Archive for July, 2009

Post-mortem on my first ultra

Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2009 by Trail Boy

First I ran an ultra.

Then I went to the beach for some ultra-relaxation.

Then I spent 15 hours Saturday driving home –the ultra of car rides.

So what’s next on my list? Well, I must confess, a certain word does come to mind

Yes, now that a week has come and gone since my first ultramarathon, I think I can focus on what really matters. Running another ultra. And doing it smarter and faster.

But please don’t tell Mrs. Trail Boy. She thinks I’ve finally got this ultra nonsense out of my system. She’s glad this race is over. Over the past few months, as I headed out for a long run, she used the word “lunacy” more than once. She hopes to see a little more of me around the house to help with home repairs and the like.

I see her point. The bathtub needs to be recaulked. The shutters need a coat of paint. The front porch is crumbling on one side. And I’ll get it all taken care of.

But first things first.  How can I take a half-hour off my time at next year’s Buckeye Trail 50K?

Fortunately, I had a week at the beach to think it over. And here’s what I’m come up with.

For starters, I can slash 10 or 15 minutes simply by speeding up through the aid stations. As this was my first ultra, I came to a complete halt at each and every aid station, taking my sweet time to lovingly examine the cornucopia of M&Ms, pretzels, PB&J sandwiches, Gummi Bears, bananas, Hammer Gels, watermelon slices, etc. etc., that ultra races are famous for. Average time per aid station: five minutes, I would guess. That was way too long. Move along, fellow, there’s nothing to see here. Get your water, get your food, and keep moving.

Second, if I can just stay on my feet — rather than tripping over countless roots and rocks falling to the ground repeatedly, like a drunkard in a funhouse — I can take off another five minutes. I fell to the ground three times on Saturday, and stumbled a half-dozen additional times, requiring a brief time-out to see if I had broken, skinned or bruised anything vital.

Third, if I get in better shape, I can trim another five or ten minutes. There was no need to haul an extra 10 pounds of Trail Boy around the course.

Fourth, I need to do more ultra-long training runs — four and five hours. My longest training run this year was about 3:45. It was a tough run, with lots of hills, but not enough time on my feet. During the fifth and sixth hours of my race, I could feel my legs screaming in protest. I should have prepared them better for the long day ahead.

And of course, now that I know what a 50K distance feels like, I can train a bit smarter and increase my running speed a bit. I don’t need to be so conservative. Sure, power-walk the steepest hills. But run (slowly) up the milder ones.

OK, now that I’ve got it all figured out, I’m good to go. Check me out next July.

In the meantime, there’s a really cool 50K trail race in northern Indiana in December I’ve always wanted to run…

To read the full race report, in tortured verse, click here.

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The vital numbers

Posted in Uncategorized on July 20, 2009 by Trail Boy

My legs are still stiff. My toes are still sore. But I have a warm feeling inside, a day and a half after finishing my first ultra.

Lots of friends and family members have given me high-fives and asked if I’ve picked my next ultra.

The answer: No! I’m not even going to think about it until I can walk pain-free.

Meanwhile, it’s not painful at all to think about the results. I’ve been looking for the official results for the past 24 hours or so, but the  race site has yet to post them.

But I did find unofficial results posted here. And from what I could tell, they look right to me. So without further ado:

* There were 154 finishers out of 167 starters.

* I finished 113th, with a time of 6:52:15

* My time for the first half was 3:07. My time for the second half was 3:45.

* The winner’s time was 3:56:58. The last person crossed the finish line in 9:46:58. (There was a 10-hour cutoff.)

Was I happy with my time? Yes. I wish I had finished stronger, instead of doing so much power-walking for the last mile or so, when my stomach was getting unhappy and my legs were screaming and my toes were throbbing.

But for my first ultra, I just wanted to finish, ideally under seven hours, without breaking anything. So I hit all my goals.

I still plan to post a full race report when I get the time to pull my thoughts together. (I’m on vacation  at the moment, and am using a friend’s laptop to write this.)

But as long as I’m writing numbers here are a few more. According to my watch, my splits between aid stations were as follows

Going out:

* Oak Grove to Snowville Road: 1:14:35

* Snowville Road to Boston Store: 1:01:46

* Boston Store to Pine Lane: 51:29

Coming back:

* Pine Lane to Boston Store: 51:07

* Boston Store to Snowville Road: 1:17:17

* Snowville Road to Oak Grove (finish line): 1:36:27

Finally, I’m Ultra Boy

Posted in Uncategorized on July 18, 2009 by Trail Boy

I am now officially an utramarathoning nutjob.

I finished my first ultra today on a muddy, hilly hiking trail, the Buckeye Trail 50K, a goal that has haunted me for five years.

My time was six hours, 52 minutes and 15 seconds.

I won’t say I conquered the trail. That’s too strong a word. The trail let me survive. That’s about all most ultra runners can hope for.

I finished on my feet, in one piece, more or less — even though I took three vicious falls into the mud during the first half, and have the grimy shirt to prove it.

The weather was nearly perfect: temps in the mid-60s. But we had some rain, including a couple of steady downpours, that turned the northern, hilly section of the trail into a mess, with nearly no footing.

Despite that, I had fun. I ran at a respectable pace up until the last six miles, when I hit the wall and downgraded into a mix of slow trotting and power hiking. This was the toughest part of the course, killer hill after killer hill, many of them too muddy to run or even walk.

I ran with with Kevin, an old Ohio running friend. Kevin was a true friend and trail buddy today, encouraging me when my legs started to conk out. Thanks, guy. He knows what tough running is all about. He qualified for Boston two months ago, and didn’t let his tired legs slow him down.

Kevin and I crossed the finish line together. I didn’t have a stated goal for a finish time, but I was secretly hoping to beat seven hours. So I accomplished my mission.

It was a long day in the woods, no doubt. But I came home with a finisher’s medal, a BT50K bumper sticker, a tech T-shirt and feeling of accomplishment.

I’m too sore and stiff to think about my next ultra — or if there will be one.

In the morning, I head to the Delware beach with my family for a week of surf and hopefully sun.

I’ll post a full report of the race and a photo or two when I return.

(For a full race report on the BT50K, written in tormented verse, click here.)

Hit the road, Jack

Posted in Uncategorized on July 17, 2009 by Trail Boy

COUNTDOWN: Ultramarathon Day Minus 1

It’s just about time to hit the road.

Pack, pack, pack.

Drive, drive drive.

This time tomorrow, I’ll be deep in the woods, thinking about what I forgot to pack or wishing I had trained a little differently.

But today, it’s time to wrap things up and just get out of here. No sense second-guessing myself for hours.

The weather still looks about perfect: highs in the mid-60s, with a chance of rain. Hell, we’ll just take whatever the weather gods dish out.

This might be my last post for a while. After the race, Trail Boy is taking the family to the Delaware beaches for a week. I’m not taking a computer, so if I can’t occasionally borrow a friend’s laptop, we’ll all have to just go low-tech for a while.

I’ll give all the grisly details in a week.

Feet up, eyes closed

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16, 2009 by Trail Boy

COUNTDOWN: Ultramarathon Day Minus 2.

Today is a weird day.

On the one hand, my training is completely over.  I’m deep into the taper phase. That means no running today. No running tomorrow, either. I’m saving my energy and strength for Saturday.

I’m putting my feet up, in a manner of speaking. I’m trying to close my eyes and think relaxing thoughts.

On the other hand, I’m running around like a madman today. In addition to going to work and writing a long, complex (yet highly readable!) story for Sunday’s paper, I did the following:

* Got a haircut.

* Went to the credit union for money.

* Went to a 90-minute “all-hands” meeting with the publisher, to discuss our rebuilding strategy after last week’s layoffs.

* Am on my way to a committee meeting at church, meaning I probably won’t get home until 8:30 or 9.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Trail Boy is single-handedly overseeing all shopping, logistics and packing for our trip to Ohio and beyond. (After the ultra, we’re taking a family vacation at the Delaware beach for a week.) She’s doing heroic work. I am glad we have a week to rest and relax after such a hectic week.

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This is what I love to see when I check the weather forecast for a big race: “High of 68. More clouds than sun.”

That’s just about perfect for July. You can’t ask for better weather than that.

The wild card continues to be whether it will rain, and the weatherman is not too sure about that.  There might be a shower or thunderstorm on Friday night. And there might be one on Saturday.

Hey, I can’t anything about it. It’s time to do this thing. Let’s run.

More than one way to hit the trails

Posted in Uncategorized on July 15, 2009 by Trail Boy

COUNTDOWN: Ultramarathon Day Minus 3

I took today off from running. But not from trails, of course.

I took the boys to Town Run Trail Park for a seven-mile bike ride. Joining us were another dad and son from the neighborhood.

We're all smiles as we get ready to roll. The smiles got bigger with each hill. Steven is in the yellow shirt, and Jake is in the brown shirt. Our friends are to the right.

It was a great way to kick-start the day, zooming up and down hills and negotiating all kinds of tricky turns.

It was also a good way to give my running muscles a break, without sacrificing a daily workout.

This was Jake’s first time on the course, and after a tentative first mile, he got the hang of it and did great. He kept up with the pack and never wiped out.

Steven, of course, was the master. He has ridden this course a bunch of times, including with me last night after work.

Both boys were in trail heaven. Of course, that did Trail Boy’s heart good.

The ride took about 50 minutes. Near the end, the dark skies threatened to open any minute. We heard plenty of distant thunder, but got only the lightest of sprinkles. Just as we pedaled into the parking lot, the rain began falling a bit harder, and then finally unleashed a downpour on the 10-minute drive back home. So we managed to beat it by a whisker.

This ramp was closed, but the boys can't wait for it to open.

The bikes are back home, nice and clean from the rain.

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The weatherman is doing his best to make me happy one minute and nervous the next.

Today’s forecast update for Saturday’s race is a mixed bag.

First, the temps look great, now down to a high of 69 degrees.

But there’s a growing chance of rain, something that the forecast didn’t even mention two days ago. “Cool with a thunderstorm possible.”

A thunderstorm? I don’t want to run 30 miles in a thunderstorm.

Let’s say a little prayer to Our Lady of Doppler Radar that the storm holds off for a day or two. Amen.

Mornings with Jake

Posted in Uncategorized on July 14, 2009 by Trail Boy

COUNTDOWN: Ultramarathon Day Minus 4

As my training season winds down, I need to say thanks to a faithful companion who has logged countless miles with me.

Jake pedals past our house during a 5 1/2-mile outing this morning.

Whenever I do a quick run around my neighborhood, I can count on my 10-year-old son, Jake, to hop on his bike and keep me company.

This is one of our special times together — usually a half-hour or so, once or twice a week. When I can’t make it to the trails, I hit the neighborhood roads with Jake.

During this time, we catch up on father-son chit-chat. We talk about neighbors as we go by their houses. We sometimes race to the top of a slope.

When he’s feeling really energetic, Jake will see how many times he can lap me on our one-mile loop, pedaling furiously and passing me with a grin each time.

Often, by the time I’ve run one loop, he’s done three. The kid can fly.

This morning, we headed out again for neighborhood loops. We covered 5 1/2 miles in 47:44.

So Jake, thanks for all the miles together. After this race is over, let’s pick a fall marathon and do it again.

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As I said yesterday, I’m keeping a close eye on my buddy, the weatherman. And he’s making me happier by the day.

Accoring to the latest five-day forecast from AccuWeather, the weather will be nice and cool in Akron on race day Saturday, with a high of 71. That’s down from yesterday’s forecast of a high of 76. “Cool with partial sunshine,” the weatherman says.

But wait, what’s this? On Friday, there’s a chance of showers or thunderstorms. Hmm, that could turn the trails into a mud puddle. Hey Weather Guy, can you hold off on the rain until Sunday?