from that. The Griz dominated from the start and the defense, which has been suspect all year, finally played up to potential. In the end, the Griz used 4 interceptions (one returned for a TD) and 241 yards from stud running back Chase Reynolds to win easily, 31-10. This basically ensures that the Griz will go to the playoffs for the 17th straight year (an FCS record) and that they'll win their 12th straight Big Sky title (also a record). Of their remaining three games, two are against two of the worst teams in the conference (Idaho St. and Northern Colorado) and the last one is against hated Montana St., who the Griz beat much more often than not. An 11-0 regular season and homefield advantage in the playoffs is looking like a definite possibility. The homefield thing is huge...there's nothing more fun than watching some team from the south come up to Missoula for a playoff game in December. Go GRIZ!!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Down with the sickness

No, this post's title doesn't refer to the Disturbed song, although I wish it did (it's a pretty good song). I was down this weekend with a cold/flu type thing (don't think it was the dreaded H1N1). Of course, that's no excuse for not posting anything last week, but I don't have a better excuse, so I'll just go with it.

In a nutshell, the last two weeks went fairly well. I broke 60 miles the week before last and was well on my way to breaking 70 last week until I was felled by the bug. All I needed was my 18 miler on Sunday to finish the week with 71 miles, but instead I spent half the day sleeping in the recliner in front of the Steelers/Vikings game and the other half sleeping in my bed. It was an exciting day. So, I guess this week's planned cutback couldn't have come at a better time since it's gonna be a cutback regardless of whether it was planned or not. I did manage 5 miles this morning, but my lungs burned the whole and I several coughing fits in the middle of it.

One thing that's become blatantly obvious over the past couple of months is that I simply am not capable of running as fast in the early morning as I can later in the day. The week before last, my fastest paced run was actually my long run, which I started at about 8 AM, as opposed to 4:30 AM for my weekday runs. This past week, I ran a few times starting at 4:30 and averaged around 8:45 miles for those runs. On Friday, I had the day off so I took off on my 11.5 mile run at 9:00. I subsequently averaged 8:04 miles for that run while putting out what seemed like the same level of effort. Unfortunately, it's just not practical for me to do all of my runs in the late morning or afternoon. Unless I win the Powerball. Until then, I guess I'll just have to live with it.

The standings for the Black Hills Trail Series were updated this weekend and it's looking pretty good for me (knock on wood). With one race to go on Nov. 7th, I lead the Men's Open Division with 36 points. The next closest runner has 28 points. The most points you can get in one race is 10, so assuming he wins our division in the last race to earn 10 points, I would need only 3 points (8th place in the division) to secure the overall series win. That is extremely doable, assuming no extenuating circumstances (and I've already gotten sick, so hopefully that one is out). In many ways, this race series is like NASCAR. It's not so much how many races you win, but how many you finish in a respectable position. Case in point, the guy in second is definitely faster than me and has smoked me at every race he's been at. But, he's missed the last two races and I only missed one race, which has given me the edge. The last race, the unofficial South Dakota Trail Championships, is different from the others in that there are actually two distances (10K and 16K) you can choose from and you can gain points from either distance. So, there will be a 10 point winner from each distance. This could add a strategical aspect to the series since you could conceivably just wait to see what distance the faster guys are running and then enter the other distance in the hopes of scoring an easy win. But, I'll go on the record as saying that I'm planning on running the 16K with absolutely no knowledge of who else is running it. I'll let the cards fall as they may. It's not like there's a million dollars on the line (is there?).

Hey, big football weekend coming up. Actually, it starts tonight. Belle's first playoff game is tonight at home against Hot Springs, a rematch of the regular season game that Belle won by 3 points, but easily could have been a 30 point blowout (if that makes any sense). Why a Tuesday playoff game you ask? Beats the hell outta me....the South Dakota playoff schedule is screwy beyond comprehension. In any case, the even bigger game is on Saturday in Missoula where the #2 ranked Griz take on #14 ranked Weber St. for the Big Sky Conference championship (probably). Last year, Weber beat the Griz 45-28 during the regular season in Ogden, but then got upset on the last weekend of the regular season so they ended up tying for the conference title (no tie-breakers in the Big Sky, they just recognize co-champions). The two teams met again in the quarterfinals of the playoffs in Missoula and the Griz won 24-13 and eventually went on to the national championship game (the outcome of which I won't discuss here). Both teams feature high-powered offenses and not so good defenses, so it looks like a shootout on paper. Washington-Grizzly Stadium, stacked with 26,000 screaming Griz fans, is an extremely tough place to play, so hopefully the edge will go to the Griz. For the hell of it, I'll just say the Griz do to them what they did to us last year and win it 45-28 at home.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The shenanigans of Mother Nature

Winter has arrived in South Dakota. In October. Early October. Not much snow, but windchills in the teens and single digits. I am not ready for this crap. I mean, seriously, I went from running in shorts and a t-shirt to all out layered cold weather gear in the span of a couple of days. I need a transition period, damn it!

Anyhow, this past week was pretty much more of the same, with another trail race thrown in:

Monday - No running, played basketball.

Tuesday - 7 miles

Wednesday - 10 miles

Thursday - 6 miles in the morning, 5 in the afternoon. My first double since Boston training in the spring, I believe. The second run felt light years better than the first.

Friday - 6 miles

Saturday - 7.3 miles total including the 10-10-10K trail race at Buzzard's Roost, outside of Rapid City. It was cold. Really frickin cold, to be exact. I heard it was in the teens when the race started, and I wouldn't doubt that. There was some snow on the trail, but not very much, mostly just a dusting. What made things interesting, besides the technical, hilly trail, was the fact that the snow was melting in the areas that were in the sun, creating an nice, slick muddy trail surface in some sections of trail where one slip would send you tumbling over a significant drop-off. I basically started this race in the same position I finished it....I literally pass one guy the entire way (in the first half mile) and got passed by one guy (again, in the first half mile). After that, the lead pack took off way ahead of me and everyone else fell back a ways behind me and I was just out in the woods all by myself on what seemed like a normal everyday trail run. Every once in awhile I would catch a glimpse of someone behind me, but they never drew very close and I ended up finishing 8th overall and 5th in my division. That was good enough to keep me in first place in the men's under-40 division of the trail series with one race left to go (on Nov. 7th). And, I won a new watch in the prize drawing. Not a bad day overall. A cold one, but not a bad one.

Sunday - 14 miles. Saturday had been cold, but calm. Sunday was cold and windy. It sucked. Plus my legs were tired from the race. Not the most enjoyable 14 miles I've ever run, but I got it done.

Total - 53.7 miles

Rumor has it fall is going to come back later this week. I can only hope.

Hey, it was another perfect football weekend! Belle beat Douglas 45-20, Montana beat Cal Poly 35-23 and Seattle beat Jacksonville 41-0 (they've now won two games by a combined score of 69-0....too bad there were 3 losses between those two wins). And, my fantasy team won too (and is now 5-0). Football is really the only thing that makes the onset of winter bearable.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Feeling like a runner again

I haven't been shy on here about bitching and whining over how long it took me to recover from Lean Horse. For 4 weeks after that race, I basically felt like a pile of crap running-wise. And a slow pile of crap at that. I finally turned the corner a couple of weeks ago and this past week things continued to improve.

Monday - No running, but played basketball at lunchtime. My legs felt like I had just run a marathon. The Sundance Trail 10K took more of a toll than I had expected, especially on my quads and calves, which I suspect is from pushing the pace on the downhill 2nd half.

Tuesday - 6 miles. Definitely still feeling the quads and calves.

Wednesday - 9 miles. Ah, much better. Basketball again.

Thursday - 7 miles w/ 8 strides. The soreness is completely gone, legs feel really good.

Friday - 9.2 miles. Woulda been a great run if not for battling 20-30 mph wind the entire time.

Saturday - 14 miles. Decided to crank out my long run a day early and headed to the Centennial Trail to do it. The Centennial is 110 miles long (give or take) and stretches from Bear Butte, just to the north of Sturgis, to Custer State Park in the central Black Hills. It's mostly single track and was completed in 1989, the year of South Dakota's Centennial, hence the name. I started at the Bear Butte Lake trailhead, about 40 miles from home and headed south on the trail toward the Black Hills. I knew that the first stretch would be across open grassland, but I guess I was unprepared for just how long that open grassland would last. It ended up being nearly 5 miles before I finally hit the trees around the Ft. Meade VA. I spent much of that first 5 miles dodging both cows and cow pies. Fun stuff. The trail did get more interesting once I hit the timber, but I was only in it for a couple of miles before turning around and heading back. Even in the grassland section, though, there were a couple of serious hills, so I at least got a chance to work on that. Lesson learned: next time I run the Centennial, I'll drive farther and start from a trailhead in the Hills (like the one at Ft. Meade).

Sunday - 7.5 miles. This was meant to be a nice, slow recovery run (about 9:00 pace) after the previous day's long run, but my legs felt really good and without even realizing it, or trying, I was running 8:15-8:20 pace, so I went with it. This run in itself speaks to how much running has improved for me in the last couple of weeks. During my Lean Horse recovery, it took every thing I had to run faster than 9:00 pace. During this run, it would have taken everything I had to slow myself down to that pace. I much prefer having the latter problem.

Total - 52.7 miles

This week I have another trail race, the second to last one in the Black Hills Trail Series, looming. The 10-10-10K is on Saturday. As the name suggests, it's a 10K on October 10th. Actually, it could be the 10-10-10-10K since it starts at 10 AM. And, next year, if they did it on a Sunday at 10AM, it could be the 10-10-10-10-10K . But I digress. The race is on the Buzzard's Roost trail (sounds like a lovely place, huh?), someplace I've never been to. I suspect there will be hills, since there tend to be a few at these things (what fun would running on a trail be if it were perfectly flat?). I'm less worried about the hills than I am the weather. October in South Dakota represents the time when winter and fall abruptly shift back and forth in a struggle for supremacy. This week, it appears as if winter will be the victor. We got our first snow yesterday and the forecast for Saturday is a low of 17 in the morning and a high of 34 that afternoon, so it should be somewhere in between at race time. I'm guessing that if the trails aren't snowy they'll be muddy since rain/snow is predicted for much of the week. But, hey, what fun is trail running if you don't get a little dirty, right?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Back in the fray

This week marked my return to racing after my post-Lean Horse recovery period. It was a long, slow recovery and I was looking forward to stretching my legs again. My return to racing came at the Sundance Trail 10K in the Bearlodge Mtns. of Wyoming, which is the 4th race in the inaugural Black Hills Trail Series. I had run this race last year and been somewhat humbled by it, finishing in 55 minutes and change. The course is almost entirely single track and is an almost constant uphill for the first few miles before leveling off and then heading back downhill to the finish (it's not a pure out and back, but a "lollipop" with a loop at the end of an out and back). Anyway, more on this year's race later...

Monday - Rest, played basketball at lunchtime.

Tuesday - 10 miles.

Wednesday - 6.3 miles.

Thursday - 9 miles.

Friday - 6 miles. Took one dog out for 4 miles and the other for 2 (one is in much better shape/much skinnier than the other despite the fact that they get the exact same amount of food and exercise....they could be a case study on canine metabolism).

Saturday - Sundance (see below)

Sunday - 13.25 miles. The weather forecast called for high winds to move into the area on Sunday and I hoped that I would be able to get the run done in the morning before they hit. I didn't. Running uphill into a 20-30 mph wind isn't much fun, believe it or not. I managed to get a decent run in regardless, but the very second I stopped I suddenly felt every bit of effort I had put in at Sundance the day before. Good thing I didn't stop until I got back to the house.

Total - 50.75 miles

Okay, back to Sundance. I made the trip over to Wyoming solo because, unfortunately, my kids had a soccer game at 11:00 and the race started at 10:30, which means I had to miss their game to race. Of course, my son picked this game to have the best game of his short soccer career by pounding home 7 goals. He damn well better do that good again next week so I can see it :)! Anyhow, at least this year I knew what I was getting into with this course. Last year, I had no clue and pushed way too hard in the uphill section, eventually having to walk to recover. This year, I knew to play it safe early on and then try to push the pace on the return leg. Of course, pushing the pace on a single-track trail riddled with rocks, roots and stumps is a little different than pushing it on a road course.

As we lined up for the start, there were a handful of people I was fairly certain were faster than me, so I started behind them. The field of 53 actually spread out very quickly after the start and the single-track never really felt crowded at all. I quickly fell into the top 10 with a couple of people in striking distance ahead of me. Having run this last year, I knew that the worst section of trail was the hill affectionately known as "Bitch Pitch", which comes just past the 2 mile mark and is about 300 meters long and steeper than hell (which any runner will tell you is really steep). We hit the pitch and I passed a couple of guys I had been following since the start and then started power hiking like everyone else. Well, everyone except my co-worker Don, who is the only person I saw who actually ran the entire length of the pitch. Damn mountain goat. At the top, the course leaves single-track for the only time and follows a Forest Service road for a short stretch to the next section of trail. I was able to use my road legs on this stretch to catch back up to, but not quite pass, Don. But, as soon as we hit the single-track and resumed going up, Don pulled away. I was also following a local woman, Tanja, I've raced closely a few times previously. As the trail started its descent, it became apparent that I wasn't getting any closer to Don, but I was hanging with Tanja. As we ran downhill I focused on keeping up with her....well, that and not tripping over something and doing a swan dive headfirst into a tree. For awhile it seemed as though Tanja and I were pretty much alone, as Don had pulled well ahead and I hadn't noticed anyone within striking distance behind us for awhile. But then, with about a mile to go, we came around a switchback and I suddenly noticed that there were two guys closing the gap on me. By this time, Tanja had begun to pull away from me. I started pushing the pace to keep ahead of the my two pursuers and consequently started regaining ground on Tanja. By the time we reached the last quarter mile or so of trail, it seemed that I had lost them again, but Tanja had also lost me. It seemed as though I was pretty secure in whatever place I was in, so I kind of just put it on cruise control. Right before the finish, the trail crosses a road and then there's about 20 yards more trail to the finish line. It wasn't until this very final stretch that I suddenly realized that there was someone right behind me and gaining fast. I kicked the final 10 yards or so and just managed to finish ahead of two more local runners, Carlos and Gary, who had somehow managed to sneak up on me (no, I wasn't wearing an ipod, just totally zoned out in my own world).

So, final stats (unofficially): 53:32, 8th overall and 3rd in my AG (which didn't really matter since it turned out they only gave awards to the top 2 in each AG, which really sucks because they were cool handmade coffee mugs). But, I did win a door prize in the raffle, a hooded sweatshirt with the race logo on it. And, I think I might now be in first place in the men's under-40 division of the Black Hills Trail Series thanks to the previous 1st place guy not running this race, but I'll have to check out the updated series standings before I know for sure. Oh, and they had a great BBQ including ice cold Fat Tire at the finish. All in all, a good day on the trails.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Getting my legs back

To say running has been a struggle in the 4 weeks since Lean Horse would be an understatement. Some period of recovery is to be expected, but never after any of my 12 marathons or 2 50Ks have I experienced such an extended recovery period and such a feeling of pure fatigue and sluggishness when I ran. Frustration was starting to set in and, frankly, running just hasn't been all that much fun lately, and if it's not fun, then why do it? Fortunately, I seem to have turned the corner.

Monday - Rest. Played basketball at lunchtime.

Tuesday - 8.3 miles. One of the most miserable runs of my life, I think. I tried throwing some strides in to wake my legs up, but it just made them more tired.

Wednesday - 8.2 miles. A little better than Tuesday, but still slow.

Thursday - 5 miles. Really slow and I didn't really care. Just running because I felt like I should.

Friday - Rest. Physically, I didn't feel like I needed it, but mentally I just didn't want to face another miserable run. I did play basketball at lunchtime.

Saturday - 12 miles. Ran the Tinton trail, which starts at the base of Black Hills on the outskirts of Spearfish and goes up toward the Big Hill trailhead, over 6 miles one way. I obviously didn't go all the way to Big Hill since I turned around after 6 miles, but I was close. The net elevation gain going up is right around 1000 ft. and my total elevation gain was over 3000 ft. for the entire run thanks to some ups and downs in between. And I ran every damn step of it, no walking uphills like I had been doing during ultra training. Sure, some of the steepest, longest uphills were pretty slow, but I was still moving faster than a power hike. The thing is, it felt good, especially after I hit the top and got to run the 1000 ft. back downhill.

Sunday - 9.7 miles. Wasn't quite sure what to expect after running 12 trail miles the day before, but as soon as I started running, something just felt "right". It's a feeling I haven't had for a long time, but when I hit the first mile in 8:05 (the fastest mile I've run since Lean Horse), I knew this one was going to be different. After 4 long weeks of struggling to break 9:00 pace, my legs had finally come back. Apparently, they were lost in the Black Hills along the Tinton trail somewhere. Ended the run with a 7:54 avg. pace and most of that was effortless. Not my fastest run ever, but certainly one of the most refreshing, both mentally and physically.

Total - 43.2 miles

So, it's about damn time. I was starting to worry about my prospects at this coming Saturday's Sundance Trail 10K over in Wyoming. I ran this race last year and did it stupidly, still being relatively new to trail running. Even now, I'm far from an expert trail runner, but I at least know now that it's not wise to take off at road 10K pace on a trail and expect to maintain it. Regardless, up until this weekend I was unsure of the kind of effort I'd be able to put forth at Sundance. Now, I at least have some confidence that I can actually race this thing and vindicate my somewhat disappointing performance from last year.

Okay, now for the weekly football rant. Last week I had the perfect football weekend. I alluded to the fact that those are preciously rare and this weekend showed that. Friday night, Belle Fourche traveled all the way across the state to face the #1 team in South Dakota, West Central. The Broncs came out punching and scored on their first play from scrimmage on an 80 yard run and took a 14-3 lead into halftime. But, West Central showed why they've won 11 of the last 16 state championships and came back to win 23-14.

On Saturday afternoon, the Montana Grizzlies opened Big Sky Conference play with a home game against Portland St. (led by former NFL coach Jerry Glanville). A record crowd of 25,760 was on hand to watch the game and to watch PSU jump out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Uh-oh. But, the Griz regrouped and ended up outscoring the Vikings 49-3 the rest of the way for a 49-17 win.

Sunday is of course NFL day and I was really hoping the Seahawks could pull out a win in San Francisco to take an early lead in the NFC West. The game was close in the first half, but Matt Hasselbeck went down with a rib injury right before halftime and it was all downhill from there. Giving up TD runs of 79 and 80 yards to Frank Gore didn't help either and the Hawks went from contenders to pretenders with a 23-10 loss. At least my fantasy team squeaked out a win (thanks to Adrian Peterson and Ben Roethlisberger).

This week, Belle is on the road again at Lead-Deadwood, a game they should win easily (the 50 point mercy rule is a distinct possibility). Montana travels to Northern Arizona, which should be another Griz W. Seattle hosts Chicago. I don't know about this one. If Hasselbeck plays (which they are saying he probably will), then they have a shot at home. If not, it might be another long Sunday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Running, football and soccer (oh my)

We are just beginning the BEST time of year. Fall is just beginning, the weather is perfect for running, football season has started and so has my kids' soccer season. Running could be going better right now, but football and soccer are off to a good start, so I guess I can't complain.

Monday - Rest. Took the kids for a Labor Day hike in the Black Hills.

Tuesday - 6.5 miles. Now, I would expect after a day of rest, without even any basketball, that I would be able to run a fairly comfortable 6.5 miles. I would be wrong. My legs just do not have any energy on these early morning runs since Lean Horse.

Wednesday - 6 miles and basketball at lunchtime. More of the same. Better than Tuesday, but still more of a struggle than it should be.

Thursday - 4 miles. Yet more of the same. I had planned on doing 5 or 6 but after the first two miles my legs were pissing me off, so I just turned around and headed home. We did a prescribed burn at work in the afternoon, which involved a lot of hiking and my legs felt totally fine then. They just don't want to run.

Friday - Rest. I had the day off and honestly meant to go for a 5 or 6 mile run and actually had all of my running stuff on and was ready to go until my wife informed me that outside water faucet was spraying water everywhere. After replacing the O-ring (the extent of my plumbing repair abilities) didn't work, I called the plumber and had him replace the whole damn thing. Between that, going to eat lunch at school with my son, taking our cat Gracie to the vet and then going to pick my son up from school, the day just snuck away on me and when I did finally have time to run, I just flat out did not feel like it. So I didn't.

Saturday - 7 miles. The day started off with Caiden's and Chloe's first soccer game of the season. They are on the same team (the only way Chloe would agree to play). Caiden is already a U-6 veteran, this being his 3rd season, but Chloe is a rookie since she just turned old enough. The game was a mud bowl since it rained all night before the 8 AM start, but the kids didn't really care. Caiden would play soccer in just about anything. Chloe probably has a limit, but she didn't mind the wet conditions. Their team ended up losing 7-4, but Caiden did tally two goals. Chloe isn't nearly as aggressive on the soccer field as Caid is, but she did get a couple of kicks in and, more importantly, had fun. I went for my run after the game and for once I was able to pick up the pace some and it actually felt fairly comfortable. Ended up running the 7 miles in just under an hour for an 8:28 pace, my fastest since Lean Horse.

Sunday - 10.1 miles. Ever since Lean Horse, I've been itching to get out into the Hills and do some trail running to prepare for the last three races of the Black Hills Trail Series. But, frankly, my legs just have not felt like they could withstand a trail run. Well, I finally decided to give it a shot this weekend and woke up bright and early on a Sunday morning to drive to the Old Baldy trailhead. Old Baldy is a 6+ mile loop, plus a spur trail that goes out and back to the summit of Old Baldy Mtn. I ran the loop plus the spur plus a little extra of the loop to get in a full 10 miles. Some of the uphill grades started taking a toll toward the end, but overall it went well.

Total - 34.6 miles. I was hoping for more (40 at least), but it wasn't meant to be. Maybe this week.

Okay, if you don't give a damn about football, feel free to check out now. The weekend I've been waiting for for almost a year finally arrived: NFL Kickoff Weekend. But, first, there were high school and college games on Friday and Saturday to take in.

On Friday night, the Belle Fourche Broncs hosted Hot Springs in their first conference game of the season. Belle jumped out to a 21-0 lead and it looked like a blowout was about to ensue. But, Hot Springs capitalized on some Bronc miscues and made a game out of it. The Broncs ended up holding on for a 31-28 win in what could have easily been a 50-0 blowout. They'd better figure out how to play a full game the way they played the first quarter of this one real soon because this week they travel to West Central, who is ranked #1 in the state and has won 11 out of the last 16 state championships (two of them over Belle).

Saturday night I parked myself in front of the computer and watched very a poor quality video webcast of the Montana Grizzlies game at UC-Davis. It was hands down one of the ugliest games of football I have ever seen the Griz play. After falling behind 10-0 late in the 2nd half, they were finally able to get things in gear and scored 17 unanswered points to win. A win is a win, but if they play like that again, they probably won't win many more. This week, the Griz open Big Sky conference play at home against Portland St., who is coached by former Falcons and Oilers coach Jerry Glanville.

And then Sunday finally arrived. Even better than the first Sunday of the NFL season was the prospect that I could have the ever elusive perfect football weekend, with the Broncs, Griz and Seahawks all winning. The prospects for this happening seemed good considering the Seahawks opened their season at home against the hapless Rams. I was not disappointed as the Hawks overcame some early mistakes to clobber the Rams 28-0. This sets up an early season showdown next week against the division rival 49ers, who knocked off the Cardinals (aka One Hit Wonders) in week 1.

So, the fall is off to a good start, and it hasn't even officially started yet.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Slowly but surely

Recovering from races has never been my strong suit. Recovery takes patience, something I lack. I expect that my legs will feel sore for two or three days after a hard race, but after that my patience wears thin. Once I start running again, I expect to be able to run at the same paces I was running before the race. More often than not, this isn't the case. Inevitably 2 or 3 weeks of frustration ensue during which I'm convinced that I'll never again be able to run as fast as I once could. I'm in the midst of that frustration period right now.

Monday - Rest. Played basketball at lunchtime. It's occurred to me that these 2 or 3 day a week basketball sessions aren't helping my recovery because they're just putting extra wear and tear on my already tired legs, but I don't really care. It's fun and something I look forward to, so I'm gonna keep doing it. And, actually, my legs have felt pretty good during basketball....better than they often have during running.

Tuesday - 5 miles. This was horrible. Hands down one of the hardest runs I've done all year and definitely one of the slowest too. For whatever reason, my legs just didn't want to move. I made them anyway, but it was a slow slog the entire way.

Wednesday - 5.3 miles and basketball in the afternoon. Much, much better than yesterday. In fact, this was my fastest paced run (so far) since Lean Horse.

Thursday - 5.1 miles. Not nearly as bad as Tuesday, but not as good as Wednesday.

Friday - Rest, basketball at lunchtime.

Saturday - 6.5 miles. The pace is definitely improving.

Sunday - 10.2 miles. First double digit run since Lean Horse and it felt good. A little slower than Saturday's pace, but not too bad.

Total - 32.1 miles

So, although there were a couple of rough days in there, overall things are moving forward and I'm starting to get my legs back under me. Not as quickly as I'd prefer, but I'll take what I can get (as if I have a choice).

Okay, now on to football. This was the first big weekend of the year with high school and college schedules getting started up. Belle Fourche's first game was Friday night against Douglas, WY, the defending Wyoming state champions. It was pretty obvious that Douglas returned some talent from that state title team. Although Belle kept it close for most of the game, Douglas eventually put them away 26-10. The good news for Belle is that, really, the game doesn't mean anything as far as conference standings go and it's good prep for them since they face the top two ranked teams in South Dakota later this season. The Montana Grizzlies opened their season on a brighter note, whupping up on Western State (from Gunnison, CO) 38-0. This game was the equivalent of Florida playing Charleston Southern this weekend....a powerhouse at one level matched against a massive underdog from a lower level. It actually should've been more lopsided than that, but the Griz made some dumb mental errors in the first half and only led 10-0 at halftime before getting it in gear in the second half. This weekend Belle is at home against Hot Springs in a game they should win and Montana is on the road at UC-Davis, which will be a much tougher test than Western St. And then, on Sunday, is the day I've been waiting for since February. Well, actually since the Seahawks playoff hopes flew out the window sometime in October last year, it's been even longer than that. The Hawks open their season at home against St. Louis. This is the best part of the NFL season....the time when everyone can actually hope that the Super Bowl is a possibility.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The road to recovery

Thankfully, the level of soreness following a race isn't directly correlated to the distance run. Granted, you're probably going to be worse for the wear after a marathon than after a 5K, but beyond that, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference. In other words, running a 50 miler doesn't leave you twice as sore as a marathon (thank God). In fact, although my legs, and calves especially, were mighty beat up after Lean Horse, it wasn't as bad as Boston or even the Deadwood-Mickelson Half, which both beat my quads into a bloody pulp. So, although my pace was noticeably slower, I was able to get some running done to begin the road to recovery this week:

Monday - Rest. Duh. My policy is that if I can't walk without a hitch in my giddyup, than it's probably too early to start running.

Tuesday - Rest again. I debated running since I generally only take two days off after a marathon and this was day 3 since Lean Horse, but I figured almost twice the distance warranted at least one more day. Plus my calves were still really knotty.

Wednesday - 4 extremely slow miles. Interestingly, my right calf had been the one with the biggest knot and the most sore after Lean Horse, which makes sense because it was cramping the most, but it was my left calf that was most noticeably sore during the run. I also played basketball in the afternoon, which probably isn't the smartest thing I've ever done. Jumping was difficult and running up and down the court I only had two gears: not moving and moving slowly. When my brain said "go", my legs said "no". It wasn't pretty.

Thursday - Rest. I maybe overdid it with the basketball the day before.

Friday - 5 miles. A little faster pace than Wednesday (as in 3 seconds per mile faster). Played basketball again and suddenly my legs felt much better and I actually had some energy, although that damn knot in my left calf was still very noticeable.

Saturday - 6 miles. A little faster yet, but still slower than my slowest normal recovery pace.

Sunday - 7 miles. I finally break 9:00 avg. pace, cranking this run out at an avg. pace of 8:58. To put that in perspective, my normal recovery pace is right around 9:00 and I usually have to forcibly slow myself down to achieve that. On this run, I was pushing the pace (at a "screaming fast" 8:30 pace....my normal easy pace) for the last two miles to get my avg. under 9:00. Still have that damn knot.

Total - 22 miles

I'll try to bump the mileage up into the 30s this week. I have still have no schedule down on paper, I'm just making this stuff up as I go along. I've got the Sundance Trail 10K coming up on Sept. 26th, so I hope to get some trail and hill running done before then, because that race has both (including one particularly formidable climb affectionately referred to as "bitch pitch"). A run up Crow Peak would satisfy both of those goals, but my legs need to bounce back a little more before I attempt that. Hopefully by this weekend, but we'll see.

Football season is upon us, which means that besides reading senseless crap about running you'll soon get a heavy dose of senseless crap about the Seahawks, Grizzlies and Broncs (as in Seattle, Montana and Belle Fourche). I had my fantasy draft last night, which has got me all pumped up for the NFL season to start. I ended up with Adrian Peterson at RB, which is good, but I also made a "from the heart" pick and took T.J. Houshmandzadeh (the Seahawks WR) over Anquan Boldin, so we'll see how that works out. I did get Shannon's favorite player, Ben Roethlisberger, at QB so for once she might actually give a damn about my fantasy team (the Black Hills Buzzards). The Seahawks' first game isn't until Sept. 13th, but Montana and Belle both open their seasons this weekend. The 3rd ranked Griz will get an easy win over Western St.; the Bronc game against Douglas, WY might be more interesting as they try to replace their stud QB/Safety who graduated last year. But, they do return the best running back in western South Dakota and a couple of good receivers, so the cupboard isn't totally bare. Go Griz and Broncs!

Monday, August 24, 2009

A long ride on the Lean Horse

Well, crap, I don’t even know where to start…. How about this? There was a time in my life when I swore I would never, ever, under any circumstances run a marathon because, well, that just seemed like a stupid thing to do. Two days ago, I ran 50 miles. Times have changed. Really, saying that I “ran” 50 miles is an overstatement. It’s more accurate to say that I covered 50 miles on foot. I would have liked to have run more of it, but a certain set of calves had other ideas about that (more on that later). The important thing is that I left Hot Springs on Saturday morning under my own power and returned there several hours later still under my own power (albeit much more slowly). In any case, hopefully this story doesn’t take as long to write (or read) as the race itself did, but don’t hold your breath.

After moving to South Dakota in 2006, I became aware of the Lean Horse Ultra, a three-race (50K, Half Hundred and Hundred) event held in late August in the southern Black Hills. At the time, I was just seriously getting into marathoning, having run two with two more on my schedule. The 50K seemed interesting and doable to me. After all, it’s “only” 5 miles further than a marathon. The following summer (2007), curiosity got the best of me and I ran the Lean Horse 50K in 4:46, good enough for 2nd overall in a field of 20 or so. I enjoyed the ultra scene, even though I had just barely touched my toes in the water. But, I still had unfinished marathon business to take care of. Namely, qualifying for and running Boston. That goal consumed the next year and a half of my life, but it was worthwhile. After qualifying for Boston in July of 2008 and running it in April of 2009, I was ready to set my sights back on the ultra world. The Lean Horse Half Hundred became my next target race, with the Bighorn Trail 50K in June thrown in as a training run. I had a great time at Bighorn (I mean, I had fun, my run time was decent) and was looking forward to the challenge of a 50 miler. Be careful what you wish for…

While training for this new endeavor, I felt like a rookie again. It was very reminiscent of training for my first marathon (i.e. I didn’t really feel like I had a friggin clue what I was doing). I adopted a plan based off of Hal Higdon’s Comrades Marathon plan and hybridized it with a 50 mile plan from Runner’s World. Then, I butchered it some more to make room for some other races, mainly the Deadwood-Mickelson Half Marathon (where I ran a PR in June) and the Missoula Marathon (where I attempted a PR but came up short in July). Ideally, I would have liked to have done more back to back long runs, but my strong run at Bighorn and a 31 mile/23 mile back to back a few weeks before Lean Horse left me confident that I could cover the distance. The question would be, at what pace? So much can go wrong over the course of 50 miles that I had no clue what a good prediction might be. Based off one predictor I saw online (double your fastest marathon time and add two hours), I could be expected to run 50 miles in approximately 8:15. I decided that sub-8:30 would be a “stars align” day, sub-9 was maybe more reasonable, sub-10 was probably realistic and just getting done was the main goal.

I made the trip down to Hot Springs, about 2 hours south of Belle Fourche, on Friday afternoon to arrive in time to check-in and attend the pre-race briefing and cookout. All of that was fairly uneventful and painless. The big concern was the weather. After an unusually mild summer (including highs in the 60s just a few days before the race), the race weekend was looking to be more typical of August in South Dakota (highs in the 90s). I don’t enjoy running 5 miles in anything above 65 degrees, much less the better part of 50 miles in temps exceeding 80 or 90. Granted, the 6:00 AM start would give us some cooler temps for awhile, but there’s just no way to avoid the sun when you’re gonna be outside for 8+ hours on a hot day. I wasn’t happy with the weather, to say the least, but more so than I have for any marathon, I accepted it for what it was and told myself to adjust my goals as necessary when the time came, keeping in mind that Goal #1 was to get back to Hot Springs without having to hitch a ride.

The Lean Horse course (hey, that rhymes) is an out and back, starting behind the Mueller Civic Center in Hot Springs, following some city streets and the bike path for a few miles out of town to Argyle Road and then about 13 miles of Argyle Road northwest to the Mickelson Trail. From there it’s 9 miles out on the Mickelson for the 50 milers before turning around and repeating the whole damn thing backwards. The race is advertised as “one of the easiest ultras in the country”. Now, using “easy” and “ultra” in the same sentence is somewhat of an oxymoron, but relatively speaking, this claim is probably true. This isn’t like Hardrock or Leadville or Western States with massive climbs, single track trails and the distinct possibility of getting lost. The 50 mile course climbs just over 2000 feet on the way out before heading back down those 2000 feet on the way back. Of course, the overall elevation gain is much higher as the course rolls up and down. The toughest section is the 26 total miles of Argyle Road, which is an almost constantly rolling gravel route. The Mickelson is much more gradual, with no grades exceeding 3%. During my training long runs, I had been utilizing a run/walk strategy, mostly 20 minutes running followed by 4 minutes of walking. I knew this would be difficult to adhere to on Argyle Rd., so I decided that for the first 16 miles (until I got to the Mickelson) I would just walk the ups and run the flats and downs. Upon reaching the Mickelson, I would switch to the 20:4 run/walk. Ah, the best laid plans.

I actually slept fairly well Friday night but probably woke up earlier than necessary. I ended up taking a shower, getting dressed, eating a bagel and then sitting on the bed and nearly falling back asleep while watching SportsCenter and waiting for it to be time for the morning check-in. At around 5:30, I headed over to the civic center and checked in then sat and chatted with a few other Black Hills area runners who were running the 100.

As far as fueling goes, I was wearing my Amphipod belt, which holds two, 22-oz. bottles and has a mini-pack in between them which I had stuffed with Clif Bloks, Hammer Gels and Clif Bars. I was also carrying a little baggy of S-caps, which I planned on taking every 45 minutes to an hour. One of my bottles was filled with Gatorade and the other with water. The plan was to consume all 44 oz. of liquid between each aid station, eat either a gel, Clif Bar or blok packet every 45 minutes to an hour and supplement with food from the aid stations.

At 5:55, we were evicted from the friendly confines of the civic center and lined up outside. Promptly at 6:00, we were off like a herd of turtles.

Start to Morph
Okay, my intent here is to break the race down into sections between aid stations, but I’m skipping one aid station here because I skipped it in the race. The first aid station is actually Coldbrook, about 4 miles from the start. Since it was a cool morning and I wasn’t yet in need of more fluid, I breezed by on my merry way.

Immediately after starting I fell into a very easy pace, about 9:00 miles and thanks to the flat terrain for the first few miles, ran most of the way until the first significant hill just outside of town. After cresting that hill and dropping down the other side, we went past the aforementioned Coldbrook aid station, across a grassy meadow and onto the Argyle Rd. This is where the hills really start and there was a lot of power hiking the ups and running the downs going on. I was popping S-caps and gel/bloks on cue and made it to the Morph aid station, 10.1 miles into the race, with just a little bit of liquid left in my bottles. So far, so good. I refilled at Morph and was quickly on my way.

Morph to Argyle Loop
More rolling hills and more hiking/running. Nothing much really to report about this section. After starting out fairly close to the front of the pack, I got passed by several people through here, which was slightly discouraging, but I kept on telling myself to run my own race and let the cards fall where they may. After a couple of ups and downs, we reached the end of Argyle road at Argyle Loop, 16.6 miles out. Again, my bottles were just empty, so I refilled them and headed out with little dilly-dallying. On to the Mickelson…

Argyle Loop to Lime Kiln
Now that I was on the Mickelson and the course was much more runnable, I switched to my 20:4 strategy. This went very well and I started to catch up to and pass some of the people who had passed me on Argyle Rd. At some point, I glanced at my Garmin and saw that 3 hours had passed. Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess, because I had no clue that I had already been running for that long. Funny how your concept of time changes when you know you’re going to be running for a long time. I’ve had 3 hour training runs that seemed like they lasted for 9 hours, but the first 3 hours of Lean Horse flew by in the blink of an eye.

This section was much more shaded overall than Argyle Rd., which made things more comfortable as it was starting to get warm out. Also, after two 6 mile sections between aid stations, this next leg was only 3.5 miles, so I arrived at Lime Kiln with quite a bit of fluid left. Upon pulling into Lime Kiln, I heard someone call out my name and looked up to see that one of the volunteers was a lady, and fellow Forest Service employee, I had met at Bighorn back in June. Even though I had quite a bit of fluid left, I topped my bottles off before heading out. Just one more aid station before the turnaround.

Lime Kiln to Pringle
More running and walking at the appropriate intervals and before I knew it the trail was descending into the hamlet (okay, more like a defunct logging town) of Pringle at mile 24. I blew by Pringle on my way out, knowing that I would be back in a couple of miles. I first started to feel the heat of the day on the stretch between Pringle and the turnaround. The sun was out in full force and the slight breeze was at my back. Also, the stretch of trail before the turnaround was straight as an arrow and I could see the little sign marking the 25 mile point from what seemed like 20 miles away….I didn’t think I was ever going to get there. Finally, I did and when I turned back the other direction and got that slight breeze in my face, it felt heavenly.

I stopped at Pringle on my way back and refilled my bottles. I may have eaten something too, but I really can’t remember. Pringle was also a drop bag location, so I grabbed my bag and sprayed on some more sunscreen (I had applied one layer before the race started). I debated about changing my shirt and shoes, but decided it could wait until the next (and last) drop bag station at Argyle Loop.

Pringle to Lime Kiln
This is where things began to deteriorate for me. Despite taking S-caps at regular intervals and staying as hydrated as possible under the conditions, I could feel the beginnings of cramps lingering in my calves. I decided to switch to a 15:3 run/walk ratio and then a 4:1 to give my legs more frequent breaks. This carried me into Lime Kiln in still decent shape, but concerned about my twinging calves. I made sure to eat a banana while my bottles were being filled and headed out toward Argyle Loop wondering what the next section would hold.

Lime Kiln to Argyle Loop

And this is where it went to hell. Just after Lime Kiln, as I was in the midst of one of my 4 minute run segments, my right calf seized. It wasn’t really a cramp and didn’t really hurt at all, but the entire muscle totally locked up, making it difficult to even straighten my leg properly, much less run. Hell, I could barely walk, but after a few awkward steps, the calf finally released and I walked on. I continued walking for a couple of minutes and the decided to see if I could maybe run again. Big negative on that one. This time, not only did my right calf seize, but my left calf joined the party and my quads threatened to cramp up too. Awesome. Here I am, 20 miles from the finish and I can barely walk, much less run. And, even if I could easily walk, the though of walking in the last 20 didn’t seem all that exciting right now. As this was all occurring, I was on a long uphill grade, about the steepest you’ll find on the Mickelson (which isn’t very steep), so I decided to just walk that entire uphill, knowing there was a slight downhill leading into Argyle Loop. After a long walk break, my legs calmed down a little and I was able to resume a very slow run into the aid station, 34 miles and just over 7 hours into the day.

At the aid station, I again ate a banana, got my bottles refilled and decided to change my shoes just to see if that would help and also threw on a sleeveless shirt since it was pretty hot out by then.

Argyle Loop to Morph
This is a long section. After the last several aid stations had come 3-4 miles apart, this was a 6 mile stretch in the heat of the day and I was moving slower than I had been the first time I’d come through. I told myself that I needed to hydrate, but that I also needed to ration it a little. I was very glad at this point that I had two bottles with me and honestly don’t know how the people carrying only one made it (I’m sure some of them didn’t).

I was able to jog the first big downhill right after the Argyle Loop station fairly well, which gave me confidence that I might actually be able to cover this last 16 miles at a decent pace. It didn’t seem likely that I’d be able to do it in 2 hours, which was what I needed to break 9 hours, but I thought I’d give it a shot. Well, my calves had other plans. I was most definitely walking the uphills at this point, but even on the downhills I often couldn’t run for more than 20 yards or so before one or both calves would seize up in mid-stride. I would reach a long flat or downhill section and try to pick out a point to run to before walking again and would invariably be forced to walk before reaching that point. Frustrating, to say the least. But, at this point I knew I was going to finish, it was just a matter of how long it was going to take. Dropping never crossed my mind. Like I said, the cramps weren’t really painful at all, just horribly inconvenient. So, I powered on walking the uphills and walk/shuffling the downhills until I hit Morph, the second to last aid station. There, I again tried a banana, not really expecting a miracle at this point and again refilled my bottles. I drank some Mountain Dew too, hoping for some sort of sugar and caffeine induced boost.

Morph to Coldbrook
Another long section of over 6 miles in an even hotter part of the day with legs that are even more pissed off now than they were before the last section started. I did discover on this section that if I ran very, very slowly, really just a shuffle, I could maintain it for longer before the seizing of the calves set in. As a result, I was able to lay down some sub-12 minute miles, which is almost unattainably slow for me under normal circumstances but seemed blazing fast at the moment. The calf seizing still hit every once in awhile, but I was learning through trial and error how to deal with it. Just before turning off of Argyle Rd. there’s a long, fairly steep downhill that ends at the 45 mile point. I was able to “run” most of this and was finally, blissfully, done with the hilliest section of the course.

After Argyle, it’s back on the grassy two-track road across a meadow, which was almost suffocatingly hot by that time of day, for 8/10 of a mile before reaching the Coldbrook aid station. I had blown by this one on the way out, but I certainly wasn’t passing it up this time. I stopped, got some more fluid and ice in my bottles (by the way, nothing is more devine than ice cold liquid after running 40 miles on a hot day) and grabbed a chocolate chip cookie for the road.

Coldbrook to the Finish
Immediately after Coldbrook, there’s one more pretty serious uphill, which I walked casually while eating my cookie. I caught a couple of 50Kers on this hill (they had started 2 hours later) and chatted with one for a bit before passing. Upon cresting the hill, I was hoping to resume shuffling, but found that the steepness of the climb had infuriated my quads, which cramped immediately upon reaching the apex. The lady I had been chatting with passed me as I tried to rub out my quads. After achieving a little relief, I again started walking, and then walking quickly and then shuffling down the hill. Upon reaching the bottom, we were on the outskirts of Hot Springs and about 2.5 miles from the finish.

One thing I haven’t really mentioned was my overall position in the 50 mile field. I knew from counting blue bibs (the 100 milers had white, the 50Kers orange) as I neared the turnaround that I had been in 8th at the halfway point. I had passed a couple of people in the second half, but hadn’t seen a single 50 miler since just after Argyle Loop on the way back. I figured I was probably fairly secure in 6th place. Well, I was wrong. Within a half a mile after reaching Hot Springs, I got passed by two guys with blue bibs. I wanted very badly to run with them and defend my position but I simply couldn’t. I mean, I felt like I could run and run fairly quickly but my calves just would not let me. Believe me, I tried after the first guy passed me and within 10 yards my calves seized up and I watched him run away from me. My legs weren’t necessarily tired, they just weren’t functioning correctly. Well, not much to do about it but soldier on…

On the way out that morning, I had made a point of marking where the one mile point was. Turns out, it’s along the bike path just where it passes a little waterfall. As I neared this point on the return trek, I noticed that I had about 12 minutes left to cover the last mile and break 9:30. I knew that if I could maintain my shuffle for a mile, that was doable, maybe even with some walking thrown in. Well, that wasn’t to be the case. As soon as I passed the waterfall and started the shuffle, my legs protested defiantly and I knew that it just wasn’t going to happen. And, besides, did it really matter at this point? I knew I was going to finish and that’s all I really cared about at the moment. So, I continued my walk/shuffle and finally saw the greatest sight I have ever seen (at least at the moment): the Dairy Queen. I like Dairy Queen and go there often, but that’s beside the point. The Hot Springs Dairy Queen is special in its own right, because it’s right next to the Best Western, which is right next to the Mueller Civic Center, which is were I could finally cease this endeavor. My legs, calves in particular, were not happy at this point. I told myself I would walk until the DQ then run the rest of the way in (maybe 50 yards or so). When I reached the DQ, I stopped to stretch my calves one last time before the final “sprint”. As I was doing this, I glanced back the way I had come and saw a lady with a blue bib coming. Crap! I did NOT want to get passed again with the finish line in sight, so I ceased my stretching and took off at a run the best I could. My calves weren’t happy about this gesture, but I didn’t care anymore. With both of them on the point of all out revolt, I “surged” under the finish banner and was done, 9 hours, 32 minutes and 18 seconds after I had begun.

Final Time: 9:32:18
Overall Place: 8th (there were 75 registered, not sure how many started or finished)
AG Place: 2nd

So, yeah, wow. Did I run it as fast as I think I could? No. Am I happy with it? Yes. Will I do it again? Probably (ask me in a week or two). But I would very much like to know what it is that caused my rampant calf cramping. I’ve never experienced anything like that during a race or a long training run. I thought I was taking in plenty of salt and electrolytes, but maybe not enough for as hot as it was? I don’t know.

I also don’t know where I go from here. For the first time since I started training for my first marathon 5 years ago, I do not have a training schedule hanging on my refrigerator. I’m definitely going to resume running when I’m able (my legs feel alright overall, although my calves are mighty sore from all that extracurricular work they put in), but I don’t have a big goal race right now. That’ll take some thought. A faster (sub-3) marathon or more ultras? I don’t know right now and really am not in a huge hurry to figure it out. For now, I’ll just enjoy the freedom to run how far I want when I want.

Okay, so it didn’t take me 9.5 hours to write this. Yeah, it’s long, but not THAT long. It was one helluva ride for sure, thanks for coming along!

Monday, August 17, 2009

An interesting week

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I spent this past week back in my hometown of Chester, MT, where I was born and spent the first 18 years of my life. Things have certainly changed since those days. Back then, running was punishment that was inflicted during football practice and nothing more. I hated it. If you woulda told me then that I would someday run a 50 miler, or even a 5K, I would have slapped you upside the head and called you crazy. In any case, the real goal in going back to Chester was to help reduce my mom's stress level as she goes through a divorce. That involves defraying some of the stress onto myself. Fortunately, I have a good outlet for it now: running.

Monday - Rest. Arrive back in Chester. It's been 3 years since I've been there. Not much has changed.

Tuesday - 7 miles. I ran a loop outside of town, stopping by the city cemetery along the way to visit my grandparents' graves. Kind of a weird, morbid thing to include in a run, but whatever. It was interesting that with very little preplanning, my loop ended up at exactly 7 miles.

Wednesday - 5 miles. Ran around town one and a half times or so. Chester is small. It doesn't take many miles to make it all the way around the city limits.

Thursday - 8.2 miles. The first 3.5 or so were pretty much all uphill. I had forgotten the rolling nature of the terrain around Chester. I tacked on a loop on the way back that took me past the high school, the practice football field and the game field (yes, despite it's small size, Chester has two football fields) where I used to despise running so much.

Friday - Rest. This would turn out to be a much more interesting day than I really needed. I had planned on driving back to South Dakota and set out to do just that with my mom in tow (she's staying with us for a little while until everything gets sorted out and stabilized back in Montana). On Thursday evening, I had noticed my truck was running hot and leaking coolant. I took it to one of the two repair shops in town and the mechanic diagnosed it as a bad water pump which he could start working on immediately. By 11:00 on Friday morning, I had the truck back and we were ready to set out. About 100 miles down the road, in the middle of nowhere, the transmission suddenly went out. I was able to shift into the gear positions, but the gears just weren't there when I released the clutch. Of course, this happened in a spot without cell coverage. Before too long someone stopped and offered to give us a ride into Stanford, about 20 miles away. Once we got up a hill, I got coverage again and called a tow truck through 411. The nice guy who had picked us up then took us back to my truck where we waited an hour or so for the tow truck to arrive. Once he showed up, he began making calls to local mechanics who might be able to look at it. Problem is, none of them actually could look at it. Eventually, he found a light duty mechanic at the local tire shop who was willing to take a glance. He did and basically told me what I already knew: something was seriously wrong with the transmission and it would be expensive to fix (the words "cash for clunkers" were mentioned). So, now it was decision time. What to do with my truck and what to do to get us out of Stanford? I knew I had to get back to South Dakota before Sunday because Shannon was running her first full marathon. I also knew that I didn't really want to put a coupla grand into a truck that wasn't worth that much. My first bright idea was to call my aunt and uncle back in Chester, have them ferry my mom's car down to us and then we would continue our journey in it. Only problem was, we had both sets of keys to said car. Son of a.... So, Plan B: have my uncle come pick us up and take us back to Chester and start the trip all over again in the morning with my mom's car. This is what we went with. Our only other choice was to stay in Stanford and wait til Monday to try and get my truck fixed. As for the truck, it remains at the tow truck driver's yard, waiting to be scrapped for parts. Good riddance. So, 9 hours after we left Chester (approximately the same amount of time it takes to drive from Chester to Belle Fourche) we ended up right back in Chester. Son of a....

Saturday - Rest. I had planned on running 1.5 hours, but after the previous day's events, I just wanted to hit the road and put this adventure behind me. We struck out for Belle at 6 AM and made the journey problem free in my mom's good ole '96 Taurus in about 8.5 hours (and much better gas mileage than my old clunker truck....good riddance).

Sunday - 11 miles. After watching Shannon officially become a marathoner (5:06:13 at Leading Ladies, congrats beautiful!!) and going out for lunch, I took off for an afternoon run. Afternoon runs are always kind of iffy for me. For whatever reason, my stomach does not process lunch as well as it does breakfast. I can go for a mid-morning run after eating breakfast with no problems, but my stomach always complains during a post-lunch run. Today was no different. I felt generally horrible the first 3.5 miles and actually turned around and started heading for home at one point. Then, I decided to stop being a weeny and turned back around to continue my loop. I'm glad I did, because the further I went the better I felt and I finished much stronger than I started.

Total - 31.2 miles

A little more of a taper than I intended, but not much to do about it now. Lean Horse is only 6 days away, so I keep telling myself that less is more at this point. Six days....amazing how something so massive can sneak up on you.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Silence is Bliss

Well, I survived. Nine nights in the trenches of the 69th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Classic (otherwise known as "the rally"). We were busy as hell parking cars and bikes at the Buffalo Chip on Monday (Toby Keith) and Wednesday (Aerosmith) and pretty slow the other days, although Hinder and Buckcherry on Thursday and Friday brought in a decent number. As many know from the national news, it wasn't the smoothest of sailing at the Chip this year. Seven songs into Aerosmith's set, Steven Tyler took a nose dive off the stage and ended up with a few stitches and a broken shoulder. I wasn't there and after I heard what had happened, I was glad I wasn't....120,000 plus mad rally-goers isn't exactly my idea of a good situation. Tyler wasn't the only lead singer to suffer this year. Josh Todd of Buckcherry tried to get through their set despite bronchitis, but called it quits about a half hour in. I wasn't there for that either (I just saw Buckcherry back in February). To add to that excitement, it was a stormy week weather-wise. The big one hit the Chip on Friday nightat about 6:00. I carpooled there all week with two other guys from Belle and that had been my night to drive, so I had the family Durango there. The storm rolled in and started dropping golf ball plus sized hail and lots of it. We took shelter in the Durango and couldn't hear ourselves think. After about 10 minutes of solid pounding, it finally turned to rain and then stopped as suddenly as it had started. We got out to survey the damage and found the poor Durango had taken some abuse. Lots of little dents, a few big ones and a broken tail light. Luckily, we still have full coverage on it. Others weren't so lucky as we saw a lot of cars with busted out windows that night. In any case, the rally is over for another year, the bikes are gone and along with them the constant roar of V-twins (and the occasional roar of thunder and hail). Aw, silence....

Anyhow, as for running, I had some weather issues there too, but ended up with a decent week overall:

Monday - Rest

Tuesday - 9 miles. Legs felt heavy, especially the last 3 miles. As a bonus, I did get whistled at by a biker chick (at least I hope it was the chick and not the dude that was with her).

Wednesday - 6.1 slow recovery miles.

Thursday - 8.9 miles. This was like running in a damn sauna. Thunderstorms had rolled through early in the morning and by the time I ran at lunchtime, the sun was out and the humidity was hovering at around 95%. Every inch of my clothing was soaked with sweat by the time I got done, but my pace was actually fairly good for an easy run.

Friday - 4 miles. Another humid one.

Saturday - 19.4 miles. Shannon ran a 10K in Custer in the morning and as soon as she finished I took off on the Mickelson Trail and headed for Hill City. The goal was to run for 3 hours, so I had to tack a few on after Hill City since it's only 15.5 miles on the trail. I ended up back at our pre-designated meeting spot approximately 15 seconds before Shannon rolled in with the car to pick me up.

Sunday - 10.3 miles. This was supposed to be longer (2 hours) but Mother Nature intervened. As soon as I walked outside to start the run, I noticed a large thunderstorm to the south over Spearfish (12 miles away). I figured it would act like a thunderstorm usually does around here and move off to either the east or southeast, away from Belle. I started getting sprinkled on about 5 miles into my run as I was watching large lightning bolts hit the Spearfish area, but still thought I was in the clear. About 7.5 miles in, I realized that the storm was heading right for Belle. At that moment, I was running along the highway to the southeast of town, totally exposed. Not good. I hightailed it back into town and by that time it was pouring rain. I ended up back at the house after an hour and twenty-four minutes of running and totally soaked to the bone, but thankfully not electrified.

Total - 57.7 miles

Not quite as many miles as planned, but it's taper, so I'm not too worried about 3 or 4 missed miles. Lean Horse is only two weeks away now. Better safe than sorry.

This week I'm heading back to my hometown of Chester, MT to help my mom out as she's going through a tough time (to put it simply). I'm looking forward to exploring some running routes around there. Although I lived in Chester for 18+ years of my life, I have done very, very little running there since I absolutely despised running back then. Anyone who knew me back then will probably think I'm totally off my rocker now when they hear that I'm running a 50 miler soon. Should be interesting...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rally Time

The annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has descended upon the Black Hills. There are literally bikes everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of them in an area that typically holds far, far fewer people than that. It's interesting, to say the least. This year, I decided to take advantage of the semi-controlled chaos and took a job at the Buffalo Chip campground parking cars for the concerts. So far, it's been pretty slow, but with Toby Keith and Aerosmith on tap this week, things will get exponentially more exciting.

In any case, this past week was also my peak training week leading up to Lean Horse and it turned out quite well:

Monday - Rest. Played basketball at lunchtime.

Tuesday - 8.9 mile progression run. The first mile was about 8:40 and they got faster from there. The eighth was 6:35 and I felt every second of that one. It was one of those workouts that leaves you feeling a little wobbly at the end, in a good way.

Wednesday - 5 miles. Basketball again.

Thursday - 9 miles with 6 strides.

Friday - Rest.

Saturday - 31.1 miles in 5 hours even. I used the 20:4 run/walk ratio again and it worked very well this time. My running pace toward the end was actually slightly faster than at the beginning. About 1.5 hours in, I got into a groove and cruised from there.

Sunday - 23.7 miles in just under 4 hours. I knew going in that this run wasn't going to feel as good as Saturday's and it didn't. My legs were tired and my running pace was slower, but not horribly so. It was actually more of a chore mentally than physically. It was much warmer and windier than the day before, I never got into that magical groove and I was basically just in a pissy mood for most of the run. But, that was the point of this one....I know I'm going to go through periods like that during Lean Horse. Running ultras isn't all peaches and cream, after all.

Total - 77.7 miles

Lean Horse is just three weeks away now, so it's time to start tapering. This weekend's long runs will probably both be in the 3 hour range and then next weekend's will be more like 1.5 hours. I know now that I can cover 54.8 miles in 9 hours (granted, with an 18 hour break in the middle). The question is, how fast can I cover 50 miles in one stretch? Really, my main goal for Lean Horse is just to finish, but I would like to finish in less than 8.5 hours. We shall see....