Dan Lopata

Live, Love, Listen

Archive for the tag “ct 50”

The Year in Review Part I (Athletic Endeavors?)

It’s been an interesting year so I will break this up into a few blog posts (looks like 6 of them):

Part I : My physical body

I DNF’d all of my goal races. At Massannutten Mountain 100M I failed at 70 miles, and evidently did it with a smile on my face. At Twisted Branch 100K I failed at 59 miles, again with a smile on my face.

So clearly my attitude at the time of my DNF’s was good, probably because I wasn’t kidding myself that I was actually ready to complete either of them given the training I put in. But upon review I am quite unhappy with the effort I put forth, and the (non)results of my effort were on display at These events.

This brought me to the point of seriously considering if I was capable of doing these things (ultras) anymore. But, as I look back to 2014’s Cayuga Trails 50 and pics of the runs I did two years ago, I see that I do have that in me.

So what changed? Well, I started a new medication which I will delve into in a subsequent blog post, and I also made tons of excuses. So weight gain happened, cold weather and cry-babiness happened. Many gigs happened (next blog), kids, work, running my own business, etc. etc. etc.

All of that said, the year was not a complete loss. I did a number of sweeping jobs, including the last 25 miles of the last Virgil Crest Ultra. I ran Iron Master Challenge 50k with Amy and crewed her to her first 50 mile finish at Haliburton Forest (site of my only 100 mile finish). Also, Amy and I started a quest to hike the entire Bruce Trail in Ontario Canada. We finished the first 50 miles (82K) in the Niagara Region this past August on our anniversary and are heading up in January to knock out some of the Iroquois section on our meet-aversary. So there’s all of that. Not to mention I did complete the entire Bristol Hills Branch (54 miles) in one day (as part of Twisted Branch) which has been a goal for a few years

So this year… goals remain large, MMT 100 continues to be on the bucket list, and now I also have unfinished business at Twisted Branch. Along the way I hope to run Bull Run Run 50M for my 3rd time but with Amy this time. I plan on pacing the guy I train best with, Ben Murphy, at LOViT 100 M and Manitou’s Revenge this year. And, finally I am aiming to tackle a huge endeavor this coming fall, that will be revealed as plans and the reality of it take shape.

What needs to be different? I need some commitment to the process. My training cycle begins Dec 1st (Tomorrow). I’ve been training myself to wake early and get out because life is still going to happen. The only regular dedicated time I can count on is early mornings. The medication thing doesn’t look like it’s going to change soon, but I am looking to counter that weight gain with diet. Amy and I currently looking at some options. Along with those diet options, I’m going to get back into training my body to metabolize fats instead of relying on carbs, this means I’m looking at the Maffetone method of training. I’m working with a HR monitor and am going to train for the optimal cardio, weight loss, fats as fuel burning results I can. This requires a much slower pace, which will mean more time on feet. Don’t expect me to keep up with y’all at group runs anymore. Looks like sweeping remains my past-time, and not just for events anymore

Beyond that, Amy and I will continue with the Bruce Trail, maybe explore some High Peaks in the Adirondacks, Play on the Finger Lakes trail, maybe attempt the Saranac 6r Challenge with a couple of the kids. These are all just possibilities and some may or may not come to fruition this year. So long as we are sucking air and passing gas, we can continue these things in following years… the mountains aren’t going anywhere.

 

Next up… Music

 

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The Mountain Moves for No One

You don’t climb mountains without a team, you don’t climb mountains without being fit, you don’t climb mountains without being prepared and you don’t climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards. And you never climb a mountain on accident – it has to be intentional

~ Mark Udall

mass trail

13 years ago, filled with piss and vinegar, running away from a failed marriage, behaving in unseemly ways that contradict my morals and ethics (which are socially, not religiously bound) I arrived at a mountain certain that I would finish a 103.7 mile footrace on it…

I failed.

Fast forward to May 16th-17th this year, I arrived at the same mountain, with the intention of finishing the 103.7 mile footrace on it. Spoiler alert, I made it just under 70 miles in 24 hours before being pulled from the course…

I succeeded.

Yes, I covered fewer miles this year. Yes, I didn’t achieve the intended outcome. Yes, I still don’t have a buckle from Massanutten Mountain 100 Miler. But I still succeeded.

On May 15th at 6:00 AM Amy and I headed to Massanutten Mountain for my return engagement with Virginia Happy Trails Running Club’s (VHTRC) premiere event. This return engagement was a long time in the making and made possible by a generous scholarship from #TrailsROC, the running club I belong to in Rochester. I don’t just mention #TrailsROC because it is my obligation to as a result of the scholarship, it is because this group and its members are indicative of the larger reason why I consider this outing a success.

Mountain

Yeah, that thing out there that looks like a race profile? That’s where I’m going to run!

Sunshine Road Trip

Amy was coming along because she wanted to crew for me. This alone is a new experience for me, I was nervous because I have never had a crew before, I have always just relied on aid stations and drop bags in the past. This change in behavior was going to be different, I was worried about feeling responsible for my crew, I was worried that Amy was going to take my gruffness the wrong way, I was worried about a change in routine. Some of this was founded and some not. It took some getting used to as I was expecting bottles to be handed to me right as I passed through the first aid station, but waited for them to be brought out of the cooler. Also, I ran right by where Amy had set up shop going into the Elizabeth Furnace aid station because it was before the aid station and I was concerned about getting to the aid station and having my number recorded so I had to walk about 50 yards back to Amy’s set up. And then there was the little dispute about a buff vs. a bandanna. All of that was minor… the actuality of the situation is that I have never had better care and attention through aid stations in my entire ultra career. Amy knows me, she knows when I’m feeling good, and when the wheels are off. She made sure that anything I needed or asked for was at the ready. She got me coffee, chicken broth, socks, shirts, shoes, bandannas, buffs, headlamps, batteries, pepperoni jerky, ginger root, ginger ale, tailwind, trekking poles, mountain dew, turkey sandwiches, pierogis, quesadillas, bacon, water, bag balm, chocolate covered espresso beans, and she made sure that officials knew I was on the course still when they thought everyone had come through……. Just amazing!

Crew

Some Crew tools and supplies

May 16th.

3 AM is an early wakeup call, but it happened, I threw on my #trailsROC shirt, my sleeves, my Northface Nearly Naked Long Haul shorts (which elicited some great comments later as I was pulling little bottles out of hidden pockets all over the place at an aid station), 2-Toms chafing solution (which doesn’t work well if you’re wearing cotton underwear… there’s a lesson learned) SmartWool Socks, NB MT110v2 shoes, Ultimate Directions AK Race Vest with bottles, and a buff. I headed down to the start to check in and they were cranking “Get up, Get on Up” James Brown J Hanging out I got to see fellow #trailsROC runner Yoshi and get his picture with me. The scene is surreal, you have a PVC pipe made start/finish line with a clock counting down to 4:00 AM and tons of people just leisurely sitting in seats under a tent. It wasn’t until 3 minutes of 4:00 that anyone got up to get near the start line, and then promptly at 4:00 AM Kevin Sayers says “go” in the most unassuming start for one of the most epic races ever. I have seen the cannon shot and start at Kona, I have seen the Boston and NYC marathon start, I have felt the immense power of the understated simple “go” at the MMT 100 mile footrace, and it is no less spectacular than any of those others.

Mass Start

OLD SKOOL

Yoshi

Me with the Super-Human Yoshi

Start

and… “go”

I don’t want to get into a play by play here, but I just want to mention that the first four miles of this race is a gentle uphill (600ft) of road. A guy I was running with quipped, “This is Bullshit!” which became quite the code for, “Yup, this is what I signed up for, let’s have fun with it.” Heard it while climbing Short Mountain, heard it while climbing Kern’s Mountain, heard it while descending into Elizabeth Furnace (Where I saw fellow #trailsROC runner and now VHTRC runner Angie K.), even said it while not being able to run the ridge at the top of the climb out of Elizabeth furnace. A bunch of us were having fun with this as we went along.

Angie

Angie K.

We also had a ton more in common, I wish I could count the number of times I heard people talk about that reason we were out there was to grapple with our demons. Not that I actually believe in demons, but I do have issues in my life and my psyche that I grapple with: alcoholism (in remission for 23 years), chronic depression, crippling self-doubt, and anxiety. These come out at the worst times, dealing with work, family, bands, household economics, marriage relationship, socially, politically, etc. One of the things about an ultra of this magnitude is that it is a tangible experience that reveals how wrong I am on so many counts when these “demons” rent space in my head. Part of the reason for this is that they show up during the event, and that happens usually at about 4.5 miles in a stretch of 9 miles without an aid station. What am I going to do? Sit down in the middle of the trail and cry/die because no one is going to lift me out? No, I put one foot in front of the other until I reach the next aid station. Usually around 6 or 7 miles in that stretch I realize that I continued to move forward even when I thought I couldn’t, and realize that my worry, self-doubt demon was just a false thought.

“Tired is not an injury”

Gap Creek

Gap Creek 4:00 AM 5/17. 24 hours and done.

While I had the intention of going the distance, I also realistically knew that it might not happen. I told Ron Herkeens Jr. before the race that the only way to get my off of the course was to pull me off, even if it meant crawling. Mile 54, Habron Gap Aid Station, I was greeted by a volunteer who asked how I was doing, and if I was okay (must have looked dazed after 4 miles of exposed road running from the last aid station (that had guacamole). I just looked at him said, “Yeah, I’m okay, tired is not an injury.” He laughed and said that was the best quote he had heard all day. I had beat the cut-off by about an hour at this point and was told to sit and fuel up for a while because the next climb, Kern’s Mountain, was 2.5 miles and 1300+ feet of climb. So I took some time, changed my shoes, socks and shirt, got a buff, ate some broth, got my trekking poles and set off. Kern’s is really tough, not just because it’s huge but because that four miles of road traversed before climbing it, affords a daunting view of the mountain to stare at. It’s breath taking, not just because of the beauty and anticipation/fear of the climb, but because breath is already gone from traversing 50 miles to this point. But tired is not an injury, and with numerous rest breaks I climbed this thing through the night and traversed this section to Camp Roosevelt with 15 minutes to spare before the cut-off. I didn’t dilly-dally, but I didn’t know that I had another 1000 ft of climb ahead of me, and a steep descent. I missed the next cut off at Gap Creek by 45 minutes, happy, grateful, sad, disappointed, proud, humbled, basically every emotion I own except one, the one that is my truest demon, the one that dogs my every step every day… Anger. There was no anger. THIS IS THE SUCCESS.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.

~ Sir Edmund Hillary

What did me in? My feet which were blistered pretty badly and in pain with each step. I was exhausted, there was no gas left in my tank, even though I fueled and hydrated really well. Basically out of the quote at the beginning of this piece, I was not fit. I can blame all sorts of things for this: long cold winter, rolled ankle in October that never completely properly healed, job/family constraints, new medication… but those are just excuses, the real reason is that I didn’t devote enough time to my fitness. I am 20 lbs heavier than I was last year when I ran Cayuga Trails 50. I have not been paying any attention to diet, which I never do. I have rationalized all of my missed workouts away. But as Steve Prefontaine said, “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” I have myself to blame for not finishing.

But of my success the reality is because I have so many incredible people around me, my life is completely different than it was 13 years ago, I am not finished with this event by any stretch of the imagination, I did not quit.

Rock

My demon is not the DNF, nor the rock that goes with it, my demon was/is my anger that does not allow me to see the beauty. The voice that says I’m not fast enough, I’m not good enough, nobody likes me, I’m a second-rate bass player, I’m not an asset to ROCSPOT… this is the voice that obscures the vision that sees: the community of #trailsROC, and Oven Door Runners, the community of my Soul Matters group at First Unitarian, the community of ex-drunks and druggies that infiltrate all areas of my life (work, music, First U, running), the community of my family, my kids, my incredible ultra-babe wife, the community of like-minded scientists and activists in ROCSPOT. This is the voice that obscures the vision of the beauty of the trail, the vista at the top of the climb and during the climb, the ridiculous finds of neat notes buried in old books at Sibley Music Library, the thrill of being a part of helping Rochester out of energy poverty and hopefully economic poverty, the smile in my wife’s face, the achievements of my oldest, youngest and in-between children. For a moment, for 24 hours, this demon was slayed.

And that is the magic of the mountain. It doesn’t care, it is just going to stand in my way and everyone else’s way and knock us down until we find a way up and over in order to see that incredible vista of all the things surrounding us and supporting us.

I’ll be back. Will I finish? I hope so. Does it matter? Yes, but not as much as all of the things I find along the way, and hopefully give back.

I owe so much to this one:

ultrababe

ULTRABABE (Yeah, I’m with her!)

A few more pics, all pics are courtesy of Amy Lopata:

Yoshi run

YOSHI!

First Aid

Edinburg Gap 12.1 miles in

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Furnace about 50K into the race

Stats and splits can be found here at Strava.

Training Plans – The Trail to MMT100

So I’m supposed to be writing a training plan for Amy for a 50k that we are looking at doing in April, but instead, I’m starting this blog post. I am pretty good at writing plans, provided I have the correct information in hand. So what is needed to write a plan?

  • Distance or time of goal race
  • How long until race day?
  • Athlete’s history and current fitness (what is the longest they have run and how recently have they run it. How long did they work up to this distance, and how much time off had they had?)
  • Athlete’s time commitment, i.e., how many times per week to run/ workout
    • Athlete’s schedule (are there days of the week they absolutely cannot run because of work/family etc)
  • A variety of cookie cutter plans of which there are plethora of on the interwebs to draw ideas from.

 My standard approach for ultras is long runs on the weekends, building up to back to backs, short runs just to stay loose during the week, and step back weeks every three weeks or so.

Most of the cookie cutter plans you find on the internet or in Relentless Forward Progress (my go to book for training) tend to be super high mileage plans. While this is good for people whose only job is to run and who don’t have kids, for the rest of us Ain’t nobody got time for that! (Unless you’re Mary Eggers!) So when those plans start expanding mileage midweek, I usually don’t. Those runs are just to keep the body loose, unless you’re doing speed or hill workouts, which those should only be once a week. I also like to incorporate strength training in people’s schedules in the form of pilates or yoga classes, and yes I’m a hypocrite because I don’t do them.

So I will give you a sample of what Amy’s training schedule looks like for Iron Master’s Challenge 50K (her longest run to date is 30K)

For Amy’s plan she wanted to look at 4 runs per week and some extra stuff with options for indoor training. She also wanted some back to back runs and 2-3 20 milers in the plan. I decided that working with Hal Higdon’s Intermediate Marathon Training Program combined with Relentless Forward Progress’ 50K at 50 miles/wk program would give me the info I wanted. Now Higdon’s Plan is an 18 week program and Bryon Powell’s is a 24 week program, so I need to alter some stuff given that Amy has 20 weeks until race day. Why did I go with these plans? Higdon’s has lower mileage during the week, but I like how Powell structures long runs and back to backs on the weekends. So here’s how it lays out:

Amy's training plan

This plan is much more in line with Higdon’s and has Amy focusing on strength because of her IT issues and 4 big weekends. Now, for me, these types of training plans are basically suggestions. We run because we like it, and want to see what we can do; we don’t run to torture ourselves. Last year I was really fatigued during my training for Cayuga Trails 50 and so I logged a 2 mile week. It was exactly what I needed. I also worked with someone who would beat themselves up every time they missed mileage on their long run… that is a recipe for disaster.

If the plan isn’t working and you find yourself hating the idea of running RE-EVALUATE the plan, maybe even re-evaluate your goal. Re-examine your motives; is your goal for going long because you think that’s the way to get respect among your fellow runners? Are you doing it because you want to prove to yourself that it’s possible regardless of injury history and prior training? Or are you doing it because you ENJOY going long, ENJOY the challenge, ENJOY long times of solitude? Remember, we GET to do this, we CHOOSE to do this, it is NOT a requirement, so if there is no joy, why bother? Find the activity/distance/plan/races that bring you joy and pursue them.

This is not to say if you enjoy doing this, that there won’t be days of training that are major slugfests just to get through.

Joy ≠ Easy.

Strindberg

Some of the other things you will notice are substitute ideas for training. We are both training through the winter which is not always easy, and mileage numbers can skew the idea of effort. That said, we are getting a 3 month membership (groupon deal) at our JCC, which has ellipticals, stairmasters (which are great for simulating many of the climbs we will encounter), an indoor track, and a pool. The idea through the week is the keep the engine and mechanics loose while the specific training for the long run and the course are found in the weekends. Furthermore, we are exploring the idea of snowshoeing this winter which is an amazing workout and great strength builder.

Stairmaster_Steppers

How to climb Massanutten Mountain inside

My plan is a bit more aggressive. I started the cycle last week and it continues for 6 months. I relied on Relentless Forward Progress for my plan. I combined the 100 mile training on 50 miles/wk with the 100 mile training on 70 miles/wk. I’m using the midweek mileage from the 50/wk plan with the weekend mileage from the 70/wk plan. My biggest week ends up being 61 miles. Again, as the plan is merely a suggestion, I will most likely drop some midweek runs or mess with the mileage depending on who I’m running with. I have also incorporated a Time ON Feet (TOF) range for my long runs in case I’m out in deep snow or snowshoeing. The formula I used was taking the mileage and multiplying it be 10 min/mile for my fast range and 14 min/mile for my slow range as I believe this is probably the pace range I will be covering during MMT100. For example a day that I have 20 miles scheduled, like January 17th, there may be a ton of snow, so if I go snowshoeing I have worked out that I should be out there between 3 hours 20 minutes (10 min/mile) – 4 hours 40 minutes (14 min/mile). I can guarantee, even at the high range I would not cover 20 miles on snowshoes, but a 20 mile running effort will be achieved.

So how could I enhance my training without increasing mileage? Here’s where I will say,

“do what I say, not what I do”:

  • I would examine my diet and eat better.
  • I would get a coach
  • I would focus on speed / tempo / hill runs on Thursdays (which I do to a low degree)
  • I would incorporate Yoga/Pilates/Strength into my schedule

Why don’t I do these things? First, for my goals I can’t justify the cost of hiring a coach. Second, at the present time the JOY of eating what I eat is greater than the deficit it creates in my running. Third, I do some speed/hill work but not to the extent that it burns me out.

My objective is JOY, I will never again win an ultra (yes I did once… kind of), but I enjoy going long. I will do what is necessary to capture that joy, and I will drop whatever destroys that joy. Training is not my job, it is my pleasure.

BTW, after virtually 8 weeks off of running because of my rolled ankle, I knocked out a nice 34 mile week for my first week of training for MMT! Felt slow and out of shape, but felt like a runner, and I have 6 months to get in shape! This is JOY!

The trail to MMT, 100 Day 1

So it begins. Rather than saying the Road to MMT I thought it better to stick with the trail theme, although it does look like I will be utilizing roads during training.

Dan Run

Anyhow, today is day 1 of my training cycle for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run (MMT 100 from here on out), a little jaunt May 16th – 17th put on by the good people at Virginia Happy Trails Running Club (VHTRC). I attempted this run back in 2002 and was unsuccessful at completing it, you can read my report here. Probably not the wisest choice for a first 100 mile attempt but I had a good year in 2001-2002 winning the KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) 50 miler in the Finger Lakes Forest and redeeming my 100 mile DNF by finishing top 10 at Haliburton Forest 100 that September.

… but…

I’ve always had a nagging itch about the DNF at MMT100. I’m sure I will get more into my previous attempt in other posts, so that’s enough for now. Today starts the training cycle that should culminate in arriving at the start line of my second MMT100 attempt. My Comeback has been moving along over the past few years, but not without its bumps in the trail. I sat out most of the 2013 season with a stress fracture of the fibula, but came back with a goal to complete two ultras including the Cayuga Trails 50 race in Ithaca to qualify for entry. I trained smart through the winter and spring of 2014, met my goals, closed my season out, and then promptly ran two events I shouldn’t have. First was an attempt at the Monster Marathon in Virgil, NY where I DNF’d at 13.1 miles because I just didn’t care and was fatigued. Then after having a great time sweeping 25 miles of the Virgil Crest Ultras Course I went to run the Danby Down and Dirty 20K in October and rolled my ankle HARD, DNFing at 6.2 miles. That was 7 weeks ago and my ankle is still not healed, and I have residual swelling.

ankle

So I start the cycle with a day of rest, and 6 miles on tap for tomorrow. I have a couple of doctor’s appointments tomorrow, one in the AM with my GP, and one in the early afternoon with my chiropractor. Okay, it probably doesn’t help that I’m skeptical about chiro, but the price is right, so I’m giving it a go. Once I’m done with that apt I will head out to hike/run depending on my ankle those 6 miles and see how it goes. I have run a few times since rolling the ankle so I know I can do it, but I want to be careful that I’m not doing more damage.

So here we go. Over the next six months I intend to journal about this process. I will do my best not to bore you with stats, paces, mileage, heart rate, climb, etc (unless I find it fascinating, and I will either link Daily Mile or Strava here, or you can find me there) but rather I want to share the emotion, the people I meet along the way, some history, influences, my running supports like trailsROC, teamFLRTC, the good folks at Medved, and most importantly my wife.

Amy

I must warn you. This Live, Love, Listen Blog is more than just running, I am a musician, an activist, a humanist, and an atheist, I will muse on a number of subjects both within my training reports and outside of them. Music and “spirituality” from the perspective of a humanist/atheist are among my favorite pastimes. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

Welcome to the adventure! Feel free to share and comment, give advice if you can (I most likely won’t take it because I’m an idiot) have fun.

Sappy Sentimental Piece (I’m Back)

“I’m Back” I said, probably a little prematurely as I had another 7+ miles to go including Lucifer’s steps, but that is how I felt at the moment.

Sunday June 1st was the 2nd annual Cayuga Trails 50 mile foot race. This year it was host of the USATF 50 Mile Trail National Championship and there were some amazingly fast people there as well as seasoned mid-pack veterans and newbies.

I feel like I’m somewhere in-between the seasoned mid-pack veteran and a newbie. 12 years ago,2002, I had a remarkable, by my standards, ultra year:

  • I ran my second Bull Run Run 50 miler
  • Won the KISS 50 miler in the Finger Lakes Forest (Don’t believe me? look it up in UltraRunning… so what if there were 3 competitors and the 100 mile winner beat my 50 mile split?)
  • DNF’d at MMT100 (87.5 miles) but rectified it with a
  • Top 10 finish at Haliburton Forest 100, and
  • Finished 2nd at the Presque Isle 12-hour run with 68 miles, two miles behind the winner.

Presque Isle, 12 hours on asphalt, my Achilles tendon decided to call it quits, and I began to get lazy.

Fast forward 5 years, 2007, I started running again as I was on the light side of 230 pounds and squeezed all of my breath out as I bent over to tie my shoes. I was commuting to Atlanta weekly and discovered some trails down there, even made it up to Springer Mountain at the head of the AT, but continued to eat crap and couldn’t sustain a flat 10 minute mile for a 5K. In 2010 I was getting back into decent shape, just missing the 2 hour mark on half-marathons, and completing 15 mile trail races. I tried to complete a 50 miler that year but dropped at 50K at 7:18:29 (12 minutes below the cut-off to go on for 50M, but I was done).

Massanutten Visitor

2011-2012 were decent, allowing me to run decent mid distance runs; 20K- 15M, but I was getting the itch. You see, ever since 2002’s DNF at Massanutten Mountain 100M there has been a gnawing feeling in my gut. I have this award, a rock with a plaque designating me as an official “visitor” not finisher, that I look at almost daily. I need to rectify this situation.  So 2013 was the year to get my 50M qualifier for MMT, and Ian Golden had come up with this race on the trails in Ithaca that I absolutely love. I set to work with training plans, registering for races, spending money and time just to end up with a stress fracture in May that destroyed my entire season. I didn’t run again until August and finally wore a bib number at a 20K in November.

2014, Ian deferred my entry to Cayuga Trails Fifty for this year. With vim and vigor I focused entirely on this race. A 24 week training plan went into effect shortly after the 20K in November and I battled through one of the coldest winters I remember to get the adequate preparation in. I never once set foot on a treadmill, although I did have a few indoor track workouts. Going out and running in icy conditions on trails with no traction bullt my endurance, climbing muscles, and core strength and stability. Battling single digit weather workouts (Fahrenheit) built my mental stamina. Come May I felt fit and I took on a 50K with the ambition and goal to go sub 5… I finished in 6:17. Not what I wanted, but learned a lot about myself and a lot about what it would take to succeed at Cayuga Trails during a 6 mile bonk slog.

June 1st 2014: we had been camping in Treman State Park since Friday, hanging out with friends, elites, and enjoying Ithaca fest, but now it was time to run. I set my Garmin up so I would not hear splits, nor would I see any data on the watch except for total climb. I learned at Thom B. that numbers; miles, pace, time, have a way of messing with my head and making me run too hard to obtain some sort of contrived standard that I think I need to live up to. Instead, I would run on feel. The only thing I really planned was to drink an entire 16oz bottle of water between each aid station (spaced 3 – 6 miles apart) and force “real” food into my system at each aid station.

The ram’s horn blew and we were off. Slow and steady, forcing the walk up the first mile, it was easier than I thought. This first hill was at a grade that would have me working hard and running if this race were a half-marathon, but having so many people around me drop to a walk/powerhike was exactly what I needed to see. I said good morning to so many folks I already knew, introduced myself to many I was just meeting and realized that I could actually talk which meant my pace was good. And that is how the day went. I was talking, smiling, chatting, observing, and enjoying the experience from the very start and my attitude never faltered.

I’ve been having stomach issues in my training, but because I wasn’t on a regimented schedule of eating I just slowed down when the stomach hurt, worked out some gas, popped some salt/electrolytes and ran again when I could. I drank an entire bottle between each aid station. I grabbed food at each aid station and didn’t dawdle. I took advantage of my strength which is bombing downhills and used walking uphills as recovery while running at a conservative pace on the flats. The heat didn’t do too much damage as I used a little water from stream crossings and my bottle squeezed onto the back of my neck (the neck is the best heat regulator). Cramping was never an issue (until after the finish) fatigue set in on the last climb, but I still loved every moment.

And that was it. A goal race prepared for diligently, and executed exactly how I wanted it. And now i have a qualifier for MMT 100. I’M BACK!

There’s so much to revel in here, and I’m not that great a writer so it would take more words from me than necessary and would bore you to death. But, a few things are worth mentioning. First and foremost, having my wife Amy there working at the TrailsROC Buttermilk Aid Station, and then crewing me home through the final two Aid Stations was the best. To have a partner who respects, encourages, and supports my passions is the best. In 2002 I was running well, but running was a way to run away from a bad relationship, in 2014 I’m running well but it’s running WITH my wife and best friend, and it strengthens our relationship.

Secondly, the TrailsROC crew, a nonprofit club that builds and maintains trails, hosts races, and builds the trailrunning community in the Greater Rochester, NY area are the best. We had a number of members out there running and encouraging each other as we passed, and we also had the most outrageous insane Aid Station, it was almost too much, I was overstimulated with the attention I got the second time I came through the aid station (they even went and got fig newtons when I complained about it the first time through!). If you are in the Rochester Area you need to check out trailsroc.org, all of their training runs are free and open to the public.

Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon Company who I am an ambassador for; we also had many out on the course high fiving each other as we passed and our team was manning the Old Mill Aid station that gave me a life-saving Pierogi! Go teamFLRTC (training runs free to the public)

Oven Door Runners; the local Saturday morning informal group that has been around for over 30 years. They’re the ones that started it all for me. I shared the trail Sunday with Dan Kress, Mary White, and Joy Valvano who were also at most of the ultras I ran back in 2000-2002. And Bill Hearne who started Oven Door Runners who is missed much but also very present on every footfall on pavement or trail.

Bill

It is all of the above that allowed me to say “I’m Back” and even when I said it, I knew I wasn’t completely honest. It should be “We’re back”.

I finished the race 108th place in 11:41 and change. The number was/is far less important than the way I got through it. I listened, listened to my body and acted appropriately to what it was telling me. I loved, loved the course, the people, the feeling of my body working correctly and adjusting for when it didn’t, the scenery, the simplicity of putting one foot in front of another and repeating. I lived, and am alive. Nothing is more life embracing than pushing yourself further, than recognizing that you have more life than you presumed that you take advantage of life live it rather than passively accepting what comes your way. It was a stellar day.

So now that it’s over, I get to sign up for The Monster Marathon, and Mendon 50K. Then I throw my hat in the lottery for MMT 2015, with hopefully a Bull Run Run 50 warm up. Beyond that, I need a Hardrock 100 qualifier… hello Grindstone 100!

(I’m back….)

Numbers (Musings on the Thom B 52K)

Numbers

3:20 – Alarm goes off

4:10 – Start the drive to Ithaca

6:05 – Roll into race parking lot

These are some of easier numbers that don’t get in the way when approaching an ultra.

On May 10th Amy and I headed down to Hammond Hill State Forest where I ran a 52k. Yes they bill this course as a 52k because each lap of the four lap course is around 8 miles. Truth be told, according to my Garmin, each lap is just shy of 8 miles and the entire course measured 31.43 miles; therefore it’s a 50.58k. Also each lap is just shy of 1000ft of climb (depending on which software your using etc., I use Strava’s data, although RunKeeper clocked me in at over 5000’ of climb)

Knowing some of these stats ahead of time, and knowing how well I’ve been running under similar circumstances (climb, distance, trail conditions) I got the stupid notion in my head that if I could maintain sub 1-hour 10k’s I could do this course in FIVE HOURS – mistake number one (never think you can do an ultra in any given amount of time, because every ultra is different).

Race Report:

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At just a little before 7:00 AM fourteen of us were given instructions – yes, 14 – and we were then instructed to “toe the line” which was represented by two citronella torches. Everyone then lined up a good 5 – 10 feet behind that imaginary line, and then the ceremonial “Go” was shouted and we were off. The goal for most in the pack was not to be lapped by Cole Crosby, well, at least it was my goal, but as he ran off up the first 216 feet of climb in the first half-mile, most of the rest of settled in for our first hike of the day.

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There were about 6 of us in tight little pack, chatting away as we headed up the fire road. I was actually feeling like we were walking too slow and I was a bit claustrophobic, so I quickened my hike to a power-hike and hit the single-track ahead of the rest of the group. I then broke off into a run. I was moving well, but breathing was labored and I was sweating profusely, so I thought that I should back off. The problem was that I didn’t want the pack to catch me and then start a game of cat and mouse where we make the trail more technical than it has to be. I say this because I tend to negotiate downhills better than most, and others tend to catch me on the uphills; I wanted to keep the amount of passing to a minimum in order to negotiate the trail as best as I could with fewer obstacles and in a way that I could run my own race. Do you see the faulty logic here? I took off faster than I should have, therefore not running “my own race” in order to get in a position to run “my own race”. Add to this the evil Garmin that allows me to see my average pace, and the fact that I had numbers running through my head, it was a recipe for an early disaster. Looking at my first mile split (10:29 with 155 ft net ascent) had me disheartened so I pushed even faster clocking in an 8:48 (20 ft net ascent) mile two. But, I was feeling good, just as good as I would on a 14 mile training run, I think I forgot that 14 miles is less than half the distance I was going to run today.

The course is stunning, beautiful long stretches of runnable single track, a small bit of fire road, few mud pits, and about a half-mile of really technical stuff at about mile five of each loop. The day was warm, but not tremendously hot, but we haven’t had enough warm days to properly acclimate. Nice cool breezes greeted us at summits of hills where you could look through the trees over immense, beautiful valleys. It is everything I remember of the Finger Lakes Trail in the Ithaca region.

The event was low key, no balloons, no inflatable arches, no PA systems, or any of that; the course was the magnificent, overwhelming, feature that supercedes any gimmick you might see in road races, and, unfortunately many trail races these days. The cost was a mere $38 making this one of the most affordable races anywhere ($1.21 per mile)

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Back to my race. I finished loop one in exactly 1:15 putting me on track for a 5 hour finish. I did some mental math and proceeded to think I should back off just a little, but shoot for 5:15 or 5:20. So my second lap was 1:21ish. Everything was working, or so I thought… I did make some errors. In training I take 1 clif blok every 3 miles, during the race I took 2 every 3 miles. A couple things here, first, I should probably stop being so regimented and fuel by feel, second, why was I doing something different than I do in training?

BONK

So I was moving along at an okay clip on the third lap but began to feel things unraveling around mile 18 – 19, and the wheels started falling off in the last two miles of lap three. The shorter distance races began at 10:00 AM and the front runners of the 13k were beginning to pass me, and I began to worry that Cole Crosby was going to lap me, so I continued to push flats and run uphills when I should have been laying back. I came through the start finish to start my fourth loop at 4 hours 7 minutes. Cole finished the race 10 minutes later (I didn’t get lapped!) I started to have stomach issues around Mile 18 – 19 I backed off on my intake of clif bloks. I finished lap three extremely tired and not quite right in the legs. Amy offered me Swedish fish (my favorite) but after two sleeves of black cherry clif bloks the thought of red, waxy, jellyish, sugar was repulsive. She asked how I felt and I said tired but my body was good. This was the truth.

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I started the final trudge up the first half-mile of the course and the people who I had pushed past in mile one all started passing me. Doreen Fanton who was running the 26k passed me, and I think I heard her say that I was looking good, if she did she was lying. I got on the single track and assumed the ultra-slog approach, shuffling my feet along minding the roots. By Mile 23 I was done. My stomach was messed up, my legs were shaking, I felt nauseous and flu-like. I think the combination of heat/sun, too much water, too many simple sugars, and going out way too fast all caught up with me.

Death Slog for 6 miles, constantly thinking “should I just vomit?” “should I stop and rest?”, vomiting probably would have helped, but I just couldn’t bear the thought of that taste in my mouth so I forced it back. Stopping would have been the death knell as I wouldn’t have gotten back up. Now I’ve experienced this condition before a few times, but never in a race 50k or less. That said, I just relied on relentless forward progress, and hoped that the stomach issues and leg fatigue would sort themselves out sooner rather than later. It was later; 6 miles of trudging, walking, knowing I’d finish but throwing any number I may have had in my head out, including the sub 6 hour number I told Amy to expect me in. But then the most remarkable thing happened. At 29 miles, things settled down in my stomach and legs stopped shaking. I started running the gentle downs, then the flats, and then the gentle ups, then power hiking the more severe ups, and finally hammered the last mile descent.

The experience of hitting the bottom and then working through it to gain life again is one of the most amazing things in an ultra. I’ve had this happen at Bull Run Run 50, and at Haliburton 100. It is amazing what happens when everything in your head tells you that you can’t go on anymore and you defy it, and subsequently the body figures out it is capable of so much more than you ever thought. I won’t lie, I cried a little during the death march. I questioned my entry into Cayuga Trails 50 (which this 50k is a training run for) I questioned myself on everything from my professions, to how good a parent I am, to my music, etc. everything that is important to me came to a head during those 6 miles. I’ve been trying to process all of my mixed emotions about this race for the past 24 hours, and I think it is locked up in the final eight miles. It’s an allegory for life, I’d pushed hard for much of my life (miles 1 – 23). Then things got dark; alcoholism, bad marriage and subsequent divorce, bad jobs, poverty, difficulties in the music industry… times where I questioned everything about life (miles 23 – 29). But then the recovery happened – slowly at first, then picking up steam, and the hammering downhill to the finish. And, just like ultras, as is life, it’s not one constant arc, there are little highs and lows, big highs and lows, moments of invincibility, and moments of near defeat. Then when one event is over, we move on to the next event and we just keep moving forward come what may.

And, if we’re lucky, even in the darkest moments, we still stop in awe at the crest of climb to look through the trees over an immense valley while feeling the breeze cool us off.

I finished in six hours 17 minutes. I could have run faster, I could have planned better, it wasn’t the race I wanted going into it, but it was the race I got, and coming out of it I recognize that it is exactly the race I wanted, if only I’d known.

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Isn’t it amazing what happens when we get past the numbers and just throw them out?

Numbers for those interested:

Strava Data Here

31.4 miles

3912 feet of climb

6 hours 17 minutes 2 seconds

Goal pace (5 hours) 10min/mile

Actual pace 12min/mile

Calories ingested – 600

Calories expended – 5,898

Water ingested – five 16 ounce bottles

Runners starting – 14

Runners finishing – 12

Place – 7th (6th male)

Place after first two laps (4th)

Place after third lap (3rd)

Goal time for CT 50 before entering this race – 10 hours

Goal time for CT 50 now – just finish it

Miles to date 2014 – 685.3

Climb to date 2014 – 42,196

Time on Feet 2014 – 4 days 17 hours 17 minutes

and here’s a couple shots of some of my teammates:

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 Many Thanks to the support I get from my team at team FLRTC

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And from my friends at #trailsROC

Biggest thanks to my wife

Attacked by Goats!

“I don’t want to” that was the first thought through my head as the alarm went off at 5 AM. “My legs are tired. Yesterday’s debacle of a trial run was enough, Can’t I just sleep?”

An hour later Amy asks “What can I do to help you?”

“Nothing,” is my quick response. But it is then I roll out of bed and go downstairs. The Laundry is in the dryer waiting to be folded so I begin that task and start pulling out the running gear from yesterday. It is just the fact that I’m up and moving at this point and the leggings are in my hands that I give up and put them on. Next thing I know it’s 7:00 AM and I’m out the door.

Yes the sun was already up, but it still counts as sunrise when I see it for the first time peeking through the trees of the clouds, and this is what happens just about 2 miles into my run. All is now well… or so I think.

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Moving slowly on dead legs, hitting closer to 9 min/mile than my 8:30’s that I’m accustomed to on these long road outings, I’m still feeling fine and wave to a runner as he passes by in the other direction. I’m about to enter my favorite county park and beginning to find my stride.

As I traipse into Mendon Ponds Park I make the decision to turn right on Pond Road, opting to go longer than I had originally anticipated. I pop a Clif Blok at 5.5 miles determined to knock out 15 instead of 12 miles.

Hills are no problem today; headwind, no sweat. This is going to be uneventful… until I exit the park and get to the intersection of Reeves and Clover.

I look up and see what I think is a deer hanging off of a fence. Thinking that this is a little odd I’m trying to figure out how a car could have hit a deer so hard it would end up in this position. Then it moved! It came down from its upright position and turned to look at me… this wasn’t a deer, it was a really big, strange looking dog… NO it was a really BIG goat! Not one of those little ones you see at farm markets, but one whose back was a high as my neck.

This was curious, I’ve encountered lots of animals on trails, but I was on the roads, and never had I run into a goat before. I grabbed my phone out of my vest to grab a shot, and then another goat, the same size came out of the bushes and curiously started walking toward me.

Goat

I don’t really know much about goats other than they can pack a mean head-butt and can kick pretty hard, so I decided that maybe I don’t want this cute BIG thing getting that close to me, so I decide to turn and resume my run. Upon turning to my left I saw it… the REALLY BIG GOAT with HORNS staring at me! I started walking – they started following – I started running – they started running! The big one running right next to me kicking his hind feet wildly! I started freaking out and yelling “HELP” and finally jumped off the road into a snow bank.

They stopped. They looked at me, I looked at them, I started to slooowly move through the snow bank. They didn’t move. I got about ten feet away, and they stood in the middle of the road staring at me. I turned and RAN! Sensing that I was no more trouble they just stood and watched.

400 yards later, still way up in my own head about my close encounter, a dog barked at me and almost caused a heart attack! Now that was the closest I came to dying today!

Now this whole encounter seemed like it took at a bare minimum 10 minutes, (I haven’t looked at my splits yet) and even with that, I managed my half marathon split in under 2 hours which is good for me on dead legs! That said, it’s now 12 hours later and I think my heart rate has finally got back to its resting rate.

FLRTC

I need to research my Greek mythology, as Achilles seems to have my number

14 through Mendon Ponds 14.08 mi 02:11 09:17 pace

So, I’ve just about had it with my Achilles Tendon. It is tight and inflamed this morning and has me quite concerned. I’m taking tomorrow and Monday off to apply RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and will try again on Tuesday. I already took last Thursday off and hoped, because it was a step back week, that it would self-correct from lower mileage and rest. On the plus side I got a fairly comfortable 14 in today! Therefore my long runs are consistently on-schedule and that is the most important bit of my training.

Started off at 6:00 AM 47 degrees F. Shorts, SmartWool socks, Columbia Masterfly shoes (I wonder if this isn’t part of the problem), TNF tech-t, Nike long sleeve tech, Reebok thin shell, gloves, buff, Ultimate Direction hydration/fuel vest, and a new PrincetonTech Remix Headlamp (YES! highly recommend this up to 125 lumen lamp with 4 settings and no bounce).

The first mile included slick ice path, but managed to find crunchy snow cover in most spots to maintain traction. the second mile included Ward Hill, which is nasty little speed bump that I can’t seem to push through easily. I’m #3 on the Strava leaderboard, but only 4 people run this particular hill on Strava. At the top I was already over heated and so I lost the gloves and the shell. If you don’t have an Ultimate Directions Hydration/Fuel vest, I highly recommend it. I have the Anton Kupricka signature model which in the course of one minute was off my back and then my shell and gloves went in the storage in back and the vest slipped right back on. No bounce, weight distributed perfectly, It’s like it isn’t there.

The rest of the run was uneventful, save for the only car I came across in Mendon Ponds park that decided they needed to hug to white line, thus forcing me off the road, even though there was no one else in the park… I can’t wait to get back on the trails because there are no idiot drivers on the trails. Other than that, it’s always cool to run in the dark through Mendon with a headlamp on, glowing eyes peek out from every direction. It’s surreal, like a Scooby Doo episode. What’s cool is that there is no real fear, these eyes are primarily deer, and the deer are plentiful because by in large there are no predators in Mendon Ponds, including no human hunters which the deer are keenly aware of which allows them to be approached without skittishness. Periodically one will run across a fox, like I did this morning, the grace and speed with which they can move is astonishing.

All and all it was a nice run, particularly because Axis Bold as Love was my earworm this morning.

Inspiration From an Old Friend

Through Mendon Ponds 16.1 mi 02:42 10:01 pace

I am notoriously bad at getting out of bed on cold mornings, so I set up my running stuff prior to going to bed. The forecast was for 8 degrees. The 5:30 AM alarm went off and I dozed it, this was progress as I usually will just cancel it and roll over 10 minutes later the alarm sounded again and I got out of bed and started dressing:

Thorlo Socks
Running Tights
TNF Tech T (TNF = The North Face, GREAT CLOTHES!)
Asics Long Sleeve Tech Shirt
Mountain Hardware Shell (my absolutely favorite piece of cold weather clothing)
Ultimate Directions Fuel Vest (went in between shell and jacket to keep water bottle and clif bloks from freezing)
Dri-Fit Heavy running jacket
Nike Thinsulate hat
Buff for the neck
two pairs of gloves
Columbia Master Fly shoes
a bad headlamp (lost my good one and waiting for Mort to get them back in stock at Medved Running and Walking Outfitters)

Now that I was all dressed, I sat down in front of my computer and looked at Facebook. Usually this is the kiss of death as I will start commenting and liking all sorts of posts and about an hour later will just scrap the planned run. But today there was a message from John Prohira, my biggest ultra inspiration and mentor who has been out of the game for a couple of years:

“Dreams are good things. Waking dreams better. And big waking dreams the best. No longer fearing disappointment nor failure I’ll again embrace the distance. Signed up for the MMT100 lottery today. With a couple of finishes under my belt my chances are pretty good. Come what may.”

Massanutten Visitor

If you look at my Daily Mile or Strava Profile picture it is the “Visitor’s Award” from Massanutten Mountain 100 mile foot race (MMT100. You get this piece of shi… hardware if you complete over half of the course but fail to complete the entire course, your name goes on the official MMT visitors list, posted on their site for all of the world to see, and does not come off until you come back and run the entire course. I got this piece of hardware in 2002 during my first 100 mile attempt. John accompanied to the race and he finished (not his first, nor last finish of that race, and I don’t believe he has ever DNFd there). This race, this rock, they are my running muse, bane, albatross, inspiration, disappointment, all wrapped up in a neat little 100 miles. This has been my long term goal ever since coming back from a layoff from the sport. My intention was to try and enter this year, but a stress-fracture last year cut my entire 2013 season short and I was unable to get my 50 mile qualifier. This is one of the main reasons my entire focus this year is on Cayuga Trails 50.

Getting this note, understanding that he was jumping back in, both feet (MMT is one of the top 4 toughest 100s in the east: Barkley, Virgil Crest, Grindstone, and MMT). This race is not for novices (as I proved in 2002). To see him get on this was all the inspiration I needed to get out the door. I went upstairs, kissed Amy goodbye and told her my route so if I wasn’t home in 3 hours she could find me, and went out the door.

I’m not going to bore you with too many details of the run, but here’s the highlights. The Lehigh Valley Trail North, Hopkins Point Road, and the ATV/Powerline access trails were covered in 8 inches of untouched snow. That was 3+ miles of trail breaking including 2 miles in the final three of my run. It was fun to get the ultraslog on.

My run started at 9 degrees F and ended at 19 degrees F, that averages to 14 degrees. I ran 16 miles, I therefore imperially outran the temperature. It’s easy to do metrically, not so much imperially.

At mile 11ish the sun started peeking through the trees and I got a good picture of the sunrise over 100 Acre Pond. taking this photo/walk break I noticed about 10 ice fishers on the pond, combine that with running with deer, foxes, rabbits, and hawks it was a tremendous morning

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Final notes:
Long Hot Showers after Long Cold Runs are DIVINE
Ibuprofen and ice are now part of my regular preventative maintenance on my ankle
Next week is a needed step back week as tomorrow I close out my second 40+ mile week this early in my CT50 training cycle.

Morning Snow Run

Erie Station Middle Road Climb 6.42 mi 00:59 09:09 pace

Forced myself up and out of bed because 14 degrees was the temperature and was the projected high for the day, now that’s LIVING! 3 – 4 inches of fresh powder, unplowed, or poorly plowed roads made traction next to impossible. fortunately there was not much traffic as people are still on vacation, and for the most part drivers were courteous, except for that one guy in his Mazda and the other in his 4WD plow truck.

LOVED the 1/2 mile in fresh powder on the Lehigh Valley Trail North as it was stunningly beautiful. I would have enjoyed this run much more if I only did LVTN, but felt I needed at least one significant climb. I need to invest in microspikes, and a better headlamp to make trails the standard of my training through winter.

The body is odd. still dealing with niggles in the right ankle. Today was a bit more scary as it wasn’t so much the Achilles tendon as it was soreness, and tenderness while running in the actual ankle, suspiciously closer to where my stress fracture was. I’m really concerned about running on crowned roads, as the constant slope to the left, when I’m responsible and facing traffic, aggravates my right ankle. I need to LISTEN to this carefully and discern what it’s telling me.

Possible treatment today: some ibuprofen and ice to manage any inflammation; less intake of inflammatory foods, I think most of the holiday sugar is gone; and a rest day tomorrow before my scheduled 16 on Saturday.

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