Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Still quietly plugging away at running, and still struggling to make time to read or write any blogs.  Hopefully just a function of the time of year.  After the holidays I’m hoping this blog rises from the ashes to chronicle my evolution from running to triathlons.  Optimistic/hopeful that the new year will bring new sanity to life.

I’m still operating without a formal training plan, but starting to gather information about building out a plan and a base for half-ironman training.  In the meantime, I’m trying to maintain between 40-50 miles running a week to hold my fitness from Ultra training.  In the short-term, the reason for this is that I’ve signed up for a marathon this Friday night called the Doomsday Marathon.  Small affair (less that 50 runners), that starts at 9PM on a 2.5ish-mile dirt road which we’ll loop on 11 times.  If the Mayans are right, I should only have to run about 20 miles before the world ends, so I can avoid those angry last 6 miles.  Seems like a winning proposition.  If the Mayans let me down, it’s going to be a long, cold drive home.

I’ve made a fairly radical (for me) departure with my running gear, and have added the Brooks Glycerin 10 to my usual stable of Asics Gel Nimbuses (Nimbii?).  So far I’m liking them, and haven’t noticed any new calf issues, which is where new shoes usually start to take their toll.  They feel a little heavier than the Asics, and they have a much less constrictive toe box.  Don’t know that I prefer one over the other.  Right now they’re all just playing nice with each other.

Would be a busy holiday week next week, but with the world ending and all it shouldn’t be a problem.  The Mayans have saved me a lot on holiday shopping this year.  Thank you Mayans.

Happy Holidays Doomsday.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Nashville Ultra Recap & More Evolving

I needed a week away from all things running, blogging, and generally healthy after crossing the finish line of my first 50-miler.  I’ve gotten more sleep, eaten more bad food, and neglected any form of exercise more in the last week than I have for the entirety of 2012 leading up to the race … and it has been glorious.

All in all, I consider my first 50-mile ultra to be a resounding success.  My training seems to have been just about the right amount.  My walk/run strategy, and my ability to stick to the strategy right from the start, served me well.  Hydration and nutrition worked out well, although it was close to 80 degrees as a high on race day, so I probably could/should have consumed even more liquids than I did.  No gear issues, no injuries, and no points during the race where I questioned my sanity any more than I do on most every day.  Good stuff.

The Nashville Ultra is a great race, and I would highly recommend it.  It’s pretty small, and spectator support is largely non-existent, but the organizer does a great job with logistics and aid stations, and the participants are very supportive of each other throughout the course.  The race consists of a 16-mile out-and-back through a park, that is very scenic as it winds along a river and through farmland, followed by a 34-mile urban out-and-back that takes you through downtown Nashville and gives a nice little foot-tour of the city.  Unfortunately I don’t really have any pictures, but if you’re looking to buy boots or listen to live country music, then downtown Nashville is where you want to be.

I’d break my race experience down into the first 40 miles, which were tiring but pretty much what I expected, and the last 10 miles, which were mentally and physically challenging in a way that my marathons have never quite achieved.  The last 4-5 miles of the race are a steady set of uphills that are a little soul-sucking, but make the finish line that much sweeter.  I finally crossed the finish line at 9 hours, 42 minutes, and there wasn’t a whole lot left in the tank.  I experienced a few pre-cramp twitches in my calves and left quad, but never actually had any cramps to deal with, which was something I was concerned about based on the heat.  Sadly, my stomach wasn’t feeling that great at the end, so my post-race celebratory beer had to wait until the next day after the 9-hour drive home.

Finisher''s mug ... meet finisher's beer
That beer may have been accompanied by another beer or two after sitting in the car that long.  Details are a bit fuzzy.

I would definitely consider doing another ultra, but don’t feel a tremendous desire to pursue one right now.  I’m signed up for a half-ironman next June, so I need to slowly start transitioning from run-training to tri-training.  I think this is truly a case of ‘Evolving through Running’.  I’ve struggled to come up with anything interesting to post on the blog in recent months, and I’m realizing that with where I am at the moment I’ve said and learned most of what I wanted to say and learn about running from blogging, so now I need to broaden my goals, and broaden my experiences to find a new voice for my training efforts.

I don’t have anything mapped out yet race-wise between now and June, and I’m ok with that for now.  I got back out for my first run post-ultra yesterday morning, and everything felt great.  I was only sore for a couple days after the race, and then I gave myself time to heal since I know there’s more trauma than just what the soreness highlights.  I don’t have a tri-training plan identified, but I’m scoping a few out.  I’ll start mixing in swimming over the next couple months to build a base, and I’m planning to get back out on the bike starting this weekend to make peace between my arse and the saddle again.

I have much to learn about biking and swimming, and I’ll be sharing the learning process right here.  I also need to dial-up the accountability for getting in the pool, and this blog will help to keep me honest.  Looking forward to stretching my boundaries.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

5 Days 'till My First 50

The prep work is largely complete.
Somehow, barring a stray sniper clipping me on my last short run on Wednesday, I made it through my training plan with no significant injuries.

Saturday morning at 7AM I’ll be taking the first step in my first try at a 50-mile Ultra.  According to some who dismissed my 50K as “just a long marathon”, this will be my first foray into ultramarathons.  I’ve never gone beyond 32 miles in a single run before, training or racing.  The great unknown.  Testing my mental and physical boundaries.  I’m really looking forward to this.

I've survived 24 weeks of training specifically targeted for this race.  My underlying training plan was specifically defined for running.  I tried to add in cross-training, including weight training, along the way.  I was able to stick very closely to the plan.  You never know what you’re body is going to feel like on race day, but mentally I feel good about my training:
  • 1,055 miles of running
  • 297 miles on the bike
  • 33 trips to the gym for strength training (mostly upper body and core)

Despite the hurricane currently wreaking havoc on the Eastern U.S., the forecast for Saturday looks good.  Lows in the 30s, highs in the upper 50s, and sunshine.  I know better than put too much stock in extended forecasts, but I’m hoping this forecast holds up.  Mostly just hoping the rain stays away.

I’ve got my race day strategy figured out, and have a loose plan for nutrition and hydration.  Past races have taught me that I have a tendency to overhydrate and over-carb (gels, chomps, etc.) on race day, so I’m taking the less-is-more approach here that worked well in my recent marathon.

My biggest focus this week, aside from packing properly, is getting sleep.  I can’t fix my poor job of getting sleep over the last few months, but I can get myself to bed early and sleep as late as the taper allows this week, so I’m feeling well-rested on race day.

One key decision still remains open …. the official post-race celebratory craft beer.  These races serve as an excuse to overspend on an unusual craft-brewed Stout, so I have to choose wisely.  If that’s the biggest worry on my mind right now, then I know I’m feeling confident.

Bring on the Fiddy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Freedom's Run Marathon Recap

Cold and Hilly.

Great race, beautiful setting, great experience, but if I were to sum up the 2012 Freedom’s Run marathon in two words they would be cold and hilly.  I was expecting the hilly, but wasn’t expecting or prepared for the cold.

It's slightly misleading to call this a 'race' recap, since I didn't really race this one.  My plan was to test out my 25-minute-run/5-minute-walk strategy that I’ll be using in a couple weeks in my ultra, and I mostly stuck to the plan.  My only deviation was that I ran for the first hour rather than starting with the walking at the 25 minute mark because I was so cold I needed to keep running to try and get some warmth going.  It wasn't exceptionally cold at the start, 33 degrees, but I didn't pack for the cold, and was at the start 1.5 hours early, so by the time things got going I was nice and chilly.

If you’re thinking of doing this race, it’s really two races.  The first half of the race is primarily on the C&O canal, and feels like you’re running on a treadmill with trees on your right, and the Potomac River on your left.  Scenic, but fairly redundant and not terribly interesting.  The second half of the race, however, is where the scenery and the hills kick in.  The run through Antietam battlefield is really amazing.  They've obviously gone out of their way to keep the land looking much like it must have looked when the battles raged, and it’s very sobering.  There’s not a great deal of spectator support for this one, but the few that were there were very enthusiastic, and much appreciated.  I’d definitely recommend this race, and will consider possibly doing this one again in the future.

I basically stuck to my plan and made this a change-of-scenery training run, and a dress-rehearsal for the 50-miler that’s now less than 2 weeks away.  I ran much faster than I wanted to, and faster than I should have, and ended up finishing in 4:04.  My legs felt very good after the race, and even after getting in my car and making the 7-hour drive home my legs still felt pretty good.  Good enough to go out for a 12-mile recovery run 10 hours after arriving home.  Considering that my first 3 marathons landed me in physical therapy and caused weeks of downtime before I was running again, I’m very happy with a 17-hour turnaround for a return to training.

Saturday was my last 20+ mile training run, and now I taper for 2 weeks before heading to Nashville to see what the world beyond 31 miles holds for me.  I feel well prepared and I’m really looking forward to giving it a go, but I’m definitely anxious to see what happens when I get out beyond 50K.

I’ll be sure to pack lots of warm clothes for this one.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Long Lost Blogger

Once upon a time I blogged on a regular basis.

In many of those posts I made mention of having a few too many things going at once, and not getting enough sleep.  It dawned on me that writing and reading blog posts was one more thing I was trying to wedge into the day, often late at night when I should be sleeping and recovering from the early-morning workouts.  So …. the blog got pushed well down into the depths of the to-do list, and suddenly two months had passed.

Some quick updates since last I felt bloggish:
  • My wife and two partners opened a tennis shop, and things are going really, really well.  Steep learning curve in the world of retail, but every day brings a new lesson, and learning is never a bad thing
  • Ultra training has been going very well, and I’ve been able to avoid any issues beyond the usual aches and pains that seem to come with running in your 5th decade.  I’ve dialed the biking way back and focused on quality running.  260 miles in August, 265 miles in September.  Really enjoyed the warm weather, and not looking forward to icy morning runs in the months ahead.
  • In the category of “hasn’t quite registered yet”,  I signed up for the inaugural Ironman 70.3 in Raleigh coming in June of 2013.  I’ve been toying with the inevitable move to triathlons, and since this one starts about 15 minutes from my house, it seemed like destiny.  Guess I’ll have to get back into the pool once I’m through my upcoming races.  Damn pool.
  • In three days I’m driving up to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia to run the Freedom’s Run marathon.  My training plan called for a 25 mile run, so I figured I’d add an extra mile and have some fun with a race.  Treating it as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for my upcoming ultra, using my run/walk approach.  Hopefully my legs will bounce back quickly so I can wrap up the rest of my training.
  • Three weeks after the Freedom’s Run I’m off to Nashville for my first attempt at a 50-miler.  I’m feeling good about my training, but don’t really know what to expect beyond 31 miles, which is the farthest I’ve run in a race or training.  Should be interesting.  I’m really looking forward to it.

I’ve got lots of blog reading to catch up on, but (hopefully) not at the expense of sleep.  Damn sleep.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

But I Would Run 1,000 miles and I Would Run 1,000 More ...

Apologies to The Proclaimers for hijacking their lyrics.

I am a numbers junkie.  I work with metrics all day long at work, attend Business Intelligence conferences, and generally just swim in a pool of statistics all day.  That bleeds over into my non-work life as well, where I love to crunch numbers and maintain spreadsheets and pivot tables for all kinds of things, many of which have no business being in a spreadsheet.  My trusty Garmin has enabled my numbers addiction in many wonderful ways.  At the heart of all that data, however, is the key question of how many miles have I run.

As of yesterday morning’s run I crossed over 1,000 miles run for 2012.  It sounds like a big number, and many days feels like a big number, but taken in isolation it’s not particularly significant.  However, when I look at that number relative to last year, it starts to tell a story.  Part of what drives me with running is trying to get better.  Not trying to win races or any crazy lofty goals, just pushing myself to get better in terms of the quantity and quality of my training, and hopefully my performance when race days come along.

When I finished my run yesterday I was at 1,004.3 miles of running for 2012 spread across 113 runs.  On this same date last year I had run 585.87 miles spread across 116 runs.  Basically the increase is a combination of a more strenuous training plan, but more importantly, I’ve stayed relatively injury-free this year versus last year, where I started the year with no running and lots of quality time with my PT.  Although I’m sure luck plays some part in staying healthy, I’ve worked very hard to try and learn from my injuries and address the root causes.  At the risk of jinxing myself, it seems to be working fairly well this year.  Knock on all things wood.

Looking back at all of 2011, I ended the year with a grand total of 1020 miles run, so I’ve nearly reached my full-year numbers from last year.  Additionally, this time last year I didn’t even own a bike, versus this year where I’ve logged 582 training miles on the bike.  I think that may be a big reason for my relative health this year.  At least I like to think that to justify the investment I made in the bike.  I thought running was expensive until I started buying bike accessories.  Ouch.

I’m really excited to see how my body responds to the next 3 months of training prior to my first try at a 50-miler.  The long runs are getting plentiful and lengthy, and even the shorter runs are lengths that a couple years ago would have seemed crazy to try and get done before heading to work for the day.

Miles to go before I sleep.

Friday, August 3, 2012

July Training Recap - Strong in the Saddle

July was a good training month.

According to my trusty training spreadsheet I ran the most miles I’ve ever run in a month, 192.34 miles, and came through relatively healthy.  I also logged the highest weekly total I’ve ever run, 58.63 miles, and the numbers only get bigger from here per the ultra plan I’m following.  My legs seem to be adjusting fairly well to the increased workload.  Still not getting enough sleep.  Broken record on that one.

The more interesting stat in July is my mileage on the bike.  I’ve generally substituted my Sunday recovery run with a relatively long ride on the bike, and I’m really enjoying the time in the saddle.  I think I like the speed a bit too much.  Hopefully that doesn’t end up getting me hurt in new and even more spectacular ways than running ever offered.  Although I only got in 5 rides in July, I managed 193.06 total miles, with a longest ride of 53.55 miles.  I think the biking is helping the running, and the running is helping the biking.  At the very least it’s giving my feet a break on Sundays and keeping the pounding in check.

Here’s the recap for July:

Running:  18 runs, 192.34 miles
Biking:  5 rides, 193.06 miles
Lifting:  8 trips to the gym

Sadly, zero times in the pool.  I’m planning to get there eventually this summer, but for now the running and biking are working for me, so they’re winning out when I need to decide what to do.

This Saturday I have a 24-mile long run on the plan, which will be the longest training run I’ve ever done.  Planning to try the 25 minutes running / 5 minutes walking approach which I need to adopt as part of my Ultra strategy.  Will also walk any major hills.  Still trying to get over the mental hurdle of feeling like I need to be running all the time.  We’ll see how it goes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

5K In Less Than 20

Raced my second 5K on Saturday morning.  My only goal for the run was to try and go under 20 minutes.  I didn’t go in with a particular strategy, other than trying to keep all my splits under 6:26.  Unlike most everything else, I tried not to overthink this.  Run fast, try not to puke.

The race itself is an interesting affair.  They are in the process of building a toll road through our town, which is being opened in phases.  Just prior to opening a section last year they ran a 5k on the road, with profits going to MADD.  This year they did the same thing, only they ran in the new section set to open next week.  So, although this was the second of these events, each one is a once-only race unless you’re planning to play some human Frogger.

The course was a straight line out-and-back with more hills than you’d expect on a highway.  I started out with a group of 6, and slowly folks started dropping back until there were 3 of us around the turnaround, when technically I was dropping back as well.  The first mile felt good, but I went out a little too fast.  The second mile was tough, but it was cool to make the turn and be running the opposite direction of the whole field, who were all very supportive and cheering for the leaders while they were running.  The last 1.1 miles was pretty tough, and I was tasting my granola bar for the last half-mile or so, but I managed to keep all my food where it belonged. 

Net result - 19:40:
3rd overall of 375, 1st in age group.  Here are the splits:
Got a nice hockey-puck/paperweight/boat-anchor for finishing first in my age group:
I really enjoyed the race, and like the all-out racing aspect of a 5k, but I’m still more interested in the longer distances and testing my mind as well as my legs.  I might throw in a 5K now and then just to mix things up, but I don’t think I’ll make a habit of these.  I guess my next goal would be to run one with an average pace below 6:00, but that will take some serious speedwork, which isn’t part of my Ultra training plan.  Maybe next Spring.

After the 5K on Saturday I drove directly to a local trail and did another 16 miles with a friend  to hit my training target for the day.  The long run was ugly.  The race took a lot more out of me than I thought, and it was hot and humid by the time we started the long run.  Just more confirmation that early-morning running is my friend.  Also, woke up all kinds of sore in my quads and calves Sunday morning, which I think is a result of the sprinting rather than the distance running.  Good sore, but sore nonetheless.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Back in Track

Made a rare appearance at an actual track this morning for my training run.  The group that I ran a relay with back in the Spring does a regular track interval workout on Wednesday mornings, and for the first time this morning I didn't have some sort of conflict and was able to join them.  I'm running my second 5k this Saturday, and I'd like to try and go sub 20-minutes, but haven't been doing speedwork as part of my Ultra training and didn't really have a feel for my potential to blow-up if I tried to go out fast.

The results were moderately encouraging.  The workout was a 1-mile warmup, 10x400m intervals with 200m recovery between, and 1-mile cooldown.  I generally felt good throughout, and was able to do the last 2 400s at sub 6-min-mile pace, which is really pushing it for me.  Here's the data:

So .... in terms of the 5k this weekend, I'm confident enough to roll the dice and shoot for a 6:15/mile or faster pace, still with the real possibility of a spectacular flameout at the end.  That's part of the fun of a 5k though, right?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Winner - Mizuno Running Shoes Giveaway

Per random.org, here's the winning entry for the Mizuno shoes:

Congrats to will1494!  Can't access your Blogger Profile to get your email address, so please email me at cwstallman@gmail.com so we can get you setup to order your shoes.  The offer from Mizuno expires 7/15, so please send me a note quickly.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mizuno Shoes Giveaway - Last Day (and a half) to Enter

Entries end Thursday (7/12) at noon Eastern, with a winner announced later in the day.  Click this link to go to the post and get your entries in:


Good Luck!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Giveaway - Mizuno Running Shoes - Mezamashii Project

You’ve probably seen a few Mizuno Giveaway blog posts in the last few days.  Here’s another.  I was recently invited to be a founding member of Mizuno's Mezamashii Run Project.  Mizuno’s goal for the project (aside from marketing) is to help runners have a more brilliant run, hence the name Mezamashii, meaning "eye opening" or "brilliant" in Japanese. Harnessing the power of real-world experience and social media to spread the work about Mizuno and their products.

I was offered a free pair of their shoes to try, and I took them up on their offer.  This is no small step for me since I’ve been running in Asics Gel Nimbus for at least 6 years.  I went with the Mizuno Wave Creation 13.  I’ve only done one 10-mile run in the shoes, so I’m not yet ready to put together any sort of review.  My initial impressions are good.  They are decidedly more stiff out of the box than the Asics, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  Once I break them in and put them through their paces I’ll put a review together.

In addition to my free pair of shoes, they’ve given me another pair to give away to help another runner find their ‘brilliant’ run.  The offer from Mizuno expires fairly soon, so this will be a quick giveaway.  I’ll take entries through Noon Eastern on Thursday (7/12), and announce the winner Thursday afternoon.  There are multiple ways to enter, each earning an individual entry.  You must add an individual comment below for each way you enter … each comment equals and entry and one more chance to win:
  1. Follow this blog, or let me know that you already do (leave a comment)
  2. Add a comment below letting me know your current ‘go-to’ shoe, and how long you’ve run in that make/model – curious if others are as overly loyal as me
  3. Follow me on twitter - @EvolvingThruRun – or let me know you already do (leave a comment)
  4. Link to this Giveaway from your blog (leave a comment)
  5. Share with me @EvolvingThruRun and @MizunoUSA in a tweet saying why you want to give Mizunos a try (leave a comment)
  6. Like the LoveAllTennis page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/LoveAllTennis).  Unrelated to this post - this is a new company my wife is launching, and ‘Likes’ make her very happy (leave a comment)
Entries close Noon Eastern on Thursday (7/12) – Good Luck!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

2012 First Half Review - Ready for Ramp Up

With the start of July I’m trying to take stock of my year thus far, and figure out what is working, what needs tweaking, and where I need to man-up.

I consider the first half of the year to be successful based primarily on one criterion … no injury-forced downtime.  That’s not to say that I haven’t had some angry body parts along the way – IT Bands, Plantar Fascia, Calf knots … but I’ve been able to pay attention to them and manage them such that they haven’t put me on the sidelines.  Adding the bike and swimming (but far too little swimming) has helped, as has mixing in some PT exercises to keep my right knee/quad working well with the rest of my right leg.

I was doing a much better job of cross-training early in the year, but once I made the decision to run a 50k, and then train for a 50-miler in the Fall, I shifted back to a more run-heavy plan.  I know this runs counter to the notion of cross-training to reduce the repetitive strain of running, but I need to get a feel for how my body reacts to higher mileage than I’ve tried for marathon training, and I need to ramp up to the peak of 70 weekly running miles that my current plan calls for.  I’m still getting out on the bike at least a couple times a month, and I should be doing better with the swimming now that the neighborhood pool is open for the Summer.

Here are the stats for the first 6 months of the year:

Running:  90 runs, 757.34 miles total
Biking:  18 rides, 349.8 miles total
Swimming:  10 swims, 7 miles total
Weight training:  41 trips to the gym

March was my best month so far this year, with 157 miles run, 99 miles biked, 2 swims, and 8 trips to the gym.

Race-wise, I paced a friend in a half-marathon in March, ran a 200-mile 12-person relay and my first-ever 5k in April, and ran the Outer Banks 50k in May.  No races in June, and nothing firmly planned between now and the 50-mile run on 11/3, although I’m hoping to run a few 5ks, maybe a half-marathon, and a full-marathon close to the Ultra as a long training run.

I’m really liking the training plan I’ve got going now, but the mileage is a lot higher than anything I’ve done in the past, and I’m pretty wiped out by the end of each week.  I HAVE to start getting more sleep to keep with this plan and stay healthy.  Unfortunately, knowing what to do doesn’t magically get it done.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Serendipity and Scorched Earth

I’ve been writing about a possible departure from my beloved Asics Gel Nimbus on this blog for quite some time.  I’ve taken small steps in that direction … Brooks Ghost as my everyday shoes, Brooks Cascadia 7’s for trail running … but haven’t really committed to make the jump away from the Nimbii as my go-to shoes.  However, the good folks at Mizuno may be inadvertently providing the push I need to test the waters away from the calming shores of Asics.

As part of their Mezamashii Project they let me pick out a free pair of Mizuno shoes to try and spread the word about, so these guys showed up in the mail last week while I was fueling up on rum punch and sloth:

Mizuno Wave Creation 13 in retina-scorching crimson.  I just picked up a pair of Superfeet green insoles for them, so hopefully I’ll be giving them a test run this weekend.  I’ve got 18 miles on the plan for Saturday, so that’s a bit too much for a maiden voyage, but I might try a short recovery run Sunday night just to give them a spin.  Supposed to be going out for a 25-ish mile ride Sunday morning with a couple friends, so we’ll see how willing my legs are.  The other mitigating factor ….

I’m no meteorologist, but I believe that is referred to as a heat wave.  The good news is I love to sweat when I run – the more sweat, the more it feels like work, so I say bring the heat.  All the hours of standing on the hood of my idling SUV in the driveway blasting aerosol cans skyward and taunting the ozone layer have finally paid off.  If I’ve plotted the weather trends correctly, we should be hitting around 250 degrees by the end of July.

Do they make SPF 800 yet?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

As my last post made pretty clear, I’m dealing with some stress right now.  Nothing too crushing, but stress nonetheless.  Fortunately, last week was a well-timed and much-needed vacation week for the Evolving family.  The 4 of us, along with my in-laws, piled onto a 46-foot sailboat in St. Thomas for a week of sailing in the Virgin Islands.  My father-in-law is a retired Coast Guard captain who has probably forgotten more about sailing than most people will ever know, so he provided the brains, I provided the muscle, and we all tackled the high seas.  Admittedly the quarters were a bit tight, and there may have been an occasional bout of tension, but overall it was an amazing experience.  The best part – no laptop, no iPhone, no email …. No worries.

The weather and water were beautiful, and we spent countless hours snorkeling in a variety of locations.  We bought a waterproof point-and-click digital camera before we went since we didn’t trust any of the cameras in the house to actually work and hold up to the conditions, so rather than bore you with words I’ll share some of what we saw and did:

Our floating home for the week
My favorite fishes
Ran into lots of these guys
Sailing is hard work
The scenery was stunning

Couldn't get the boy out of the water
Discovered that the daughter has some serious sailing skills
The proper way to refuel
Hard not to relax here
My mermaids
No opportunities to run while we were there, and I did find that I missed it on the days that my training plan said I should be running, which I think is a very good sign that my heart and mind are still very much into the training.  On the other hand, swimming and lounging proved to be very nice alternatives.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ghosts Appear and Fade Away

Busy snuck up on me again this year.  Sudden, crazy busy.
“I can’t get to sleep”

Work has gotten very hectic with an overabundance of moving parts.  Some might say a plethora.  For those that have followed my blog for a while, last year my company went through a round of layoffs which loomed like a specter over everyone and everything all Summer.  Our most recent quarterly report gave some decidedly low guidance for the coming quarter, so suddenly the widespread nervousness has returned.  Stressful and no fun.

“I think about the implications”

I’ve started ramping up my weekly running totals as part of a 24-week training plan for a 50-mile run in early November.  This training plan peaks at around 70 miles a week, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never gone over 50 miles in an individual week in my life.  To pull this off I’m getting up a little earlier every day, and going on fairly long runs both days of the weekend, which means early rising on weekends too.  Net result is I’m not getting enough sleep.  I know it, and I’m working on it.  However, running isn’t the only thing contributing to lack of sleep….

“Of diving in too deep”

We’re in the process of opening a store.  I’ll save the details for another post, but my enthusiasm for running is dwarfed by my wife’s enthusiasm for tennis, and by the end of July we should have the doors open on a full-service tennis shop in Cary, NC.  My wife and two friends have partnered to run the whole operation, and we’re trying to be as frugal as possible up front until we start to get some cashflow.  What this means is I’m in charge of I.T., construction, drywall repair, painting, electrical, etc.  Basically all the physical fit-up for the space.  So …. typical day is up at 4:30, some sort of training for a couple hours, off to day job, home for dinner, off to the store for another 4-5 hours, shower, rinse and repeat.  Some days it’s fun, some days it’s grueling, and many days it’s both.

“And possibly the complications”

Plenty to worry about these days, and they cycle through my mind at regular intervals depending upon where the fire burns the brightest.  There’s a common saying that “worry never changed anything.”  This is true, but action born of worry can bring about positive change, so that’s where I try to direct my worry when it chooses to appear … and fade away.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Get Real

Got my 'more cowbell' on recently and spectated at a Sprint Tri to support a friend.  The folks I was with are all about running, and biking, and swimming, and all things racing.  Someone mentioned the 50k I ran recently, and after a lot of nice, supportive comments, this was the last one I heard:

"Nice job.  Now you should run a REAL ultra."


OK.  Here's where I'll be November 3rd going after the 50 mile mark.

Time to turn the training dial up to 11.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Crushing Disappointment of One Second

One second per mile that is.

Over the course of a marathon.  26 sad little seconds in total.

Had I just run 1 second per mile faster.  One less water stop.  One less leg cramp.  One less something to get back that precious second.
Despite a jacked-up stomach and a crampy right quad I was generally happy with my 3:45:25 finish in the MCM last fall.  I figured that would be the end of that experience and I’d be on to bigger, better, longer things.  I already had the thought of ultramarathons dancing around in my head.  One race in particular intrigued me, the JFK 50-miler.  The military connection, 50th anniversary of the race, close enough to my in-laws that we wouldn’t have to stay in a hotel.  Nice combo of trail and flat path.  It just seemed like the perfect first 50-miler.

As the months went by and it looked like I would survive the training, and most likely the race, for my first 50k, I decided that the JFK50 was the race for me.  Registration is done entirely by mail in three waves of applicants, and the qualifying times for the waves are based on a finish time in a marathon, 50k, or 50-mile race.  This is a very popular ultra, even more so this year with the 50th anniversary angle.  Based on some internet research (which is never wrong …) I knew it would fill up in the first wave.  When the time for the first wave (A-Standard) came out, I knew I was in trouble.  Men’s marathon … 3:45:00.  Those double-zeros stared out at me with their beady little eyes, saying “close buddy … but not good enough”.

I sent a note to the race director, hoping it would be like the old Boston qualifying standards where seconds didn’t count, but no such luck.  I was knocked to the B-Standard wave, and would have to wait 10 days after registration opened before I could send in my form.  I kinda knew the race was lost for me at that point, but I planned to send in my registration anyhow and hope for the best.

Unfortunately, on Saturday morning the JFK50 website was updated with a message saying the general field, and the 250-person waiting list, are completely full, and registration has ended.  Since this was just 2 days after I was allowed to mail in my forms, my JFK50 plans are over.  One second per mile, 26 seconds over the course of a marathon, and my simple plan becomes much less simple.

To say I’m disappointed would be a huge understatement.  I had accepted this as a high probability as soon as I saw the qualifying times, so I’m not hugely surprised by this, but I had tried to remain optimistic that it would work out.  Now it’s back to the drawing board to figure out what my running will look like for the rest of the year.  I’d still like to see if I’m up for the challenge of 50 miles, but my options are somewhat limited within a reasonable driving distance.  We have a lot going on this Fall, so it’s going to be a hard sell to add the expense of a trip and hotel for a destination ultra.  I could possibly train heavily for a Fall marathon and take my revenge on those 26 seconds and go after a PR.  Maybe train for a shorter triathlon since I’ve got the bike and access to a pool, but I’d like to wait on triathlons as a possibility until 2013.

Regardless, I gave myself about a day to feel sorry for myself, and now I’m starting to formulate a plan.  Also got out for my first post-50k run on Saturday, and other than some tightness in my right knee everything felt pretty good.  I may have escaped the doctor after all.

What to do??? ... What to do?

Friday, May 11, 2012

OBX Ultramarathon Recap - Revenge of the Soft Sand

Great weather, great setting, great volunteers, great small group of participants, great race director, great T-shirt, great finisher ‘medal’, great experience.

And yet, I find myself conflicted as to whether I would recommend this race to someone without making sure they know what they are getting into.  I suppose that’s true of most any distance race.  Running a distance race on a beach is challenging.  Running a distance race on the beaches of the Outer Banks is a mental and physical rollercoaster.  Soft sand makes for a very interesting day of running.  However, when this is what you’re looking at around an hour into the race, even soft sand doesn’t seem so bad.

The race started at 5AM, and despite waking up just after 2AM, I still managed to roll into the parking lot with only 15 minutes to spare before the start.  Made a quick trip to the bathroom – yes, a real bathroom with running water and everything … huge plus for this race, and got to the starting line with 7 minutes to spare.  Temperatures were already in the 60s, but there was scattered fog and it felt pretty good for running.  A couple quick pictures of the 27 folks that made it to the start, and we were off.

The first couple of miles take you North along the beach road until you literally reach the end of the road and end up on the beach in a stretch known for a population of wild horses.  Sadly we saw no horses, continued North for a little while longer, then made a turn and headed South down the beach where we would continue to head for the next 29ish miles.  It was just starting to get light at this point, and there was patchy fog on the beach with an unusual stillness to the air.  The houses in this area are out on the beach and are very large, and in the early morning light and fog they looked like something out of a movie.  Pictures didn’t quite capture the moment, but I tried anyhow while I ran.
 The beach at this point was very wide, flat, and well-packed, boosting my confidence that this wouldn’t be as difficult as I thought.  Silly, silly me.

Miles 1-14:  “The sand is my friend”

The first 2 miles were on the road, and the next 12 were on sand that was generally flat and well packed.  I was aiming to settle into around a 9:30 pace, and was generally on that pace, just a little faster.  Although a little warm, the morning couldn’t have been any nicer.  The seas were very calm, and small pods of dolphins could be seen just a few hundred yards offshore at several points during the run.  The sand makes for a little more effort when running, and really rewards a midfoot strike versus sinking your heels into the sand.  My legs felt good throughout this stretch.

We had to stop at each of the three aid stations, so I took my time at the first station around mile 8, topping off the fuel belt, getting a couple pictures taken, and even taking pictures of the volunteers, including the race director.  Life was good, and my confidence was high.  Running without a time goal is very freeing.

Race director Zach on the left - awesome guy
Miles 12 through 22 are through sections with only private beach access, so no spectators/crews were allowed in this stretch.  The last crew option was at mile 11.4.  This meant if someone was going to meet me it would be around 6:45 in the morning.  In the interest of marital harmony, rather than ask my wife, I asked my dad to meet me at this stop with some drink refills and shoes and socks in case I needed a change (we were staying with my parents for the race).  With no porto-johns allowed on the beach, this was also the last public restroom option available until around mile 23.  I may or may not have already taken care of my internal fluid levels a little earlier on the dunes, so I didn’t need the restrooms or the change of clothes.  A couple more pictures, a change of drink bottles, and I was back on my way.

The going stayed good until right around mile 14.  High tide was around 7AM.  Soon after 7AM I hit the 14 mile mark.  Right around the 14 mile mark the sand took a cruel, cruel turn towards soft.  The kind of soft where you’re battling for traction.  The kind of soft where you wonder if walking would be faster than running.  The kind of soft that makes you question your choice in races.

Miles 15-31: “Who the hell put all this sand here?”

The second half of this race was mentally and physically tough.  The sand turned soft and stayed soft from miles 14 to around 27.  After that it got a little better, but my legs were so tired that I was having to mix in some stretches of walking.  There were times when the sand got so soft that I switched to walking because it really was faster than trying to run and just drilling holes with your feet.  I knew there would be some soft sand in the back half of the race based on my run about a month ago, but this was much worse than I expected.  Through mile 15 my slowest moving pace was 9:45/mile.  After that nothing was under 10:24, with a slowest mile at 14:16.  It was frustrating and mentally taxing.  Eventually I fell in with another runner and we commiserated and tried to encourage each other.

The third aid station was at mile 24.3.  My wife and kids were waiting for me at this one, and I’ve never been so happy to see them.  I lingered as long as I could, got doused with cold water, readied myself for the push to the finish, and set off again.

Still able to smile .... who do I think I'm fooling?
My top-notch crew in action

Should have done a lot more of this
At this point the temps were in the 70s, and the sun was in full effect on the beach.  My fueling plan had held up well, so my stomach was holding strong.  I was actually feeling a little dehydrated, and could have used one more aid station.  I got in a pattern of running .9 miles, and walking .1, which helped with the tiredness and dealing with the still squishy sand.  Finally the finish was in sight, and about a quarter mile from the finish my son showed up to run in to the finish line with me.

Some unexpected and much appreciated company for the finish

Me and my boy ... good stuff
 I don’t think I went more than about 10 feet past the finish before I slammed on the brakes.  Stopping was a beautiful thing.

Put a fork in me ... I'm done
Lots more post-race pictures, a quick dip in the ocean to ‘ice’ my legs, and this one was in the books. 

My biggest fan ... the feeling is mutual
The Stallman men
Still cheering for their boy ... still makes me smile
The rest of the day was a quick lunch, a post-race party with some free beers at a local brewery, the infamous fish taco dinner at Mama Kwan’s (heavenly).  And an early bedtime after just 3 hours of sleep the night before the race.

Overall this was a great experience.  The race was extremely well run, and the small size of it gave it an intimate feel that was fun and made things like the post-race party a possibility.  They tried to make everything local.  Instead of finisher medals they gave out drawings of the Currituck Lighthouse (the start of the race) by a local artist that were numbered n of 35, where n was your place in the race.  Here’s the one I got for finishing in 5th place (5:34:49).

They gave awards for the top three finishers, which were duck decoys carved by well-known local artists, along with a writeup on the decoy and the artist.  The shirts and the logo were very cool, and my shirt actually fits, which has been hit-or-miss for me in other races.

Overall I would recommend this event, but would caution that folks know what they’re getting into with the possible sand conditions.  The thing with the beaches here is the conditions could be completely different next year.  They actually could be completely different next week.  All a function of tides and storms.  These beaches are constantly moving and changing, regardless of how much the residents may try to fight it.

My legs felt surprisingly good a couple days out from the race, and the only thing with some lingering discomfort is my right knee, which doesn’t feel any worse than it did in the couple weeks leading up to the race.  Fingers crossed I may have made it through a race without a visit to my orthopedist friend.  Glad to have this one done, and looking forward to whatever may come next.

Maybe time to go even longer???

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My First Ultra .... Done

It was every bit as difficult, and every bit as rewarding as I expected.

Don't let the smile fool you ... soft sand is not my friend.

Full report to come....

Friday, May 4, 2012

Storming the Beach

Less than 24 hours until I take a shot at running beyond a marathon.  I'm excited about running the longest run I've ever done.  Excited to the point of distraction.  I'm ready to get this thing started.

Finisher's medals are nice ... everyone likes a little bling ... but I'm most looking forward to two things at the end of this journey.  Overpriced beer:

and the best fish tacos in the Outer Banks:

I'm easy to please.