Motivations and a little about why I run

I plan to dive a little deeper into pieces of this posting in the future, but for now here is a brief piece about why I do what I do.

Every once in a while I get asked why I run or more often than not, why I run so much, often quantified as excessively or obsessively. Some people are downright condescending while others just want to know. I have put a lot of thought into why I run as much as I do especially since I have started running longer distances, and over the last several weeks have come up with this:

I run to feel free. I run for balance and enlightenment. I run long to release the demons within and move forward with my life. I am an ultra runner because it allows me to face the black dog and move forward. I run to be free. I run to understand who I really am. I’m not an elite athlete; I am not a regional superstar and I am not training for greatness. I don’t race to place; I race to beat my last effort.

Really, the above is a bunch of statements that could mostly stand on their own as a reason why someone runs. In stringing them all together I started to really figure out why I do what I do. Maybe it only makes sense to me and maybe that is the way it should be.

Freedom was pretty easy to find through running, from my first mile to whatever I am running today I find freedom from running. It is me and the road or trail. Balance and enlightenment I may eventually find someday through running.

The black dog I refer to isn’t black dog of European lore but more a superimposition of my depression. If I run long enough, I seem to think through everything in my head and upon reaching the void there he stands, larger than life to confront me. The longer I continue on after finding my black dog the better I feel after the event. Being able to overtake my black dog one day will probably by my best personal triumph. This is my prime motivator.

Enough about dogs though, my final statement rubs many runners the wrong way. I don’t race to place; I race to beat my last effort. Many people take this to mean that I am not a competitive person. Many think you are wasting your time going out for anything less than first place. That is great if it gets you out of bed and running every day. Not saying I haven’t placed before because I have, I am just saying that using winning as a motivator to run better doesn’t help make me a better runner.

The only outside motivator that usually gets under my skin enough to make me change my ways is to tell me I will fail. Failure isn’t an option, so telling me I will fail at anything tends to push me over the edge. Once challenged, I have a relentless drive to succeed at any cost. One of these days, I may get past this character flaw as I prefer not to embody negativity to drive success.

The only thing I find more derogatory than failure is quitting.

Remember, run happy, train smart and don’t listen to the voices inside your head that tell you what you can’t do!

End of September Update

September was a good month. I ended up breaking through my 100 km goal at Hinson by around 15 miles. I ran 259.7 miles during the month of September bringing my 2013 total up to 1576.5 miles. I think I only have 1 race for October, the Medoc 10 Miler. October mileage is lower than any of the previous three months as I am starting another build to being 100 mile run ready around March or April.

I have my first marathon coming up in November. Not worried about the distance but I do need to worry about speed. Lots of speed work in those shorter workouts, probably starting next week.

Remember, run happy, train smart and don’t listen to the voices inside your head that tell you what you can’t do!

And I just posted this while out for a run 

Hinson Lake 24 Hour Ultra

So this past weekend I participated in the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Ultra. It was such a great experience. The course is a 1.52 mile loop around Hinson Lake, the trail surface is maintained clay. There are some sandy spots that will slow you down but overall, an enjoyably runnable course which is good since you are continually running the same trail as many times as you can during the 24 hour period.

This was Kami and Gavin’s first time going to a race longer than a half marathon. I think they had a good time all things considered.

We got to the lake around 5:00 pm Friday evening. We took pretty much the only spot left to put up a canopy on the dam and set up my base camp for the weekend. Piles of food and running gear followed. We hung around on the dam for a bit. Ray The-K commented on Gavin’s skeleton hoodie. I was running numbers through my head, 100km (62 mi) is 41 laps. That meant I needed to do at least a lap and a half an hour. The ugly 100 mile notion kept trying to break through, “you only need to go a little more than 4 mph to get there” bouncing around my head. We ate at the prerace pasta dinner, hung around a little more and went to the car to sleep. Now that was a bad idea. We had a snoring elephant tossing and turning in the back seat. He managed to get more sleep than me. Then again, what is an ultra if you can’t experience it on little sleep?

Finally got out of the car around 6:30 or so. I ate a few mini bagels and some pop tarts changed into my running gear and wandered around aimlessly for another hour. Met up with some friends, talked goals and paces and the normal running related stuff. Got to the start area and heard about half of the announcements. 8:00 am, we were set free to run the trail. I started off at a 10 minute per mile pace which I should have known better than to try and sustain. But I did that for a little over 2 hours before dropping off to a more sensible 15 minute per mile pace. My plan had been to start off at 12:30 or 13 min/mile – big difference over the long haul. Kami made sure to make me eat and drink when I stopped by after each lap.

Somewhere around mile 15 or so, I tripped over a root. There are so few roots on that trail that I don’t know how I did it, but I did. My left shoulder absorbed the brunt to the fall. Slightly winded and barely bleeding I got back up and started running again. It wouldn’t be a trail race without a little blood, would it? That warranted a long break I thought. Antiseptic, Advil, food and water. I think this was around the point that Gavin went out to run a lap with me.

Lunch was pizza from Dominoes. Who would have thought that Dominoes pizza tasted so good? Kami walked my “pizza lap” with me. Gavin did a few more laps with me and started to get bored so I sent him to the aid station to help. He poured drinks for hours. Who said Mountain Dew, Coke and Ginger Ale aren’t running beverages?

Speaking of the aid station, they had damn near everything you could want- M&M’s, skittles, gummy bears, Twizzlers, Cheese-its, nuts, grilled cheese, PB&J sandwiches, soups, burgers, boiled potatoes and salt (my favorite for some reason), cake, cupcakes, and probably more that I can’t remember. I probably consumed somewhere around 10,000 calories or more.

Major splits (ultra distances, times approximate) 50km 7 hours, 20 something minutes (my slowest ever 50k), 50 miles 11 hours 30ish minutes (new PR at that distance though only the second time I have run that far), 100km was somewhere around 15 or 16 hours.

What started out as slow run laps became slower run/ walk laps before finally falling back on quick walk laps. No what ifs this time, I am happy with the outcome as I have never covered that much ground at once.

I ended up napping after 1:00 am for 20 minutes, did a couple of laps and took another 20 minute nap. Did 2 or 3 more laps, fell apart and slept for a little over 2 hours and started back walking as quickly as I could to rack up more laps. The long nap had a negative effect and I couldn’t get back up to a decent jog (I was actually walking faster). All told, I moved a little more than 77 miles. I guess with a little more work, I may be ready for a 100 miler in the near future.

Kami and Gavin were a great help, between the two of them they covered 11 laps with me. Kami ended up walking 7 laps, several after dark with her evil wings. They had EL wire attached to them so they stood out with a little glow overnight.

Next race on the calendar is the Medoc 10 miler on October, not sure why I didn’t sign up for the Medoc trail marathon. Then I’m off to the Crooked Road 24 Hour in November (still around 40 spots available if anyone wants to try a 24 hour event.)

You never know what you can do until you try so get out there!

Medoc Meltdown 50k and Fun Run (Fat Ass)

This is my first time at Medoc Meltdown though I have ran the trails at Medoc before. Medoc Meltdown takes place at Medoc Mountain State Park. I think Medoc “Mountain” is more a hill but that is an argument for another day. The 50k is comprised of 4 8.6ish mile laps on mostly singletrack and jeep trail. For singletrack, it is mostly clear of roots and rocks. Key word, MOSTLY.

Meltdown was my second Ultramarathon and I still have a lot to learn. Most of what worked for me food wise at Boogie did not work for me at the Meltdown. I forgot some of my alternate food choices at home (as well as my extra water) but had remembered the stuff that worked best last time, namely peanut butter sandwiches, Twizzlers and Mountain Dew.

The race started around 7:25 and lap 1 was decent and uneventful. 8.6 miles took right at 1:30 minutes. I didn’t even see any cool wildlife, probably because I was about 1:30 or so per mile faster than my pace plan. That brings me to the first lesson, stick to your pace plan no matter how great you feel. In my quick refuel between laps, I ate a little of everything I brought. Back out across the field and into the woods, I was still feeling pretty good. Mile one of each lap is a net downhill while mile 2 holds the longest hill climb with a gain of 170ish feet.

This was where things started to take a turn for me. All that crap I ate at the aid station was getting to me. This was a new situation since I haven’t had this problem before. Drinking some water, I kept moving forward and within a mile or so, I was back to running bringing me to lesson 2, if it’s too good to be true, don’t do it. After running for a half mile or so, the stomach pain started. It wasn’t like empty stomach grumbling but more like Medoc Man punched me in the stomach. I continued on this walk feel better, run feel worse thing until I was able to get back to the aid station at around 5.5 miles into the lap (figure 8 courses are great). I took on some electrolytes and felt like I could take on the world. Back out for the last 3ish mile portion of lap 2. Had my first wildlife delay of the day as a copperhead was crossing the trail. I snapped a crappy picture with my phone and stopped a couple of runners while waiting on it to cross the trail. After the delay, lap 2 was finished in right at 2 hours. A longer (30 minute) stay at the aid station, complete with a shirt change, and sock and she change. Pretty much out of water, I filled up with well water from the tap at the aid station.

Lap 3 was pretty much a recap of lap 2, but no wildlife delays. The well water didn’t sit very well on my already pissed stomach. Lesson 3, DO NOT FORGET WATER. Somewhere around mile 5 I had enough of the stomach problems. I said to hell with it, finished the lap and tapped out. Total moving time was around 5 hours and 15 minutes, so I managed to average out to 12 minute miles. Best of all, I learned more about how my bod reacts to a kinda longish run through the woods. All in all, not too bad for an August Saturday Morning.

End of July Update

I ran 202.1 miles during the month of July bringing my 2013 total up to 1021.7 miles. August is my last full month before the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Ultra Classic so I have an aggressive schedule ahead with around 283 miles planned. Concentrating on an 11:45 – 12:15 average pace this month for the long runs since that is where I want to be at for Hinson.

On to other news, after my weight loss stalled out for the last 8 months or so, I netted a loss of 6.5 pounds in July. That brings my weight down to 179.5 and my total weight loss to 65.6 pounds since June 2011. I still can stand to lose another 15 or 20 pounds and plan to push on until I get down to the low 160 pound range.

This weekend instead of running progressively longer runs like I normally do, I am participating in the Medoc Meltdown 50k (they use the term 50k a bit loosely, as the run is really closer to 35 miles. 35 miles of trails sounds like a pretty fun day to me. Twizlers and soda and junk food oh my… I may even write up a race report.

And remember, run happy, train smart and don’t listen to the voices inside your head that tell you what you can’t do!

Long Run Blunders

My scheduled run for today was a 24 mile run. I chose an out and back on the Neuse River Greenway. The section I chose wasn’t too bad, mostly flat with a few rollers.

I woke up on time, had a cup of coffee but didn’t really feel like eating anything. I had a second cup of coffee and quickly grabbed my gear for the day, not checking that I had everything I thought I did. I filled up my 2 liter Nathan hydration back with water and reminded myself that I preferred my (broken) CamelBak Lobo. The CamelBak just rides better in my opinion. Garmin on, bag in hand, off we go. 0 calories consumed.

On the ride out, I start considering my pace plan for the run and halfheartedly go with 9:30-10:00/mi. Oh wait, kick ass song on the radio so I turn it up and forget what I was thinking about.

Arrived at the trailhead, I unlock my Garmin and impatiently wait for it to find a satellite. Stomach reminds me I didn’t eat, so I open up some Sport Beans and eat them while waiting for my now infuriatingly slow Garmin to do its thing. Finally, 5 minutes (or 30 seconds) later, beep. I hit start and off we go.

Mile 1 starts off like they normally do with a little argument between my brain and legs. Everything eventually clicks after a few minutes and I look at my pace. 8:10/mi. I remind myself to slow down and miles 1-6 are mostly uneventful, and my pace averages out to around 9:45/mi. My stomach lets me know that the snack wasn’t enough so I dig through my bag to see what else I had. Another pack of Sports Beans, a pack of Clif Bloks and 1 Gu. Not much, but it is what I have. I open up the Bloks (Mountain Berry flavor) and kick them back.

Somewhere early in mile 7, I start feeling my IT band tighten up a bit. Ignoring it, I move on. Mile 8 it really starts to bother me, so I stop to stretch it out a bit. I get going again and its just nagging me to stop. I stop and stretch it again, and decide to walk a half mile on it. That just made me more aware of it so I turned back just past 9 miles out. I tried jogging a bit and then decided that a jog/walk would likely get me back to the car. I downed the GU just before mile 10 since I probably needed electrolytes. Miles 9-18.2 my pace averages to 13:20/mi.

Here is what I should have done differently. Eat real food before I left the house, 200-300 calories with at least some protein and fat to keep me from being immediately hungry. Made sure that I had at least 900 -1000 calories (I only had 500 on hand) to eat on the run. Stretch while waiting for my Garmin to boot (and maybe even a few minutes longer than that.) Stop ignoring my body when it is trying to tell me something. As many times as I say many of these things, I keep doing them.

Time to go use my foam roller to try to get the IT band happy again.

Train smart and run happy!

Mizuno Wave Rider Break-in Run

I picked up some new shoes earlier this week as it was past time to rotate in a new pair. I have been running in mostly Brooks Ghost 5 this year but have been feeling like I need a change as they are feeling less responsive than what I would like. I tried a couple of different shoes and decided to go with the Mizuno Wave Rider 16. For whatever reason, this shoe felt perfect during the sidewalk jog test.

I took these out for the first run this morning. 12 miles on new shoes, but it is either that or wait until Tuesday for my next shorter run. They started out feeling good and ended feeling pretty good too. The upper offers a good bit more flexibility when compared to the Ghost 5. The Mizuno upper is less structured which probably leads to the greater sense of flexibility. The midsole of the Mizuno is firmer and felt more responsive than what I had been accustomed to, so for the most part I think I found what I was looking for.

The run today was a fartlek (Swedish for speed play) on the Upper Neuse Greenway starting from the dam. Pacing varied 7:10/mi to 10:30/mi. My Garmin wasn’t happy with the cloud cover today so it took a little over 3 miles before it was actually tracking right even though it acquired satellite signals before the start. Temp was OK and the humidity wasn’t too bad either.