Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Kids Are Alright

Sometimes I wonder what the kids think about all this running. This morning, the five year old told me:

"You did pretty good on that ultramarathon."

Thanks buddy! Also, I got this great piece of artwork for my efforts at Pineland.

My latest office artwork. Given to me for Pineland.
Guess they are paying attention. Hope it rubs off and we can get out on the trails soon. =)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pineland Farms 50k

I said it last year, and I'll repeat it again this year. Many thanks to the race directors and volunteers at this race. It is one of the best organized, fun running events I've had the chance to participate in, and definitely a go-to event in New England. That out of the way, on to the race report.

Training? Who needs Training?
Heading into 2011's 25k-turned-unofficial-50k, I had been running every day for 200 days, up until the day before Pineland. I took a day off and then went up to run. This year, Pineland marked the 152nd consecutive day of running at least one mile. Last year, I was coming off a "training cycle" that I had been sticking to with my "running wife" Rebecca. Maybe you remember the less-than-stellar Boston experience from last year? This year, I didn't really "train" for anything in the spring. I ran Stu's 30k in March and afterwards thought that I'd go out for a couple 20+ mile runs and see how I felt. If I felt good, I'd bite the bullet and sign-up for the 50k at Pinelands.

I went out 21 and 23 mile runs in late April/early May and felt pretty decent. So I signed up, and continued to just run trails as much as possible while keeping the streak alive. I figured that running every day, in combination with the increased cross-training I was doing (biking at work, pushups, crunches, burpees, plank, etc), I'd be fairly prepared for the 50k come Memorial Day.

Race Weekend - Saturday
Last year, I made the drive up, ran the race, and drove home. It was a long day! This year, decided to make it a mini-vacation. The wife and kids accompanied me up on Saturday night. We stayed in the Freeport area, which was perfect - about 20-25 minutes away from the race. Saturday night, I met up with a bunch of Dailymile friends down in Portland for a little pre-race celebration. Then came the arduous task of getting the children (5 and 7) to sleep in a foreign place the night before an ultra. Let's just say I did not get a great night's sleep. But, do we ever sleep well before races?

Race Day!
Woke up sometime before 6 and made our way over to get some breakfast at the hotel cafe. I don't normally eat that much before races, but this morning I decided to have a fuller meal - big old veggie omelette with bacon. Delicious. Then we made our way over to the campus. It was a gorgeous morning for a run - 60's with a slight breeze.

Got my number, had one last stop at the port-a-john, and it was just about time to get ready. Had a chance to snap a picture with the kids before the race.

My cheering section

Soon I made my way to the back of the pack and awaited the start. Let's go over my "goals", shall we?

  • Finish. Yes, I've run 32 mile training runs. Yes, I ran 47 miles in Vermont last year. Yes, I ran 50k at Pineland last year. But I've never officially finished an ultramarathon.
  • Take it easy and have fun. I had no intention of stopping "the streak", so I wanted to make sure that I didn't do anything stupid to jeopardize my chances of running on Monday.
  • Complete a series of "tests". This represented my chance to test several things:
    • New shoes. A few weeks prior I picked up a pair of New Balance MT10 trail shoes. Been loving them. Wanted to give 31 miles a go to see how they held up.
    • New eating. For about 2 months I've been eating a paleo-style diet. Which, of course means no grains and much, much less in the way of carbohydrates. I had more than one person tell me that this was a bad idea for endurance events. Nutrition on my training runs has consisted mainly of dates and bananas. Wanted to see how I'd do with this formula, plus some of the tasty salted potatoes.
    • My overall level of fitness. As I said, I hadn't really been training for this distance in particular. Was really curious to see how I would feel after 26-28 miles. The last time I ran anything more than the 23 I did in early May was the Vermont 47 in September of last year.
I may have also had a unmentioned goal of beating my unofficial time from last year, which was 6:58:19. A little healthy self-competition never hurt anyone (too badly).

So where were we? Oh yeah, the start...


I'm a back of the packer

One last wave to the wife and kids :)
"Runners: On your mark...Go!"

Nice and easy out of the gate. It wasn't long before I was chatting with a guy wearing VFFs. His name was Matt and he was from the Boston area. It was his first ultra, and after a few minutes talking, we decided to stick together. I told him a bit about the loop that I remembered from last year. The first 3 miles or so are mostly downhill, so I tried to go easier than I did last year. We moved along for a while at somewhere around an 11-ish pace.

After a while, we ended up falling in with a couple of women in the grass. I say "the grass" because after a while, you can't really tell where the hell you are out there. It all sort of looks the same.

Lots of this
One of the women, Christine, was from the Maine Trail Monsters Club. We both knew J-Rock so we chatted it up about how much of a beast he is, and how awesome the trail running scene is up in Maine. The other woman, Tracy, was actually also from central Massachusetts, so we had a lot to chat about as well. She was also rocking the VFFs (in fact, she actually works for Vibram, which is way cool, as I finally learned once and for all you're supposed to pronounce them VEEEEbram).

Anyways, the 4 of us moved forward together for a bit. After a while Christine dropped behind a bit, and it was just the three of us. We stuck together for the majority of the first 25k loop. After about 10 miles through the first loop, the course winds back through the start/finish area. Got to see the family which is always a super thing.

About 10 miles in, feeling great!
We then moved into the second part of the loop. Not the second loop, just the second part. The course is 10 or so miles of winding trails through the forest and farmland and then about 5.5 miles on the other side of the start/finish area. At the final-mile aid station, Tracy stopped to use the facilities, and Matt and I continued on. It wasn't too long into the second loop that we noticed Tracy had caught up to us. I have to admit, I was surprised to see she had, as we thought we left her behind. Anyways, it was great to be reunited for a little bit. She stuck with us until around mile 19 (I think?) and then it was just the two of us for the second loop.

Not far into the second loop, Dailymile friend Patty snapped a picture of us having a blast on this 50k adventure.
Feeling pretty good after some aid station food and drink
On the second loop, I stopped for a few seconds here and there to snap a few pics.

Did I mention there was some grass?
You might not be able to make it out, but there was some nice water over rocks  after this bridge.
Green
Relentless forward motion. That's what the ultramarathoners say. So we kept moving forward. Pace was still somewhere near 12, although I wasn't really paying that close attention to it. Really just tried to concentrate on the perceived level of effort - slowing when I felt it prudent. Again - wanted to run on Monday, and in the back of my mind I was thinking I might need to save something in case I ran into dailymile friend and rockstar Maddy, who was running the 50 miler. I ran with her last year and thought the opportunity may present itself again this year, so I was trying to hold back a little bit.

On the second part of the second loop, we crossed the marathon mark and it was congratulations all around to the first time ultramarathoners that were near us in the field at the 26.2 mile mark.

Several times throughout the course, we ran into J-Rock, who was volunteering, and riding the course on his mountain bike. "Have you seen Maddy yet?", "Nope...". I was starting to get a little worried actually. Maybe she was having a really rough day. I was hoping we'd overlap at some point and was pretty surprised we hadn't seen her yet. Maybe she was having a truly phenomenal day, and she already finished? That seemed impossible, but still, I was wondering where she was / how she was doing.

Around mile 29 or so, I got my answer. I heard a familiar voice say "DM Representin!" and I felt a rush of air and saw a blur of colors as Maddy zipped by with her pace runner Sean trying to keep up with her as she was straight up crushing the last bit of her 50 miler. I turned to Matt and said "And I was worried about her!". He agreed - "Yeah, good thing, because it looks like she's really struggling..."

Last year, she and Brendan amazed me by taking off with a couple miles to go. This year, I was not going to let that happen again. I had held back long enough. It was time to see what I could do after 6 hours of running at an "easy" pace. I took off to catch up with them. As Maddy put it on DM, the three of us "busted our butts to the finish line".

I'd say so. After running in the 12-13 minute pace range for the better part of the day, the last mile was a scorching fast 9:30.

Best Finish Ever!
I slowed down a bit at the very end. Maddy ran into the start/finish area to much applause. Then it was my turn. As I entered the clearing, I saw the wife and kids waiting and cheering. The kids ran out to greet me, but as I approached, I raised my arms in celebration. I was about to officially complete my first ultramarathon, and I couldn't have been happier.

Loving It All
As I reached the kids, I grabbed my son and hoisted him up and the three of us ran together across the finish line, in what was undoubtedly the proudest, happiest, most emotionally overwhelming race moment I have ever experienced. I may have cried glorious tears if I had more liquid in me.

Best Finish Ever!
 I got my cowbell and a fresh bottle of water, hugged the family.

After
 A few minutes later, I saw Matt finish. Went up and shook his hand and exchanged thanks and congratulations. Headed to the BBQ tent and got some food. Spent a little bit of time hanging out with DM friends afterwards before heading back to the hotel room for a much needed shower, and of course, more food, and wine. :)

So how about those 'tests'?
New Shoes
The new shoes fared fantastically. No issues at all. No blistering. Feet were sore, but to be expected. It was a 50k trail race after all.

New Diet
I felt fantastic the entire way. No "wall" to speak of. Granted, I took this nice and slow, but I've been working on burning fat, and I think this race proved to me that I'm capable of going for a long, long time as long as I'm smart about it. Here is what I ate - at each aid station, I sampled boiled potatoes with salt, the salty banana, an occasional pickle, and oranges. I took 1-2 s-caps from the aid stations each stop. I also had some dates with me, and I think I ate about 5 over the course of the day.

Overall Level Of Fitness
I am super encouraged by the end of this race. Busting out a 9:30 pace in mile 31 without falling apart was awesome. And if you guessed that the streak continued Monday morning, you would be correct. I felt fine enough to even bust out an 8-handle for a half mile or so on the way back to the hotel. Ran on the single-track Tuesday morning without issue. So yeah, I think running every day, cycling at lunch, and randomly throwing in pushups, plank and the like is working like a charm.

The Data
The wrist-bitch reports:

Distance: 31.15 miles
Time: 06:35:12
Elevation Gain: 2457'
Elevation Loss: 2460'
Average Pace: 12:41
Average 'Moving' Pace: 12:03

An unofficial "PR" by around 23 minutes. I'm pretty happy with that.

Closing Thoughts
When I ran my "second first" marathon in 2010, my race report contained the following bit -
It is truly a miraculous thing that I get to do these things. Years ago, at 350 lbs, I would have never imagined such a thing was possible. Then I did it. 2 years ago, I never imagined such a thing would be possible, again. 
Years from now, I can't wait to reflect upon the things that I can't imagine doing right now - ultras, BQ, etc. 
Most things that seem impossible are achievable. It just takes a little consistency and discipline.  You can change your life. It all starts right now.
I am incredibly grateful for each day that I wake up and get to enjoy this way of life. Running has changed me in ways that I cannot even count. I want to extend a sincere, heartfelt thank you to anyone and everyone that has been a part of this journey with me - be they friends and family, online 'friends', people that have run with me during events, or even complete strangers that give a knowing nod and smile when we pass on the trails.

So that's it. I'm an official ultramarathoner. I got a cowbell even.

Need More Cowbell!
But here's the thing - the 50-mile finishers get an even bigger cowbell. Hmmm....

Until next time - run, run, run.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Been a while, I know.



I've been neglecting the blog. I know. I'll write more soon. Promise.