Friday, December 26, 2014

2014 Recap

2014 Started off looking as if it would be my best ever statistically, then ended with some setbacks and disappointments.  But it was perhaps my most fun overall.

January 1 - Day one Trail Run.  This was a great way to start out the year.  I'm signed up for this one again 1/1/15 and talked a few friends into running with me.  

February 1 - CIGNA Mayors Race - Believe it or not, after 4 years of running, I ran my first ever 5k.  Clocked a 22.55 and was 8th place overall.  I may never see that again.
February 2 - First Ultra Marathon -  Cowtown Sunday.  My first ultra marathon.  I ran it easy, felt exceptionally strong between miles 19-27 and had better time at the end than I expected 5:21:44 and I walk/ran the last couple miles.

March 23 - Rock N Roll Dallas Half - PR which I had held for two years finally fell.  I finished in 1:45:10.  Best feeling ever those last 5 miles which were all downhill.

May 27 - OKC Marathon One of the craziest weekends ever.  A scheduled road trip to Oklahoma City with the DRC was thrown off schedule.  Our chartered bus showed up 4 hours late causing us to miss the marathon expo and packet pickup. Luckly we had friends in OKC who picked up the couple dozen plus packets.  Not only was our arrival delayed but so was the race, due to severe thunderstorms.  The 6:30 am race did finally get underway at about 8:30 am, but caused the tail end of running to happen during the heat of the morning.  As you expect, it made it rough for some.  I ran the whole thing easy, because I was just using the race to qualify to be a Marathon Maniac.  The road trip was still fun, made new friends.  

July 13 - El Scorcho 50k - I knew I was nuts for signing up for this.  And it was just as difficult as I expected.  I almost gave up after the the 6th 5k loop as I was cramping up badly.  So I just sat for 30 minutes, rehydrated, got salts in me then started back up and grinded out the last 4 loops fighting back cramps the whole way.  I knew I had a 7 hour deadline and I finished in 6:47.  I said I would never do that again.  But I'm already thinking of trying it again in July.

August 28 - Clay out incident #4.  OK so the first time, I didn't even know what happened to me, I survived it after running alone and a neighbor spotted me on the side of the road in agony and took me home.  The 2nd time it happened (Dallas Marathon 2012), I knew what happened but didn't know exactly what caused it and didn't know how to prevent it.  The third time I had friends witness it and found out what causes it after spending 2 hours in the ER and getting the talk from coach Steve.  This fourth time was just stupidity.  Don't run and forget to take in electrolytes, then start taking them after an hour into the run when the temps and humidity are approaching 90.  There will not be a #5.  Yeah, yeah, I know I said that after #3.

October 17-18 - Ragnar Relays - The most fun I have ever had.  A weekend of camping, which I had never done before, running, food, and friends.  It doesn't get any better than that.  The race itself was tougher than I thought it would be, probably because I half-ass trained for it.  I will be ready next time

November 11 - The fall.  During a non scheduled run which I should not have been doing, I was running one night, tripped over a bump in the street and landed directly on my left knee.  It seemed to be a minor injury, I even finished out the 4 miler with not much issue.  Over weeks it seemed to re-aggravate over and over.  I thought I was good to go a couple times only to re-aggravate it again.  After taking an extended amount of time off running, it seems to be nearly healed up.  Hopefully I won't be talking about this knee when the new year starts.

I'm heading into 2015 going the right direction.  I've already written out a fitness plan plan for myself and have implemented it a couple weeks ago.  Not a running plan, but a fitness plan.  So far so good.  My goal is to be in the best fitness that I can possibly be in.  That means incorporating a variety of different workouts, not just running.  I also at some point plan on buying a bike and mix in some riding.  I figure if I train as if i am an athlete, then my running will be elevated.

Favorite photos of 2014
I'm fortunate to have so many folks who are constantly taking pictures on runs.  

Day One Trail Run 2014

Breakfast Club.  Lots of times my highlight of the weekend after a satisfying long run

Me and Jackie C around mile 8 at Cowtown on the infamous Main St Bridge Hill

Me and Jamie finishing up the Cowtown Ultra.  Hurtin'

On the way to a new PR for a Half Marathon

Me and Coach Griff on pacing duty.  Big D Marathon 2014.

Bus trip back to Dallas from the OKC Marathon

Me and Jessica finishing the El Scorho Ocho 50k.
Looking better than what we were feeling.

Dallas TREX Ultra team, Ragnar Relay

4 Hour Power! 4:00 Marathon training group 

Jamie and I again, this time feeling good after pacing the DRC Half 2:05 group

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ragnar Trail Relays 2014

     So for so many of my friends who were not able to make it down this time around, here is how it all worked.  Ragnar Hill Country has 3 trails; the Green Loop (3 mi), Yellow Loop (5 mi), and the Red Loop (7.7 mi).  There are teams of either 4 runners (ultra) or 8.  Each member of the 8 man team is required to run each of these loops- about 16 miles total and each of the 4 man ultra team is required to run each loop twice equaling just over 31 miles.  Do the math and you come up with 125.6 miles per team.  

Elevation profile of Green, Yellow, and Red trail loops.

How you decided to run those depended on the team.  There were two ultra teams there representing the DRC, I was part of one of them.  My team decided to run two loops at a time.  The required order by Ragnar was to run the course in the order Green, Yellow, Red, Green, Yellow, Red, Green, Yellow etc...  So going in order was fellow DRCers Kristen, Kristin, Vishal, and me the last man.  Our group started at 2pm so my first run was not until after 8pm and the order would fall in place for me to start off running the Green, then the Yellow.  I had plenty of time to fuel up all day long, chill for a while, meet up with a few folks.  That was a decision made by the team before I arrived at the campsite, in an attempt to keep me out of the heat as everyone knows the issues I have with higher temperatures.  When I signed up for this, I was expecting cooler temperatures since it was in October.  By the time 8pm came around I was really ready to get it going, but sort of nervous because I had never run the trails at night before, outside of one time I got caught out at little L.B. Houston Preserve just before the sun went down.  The temperature had dropped from what felt like to me the low 80's to 73°.  I only know the latter temp now because I just looked at my Garmin data.  There was absolutely no phone reception or internet signal for anyone in the village to check the temps, weather or anything else for that matter.  The only use for a phone was to take pictures, which was a good thing.  This was a time to disconnect from the world and have a good time.  The scene there was very cool and laid back just like most all trail races are.   There was a live band, a bonfire, and just a general good feeling flowing throughout the village.  Dinner was then served which was pasta and salad.  I chowed down and had about an hour before Vishal's ETA of 8pm.

1st Leg.  Green and Yellow loops. 

     Vishal arrived a bit earlier than I expected, we made the exchange and off I went into the darkness on the Green Loop.  The first mile was upgrade then flat, upgrade then flat, upgrade then flat, upgrade.  There were many markers on the courses.  If you got lost it was because you were somewhere in LaLa Land and just wasn't paying attention.  Running the wrong way down a dead end or wrong trail got you little markers with "X" on them letting you know to turn around because you are running the wrong way.  I was worried that my headlamp would not be bright enough after  seeing on the race website that they recommended a headlamp that has an output of at least 70 lumens.  The one I brought only put out 16 lumens, but it was plenty bright enough.  I could see everything 10 feet in front of me, which was all I needed to see.  I thought that this night trail experience would be scary.  It was everything but.  It was so peaceful out there.  Even though I knew I probably had another dozen runners on the trail with me, I felt like it was just me and nature.  I made it back around and then started on the Yellow Loop.  Rocks galore.  Loose rocks, big rocks, small rocks, rocks on top of rocks. 
One of hundreds of course markers making it near
impossible to get off track on the course.
I had listened all day to other runners who had been on this course describing the surface as if they had to walk on hot coals.  This was good as I had painted a very bad picture.  It wasn't all that bad to me, but I could see how it would make your feet tender after a while.  I did stump my toe a couple times on that route.  First leg, no problemo.  Handed it off to Kristen with an 'e' to start the rotation all over again.  I went back to the camp, chilled for about an hour and calculated that Vishal would be on his way with the team bib around 3am.  I had just enough time to lay my head down and get a power nap.  I lay there until I fell asleep and looked up through the tent as I could see every single star in the sky as it seemed.  Really awesome stuff.

2nd Leg.  Red and Green loops. 
Vishal arrived at the exchange station at approximately 3:45 am.  This leg was my favorite part of the whole weekend.  What you read above about running in the darkness and it being just me an nature, multiply that times 10.  The most awesomest feeling.  At one point I just stopped on the Red Loop and looked out to the horizon to the best of my ability.  It was dark out there, but still beautiful.  I could hear all kinds of critters along with cows mooing in the distance.  Yes cows, we were on a ranch.  The Red Loop was my favorite one.  The race website described it as a rollercoaster ride.  I didn't notice that so much as much as it had more 'straightaway' than the other two trails.  And less rocks.  I may have taken too much time on it because when I completed the first loop, Kristen was already at the exchange area waiting on me.  No baby, one more loop to go.  Back on the Green loop again.  There was one funny moment on the Green Loop on the second go around.  While I was taking a short walk break, I could hear some rustling to my left.  So I turned to see what it was and there were three cows standing faced directly toward me.  My headlamp just happened to shine right directly into one of their faces and it jumped
I didn't have as much beef with
the course as others did
back about 5 feet.  I jumped back as well then had to laugh at myself.  Somewhere within the loop I caught a cramp in my right thigh.  I panicked.  I'm pretty sure that most everyone reading this right  now is aware of my past history with cramping and why I cramp.  I was taking my endurolytes and hydrating all day long leading up to the event, so I knew that I wasn't about to "Clay out", but in the back of my mind I sorta thought I was.  I stopped, let it cramp all the way up and release and I was fine.  The only issue was that another runner passed me, asked if I was OK during this little cramping epsode.  I told her 'no' and to report it when she got back to the village.  False alarm.  After I stretched it out, I was able to run just fine.  I finally got back to meet Kristen again at the exchange area.  I took this time to get in some coffee, breakfast and a small catnap.

3rd leg.  Yellow and Red loops. 
I have to admit, I had lots of anxiety leading up to this one.  No matter how the legs were arranged, there was not a way to avoid running in the heat.  Again, it felt like the temps were well into the eighties.  I knew as long as I stayed hydrated and "electrolit up" as I call it, there shouldn't be any Claying out.  I tried to stay off my feet as much as possible to be as fresh as I could be.  I even went and had my legs massaged with a special leg squeeze machine.  It seemed like every minute, the temps kept rising higher.  There was the occasional cloud cover which temporarily cooled the village off for a few minutes, but then the sun would come back beaming even harder.  So the only thing I knew I could do is just grin and bear it.  I knew it was going to hurt down towards the end, but I had been there before.  El Scorcho hurt, but it was bearable.  I went ahead and made my way down to the exchange area and waited for Vishal to come through for the last exchange.  I was expecting him at 1pm, and he showed up at 12:45pm.  That was fine and all, however found out that was just the first loop!  His assignment was to run the Red then the Green.  So he had the Green left to go.  I could tell that the Red Loop got the best of him along with the heat as he doused himself with water before going back out.  Oh shit.  That gave me another 30 min or so to prepare.  I had no idea what was going to happen when I got out there.  My legs felt okay, I was well hydrated, well fueled, had plenty water and fuel with me.  I said I would take it easy, and that was the last thing Vishal said to me as I took the bib from him for the last time "Take it easy out there man."  I walked the first quarter mile which was all uphill, then got into a light jog.  When I got to the top of the peak of the Yellow loop I pulled out my phone since it was the only place I could get reception in the whole place and left my wife details on voicemail of how everything should go down the rest of the day.  Just so she would know I was good.  I finished the yellow loop with no problem.  I left the course, went to the water station to refill my hydration pack before I continued on to the Red Loop and knock out the last 7.7 miles. 
Team Dallas Trex
I was feeling pretty good, but starting to feel some fatigue, but I was going to do this no matter what.  I got about a mile into the Red Loop and here come the cramps.  Screw that, I'm going to run through this shit.  My left thigh cramped, then the right.  I went ahead and let all of that contract to the fullest, which hurt like hell then stretched it out, then my calves did the same thing.  That whole sequence took about 5-10 minutes and I was able to keep running even though my legs felt like someone put them through a meat grinder.  But I wasn't "Claying", I knew this was nothing but fatigue, but I would not be denied, and I was not about to let my team down and have a team DNF. 

     Overall this was the most fun I had ever had at any race event.  It was so well put together, almost flawless.  I am so in there when we do this again, I'm assuming next year. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ahhh Fall... Well, or at least the end of summer

So funny how running has changed so many things about me.  I used to dread the end of summer.  I really am NOT a cold weather person or even really a cool or chilly weather person.  I absolutely HATE being cold.  I don't think I could never live in the northern part of the country.  I like being able to walk outside with a shirt off and a glass of Kool-Aid and be comfortable.  But when it comes to running in it, I'm not the same person. Give me 40-50 degrees during a run (after the first half mile warm up) and I'm in heaven.  We just had a double cool front drive through which swatted the 90 degree, 80% humidity weather back out to half-court.  At least temporarily.  We all know that here in North Texas that drippy, sweaty weather could be back within the next week.  And it can show up at any time without warning at any time of the year.  See Dallas Marathon weather of 2012 to refresh your memory on that if you have forgotten.  There is just something about running in the crispness of the cold, your body providing the heating system, and the steam coming from your breath.  Well it's not that cold yet, but its coming.  The only problem I have every year is overdressing.  Tomorrow it will be 59 degrees for the start of our long group run at the DRC.  Still shorts and T shirt weather, but you always have the tendency to pull out the long sleeves.  But I have pulled those to the front of the closet as well as have located the gloves and caps.  Bring on the fall weather.  Bring on marathon weather.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

How to stop a (Nite) train /change of plans

I didn't think I would ever crash again like I have done so many times, but it has happened once again.  And one more time I have learned something else.  I'm not going to tell a long story about what went down last Sunday except that it happened and that I'm still mad at myself and embarrased as hell after somewhat letting my guard down.  Didn't really wan't to blog about it, but feel like I owe the public, because someone else out there probably has the same issues that I do.  I just posted about this same thing on my 4:00 Marathon training group's FB page not even two weeks ago. Here is the lesson I got out of it this time.

1.  My crashing issues or "Claying" all these years was not so much caused by dehydration as much as by electrolyte embalance.  I was well hydrated before this happened on water and Gatorade. 
2.  Regular salt does NOT replace Endurolytes, which have been my best friend ever since I discovered them.  Or any other electrolyte replacement supplement‎.  At least not for me.  Neither does mustard, neither does pickle juice.  Per my conversation with the paramedic inside the ambulance (who just so happened to have had a history of multiple incidents like mine and is a heavy sweater like me) we determined that the major element that I lose when I sweat is potassium.
3.  It really doesn't take much for my electrolyte balance to get thrown off when the weather is on the warm side (above 80 degrees) and I don't take proper salt replacements.
4.  I'm done with training for ultra marathons during the middle of the summer.  In Texas.  For now.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way, here is my revised race schedule:

10/18 - Ragnar Relay 50K
11/2 - DRC Half Marathon (probably will be pacing)
11/8 - Rockledge Rumble 50K
12/14 - Metro PCS Dallas Marathon

I removed the Lost Loop 50K from the schedule for various reasons.  One, after the research I did, the Cross Timbers course appears to be extremely technical.  Two, the weather could be really warm at the end of September.  Three, I couldn't get into a good rhythm with my training.  Work, and other personal issues were causing me to miss some long runs and extra mileage.  My longest run since El Schorcho is only 14 miles or so.  Four, I really just don't feel like training for anything major right now. Just being honest.  This removes a lot of pressure that I created, now I can focus on just getting myself back in tune and concentrate on my pacing duties with my 4:00 marathon training group.  The Ragnar Relay is 50k total but won't be done all at once.

I have added the Rockledge Rumble, 50K.  It's in November.  Now you know Texas, it could still be 80 degrees and 90% humidity on any given morning.  But at least I know that course very well.  Plus a lot of my favorite people are running it along with me.  I was present for this race last year as a spectator, so I totally know what to expect.  And I have two more months to prepare.  No brainer.

We will revisit the Cross Timbers trail at a later time

Friday, July 25, 2014

El Scorcho and other random stuff

     I just looked at the stats log to this blog and it told me that it is viewed an average of 11 times per day.  I haven't blogged since a few weeks back so sounds like you guys are coming here looking for something, haha.  I love sharing information on this journey that I'm on to wherever, I don't know.  Just hadn't had time to put anything out there with work and training.  I meant to put a race report out there for El Scorcho, but time got away from me.  I'm off work today without a damn thing to do. So here's what's up. 

El Scorcho Ocho 50K 
     To sum this race up, it was just as hard as I figured it would be.  My legs were fine, but my electolytes almost got out of wack again around loop 7 or 8, I felt the onset of cramps, thought I was done so I sat out for 20-30 minutes and took in more endurolytes.  Increased the rate of taking those and I was good in that department for the rest of the race.  The real problem was my gastrointestinal.  The only thing worse than running and being crampy, is running and having to take a shit once every hour.  I hadn't had that issue with any of the training runs leading up to the race, but boy...  I think I spent a total of 45 min in the porta-potty.  OK, yeah TMI... I went into the race just wanting to finish, not caring about time and it shows in my results.  So that is done.  I will do this race again at some point.  Maybe not next year, but sometime.

DRC Fall Marathon Training
     Only two runs in, but seems like this will be a fun year.  I once again have a wonderful co-pacer.  Another teacher.  We hit it off from day one.  Not sure what it is about runners being educators, but there sure are a lot of them.  We have a very large group, this time I'm down with the 4:00 marathon group.  Funny how I have never broken 4:00 on a marathon but I'm training others to.  So let the long hot and humid weeks of training begin and beat us the hell down.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Lost loop 50k coming 9/27/2014
     With El Scorcho in the rear view mirror, I am now looking foward to completing my first 50k trail race.  In, El Scorcho is listed as a trail race, so I'm credited with that one being my first one, but we know that ain't no real trail.  It was more like a dirt road race.  I am both encouraged, but slightly discouraged with doing the Lost Loop.  I am told that a trail 50k is easier than a road 50k, but I just don't see how.  When I run 10 trail miles, afterward I feel like I have run 15 road miles.  I am told that the trails are easier on the joints but you have a lot more muscle fatigue.  Yeah, that's the issue when I run on trails, muscle fatigue.  My longest rail run so far is I believe 14 miles.
This course which is at Lake Texoma I hear is technical for the first few miles, then gets easier.  But it is an out-and-back, so all of that technical stuff will be waiting for me on the way back.  Why it's called a 'loop' but it's out-and-back trail, I don't know.  Hope I don't get lost on the 'lost' loop.  I just looked at the results from last year and the average completion time for my age group was 7.5 hours.  Good lord.  I hope time passes out there. For now, I have plenty of time to get plenty of trail miles in.  We'll see what happens. 
Trail Running
     I'm hesistant to call myself solely a road runner or trail runner, so we will just go with 'hybrid'.  I started running trails to help strengthen myself and help marathon time and now looks like I may have three, maybe four 50k trail races done by the end of the year.  Add that to two road 50Ks, and 4 full road marathons will be done by the end of the year.  Funny because I went into 2014 saying I would 'chill' the whole year and run maybe one marathon in the spring and one in the fall.  I'm starting to love the trails more and more.  My first experience in a 20K trail race on New Years day was a very good one.  Like the little girl on the AT&T TV commercial said, "We want more, we want more"

Fitness and diet
     I got way off track with my cross training last spring.  I have access to 4 different gyms.  Yes, four.  So I have no excuse not to throw in some weight training, spin, racketball or whatever.  I've got that back up and running.  Back to that 4:00 marathon thing again.  I'm not in a hurry to break it, but my new philosophy is that doing some of this extra stuff and getting myself to optimum fitness will increase my chances. Same thing with diet. I had been eating everything and everything last spring and into the summer.  I've recently gotten myself back to elimating the junk and I'm already feeling the difference during my runs.  My body is my hobby.  And I ain't gettin' no younger either.

So that is all. For now.  Stay tuned, more to come.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Voice

     I've been wanting to share this for a few days, however my schedule has been just ridiculous. I hadn't had the time to share much through this blog.  I'm sure that will change as we get into fall marathon training soon and closer to a couple of highly anticipated trail races I have coming in September and October.  But first, a revelation I had Sunday before last.  
     I was feeling rather lazy that morning and usually I'm up and out of the house hitting the trails on Sunday mornings.  I decided to sleep in this time.  I had pretty much a Saturday off after grinding out a 24 mile training run Friday night into the wee hours of the morning.  So I opted to do my Sunday run on the streets of Carrollton, but I did not want to wait until evening to do it.  Why not afternoon?  I hadn't really run any true hot weather runs in a couple years.  There was a reason why.  Because when I did, it was miserable.  I felt I was a much smarter runner now and would be able to handle it.  I chose a route that had plenty water fountains on it.  On the schedule was 12 miles.
     As I set out on my trek, I was very cautious of my pace.  There was a slight haze over the sun so the heat was not a total beat down.  I didn't even check the current weather conditions before I started but I'm going to guess it was around 85-90 degrees and humid.  It had just rained a couple hours before.  I had just moved to this area of Carrollton two weeks ago however my run routes hadn't changed much, I would just be running on the opposite ends of them.
 The first half of the run was not hard at all, I kept a steady slow pace.  It was an out-and-back route, I got to the turn around and start coming back.  The only difference is that now I'm facing the sun and most of the route going back was uphill.  I wanted to keep the same pace and push through.  I have gotten so accustomed to running with another person or group, it was like I never really had to push myself.  The run started to get really difficult. That's when a voice popped off in my head.
     "Hey" it said.  "See that tree over there?  Make it to that tree."  I see the tree, maybe 200 yards away, I kept pace slinging sweat everywhere and made it to the tree.  "Okay, now run to where you see the trail make a bend to the right."  I follow the instruction and get to the spot.  Then the voice says, "The third tree just past that red car parked up there."  I see what what is going on now.  "Okay I got you, I see what's up", I told the voice.  This went on for a couple miles.  Then I see a steep hill coming.  "Hey, I said.  What about that hill coming?  What now?"  The voice cuts me off in mid sentence and says, "Just run to the fire hydrant fool".  I get close to the fire hydrant which is halfway up the hill, I'm panting and sweating more and look to the top of the hill when the voice blurts out "Don't look at that, look at the fire hydrant like I said!  Don't worry about what's past that fire hydrant until you get to it.  One thing at time.  And stop looking at that Garmin, it won't help you."  I made it to the fire hydrant.  And wait for the next instruction "Okay, get to the STOP sign."  So segment by segment the voice helped me through the run.  I was so into it, I never really paid attention to where I was on the route.  "Okay, now look at your Garmin." it said.  I looked and I only had one mile left to go.  "Cool down mile", the voice said.  "Don't worry about thanking me."
     Now I really don't have voices popping off in my head when I run.  Umm, let me stop lying, yes I do and sometimes I do talk to myself when I run.  True story, but more importantly it helped me with something else.  Recently I took on a new role at my job and have been having some anxiety centered around all of the new responsibilities and higher expectations that came with it.  I had to remember that first of all my manager would not have recommended me for it if she didn't think I could do it.  What this run helped me with is to remember that if I tackle each job a task at a time, I can make it through no matter how tough it gets.  We hear that cliche that athletes use taking it "one day, or one play at a time", but it really is how to have steadfastness in achieving something despite difficulty or delay.  Needless to say, these past couple off weeks at work have kicked my ass.  But applying what I was reminded of on that run, I am right on point with my duties.  So excuse me now while I make it to this next tree.


Monday, April 28, 2014

"A Run to Remember" Oklahoma Memorial Marathon 2014

Marathon #8, Total time, 4:40:48 

Why another marathon?
In early December 2013 my plans were to pace my 4:10 marathon group through the DRC Spring Training, maybe run a half or two and at the most, and if I was needed, pace the Big D Marathon, which at the time I thought would be the target race of the club.  I didn't plan on running more than one or two full marathons in 2014.  My how things change.  After the Dallas Marathon cancelled, that caused most of the DFW running community to set sight on the Cowtown Marathon.  I had done Cowtown in 2013, and thought of only running the half marathon, then upgraded to the full marathon, but found myself clicking on the "ultra" button when I registered.  I then volunteered to pace a slot in the Big D Full Marathon which was in late April. The OKC Marathon was a thought, but I wasn't terribly interested until after I finished Cowtown and noticed that if I ran OKC that it would fall within a 90 day period.  Really?  This would probably be my one and only opportunity to qualify for Marathon Maniacs.  I really don't see myself running this many full marathons within that span of time within the near future.  But I have said never about a lot of things that I'm finding myself doing. After training for and running Cowtown, I was already in marathon shape, all I had to do was maintain.  I can't say that I worked all that hard on staying maintained, but I made it through uninjured, so that was a win.

Extreme Weather?
Very conveniently, our training director Vish had hookups for hotel and transportation to the event, so this made it very easy.  I had no really huge goal for this race.  My personal record is STILL 4:13:15 which is my first marathon.  Going in I had heard either horror stories from people who had run the race (usually speaking of the weather) or that it was one of the best race experiences ever from others.  There was no "oh it was alright" from anyone.  Either yea or nay.  I was a little worried about the weather, as I know weather is dicey in OK in mid spring.  I know they say everything is bigger in Texas, but I think they've got us on that weather-wise.
DRC Party Bus
 A week out I started following the weather forecast, and one part was always consistent and would never change, warm, humid, windy.  At one point it was reported that there would be a widespread outbreak of tornadoes throughout the whole region stretching from San Antonio to Kansas.  My OKC friend and Marathon Maniac Jen whom I met through dailymile messaged me and assured me that the weather wouldn't be as severe as hyped and that everything would be great.

Road Trip via the DRC 'Party Bus'
The angels who saved our race
Packet pickup/carb load dinner in Norman, OK
Saturday morning before the race the DRC crew who had chosen to take the chartered bus to OKC met up at the clubhouse to be transported.  Due to complications of the bus company, the bus showed up late and we left 3 1/2 hours later than scheduled.  Luckly, we had DRC members who were already in OKC and they picked up all 30 packets before the race expo closed.  That was a bummer, because I was really looking forward to wandering around Bricktown (the equivalent to the West End here in Dallas) and checking out the Memorial Museum and even maybe running into Jen.  Oh well, maybe next time.  We ended up stopping in Norman to carb load around 7:30 pm because most every restaurant in OKC had already been booked up.  Thanks again to the same angels who picked up our packets, they also set up the reservation in Norman for Carino's Italian restaurant and brought the packets with them.  We finally got to our hotel around 10pm-ish and there was little time to do anything but unpack race items and do inventory check then get to sleep.  

Race Morning
I slept like a baby, and I didn't really think about it until my hotel roommate Mark asked me if I still get pre-race jitters, he seemed to notice that I slept well.  Marathon number 8, I guess I'm done with the jitters, not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.  No time for breakfast, forgot to buy my traditional pre-race meal (a Snicker's bar), but I had eaten so much the day before and the carb up meal happened so late into the evening, I figured I would be OK.  I had plenty of race time fuel.  I made sure to bring plenty Endurolyte pills, which have saved me from severe leg cramps ever since Cowtown.  When I checked the weather radar at 5am, there was no precip to be found except in the far southwest corner of the state.  On the trip from the hotel from start line, frunner Jorge showed me an updated radar with two lines of storms headed our way.  Oh boy.
Scary looking cumulonimbus
So we made it down to the start line, dropped off our drop bags at the bag drop and waited for the start.  Glancing at the sky, I really thought it was no biggie.  Especially since just three weeks earlier, I paced the Big D Marathon with thunder and lightning at the start.  I guess it was no concern to that event crew as they counted down to the start with lightning strikes coming down everywhere.  This crew had a little more concern for safety and made the wise decision to delay the start from 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.  Storms intensified and that got bumped to 7:30 a.m.  Then to 8:00 a.m.  My crew was familiar with that as we had already went through some bumping of time the day before with our chartered bus scheduled to leave Dallas at 11:00 am which changed to 12:30, to 1:00 and was bumped several more times.  We were all patient.  
Patiently waiting for the delays to end.
 No complaining.  That's what runners don't do.
As we were all taking shelter from the pelting rain and lightning in parking garages near the start line, the race crew had to make the decision to either have the race go on at 8 or cancel it altogether.  Thankfully the rain and lightning subsided right around 8 and by the time everyone lined up and the national anthem was sung, it was right about 8:30.

Miles 1 through 13
I started the race with a mild headache, was not sure where it came from as I don't really get that many headaches.  I figured as I ran it would fade away.  I was concerned that I was standing around all morning waiting on the start and that my legs would tire out faster.  I lined up in my assigned corral, but waited right before the start line for the 4:15 pace group to appoach.  My plan was to run with them for about 80 percent of the run, then if I was feeling pretty good, take off from there to get my P.R.  Well... as we started, it was feeling just like Dallas Marathon 2012.  So humid that you would have to take a shower to dry off.  I knew I would have to hydrate like hell.  My two pacers, I forget the name of one, but I know the others' name was Pascal I believe, had a plan and for the first few miles were pretty much on point with their splits.  They had a little bit of time in the bank, maybe 30-40 seconds.  They were very entertaining, had good jokes.  Always a good thing to have when you pace a group.  I was told by a few that the course was hilly, and by some that it was not that hilly.  My take on marathons is that every one of them are hilly to some extent.  I haven't found a flat one yet.  The hills in the beginning were gradual, some long but nothing that I haven't handled before.
 They surely weren't Tulsa hills.  Right off the bat I noticed the overwhelming support of the community.  This course was not short of waterstops.  They may have even had too many, well no not really.  You can never have too much hydration stops.  There was no excuse for anyone being dehydrated.  The only thing that bugged me was the congestion from the half marathoner's course being concurrent with the full marathoner's course for the first 7.5 miles.  I was constantly running around folks trying to keep with the pacers.  As a matter of fact I was amazed on how few people signed up for the full marathon.  Earlier, when me and frunner/Marathon Maniac Jessica were waiting to drop our drop bags off, one of the volunteers shouted that the line for the full marathoners was where we were standing.  Everyone standing in the line Jessica and I were in left the line as they discovered the were in the wrong one.  I had to wonder if the full marathon was as bad as some say it would be.

Miles 14 through 20
At this point I knew that if I got my P.R. it would be close.  I wasn't feeling like myself, I knew it was the weather.  I had to work to hard to get to mile 14 and running at a 9:35 min/mile pace, that was usually my confy pace.  I probably should have dropped it even a little slower than that and built up to the 9:35 later.  I wasn't terribly concerned, I knew I had just paced a 4:15 full marathon with no issues at all, but the weather was much more favorable.  I decided to re-assess at around mile 18 and then make a decision from there to pick it up, or just stay with the pacers.  Well, that would change.  Lost pacer number one around mile 15.  Pacer number two kept with the rhythm, looked strong to that point.  Pacer number one eventually caught back up with us at the part of the course which contoured Lake Hefner, which is about the size of half of White Rock Lake, but has twice the wind blowing across it.  The wind was so strong that it broke the pacers' pace stick.  Somewhere around mile 19 we lost pacer number two.  I kept my my Garmin at 9:35 and doing so pulled away from the cluster which was now running with pacer one, so obviously the pace slowed down.  I was feeling so-so.  Endurolytes were working just fine, no cramping, no hint of cramping. However my stomach was giving me issues.  I wasn't sure if it was from all the extra Powerade I was drinking or if it was the GU packets.  I'm thinking it was the Powerade as GU has never given me issues. 

Miles 20 to finish
Somewhere around mile 21, my right calf started hurting like hell and hindering me.  It didn't cramp but felt like it had hit a wall.  Everything else on my body was doing just fine.  As a matter of fact as I am typing this blog the next day, it is the only part of my body which is sore.  I did notice the crowd support getting stronger.  I loved the wet sponges, wet towels, people standing in their front yards spraying runners with hoses.  I was way out ahead of the 4:15 pace group, not because I was running faster, but because they had fallen way off.  Then came Classen Blvd. Damn you Classen Blvd!  Every hill up to this point was not steep, they were just long.  There was some downgrades and one long downgrade somewhere past mile 20.  However... there was one hill on Classen that I swear had to be at least a mile or two long.  It would not stop.  That was the killer.  The good thing is that there was probably 2-3 waterstops on that hill.  That pretty much did me in, slowed my pace and killed any thoughts of getting a PR.  But I really wasn't there for that, I was there to qualify for Marathon Maniacs.  That I would not be denied unless a twister dropped out of the sky and threw me back to the start line.  Slim chance of that happening as the sky was clear with a beaming sun above.  I chose to have as much fun with the crowd for the last couple miles and for everyone who told me "You are almost there" I would reply back "No I'm not, but thanks!"  Finally I got to the last corner, and believe me about 5 people told me that when I turn the corner, that I would see the finish line.  They were correct, but it looked as if it were still a mile away.  I had to put my glasses on to see it.  So I did something that I meant to do at Cowtown but forgot.  I pulled out my phone and videoed the last 100 or so feet of my run to the finish line.  Marathon number 8 in there, Marathon Maniac accomplished.

Would I do this race again?
Missions accomplised, back on the bus home to Dallas.
You know what, yes indeed.  A lot of the races I have done which have kicked my ass, I have made it in my mind to go back and run them again and do better.  Sigh, yes you too Tulsa Route 66.  Maybe not immediately, but at some point I will return to OKC and tackle those again with a different race strategy and I know that the weather could possibly be exactly the same for both.  Hopefully the next time I can visit a little bit more of the city too.  The experience was good enough to bring me back.  Overall it was a fun weekend with good buddies.  Road race trips rock.

Video Finish

Monday, February 24, 2014

A P.R. Weekend: Mayors 5K and Cowtown Ultra

CIGNA Mayor's Race 5K
     This race was originally scheduled back in December but was cancelled due to the severe ice storm which also cancelled the 2013 Dallas Marathon.  Since I work for CIGNA, I had signed up for it for no charge.  I received an email a couple of weeks ago that the race was scheduled for the day before Cowtown.  I had never run a timed 5k before and was curious where I was speed-wise so this would serve as a test.  I ran an untimed 5k in the fall of 2012 which was organized by my employer and per my Garmin I ran it in 23:29, but since it wasn't an official race, it doesn't count.  
     I arrived that morning, with no idea what I would do for this race.  On the training schedule was a 2 mile run in preparation for the next day's ultra marathon.  I could just trot through it and be okay.  I had no idea whom else was running this race, I thought I would see a few of my coworkers there, and I did however they were there to volunteer, not run the race.  Thankfully, I received a message from one of our DRC coaches, Rick who was there to run the race.  He asked if I were going to race it, looked up my 10k time then told me what I should be able to run for a 5k per the McMillan calculator.  The calculator suggested I could average around a 7:45 min/mile.  I knew my fitness level had increased some since that last 10K I did in January, so I figured I would try to keep it around a 7:30 pace.  Rick and I set out for a 1 mile warmup run with strides and that got me going I think.  
Dallas Mayor's Race. Me on left with CIGNA 5K shirt on and to my left
you see former Dallas mayor and marathoner Laura Miller

     I lined up in the very front of the start line to avoid all of the traffic that usually comes with these races.  The weather was at a perfect 55 degrees, no wind and the sun had just started to peek over the horizon.  I started off, with the intention of not going out too fast.  As I still had to weave my way around people I couldn't really get a steady pace.  I got about a half mile in, looked at my Garmin and it was telling me that I was running at about a 6:25 min/mile, yikes!  I tried to slow it down some but had a hard time getting locked into a slower speed.  I was worried that now I would not have anything at the end.  I finally settled into the 7:30 pace that I wanted and amazingly was able to hold it all the way through.  By the time I got to the last turn I started feeling a little nauseous, and I had to run uphill a bit to get to that last turn.  I kept whatever pace I had, should have gunned it because some guy passed me right at the finish line.  I didn't know how important it was until I looked at the results later and saw that I finished in 22:55 and placed 8th overall.  I could have had 7th.  Darn it.

The Cowtown Ultra Marathon
     After completing my 3rd Marathon last February at this event, I had determined that I would run this marathon annually and make it my "A" race.  In last year's Cowtown Marathon, I ran it injured and wasn't able to give it a full effort, but I could tell that this was a very good race as it was at a time of the year where the weather is pretty consistent and I didn't have to travel out of town for it.  What I didn't know is that I would end up signing up for the Ultra Marathon 50K.  At my computer, I sat there looking at marathon vs ultra marathon for a good five minutes.  Then said, what the hell? Clicked 'registration complete'.  Oh boy, you have really done it now.  I had yet to run a 26.2 where I wasn't dying at the end, how in heck would I do a 50K?  I had a plan.  I just started using my head.  Running tons of miles was good, but not enough.  During the last portion of the Route 66 Tulsa Marathon, I paid close attention to what was hurting on my body, made a mental note of which specific muscles were failing me, then made a vow to myself to strengthen up whatever it was that was screaming so it wouldn't scream again.  I had already gotten advice to do some leg strengthening and/or weights from several folks already who claimed that it would really help with not hitting the dreaded  'wall' during races and also that it would help prevent injuries.  It really made a lot of sense, not it was time for me to heed their advice.  I had been doing some weight training on and off, not consistently.  So I wrote out a plan and stuck to it.  I originally had my plan where I did weights on my lower body on running days off, then after I came across this article- which consequently caused me to change everything I was doing.  Seemed so common sense. Torture your legs and let them recover on off days and they will get stronger.  And really I didn't do any strenuous lifting, just enough to make the run afterward a challenging workout.  Over the weeks I could feel myself getting stronger, each long run was becoming easier and easier.  There was one point in my training this season where I had two 26 mile runs back to back weekends and had no problem with either one and was able to get a fast finish in on both.  
Me and Jacqueline before race start

     The Cowtown, has a history of having consistent weather.  Perfect weather.  At least I had witnessed two years of perfect weather.  Last year when I ran it and the year before, I didn't run but remember that day reading buddies' posts of how great the weather was.  I was expecting near perfect weather this time, after having weeks of sub freezing weather.  Well, not quite.  The couple days before the forecast showed almost warm weather and high humidity.  It wasn't Dallas Marathon 2012 weather where the temperature was maxed at 69 degrees with 90 percent humidity, but it was not much better.  The temperature started in the mid 50s and rose to the upper 60s by noontime.  Humidity started at about 90 percent then dropped to around 70% during the race.  I know I sound like a meteorologist, but after having my dehydration events I pay very close attention to the weather now.  So seeing that coming, I was advised by my frunner buddy Jaqueline Smith to try out endurolyte pills.  Never heard of them, and I knew that trying something new before a race was risky, however she told me that they would cause me no stomach problems.  I have had such a long history with leg cramping.  Almost every major race I have run rather pacing or racing has involved leg cramping during some point of the race.  And I don't cramp like most folks do, I have severe spasms.  Once I have those, I'm stopped down quite a bit.  So I was willing to try this.  As I went on my 'race shopping' that I do every friday before a race, I picked up a couple of packs.  
     The night before I got adequate sleep.  I found I no longer have race anxiety before a race.  I used to have sleepless nights.  My worry was that I would oversleep and not wake up in enough time to make the 45 minute drive to Ft Worth to pick up my packet from frunner Jessica who had so conveniently grabbed it for me to save the double trip out there.  I did wake up on time, had a bowl of Malt O Meal, a Cliff Bar, got dressed and headed westward to Funkytown.  The weather at that moment felt good, but I knew later in the morning it would not be favorable, so I went ahead and popped two of the endurolytes, dropped of my drop bag, took a few pics and headed to corral #5 which I was assigned to.  I had lost the original folks, Jamie, Chad & company whom I had decided to run with in the crowd but I did find my buddy Jackie C.  She was running the half had no goal time to shoot for and said she would run along with me up to the point where the halfers and full/ultras split up.  
     Once we got going, I just told myself and Jackie that I was just going to run this thing like a training run and I just wanted to finish without falling over and dying.  We locked in on the 4:40 and 2:20 pacer for a good two miles, which got me warmed up then I decided they were not needed anymore, that I could pick up the pace a tad bit.  Jackie always makes for good conversation and we yapped and yapped until around the 10 mile mark where the split was.
Jackie and I at the Main Street bridge hill
 We said our farewells and good lucks to each other and I was on my own.  I started to have a few flashbacks to last years Cowtown where I was fighting leg pain and trying to shoot for a sub 4 marathon and was in complete denial that that was not obtainable.  This year, no pressure.  Whatever I finish with at the 50k mark was going to be a P.R.  Around the end of mile 14 I started to feel a little queazy, I think I was starting to get slightly dehydrated... maybe, so I decided to nip that in the bud right there.  I stopped at the first waterstop, took a potty break and then downed several cups of water, gatorade and had the waterstop folks refill my water bottle.  Looking at my splits below, that explains the downward spike in the pace at mile 15.  I moved on and caught up with one of my pupils, Austin who is in the 4:10 marathon training group of which I'm a pace leader.  He was struggling, so I gave him some encouraging words (I hope) and reminded him that this is his first marathon, that it would get better but was real with him and told him the worst is coming, but that he would finish.  Kept it moving and the next few miles were a blur.  I  can't even remember them.  I do remember there many waterstops along the way.
Jamie and I hurting at mile 30.
 This race wasn't lacking that at all.  Very well supported.  I do remember around mile 20 looking down at my Garmin and noticing that I was flying at an 8:20 min mile.  I couldn't believe it, but I knew I  had to slow it back down.  If I only had to go to 26.2, I would have kept at it, but I had nearly 11 more miles to go.
Tap the breaks buddy.  But it was feeling really good passing folks like crazy.  I passed by another frunner Jeannette and I guess I was flying so fast she had to call out my name because I did not even see her.  I backed up, we chatted a bit and then she stopped at a water stop and I moved on.  My plan was to get to mile 26.2, and turn the rest into a cooldown run.  There was a waterstop at mile 26 which supplied me with a cool towel and at that moment I realized the temperature had risen quite a bit.  Kept it moving and got to the mile 28 waterstop just before where the turnaround is for the ultra runners.  At that point, the reality had started to set in of what I had just done.  By then my legs were starting to be shot, and I knew that soon it was going to be walk-run the rest of the way.  I found Jamie shortly after that who was having issues as well and we walk ran it the rest of the way to the finish line.  

     Afterward I was thinking that this may be the craziest thing that I have ever done.  Until I find something else to top it, and I probably will.  Overall it was a great weekend, I will probably never have another one like it.

Earning my Spurs

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Taper week! One week til Cowtown

7 days away, first ultra.  If you had have told me when I first started running that 1 week before my 4 year "runniversary" that I would be an ultra marathoner, I may have said "GTFOH".  Actually I probably would have asked "What the hell is an ultra marathon?"  At the time I did not even know how long a marathon was, nor that half marathons existed.  So here I am all excited, giddy, drooling, anxious, all of that.  Seems that the leading up to a huge event is almost as great as the event itself.  And life is all about having something to look forward to right?  I certainly do this week.  Everything is all set.  I've run a ton of miles, but still feel like I haven't run enough.  I guess that's normal.  I have my nutrition plan set for the week.  Looks like I may even have a group of folk to run with all the way to mile 31.  Of the 5 marathons I have ran, with exception to the one which I have paced, I ran on an island by myself, not in a group.  It will be nice to have some support along the way.  And hopefully someone to celebrate with as we cross the finish line.  The weather so far looks like it will be exceptional on race day.  I will approach this race just as I did all of my firsts.  Just run it, experience it, have something MORE to build on.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Rolling Right Along - 19 days til Cowtown

     So I know I haven’t been on here lately, thought I would document on how this ultra thing is going.  In case you didn’t know I’m training for the Cowtown Ultra Marathon on 2/23.  What I have found is that when you train for an ultra, everything you do becomes “ultra”.  I have found myself, not only doing the extra ultra-mileage in training, but eating ultra.  My caloric intake is off the charts, I’m eating everything that moves, always hungry.  I sleep ultra, naps have been longer, and I have to get at least 7 hours of sleep or I’m not “right”.  Everything seems to be going well though, I think I owe a lot to the lower body weight training which I have been doing as well. I have had several long runs over 20 miles now including back to back 26 and 25 mile weeks.  The 26 mile training run I had on 2/23 went so well and I was able to actually able to pick up my pace toward that last 3-4 miles of the run with no problem.  I ran 10 recovery trail miles the very next day on sore legs and that Monday it was like I never even ran. 
How many of you old schoolers remember Ultra Man?
      I was thinking last night about how though I’m training for this, how I will probably push myself to do more later.  Especially seeing my mentors complete 50k, 50mile and 100 mile trail races.  It’s amazing what we can train the body to do.  I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be doing something like this.  I remember before I ever even thought about taking up running as a hobby and I was weighing over 200 lbs, my supervisor at work whom is a tri-athlete talking about running an ultra-marathon; and in my mind that was something that only a well-trained athlete could do.  Not me.  Well I guess I can call myself a well-trained athlete now. J

Friday, January 3, 2014

Day One Trail Run 20K / First trail race

I'm just now getting around to talking about this race here. It was the perfect race at the perfect time.  I missed out on the Rockledge Rumble which was originally going to be my first trail race and was looking at other ones to sign up for that weren't 100 miles away.  In November frunner, Jackie Smith brought it to my attention that there was a race on New Years Day.  The only other thing going on New Years Day was going to be the New Years Double in Allen, TX and I knew I had already missed out on that. What made it even better was that since the Dallas Marathon weekend had been cancelled and I was signed up for the Mayor's Race and Half Marathon, this would somewhat fill a racing void.  And since I was getting back into my regular trail runs, this fit right in.

The race had a 10 a.m. start, fitting for those who may have stayed awake and celebrated bringing in the New Year.  I fell asleep before midnight, so I missed the introduction of 2014.  The weather was perfect, sunny, started out in the upper 30's when I got there around 9am.  The high was to be 60-ish.  It was very windy which made it feel much colder than the temperature suggested during the pre-race "meeting" that was held.  I was told that trail races are laid back and this one really was.  It felt more like a picnic than a race.  There was only about 80-90 runners registered.  The race was organized by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and held at Cedar Hill State Park next to Joe Pool Lake which I never knew existed until now and hosted by the Park Police themselves.
I had no race strategy, just to run the course and enjoy the day.  It took only half mile into the run and I knew I had dressed properly.  I went with shorts and only two thin layers up top.  I was no longer cold, and the wind isn't a factor in the woods.  I trailed behind a guy and girl runner for the first three miles and it ended being just me and the girl, named Virginia for the next 3 miles.  Pace was perfect, not sure what it was.  Eventually she stopped to refuel and I passed her.  I ran up on another group of folks about 15 min later, chatted with them for a few minutes and then passed.  Another first time runner whom I met after the race had a great observation and brought up the fact that you can have nice long conversations with runners in trail races that you can't during a road race.  After I passed this group of runners it was me on my own the rest of the way.  What I found is that I run much better own my own, or if I were running in the front of a pack because I have a broader scope of the terrain.  I was flying I know at around an 8 minute pace at some parts.  I never stumbled or tripped once until right toward the end.  I somehow kicked a stump which initiated a Charlie horse in my calf.  Thinking to myself, "Damn can I not have at least one race without a leg cramp?"  I don't know what it is about those cramps, possibly that I haven't been stretching at all lately.  But it was very minor.  I was able to stop, let it contract itself and hurt like hell and stretch it.  Shout out to Coach Steve Griffin for giving me the heads up on how to handle those.  Lasted all of 30 seconds and I was back on my way.  I hit a couple more bends and to my surprise, I was back in the park and the finish line was right in front of me.  I looked at my lying Garmin and it was telling me I still had just under a mile left to go.  I wasn't sure if the Garmin was wrong or the course was wrong,  I was like hey... I'll take it.  Total time 2:00:07 for a 9:39 pace.  My fastest pace ever recorded on the trails.
The trail was well marked with pink ribbons every few miles to re-assure you that you were still on the course.  There were three aid stations along the way.  I only used the last one, where I took a quick gulp of Gatorade.  I really didn't need it, but just stopped long enough to tell the volunteers how much of a good time I was having.  The course was not technical at all, pretty flat and not many tree roots.  However, there was some mild difficulty for the last couple of miles or so with a few dips and humps.  The post race food was blackeyed peas and cornbread.  Overall a very nice experience.  I'll be signing up for this one again next year.  So what do I think about trail races?  They were no different than my weekly trail runs, which I love.  I love them for the challenge and the scenery and it seems like it gives me a chance to think.  I don't see myself every becoming solely a trail runner though.  I still love to let it fly on the road.  Nothing wrong with being a hybrid.  But you will see more of these trail races pop up into my schedule.