It's been two years since my last post, and my wife has been lightly bugging me to start posting again. (As if listening to me whine and moan in real time isn't enough, she also requested it digitally.) Yet, if I'm writing this, it must mean that I've been missing it as well. And, in truth, I have. Now, there's no way to sum up two full years, but I'll do my best.
So where have I been?
After the 2014 Spring Classic 50k, (my last post) I was in high spirits. And, all along while training for that race, I was seriously considering taking a stab at the TARC 50 Mile. (After seeing the heat and carnage that day, I couldn't be happier to have skipped out on that. I would've died--possibly not an exaggeration.) However, I came to my senses, since the 50k took a lot out of me--more than I would have expected. In hindsight, it took out exactly what it should have based on the training I was able to put in. Ultramarathons--even "easy" ones--are hard. And, I went after it that day.
|Jamie showing perfect crew form. #alwaysbecrewing|
What really wasn't fun was my "experience" at the Pisgah 50k in September. The day included a rebelling gut and 30 minutes sitting on a milk crate at the 20-mile aid station. I finished. Why? Because I'm stubborn. I kept listening to my own advice: "There's a difference between hurting and being hurt." But, it was horrible. That horribleness was all my own doing: lack of training, lack of focus, eating terrible the day before, not respecting the race. I crossed the line a few ticks under 7 hours. In my previous two spins there, I've run 5:25 and 4:50. It was that ugly.
|That did no go well.|
Coming out of Stone Cat, I was feeling positive. Then, two weeks later I rolled my ankle again: as hoar frost collapsed underneath me on a flat section at Pineland. #pinelandsux. I finally got the message and shut it down. I also contracted a fairly terrible sinus infection that took me out of life for a week, lingered for a couple more, then knocked me down for a few more days later than month. It may have been a blessing in disguise as I stayed mostly off my feet, with a few random runs here and there.
With the turn of the calendar to 2015, I knew that I needed a different approach. Older and wiser, my plan was to have no plan. Specifically, no race plans. I was always chasing the next race and had become the poster child for FOMO--fear of missing out. And, because of that, I was barely showing up or actually missing out. Luckily, the winter was awesome, so I was able to mix in a ton of snowshoeing and cross country skiing. I participated in five snowshoe races (one being a duathlon) and slowly built up my running mileage. Three weeks up and one week down--that was the basic pattern or as close to that as possible.
In short, it worked. In April, I had a test of sorts at the Run the Rock 25k in North Carolina. Aside from the heat and lack of training, it went really, really well. Seriously. With a long run of 10 miles and no run warmer than anything in the 50's prior to that week, I didn't know what to expect. What I really didn't expect was to be leading the race at 10 miles. Granted, it was a small field, but I went out conservatively and gradually worked my way up. However, it was at the 10-mile point that the clouds burnt off. It was close to 80 degrees with 100% humidity--not my favorite weather conditions. The hills near the end and the lack of training took it's toll, and I ended up third overall with a huge smile on my face--my very, very sweaty face.
|Southern bling for Team Snowplug!|
|What is this place?|
In the next few weeks, I put in my strongest training in years. Hills, long runs, hills during long runs. I did it all. I also raced twice. First, the Bruiser, which was solid, and then had an awesome run at the HVNC Run through the Woods half marathon the following week. Things were clicking. My longest run of the year was still the Run the Rock 25k, but I was still performing well and feeling good in these half marathon-type races. Then I did this, this, and this. Things were really clicking, and I started to think about an ultra. Could I get one in 2015?
My options were slim, but I narrowed it down to two: The Hamsterwheel 6-hour on 11/14 or the TARC Fells Trail Winter Ultra on 12/5. It's nearly impossible to pick two more disparate races. The former is a dead flat and smooth on a 2 mile loop. The latter, even though also loops, is relentlessly hilly and relentlessly rocky with hills and rocks on top of that. So, obviously, I chose the Fells. My logic was solid, though. The Fells gave me three more weeks of training, which I felt I needed. Also, I was worried that I might run too far at Hamsterwheel, since I think I could've come close to 40 miles, which I couldn't have realistically handled. Time to run some hills!
I ran a Double Breaker, which is doubly hard. Then, one month before the race, I logged my first 20-mile run of the year. Like I said, I knew I needed more time. I rounded things out with a 20 at Pineland, that actually didn't suck. Was it enough to tackle 32 miles with 4,000+ feet of gain and loss over pointy, rocky nastiness? Nope, but it was what I had.
With a race date in the first weekend of December in New England, weather can be a significant factor, but I got extremely lucky. It was a beautiful day, which is rare for this race. And, other than that, I ran smart, and I ran hard. It kicked my ass. This race is no joke. I ran the first two 8-mile laps comfortably, and then pushed as hard as I could for the last two. My crew, D and Half Bomb, had me in and right back out at each lap, and some college friends who live in Boston came out to cheer me on in the last mile. Their dog decided that I needed a pacer, so I even got that extra boost in the final stretch. Honestly, the race is a blur. Probably in part to the fact that it's all so similar, but also due to the fact that I just put my head down and ran. I was focused. I wanted it. Nearly 6 and half hours after I started, I had completed my first ultra in 20 months. As a bonus, I was 9th overall, and the second old guy. It was indeed an awesome day and a hell of a way to close out 2015.
If you've actually made it through all that, I'd seriously question your sanity. And, with that, I think I'll save the first half of 2016, including a Grayson Highlands 50k race report, for another post. In the meantime, my hope is to put together a weekly-ish training recap. I've looked back on those in the past for reference, so my hope is that they'll help me moving forward, and perhaps you, my limited audience, can see deep into my twisted mind. Onward!