Monday, December 30, 2013

My First Ultra

Since I'm not on Facebook, I just happened to hear about this free, self supported race. I was heading out to run some local single track late Novemebr and a couple members of the our local tri club had just returned from a run and they told me about it and how to sign up. I promptly signed up that day, since it sounded like fun.

The format sounded perfect for someone who has never run an ultra or a marathon. It was a "last man standing" format where we all ran 4.1 mile loops with each loop starting at the top of the hour. So the sooner you got in from your loop, the longer you had to recover, but also get cold and tighten up. Definitely some strategy there. The loops were nice in that it let people drop when they were ready.

Having not trained or raced at all this year, I wasn't sure how to train for an ultra when signing up just a month and four days before the race. I decided that it was best not to change anything for it since the risk of injury ramping up mileage in such a short time wasn't worth it. Instead, I would rely on my base training which has been a consistent ~25 miles/week and 100+ miles per month for the last six months. Not exactly ultra training levels, but there is no fixing that in a month.

I hadn't practiced nutrition either, so I put some of everything in the back seat of my car hoping something would sound good and I would be able to keep it down. I also put several pairs of socks, shoes and clothes in the trunk so I could switch out of wet clothes when needed. As I was packing my car, I noticed some extra carpet in the garage and cut a couple squares to put on the ground for sock and shoe changes. It worked great!

The night before the race I did nothing different than usual. I had a couple beers and Chinese food with friends. I did drink more water than usual and went to bed early (before 11pm). Race morning I got up at four a.m. and ate some peanut butter toast and had a cup of coffee. With no porta potties at the race, I wanted to get things out of the way before heading to the race. I was able to fall back asleep and even had one of those goofy but stressful race dreams. The alarm woke me up from a dead sleep at 5:45 and I went about getting ready. I turned on the gas fireplace to warm up the family room and the flames came out the fireplace, which they sometimes do for a couple seconds before going up the flu, but this time they stayed out long enough to set off the fire alarm. Not the way you want to start race day. I got that taken care of and set off to pick up SuperKate and head to the race site which is a convenient two miles from my house.

Kate and I were talking about goals on the way to the race. My first goal was to run 5 loops or 20.5 miles which would be my longest run to date. My previous long run was in the same woods at Patrick's 12 hour run and I ran 18 miles in four hours and called it good. My second goal was 8 loops or 32.8 miles. Running 50k is one of those trail running bench marks. Anyway, we arrived at the race site an hour before the race started and visited with ~60 other runners and the race organizer. The race was free, self supported and yet had amazing volunteers and an extremely well stocked aid station that all the runner's contributed to.

At 8 am we all lined up and were off. Pacing is the key and I luckily latched on to a group that wasn't running to fast, but fast enough to get back with about 5 minutes to change and eat. Here is what I remember of the loops.

Pre-race meeting




Loop 1 - Uneventful. The trail was in good shape, temperature was in the low 30's and we kept a nice easy pace. At the end of loop one, I drank a half a bottle of Gatorade which was a bad choice.

Loop 2 - My stomach was sloshing and cramping a little but cleared up after a little while. When I'm cold, my index fingers turn white and go numb, so each loop started with me blowing warm air through my cotton gardening gloves for about the first mile until I warmed back up. After loop 2 I ate half of a banana, drank half a bottle of water and took a salt pill. My stomach was much happier. After loop 2 I also changed my sweaty base layer out (top only, I lubbed the under carraige after every loop using body glide).

Loop 3 - For the most part uneventful but fatigue and soreness started setting in. I was a bit surprised it started so early but I guess if you run the furthest you have in months, it shouldn't be that surprising. I did start worrying that I would not make five loops if the rate of fatigue continued. After loop three, I changed shoes and socks which felt good. I had another half a banana, half bottle of water and a salt pill.

Loop 4 - The soreness and fatigue persisted, but did not increase. Phew! I started evaluating how far I was going to go then kept reminding myself to worry about right now. Keep my footing since by now the temps were in the mid to upper forties and spots on the trail were getting sloppy. At the end of loop four, I changed base layer, ate half a banana, drank half a bottle of water and took a salt tab. I started worrying that a half of a banana wasn't enough calories, but it's all I could stomach.

Loop 5 - I was excited starting loop five knowing I was probably going to hit my prime goal. Concentrated on staying with someone keeping a good pace and staying in the moment. My lower back started barking a bit and I started worrying that this would be my last loop. At the end of that loop, the volunteer recording loop count and times commented that my loop times were the most consistent he had seen. I gave the credit to badass adventure racer Emily (who I met in real life for the first time during loop 2) I'd been in a group she ended up pacing most of the loops. At the end of loop five, I changed shoes and socks, ate half a banana, drank half a bottle of water and took a salt pill. I also laid the two carpet squares on the ground, laid down and stretched my back out. It really worked well.

Loop 6 - I lost a good pace group and started a little too fast. I let some folks pass and tried to pace myself using my Garmin. I definitely need some work there. I was hurting on this lap and thinking I could probably do one, maybe two more loops. At the end of loop six, I changed base layer, ate half a banana, drank half a bottle of water and took a salt tab.

Sporting the Christmas/ultra goatee

Loop 7 - I was hurting when I took off for this loop. I almost turned back and called it quits, but I kept going. There is lots of talking with other runners on a trail run like this. When I hit 26.2 miles, there were three of us running together and I told them that was my first marathon. After some high fives, the guy in front of me said I should go for one more lap to hit 50k. I told him I was hurting and this was my last lap. He said I was running strong enough that I could do it. I didn't catch his name, but I'm sure he (or any of the other experienced racers still going) would have paced me in, but I decided to call it.

Still smiling after 45k :-)

My Garmin read 28.9 miles and I had been at it for just under seven hours. I was happy to exceed my main goal and increase my longest run ever by over 10 miles. I'm proud of that run and really enjoyed running with a bunch of other ultra runners. Everybody was very friendly and encouraging. It really is a great community to be a part of.

Today I'm sore, but in a different way than a road race. Trail running is so much easier on your body than road running that I think I'm less sore after this ultra than I was half after my last half marathon. Probably due to the trails in part and the level of effort. The soreness isn't so much in the quads and back of the calves, it's more in the glutes, and sides of the calves, knees and quads.

I'm pretty proud of that run. Next year I might just half to sign up for (and train for) a 50k :-).



Sunday, December 15, 2013

Jingle Bell Hell 2013

I decided to do XLMIC's Jingle Bell Hell again this year and actually post a race report :-). I did it last year and just never got around to posting about it, but still managed to win the Weasel-Your-Way-Into-The-Donuts prize :-). I did it in 2012 and was pleasantly surprised to receive a gift and a hand written note. That was probably the first thing I received from a blogger friend and it was pretty cool.
The rules:
Must be at least 5K in total maximum.
- I ran 5.4 miles Saturday (and 6.4 miles Sunday).
Must be done on a challenging course (and if you hate treadmills, that means it could be on a treadmill) because the idea is "Hell" ... that is the important part.
- I ran on some local single track after 4 inches of heavy snow. It was awesome, but made my pace hellishly slow.
Must be done between Dec. 14-22, 2013... any time of day or night. This gives you two entire weekends to choose from.
- check, ran on opening day 12/14
You must laugh at least once... can be an evil laugh, a laugh of futility, any kind of laugh but laughter is a MUST.
- laughed at myself for worrying about mountain lions after reading there was one sighted not to far from here :-).
So, on to the actual race report :-). I feel like the last runner on earth to get a Garmin and Brooks Cascadia trail shoes,but Santa brought both early, so JBH was the break in run for both.
I got to put the first set of tracks down :-)
Just put down those tracks

Besides the slow pace, I had a "hellish" hair day. I've always had thick hair and get my hair cut every four weeks. I missed my last hair cut due to travel and my ear wrap bunched my hair up making it look like I had put my hair up in a small bun :-). Serious hair hell for sure.
"Bun head"
No mountain lion tracks :-)
Breaking in some new shoes
Post race cookout :-)

Hopefully Patrick doesn't read this so I can reclaim the only male virtual racer prize title I took two years ago :-).

Sunday, December 8, 2013


What is 100+?

A) The number of nights I've been away from home this year.

B) The number of miles I ran in November.

C) Patrick's asthma awareness efforts.

D) All of the above.


The correct answer is D. I've been in a hotel, condo, cabin, or friend's house about 110 nights so far this year. Crazy.

I hit 100 miles running again in November. That makes five months in a row of 100+ miles!

Besides traveling and running, I have been able to keep my cookouts going strong. I have to admit I'm starting to get the urge to cycle again. I'm thinking about signing up for my first century and if I do this one, it will be a serious challenge. We'll see.

In other news, we got a dusting of snow in St. Louis and the temperature has dropped below freezing. Perfect for trail running!

Hope you all enjoy the Christmas season!


Thursday, November 7, 2013

October Recap

Guess if I'm going to do an October recap, it's time. October was another good running month for me. I ran over 100 miles for the fourth month in a row. First time I've ever done that! Besides running, I've enjoyed the fall weather and colors as well as grilling and smoking. If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably already seen these, sorry.

Not much else knew that I can talk bout here so I'll get to some pics.


I hadn't smoked any meat for quite a while since it's pretty much an all day affair and I've been pretty busy. Since it takes so much effort, I like to load the smoker up when I do smoke.

Tried green beans and almonds in a foil pouch on the grill and they turned out amazing. They have joined the regular rotation :-).


Grilled trout, salmon, and tuna one night. It was fabulous.


JalapeƱos and pork kabobs, yum! In foil are mushrooms and green beans.

I started using an instant read thermometer and it helps cook lobster perfectly. Once the temp hits 140 degrees, pull it.

Loving the fall colors.

Love this shot.


Going to try to hit 100 miles again in November. It's going to be tough with the so going down early and the weather getting colder, it's going to be tough.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

As seen on my run


I was a slow getting my camera out to snap a pic of this three foot black snack.

Kind of a dreary day

Trail construction meant I had the trail to myself.

They scrapped the asphalt off all the train bridges down to the original wood. You could really smell the tar.


This one was a little tougher to get by :)


Knocked out a little over 11 miles. Longest run in about a year. I think Ineed some core work before I go much further.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's been a while

Things have been good and busy, I just haven't had much to blog about. Given that I don't blog about work, religion, politics, or family, that leaves training and cooking. With no races on the schedule, traveling a ton, and only running, there isn't much to talk about except that I've run over 100 miles for three months in a row and I'm on track to run 1000 miles this year which is about a 50% increase over last year. I'm probably in the best running shape of my life and am considering signing up for a half marathon in October. The only thing holding me back is the memory of how much my 5 minute half marathon PR hurt last October :-).

As far as cooking goes, I've been cooking out every Sunday and Saturdays I don't run church sound. I've been posting pictures on Instagram. You can see them here but I'll post a couple below anyway.

Last Sunday we drove up the river road along the Mississippi and took the ferry to a little town called Brussels that has a population of 150. We stopped by the visitor center and learned about the quilts of Calhoun county. Pretty sure we made the old lady's day letting her tell us all about it plus going on a tour of the dilapidated building :-). After picking up some pumpkins, we went to the Finn Inn where I had the best catfish ever. I'm not a huge catfish fan but this was deep fried, amazing goodness. If you are ever in Grafton Illinois, check it out. It's the first time we've done something as a family in quite a while.


That's about it. As I type this, I'm in an airplane traveling from Cleveland to St. Louis wondered what I get when I exceed the point scale with Hilton hotel points :-).


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Beach Vacation 2013

Last week we went to Navarre Florida for our nearly yearly beach vacation. Navarre is between Pensacola and Destin. We stayed in the same condo (The Pearl) and the same room as last year since we liked it so much. The condo has three bedrooms, three baths, kitchen, dining, and living areas. I looked up the square footage and its bigger than our first house (and 10x more expensive). My son brought two friends and my daughter brought one so we had three 16 year old boys and two 21 year old girls with us. As far as I know, they didn't get in any trouble, but then again, I was asleep by 10 pm every night. We all had a good time and with the big condo, never felt cramped. Anyway, here are a few pictures.

View from the front balcony

View from the rear balcony

One day I took the kids parasailing and we had a blast.

We went up about 500 feet. It was very relaxing.

The boys got dunked up to their necks :-)

I went up with the girls.

The boys


The girls


Hopefully we can go back next year.