Saturday, May 31, 2008

Old Dominion 100 Miler This Weekend!

OK, here's the deal: I'm heading out to VA to run the Old Dominion 100 miler this weekend. The course overlaps with the Massanutten course, but the overall terrain consists of much better footing and less elevation gain (it only has about 14,000 feet of climbing compared to about 20,000 for Massanutten).

The reason I'm heading out to run this race is quite simple: I have lots of unfinished business out there in the Shenandoah Valley, and even though there's a good chance I'll decide to pull up and call it a day before running the entire 100 miles, I want to finish on MY terms this time. Having an injury force me to stop at Massnutten was more frustrating than I could have imagined. My legs were still strong, and I definitely had 42 more miles left in them. Each day that passed after that DNF brought more and more frustration to deal with. As luck would have it, two things ended up working in my favor to help fix this mental torture:

1) My two week break from running has healed my leg to the point where I'm running pain free again (and yes, my beautiful bride Elizabeth has given me the green light to proceed with caution).

2) Amazingly enough, the Old Dominion 100 Miler is being held this weekend in the same part of the woods where MMT is run - Talk about the perfect place to get rid of that bad taste in my mouth.

My plan is to just head out and take it easy. Elix is coming out with me to crew, and if I feel like I've had enough after covering 20, 50, or 75 miles, I'll call it a day. Between my two weeks off (eating nothing but "honeymoon" food), and a potential injury flair up, I'm ready to stop whenever it feels right to me. If it just ends up being a 50 mile training run for Run 192, so be it. I'm just looking to get back out in those woods and run until I've chased those lingering MMT frustrations out of my head. I'll post a full report either way when I the meantime, don't forget to visit the Run 192 Donation page - $10 and $20 contributions really add up when word spreads through a network of great people like those of us in the ultra running community!!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Run 192 Donation Page is Up!

I'm back from my honeymoon on Myrtle Beach and couldn't be happier or more relaxed. Our wedding in DC was a blast, and the two weeks off from running seem to have done wonders for my leg/hip injury. Now that I'm back in the real world, I'm ready for the final push for 'Run 192'.

As luck would have it, this morning I received word that the official Donation Page for Run 192 is set up and ready to roll on the Dana Farber Cancer Institute website. The link to the page is now over on the right-hand side of this blog and will stay there through the run. If you're among those who wants to make sure I suffer for the entire 192 miles before giving to the cause, I'll be sure to leave the link there well after the run for post-event contributions as well.

As a disclaimer, I'll remind everyone that this is not a scam or anything other than an effort for one cancer survivor (me) to give back to the people who saved his life. The goal is very simple: On the morning of July 30 I will begin a non-stop 192 mile run from Sturbridge to Provincetown, MA following the PMC Challenge bike route. I will have friends and family meet me at various points along the course to give me the fluids and food I need along the way. Depending on the weather, I estimate the run will take me between 48-55 hours. All donations made through the Dana-Farber website are 100% tax-deductible (DFCI will send you a letter), and 100% of your contribution will go toward the fight against cancer.

My main goal for this race is to inspire my fellow patients to keep fighting as they endure their chemo and radiation treatments. Even if you don't have the means to donate, simply passing on the link to my blog to someone who needs a little inspiration will help make this run worthwhile to me. I'll be posting regular updates as the start of the run approaches, and then I'll have some sort of live update system in place through this blog from July 30-August 1 as I cover the 192 miles.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Massanutten Slide Show of Pain

As luck would have it, there was a photographer on the Massanutten course less than a mile from where I had to drop. He snapped off 4 pictures in succession which captured the pain I had while lifting my left leg. Check these out, and note my expression when I have to lift my left leg. It hurts just to look at.
The good news is, I'm back to almost walking pain-free today, so I should be all healed up in two weeks when I'm back from my honeymoon and ready for the final 'Run 192' push!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Not this time...

I'm back from what was a perfect day for running 101.8 miles in the George Washington National Forest. Unfortunately for me, I tripped on a rock around mile 8 or so, and during the subsequent stumble to save my balance, I ended up doing some real damage to my left leg up where the quad meets the hip. There was definitely an awkward and ungraceful series of flailing limbs as I attempted to stay upright (imagine Elaine from Seinfeld dancing and you'll get the idea). It hurt like hell right away, but a handful of Aleeve and an easy 3 or 4 mile section right after that helped me "run it off", so to speak. As the race went on, however, the intensity of the pain grew to the point where I actually had to use my arms to pick up my leg on the climbs. After an epic ascent of Bird Knob (during which I'm pretty sure I invented 2 or 3 new swears every time I picked up my leg), I knew I was done. I ended up needing my friend Amelia to help me up the final few yards as I limped into the Rt. 211 Aid Station. Once there I immediately told the Station Captain I was dropping. I had covered 58 miles to that point, but I was dangerously close to doing serious damage if I tried to drag my leg any further.

I know lots of people have epic tales of fighting fatigue and injury all night to show their bravery and desire, but I can say without a shred of doubt that I HAD to stop when I did. I could no longer lift my left leg to step up the slightest incline. The frustrating thing about this injury is my legs were actually still feeling strong. If not for the lightning blots of pain shooting out of my left hip, I definitely would have had 42 miles of running left in them. I was running in 6th place at the mile 39 Aid Station, and even though my leg really started to fall apart right after that, I was still in 8th place when I had to drop at mile 58. You might think it would be tough to drop a race while in 8th place with strong legs, but I assure you the intensity of the pain made it an incredibly easy decision.

The good news is, I was able to run enough of the race to know my training plan and preparation over the last few months were perfect. Even with the injury I was running on pace to finish between 22-23 hours. I'm not sure if I'll return next year to avenge this DNF, but I will most certainly be back sooner than later. It is a tremendously challenging course and a very well organized race. The volunteers at the Aid Stations are amazing - I look forward to meeting the rest of them when I come back. I feel bad for dragging my crew out there and not finishing, but we'll all be back together under happier circumstances in 5 days at my wedding. ...and the race down that aisle will certainly be one I finish in record time with a big smile on my face!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Final Touches on MMT Prep

Race week has arrived, and I'm officially ready to shred the hills of Massanutten. I've been assigned race number '126' this time, so if local police need help identifying a really skinny/delusional guy wondering through the woods mumbling "24 hours....must break 24 hours", I expect everyone to help out.
Actually, for this race I won't need to worry about my well-being because I'll have a super 3-man crew giving me gels and words of encouragement like "Man, you look horrible". My parents are coming down from MA to re-live the fun of crewing for me at VT last summer, and my dear old college friend (and bridesmaid at my wedding next week) Amelia will also be heading out with me as well. I'm really lucky to have this kind of support out there...I mean, what would a hard-core 100 mile race in the mountains be without your mommy there to say "Oh, my poor baby!" when you stumble out of the woods with a cut on your knee? There are 12 Crew access points (basically between every mountain pass) on the course, so I can look forward to seeing them regularly throughout the day.
I feel comfortable with the course having trained on it so much, so I will definitely focus on running my own race right from the start. The 2 or 3 toughest climbs are fresh in my mind, so I'll be sure not to let them break my will as I stumble up the rocks. I'll be heading out on a pace to finish between 22 and 23 hours, and my crew will have a sheet with this pace-time on it to keep me updated on how I'm doing. That time should put me somewhere in the top 10 depending on the weather. ...and speaking of the weather, I hope mother nature realizes she punished me enough at Umstead...and if anyone knows how to do an anti-rain dance, I'm all ears.
No sense in posting my 3 Goals for this race since 'Finish in less than 24 hours' is really the only goal. I want that Silver Buckle!! Depending on the volunteers working on race day, the race website will be updated sporadically during the day/night. If the results aren't posted Sunday morning on that site, I'll be back home Sunday night to post an update. Happy trails!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Massanutten Roster Update

Barring any last-minute additions, the roster for the 101.8 miles of Massanutten fun is set. This race has a maximum field limit of 160 - a little lower than some 100 milers since it's tough to ensure enough quality support for runners on this terrain. The Race Director(s) put safety and quality first, and rightly so. The good news is, despite the smaller field, there is no lack of elite runners signed up to duke it out on the hills of the Shenandoahs next weekend. Fresh off my 17:05 at Umstead, my goal is to break 24 hours (that's how much harder this course is), and in doing so most likely finish in the top 10. Not too many years have gone by in the history of this race where 10 people have broken that time barrier. It's that tough of a course. The reward for a sub-24 finish is a SILVER buckle - everyone else gets a pewter one. There is, of course, no shame in the pewter buckle, but seeing how few silver ones exist out there, I'm really gunning for that goal. I'll post more about my plans/goals in the race next week, but for now, here's a quick run-down of the elites/notables in the race:

Sean Andrish - 2004 Winner (20:49) - He looks to be running strong this spring, so I expect him to go for the win right from the starting gun.

Serge Arbona - Remember him from his Umstead win last month? Well, we'll line up again next week, only this time on a much tougher terrain. He's never won this race but has two solid times (22:47 and 22:53) to his credit. Look for him to run close to that time again and finish Top 5.

Adam Casseday - Sort of a dark horse in this race. He's never run Massanutten before, but as a West Virgina guy he's surely got plenty of training in on this type of terrain. If his speed on shorter distances translates here, he could contend for a podium spot.

Joe Clapper - Sure, it was back in 1995, but his 23:39 finish that year deserves a mention here. I would be lucky to have someone mention a 23-hour finish of mine 13 years from now.

Keith Knipling - Part of the historic Knipling tandem, Keith and his dad Gary essentially ARE the Massanutten Mountain 100 miler. Gary is going for his 11th(!!!) finish this year, and last year Keith (with 8 finishes of his own) really stepped it up to break 24 hours for the first time with a crazy-fast 21:18. If he comes back in that kind of shape this year, look for him to hang close to the front all day long.

Mike Mason - Great mix of speed and endurance, he comes back to Massanutten healthy and ready to improve on his 22:33 from 2006. He will contend all day long.

Tom Neilsen - This 2003 winner (21:55) from California is back to show the young guns he's still got mad skills in the hills (he's 48 years young).

Michael Schuster - Another dark horse with good speed at the shorter distances. Has a DNF on this course in the past, so look for him to avenge that this time around.

Todd Walker - Here's my pick to fight it out w/ Sean Andrish for the win. He's one of only 6 people to ever break 20 hours on this course (and he's done it twice - 19:13 in '06 and 19:24 in '05). Last year he clicked off a 21:11. The amazing thing about all these fantastic finishing times is he's NEVER WON. That's just a crime. Look for him to end that streak next weekend.

Brennen Wysong - Another sub 24 hopeful with a 24:37 finish last year. He's that much more familiar w/ the trail now. Look for a sub-24 and top 10 for him this time around.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Week Training Log: 4/28 - 5/4

With two weeks to go before Massanutten, I'm definitely listening to my legs to guide my training plans. After last week's Death March beat-down, the old running sticks were feeling pretty wiped out. I decided against doing a long run this week in an effort to rest up a little for the 101.8 miles of hell awaiting me on the 17th. That move definitely helped heal my achillies as well - even though it hasn't hurt enough to make me miss a run, that nagging injury has flared up after every long run since Umstead. With two easy weeks of tapering left, I should be 100% by time the gun goes off in Front Royal, VA.

The final Massanutten roster is just about set, so I'll post about the notables in the maxed-out field of 160 in a couple of days. Right now I see two past champions on the list along with elite runners Todd Walker and old friend Serge four or five other guys who have sub-24 hour finishes in the past. It's going to be one heck of a show-down in the mountains. How long will I be able to hang with these guys? We'll all find out in two weeks!

Week Log:
Monday - Off Day
Tuesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Wednesday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Thursday - 4.3 miles - Treadmill Death March
Friday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop
Saturday - Off Day (moved a ton of furniture instead)
Sunday - 8.5 miles - Hains Point Loop

Total Miles: 38.3 miles