Monday, September 1, 2014

Taper Tantrum

All athletes know the week before their event is a tough week both physically and mentally.  

Physically, we have done the training and know we need to rest mix in  some "light training" and get to the start line healthy.  
Mentally, we work on scenarios.  The start, the perfect race, the worst case scenarios and how it will look and feel at the finish.
As you have shared this season with me, you know it has NOT been the season I had planned. Kettle was a perfect storm of what goes wrong and nagging injuries have severely hampered my training this Summer.  But the last three weeks I have chosen to stay away from running and focus on cross-training.  My time has been spent on the bike and in the pool giving my leg strains and nags time off of the hard pounding of running.  So I am heading to Hallucination 100 this weekend in Pinckney, Michigan with my crew member, Jeffrey Kamai (thanks Karrie). The quest for Badwater continues and I need to have an 100 mile finish on my resume to apply. Combined my "lack" of training and lessons from Kettle, this season has put me in a different mindset for Hallucination.  
Here are a list of thoughts that I have going into the race.
1.  I just want to finish under the 30 hour time limit.  I am NOT going to "race" this race.  Slow and steady here because a finish allows me to apply to Badwater next year.
2.  Having Jeffrey there as my crew is a HUGE difference.  Jeffrey knows how to treat me, what to expect, how to work around my emotions and respond to my needs.  It will be a great boost knowing someone will be there for me at the end of each 16.6 mile loop.  Plus, he is driving there and back!
3.  My nutrition and hydration have been dialed in the past year.  I understand how my body works much more this year and what it needs to operate under a variety of conditions.  
4.  The weekend revolves around a party type atmosphere.  It is Woodstock meets Ultra running.  This will be my first time at this race but I already have good vibes.
As Jeffrey and Heather say about my races, the first 50 is usually physical and the back 50 are mental.  It looks like this race might be first 10 physical and the back 90 mental!
As I taper into race week, I am not worried about the training I missed or trying to cram in any workout.  I want to be at the start line as healthy as possible, race smart and finish.  
Something for you to remember when you head into your Fall races, 
It is better to be 10% UNDERtrained than 1% OVERtrained.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I have WON every race I have entered

"2nd place is 1st loser," Professional Golfer Jack Nicklaus.  

"I have won every race I have ever entered."  That is my mindset toeing the start line of each race I undertake. It does not matter where I place in the official standings from prior events, to set my mind right for what I am about to undertake - "I have won everything, have never lost and I am confident in my abilities."

Over the past two weeks, I have been asked to run at some events, speak at others and be part of a running panel.  Questions have been asked, for instance how do you overcome failed attempts and self doubting statements raised like I am really not a runner and I am not that fast.
I thought I would take this post to let all of you know...
You are a runner
You are fast
You have succeeded
And here is how I explain this.
You are a runner - because you are out there, on the course, pounding the pavement while 98% of America is sitting on the couch.
You are fast - because there will always be someone somewhere that is faster than you and slower than you, race your race.  Again, you are faster than couch potato!
You have succeeded - because you signed up, you trained and you gave it your best effort. Yes, sometimes races do not go according to plan but you learn from those experiences and apply that to your next race.  It is never a failure it is a lesson.  
There have been races in my career that I posted a DNF.  It takes me awhile to work through it but in the end it stands for Did Not Fulfill.  For me, it means there is a lesson that was to be learned.  Find it, learn it, apply it and race again.  Every race that I posted a DNF, I went back to right the wrong, conquer the challenge and turned the meaning of DNF into Did Not Forfeit!  
We are all athletes.  Some are faster, some are slower, some cover short distances others cover longer distances.  We have had races go off without a hitch while others it seemed like we should have just stayed in bed.  Every time you get yourself out of bed, change into your running clothes and lace up your shoes, you win. You beat the slouch, the sloppy lazy devil that begs you to sleep and stay in bed.  I have said this to so many runners, "You are your biggest cheerleader."  Celebrate the small steps on the way to the big race, it will set your mind in a good place on the start line.  It will give you something to remember and encourage yourself when you "hit the wall."  
If plans should go awry, there are always other races and more opportunities.  Find the lesson, apply it and work to be victorious.  
I am starting to gear up for Hallucination, the first weekend in September.  My training takes a turn to log miles and time on tired legs.  Next week I will post my results but my training week shapes up as follows;
Monday-90 minutes on the bike
Tuesday-45 minute Quad busting hill workout
Wednesday-120 minutes on the bike
Thursday-90 tempo run
Friday-60 minutes in the pool
Saturday-13 mile am run, 9 mile pm run
Sunday-18 mile am run, 9 mile pm run
Sometime during the week, Margarita my masseuse will make a visit and work out the kinks I will have put in my legs.

I am undefeated and I have won every race!

One foot in front of the other means you are never going backwards.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

4 + 2 + 1 + 2(1) = 100

At my age I have learned one thing about myself with regards to ultra training, as much as I would like to pound the miles everyday I cannot.  If I schedule a 60 minute workout, that actually means a 10 minute warm up, a 45 minute workout and a 5 minute cool down.  In reality if I want a 60 minute workout that means 75 minutes.  Of course, the 20 and 30 year-old ultra athletes should be doing this already just know that once you are into your 40's it takes a little longer to get the engine up to speed.
Numbers are my thing.  I majored in Economics and spent over 20 years on the trading floor.  I can go out for a run and come home with pi figured to the 20th place.  

But how in the world does 4 + 2 + 1 + 2(1) = 100?

I have planned out my weeks of training and they have a similar theme.  In a seven day week, I have 4 days of running, 2 days of swimming, 1 day on the bike and every two weeks I have a massage.  
As you know, I schedule my run training around time on feet (TOF) and tired legs.  My ultra race experience has shown that I get mentally stronger on the back 50 miles but the wear and tear of the course will take a toll on my legs.  My four days of running consist of a quad busting hill workout on Tuesday, a tempo run on Thursday, a long run Saturday morning and a flush run Saturday night and finally a long run on Sunday.  
Two days in the pool translate to Monday after a weekend of pounding the trails, giving my legs "active recovery."  It always includes time in the whirlpool, it's a nice feeling having the jets work the kinks out of my legs.  Friday is meant to relax and loosen up my legs for the weekend's runs.  Make no mistake about time in the pool is not "splashing around relaxing," I bring my program from last year's Ironman training.  It provides me with drills, speed, endurance and overall aerobic activity.  
Lastly, Wednesday is cycling day.  Due to sunlight hours shortening, I keep my bicycle on the trainer in the basement so I can devote as much time as possible on it.  I was watching the Tour de France this year and the commentators made the point that even on "off/rest days" the cyclists still spend 2 -3 hours on their bicycles just flushing their legs so the following day when they are back racing their legs will respond.  The reason I bring that fact up is although a total rest day is always welcome sometimes my body will feel sluggish or my legs won't respond how I thought they would.  "Active recovery" is welcome and sometimes that extra effort to get out and do something pays dividends on your following training days.  Other times, my body says "nope, not today," and I do not fight it.  There is a fine line between my body saying, "no" and my mind saying, "just sleep."  Some days it is hard to know the difference but I never begrudge my body for taking a day off.  I can usually tell when it is a good decision by looking back on my training log and if time, miles and training sessions have been adding up, I know it is a good decision.  I do not try to reschedule or make up missed sessions.  I enjoy the break, I enjoy the time away from training with family, friends, a drink or a dessert and I know I will be back at it the following day.  I will also check my nutrition and hydration.  There are many times I feel sluggish, slow or my legs are uncooperative and if I think about my eating habits the night before or how much water I drank those are two good clues of what could be missing.
I have saved the best for last...the massage!  It took a little while but visiting the same masseuse at the same salon we built a camaraderie.  She knows how much pressure, where my troubling issues are and best of all...she comes to the house!  Every two weeks, it is time to get pummeled but afterwards I feel so much better.  I highly recommend a regular massage, it is money well spent.
So this week shapes up as follows:
Sunday - long run
Monday - 60 minutes in the pool
Tuesday - hill workout
Wednesday - 60 minutes on the bike
Thursday - tempo run
Friday - 60 minutes in the pool
Saturday - double runs

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tour de Seabiscuitariat

I love Running.  
I love everything about Running, the early mornings, tough workouts, training schedule and regimens.  This past week while recovering from a few workouts, I flipped through channels to catch the Tour de France and two movies - Seabiscuit and Secretariat.  Upon hearing the commentators from the Tour and dialogue from the movies, it made me take a deeper look at who I am because of what I do. 
The Tour de France cyclists forged through all seasons of weather, it struck me that no matter what the conditions they continued towards the finish line of the day's stage.  What drives them to proceed?  Is it the money?  Is it the fame? Can it be the adulation?  Maybe it is a combination of all three. But then I thought about time spent training, the time away from family and friends and the untold sacrifices.  I came to the answer that they enjoy Cycling.  They love Cycling.
The two movies, Seabiscuit and Secretariat are true stories about two horses overcoming insurmountable odds.  
Seabiscuit resonates with me because he is a little horse compared to other racehorses but loved to run and run hard.  The horse went through trials and tribulations but after hard training always came through like a champion.
 Secretariat was a horse that flat out liked to run.  In the final scenes, Diane Lane (who played Secretariat's owner, Penny Tweedy) cheers on Secretariat by yelling during the Belmont Stakes "Let him run Ronnie, let him run."  Which is followed by her quoting a biblical passage from Job 39, "Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?  Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting?  He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray.  He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword.  The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance.  In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds." This really strikes a chord with me because in my world those words are how I feel on race day.  As I pondered this week's blog post and that quote, I thought about how many of us question our ability and doubt our preparation?  I know I do, but sometimes if I am able to get my thoughts out of my brain and relax I can picture myself with that confidence.  All I have to do is remember that I love to run. Somewhere along the 100 miles when I mentally and physically check out, there are times that I recall and replay that scene over and over again. I paraphrase some of the saying, "I can eat up ground 'cause I can't stand still" and picture the shot of Secretariat coming into the homestretch running at full stride and looking majestic as ever.  
Those are the images and music that I had on repeat in my mind during this week's training. The tempo runs I was Secretariat.  The hill workout I was a Tour cyclist going up the Col du Tourmalet.  My weekend time on feet long runs I was Seabiscuit.  Truth be told, I wasn't that fast on the tempo runs (8:40 pace), I wasn't conquering the Pyrenees (6,900 feet)  and I was happiest when my long runs were over.  In reality, none of that matters.  In my mind that is how I see myself and that is how I perform.  So as I build up my physical endurance for Hallucination 100, I am starting to build up my mental endurance as well.  If I could take a mixture of a Tour rider, Seabiscuit and Secretariat to the start line in September, I would in a heartbeat.  Why? Because I love to run!

Monday - am tempo run and pm tempo run
Tuesday - hill workout
Wednesday - swimming
Thursday - cycling
Friday - am tempo run and pm tempo run
Saturday - TOF long run
Sunday - rest

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Am I Hallucinating??

With my pilgrimage into Social Media this year my old worlds have collided with new worlds. Last night I went to an annual Summer party and reunited with some friends I have not seen since grammar school.  Yes Gail, Lena, Mary and Tracey when we first saw each other I thought I had fallen into another dimension.  30 years has passed but we picked right up where we left off and all of you look exactly how I remember you from those days. 
I hate to admit this but I have started thinking about my Fall ultras.  Not only did my Summer racing season not go as planned but also I believe Summer did not go as planned.
Many of you know I am not a fan of the cold, cloudy, rainy or snowy weather.  Well, why do I stay in Chicago then?  I often ask myself that very question.  Give me sun, give me hot temperatures, make me toil in humidity and I am happy.  This Summer has yet to provide a consistent number of days that meet my criteria but maybe those days will happen in December.....I'm just saying.
This morning I was thinking about my next ultra and as I knocked off two loops (9 miles) thoughts turned to the Hallucination 100.  
It is September 5-7, 2014 and is a 16.6 mile loop course held in Pinckney, MI.  I have crew members signed up to assist me and it's loops!  Lessons learned from earlier this year will be put into practice.  Crew members and pacers are a big part of my support.  Loops are an added bonus, that allow me to make adjustments throughout the race.  I will know where to push the pace, know where to scale back, know when to walk away and know when to run...(Kenny Rogers anyone?)  Point being in my ultra career I have learned that loops don't just mean, "Hey I have seen that before."  I now know to educate myself on how to run those loops.  I can dissect the course into parts that suit my strengths and need care for my weaknesses.  
For those who want to take a look here is the race website, Hallucination 100.  I am really looking forward to this race as it has a party atmosphere wrapped around it.  The 100 mile ultra starts on Friday afternoon so those who finish around 24 hours can enjoy the party Saturday night.  
I am keeping this week's blog short and sweet so you can get out there and enjoy the Summer weather (ahem). As far as my training schedule goes here is what I am looking to accomplish.
Monday 9 miles
Tuesday 13 miles
Wednesday Hill work (anyone want to join me?)
Thursday 13 miles
Friday 13 miles
Saturday 18 miles

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Reflect, Renew and Refocus

Running an ultra will take a toll on your body as well as your mind.  Following an ultra it is customary for me to take at least one if not two weeks completely off.  I listen to my body, I know my body and having asked it to cover an ultra distance I reward it with time off.  In the last two weeks, I have been dissecting Kettle and looking for answers to so many questions.  Miles 50-62 I questioned every aspect of why I run ultras, told myself I would never run another ultra again...ever again, found another runner who felt the same way (we walked in the final miles together) and wallowed in the fact my dream of the Midwest Slam ended before it even began. However, time heals running wounds and I made no decisions or took any actions during these past two weeks.   I have slept, stayed off my feet as much as possible and gave in to any food craving that hit me.  Only for two weeks! The third week is active recovery meaning time in the pool or on the bike.  The fourth week I start running and by that time my lower body is ready to go and I can pick up my training schedule as if I was in the second month of training for a marathon.  
As you can guess I am NOT giving up on running ultras but I did take a closer look at the rest of my season and made some sensible changes.  The Mohican 100 and Burning River 100 are off the schedule.  The Hallucination 100 in early September and Chimera 100 in mid November are on the schedule.  This allows me to properly train for running on a technical single track trail. I am excited because a few of my inner circle buddies have said they will join me for those races.  I will have a crew and some pacers and that's a HUGE asset and lift for me from my Kettle experience.  The Hallucination is a 16.6 mile loop that will allow me to adjust each loop and I'll know where to press and where to relax through the course.  A cool detail to that race is it starts on Friday afternoon so when you finish you can join the party that goes on all weekend.
Chimera...well Chimera I have a score to settle with you.  Last year I wiped out on a granite slab at mile 15 and by mile 85 I had to declare DNF.  I know the course, I know how to train for it and I WILL finish it this year.  
It's off to the pool tomorrow and roll the bicycle on the trainer.  I am refocused on my training and my races towards the end of the season.  I know it is a realistic goal and two 100 mile finishes will look really good on my application for Badwater for next year.  We all have plans that go awry and in my case the lemonade was pretty sour.  I let it sit for awhile, thought about what I wanted and how to get it and in the end I have a better plan.  Just remember in the end everything always works out and if it hasn't ?  It's not the end.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Kettle 100 miles .... 100k

When life offers you lemons and you make lemonade, it's a drink but it's still sour.  
Packing up on Friday night, I went over my checklist of what I needed, where and when I would need it.  Drove to my two best friend's house about an hour away leaving me 45 minutes from the race site.  Tossed and turned as we all do the night before a race but I was happy when 3:30 am rolled around and I could start prepping for the day.  
I arrived at the race start/finish area and found a prime spot to park and I knew that would be beneficial once I completed the 62 mile loop before heading out on the 40 mile second loop.
I saw my ultra friends, Darren Fortney and Rolando Cruz both of whom are accomplished runners in speed and distance.  I packed, checked and double checked my drop bag for the 31 mile aid station and set up my "pit stop" when I returned to the start/finish line.  
One last visit to the bathroom, a prayer by the car, a thorough dusting of OFF, a speech by the RD and we were off.
Plan 1 - go out towards the back of the pack, start slow, let my legs warm up and just do a diagnostic check of myself.  All systems seemed to be cooperating and I thought I would start with a 12:00/mile pace and see how I felt.  It was warm.  The last look at my weather app said it was 78 degrees at 6:00am.  No wind and high humidity meant no PRs today just slow and steady.  Up and down early over rolling hills and technical running over roots and rocks meant rolling ankles, blisters and black toenails.  I made it to the 15 mile aid station in 3 hours, I thought good.  Good pace, drank some Heed, ate watermelon, oranges and 1/4 of a PB&J, took some m&ms for a quick sugar boost.  I ran with one handheld water bottle which was half ice and it felt good to hold and spray over my head from time to time.  Something wasn't right, I felt heavy, my stomach was sloshing and I could feel the "salty crust" on my face.  
Plan 2 - slow down to 15:00/mile pace, walk a bit to let my stomach settle and let the nutrients work into my body. Now the sun was climbing in a clear blue sky and I was headed into the part of the course that offered no shade. 
Plan 2b - without an aid station for over 5 miles and I'm in the marsh section that was humid, hot and NO breeze I decided to walk and save energy.  I figured the sun would be beating down and creating some undesirable conditions until 2:00 pm.  So walk with a purpose, jog when I could or run/walk for 2 minute intervals.  Not the best plan, as I was dehydrated (Google apple cider color when running), I was almost out of water, my stomach was doing flips and I was becoming irritable.  I made it to the next aid station and took some time to soak my head with a sponge soaked with cold water, slowly eat what I could and I turned away from the Heed and started drinking cola and ginger ale then it was off to the 31 mile aid station turnaround.
Plan 3 - I walked into Scuppernong aid station (that was the name and I can't tell you how many times I said that name in the next 31 miles back to the start/finish area.  Scuppernong, Scuppernong... Scupper King Kong Donkey Kong what I wouldn't do for a Hostess Ding Dong. 
As you can read, I wasn't in the best frame of mind or shape.  This aid station really showed me how much I rely on my crew and pacers.  I was cheered coming into the station but no one was there for me, personally there for me.  I found my own bag, started to eat a Stinger Waffle, chocolate Accel gel and mix my Gatorade with ice.  I changed my socks, blisters didn't look too bad, rubbed some Body Glide on the hot spots and covered my feet with foot powder. Returned my bag, hit the bathroom and started back.  I think I came in around 12:30 pm and thought, "okay 6 1/2 (in reality it was 7 1/2) to get out here, 7 to get back no worse than 8."
Plan 4 - Miles 30 to 35 turned out to be better points of the race.  I was refueled, had my feet feeling better and mentally I was in a positive state.  But the cumulative effect of poor nutrition and hydration started to take hold. Miles 35 to 45 were back in the hot box of the marsh and positive thoughts turned into thoughts of self doubt and "where the $%&# is the aid station?"  There were fleeting moments of running, a lot of walking (sometimes with a purpose, sometimes no purpose).  I knew I was in a heap of trouble when my math skills left me. I had planned to get back to the start/finish area by 9:00 pm, just before sunlight left the course. My headlamp and flashlight were laid out in my "pit stop" area but I needed them before then, way before then.  I was regularly stubbing my toes on rocks and roots.  Thankfully, I could catch myself before taking a "header" on the trail.  Presently I am limping around waiting for my swollen feet to return to normal and my toenails to fall off to relieve some of the sore pressure.
Plan 5 - 9:00 pm came bringing with it darkness, a light rain and a sporadic windy breeze. Here's how I worked through those changes; darkness - it's still okay because I could make out the trail and I asked to "tag" along with a runner and use their lighting the trail for as long as I could stay with them.  Rain.  It appears every ultra I choose rain will make an appearance. Ultras I have run in Florida, Arizona and California have all had rain, torrential storms.  If you choose to run an ultra and hate rain, check with me that I am NOT running.  The rain did feel good as it was a respite from the beating sun and hot temps.  When a rain front moves in that usually means wind and cooler temps, so now I am wet when the wind picks up and I am cold. WTF???
"Calm down and just work to get to the start/finish," I told myself.  Time was passing and although I couldn't see where I was walking I remembered the terrain and I knew I was close.  I could change clothes, take some time to rest and eat, regroup and assault the back 39 miles. Several runners with lights, music and bright lights in the near distance signaled a change in my race, I had made it!
Plan 6 - It might as well have been a mirage with a second serving of lemonade.  It was an aid station and when I asked a volunteer (thank you for being there), "how far to headquarters?"  "4.7 miles."  That was a dagger *&^%$@#  &^%$@#*  $^^*//*&  ran through my mind. Drank a quick cola, ginger ale and ate some m&ms and started walking.  This was the lowest of the low points for me.  It was dark, I had no light, no energy or lift in my legs and at my present pace I would be out there for another 2 hours.  2 hours!  I kept asking myself, "why do I do this?  Why do I subject my body and legs to this torture?" Sometimes with lemonade you are given a small packet of sugar.  Less than 1/2 mile out of the aid station I came upon a runner and his pacer.  Ray signed up for 100 miles but was dropping to 100k and calling it over.  His pacer, Paul was keeping him on pace and making sure he was eating and drinking something over the last 4.5 miles.  All three of us talked and walked the remaining distance.  Ray and I discussed how we would never do this again but both knew in 2 to 3 days we would be looking for the experience all over again.  As we made progress and saw the mile signs countdown the distance 3, 2 and 1 every step meant getting closer to calling it at 100k. Ray decided to run the last 100 meters, I encouraged him to do so as I was fine with walking it in.  I admitted to dropping from the 100 mile to 100k.  I was congratulated and given a buckle for finishing the 62 miles.  
That left 13 hours to cover 39 miles.  The shape I was in, there was no way I could hold 3 mph for 13 hours.  
100 k in 16:40:50.
Here are some of my post race thoughts:
I will reassess my season as the Midwest Slam is no longer attainable.
The Mohican 100 in two weeks is out.
I stupidly toed the start line when my training was not what I wanted or needed it to be.  I should have also taken the nagging injuries as another sign not to go.
No matter how many miles I log on streets or forest preserve paths nothing compares to training on the course or similar single track technical trails.
I wanted to write this blog in the matter I was feeling and thinking during the race.  So if it seems disjointed, good because that's how I felt.
6 plans meant I was constantly reworking and rethinking my race plan.  In my ultras, I am adapting to ever changing feelings, conditions and results.
Listen to your body, it is okay to "save the fight for another day."  
There are always more races.