Friday, May 29, 2009

Human Again

After barely moving on Monday, hobbling on Tuesday, limping on Wednesday, I finally felt moderately OK enough to run on Thursday. Some tightness, and I could tell the heart rate was a bit higher than it normally would be for a 35 minute, 3.5 mile run. But, the good news is that I felt better after my run than I did before. Good sign. I took today off but have another easy run planned for tomorrow. Plenty of foam rolling in the plans for tonight.

I'm also planning on taking it easy next week as well. I'll ramp it up a bit the following week, but then Mt. Washington looms on the horizon. Literally and figuratively, I guess.

Still happy with my race. I tend to become less happy as time goes on. I already told D to be sure that 6 months from now I'm still happy with it. As far as my next race plans go, nothing big on the calendar. Mt. Washington, like I mentioned, is up first. Then, I plan to run all the races in the Bradbury Mountain Series. (Those Bradbury Bad Ass shirts are pretty sweet.) Nothing big planned for the fall...well, except for that one thing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More Thoughts from Pineland

When it takes you over 5 hours to do something, you think about a lot of stuff. Here are some thoughts I left out of my race report. (You know, because you we're dying to hear more.)

1. Huge omission from my race report: Mega-thanks and mad props to Ian and Erik for putting on an absolutely killer race. Everything about this race is top notch. Even if I wasn't running, I would go just for the atmosphere. From the crowd it draws to the aid stations to the post-race festivities, it's the best.

2. Beer: All races should have beer at the finish. And, post-race massage. If there was only a way tom combine the two.

3. Aid Stations: "Water? Gatorade?" "Can I get you anything?" "Do you need a refill?" "How are you?" I heard this every time I went through an aid station. All the volunteers were generally interested, enthusiastic, and happy to help. I appreciate their efforts as much as they clearly appreciated ours. (Special thanks to Carter for fetching me an S-Cap at the Yurt aid station last time through. And, to Jeff's wife Cacky for having that motherly, "Ryan, are you sure you're OK?" look and concern.)

4. Speaking of aid stations, I think I should have spent a little more time at them. As I've been reading race reports from my more experienced ultra running friends, I realized that, for the most part, they seemed to stop, regroup, refuel and rest a bit a couple of the aid stations. I get caught up in the "it's a race" mode, so I tend to keep moving. I'm afraid I'm going to lose too much time. Yes, I stopped and grabbed Gatorade, water, pretzels and Pringles at some of the aid stations, but it was always a bit of dine and dash. Perhaps if I had relaxed more and taken a little more time, it would have saved me time and energy in the long run. I think that was the only flaw in my fueling strategy. I didn't bonk and never felt hungry, so the combination Sustained Energy, Gatorade, GU and Shot Bloks on my person and the aforementioned additions from the aid stations was dead on.

5. My hands and feet were swollen. I looked down at one point and my fingers and realized they were quite puffy. My right foot, more so than my left, was moderately painful from getting squished inside my shoe. But, again, since I was in race mode, I didn't stop to fix it.

6. Has anyone seen the latest Prius ad? Gawd, that song is annoying! It was in my head for the first 8 miles or so. Thankfully, I was talking to Nate for a good portion of this stretch, so it wasn't constant. And, of course, it was Bon Jovi after I went through the halfway point. That song is also annoying, but anytime I pass halfway of any run, hike, ski or anything it comes into my head. Tommy and Gina are my constant companions, and, honestly, let me know I still have all m faculties. Yeah, I'm kind messed up.

7. Ultra runners are crazy, but a great group of people. When I was functional, I enjoyed chatting with everyone I ran with, ran by or that ran by me. Every one is so encouraging and supportive. But, crazy. I ran briefly with a woman who had run the Massanutten 100 Mile Race last weekend, and another 50 miler in April, and the Boston Marathon and a bunch of other things. Not to mention Katy and Chuck who both ran the Sugarloaf Marathon last weekend. These people amaze me, inspire me, and make me sick. Crazies. My body wouldn't let me do that.

8. Speaking of my body, I'm still sore.

9. Also speaking of my body, despite the gun show, some form of pushups/core work would really help.

10. And, a final note on my body, if you had asked me two years ago if I would ever run a 50k, I would have said no way. This whole not-injured, running rebirth thing has come a long way.

11. Back to all the crazy people. Everyone out there has a story, a reason, a motivation. I have my own, and I'm pretty proud of my race. I just hope my race report doesn't make anyone think that I'm tooting my own horn because I pushed through a little discomfort. People have overcome a heck of a lot more than I have or did on this one day. Now that I've done one of these things, I'm impressed by everyone who worked to just make it to the start line regardless of how or whether they finished or not.

There's probably more, but it's time to recover and move on to the next challenge. Actually, perhaps recovering is the next challenge. Then it's on to Mt. Washington in June. At least it's only 7.6 miles.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pineland Farms Trail Challenge 50k Race Report

I've never suffered as much as I did yesterday, but I got my cowbell.

Going into the race, I wasn't really sure where I was. Training-wise, I know I'd done some solid runs, but I'd been feeling pretty tired as well. Hopefully, the last two weeks of rest were the right choice. My goals going into the race were unpublished and, I thought, realistic. Obviously, the first goal was to finish. I was shooting for 5:10, which would be 10:00 per mile. I would be happy with anything under 5:20, but held out hope I could break 5:00.

This race report should probably be two race reports: one for the first 18 miles and one for the last 13 miles. It felt like two completely separate races.

The First 18
The race started quietly enough with me running very easily for the first couple miles chatting with friends and making new friends as I went. I was also running with my buddy Nate who was seeking his revenge on this race after crashing hard last year in the second half of the race. Our plans matched perfectly as the plan was to go out slow. That's just what we did. It's tough to take the first part of the race easy as the first 5k are basically all downhill, but we kept it pretty mellow. Not much to report through the first 10k, just easy running and enjoying the day. Nate stopped at the aid station at the yurt to eat, and I kept rolling. I was feeling really, really good. I was running easy and very comfortably. I came through the Grove at 10+ miles, said "Hi!" to Danielle and headed out on the Oak Hill Loop. Throughout the race, I had been doing a good job mixing my running and walking. I was walking all the steeper and/or longer hills, even though I was feeling good enough to run them. More feeling great, and I finished my first lap in about 2:27.

As I was swapping out the bottles in my Fuel Belt, Nate came into the Grove, and we headed out the second loop together, dodging the dogs of the 4k Canicross. Needless to say, it was a bit chaotic. Nate and I ran together until the 30k mark, when I said, "Hmmm...I'm not feeling that great."

The Last 13
Nate and I came into the aid station at the Yurt together, and I stopped for some water and a few snacks, hoping for a boost. This whole running thing was starting to hurt. Carter was working this aid station, and I told him that I was in a bit of a bad patch. I was hopeful it would pass. I started to feel better going around the field loop, but as my energy started to return, I could feel my left calf tightening. It was feeling like one of my calf strains from the past. Uh oh. I was afraid of cramping/tightening, so I'd been eating Pringles and pretzels at the aid stations. Plus, I was eating the margarita flavored Clif Shot Bloks, which have salt. As I headed into the Hemlocks, I stopped to stretch my calf on a tree and kept rolling. My energy was a little better, but my calf was trouble. I actually caught back up to Nate on a hill and told him of my calf troubles. I told him to go run his own race, and not worry about me. We ran together for about another K, until we weren't together anymore. At some point, he just took off, or, rather, I faded. By the time, I came back on the fields, he was long gone. I took another break at the aid station and had a feeling I was in trouble. Carter offered me an S-Cap, which I took, and I walked out of this aid station. After another calf stretch, I started running again. Maybe I would survive...maybe not.

The legs were really tired, and I had certainly slowed, but I was still moving forward. Slowly, but forward. At some point, the pain that I sometimes/often get in my left shoulder/neck started to return. My entire left arm was affected. In other words, things were going downhill fast. At the 40k mark, I was walking up a hill, teetered to the side and nearly fell over. Not good. Miraculously, though, only a couple people passed me, and I was even passing a few 50k runners. So, perhaps other people were suffering more than I was. By the time I made it back to the Grove, I'd pretty much lost use of my left arm. I couldn't raise up to a normal running position. It was just sort of flopping by my side. I wanted nothing more than to be done. I'd asked D for 2 new bottles when I came through, and along with a great deal of concern, she had those ready for me. I barely stopped and I don't think I said a word to her. I knew if I was given the slightest opening, I would have stopped. So, I head out on the final Oak Hill Loop.

The last five miles are a blur. My arm was getting worse. Now both calves were tight. Because of my arm, my back also started to tighten, making breathing difficult. I barely drank anything out of either bottle. At some point, it started raining. Honestly, I have no idea when it started. I only realized it was raining because I noticed that the trail was muddy. Yeah, I was somewhere else. I was really suffering. But, I was still moving forward. I was still mixing my running and walking successfully. Only once did I catch myself walking when I "should" have been running. It was only a few steps, though, and I got back to it. I kept pressing forward. Luckily, I know the trails well enough to know where I was, but I often had to think hard about how much I had to go. I made it to the Final Mile Aid Station where Nate and Shannon had come out to cheer for me, confirming what I already knew: Nate had an awesome race.

It was raining quite hard when I crossed the finish line. If you had asked me at 15 miles, there's no way I would have said it would have taken me that long or hurt that much. Honestly, it was a really odd feeling. I kept waiting for it to hurt less. It never did. What I thought was a bad patch turned out to be 13 miles of bad. It just kept going down hill. Easy and enjoyable running turned into suffering. No warning. It just happened. Running 31 miles is hard. It took me 5:17:13. I finished 46 out of 108 finishers.

There was generous amount of congrats and concern for my well being at the finish. I'm sure I sounded ungrateful, when the volunteer handed me the tiny cowbell. I was really hoping for the big shiny silver version. I'd just suffered for it. Luckily, it was a mistake, and I grabbed the big version. It's mighty perrty. I'm officially an ultrarunner.

Today, I'm really sore. It's been couch, heat and ice. Walking is hard. Stairs are terrifying. And, I'm really wondering about this whole ultra thing. I'm not sure it's for me. It could just be the short term memory, and perhaps I'll forget, but I'm not ready to sign up for another. I'm not even ready to think about another. I'm really not sure.

Congrats to the rest of the Trail Monsters on great races. I think everyone had great days. Maybe it was the home court advantage. And, of course, extra special thanks to D for being an awesome crew!

Friday, May 22, 2009

It's Time for Some Cowbell!

Pineland 50k is on Sunday.

Time for the whining to cease, and the running to begin. Despite some things I may have said, I think I'm ready. My body doesn't feel 100% ready, but I'm not sure what it's supposed to feel like. Either way, it's time for me to complete my longest run ever and collect my cowbell.

See you on the other side.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Taper Madness

I haven't posted anything this week as I've been applying the principle: if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. So, in short, I've not been feeling very good. (Running-wise, anyway. No actual life issues to worry about.) My left leg appears to be staging some type of rebellion. My hamstring has been squacky. Not necessarily tight, but somewhat achy. On Wednesday morning, I woke up with a shooting ache in my piriformis muscle, aka a pain in the butt. The other night as I climbed into bed, I had a throbbing ache in my ankle. And, all of this in my left leg. I've also felt really off, sluggish and labored on just about all my runs. So, yeah, I'm totally pumped to run 50k on Sunday.

That being said, the piriformis pain only lasted a couple days. And, this morning, my entire leg felt better. By that, I mean that I could walk normally all day. Over the past 10 days or so, walking normally was not in the cards. So, again, I'm totally pumped to run 50k on Sunday.

So, my head is adjusting my goals. My heart is not. Hopefully, my heart will make my head shut the hell up and then whip my body into submission.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Run, Eat: Repeat. (Well, at the least the eat part.)

On Saturday morning, D and I packed up the Snowplug-mobile for a trip to Acadia National Park...because it's the best place on run and hang out with Jamie, Mindy and Pete. A lot happened in three days, so here's a bulleted list of the awesomeness:
  • Tim Hortons breakfast sandwiches are unbeatable.
  • Ran the "Around Mountain" Loop (about 11 miles) with Jamie and Mindy. The run was awesome. I felt great. Not much else to say about that. Well, except for the fact that we were attacked by a spruce grouse. Seriously. Jamie has an awesome description of it, except he left out the volume of Mindy's screaming. Horror movie quality. We were laughing so hard that we needed to stop running, but every time we did, it kept attacking. I've never seen anything like it, and really wouldn't have believed that it could actually happen was I not victimized.
  • I ate a Flatliner. It's a sub. It involved steak, pepperoni, mayo, hot sauce and other deliciousness.
  • I attempted to start a fire in the pouring rain. I was only deterred when I realized that I would be the only one standing around it if I did get it going. I can't believe everyone bailed/were collected by Noah.
  • Great run around Eagle Lake. D joined us this time, which was very groovy. She's still kicking butt while carrying the Turnip.
  • Brunch was enjoyed without having to wait 2 hours. Seriously, a 2-hour wait for breakfast. That place must be good.
  • D and I bailed on camping again and scored a hotel room.
  • Awesome breakfast at that place. BISCUITS!
  • D and I went for a walk that turned into a hike. We wandered into a marsh, around the Tarn, climbed a huge peak...OK, it was only 407 feet tall.
  • I ate a Philly Cheese Steak smothered in gravy. Really.
  • Managed to stay awake while driving home.
Let the detox commence. Must be why I had a salad for dinner.

For the running specific highlights, I have to say that I'm very encouraged. I felt great on our long run on Saturday. Literally, it felt like nothing. Felt awesome on Sunday morning, too. I'm going to keep taking it easy, but hopefully, things are headed in the right direction.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Running is awesome! I'm awesome! Everything is awesome!

Ran three miles with D (and the turnip) this afternoon. Real easy three. Felt fine. Good to get the blood flowing. Rest and easy runs—that's the plan.

Right now, I feel almost as good as this guy:

Thus concludes your bipolar blog post for the day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Terror Leads to Apathy Leads to More Terror Leads to More Apathy

It's official: I'm terrified for the Pineland 50k. Not terrified in the sense that I'm going to die, but terrified in the sense that I'm going to suck. Hence, my attitude toward the race over the last week or so has been...meh. I'm just not that interested. I think it's a defensive mechanism. Plus, my training hasn't exactly been going all that great. The more I think about the training, the less excited I am about running the race. The less excited I am about running the race, the less excited I am about running, period. And, that only makes me more terrified. It's a vicious cycle.

That being said, I just registered. This little graphic at the end of the registration process didn't help:

So, that's where my head is at. Not a good place. But, hopefully, some relaxed running over the next couple weeks will get me back in form. Regardless, one thing is certain:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ocho de Camden

When the Spanish Armada took Camden Harbor in the Battle of the Swine Pigs, they looked upon the hills above the harbor and dubbed them the "Ocho de Camden." The Spanish soldiers weren't a very creative bunch as there are 8 hills that make up what is now Camden Hills State Park. On this day, a rag tag band of Trail Monsters took on the challenge of running all 8 hills.

Things started innocently enough as the crew met at the Mt. Battie parking lot. Jim, Ian, Floyd, Jamie, Stephen, Jeff and I headed off together up the Mt. Battie Trail. The much smarter female contingent, which included D, Kelly, Cacky and Shauna, thought it was a nice day for a hike.

I lagged a bit behind on the climb up Mt. Battie, but I was planning on taking it easy at the start to ensure I had plenty of energy for the long haul. Then I kept lagging behind the rest of the way. I felt great, though. Very comfortable mixing up my running and walking at what felt like a comfortable pace. Jim hung back with me for the majority of the run, and as is customary with Jim, the conversation flowed freely. At the intersections, we'd catch back up with the rest of the crew, and it stayed this way from Mt. Battie, down the Nature Trail, up to Ocean Outlook, over Mt. Megunticook, down the Slope Trail, up Zeke's Trail, across the Sky Blue Trail and up to the summit of Bald Rock Mountain. Running on these trails is tough, but great. The park is beautiful, and we were treated to frequent views of the ocean.

At Bald Rock Mountain, the crew split. Everyone else turned back due to time constraints and the pull of beer and burgers. Jim and I decided to continue on with plans to complete the entire 20 mile loop. I was still feeling good, and although I knew it would take a long time, I was confident, we'd finish it up. We dropped off Bald Rock Mountain, and took a wrong turn. The map indicated that the trail was "unmarked and may be difficult to follow," and it certainly was. But, instead of continuing out to Frohock Mountain, it dead ended after about a quarter of a mile. Oh well, no trip to Frohock Mountain, but at least we tried the full loop. Once back to the main trail, we continued on for a few minutes only to come to a sign that read "Frohock Mountain Trail." Looks like the full loop is back on, so onto this out and back trail we went. This trail was marked, but it was unfortunately difficult to follow due to a lot of blowdowns. We did manage to reach the underwhelming summit of Frohock Mountain, so we could turn around the way we came.

I was started to tire, and stopped to sit on a log once we returned to the junction with the main trail. Jim and I were debating options, knowing that we were going to out for a long time with about 7 miles to go to complete the full loop. I jokingly said, "Well, the quickest route back would be to take the rest of this trail to the multi-use trail, turn right, go a half mile and have someone come pick us up." Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened.

At this point, we were pretty close to the opposite end of the park, so we knew we still had a long haul. We headed down the trail, and soon reached the multi-use trail, which is basically a dirt road. We turned left on the dirt road and started to climb. I elected to walk and about a minute later I just stopped.

Jim: "Are you OK?"
Me: "Nope, I'm done."

My legs were wobbly and the road seemed to be waving in front of me. Not good times. I thought briefly about continuing, but I knew the better choice was to send out a distress signal. I called D, reassured her that I was fine, and asked for a ride. Jim and I walked out on the road while I ate a Power Bar, and not long after Cacky and D arrived to save us...well, me.

The timing turned out to be perfect as the rest of the crew has just finished by the time we returned to the parking lot. Burgers and beer was then had by most at a pub in Camden, which is the only way to properly end the day.

So what's the deal? What happened to me? It wasn't a matter of fuel. I had plenty to eat beforehand. I had drank a good amount of Sustained Energy and eaten 3 gels, 4 shot bloks and some Pringles (of course) throughout the run. I think the answer is simple: I'm overtrained. I thought that this might have been the reason I've been feeling not that great the last 2 weeks or so. And, today made it clear. So, even though today didn't go like I had hoped, I think it might help. I'm going to take it very easy the next 3 weeks. Really easy. From this point until Pineland, I can pretty much only cause more damage. Trying to do another long run would be counterproductive. I've done some good training, and that's what I'll have in my quiver on race day. Hopefully, I'll have enough arrows, and they'll straighten out.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Short run this afternoon, and I felt markedly better. Zipped through 3 miles, easily and comfortably. No idea why I felt better, but I'm not complaining. Felt really good to have a little hop in the step. Maybe I'm not going to die after all.

Hopefully, the good feeling will carry over into tomorrow for Ocho de Camden: a long run at Camden Hills State Park with the Trail Monster gang. Really looking forward to it. Tomorrow will also be the last long run in my training for Pineland. Then it's taper time!