Monday, September 26, 2011

A Return to Training

It's been over a year since I have done any training. I've done plenty of running, but no training. For the past year I would run based on feel. If I felt like trail running, I would. If I felt like doing a tempo run, I would. I never felt like doing a long run that wasn't part of a race, so I didn't. It's been over a year since I thought about a running plan and followed through with it.

I know that in order to finish Sawtooth next year that will need to change, and it already is, but only sort of.

I have signed up for the Wild Duluth 100K in three weeks, so for now my running is more based upon preparing for that. This weekend I ran 10 miles on Saturday, and 21 on Sunday (even though I didn't feel like it!). It's been only two weeks since my aborted attempt at Sawtooth, and my legs aren't fully recovered. Next weekend, I am hoping to get in a pair of 20+ runs on the trails. After that I will begin to dial it down in preparation for the 100K.

After Wild Duluth I will probably take a couple of weeks off and then, starting in November, I will be starting a three month training segment designed to improve my speed and strength. More on that later.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sawtooth Recap

You already know that this ended early for me, at the Finland Aid station, after about 51 miles.

I would like to tell you that I had to drop because the heat got to me, but that would be disingenuous. Some people did legitimately drop due to the heat, and for sure the heat took its toll on me, but the truth is I handled the heat pretty well. I went out slow and drank A LOT, so I stayed pretty well hydrated, all things considered.

I would like to tell you that I dropped because my shin got so bad I couldn't move, but that wouldn't be true either. To be sure, this also took its toll, and I was visibly limping by the time I got to Finland. Maybe I should have dropped because of my shin; even today it is noticeably swollen relative to my other leg, and is quite sore to the touch. In fact, I am starting to think that I should see my physician to rule out compartment syndrome. If it is compartment syndrome, it is a good thing that I did drop. Still, the truth is, that is not why I ended my race early.

I would like to tell you that I dropped due to stomach issues. This would simply be a lie. My stomach was feeling fine. I was eating and keeping it down. No problems at all here. In fact, I was generally feeling good all over. I was in a good mood, enjoying the night run. My legs were sore, but not more than I expected, and not so sore that I couldn't go on.

The truth is I dropped because I wasn't prepared, physically or mentally, but especially mentally. Credit goes to Matt and Scott for calling me out on this early. Seeing that I registered for the race with kind of a "why not?" mentality, they worried that I wouldn't have the desire to finish. In retrospect, this should have been obvious to me as well. I also wasn't prepared physically, but even this was a result of my poor mental preparation.

Let me explain. In 2011, I haven't done a single training run of longer than 12 miles. I did a number of races, from marathons to 50 miles, and called these training runs. The reason I did my "training runs" as races, however, was that I just didn't have the gumption to get up and go for a long run on my own. I could do it with the support of the race volunteers and the company of my fellow runners, but not on my own. The bottom line is that I just didn't want to run long unless it was part of a race. This did not serve me well.

I ended up getting to Finland at about 12:40 AM on Saturday morning, an hour and 20 minutes before the cutoff. I had been slowly significantly. Between Country Road 6 and Finland I had been passed by at least a dozen runners. Those runners were walking, of course, but were walking much faster than I was. This was the lack of physical preparation. The ruggedness of the Superior Hiking Trail was getting to me, and I was staggering along. In fact, I kept falling off the boardwalks. Between my limp and my stagger, I just didn't have the balance to stay on. Good thing it was dry!

By the time I got to Finland I was convinced that I had to drop. I honestly never even considered it a choice. There was only an hour and 20 minutes until the cutoff, and I was slowing down significantly. Ha. Now that the preliminary results are out, I see that there were at least a dozen runners who got to the aid station after me, and went on to finish. There was a choice, but I couldn't see it at the time.

I stuck around at the finish the next day, at least twice as sore as I've been after any other 50 mile run I had done this year, to watch the 100 milers come in. I found it incredibly inspiring to watch the last runner come in, minutes before the 38 hour cut off, and just barely in front of the sweeps. As impressive as it is to see someone run across the finish in just over 24 hours, it is much more inspiring to see the people who stuck with it, despite being just under the cutoff all along the way. Wow.

I'm glad I switched from the  50 to the 100. Despite the fact that I ended up only running 50, and having to pay an extra $110 for the honor. I got to see the first half of the course, but more importantly, I now at least have an inkling of what it will take to prepare for my second attempt, and first finish, in 2012. I am now inspired and will be doing those long lonely runs throughout the year in preparation.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sawtooth Spoiler

A recent study out of the UCSD Psychology Department concluded that readers enjoy the story most when they know the ending first.

So, with your increased enjoyment in mind, dear reader, I am giving away the ending of my Sawtooth 2012 story. I dropped at the ceremonial midway point, the Finland aid station.

You'll have to wait for the story itself.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sawtooth Strategy

I spent the better part of my Labor Day thinking about and planning for my race this weekend. Much of this has been menial tasks like prepping my drop bags, predicting arrival times at aid stations for my crew (my wife, Ruthie, bless her heart), and packing.

Some of my time has also been spent on visualizing how I will handle certain race day decisions: some inevitable, some avoidable.

Unavoidable events that will NOT cause me to drop:

1) Pain. This one falls into the inevitable category. I can't imagine anyway at anytime that I could cover 102.6 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail without experiencing a good deal of pain. It would just be wrong of me to register for a race that will definitely cause pain and then drop out when the pain comes. I recently read Marshall Ulrich's account of his transcontinental run. In it he compares ultra running to a climb up Everest he once made. During the climb, one of the Russians in his team was ostracized for complaining about cold fingers. You don't climb Everest and complain about cold fingers. You don't run ultras and complain about sore legs. This includes my shin splints, by the way, which are getting better everyday.

2) Emotional lows. This is really just a type of pain, isn't it? It's also inevitable. The key is to recognize that this is a low point and is likely to be followed by an emotional peak. Unlike the pain, the low points will go away eventually.

Avoidable events that WILL cause me to drop.

1) An acute injury: severely sprained ankle, broken leg, concussion, that sort of thing. These are unlikely, but could happen, especially on the Superior Hiking Trail. If there is an ambulance there to take me away, I will drop.

2) Missing a cutoff time. Hopefully I won't encounter this problem, but if I miss a cut off time, I will respect the race rules and drop out. My predicted race times are hours away from the posted cut off times. If this does happen it is because something has gone seriously wrong.

Avoidable events that MAY cause me to drop.

1) Heat related problems such as dehydration or hyponatremia. It looks like Friday at least will be relatively warm. I've seen highs for the area reaching 80. I'm not too worried as most of the course is well shaded, and I'm hopeful that the dew point, at least, will be reasonable. Either way, this is an avoidable problem and I will be very cautious of it. At the first signs of problems, I will chill out at an aid station until I get back to where I should be. Of course, that could lead to missing a cutoff time.

2) Stomach issues. This could be a problem. I've not done a 100 mile race before, and don't know how my stomach will handle it. I've heard horror stories from others. The good news is my stomach is usually pretty solid as long as I'm not going too fast or working too hard. I'll eat early and go slow. Again, if this problem does occur, I plan on using my time at an aid station to solve it.

Are they any other potential issues I'm not thinking of? Please let me know.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Many Rivers to Cross - Jimmy Cliff

The unofficial theme song of Sawtooth 2011? It will be for me.

Consider -

"Many rivers to cross
And it's only my will that keeps me alive
I've been licked, washed up for years
And I merely survive because of my pride"

It's been covered many times, but Jimmy Cliff's version is still the best.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lou Holtz on Success

I'm not generally a fan of Lou Holtz, but I was watching my beloved Badgers on ESPN last night, feeling discouraged after another painful run, when Lou came on the TV and prattled on about something or another.

He then said this - "Success is like wrestling with a guerrilla. You don't quit when you get discouraged, you quit when the guerrilla get discouraged."

I like that. What's the Superior Hiking Trail if not a huge guerrilla?