Friday, March 30, 2012

Ultrarunners break all the rules

It is common knowledge that ultrarunners often break the rules when it comes to generally accepted training principles and guidelines.  Mostly, we simply run and race too much.  On the eve of tomorrow’s Charlottesville 10 miler, I sit here at my desk banging away at the keyboard in between sips of coffee and routine eye raises out the window to Carter’s Mountain, where I ran this morning.  Moments ago I finally read the “Tips for Race Day” email, courtesy of the Charlottesville 10 miler brethren, which graced my inbox last week.  Listed below are the “tips”, verbatim, from the email and my comments immediately following each one.  Let’s see how this ultrarunner stacks up in terms of following the tips or breaking the rules with a simple PASS or FAIL.

  1. No matter which of the above mentioned groups you align with, whether you’re trying to win your age group or simply trying to win a bet with a friend who said "you'll never make it to the finish line!", everyone who gets on the starting line is better served if they have a specific goal game plan. Knowing approximately what time you need to be running for each individual mile makes the race go quicker and with less pain. Even if you're "just trying to finish it", you still need to have a rough idea of what pace you're aiming for.
-FAIL.  I’ll figure it out by tomorrow morning.

  1. Don't run anything over a mile/day in the week leading up to the race. For example, on Monday, which is six days out from race day, you want to run six miles or less. Wednesday is four days out, so nothing more than four miles and so forth.
-FAIL.  Biggidy broke this one on Monday.

  1. Pick up your race packet the night before...this one's a no brainer as it follows the golden rule of don't put off what you can do today. It makes your race day experience that much more stress free when you already have your race number pinned to your front and your instructions in your hand before you leave the house on race morning!
-PASS.  Damn it…  ok, I’ll pick it up after work.

  1. Don't try anything new the week of the race...this holds especially true for the night before and for those critical hours and minutes leading up to the start on the actual morning of the race. Whatever Friday evening meal, amount of Friday night sleep, Saturday shirt, shorts, socks and shoes worked best for you over the past few months of training is what you want to duplicate on March 30th and 31st!
-FAIL.  See my comment to #2.

  1. If it's going to be sunny and warm (anything above 50 degrees) dress in very lightweight clothing and drink water at every single stop. Carrying a bottle of electrolytes (like Gatorade) and slowly sipping it over the first three miles, is also a wise move. And, if it's really hot (65+), make sure to pour at least 1-2 cups of water all over your head and on the back of your neck at every aid station along the way. This is a great way to cool things down!
-FAIL.  Lightweight clothing?  Check.  Fluids each aid station?  No way.
  1. No matter how many times I warn, plead, coerce and threaten my athletes to "go out slow", a great percentage of them succumb to the evil temptations of how "they feel" and end up getting sucked into the dark side of the force by running too quickly over the first portion of the race! The best way to accomplish this is to line up behind your targeted pace group...this will force you to go out slower. Your first mile should be the slowest of the entire race. Accomplish this and I will practically guarantee you a great race experience over the next nine miles!
-FAIL.  Though I’ll pretend it’s a 100 miler and force restraint.

  1. For every up there's a down! Practice "perception of effort" (POE), which means slow up your actual pace on the up hills, pick up the pace on the down hills and run right at your targeted pace on the flats. So, someone shooting for 95 minutes (9:30/mile) should run around 9:50 on the up hills, around 9:10 on the down hills and 9:30 on the flat sections of the course. If you try to run right at your race pace on the ups, you will prematurely deplete your gas tank and hit the wall long before the finish line!
-TBD.  Good idea.  Let's see how this goes.

  1. Above everything else, enjoy the race experience. Most folks have diligently trained all winter for their big day and completing our ten mile course is nothing short of fantastic, so have fun and celebrate your amazing feat!
-FAIL.  It’s just a training run.

  1. Post-race recovery is sorely abused by most long distance racers. It takes about 3-5 weeks to fully recover from our hilly ten miler but many folks jump back into their normal training right way. Big mistake! So shorten your runs and slow down the pace for a few weeks. Kick start your recovery with a carton of chocolate milk and something nutritious to eat in the first 30 minutes after the race is completed! Ice, foam roll, and stretch when you get home and run nothing more than 1-3 slow miles in the three to seven days afterwards. Go to for a detailed post-race mileage recovery plan.
-FAIL.  No comment.

See what I mean?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A weekend of firsts in running

A quick disclaimer about this post and its title, A weekend of firsts in running.  I do not mean ‘firsts’ as in I won any races.
Yesterday morning I toed the line at the McCormick Mike on the University of Virginia (UVA) Grounds in downtown Charlottesville.  This race being another Mark Lorenzoni production, at Ragged Mountain Running, and this race taking place in Charlottesville, I figured this race would offer both competition and a road course that is far from flat.  In fact, as far as the competition went I pretty much knew I was not it.  After a four mile warm up in the rain to the start line the race began at 7:30.  Having darted out from the line a bit too fast I slowly but surely fell back from the lead back of five or six skinny fast dudes that looked like they could be on the UVA track team.  By the second 1/3 mile while running a hill the passing began.  First a dude, then a chick, then another dude, then two more chicks, then I think- finally- two or three more dudes.  The passing ceased during the final 1/3 mile and I almost, I mean almost, caught one of my previous passers-by near the tape.  Finally, I crossed the 1-mile finish line in a time of 5:15.  I finished well outside of the top 10, I do believe, and in the process was thrice chicked.  Ah, to be a runner in Charlottesville….  There are some fast roadies here, guys and gals.  Never before have I run a mile race or really pushed it in a single mile running or training effort to this capacity.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and definitely would like to do it again.  It would be nice also to eventually notch the ol’ running belt with a sub 5 minute mile.  It is interesting to reflect on the pacing strategy that must accompany a fast mile.  I ran the first half in 2:32 and then finished the race in 5:15, which is a terrible split by any measure and hence my getting passed during the second 1/3.  Oh well, I’ll just chalk this one up to inexperience and ignorance.
A cool down run delivered me to the Carter’s Mountain area where I met up with Drew and we set out on a 20+ mile run through the hills, dirt and trees.  The rain and temperatures eventually leveled off and spring flowers pleased the eye.  Bright purple colored flowering Red Buds trees in particular dotted the landscape.  So much so that it seemed the forest was a spider web of flowering Red Bud tentacles; where one tree’s farthest reaching branch ended, another tree’s branch began, and so on.  Anywhere and everywhere we looked, it was purple flowers.  It was a grand sight.  Drew and I explored news trails, jeep roads, etc.   Unexpectedly, we explored a bit too much and were eventually approached by a guy in a pickup advising us that we were on ‘private property’.  The guy was friendly and all too eager to escort us off the land in the back of his pickup, dumping us outside of the property grounds on to a nearby road.  We later learned that the private property belonged to- are you ready for this- Donald Trump.  Ah, to be an ultra trail runner in Charlottesville...  This was first number two on the weekend.
This morning I toed the line at the Camp Holiday Trails 5k, again on UVA Grounds in downtown Charlottesville as well as in a periphery neighborhood and, again, in the rain.  After a chillier-than-yesterday morning warm up in the wind and rain the race began at 9:00.  The course was pretty much up or down the entire way with about half a mile or so in total as flat.  I crossed the finish line in 18:00 with another runner about an arm’s length behind me.  In fact, that is about where he was the entire race.  I would gap him on the downs and flat and he would rise to meet me on the ups.  Fortunately, and I planned to use this to my advantage as the race ensued, the race ended on a down.  I almost kicked too soon as I lost sight of the finish line but fortunately had just enough gas left in the tank to bring it home for a second place finish in my first real 100% road 5k race.  Weekend first number three.  And this after 108 miles on the legs from Monday through yesterday, and 28 miles in total yesterday alone.
Running fast, short or middle distances races on road is definitely not my specialty.  I’m not experienced and I’m not quite sure I have the engine for it even if I wanted and tried to be good at it.  Plus, I can’t say that the marathon blow up last weekend didn’t mess with my head just a little.  I’m pretty sure that is why I was back to running a tempo run on Tuesday, sore legs or not, and logged my biggest week of 2012 this week- 117 miles.  I needed some confidence back.  With this week and weekend experiences in the books the confidence meter is now back on the rise.  For the next two weeks I’ll keep the volume high and then reduce miles a bit the week of Bull Run.  Hopefully this will bring me to the line fit and confident.  But before that- you guessed it- more Charlottesville road racing.  Next weekend is the 10 miler.  As a newbie to town, I’m pretty sure the Charlottesville 10 miler is the annual event for elite and open field competition.  I guess its time for another spanking.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bomb Detonates in Nation’s Capitol during Marathon

WAHINGTON D.C. - A bomb ripped through downtown city streets during Saturday’s marathon event.
Though authorities are currently tracking several possible leads the source of the blast remains unknown.  The bomb denoted on 9th Street, SW just as a marathoners ran through a tunnel under the National Mall.
In the wake of the blast there were no deaths and only one reported casualty.
When confronted about the attack, Washington D.C. Chief of Police, Cathy Lanier, responded “this is a load of crap. So a runner blew up during the marathon?  Who cares?  We have real police work to do in this City.”
Former Washington D.C. resident and runner, Neal Gorman, was stricken by the bomb.
Mr. Gorman, a recent transplant to Charlottesville, Virginia, who suffered severe cramping, dehydration and a complete loss of energy from the explosion, somehow managed to finish the 26.2 mile foot race, covering an additional 11 miles after the attack.
“That was not a bomb,” Mr. Gorman responded when asked of the incident.
“I had just blown up.  Not been 'blown up' by an actual bomb.”
In interviews with apparent race spectators and Saint Patrick's Day revelers, wearing large, green foam hats, the reports are similar.  A single, loud booming sound reverberated from one end of the 9th Street tunnel to the other.  No fireballs or physical damage occurred from the blast, only the sound and physical trauma suffered by Mr. Gorman onlookers witnessed as he slowly emerged from the south entrance of the tunnel with a quizzical gaze and crippled stride.
“At first I didn’t realize that I had blown up, only that I wanted to quit.  Then I realized everything hurt, I had nowhere to go and the only thing for me to do was to continue following course markers.  It was hell.”
Moments after the blast the news went viral on social media and shortly thereafter marathon event director, Malain McCormick, tweeted “#SoWutRunnersAlwazBlowUp@OurRaces”.
Seemingly un-phased by the attack, or the disregard of Chief Lanier or Mr. McCormick over the severity of the incident, Mr. Gorman promises to return immediately to running and to Washington D.C. to run in a future marathon event.
“Seriously.  It wasn’t a bomb.  I just blew up is all.  Get your facts straight," said Mr. Gorman.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Marathon Ready?

Taped to the wall next to my desk at home are three McMillian Running marathon pace charts.  The first chart details training and fitness parameters generally required for running a 2:39 marathon.  The second 2:44.  The third 2:49.  At the very beginning of this year, when hoping to gain eventual entry to tomorrow’s National Marathon, the hopes of also gaining a bit of leg speed in the run up to tomorrow’s race began to sink in. This is about the time when I printed off the pace charts and stuck them to my wall, next to where I often sit for hours on end toiling away at work.
At this point, on the eve of tomorrow’s race, after a few months of somewhat decent training with a few quality tempo runs and not too much volume I’m feeling ready.  This is a far cry from even yesterday when still after two weeks of tapering my legs and head did feel up for the task or red lining 26 miles of flat, open pavement.  If ever I feel inadequate as a runner it is during a taper phase.  Whether it is feeling over trained or under trained.  Over rested or under rested.  Over weight or really over weight.  Or simply genetically inferior.  Tapering always brings about the same damn thing: insecurity.  Oh, Taper; how I disdain thee.
One of human kind’s wonderful evolutionary gifts, in my opinion, is our brains forgetfulness, or amnesia, when it comes to pain and suffering.  In this case, for me, it is the taper.  Each time I forget how much tapering sucks.  Therefore- naturally- tomorrow I fully expect not to run anywhere near a 2:39 marathon.  But that is not just the taper talking.  I know I have a sub 2:40 in me; I can feel it.  But not tomorrow; not now.  Like I said above, I do feel ready finally for the race.  And pretty excited also to visit friends and family on what is forecasted as a spectacular weather weekend, coupling D.C.’s famous blossoming cheery trees and St. Patty’s Day to boot.  However, in reality, I’d be happy with a high 2:40-something finish time.  I’ve never run a marathon as a focus race so either way, as long as I finish, I’m sure I’ll PR by a wide margin.  And if that happens, maybe I’ll be grateful for the taper after all and forget how bad it makes me feel.