Monday, January 18, 2016

PHUNT always wins....

Ouch. I just noticed my blog posting numbers and last year I only did 11 entries! I'll chalk that up to the rough year. You know the whole, I really don't want to talk about it thing and put one's own head in the sand. So, 2015.

Anyways, 2016 is now in effect and the first race is out of the way. Like last year, I kicked off the racing season with PHUNT, a race hosted by the TrailDawgs running club. The race takes place down in Elkton, Maryland at the Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area. Two years ago, it was still a fatass but under the guidance of Carl Perkins has become an official race. Also, two years back Carl ordered up 4 degree temps with 5 inches of fresh now on a 50K loop. After some tweaking, it is now a 25K loop that you have the option of doing once or twice.

Following last year's freezing rain year, I opted to sign up for just the 25K. I did this back last January when registration opening. Part of this was done for sanity as last year work hammered me in the weeks leading up to the race. (It was the end of our fiscal year and I work for a financial institution.)

About a week before the race this year, I thought about doing the 50K. Weather was looking good and I was feeling good about my running. I've been taking it easy on myself instead of pushing as soon as the calendar flips. One of my objectives in training/racing this year is to build myself up. That means in terms of distance raced and mileage. Kind of the quality versus quantity model. So the idea of doing 50K doesn't exactly jive with taking it one step at a time. Carl encouraged me to make the decision on race day. (At the end of the day, official race policy was everyone was given the option to do one or two loops. Your personalized bib had pull tags for each distance.)

Still going into race week, I was mentally thinking about doing a 50K while telling myself my body will decide if I was ready. As incentive, I told myself I would take Sunday off running if I did the 50K. That would lead to maybe going to the movies too.

Anyways, on Thursday, I prepped my gear and laid out my clothes for the 16th. (I find it is easier than doing it the night before.) I dumped some Tailwind into my Nathan handheld and Nathan Peak bottles. I was leaning towards the Peak for running since I can lose some the arm weight but wanted to have both available to me.

Race morning, I hoped in the car, put on Duran Duran's Paper Gods and began my drive to MD. I stopped on the way out of my neighborhood to put air in a tire that was a little low and add some gas to the tank. One of those was doable. Frustratingly, the air at the gas station was not on. Grrr.... However, I knew I had good enough air to get to to MD and knew I would be passing a Wawa with air in Newark, DE. So, I got air closer to my destination. But I got the job done. It's the little things that make one race ready and properly inflated tires are one of those things. Despite, the extra stops, I got to Fair Hill an hour before the race and scored a fine parking spot.

Once in the activity hall, I dropped my bag in a corner, got my bib and headed to the potty line. Let's say if the urge to go had come near Wawa, I would have saved some time but alas, I was in line for the men's room. Thankfully, I got there when I did and not much later. And at least it was a warm wait as opposed to the port-o-john option outside. Still I admit it was a little longer than I hoped. I'd say that impacted my pre-race socializing to near zero. I had bottles to fill with water and shoes to put on. I did those to Clutch's Psychic Warfare album. It was so rockin' I didn't even need to bust out the drum sticks. Shoe-wise, I opted to go with my Montrail FluidFlex. Not the II but the original. I had the FluidFlex II with me but I wanted a little lighter weight. Part of me had thought about bringing the Caldorado's to the race for the extra grip since there was bound to be some mud from the rain during the overnight. In the end, those stayed at home as I felt I could get away with the lighter shoe. And for the most part I did. Aside from a few sections, I maintained solid contact with the trail. Of course, one of the toughest sections was the first field we run the edge of. That was sloppy.

Before I forget, I should tell you I ended up going with the handheld as I couldn't get the Peak to sit comfortable enough and didn't have the time to play with it. Lesson: Get a run in with it on sometime soon as it has been a little while. Maybe I got a bit chunky since it felt like it was digging more than usual. (It always digs initially before settling in nicely. I'm just built weird.)

Just shy of 9am, Carl made announcements and led everyone out of the hall to the start with the sounds of AC/DC's Highway to Hell. Before we knew it, we were all lined up and ready to go. Some additional announcement's were made that I admit I didn't really hear. Then we were off. Not far out of the gate I took the lead. I really did not want to get stuck behind people on muddy singletrack so I saw it as little option but to go out front. Last year, I went out and went out hard only to not have a good day. This year, I did not push the pace as much. Part of this was, I still had not decided if I was doing 25K or 50K. For the early miles, I was going back and forth in my head. At the 1st aid station, I was thinking 25K still. By the second, I was leaning towards 50K. You could say at that point, I was feeling good. Then again, you could say that this section was the easiest to flow on. It had the least amount of rolling switchbacks. Those rolling switchbacks at Fair Hill will beat you up. None of the hills are hard but it is slightly roller coaster in some spots. After all the course does manage to somehow squeeze 2100 ft of gain/loss in 25K. (My friend Destrie had 4200ft for 2015's 50K and this year was the same course, just in reverse.) After the second aid station, I felt the course had some of the muddier sections. (Around here, I saw Ryan, who I thought was taking pictures, and tried to flash my Trail WhippAss singlet that was under my white-T. It was cold at the start and I wanted the extra layer. Also, turns out Ryan took video so I look super silly.) On the downhill after the course's covered bridge, I did some slipping. That made me think hard about what the course would be after another 400 people had a chance to pass through. And it was from there on out that I based my 50K decision more on the course conditions than how I was feeling. Maybe, it is because I have an ecological landscape architect at home but I just worry about the environment and felt bad running in the mud by the end since I'm sure we increased erosion damage to the Fair Hill trails. But I'll be the first to tell you, in the last 5 miles, were the course gets twisty again, my hips were not liking me. That really told me....be wise and do 25K today.

Getting to the last climb on a fire road was nice. I knew when I hit it, I was just about done and strode into the finish.

During the 25K, I managed to run comfortably and put in a two minute gap on second. I finished in 1:55:40 on some sloppy trails for an opening win to start 2016. (And while I did the distance I registered for, the fact I did not do 50K means, even in victory..Phunt ALWAYS wins.)

Following the run, I got to hang out with Ryan, Rodney, Emir, Maggie, Jackie and Jeff. Beforehand, I got to see Bryan and Mel. The veggie meatballs as part of the post race food were awesome. Probably, one of the best post race meal options for a vegetarian I'd had.

I'm already looking forward to my next race and building on a reasonable start to 2016. And for the record, I did do a Sunday run. I gave myself a break and only did 5 miles in the afternoon instead of a usual morning long run. But since I didn't do the 50K, I had to do something as I told myself only a day off if I completed 50K.

At least the run was done during the snow.....hopefully, the next race won't be in the snow.

Monday, December 21, 2015

2015: Let's call it a Year (Complete with Bryan Court 100 Recap - Fancy!)

Racing as a 35 year old is done. Running in 2015 is nearly there so I will take this time to close out the year on the blog with some musings looking back on the year.

Looking back is pretty easy. By my standards it was a sub-par year. My performances at ultra distance races this year were horrible, granted my biggest victory did come at the Umstead 100. For most that would be enough, not me. I failed to finish a 50 mile so I didn't even sniff that sub-6 and had only one 50K. During a span, I was starting and DNF'ing races out of frustration. It was a vicious cycle that I would try to move past a poor performance by signing up for a new race. In the past, my strategy of putting bad races behind me in this manner failed miserably. Instead of trying to rebound from a bad ultra with an ultra, I should have tried shorter races that I would finish to boost my confidence. Over the course of the year, I was not on my game. From getting off to a bad start with being tired from work at Phunt to Bronchitis before Black Canyon to buying a house (impacting much of the year after the miracle of Umstead), I was behind the eight ball. What I really should have done was adjust my goals. Thankfully as the year has closed, I've managed to get back more into my normal groove stringing together some encouraging performances at the Bucks County Marathon, BUS Trail Mix Up 30K, Bryan Court 100 (60K) and the Wissahickon Winter Solstice 10K. Also, in October, I managed to run 14 seconds faster on the Stormwater Runoff course than in 2014.

With good performances for the bulk of the past 2-3 months, I hope the trajectory will start 2016 off right. Last year, I really talked about my goals. Not going to do that so much for the upcoming year. Why? Just to reduce the stress I put on myself. I'm a pretty wound-up individual and can beat myself up. So why give myself the burden of feeling unnecessary pressure? Not going to do it. (Ok, I'm likely to do it still but maybe this will be a tad less.)

My aim is to build confidence and structure my race schedule in order to accomplish this. For much of what I have lined up so far, all the races get longer. And the spacing will allow for me to do some shorter speed runs that 2015 lacked a little of. That will mean hitting pavement more but I'm successful at the longer stuff because I can turnover when I need to.

Goodbye, 2015! Hello, 2016.....

BONUS CONTENT: BRYAN COURT 100 - REPORT:

What do you do when your friends (who just happen to be twin brothers) decide to host a fun run that entails 100 laps of a .378 mile cul de sac in the middle of December? You show up to run said 100 laps, which is exactly what I did.

Originally, my life-partner in crime, Peg was scheduled to make the voyage from gritty Philadelphia to the suburban oasis of Wayne, NJ. However, due to circumstances beyond our control, the team was splitting up for the day. Instead, thanks to friend-extraordinaire, Maggie agreed to let me ride shotgun in sweet Suburu style for the trip up as she too was on pilgrimage to Bryan Court. Hers was even more impressive as it was from Wayne to Wayne. (It is as if the world had folded in on itself!)

Because of her bad-ass win at Brazos Bend 100, Maggie was only running 20 loops as she was teaming up with fellow international powerhouse Aly for the 2-person relay edition of BC100. (Maggie is the other IPH here, not me.)

Not only is Maggie an awesome runner, she is an awesome driver and despite my late arrival for departure, she had us up to the run location at the time requested by the RD's Otto and Jurgen. We were surprised that a large number of runners took one of the early start options. It was enough to make one think we were late to the dance. Within moments of our arrival, we were inside Race HQ staying warm and marveling a certain large wedding portrait. (Unless, you were there, you don't get to know.) Around 8:45, we were summoned for opening ceremonies that included both the American and German national anthems. Before we knew it, time had come to line up next to the official mailbox start/finish line to start our quest of feeling loopy.

And away we go....round and round.

Yes, the course as mentioned about is a .378 mile loop on sidewalks. Yes, the goal is to run 60K in this manner. Yes, you will lose count of your laps. Don't let all that scare you, the real danger was the technical section on the far end of the course which required a lighting quick descent of 4 curb-like inches within a manner of feet. This year, the beast of the course consumed at least two victims who were able to pull themselves up from the ashes and claim victory over the course.

One of the great things about the course at BC100 is that you get to see all sorts of people you know over and over and over again for hours. So while you are doing something so potentially idiotic (as in the 'why are we doing this again' sense) you are always amongst friends. (It does help that the majority of the starting field knew each other.) Also, it is never understated how having not one but two available bathrooms every 3/8's of a mile is so nice. Only potential problem there is that those facilities are warm enough to not want to go back out into the cold. (A dilemma I myself had to encounter late in the run.)

Do you want to hear about each lap? Of course, you don't. And I wouldn't be able to remember all the details either. I couldn't even remember the lap I was on half the time so why would you expect me to remember anything else? But wait, how do I know how far I had gone if I couldn't remember? The RD's thought of everything as they assembled a star studded team of lap counters who worked tirelessly throughout the event from the confines of their warm van. A few of the hardcore counters pulled up chairs next to the aid station (which was next to the start/finish, which was next to the van....you get the idea....it was all close.)

Apparently, I was going to fast on my loops as a couple of times, Otto's wife yelled at me to slow down. Her language was a bit saltier but you get the point. Maggie after completing her long slog informed Otto's wife it was my training pace. With a course like Bryan Court, there is always suffering. Going comfortable will lead to suffering by prolonging the pain and going fast will make time go faster but will hurt in other ways. BC is always ready for a beat down.

Eventually, (not to mention thankfully), it was over. I ended my self-imposed torture (simply because I was brainwashed by the RD's and a few others that doing this was going to be fun). 100 laps for 60K in 4:43:30. Considering this was my first 60K, does this count as a PR? Can someone else confirm to me how this works at this event?

After my collapse across the finish line, I stood myself up and braced against the mailbox for support as both outstanding RD's stopped in the middle of their own efforts (they were running too) to present to me a trophy and this year's Bryan Court 100 buckle designed by (ninja and) fellow runner, Elaine. We posed for pictures and then I went inside the house to warm up. It was now time to enjoy the other aspects of this festive holiday party that happens to have a 100 lap fun run during it. There may or may not have been a nap. (Ok....I admit it, I took one.)

As with all good things, it had to come to an end. Maggie and I had to get back to our respective homes to do some debate watching. So, off into the sunset (to be honest, it was already dark), in the Suburu we went.

And thus closes the end of the BC100 recap.

(Like a moron, the next day I woke up and raced a trail 10K.)


Thursday, December 17, 2015

On Lance Armstrong, Trail Racing and Inclusion.....

With Lance Armstrong’s recent foray into trail racing (because lets face it, if it was just trailrunning we would not be having this discussion), debate within the MUT (Mountain/Ultra/Trail) community around doping has escalated on the heels of Elisa Desco’s late inclusion into the North Face 50 race. What do we do with those who have been found using banned substances? Do we let them in after they have done their time or do we let them in as many of the events we participate in have no governing body?
I’m far from supporting bring in a governing body like USATF.
Eric Eagan’s recent blog does a good job of putting in place parameters (http://trails2brews.com/2015/12/14/who-exactly-is-welcome/). If we as a community want to be supportive to people, we should include them. However, for being a convicted doper, there should be a scarlet letter worn. So, I fully support allowing a cheater to participate if they do not get an official result and are not eligible for any awards. Where I would go farther is that the individual (in this case, Lance Armstrong) nor any of his/her sponsors could not use anything from the event (images, name) to promote themselves. In this manner, the convicted athlete can get that sense of competition they may need in life and the fellow competitors do not have to worry that they could lose out on something to a person of questionable competitive moral.
A second part of this raises the question, how do we police/test in our own community?
I would like to see networks of race directors get together to pull together resources to do testing. (Maybe races can partner with research/teaching hospitals to get services free or at a reduced cost.) Since the resources are limited, have the testing be rather random. Amongst the group of races, rotate which races test every year. But do not do it in a true rotation. Spin a wheel or pull names out of a hat. Some years have more races test. In other years, less. Do not announce which races are doing testing in that year or even at all. For those of us hoping to be the top of our sport, we should expect to be clean and competing against clean runners. We should not act surprised if we are asked for a sample.
At the end of the day, all of us have a love of running. It is as inclusive a sport as there is and that is a mantle the MUT community should hold up on a pedestal. But we also have a duty to preserve the integrity of racing while keeping true to the roots of inclusion.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bucks Repeater....

As the fluctuations of 2015 continue, it is not all bad. Occasionally, there has been the upswing surprise. You could say this past weekend was one of them.

Not sure if the world has heard yet, but I repeated at champion at the Bucks County Marathon on Nov 15th that starts and finishes in Washington Crossing, PA. The skinny version is that I won in 2:39:00, slower than last year's record time of 2:31:53. To be honest, the 2:39 was a complete surprise.

Aside from one 20 miler in Sept when I was trying to push myself to be ready for Steamtown (we all know what happened or I should say didn't happen there), I had not done anything over 16 miles. Even then, they had only been the past two weekends prior. (1 @ 15miles, 1 @ 16miles) Part of trying to push was to gauge my ability to line up for Stone Mill 50 on the 14th which was a race I had been looking to. However, on many of my longer runs I've experienced tightness in my groin leading to a slowdown in the latter miles. Both of those long runs had this. What this resulted in was an email to the Stone Mill RD saying I would not be able to run it. I just did not feel I had 50 miles in me without something really bad happening. Call it my spider sense finally telling me to not do something stupid.

(In fact, the few weeks after the Steamtown decision, I have been focusing in on getting back to a good schedule of running right when I wake up. For too much of the year to circumstances, I had been trying to be flexible for sanity's sake. Since I've been pushing myself to get up and out 1st thing, I've been feeling better about many things. Sure, I may be tired but as I do it, my body will get back to where it was as the mind will be sharp.)

So what do I do? Something else potentially stupid. In talking with BCM RD, Pat McCloskey, I told him I was thinking of coming out but was not sure how I would do. He didn't care. I could have finished last. He just wanted me to come out and not be a wuss. Lets call that a swift kick in the pants. The type of kick I did need. I needed to really test myself without pressure. As those who know me, I have a good knack for applying lots of pressure on myself. It can be both good when there is confidence and bad when there is not. Thankfully, Pat's encouragement took the pressure off. Well with the exception of getting Bib #1.

One item, I've neglected to mention was that on the 14th, (day before), I signed up to run a 5K trail race put on by REI in Smithville, NJ. I wasn't going to do that hard just as a shake out run. More or less, it was a nice little run in a park I had not been. Went modest in terms of pace but helped me get loose for the next day.

Sunday morning, I got up and drove to the marathon. Pat mentioned a runner had put down 2:30 as a time. He didn't recall the name but I found it on the list and knew the guy was fully capable. Now where a bit of luck comes in....individual did not show. Hopefully, it was because he had found another race and not due to injury. I warmed up a tad as in to the bathroom and back before getting to the starting line. Before I knew it, we were off. And once we got 10 feet beyond the starting line, I was unchallenged. My first mile was sub 6! I felt comfy and told myself I was going to run comfortable and not look at my time every mile. In fact, I looked at my time at 10K, 10M and HM marks before looking again with 6 to go. Ok, so I did check one more time 3 minutes after the turnaround when I saw second to see how much of a lead I had. (6 minutes for those math majors at home.)

At the 20 mile mark, Pat asked how I felt. I may have uttered a verbal 'sucky' of sorts. I was holding together well but I felt my lack of distance and speed beginning to work against me. My last couple of miles into the finish were slower than 6:30. Amazingly, I held on to my pace pretty well. My second half was only 2 minutes slower than my 1:18:33 on the way out.

I'm very happy to have repeated as champ of this race. It seems like a good way to close out the fall.

May this be a sign that 2016 is going to be a good year. Some races are coming together......

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Abbreviating 2015 to leap ahead in 2016.

Three months.

Guess it has been a while since I've taken the time to write up anything here. You could say based on my year, it is a fitting. From a racing and training perspective, there have been patches that have been good and some that have been what we can say is not as good.

As I started writing this entry, my intentions was to do a play by play of those three months. However, with the way I am working to turn the page on the year and already look to 2016, I have opted to pop in for more of a reminder of 'Hey! I'm here!' To do a short summary, ES 100 was a DNF, SRT 74 Mile also a DNF and the SRT 20 Mile resulted in a big oops that added 1 1/2 hours worth of additional mileage. Steamtown Marathon resulted in a DNS decision on race morning. The last result there was made simply because knowing I could run 26.2 miles, my body and mind were not ready to RACE a marathon. Having tried to power through some of those other races (along with the other tough breaks from the year) I already knew what the reality was. Sure the timing was kind of poor and it likely cost me some payday, it was absolutely the right decision.

Not all has been bad. Some of the recent training has been nice. For the last week, it has been shorter (around an hour) runs on trails. Aside from a nasty spill, I took on Sunday it has been sheer joy just losing myself in the winding local trails a stone's throw from my house. Heck, some of the races have been fun. Winning the Alternative Half Marathon was a real joy. Especially since I got to run with my old friend Brian. Furthermore I got to see him PR! A victory at the Old School Trail Run was pretty awesome due to dropping the hammer on the first major downhill. I went all out like a madman moving from third to first with the move.There were a couple of other races but there is no need to rattle all of them off.

Sure more races are on the horizon. A few are scheduled but I'm not certain those are the races I will wind up doing. Why?

Following the decision to DNS at Steamtown, the biggest realization was that 2015 as a racing year aside from Umstead was a wash. Considering how life dealt a heck of a hand this year that definitely impacted my optimal training, packing away the expectations and just running for the rest of the year to establish a good base is the new objective. I'll do some races. I'd like to do some long trail races but at the same time, I want to keep the travel minimal. For the most part that is. I'm going to venture back up to Maine for some training before the calendar turns. Might even try another attempt up Mt Washington as long as it is not another day full of consistent 80 mile per hour wind.

All in all, from here on out it is about enjoyment. Being specific and sticking to a training plan is for the leap year. Right now, no need to take that leap right now. It is 2015, patience will shepard 2016 as it is meant to be.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ebb & Flow: Progession and Setbacks

Last year, in the midst of a very good year, I felt writing this blog was smooth. However, 2015 for the most part has been very different. It has been a struggle which is a good reflection of the running year in itself.

Aside from Umstead at the end of March, it has been incredibly tough going. And even that was considering I lost a month due to bronchitis in the winter. House hunting/buying/moving has consumed a large chunk of the last three months of focus. This has taken its toll and manifested in my conditioning (both mental and physical) and training. I've done a lot of running still but have had pockets where I had to completely scale back due to the stress causing anxiety that becomes exacerbated during running. Only for short spells it seems I have had good running periods. Around a month ago, I had a nice little period of good running as evidenced by how I felt at the Wissahickon Trail Classic. Since then, I did a few more races and learned I'm not out of the rut. Chasin for Chaflin resulted in a 3rd place finish that just felt sluggish. My climbing legs were gone despite having felt good about my ability coming in. Then, I had some good running up in Maine and NH finished off with a 50K upon my return in NJ.

I felt so good, I signed up for the Eastern States 100. Since then, I've been doing 80 miles weeks with the intention of putting one in this week as well and move into a taper being that ES is a month out. However, the past 5 days have been incredibly tough so this week might end up short. We have finally relocated into our new home. That has meant a lot of physical expenditure. I'm feeling it. Today, on a run-commute that normally is not much of a problem, I had to walk a few short spells. My body was telling me it was working too hard to manage all of its systems. It feels like a bad rut. Hopefully, it is short. I want to really get back to enjoying running. Being in a new home is wonderful but mentally and physically, I need to move beyond life being about the home process. It has now taken up more than 3 months of my year and cost me more than people realize. Not from a financial standpoint but from a standpoint of health which running plays an integral part of.

Let's put it this way, I NEED to move on. Sacrifice time is over.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Climbing Back - It's a Process

If you have been following lately, you might have figured I hit a bottoming out point around 3 weeks ago.

As a result, I made the decision a few weeks back to not race the recent Cayuga Trails 50. It was a race I was deeply looking forward to but I could not put myself in a situation that was likely to push me beyond the physical and mental capacities of the moment. In other words, it would have been too stressful.

So, I've been doing a little running, My mileage is maybe 30 a week. Basically, I am doing whatever I feel comfortable. As you may remember, I bottomed out by a lot of stress so for my health I scaled back massively. The month of May ended up being the lowest mileage month in over two years. Right now, June is on target to be less but that is okay by me. Why?

Well, the limited running I have been doing has been extremely enjoyable. You could say I stopped training so I can just go running. I've not been worried about mileage or pace. I've mainly been on trails. I'd say 90% of the distance has been on trail. Last week, here in the Philadelphia area, it got a little Northwestern with moisture and I had some fantastic runs. The type of runs, I didn't want to end but since they have been in the morning, did have to come home so I could go to work.

This past Sunday I did an hour on the trails. On the day before, I did a 10K trail race (Wissahickon Trail Classic) and took 4th. Considering everything, it felt like a really good performance. Three young studs took it out from the gun and all finished within a 30 second span. I was 2 minutes behind 3rd. Still despite things, I managed my fastest time in the event. Early on, I was outside the top 10 so I ran smart too. Made me really happy with my effort. I enjoyed it, especially since I decided the morning of to do it. As I am running when I feel like it is not stressful and will be fun, I have to wait until the last minute to see how I feel and that is fine. Call it being footloose and fancy free.

Basically, right now, taking it one day at a time is serving me well. Since I am doing some running, I am not losing too much so as I progress I'll be just fine fitness wise.

With my upcoming trip to Maine, I am looking forward to some long slow stuff on mountainous trails.