Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Week 50: Ice Age 50 Mile report

After a victory lap of sorts to visit family in northern Wisconsin and to tour as much of Chicago as we could in a day and a half, home was welcome. Because of the excellent Facebook reporting by my Gorgeous, lots of folks far and wide followed along the race, and now I get to tell the stories over and over as I bump into the people I work and play with and love.

I raised over $5000 for Team Fox and the Michael J. Fox Foundation, from more than 60 donors. To them I am grateful.
So, yeah, the raw data: I finished the Ice Age Trail 50 miler in 10:27:35, the farthest distance and the longest time I have ever run. I felt strong all day, starting out at as slow a pace as I thought I could maintain to hit my conceived of time, 10 hours. I didn't cramp and had no foot or stomach issues, I walked the major uphills but ran all the rest, I managed to say funny things at almost every aid station. I kissed my beautiful wife at several aid stations. I cried more than once, but a lot in the last mile or so, thinking of EO.
Early, or maybe late.
The stories are many, and random, and without transition.
Christy and I flew to Chicago on Thursday before the race, and headed north to Madison, Wisconsin, passing by the race start and finish area on the way. After a day of travel, my feet and legs did not respond to the twisting ups and downs of the first mile of the course. The next day I ran along the lakefront in Madison. A tweak in my calf made me limp back to our hotel. We walked a lot during the day, and it felt some better. The wind and cold were chilling.
We moved closer to the race start Friday night, passing through Whitewater, Wisconsin to pick up my race packet and to chat with folks. This is not a race with a lot of schwag, but with a whole mess of camaraderie. We checked into our motel in high spirits. My calf was still a little sore.
Dinner the night before with Jim Pasquale revealed a whole other set of similarities between us. We both turned fifty in August (I’m three days older), we both treasure our families. His kids are into the arts, and so are mine. I’m glad we shared as many miles as we did.
I slept well, without anxious dreams at all. The breakfast buffet was ready at 4:30 as requested, the drive to the race pretty uneventful. We even got a parking space in the closest lot to the start.
I got to the starting line a little before six. As usual, I chatted with whoever was around. The woman next to me turned out to be Janice Willey from Mount Pleasant. Jim fell in behind us, most of the South Carolina contingent. Christy was somewhere in the crowd.
Nordic Trail loop
This wide, smooth (mostly) trail was a real treat, and running with so many folks in good spirits, too. I just tried to stay in my zone, hoping to get to 30 miles feeling like I’d run too slowly, as I've read many times. I talked about my fund-raising, my goal to say something funny at every aid station, and got started with funny things. We passed a tall fellow taking pictures, and one of the many locals I ran with told me that he was a former race director, and that he has Parkinson’s. I told her I would stop to talk with him if we passed him again.
Sure enough we did: I pulled out of the group I was running with. “I hear you have Parkinson’s,” I said to him.
Will you be my girlfriend?
He looked at me with either a look of concern that I knew, or with the usual Parkinson’s delay. “Yes,” he said. I told him that my father had Parkinson’s, too, and that I had raised over $5000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. “Let’s have a beer after the race,” he said to me with a big smile. This remains one of the best parts of my run. Though I didn't see him later, I felt a connection and inspiration. The thought of John, and many others, especially my dad, fueled me like nothing else could.
I felt great throughout this loop, no pain in my calf, and energy from all around. As we pulled into the second aid station at the start/finish, I called out, “Who wants to be my girlfriend?” Christy stepped out of the crowd, and I went over and kissed her. “I’m Ned,” I said.
West Out-and-Back
Somewhere in here I started running with Beth Simpson-Hall. Beth has run 37 100-mile races in her long running career. She was at a member of the Montrail Racing Team at one point, and I tried to mine as much from her experience as I could. Every time I saw her a little ahead, or at an aid station, I felt like I was running right.
Through this section, I started to wonder about some of the expressions we use to describe things getting worse. “Things went south,” I've heard. So why is that so bad? And how about, “everything went downhill from there.” Downhill is good, I thought, and we even say, “It’s all downhill from here.” Yeah, I was busy.
"Hi, Gorgeous," at mile 30.5.
The best surprise of the day was pulling into the aid station at 13 miles, and finding my Gorgeous there. We had planned to meet at miles 17/26 and mile 40. This one was extra special. She filled my bottle with Perpetuem, and off I went. It was a real thrill to get to see her at the same aid station on the way back, too, at mile 30.5.
Twenty-six miles went by easily (5:08), and I pulled into the aid station feeling strong. Christy asked if I wanted to change my shirt, and I did—wow, that was awesome. All of a sudden I was toasty warm again that chilly day. I was clearly reduced to a very radical and minimalist set of needs.
East Out-and-Back
After the 30.5 aid station, I was feeling pretty chipper, and reveling in entering my “Never-run-this-far” zone. But between 35 and maybe 45, I had a couple of low points. I realized that if I walked it in from there, I’d still be under the 12-hour cut-off. Then I’d run again, and realize that it felt no different running, and that I’d be finished sooner if I did. Each drop included a little boost, then.  
The aid station at Mile 37.5 was a party, even though here it had started raining, which at some point turned to sleet. They had music blasting “Margaritaville” when I rolled through. From there I had Buffet’s line, “It’s my own damn fault” stuck in my head. Uh-huh, I even paid for it.
Pulling into the aid station at mile 40.3,
the last turnaround.
The trail at the tail-end of the out-and-back seemed more difficult than the rest of the course. Twisting, rocky trail with the only real mud of the race slowed me to a more awkward gait. Getting to the turn-around at mile 40 felt great. I must have looked a little grim, though, as Christy seemed more concerned here. The combination of general fatigue, the difficult trail behind me and now ahead of me again, and a sudden distaste for more Perpetuem had me a bit battered. Besides that, I was getting emotional because I was so close to finishing the run I had been focused on for so long. I cried some. A man in a chair asked me if I wanted to sit down for a second. “You’re obviously not a runner,” I chided him, coming close to saying something funny.
Ten minutes out of the aid station I passed Jim going the other way. He was sky high, it seemed, a huge smile. I was thrilled to see him at that point. I babbled something about being ten minutes from the turn-around, and he babbled something about his quads feeling trashed. Our exchange lifed me almost beyond belief.
On the way back I kept running, and kept playing the little game with the up-hills where I would not stop at the bottom of the hill to walk, but a little ways up the hill. I felt so good I’d even go a little farther than the point I’d chosen to walk. I passed several others through here, patting them on the back and saying, “We’re doing it, we’re doing it.” We were doing it.
The finish
The finish.
I knew that just before the aid station at mile 47.5, there was the largest hill of the run. When I hit it, you’d think I’d be a little deflated, but it really picked me up. I knew that was about the last climb of the day, and that the subsequent downhill would allow me to pick up the pace a little again. I got to the aid station with different music now, but told them what I’d been chanting up until then. That got a little laugh. From there it was a short distance to Confusion Corner, a spot we’d passed through twice already. Another short jump brought me to the last aid station.
I had nothing funny there, though not from exhaustion. I cried a little, and because I’d been running by myself for a while, I told the aid station worker, through my tears, that I had worked so hard for this. She gave me the understanding smile I needed, said something like, “I know you have, dear.” Off I went with a handful of pretzels. A mile and a half to go, I knew. I cried again. I came to the mile-to-go marker that I’d seen on the way out and that I’d run on Thursday, and then very quickly it seemed to the half-mile marker. I was still by myself, though I knew there was someone fairly close behind.
I focused entirely on the thought that I was finishing, and that I’d been doing it for EO, and that all the folks who donated to Team Fox and all the folks that were following along on Facebook wanted me to finish, and that I was finishing. I couldn't wait to tell my mom. I don’t usually think of the things I do running as accomplishments, but this felt like one.
I changed clothes quickly to keep from getting too chilled. Janice finished not long behind me, then Jim a little later. At some point I ate a hamburger, and sat under the picnic shelter while a band warmed up and played. I listened to some of the faster guys talk about the race, and saw Cassie Scallon, who set a new course record for the women. I wasn't particularly coherent. I've described that state as a mix of catatonia and euphoria, though I’ll admit to greater euphoria that day. I usually like a nap after a long race, but this time I couldn't sleep. I chatted with Christy mostly, and then drove to Madison, looking forward to a shower.
I had run only slightly slower than the pace I figured I could run. I chose when to walk and when to run. I had no cramping, I ate and drank well, and I stayed positive. I never thought I couldn't finish, and I never got that point where you say I’ll never do that again. I seriously have no idea if I will run another 50-miler, but it certainly isn’t out of the question. I hobbled around for a couple of days, and was motivated to run (but not stupid). Christy and I walked and walked in Chicago, sometimes because we were lost (my fault, but that’s another blog).

I should mention that the race was extremely well organized and operated. Course markings were obvious at all points, and the volunteers were amazing, keeping our spirits up at aid stations, and making sure we didn't get killed crossing the roads. Big ups to the race director, everyone who helped out, all the spectators and the awesome running community up there in the great north woods.
I raised a lot of money, which, as I say, put my selfish habit to some good use. To all of you who read this blog, especially to those of you who gave money, thanks.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Team Fox

As far as I can tell, I've now raised $4513 for Team Fox over the year and half I've been keeping this blog.  Some 60 people have donated, some who knew my father, some who didn't, and a few whom I don't even know. Several folks have told me they'll pay per mile I complete at Ice Age, so I have no doubt I will hit my goal of $5000.

I feel very grateful.

Week 49: Nice and easy

Mon 4/29  2 miles

Tue, Wed 4/30, 5/1 Woke up nauseous on Tuesday, and full on sick on Wednesday. No sense in running just to keep a streak going, especially at this point. Someone asked me how my "program" is going. I said the program's over, now I'm just in maintenance mode.

Thu 5/2 4 miles, including 8 x 30 seconds hard/30 seconds easy. Felt good to cruise some.

Fri 5/3  One of the most fun days of the year, the downtown crit in Spartanburg. Since the organization I work for puts it on, it's an all-hands-on-deck kind of day, and all day at that. Met for breakfast at 8 am, back home at 12:30 am. No running didn't mean no effort. One of my colleagues had a pedometer: she walked over 40,000 steps--20 miles. My feet definitely felt like it.

Sat 5/4 14 miles at Croft with Scott. May has been unusually chilly, and we ran nice and easy in 45 degree weather. Same loop as last Sunday in the rain.

from Southside: New Edition to Jerry Perry to the Lake Trail to the pool to Hensington to Palmetto.

Sun 5/5 Spent the day at Carowinds with C and Q. Cold and rainy Goodwill Family Day gave great time with the family. 

Total 20 miles in 3 runs

I read a couple of race reports from last year's Ice Age (here and here). both talked about mid-way point doubt: I'll be ready for that point, and feel confident that either I won't have the same depth of doubt or I'll be able to will myself through it.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

April totals: My biggest month in a long time

And well timed at that: the month before my longest run ever is one of my biggest ever. I ran every day of the month, and had a thirty-mile run and a thirty-two mile back-to-back weekend. I'm feeling confident and well trained--physical and mental preparedness.

April totals: 187 1/2 in 30 runs
Year-to-date: 596 miles in 87 runs

Monday, April 29, 2013

Week 48: 42 days straight, and 13 to go

Mon 4/22  6 miles. I participated in our local Run for Boston, a silent run that my buddy Scott put together. Scott had that Boston experience that so many did: he ran a terrific time (a very steady 3:11 at age 49), felt great afterwards until he returned to his hotel and learned of the bombing. He put on a terrific event with almost no frills—just a bunch of folks of a wide variety of levels getting together to run a few miles.

Tue 4/23  4 ½ miles, including 2 miles barefoot, 8 x 120 striders

Wed 4/24  2 miles. Yeah, like that.

Thu 4/25  10 miles at Croft. Thought I might get a run similar to last week when I felt easy and flowing throughout, ratcheting up the pace as I went. This time, I didn’t feel very good, but finished the run, and with some style, as well. This one was 12 minutes slower for the ten miles than last week.

from Southside: Southside Loop counterclockwise.

Fri 4/26  2 miles

Sat 4/27  18 miles at Croft with Jim P. Jim is part of the trail crowd in Greenville, and is also running the Ice Age 50. He got in touch about coming to run our trails down here for a change of pace. I had intended to do a longer back-to-back run, and he was right on the same schedule. We really took our time on this run. I took him on the hilliest loop we have.

from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto to the Chapters to TC’s to the little lake trail to the Lake Trail to McFadden to Hensington to Palmetto

Sun 4/28  14 miles with Jim P., Chris W., and Scott. Jim came down for more Spartanburg trails, and brought Chris with him. They both have run at Croft, but only on the horse trails. I took them on the one remaining very hilly trail that we didn’t hit yesterday. We cut this one a little short because it was dumping rain the entire time.

from Dairy Ridge: New Edition to Jerry Perry to the Lake Trail to the pool to Hensington to Palmetto

Total: 56 ½ miles in seven runs

Another terrific week for my head. I’m feeling very confident and prepared. The back-to-back didn’t feel easy, but was not all that taxing either. I was extremely motivated throughout, and I finished up the biggest week I’ve had in a long time. I have a busy weekend coming with a work gig, a band gig and a family gig. Planning on just one day of fairly easy running, most likely, or possibly a shorter back-to-back.

Read a terrific interview with Matt Carpenter. He says ultras are all about nutrition. I'll focus on staying fed, for sure, about the only thing that would keep me from finishing in style at this point.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Week 47: Encouraging running week

Mon 4/15 1 ½ miles. Yeah, like that.

Tue 4/16  4 ½ miles, including 8 x 120 yards striders. After all this slow running, except for the mid-week longer run, I decided to add some easy striders on grass with shoes. Felt slow at the start, then the last several were much easier. That’s the point, isn’t it.

Wed 4/17 4 miles, including 10 x 30 sec hard/30 sec easy. Same reason as yesterday, it felt good to run hard a bit.

Thu 4/18  10 miles at Croft. This turned into one of those progression runs where I start out slow and speed up through the run. Felt great again to run “fast.” This was the first really hot day of the season. I think things have just started drying up. I carried water, and creek-to-creek intervals, maybe a couple of miles or sometimes more at a time, each one a little faster than the previous one, made for good running and water for Bristol. 

from Southside Park: Southside Loop all the way around counterclockwise.

Fri 4/19  3 miles.

Sat 4/20 4 ½ miles on Cottonwood, plus 6 x 120 yards striders. I had a long day of work-related events, and finally got out in the later afternoon. Kept the striders easy, and shut it down when I felt a little twinge in my back.

Sun 4/21  14 miles at Croft with Seth and Ben. At the risk of jinxing it, I felt so easy and light from the get-go for the first time in a while. We ran one of the hilliest trails at Croft, and I never felt pressed on any of them. The last three miles or so we got after it a little.

from Dairy Ridge: New Edition to Jerry Perry to the lake trail to Lake Johnson Connector to Palmetto

Total:  41 ½ in seven runs
A very encouraging week. Three weeks out from the race, this one was important. I thought I might do a real back-to-back workout but Saturday’s work commitments pushed it too late. I plan to run 10 or so on Monday 4/22, part being our local Run for Boston. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weeks 45, 46: Bad week, good week

Week ending April 7

Mon 4/1 4 miles on Cottonwood

Tue 4/2  2 miles

Wed 4/3 4 miles, including 2 miles barefoot

Bristol never begs off a run
because it's raining.
Thu 4/4 5 1/2 miles at Croft. In the rain and cold--the fun was getting in it. Bristol is always game. We ran an out and back on a lightly used trail to avoid what would no doubt be deep puddles on horse trails. Because it was shorter than usual, I decided to get after it a little on the return. Ran back about 2 minutes faster.

from Dairy Ridge: New Edition out and back

Fri 4/5 3 miles

Sat 4/6 6 miles at Croft. Set off for 20, but felt terrible. Turning back early felt like a real defeat. Feeling down, I took it out on myself and those around me. I shouldn't do that. I've learned to trust my spouse, to not see--more, to not look for--an angle, to be honest in all things, and to trust in the same in return. Leftover from the divorce, the mistrust creeps in occasionally, and five weeks before the most amazing endurance event I've ever done seems like a case study in pre-performance stress.  

from Dairy Ridge: out and back on the Palmetto Trail.

Sun 4/7  12 miles at Croft. Not a whole lot better, but at least I ran something longer. Also got that much needed perspective: this week is not a target week. Last week’s Bench run and next week’s laps at Croft are.

from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto to TCs to the little lake trail to Lake Johnson Connector to Hensington to Palmetto

I’m not always one to get manic about my training. I know a whole pile of runners who publicly or privately bemoan their general unworthiness when a run or two doesn’t go right. I feel certain everyone who runs does so occasionally, and for me, it’s usually another run that cures my ills. In this case, not a great run, but great lessons.

Total: 36 1/2 in 7 runs 

Week ending April 14, 2013

Mon 4/8  2 miles

Tue 4/9 8 miles at Croft. I felt pretty tired, but just plugged along.

from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto to Lake Johnson Connector all the way around to Palmetto

Wed 4/10 3 miles

Thu 4/11 4 miles, including 2 miles barefoot

Fri 4/12  2 miles

Sat 4/13  30 miles at Croft (5:26). I did three slightly different loops at Southside, two at 11 1/2 or so miles, one at 7 or so miles. I never felt great, and decided to walk all the major uphills (I ran a few of them throughout), but alone except for Bristol, I just kept going. This was good for my head for sure, but I’ll still have 20 more to go at Ice Age. My feet were tired, I was tired. I’ll rely to a certain extent on the excitement of the race, with lots of participants and spectators, and on the consistent aid. 

Bristol's recovery.

My recovery.

from Southside: 1st lap: Southside Loop to High and Dry to Southside to Rock Creek to Lizard to Outlaw to Southside.
2nd lap: Opposite direction on Southside to Outlaw to Lizard to Southside to High and Dry to Southside to Fern Gully to Centerline.
3rd lap: Southside to Rock Creek to Centerline

Sun 4/14 2 miles. I feel like I could have run more, but I probably wouldn’t have been very happy.

Total: 51 miles in 7 runs

I’ve read a couple of articles lately (Ian Torrence and Jason Sullivan), both confirming that my training is a least adequate to get through the mileage. I’ve done four runs between 5:18 (the Dump) and 6:02 (the Bench I). I’ve been consistent with the mid-week medium run at a harder pace, and this week marks 28 straight running days with 27 to go until race day. I've not done long back-to-backs as such, but I have done some shorter ones. I’ll be in the “I’ve-never-run-this-far-before” place for such a long time; both articles mentioned the mental part, trying to stay in the now and all. Christy says, “You just need to get over your head.”