Monday, June 29, 2009

Under the Knife

Just a quick note this week: This morning I had successful surgery to remove a benign tumor in my neck. It's true that this one was non-cancerous, but when I first noticed it growing at the exact same site of my cancerous tumor a couple months back, it wasn't exactly a happy feeling. It's been 5 years since my last chemo treatment, and I've certainly enjoyed life to the fullest since then. The thought of having to go back to battle again was less-than appealing, as you can imagine - Thankfully the tests I had this spring showed the tumor to be nothing more than a nerve growth that the docs could remove rather easily. Phew! This morning was the big day, and here's a G-Rated photo of the results...just another hole in my head, no big deal!
As for running, I've crept up to 40 miles this week with no shin pain. I've definitely noticed myself turning the corner in terms of tightness in the shin (less and less each few days). Seeing that I pretty much tore a tendon off my tibia, I'm not complaining about a little tightness, and I'm happy to take it slow while getting back to full steam (only adding 10 miles per week through August).

One last note: Congrats to everyone who finished Western States this past weekend. All the talk heading into the race was about the top elites running this year, but as the Drop list grew and grew during the race (to nearly 50%!!), it was obvious to me that even the runner who finished DFL deserved as much cheering as the Top 10. Well done, everyone!!! Way to make me proud of my fellow fighters!!

...and for those of you who recall me talking about Leigh Schmitt running the Bull Run 50 back in April, I mentioned I saw him running uphill with his hands on his hips. Thanks to a well-positioned photographer on the WS100 course just before the Michigan Bluff Aid Station, I now have this picture to prove what I saw!
The question is, does this really help? I definitely need to try it out on my next long climb. Even though he loses his arm-swing momentum, I'm guessing this helps keep his back straight and hips in optimum alignment. Since I'm the king of slouching while going uphill, I think this could help me out quite a bit.....if only I could borrow his speed and talent just as easily!

Monday, June 22, 2009

I Guess Rehab Isn't THAT Bad

It's easy for me to complain about being stuck running short rehab runs every night, but sometimes I forget how lucky I am to have such a scenic loop directly across the street from my house. Sure, it's no mountain backdrop, but as far as man-made views go, it's tough to beat this route. I grabbed my camera on the way out the door tonight (still light at 8:50 p.m.!) to give everyone an idea of what my daily views are like on my runs...

I head out my front door and run 1 block up the street to the Library of Congress steps (where I also work). From there I have this view of the back of the Capitol Building (which used to actually be the front, but we'll save the history lesson for another time!).

From the LoC steps I run up the newly landscaped back lawn of the Capitol to pick up the grassy path on the side. From there I head down the long hill that leads soft dirt paths of the National Mall (excellent for rehab, I might add).

You can tell I was chasing sunlight tonight, but even without proper lighting or a fancy camera, you still get the idea. If you click on this picture, you can see the Washington Monument on the other side of the Mall. Since it's about 2 miles from my house to there, that makes for a convenient 4 mile rehab loop!

Guess who can't hold the camera still while running?

Got there just in time to squeeze out the last bit of sunset for lighting. If I had any kind of real camera, you'd see that the monument is actually lit beautifully at night. If anyone is ever in DC would like a personal running tour in the evening to see it for yourself, by all means drop me a line!
One more close up from the Washington Monument before turning around and heading home!

...and here's the home stretch as I head back to the Capitol finish line! Just another ho-hum rehab run around my front yard!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ultra Entertainment

This week I've realized that there's something horribly wrong with going for a 3 mile run. Under my own rehab rules, I've limited myself to that distance this past week (until today's mighty 6er), and while I know it's for my own good, it's over before I even get a chance to enjoy the fact that I'm running. One great thing about my situation this week is there are tons of great distractions from the world of Ultras that are keeping me entertained when my running has to end:

First off, if you haven't read "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall, you should probably do so today. If you don't read it, you'll run the risk of being the only one in your group on the trail in your next race not contributing to the conversation. Sort of like showing up for a Scientology meeting with Dianetics still unread on your bookshelf. You may already know the story of the Tamahuara indians, or the benefits of barefoot running, or the history of human evolution, but this book ties it all together with an interesting story that makes for a great read. Whether or not you agree with all the "scientific" points being made throughout the book, I think the last quote from Caballo Blanco perfectly sums up the spirit of ultra running (or at least how I view the sport): "Running isn't about making people buy stuff. Running should be free, man."

In other Ultra news, how about that US 100k team ripping it up in the World Championships this weekend in Belgium?!! Oregon's Kami Semick WON the race for the ladies and led the way for Team USA to win the female championship. Not a bad follow-up to the 24 Hour team taking 2nd place in Italy last month - Nice work ladies!! The men also put up a great showing with Micheal Wardian taking 6th overall in the race and Todd Braje cracking the top 20 w/ a 19th overall showing. It's great to see the US establishing itself on the world level in these races!

Adding one more thing to the list of great ultra distractions this week, is there anyone out there not buzzing about the insane talent ready to face off at Western States next weekend? Talk about a line-up of serious contenders on both sides (20+ deep for the men, 10+ deep for the ladies), Holy Cow! I won't get into a detailed list here since so many other blogs are already setting up polls and such (like irunfar and AJW), but I will mention that one guy in particular seems to be slipping under radar in all the chatter. I know he doesn't run 100s too much, but Leigh Schmitt is the real deal when he does move up to that distance
(he still holds the VT100 course record), and I'm pulling for him to represent the east coast with a top 3 finish out there in CA.

That's all for now...I'm going to get some pizza - Hey, it's not like it'll affect my mighty 3 mile "training" right now, right?!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Testing...Testing 1, 2, 3....

Today marks 5 (FIVE!) full weeks off from running for me. Since my stubborn shin refused to heal during three months of half-training and elliptical work between Feb-May, I realized I needed to stop all training in order to let it heal properly. It was a tough decision to make, but being forced to run at 50-75% speed was only making me more frustrated. With five weeks now having passed since that decision, I'm ready to test the leg and see how it feels.

First off, to celebrate the regained use of my legs, I'm skipping work tomorrow to go for a nice hike in the Massanutten range. No running, just a nice hike on a course I love. After that I will begin running every other day for a week to see how my shin responds. I have surgery scheduled to remove a non-cancerous tumor in my neck in two weeks (it's a "schwannoma" that has grown at the site of my original lymphoma surgery 5 years ago) , but hopefully after that all the obstacles will be out of the way and I'll back running 100% again.

I'm still hoping to run the full 100 miles of the Viaduct Trail race in August, but I'm perfectly ready to shift that to 50 or 75 in the name of proper training if my legs aren't quite back at that point. I'm also looking forward to running the Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness 50 miler in WV at the end of August as well. My super-fast running friend Adam Casseday is RD-ing this race for the second year in a row, and on top of being held on some great WV trails, the race features a 9 p.m. start time. After what is hopefully a long and healthy summer of running, I'll certainly look forward to running without the need of a hat and sunglasses!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dream Races

Ah, the good ol' Dream List. That list of "someday, somehow" races that every runner eyes like the pretty girl across the playground during recess. Sure, you may not know the best way to head over an talk to her, but something deep down is slowly taking over your brain - Eventually you convince yourself the only way you'll be happy is if you march across the blacktop and compliment her on her butterfly hair-clip and pink jelly shoes.

Races on your Dream List are just like that little girl: Something unique about them initially catches your eye (the history of the Boston Marathon or Western States 100, the insane terrain of the Hardrock 100, etc.), and over the course of your running career, you hear/read/see more and more about these races until you convince yourself you must do everything you can to run it yourself. Of course it's not always that easy - It wouldn't be a true Dream Race if it wasn't challenging to get yourself to that starting line (not to mention in proper shape).

One big Dream Race problem: If a race is on your Dream List, it's most likely on the list of about 100,000 other runners too. Some of them may even have the nerve to be faster than you (how rude!). The more "dreamy" a race ranks amongst the hoi polloi of runners like most of us, the harder it will be to find yourself on its starting line. Take the Hardrock 100, for example. They can only allow about 150 runners per year to run (for permit and safety/support reasons), and the resulting wait list is usually long enough to fill the race two more times. Keep in mind these are roughly 450 people who are willing to pay a couple hundred dollars to run a 100 mile race with 33,000+ feet of climbing and this sincere warning in the Runners' Manual:

The weather is a dominant factor for this run and can be at least as formidable as the terrain, remoteness, or high altitude. It is our general opinion that the first fatality we may have will be either from hypothermia or lightning. We would rather that there never be a fatality, and so we will continually be giving you warnings, cautions, updates, and suggestions regarding the exposure you must face when attempting this run. The run date is a compromise among competing weather factors. There is usually a period of a few days to weeks each year when the snow is generally gone, but the summer "monsoon" has not yet gotten into full swing - we try to hit this window.

That right there is the stuff Dream Races are made of.

Whether it's a limited space issue, tough qualifying time, or "I've never run that far before" hurdle that stands between you and your Dream Races, one thing is for sure, your mind won't let you rest until you run that race. Sure, you may not think about it 24/7, but every now and then, when you're out there on a long solitary training run, you'll start thinking about a Dream Race. You'll close your eyes a bit and imagine yourself flying through the final miles toward the finish. You may be breaking 24 hours for your first may even be a mile ahead of Scott Jurek heading for the course record at Western matter the specifics, it simply feels good to think about that race. To DREAM about that race. ...and for that fact alone your Dream List will always be there in the back of your mind.

Yes, there will be a few road-blocks between you and your Dream Races: You can get frustrated, injured, raise a family, get a new job, whatever...but the Dream List will always be there until all the boxes have been checked. The fact that a guy like John DeWalt, at 70 years old, finished the Hardrock 100 last year proves it's never too late to realize your dreams.

So, I'm curious what races are on your Dream Lists out there...From personally significant 5ks to marathons to 100+ milers, let me know what finish line you dream about crossing when you close your eyes on those training runs.

I've got a couple that I'm working my way toward in the next couple years: The 150 mile Spartathlon in Greece, the Vermont Long Trail (273 miles) Speed Record attempt (most likely next year), and of course having the chance to be a part of team USA in an international 24-hour Championship. How about you?