Monday, December 22, 2008

Imerman Angels

I'm extremely proud to announce my affiliation with Imerman Angels, a fantastic non-profit organization that matches cancer survivors like me with newly diagnosed patients for one-on-one support. Founded by cancer survivor Jonny Imerman, this organization works sort of like an eHarmony for cancer patients and survivors. The matches are made based on common ground in terms of age, gender, type of cancer, and treatments/medications. As someone who has gone through a fight with cancer myself, I know the immeasurable value a connection like this can be for a newly diagnosed patient. I am greatly looking forward to helping as many patients as I can in the coming years.

I also want to highlight that the mission of this organization is first and foremost its dedication to matching as many patients to survivors as possible with no 'hard-core' fund raising premises worked into the plan. I will always come up with new fund raising goals on my own, but I will be 100% honest in saying what means more to me than donating money is being able to directly inspire and support patients currently fighting this disease. It's great to work hard and raise money for research as well, but it's impossible to put a price on developing a relationship with a fellow patient and being there to support them in whatever way they need. I can't thank Jonny, Laura, and all the great folks at Imerman Angels enough for allowing me the opportunity to make so many of these meaningful connections.

For anyone reading this who knows a fellow cancer survivor, I highly encourage you to pass along the link to Imerman Angels. It just takes a quick phone call to add your name to the list of survivors, and it could very well end up being the best Christmas gift you ever give someone. ...and it's free!

With that, I'm off to enjoy the holidays with family and friends...see you all in 2009!

Happy Holidays to everyone!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Giddy-Up - 2009

The past week has been frustrating in terms of trying to set up my 2009 race plans. No, I didn't get into Massanutten...and no, the National Team folks won't accept the Virginia 24 Hour Run as a qualifier for the National Team, so I had to take a step back and remember why I started running these races in the first place. While goals like the National Team and avenging DNFs are fun for extra motivation, the real reason I like to run all day and night is to be happy. Deep down, that's what it's all about. Every long run is a celebration of life and freedom and all that positive emotional crap. Sure, the other goals are great, but they're secondary benefits for certain.

That said, I've found a few races and volunteer/pacing opportunities that will both make me happy and coincide nicely with *real* life stuff like work and family. I'll add a race or two in the fall as the schedule for those shakes out (and yes, one of those races will most likely be a 24 Hour Team qualifier), but for now, here's what I have lined up through September:

Iron Horse 100 Mile - Florida - February 21
National Marathon - DC - March 21
Bull Run Run 50 Miler (run or volunteer, depending on the lottery)- VA - April 18
Massanutten (Pace/Crew) - VA - May 16
Mohican Trail 100 Mile - OH - June 20
Cheat Mt. Moonshine Madness 50 Mile - WV - August 28
Ottawa International 24 Hour Run - Canada - September 13-14

That's all for now...Since I'm now running a 100 miler in February, I need to put down the pie and hit the roads! Giddy Up!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Massanutten Lottery Update

I guess if I had to lose the lottery to get into Massanutten, this was the way to do it: Not only was I not picked to be among the 180 runners this year, I'm currently 99 people deep on the waiting list - OUCH!

This makes my decision to move on and look for other races VERY easy. We all know a couple dozen names will eventually come off that list and make it into the race, but not 99. I love this race, but its name sadly changes to 'MassaNot in 2009' for me this year. C'est la vie!

This means my eyes now focus on seeing if the Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer is a certified course. If so, I'll be heading there to try again for 135 miles and a spot on the National 24 Hour team for 2010. I'll have to dig around to find the contact info for that race and/or the National Team president to verify either way, so if anyone out there knows how to reach these people, I appreciate the help!

For now it's back to training for the only race officially on my schedule right now: the National Marathon. I had my first speed workout in *years* on Monday night, and while I'm sure I'll never get my 4:31/mile legs back, I was pleasantly surprised that I can still kick out mid-5s (for 6 miles, anyway!). Maybe my return to the marathon world won't be so bad after all...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ultra Running Holiday Gift Guide

Need to knock a couple runners off of your shopping list? Here are my recommendations for the gear I've been using this past year. Note that I am not paid by any of these companies, I just use their stuff because I keeps me going and going and going (and yes, Energizer Lithium batteries are what I use to power my headlamps!). Let's start from the ground up...


I wore Brooks Radius 7s for about 2000 of my training miles this year. A great (and affordable) shoe that I fell in love with immediately...of course that won't help anyone at all since they've discontinued it. If you can find a pair on clearance online, it'll be the best discount item you've ever purchased. The fit is true-to-size, and if anyone finds any 11.5s on sale out there, let me know!!

For about 1000 miles of training (including all runs over 40+ miles on asphalt)...and for both my 192 mile run this summer and my 120+ mile run at Ultra Centric in November, I wore Brooks Glycerin 6 models. This shoe has a double cushion layer of the "MoGo" Brooks uses to dampen shock in their shoes. These babies are more expensive than the Radius, but the $$ is worth it for people who appreciate a comfy ride on the hard roads. You can find them online for about $90, and they're definitely worth the price. To prove they'll last in terms of comfort and support, consider the fact that
I ran the 192 miles of Run192, 100+ more miles of training, and the entire 120 miles of Ultra Centric in the SAME PAIR of these shoes. That's about 430 miles and I didn't notice any break-down in the cushion. Not too shabby.

When I can get out to the happy land of dirt trails, my go-to shoes are Brooks Cascadia 3s. You can find these babies on sale for less than $80 online, and it's a great investment. They're a great all-around shoe for draining/drying when you've got streams to cross, and for dampening shock in the sole when you're running on lots of rocks and roots. Plus they're an environmentally-friendly "green" shoe, so it's always nice to be kind to mother nature when you're out there enjoying her trails.

I just noticed that all three shoes I've recommended here are Brooks...I honestly did not realize that before writing this. If I've arrived at this point of running on all terrains/distances with their shoes, that probably means they make good stuff. Now if only I could get a free pair or two... Not counting the few miles I've run in other brands during the first 11 months of 2008, I've gone through 5 pairs of the Radius, 4 pairs of Glycerins, and 1.5 pairs of Cascadias....that's about $850 right there. Who says running is a cheap sport?!

Here's a tip: My favorite sites to get cheap shoes are Holabird Sports and R n J Sports. Check them out for great deals!


Anyone who has followed my blog since the summer knows that I've fallen completely in love with Drymax Socks. I test out all sorts of gear (shoes, socks, clothing, fuel belts, etc) during my long runs in an attempt to find the stuff that allows me to completely forget I have it on while I'm out there. Good gear is like a good baseball umpire - you know it's doing a great job when you don't notice it's there at all. I've worn other socks that work great in most conditions, but between their remarkable drying ability and friction free fibers, Drymax socks (especially the Maximum Protection) perform at the highest level in ALL conditions. I will never wear another sock while running an ultra.

Ok, it's time for me to fess up - I haven't bought a new pair of running shorts in about 3 years. Talk about the wrong guy to come to for advice, that's me. I've covered about 3,000 miles each in two pairs of Sugoi shorts I bought (on sale for $10 each!) back around the time when people still said things like "the internets" without trying to be ironically hip. I've got some other pairs that are just about as old from various other brands (Hind, Adidas, Insport), and they all hold up fine. For some reason I picked a 4 year old pair of Saucony shorts to run all my races in this year (probably because even in the worst conditions the elastic on the edge of the inner-lining never irritates my skin). Since I'm sure none of these companies still make the same line I wear, you can just take the above for what it's worth. I mean, if I don't have any problems with any of the shorts I wear, clearly it's not too tough to find one that works well.

I'll be honest, I've used the Ultimate Direction Access 2x double-bottle fuel belt for the past two years, but I'm thinking about buying a Nathan Hydration backpack right now to test out while training this winter. I do like the double-bottle belt, but sometimes my shirt creeps up in the back while I'm running, and rough surface of the belt rips my skin up pretty bad. Maybe my hips/back are shaped strangely or something and that's what causes this to happen, but whatever the reason, I'm sick of tucking in my shirt all the time (especially in the hot weather) to avoid the belt's wrath. When it's cooler out and I don't mind tucking in the back of my shirt, I love the belt, so maybe it'll just be a cold weather option from now on. What I'll miss with the backpack style fuel system is the ability to have two different beverages with me like I usually do with the double-bottle belt. Typically I like water in one and Perpetuem in the other...but I suppose I can live with just one. Also, I'm not sure how you know when you're almost out of water with the backpack since you can't see the bladder. With the bottles I like seeing when I've got just a couple gulps left so I know how many miles I have left before a refill. I guess I can learn by feel after running w/ the backpack for a while. ....I just realized this whole section is completely useless in terms of finding a recommendation for the best product, so I'll shut up now. Sorry!

For as easy as I am to please in terms of shorts, I'm insanely picky about the tops I wear when I run. The first thing I do when I get a new singlet is cut out the seam and "knot" under the arms. I've run way too many long runs in my day where those things have shredded the skin on the inside of my arm and side from friction burns. I do the same thing with short-sleeve t-shirts too. Between those modifications and a little body glide, I can run pain-free for hours (and days) on end. The shirts I've settled on as my favorites this year are the New Balance super light short-sleeve Ts (I don't actually see them as current products now, but whatever their "lightning dry" shirt is now, I recommend it). I actually cut off the sleeves (and seams) of both the ones I have, and I've enjoyed every mile I've covered in them. They dry insanely fast, and in the summer heat/humidity, I've never worn anything that feels cooler/lighter. Sure, if I was a macho dude I'd just run around without a shirt on, but that's just not for me.

After my second year running in the Outdoor Research Sun Runner hat, I'm happy to say it's still my favorite. I generally don't run with the snap-on neck shield unless I'm on long exposed routes, but it's comforting to know it's the kind of accessory you can stuff in any fuelbelt for immediate rescue if things get too toasty out there for you. In terms of just the hat, I love the cross ventilation holes on the sides, especially when it's super-hot out. My trick is to pull up an inch on the top of the hat so air can move through as I run. As I bounce up and down the loose fabric I pulled up on the top of the hat moves up and down like an accordion pushing air in and out to cool you off. It works great in the nasty heat of the DC summer when you need to block the sun with a hat, but don't want to cook your brain as a result.

At this point I know what works for me in terms of eating on the run. I never have any stomach issues in races or on long training runs, so I stick to this stuff.

Hammer Gel & CarbBOOM Gel, any flavor will do, but I find the bland ones (vanilla) taste better after 12 hours or so on the move. I eat one every 30-45 minutes, depending on the race/training run.

Perpetuem drink: I usually mix about 1/2 concentration (100 calories) into one of my bottles during any run over 6 hours. This stuff is formulated to give your muscles the protiens, fats, etc they need to rebuild on the fly during very long runs/races. I only consume 100-150 calories of this per hour because I need save room for the gel calories. I'm someone (like lots of runners) who can't digest more than 250-300 calories per hour when running, so I find this mix to work perfectly.

For Electrolytes, I take Succeed! S-Caps every 45 to 60 minutes depending on the heat/humidity. There's a reason why so many people use these caps...they work perfectly in delivering the sodium, potassium, posphate, and citrate you need to keep on keeping on. ...and if you haven't made this rookie mistake yet, let me STRONGLY advise you not to even consider cracking open one of the caps and mixing it directly in with your fuel bottles. I don't know the science behind it, but for some reason everyone I know who has tried this ends up experiencing a 'Reversal of Fortune' about 10 minutes later. Just swallow the caps whole, and you'll be happy. Consider yourself warned!

Happy Shopping (and Running!), Everyone!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Where to go from here...

With all the highs and lows of 2008 in the rear view mirror, I'm currently enjoying a nice stretch of doing nothing but sitting on my butt and eating junk food. As fun as this lifestyle is, I will admit there's no better motivation to start planning my 2009 schedule than shoveling down yet another slice of pumpkin pie. Since I couldn't earn a spot on the 24 Hour National Team, my options are now wide open for the Spring. I'll be looking to run some new courses, pace/crew for the first time, and also lay early tracks for another big fund raiser for 2010...among other things...

For the next 2 weeks, I'm sort of in a holding pattern in terms of confirming my race schedule. The reason being is I've entered the Massanutten Mountain 100 miler lottery, and the results won't be posted until Dec. 12. I'm hoping to get into that race and avenge my DNF from this past May. Once I find out if I'm in/out, the rest of my schedule will fall into place. I really want to be able to focus 100% on this race if I get in. With relatively easy access to the course from DC, I'll be sure to get out there an hammer those trails until they're as familiar as the roof of my mouth. I really really really want to get back out there and erase the bad feelings I have from dropping last time.

If I don't get into Massanutten, I'll most likely set up a completely different training/racing schedule and focus on the Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer in April (date TBA). This run has obvious charitable appeal to me, and I'm hoping I'll be able to use the results to qualify for the 2010 24 Hour National Team. Since the course is only about 3 hours from DC, I'll also be able to check it out and ensure another Ultra Centric course fiasco doesn't occur. If it turns out that the Virgina course isn't certified/applicable for qualifying (I'm not sure who to check with, but I'll figure it out), I might end up heading out to the Cornbelt 24 Hour run in Iowa to qualify there. Obviously I'd rather stay local, but I'll go where I need to in order to achieve this goal.

Regardless of what my focus race is for the spring, I'll be mixing in some shorter races into my training schedule for sure. In March I'll be doing something I honestly didn't think I'd ever do again when I toe the line at the National Marathon here in DC. The reason I'm running this "regular" marathon is simply to log an official qualifying time for the Boston Marathon in 2010 - I'll need that Boston number to pull off my big charity event for that year. The plan right now is to run the marathon course 4 times in an row, with the last time being in the official race. More details will obviously follow, but first things first, I'll use the National Marathon course as a convenient qualifier since the course runs literally 1 block from my house.

I'm also hoping to get into the Bull Run 50 miler in April, but if that lottery doesn't work out for me, I'll be happy to volunteer on race day with my fellow VHTRC members. On that note, I'm also looking forward to offering up my pacing/crewing skills at a couple other races this spring. If I don't get into Massanutten as a runner, I'll certainly volunteer to pace/crew for anyone who needs me. I know that course well enough to help out any level runner out there. Depending on my schedule, I hope to offer up my pacing services for the Umstead 100 miler as well since I won't be running it myself this year.

All in all, I'm getting pretty excited for the Spring already...but until those Massanutten lottery results are posted, I have no option but to be just as excited for another slice of pie. Mmm!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

UltraCentric 24 Hour - Photos

Just got a few pix back from the UltraCentric 24 Hour Fun-Fest...Sure it was cold and windy, but the sky was definitely blue!!

Super-Crew members Paul, Spencer, and Jeff strike a pose (the 4th team member Anne was manning the camera).

Here I am (in red) climbing up one of the hills on the course early in the day

If you look closely, you'll see me spelling out the 'C' in 'YMCA' as the speakers up ahead blasted out the song

A little mid-race soccer fun for Paul and Anne w/ their grandson

I like this picture because it looks like I'm ahead of Scott Jurek and Elijah the Olympian (they're the front two in the pack)...sure, they were 3 laps up on me, but I don't have to tell my grandma that when I show her the pictures.

This is a good shot of the biggest hill on the course. How anyone could look at it and say "it's about 9.5 feet" is beyond me...and oh-by-the-way, it was only ONE of the hills on the course.

When the hours got small and real painful cold set in, Jeff and Paul never let up with their full-service crewing. They were amazing!

Paul is one of the toughest guys around: a Nebraska farmer and an Army think it was a little chilly out there?

Sweet sweet relief..the sun is coming up! Please note Paul gave me that sweatshirt right off his back a couple hours earlier when I was becoming a Dan-sicle.

I'd say it never felt so good to be done, but to be honest it still hurt really really bad! It was a rough night out there, but I'm so grateful for my awesome crew who kept me going. ...and hey, I didn't lose any limbs to frostbite, so there's a silver lining to this trip after all!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

UltraCentric 24 Hour - Race Report

Ed. Note: The full (and correct) results are finally posted here, please note that I completely missed Byron Lane as the US Champ in this original post. I apologize for the mistake...he must have slipped by me in the night!

Now that I've had a couple days to digest what happened in Texas over the weekend, I'm ready to post a report that doesn't involve an un-ending stream of expletives directed toward the Race Director. I've spent time reading the reactions of Scott Jurek (and crew), Tracy Thomas, Tony Mangan, etc. since the race - all of whom are world class athletes, and everyone is beyond upset about the lies told regarding the course. To quickly recap before moving on, the course was promised to be a great surface for running with only 9.5 feet of gain. I've already vented at how hilly the loop was, and to top it off, the surface was crowned, rutted, and occasionally pot-holed as well. This meant not only was the course not flat in the uphill/downhill sense, but it was also uneven from a side-to-side perspective. The reason I fell a couple times toward the end was a direct result of stepping on the edges of a pothole or steep rut in the pavement. So, to put an already beaten point to rest: the course was horrible, we were all lied to on the website, and I'm 100% sure that this race will cease to exist due to lack of participation if they attempt to hold it at the same site in coming years.

Now that all the ugly stuff is out of the way, let's talk about some positives!

I flew into Dallas on Thursday night, and my brother in-law Jeff and his 4 year-old son Spencer picked me up at the airport. It was great to see them both again, and we quickly made it back to Jeff's beautiful home just a few minutes from DFW. Later that evening my parents in-law Paul and Anne also flew in from DC, and with that my Ultra Centric crew was present and accounted for.

Friday morning Paul and I drove up to scope out the course and pick up my race packet. I was worried about the gusting winds being a huge problem, but once I saw how hilly the course was, the wind became the least of my worries. A few of the 48 hour runners were settling into their early grooves (quite literally) on the loop as we checked out the scene. I saw Ireland's Tony Mangan (he's run 250 miles in 48 hours on a treadmill!) and Tracy Thomas looking solid and focused as they made their way up and down the hills and weaved in and out of the pavement undulations. I thought a bit about how I would have to do the same the next day, and how the reality of the course and weather pretty much meant I wouldn't be running 135 miles at this event.

On the ride back to Jeff's house I did my best to stay positive about the situation, and I decided that I would stick to my original pace plan in order to try and salvage a remote chance at making the National Team. We relaxed the rest of the day at Jeff's place, had dinner at a nice restaurant, and I was back home in bed by 10pm or so. I tossed and turned a bit, but definitely got enough sleep since we didn't need to leave the house until 7am. For all the bad things about this race, having a 9am start time was definitely preferred over the 4am and 5am guns of other races.

Jeff drove me up onto the course (and yes, people were literally allowed to drive ON the course, just a few feet from the runners), and we dropped my supplies and the crew chairs at a spot near the top of the biggest hill. Jeff then headed back to regroup with the rest of the crew and come back shortly after the race started. Since it was in the 30s and quite windy (gusts of 25mph or so), I wrapped myself up like a mummy in the crew blankets and waited for 9am to come. As my body twitched and shivered in the cold, I knew I'd warm up once I started running, but I worried a bit about the night when it was supposed to be even colder. "Just keep running" I told myself, "generate your own heat." Seemed simple enough, right?

Finally they called all the 24 hour runners to the start, and we were off soon enough. I just happened to be at the front when the race director said, rather quietly, "Ok, go", so I took off in front before the rest of the runners realized we had started. About 100 yards down the road I heard heavy footsteps and figured it was Scott Jurek. I assumed he'd pull up and a lead pack would join along with me since I was running pretty quickly (about 7-flats in the first stretch as I burned off some adrenaline), but he blew by me like I was standing still. We hardly had time to wish each other good luck before he was gone. That dude can move!

A few minutes later a nice guy from Utah pulled up along side me and asked if he should try and keep pace with "the guy up front". Since he didn't know who Jurek was, I tried my best to give him the best advice I could with the little info I gleaned from him. He said he was a 2:17 marathoner (he had just won the Ogden Marathon), but he had never run longer than 45 miles or so. I told him Jurek was trying to break the American Record, and I was 'just' going for 135, so he would be best served to try and stay in between the two of us rather than burn out early by trying to keep up with Jurek. With that I wished him luck and off he went ahead of me.

A few seconds later, the "other two" fast runners passed me. Neither spoke English, or maybe they just didn't want to respond to my greetings, but over the course of the race I learned that one of them was named Attila, and he had about 7 coaches (all dressed in Hungarian team uniforms) there crewing for him. The other runner, named Elijah, might have been from Ghana or Kenya (I heard both from different people), but I heard him speaking Hungarian (or similar-sounding language) to Attila later on in the maybe they knew each other? Either way, these two mystery men were clearly faster than anyone I've ever run with. They stuck with Jurek for the first 50 miles in the lead pack (the guy from Utah dropped out long before that).

Not worrying myself about those crazy-fast guys, I settled into my comfortable pace and started clicking off the miles. Since the loop was 1.158 miles long, and it's been about 1.158 million years since I've been in a math class, I gave up on trying to figure out my distance covered after about 3 laps. With only the main time clock at the starting line ticking it's way toward 48 hours (it served both the 24 and 48 hour races), there was no official way to track how far you had gone during the race. I had heard in years past there was a big board with names and distances at the start/finish area, but no dice on that this year. Lucky for me, my crew was there after just a few laps to help me any way I needed. As the day moved on, they ran up to the timing area and got an exact mileage total to report back to me on the next lap. That was a big help when the miles all became a blur later on.

Speaking of my crew, I can't say enough about how amazing they all were. When I didn't want to stop to grab something I needed, I'd just tell them what I wanted when passing by, and they'd have it ready when I came by on the next loop. For fuel transfers, Jeff and Paul would run along side me and give me full bottles and gels for my fuel belt so I didn't need to break stride at all. This allowed me to run for 4 and 5 hour stretches without stopping at all, definitely helping me save at least 30 minutes in the first 100 miles. In addition to their on-the-spot supply service, they were a great cheering crew too. Little Spencer would get so excited every time I passed yelling "Go Uncle Dan! Go Uncle Dan!". If I wasn't in the middle of climbing a big hill every time, I would have been able to smile more...but regardless of the strained look on my face, it made me feel great inside for sure. Even though it was cold and windy all day, Spencer was out there for about 9 hours cheering me on - not too bad for a 4 year-old, right?!

I'm sure the whole crew was bored (and freezing) as the hours went on, but they were always enthusiastic and encouraging when I went by...even when I was too tired to do much more than a fist pump to acknowledge them. There was one moment when I did have the opportunity to entertain them a bit though: The race folks blasted music from the start/finish area the whole day, and as I rounded the corner to start the big climb up to my crew on one lap in particular, I heard the unmistakable sound of the Village People's "YMCA" being played. I shifted my pace just a bit so that I would pass my crew just in time to do the YMCA dance with my arms as I ran by. I kept a straight and focused look on my face right up until the moment the chorus started and I put my arms up to "spell" out the letters - it got a big cheer out of everyone. It's always nice to remember it's supposed to be fun out there in these long races.

Right around the 50 mile mark I noticed Jurek in a hooded sweatshirt on the side of the track near his crew. On the next lap I saw he was still there and realized he had dropped. Between the weather and the course, I'm assuming he realized he couldn't stick to his pace and called it a day before the real pain set in. Whatever the reason, I knew there were only two people in front of me at that point, and assuming their lack of English-speaking ability meant they weren't from the US, I was now in the lead for the National Championship. Pretty cool feeling for a nobody like me, even if it was at such a messed-up event.

As the sun went down, Anne and Spencer headed back home for the night, but rising way above and beyond, Paul and Jeff stayed out there to crew for the duration. As the hours got small, they relayed messages from my wife and friends (including my best bud Chris who called in from half-way around the world at a movie shoot in Bali!), so it was great to know folks were sending some long-distance support my way. I'm so thankful Jeff and Paul were on site to report back home and keep everyone in the loop. In tune with the low-rent theme of this race, the promise of a Live Webcast was never delivered - Not even a single update was ever posted. In fact, it's now 3 days after the race and the results still aren't posted.

On top of relaying the updates, Jeff and Paul did so much more throughout the night. They literally did EVERYTHING I asked of them as I ran by...and let me tell you, as the night wore on and the temps dipped into the 20s, my requests got a little odd sometimes. Example: Sometime around 3am I realized I needed to get some tights on my legs (I was still in shorts), but I didn't want to have to waste the time to sit down and take off my shoes to get them as I ran by, I yelled this random request to Jeff who I'm pretty sure was near hypothermic at that point:

"Jeff! In the clothing bag I have a pair of black tights. Take them up to the medical tent and find some scissors. Cut off the elastic part around the ankles and give them to me on the next lap."

Mind you I was yelling this to him in a slurred frozen-jaw speech, and he most likely had more than a little slush in his own head at that point...but instead of a confused "What?" he simply said "Roger!" and jumped into action. To be that on-point at that stage of the night was just amazing.

During the coldest 4 or 5 hours of the night, there were VERY few runners still out on the track. Some ducked into tents set up next to the track, and many simply called it a night and went home - it was positively brutal out there...yet Paul and Jeff remained. Wrapped up in blankets and layers of clothing, watching vigilantly over my ever-slowing progress. At one point I had run out of layers to put on my upper body (I had 4 on already), and Paul literally took the hooded sweatshirt off his back and gave it to me. I wore that for at least 4 hours to keep from freezing. Simply put, these guys were the Best Crew Ever.

...if only I could have performed well enough to match their effort. As it was, I moved pretty well through the first 100 miles, never having to walk a step. I set my PR for that distance with a solid 16:51. Shortly after that, however, the beating my quads took on the steep downhill portion of the loop had taken its toll, and I lost the ability to run completely. There were 7 hours left in the race, so at first I figured I'd walk a couple laps and get back into a shuffle...but the 20-something reading on the thermometer pretty much sealed my frozen-legged fate. I tried no fewer than 50 times to start running again over the last 7 hours (about 2 or 3 times per lap), but each time the pain was too much to take. As soon as I started tripping and falling on the uneven pavement and potholes, I knew my chances of running again were done. Not many people get to experience it, but it is indeed a sad and humbling experience to fall down on the frozen ground at 4am after having covered 110 miles and need a good 5 minutes (and about 10 attempts) to simply stand back up again. When you want to dig deep and keep fighting but you can't even stand up, it's a pretty crappy feeling.

Every tent I passed as the hours wore on looked so warm and inviting...and every time I had to dip down into the "low" part of the course where the temps were 5-10 degrees colder, I had to make a promise to myself that I would do my best to focus on the pavement and not fall down in that area. Even though there were about 10 other people still out there in the wee hours, my half-frozen mind was sure that if I fell I wouldn't be able to get back up and I'd be left alone to freeze to death. Sure, much of that was delirium from fatigue and the elements, but reality is what you convince yourself it is, and at that point I would have believed just about any crazy thought that popped into my head...

Case in point: At some point in the night I looked ahead and saw what appeared to be a cardboard container for a Big Mac and a soda sitting in the middle of the road. I thought "Did someone just dump their trash right here on the course?" I got a little closer I focused in more and thought "Oh, it's not McDonald's trash, it's just a couple silly of me!"....and then the really sad part came when I got even closer and realized it wasn't a couple leaves either: There was actually NOTHING there at all, just the empty road.

With about 4 hours to go Jeff updated me on the "race" for the National Championship, and even though I was somehow still in the lead, I knew I didn't have a chance to hold off John Geesler. He was still shuffling, and I was hardly walking at that point. I was sad that I couldn't make it more exciting for Paul and Jeff who worked so hard all night crewing, but I just could move my legs faster than a very slow walk. It was exciting for me to see a lady seemingly appear out of nowhere (I don't recall seeing her at all during the day) blow by me on loop after loop toward the end of the night and into the daylight hours. She was super-nice with a kind word or two for me every time she flew past, but I never caught her name (it was Jen van Allen). I might not have caught her name, but what SHE caught was both John and myself on in the overall race. I'm pretty sure she ended up as the top American. I never did see the final results, but I think she covered 124 miles or so. Congrats to her for a fantastic performance!

As for the two super-human guys, Attila and Elijah, I'm not sure how to explain how fast they both ran throughout the night. It wasn't until the final hour that I even noticed a slight hitch in their gaits. Again, I never saw the final results (the race people didn't even start rolling out the wheel to calculate final distances until about 45 mins after the race finished, and I needed to go home and warm up/sleep), but I'm guessing those guys ran somewhere in the 140-145 range. Which, on this course in these conditions was completely beyond my comprehension. Kudos to them and/or the scientists who created them in a secret lab somewhere in the Hungarian countryside. Well done, boys!

In the end I assume I finished 5th overall. My highly unofficial results have the two cyborgs coming in at the top, then Jen van Allen, and then Geesler, then me as the 2nd American male. My crew had me down at 120.25 miles covered.....again, all of this is just based on the info we had at the end. Without an actual posting of results on the race website, who knows if 34 other people/robots passed me in the final hour.

Aside from being bummed out about not being able to run 135 miles, I came out of the race in pretty good shape. Sure, my legs were completely shot, but that's to be expected. A funny realization I had after I finished and sat down for the first time in 24 hours was that I didn't think about my feet AT ALL during the entire race. Of course a huge reason for this was the Drymax - Maximum Protection socks I wore. I swear the friction-free fibers on the bottoms of those things are even more of an amazing scientific creation than Attila and Elijah. Not only did I have no blisters or hot spots, I seriously didn't think about my feet for one second during the race - That's 24 hours without sitting down! My feet have hurt more after walking around a shopping mall for an hour. If you want to eliminate all worries about your feet in an ultra, you just have to grab yourself a pair of these Maximum Protection socks. End of story.

So now that the big disappointment is over, I'm shutting things down for 2008. I'll post some sort of 'Year in Review', because it has been an amazing ride in my first full year as an ultra runner, but right now it's time to rest up and put the running shoes on the shelf. Sure, the year ended on a down note at this race, but with all the positives of the past 11 months, I can't be too upset. I've got too much to be thankful for, much of which was a direct result of the running I did this year.

I'm not sure when or where just yet, but I will be back...and if you ask nicely, I might even do the YMCA dance upon request as I run by...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ultra Centric 24 Hour - Update

Ed. Note: The full (and correct) results are finally posted here, please note that I completely missed Byron Lane as the US Champ in this original post. I apologize for the mistake...he must have slipped by me in the night!

Just back from Texas, and I wanted to clue everyone in on what happened over the weekend. I'll check back in with a full report once I catch up on some sleep.

I usually try to to be as positive as possible when talking about all aspects of ultras (because this truly is a wonderful sport), and making excuses for my lack of success is not something I believe in, but there was a tremendous injustice done to every one of us running at the Ultra Centric events this weekend.

With the race moving to a new location this year, the official website described the course as having "a slight uphill on the west side, and a slight down hill on the east side, for a net change of nine and one half feet."

Nine and one half feet.

That's about as flat as flat gets. I trained for this...we all trained for this. When given an exact figure like 9.5 feet, one can safely assume this was measured by an altimeter or similar GPS device.

What was the actual elevation gain for each lap, you ask? Try 150 feet. This course was on such a hill that you couldn't see the top half from the bottom. There was a series of three hills we all had to climb (each one steeper/longer than the last) on EVERY lap. For those of us trying to run over 100 laps, that meant climbing 15,000ft...when you compare that to the 950 feet which we should have had to climb if the website was true, you notice a little discrepancy.

Two seconds after we arrived at the course, I realized my 800+ miles of training loops around super flat Hains point over the past 2 months were now completely useless.

After getting over the shock of seeing this monster of a loop, I decided that I would still try to stick to my time goals to reach 135 miles. Sure, it would require much more effort, but this was my only chance to make the National Team, so I went for it.

Even on the much more difficult course, I was able to break my 50 mile PR and my 100 mile PR. I crossed 100 miles at 16:51, having run every step of the way (also a first for me). At that point it was just before 2 a.m., and it was getting brutally cold out. The overnight temps hit 29 degrees on the "high" end of the course, and any of us who ran through the night (and there weren't many who did!) will agree that the "low" end of the course was easily 5 degrees colder. All in all, a painfuly cold experience was about to visit my tired legs.

After treating myself to a half-mile walk once I crossed the 100 mile mark, my quads immediately froze up. They had been taking a beating on the steep downhill section of the course over the first 17 hours of running, and any attempts to start running, or even shuffling, were futile. I tried at least 50 times over the next 7 hours to start running again, but my frozen and trashed quads wouldn't have any of it. Toward the end, I fell 2 or 3 times when trying to get things moving faster than a walk, so I knew I'd have to suffer the indignity of not being able to hold off the challengers coming from behind.

Eventually and inevitably ultra legend (and all-around great guy) John Geesler overtook me for the National Championship with 50 minutes left in the race. It was inevitable as he was moving much faster than my painful and sad walk over the last 3 hours or so. It was tough to realize I couldn't at least put up a fight, but if you're going to lose to someone, losing to a guy like John definitely makes it easier to swallow.

In the end, I covered 120+ miles (I think John covered 124)...not close to my goal of 135, but I'm 100% confident I would have met that mark (and then some) if the course was as flat as advertised. I gave this run literally EVERYTHING that I had in terms of effort. It was extremely painful to have to walk the last 7 hours in sub-freezing temps, but I never gave up. Sure, I'm hugely disappointed to have fallen short of my goal, but knowing I was able to meet all my time goals up to 100 miles on this much more difficult terrain at least gives me some comfort that I did everything right in preparing to make the National Team...

As for what's next? I don't really have a plan. I'm obviously disappointed in how all of this turned out, so it could be quite a while before I lace up my running shoes again. To be so close to such a big goal, and then have it all taken away by something completely out of your control like this is beyond disheartening.

I'll post the full race report in a few days when I get a chance to digest everything. For all the rough parts, there were twice as many positives. My crew was nothing short of AMAZING the entire time (yes that includes overnight too - how they didn't freeze to death, I'll never know). I'll give more details in the report. ..and, of course, there were some amazing and inspirational runners out there who all worked with each other to make the best of a nasty situation. Even in the worst of race circumstances, ultra runners are always there to support each other - Reflecting on that fact alone is enough to help me start forgetting my personal disappointments from the weekend and start thinking positively again.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ready to Roll!

I couldn't be more psyched for the Ultra Centric 24 Hour race next weekend. All the hard work is done, and I consider it a great omen that I didn't miss a single workout over the past 10 week training period.

One note about my training for this race: For every race I like to add course-specific workouts to help prepare as much as possible leading up to each unique stretch of terrain. This can mean an increase in hill training, heat training, speed work, etc. For this 24 Hour race I saw the mental torture of the 1 mile loop course to be the biggest potential challenge (especially since I've never run a race like this before). It's easy to let the miles fly by when you're running out on country trails, but on such a short loop course without any new visual distractions, I was worried a bit about how I'd feel mentally as the race progressed.

To help prepare for this potential pit-fall, I ran more loops around my local Hains Point course in the past two months than I care to admit publicly (Ok, it was about 800 miles of loops). On some of the longer 40+ miles runs, I found myself nicely slipping into a running coma early on, needing my GPS watch to tell me how many miles I'd covered whenever I'd snap out of my fog. At this point, I'm 100% comfortable with the loop mentality...and since there's no better course to set your PRs on, I'm actually looking forward to setting my brain to the 'Spin' cycle and having some fun out there. My legs are 100% healthy, my confidence is's time to fire that starting gun!

I'll be flying down to Texas on Thursday, and I'll be crashing with my awesome brother in-law Jeff who conveniently lives between the airport and the race site. In addition to Jeff, my parents-in-law will also be coming out from DC to lend their support during the weekend. Even though this type of loop course doesn't necessarily require any physical crew support, it will be great mentally to know they'll be checking in on me during the race.

My 3 goals for the race will be simple:

3) Break my PR for 50 miles - I'll never be on a faster track (assuming there isn't a monsoon on race day), so this one should be in the bag. Of course I should also mention I've only run one 50 mile race in my life (my first ultra), so it's really not that big of an accomplishment. I figure a steady and comfortable pace will bring me to 50 miles in a little under the 7:30 split I ran for the first half of the Umstead 100 in April. Not a big goal, really, but something fun to focus on in the first part of the day.

2) Break my PR for 100 miles - Again, there isn't a faster place to run a 100, so I'm guessing just by running my comfortable pace plan I'll cover the first 100 miles of this race somewhere in the 16 Hour range. The happiness of setting that mark will be quickly subdued as I know the next 35 miles will be the true test of pain and perseverance.

1) We all know this one. Run 135 miles, make the National Team, represent my country at the World Championships in Italy, eat a bunch of gellato out there after that race. I'm ready to do this!!

One more note: The website for the race hasn't been updated yet, but I understand there will be a link up there for the Live Updates during the race. I'll be sure to post my race report once I get back either way...until then, round and round and round I go!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Week Training Log: 10/27 - 11/2

Just 10 days to go before I fly off to Texas. With my last "long" run covered this past weekend (20 miles at an easy and metronome-steady 7:30 pace), I'm happy to put the "Officially Ready" stamp on my legs. All that's left now is to make the "Big 3" decisions:

1) What will be my pacing plan?

This one might not be determined until the first couple of laps are complete on race day. I've looked at all of the mile splits for everyone who has covered 135+ miles in the past 2 years, so I know the range of successful plans to consider. One thing is for certain, however. Once the gun goes off, I will be running MY race out there. If I feel comfortable running 7s and 8s for the first 50 miles, then I'll go with that. If the weather or my legs feel like an '8s and 9s' plan is more appropriate, so be it. One fact I know is the real race begins at about 80 miles. In looking at all the splits from the past, it's the people who can hold the 10s and 11s longest at the end (while avoiding a big crash) who come out most successful.

2) What will be my fueling plan?

This one is pretty much ironed out at this point in my ultra career. I'll stick with Water (lots of it), gels (every 30 mins), Perpetuem (1 bottle/hour), and S-Caps (1 per hour, more if humid). I might mix in a Mojo bar later on if I'm feeling hungry...and maybe a few gulps of Endurox in the middle too, but for 95% of the run, it'll just be the usual stuff. The part of this plan I haven't completely decided on is how much to carry while I run. I almost always start every race (and long training run) with my fuel belt (two bottles) and a hand-bottle so I can go the first 20 miles or so in a race without having to stop at all. I like how that lets me set a nice rhythm to my run for the first couple hours. In a race like this, however, I'll have access to my supplies on every mile lap if needed, so I might be tempted to start with less weight in the beginning and see how things go. I'll let the temperature and humidity convince me otherwise, and it will be easy enough to adjust if needed during the day.

3) What shoes will I wear?

I've got a couple test runs left to confirm this one, but right now I think I'm 99% convinced on this answer. There are two major things to consider in this race for me: Speed and Pain. I need to run 135 miles in 24 hours, and it's going to be close. Every little bit of extra speed I can steal will help, and a light-weight racing shoe will definitely make my legs feel like lightning out there. That said, the surface of this race is asphalt, and 135 miles on that in a shoe with less-than-robust cushion sounds like the recipe for tons of pain. The great news is, like I mentioned above, I'll have access to my supplies every mile. If I feel like I need to swap out my shoes after 20 or 120 miles, it won't be a problem. Lucky for me, I ran 192 miles on asphalt a couple months back, so I know what sort of pain to expect (a lot, no matter what). That said, I'm pretty sure I'll start out in Brooks ST Racers for the first part of the race and see how they hold up. Once I feel like I need a little more cushion, I'll go straight for my "Cadillacs" - Brooks Glycerin 6s. These things have more cushion in them than a furniture warehouse. Of course, there's the weight trade-off, so I'll hold off on the switch until I absolutely need it.

Aside from those 3 questions, everything else is set for the race. My post(s) next week will have the link to the Live Updates for the race, so if any of you are bored you can check in with the progress. Stay tuned!

Week Log:
Monday - Off Day
Tuesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Wednesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Thursday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Friday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Saturday - 20 miles - Hains Point Loops
Sunday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop

Total: 62.5 miles

...and yes, after 700 miles of loop-torture training for this race, I am completely sick of Hains Point.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Week Training Log: 10/20 - 10/26

Let the taper begin! As my miles start to decrease in the next couple of weeks before the 24 Hour Race, the only thing I have left to focus on is running my daily loop at a fast and strong pace. Occasionally during a taper I have a tendency to run too cautiously with the mindset of needing to rest as much as possible while simply getting my miles in, but this time I'm keeping the pedal to the metal in order to keep my lungs in good shape. Things are looking great right now in terms of my overall shape, and I don't want to lose anything during a sub-par taper period.

The highlight of this week was Sunday's run which took place at the same time as the Marine Corps Marathon here in DC. Since I live 2 blocks from the course (and my daily Hains Point loop overlaps with miles 11-14 of the route), I had plenty of interaction with the runners who were enjoying a BEAUTIFUL fall day here in the Nation's Capital. As I made my way back home after a quick and easy 30 miler, I really enjoyed congratulating all the runners I passed on the streets who were proudly wearing their finisher's medal just below their smiling and relieved faces. Since I've been working so hard toward my goal in Texas, I can completely relate to all those marathoners who, after months of hard work on their own, achieved their goals this afternoon. Kudos to everyone who crossed the finish line today!

One more note about the Marathon: After the smoke of 25,000 runners cleared on Hains point, I swung around for one final loop before heading home myself. I was curious as to what my usually quiet "home" looked like after so many folks passed through this morning. Here are my unofficial tallies for the items I observed along the side of the road:

1) About 1,000 discarded 'Clif Shot' gels (I'm guessing there was an aid station giving them out on the loop).

2) 40 to 50 pairs of gloves (it was in the 40s at the start, so I'm guessing most people had them on until it warmed up a bit).

3) 25 Long Sleeve shirts (see above)

4) 2 seemingly Brand New pairs of Dr. Scholls gel insoles. Apparently these two people were done "gellin'" at mile 13. My question is, what did they wear after they threw these on the side of the road? I'm guessing running the last half of the marathon without insoles would be pretty rough...

As humorous as it was to run by all of these items on the side of the road, it was pretty sad for me to think that so many runners think the rules of littering and common decency don't apply to them during a race. Seriously, these people couldn't have held on to their gloves, shirts, trash, etc. for a couple minutes and just tossed them in (or at least NEAR) a trash can? If there's one running route I know, it's the Hains Point loop, and I can honestly say there are trash barrels every 100 yards around the 3+ mile loop. Sure, you might not be able to get to the side of the road right away when you're running in a crowded race, but unless your gloves or Clif wrapper were actively engulfed in flames, I think you can hang on to it for a minute or two while you make your way toward one of the barrels. ...and regarding gel packets in particular - If you were able to carry full packets with you during the first few miles of your run, you can use those same places to stash the empties on your body for the rest of the race too. Let's try and at least pretend we have some class out there!!

Week Log:
Monday - Off Day
Tuesday - 8.5 Miles - Hains Point Loop
Wednesday - 8.5 Miles - Hains Point Loop
Thursday - 8.5 Miles - Hains Point Loop
Friday - 8.5 Miles - Hains Point Loop
Saturday - 8.5 Miles - Hains Point Loop
Sunday - 30 Miles - Mt. Vernon Trail & Hains Point

Week Total: 72.5 Miles

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ultra Centric 24 Hour Championship Update

A big part of the excitement of running in ultras is checking out the elite runners in the field before the race. I'm a huge fan of so many amazing/accomplished runners out there, and having the chance to run with them (or at least line up at the start with them!) is one of the truly special aspects of this sport. With just 3 weeks to go before the Ultra Centric 24 Hour National Championship in Texas, I'm reaching full-on excitement mode, but for some reason the race organizers aren't posting the list of entrants! Argh!! Their official comment is:

"The Ultra Centric Experience will not provide an official entrants list prior to the start of the event, nor comment on entered participants. Especially not to Dan Rose."

Ok, I made that last part up, but the rest of the statement is legit...and frustrating!! The news isn't all bad, however, as today I learned from various sources that Scott Jurek will be heading down to Texas to attempt to break the American 24 Hour record (162.46 miles)! How cool will it be to run w/ one of (if not THE) best 100+ miler in the world?

Very cool. Very cool indeed!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Week Training Log: 10/13 - 10/19

Not only am I happy with finishing up another successful Peak Week, but I'm also super-psyched at how well my 25-25-25 runs went this weekend. Last week I had to survive the 3rd run on tired legs, but this week I absolutely hammered the 3rd run at a pace 23 minutes faster than my first run on Friday night. The times for all 3 runs were 3:28 (Friday), 3:18 (Saturday), and 3:05 (Sunday). There is no doubt in my mind at this point that I've reached a whole new level of fitness during the past 2 months of focused training. Texas is going to be a blast!

Two other notes from this weekend: A couple of my favorite runners had successful races this weekend - and seeing their success definitely helped psyched me up enough to make my own Sunday run fast and furious. First off, my 20 year-old cousin Erin was able to squeeze in enough training between studying for Bio-Chem and her other classes at UMass to rip off a 3:48 at the Bay State Marathon. It won't be long before I post a note here about her running her first ultra, she's got the kind of talent to find some real success at the longer distances in the near future. My other source of inspiration this weekend was my friend and super-stud Jamie Donaldson who travelled to Seoul, South Korea this weekend to represent team USA in the 24 Hour World Championships (this is the event I hope to qualify for in Texas). When the final gun was fired, Jamie had covered 136.7 miles (!!), good enough for 5th place in this race of world elites (and the top spot for Americans). Great work, Jamie!!!

Week Training Log:
Monday - Off Day
Tuesday - 8.5 Miles - Hains Point Loop
Wednesday - 8.5 Miles - Hains Point Loop
Thursday - 8.5 Miles - Hains Point Loop
Friday - 25 Miles - Hains Point Loops
Saturday - 25.1 Miles - Hains Point Loops
Sunday - 25.1 Miles - Hains Point Loops

Total Miles: 100.7

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Week Training Log: 10/6 - 10/12

Peak Week #1 is in the bag. Just a perfect weekend to run my now traditional 25-25-25 schedule. Not only was the weather amazing, but I also hit the road with already-tired legs each time (perfect for training purposes). Friday's 25 was right after a long day of work, and after getting some sleep, I woke up and ran Saturday's 25 before heading directly into work for a big night event (walking around on hard marble floors the whole time - always a nice treat for sore feet). After coming home and crashing for the night, I was up on Sunday morning for the final 25. My usual plan for these runs is to finish each one faster then the one before...but let me tell you, there was NO WAY that was happening on Sunday's run. Man Oh Man were my legs beat. Plus I only had 3 gels left in my stash before heading out on the run, so I was hurting for calories during the last 10 miles. Squirrels never looked so tasty.

With one more peak week ahead of me, I'll spend the next few days eating anything and everything I can get my hands on (squirrels aside) to refuel and reload. With the 24 Hour Championships just a month away now, things are getting pretty serious out there on my training loop. I've never run my usual route as consistently fast as I have been these past few weeks. My legs are responding so incredibly well to all of my training at this point, and if the next couple weeks produce more of the same, I'll be heading out to Texas ready to surprise a lot of people!

Week Log:
Monday - Off Day
Tuesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point
Wednesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point
Thursday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point
Friday - 25.1 miles - Hains Point loops
Saturday - 25.0 miles - Hains Point loops
Sunday - 25.0 miles - Hains Point loops

Total Miles: 100.6

Monday, October 6, 2008

Week Training Log: 9/29 - 10/5

With the obvious highlight of the week being my run at the Andiamo 45, I do have something to be sad about after last week...I found out that Brooks has discontinued the Radius shoe. Nooooo!!! I've run over 2,500 miles this year alone in that model shoe, and I really REALLY liked them! Oh well, I guess the good news is I still have a month or so to find a new shoe to wear during the Texas race. My first instinct for finding a replacement was to order the new Brooks Ghost model as it seemed like a somewhat close replacement for the Radius. After lacing them up and taking them out for my usual 8.5 mile loop, I can pretty much say the Ghost will not be resurrected for any races in my future. It's not that they're a bad pair of shoes, it's just that for some odd reason the folks at Brooks decided to sew in a really tight strip of fabric across the toe box that forced me to crack out my scizzors for some Shoe Surgery before I even took them out for a run. You can see the 'Black Strap of Death' in the photo above - it's the vertical stripe just where the laces start near the toe-end of the shoe. There's a matching 'White Strap of Why?' on the inside that I was also forced to cut out.

I know everyone has different feet and not every shoe is going to fit everyone just right, but I can honestly say I'm the least picky person in the world when it comes to running shoes. I have completely "normal" feet, and aside from making sure I buy a size 11.5, I don't ever worry about the other aspects of the fit. Also, since I have a pretty efficient and normal stride/foot strike, I don't need any fancy stability control or anything. Just give me a shoe that's not too heavy and has enough cushion to get me through my long runs and I'm happy. The Radius made me happy. The Ghost's confusingly narrow toe box strap does not make me happy. Boo!

After all of my alterations, I can now run 8.5 miles without worrying about chaffing on the top of my foot where the toe box gets narrow above the base of my toes, but I don't trust them for anything longer. All the Drymax socks in the world can't fix a shoe that doesn't fit right. Oh well. The search continues...R.I.P. Radius!!

Week Training Log:
Monday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Tuesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Wednesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Thursday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Friday - Off Day
Saturday - 45 miles - Andiamo 45 miler
Sunday- 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop

Week Total: 87.5

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Andiamo Race Report

After a full year of less-than-desirable race day weather (and plenty of whining about it on my part), Mother Nature gave all of us running in the Andiamo 45 miler a picture perfect day for running yesterday. That weather, combined with the beautiful countryside of the W&OD Trail, made for one of the most enjoyable runs I've had in quite some time. What a treat!
Andiamo may be a small race, but the co-race directors Carolyn Gernand and Joe Malinowski did such a great job with the organization. First and foremost, they offered to meet some of the runners at the finish line just south of DC before the race and give us a ride to the starting line 45 miles to the west. This allowed those of us from DC to leave our cars at the finish and only have a 5 mile ride home after the race - Talk about service!

My carpool consisted of Jim Moore (Thanks for driving!), Lou Jones, and Mark Zimmerman. All great guys and perfect folks for me to meet as my first VHTRC friends. The ride out west to Purcellville, VA went quickly as we chatted about all things running. We met up with the rest of the small group (maybe 20 of us?) at the western end of the W&OD Rail trail, and with a quick group picture and Carolyn's course directions ("See this trial? Follow it to the end!"), we were off! I didn't anticipate pushing the pace on this run too much, but the combination of the weather and the fact that this was my first race in a long time had my adrenaline kicking in right from the start. I took off in the front right away and never looked back.

The trail was great to run on from a mental standpoint as we ran past descending mile markers (posted every .5 mile) the whole way. After 10 miles I looked at my watch and saw I went out WAY too fast for what I had planned (6:45/mile splits), so I did my best to try and slow down a bit before my first fuel stop. As always I ran with my fuel belt and hand-bottle from the start, so my first stop for water wasn't until mile 17. Carolyn was there waiting on the side of the trail to top off my hand bottle and I was off in just a few seconds. A few miles later I passed the half-way point (mile 22.75) averaging 7:28/mile splits, and I crossed the marathon mark shortly thereafter at about 3:15.

Now that I had settled down to a quick-but-comfortable pace, I started doing some math in my head to see what a good time goal would be for finishing. Going into the race I figured somewhere around 7 hours would be my aim, but the weather and sudden realization that I'm already in much better shape for Texas than I thought called for a change in plans. I decided that breaking 6 hours would be the goal, and aside from a few street crossings to deal with as I got closer to DC, I kept a solid and steady pace to reach that goal.

As I counted down the final miles with the markers on the side of the trail (I can't overstate how helpful they are when you're starting to get tired!), I checked out the time on my watch to see how close I was to meeting my goal. As it turned out, my legs never gave out on me, and I climbed the last hill and bombed down across the finish line in 5:51:34 - about a 7:40/mile pace. Carolyn was just arriving herself and setting up the finish line refreshments (it's always nice to run a race "too fast"!), so we chatted for a bit as I drank my Endurox and enjoyed the cool shade under a tree.

All in all, just a great day of running across Northern Virginia...and while it's not impressive to win such a small race, I was fairly proud of my finishing time. Not a course record, no, but not too shabby considering this run was at the end of a full week of training for Texas. If nothing else I'm extremely encouraged at how my training for the 24-hour Championships is already paying off. ...but now isn't the time to celebrate - It's back to work for the two big peak training weeks ahead. Gotta keep my eyes on the real prize!

One more note on the race: I'm starting to take them for granted at this point, but I do need to mention that I finished this race with no blisters or hot spots thanks to Drymax Socks. I wore the "Maximum Protection" version for this race since they have the full-length friction-free fibers on the bottom. If you've ever been on a long run or walk on hot pavement and felt like your socks turned into sandpaper by the end, you really owe it to yourself to read about these socks.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Week Training Log: 9/22 - 9/28

Another solid week is in the books. I can feel myself rounding into shape on just about every run. My fast runs are getting easier, and my 40 miler this weekend was a full 30 minutes faster than last week's. Sure, the terrain was a little easier than the hills of Rock Creek Park, but still, I kept a metronome-steady 8:30 pace the whole way. This is the pace I'll be trying to hold as long as I can in Texas, so it's nice to know the first 40 miles should go as planned.

I'm super-excited for the upcoming Andiamo 45 miler this weekend. There couldn't possibly be a better time for this race to come up on my training schedule. I'm trying to get as much work in on relatively flat asphalt surfaces to mimic what I'll be running on in Texas, and this course fits that bill perfectly. The course is on an old railroad track that stretches 45.5 miles from the Northern VA country to just south of DC. There are two options for running surface with a paved path and dirt trail running parallel to each other the whole way. Normally I'd opt for the dirt trail on a run like this, but training is training, so it'll be pavement pounding for me the whole time. Since I'm not breaking my training schedule this week for any sort of taper or rest, I won't be setting any course records out there, but I will be looking to keep that same 8:30 pace the whole way. Factor in a few minutes to find my own water along the way (no aid support during the race, but I understand there are water fountains out there), and I should be rolling into the finish in somewhere around 7 hours depending on the weather and if I don't get caught up in too many conversations with some of the VHTRC members along the way!

Week Log:
Monday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Tuesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Wednesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Thursday - 8.5 miles - Treadmill Speed Work
Friday - Off Day
Saturday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Sunday - 40 miles - Random Route all over DC Trails and Paths

Total: 82.5 Miles

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Race & Week Training Log: 9/15 - 9/21

Lots of positive news from this week to report. First off, after years of purposely avoiding joining a running club, I finally found a great group of people who share my philosophy and overall outlook on running (i.e. "Let's simply enjoy ourselves out there"). The Virginia Happy Trails Running Club (VHTRC) has been around for a bunch of years and has a bunch of members from all over - Lots in VA, DC, and MD, but also in NY, NC, etc. It seems once you join, even if you have to move away from the area you never want to leave the club. They don't have any formal meetings, etc, but they do put on lots of races and runs, including a couple major trail races in the area. I witnessed their handy work first-hand at Massanutten back in May, and I must admit it was the first time I seriously considered joining a club. The vibe at the aid stations and among all the volunteers was amazing. I look forward to joining those folks by volunteering at many races for the club in the future.

Another great aspect of the VHTRC are the "informal" races and runs they organize for members. One such race is the "Andiamo 45" on October 4. I've happily signed up for this run, not necessarily to shoot for a great time, but to take advantage of running a few happy miles with some great people while training for the 24 Hour National Championships. I can't wait!

As for this week in training, the most notable fact is that during my long run this week it was 35 degrees cooler than last week...THIRTY-FIVE!!! When I stepped foot outside to start the run I said "Now that's what I'm talkin' about!". Nothing like cool, crisp weather to bring out the best in a long run. I loved it. I also decided to explore some new terrain up in Rock Creek Park. With tons of trails and bike paths that mix and mingle like a bowl of spaghetti on a map, I just ran up there w/ my GPS (about 6 miles from my place) and purposely got lost for about 30 miles. I ended up doing a few miles through the National Zoo, a few miles on paved bike paths, a few miles on hilly single track trails, and a whole lot of back-tracking and sun-navigating to find my way back south toward home. There's something fun about getting lost while running when you have a fuel belt full of gels and a bunch of creeks near by for water if needed. By time I found my way back to familiar terrain, I had just a couple loops of Hains Point to knock off to get to 40 miles total. All in all, a great run to cap off a great training week...and let me be sure mother nature hears me this time: HOORAY!! FALL IS HERE!!

Week Training Log:
Monday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point
Tuesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point
Wednesday - Off Day
Thursday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point
Friday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point
Saturday - 40 miles - Rock Creek Park / Hains Point
Sunday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point

Week Total: 82.5 miles

Monday, September 15, 2008

Week Training Log: 9/8 - 9/14

Just when I thought the nasty DC summer weather was gone, yesterday was a return to 95 degrees with 85% humidity. How refreshing. To properly enjoy this lovely celebration of Global Warming, I had to run 35 miles in the tropical swap air. Trying to make the best of the situation, I woke up at 4:15 a.m. (always nice on a Sunday) and hit the road right away. It was already 85 and insanely humid at that hour, but I knew I needed to cover as many miles as possible before the Sun Beast awoke and really made things fun. I ran the first 15 to 20 miles around the Hains Point washing machine much faster than my usual 35 mile pace in a race against the heat. Since the humidity was so incredibly high, I had to spend a few moments every mile literally wringing the sweat out of my shorts as I ran. The fact that ultra-light-weight quick-dry running shorts can be rendered so useless by the DC humidity never ceases to amaze me. Heavy cotton shorts would have been just as useful out there yesterday.

Anyway, I ended up rising above the heat and finishing my last 3 loops in fine fashion as I hopped in with the final leg of the National Triathlon being run around Hains Point. It felt pretty great to actually pass some of the runners (they were running 6.2 miles) as I was clicking off miles 27 to 33. Of course if I had to actually compete in the swimming portion of the triathlon with these guys, I would have probably scored the first ever 'DNF by drowning' in the history of the sport. To each their own.

One more note: Colonel Denis Dion was nice enough to send me a couple photos from our Canadian Embassy visit last week, so here they are. This is me and Elizabeth in front of the sculpture outside the Embassy.

...and here I am getting my jersey at the luncheon.
Thanks again for everything, Col. Dion!!

Week Training Log:
Monday - Off
Tuesday - 8.6 miles - Treadmill speed work
Wednesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Thursday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Friday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Saturday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Sunday - 35 miles - Hains Point Washing Machine

Total miles: 77.6

Friday, September 12, 2008

Our Great Neighbors to the North

Rewind a few months: I was running a rough 35 miler along the Mt. Vernon Trail after a long day at work. For some reason I just couldn't find my stride as I shuffled through the first 10 miles or so. At that point a friendly guy caught up with me and we chatted for a mile or two before I stopped off to refill my water bottle and he continued on his run. Even though we only ran together for a short stretch, our brief conversation was enough to help me snap out of my funk and put a spring in my step.

Fast forward to this afternoon: Long story short, that friendly runner turned out to be Colonel Denis Dion, Defense Cooperation Attache at the Canadian Embassy. Col. Dion's kind words and support of me during my Run 192 training were inspiration enough, but a good military man always goes the extra mile, and this afternoon Elizabeth and I were honored to attend a luncheon at the Embassy as his guests. To my surprise, the unbelievably generous and kind folks at the Embassy even presented me with an official Canadian Army running singlet. I was extremely honored and humbled by all of their kind words and generosity. ...and I was so excited when I got home I had to take my new jersey out for a spin - here's me still feeling 10-feet tall after a fast 8.5 miles.

I can't thank Col. Dion, his staff, and all those in attendance at the Officers' Club lunch for such a great honor!!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Week Training Log: 9/1 - 9/7

This was a nice easy transition back into full-time training for me. Nothing too fancy during the week, but yesterday's long run was the first of many I'll run around the 3.2 mile loop of Hains Point. Talk about a washing-machine run...after 7+ loops around that thing I was beyond happy to start running toward home. I can only imagine the horrors of having to run 14+ loops on my 50 miles training runs out there. Of course, it's all part of the mental training for the Texas race, so at least I can tell myself that while I'm fighting off the vertigo.

One other note on the week - As those of you who follow the blog know, ran an article last Friday about the 'Run 192', and it was beyond touching for me to read the comments posted on that site by readers from all over. One in particular needs to be posted here:

WOW! What a story and props to him for grabbing life and living it. I myself am beating Non Hodgkins and this story and this man is an insiration to me at a time that I could really use it. Thanks [Dan]! LIVESTRONG!!!!!!!!!

That right there is whole reason I dedicated the past few years of my life to this run. This comment alone made the whole mission worthwhile. Of course, there are many more folks out there who have now had a chance to read about the run (and be inspired!) thanks to all the great media outlets who ran stories, and to all of them I am forever grateful!!

Week Log:
Monday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Tuesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Wednesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Thursday - Off Day
Friday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Saturday - 8.6 miles - Treadmill fun (Hurricane Hannah outside)
Sunday - 30 miles - Hains Point Loops

Total: 72.6 miles

Friday, September 5, 2008

ESPN Story & 'Stand Up to Cancer'

Here's the link to the story about the 'Run 192' that ran today. Thanks again to Alexa Pozniak for all her hard work in putting this together!

...and be sure to tune into ABC tonight in prime time for the 'Stand Up to Cancer' event. It should be quite the inspirational broadcast!

Thursday, September 4, 2008 Article - 9/5/08

Friday, September 5, 2008
Cancer survivor's challenge: Run 192 miles for those who can't
By Alexa Pozniak

EDITOR'S NOTE: On Friday, actors, musicians, sports figures and newscasters are coming together in the fight against cancer in a nationally televised event called "Stand Up To Cancer," which will be live and commercial-free on ABC, CBS and NBC at 8 p.m. ET, and re-broadcast on the West Coast at 8 p.m. PT. The event aims to raise much-needed funding for cancer research and to build awareness about a disease that kills one person in this country every minute, and nearly 1,500 people each day.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Twenty-five hours into his run on this humid August night, the non-stop pounding was taking its toll on Dan Rose. Sleep deprivation had set in, and his mind was gradually losing its ability to process thoughts. His legs burned, his feet throbbed; and like a car running out of gas, his sunburned body began to slow down. But he refused to stop. Rose was determined to keep on running for those who cannot, and fight through the pain for those who are doing the very same.

None of the pain he felt on a pitch-black road in southeastern Massachusetts that night, though, compared to the hardships he had overcome a year earlier -- his battle against cancer.

Four weeks later, 31-year-old Rose, tall and slim, pumps his fist as he watches his beloved Red Sox round the bases on the big-screen TV that dominates the tiny living room of his Washington, D.C. apartment. Dressed in a weathered 2004 World Series tee, this native of Taunton, Mass., recalls how his running career started in high school when his friends convinced him to join the indoor track team as a way to get in shape for baseball season. It didn't take long for him to get serious about distance running. In his sophomore year at Brandeis University, he completed his first Boston Marathon.

After college, though, his interest gradually waned, and he took a six-year hiatus from organized racing. But in 2003, he decided to lace up his sneakers again and tackle the Portland (Maine) Marathon. While he was training, he noticed a small lump in his neck. Physically, he says he felt fine. In fact, Rose says he was in the best shape of his life. Still, when he finished that race, he decided to get it checked out.

"You have a very serious disease," were the words from his general practitioner a few months later. Rose had initially doubted the cyst was reason for serious worry, but he underwent a biopsy as a precaution. The diagnosis hit him like a ton of bricks: He had an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"More than anything, I was just totally stunned," he says. "I got home, sat down and remember feeling just really disappointed. I loved my friends and family and even going to work, and I wanted to do more stuff with my life before it's over."

Twenty-six at the time, Rose immediately saw a specialist at the renowned Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and his roller-coaster ride began. The initial surgery was followed by chemotherapy, which involved heavy-duty drugs to eradicate the disease. With the chemo came a wide range of side effects -- extreme fatigue, nausea and pain. His experience as an athlete helped him persevere.

"The mental training you learn getting through chemotherapy is completely analogous to the mental aspects of running ultra-long distances," he says.

After four months, Rose got a clean bill of health. At first he was overcome with joy, but that feeling quickly gave way to guilt.

"I thought, 'Why am I getting to walk out of here when some of the friends I made are still suffering?' I wanted to keep fighting for those that couldn't," he says.

He knew he had to get himself back into fighting shape. The chemo had taken its toll. The strength and endurance he had built up through his training was gone. Already skinny, Rose had lost 20 pounds, as well as his hair and eyelashes. He had become, as he describes it, a "complete shell" of himself.

"All of the literature you read says you're never going to be the same," he says. "And you don't want to hear that as a 26-year-old kid."

Rose set his sights on a return to the Portland Marathon -- one year after he first discovered the cyst -- with a goal of completing the race with a faster time. Reality, though, set in as soon as he went for his first run post-treatment.

"I got a half-mile down the road, couldn't breathe; everything burned," he says. "When I finished, I plopped on the ground. I looked up and saw the sun and thought, 'I am so happy that is the sun and not a fluorescent light in the hospital.' It was the most pain since chemo, but I was just so happy."

He not only completed the marathon but scraped six minutes off his time. Rose knew he was back. He knew, too, that it was time to give back.

"I didn't have much money, but I did have my legs," he says.

Rose set out to test the limits of the new life he had been given. He upgraded from marathons to 50-mile races, then to ultra-marathons (100-mile races). And he hatched a plan: He wanted to run the Pan Mass Challenge, a 192-mile bike race through Massachusetts in August, to raise money for cancer research. This would be the equivalent of running more than seven marathons back-to-back. But Rose was determined. He called the undertaking "Run 192."

"The whole point of doing this was to have an inspiring story to tell to the patients at Dana-Farber," he says. "'Realize that your life isn't over after you get out of the hospital. You don't have to be Lance Armstrong to accomplish great things. When you get out, you can be just as good, if not better.'"

Race organizers agreed to let him run the course, but he would have to do it three days before the actual bike race began so as not to get in the way of the cyclists.

"The thing that hit home with me is that he was so driven," says Jan Ross, director of Marathon and Running Programs at Dana-Farber. "There was no doubt in my mind that he was going to accomplish his goal."

His job as an event planner at the Library of Congress didn't leave Rose with a lot of free time for training. He squeezed it in before and after work, and averaged over 100 miles a week, including long runs of 40 or 50 miles on Saturdays. Ten months after he began his training, Rose headed to the starting line of the Pan Mass Challenge in Sturbridge, Mass. His wife, family, and friends formed a "crew" to meet up with him at five-mile intervals during the three days of running and provide water, food and, most importantly, the encouragement his body -- and mind -- needed to keep going.

"I basically just planned to put my head down and plow through, just like chemo," Rose says. "There are people helping you, but it's mostly you. Just focus mentally and get it done."

On the first day, Rose ran 120 miles in 26 hours, 20 miles longer than he had ever run in his life. He fought through the pain that hit him at the 25-hour mark for another 60 minutes.

"My feet hurt so bad," he says. "I must have looked like the Three Stooges all in one. Just slapping myself in the face to keep awake. … I was falling asleep as I was moving."

After a 10-minute nap in the back of his brother's SUV, he woke up, thinking he was ready to pound the pavement … until the intense physical and mental fatigue hit him again.

"I picked up my legs to stand up, went around back, reached for the [trunk] handle and then passed out," he says.

His brother, Erich, took him to his home a few miles away, where Rose collapsed on a bed. Forty-five minutes later, he was awake but unable to move. And a sudden sense of urgency struck. He remembers thinking, "'I have 72 miles to go … there's no way I'm going to be able to run. I can't even move. How am I going to do this?' The whole point of me running was to give an example to fellow patients who were fighting. I knew I had to get back out there."

"It was so beautiful and inspiring to see him run," says Elizabeth, his wife of three months. "But at the same time it was frightening, because he was thinking like a machine and not like a human being."

Rose dragged himself out of bed and returned to his run. He started with a slow walk, but soon hit a stride. Along the way, passers-by stopped to tell him how cancer had touched their lives in one way or another. After his story was broadcast on a local news station, he was bombarded by text messages from strangers, whose kind words fueled him even more.

Seventy miles and two days later, Rose finally reached Provincetown, the tip of Cape Cod. Stars dotting the night sky provided enough light for him to see the finish line ahead. His family and friends cheered him on and gave him the burst of energy needed to surge forward and complete his goal.

Afterward, Rose reflected on the challenges he has faced over the past few years.

"Cancer has been a blessing," he says. "I'm sure I would have gone on to be a nice guy or whatever, but I never would have been motivated to do something like this. It was like grad school in a way. It taught me important lessons. I went from being a 26-year-old kid who thought he was invincible to having a better understanding of the big picture and what's important in life."

Elizabeth adds, "People say it's a miracle that he was able to do that run. The miracle is that he's still here."

With his run, Rose raised more than $6,000 for the Jimmy Fund, an organization dedicated to supporting cancer research.

"I think the lesson learned is that everybody has their own talents. Sometimes, they're not so obvious. But there are so many ways to make a difference," says Dana-Farber's Ross.

Now, Rose shaves his head each day as a reminder -- both of the obstacles he has overcome and that his work isn't done. Over the next months, Rose plans to visit with the patients at Dana-Farber to share his story. He has been "overwhelmed" with e-mails and phone calls from friends and co-workers and from complete strangers who have heard his story and whose lives have been touched by cancer.

Rose is also brainstorming ways to continue his fundraising campaign. One possibility: running the Boston Marathon again, and completing the course four times consecutively. And instead of asking people to donate, he is seeking a sponsor.

"I need to keep the ball rolling and turn a snowball into an avalanche," he says.

And so he will continue, one step -- or stride -- at a time.

Alexa Pozniak is a feature producer for ESPN, focusing on human interest stories. She also blogs about sports for She can be reached at