Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Start Your Lottery Engines!

Even though it hasn't worked out too well for me in the past, I always love this week on the ultrarunning calendar. ...and it's not just because it marks the time for the biggest $$$ race in the sport at the NorthFace 50 Mile Championship in San Francisco. Sure, that race for the $10,000 first prize is fun to follow, and yes, I even earned an free entry via a sponsor's exemption from my Mohican 100 finish...but the reality is I'm smart enough to know all those guys can run faster than I can sneeze, so I'm better off saving my travel time and money and just watching the race from the east coast.

That race aside, the reason why I'm always most excited about this week is it's when the lottery season really starts to pick up for 2011 races. Tomorrow (Dec 1) marks the opening of the Massanutten 100 lottery, and with this most likely being my focus race for the Spring, I'm hoping I can sneak my way into the starting field. My return to MMT has been delayed for a couple years, and I'm anxious to get back out there in great shape to avenge my stupid DNF caused by a ridiculous fall on what was decidedly "non-MMT" type terrain. I mean really, the course has all those miles of rocks and roots to avoid, and I ended up slipping on what was basically a patch of wet grass. So stupid!

A couple days later on Dec. 4, the Western States 100 lottery drawing takes place out in California. Sure, I have almost no chance of getting into this race, but with three entries in the ol' hat this year, (I've applied and lost the past two years) I think that gives me something like an 8% chance of being drawn...which is better than some!

Should a miracle occur and my name actually be selected for WS100, the big question I'll have to think about is: Do I make this The Year I run the Grand Slam? Odds of me getting back into WS100 another year will be just as slim, so I'll have to take a loooong look at the calendar for the other three races (Vermont, Leadville, Wasatch) to see if I can swing it in what could be my only chance to actually "race" the Slam in top form. There are really only two "Bucket List" events left for me in the ultra world, and along with the Spartahlon, the Slam is on that list. Here's hoping the ping-pong balls bounce the right way on Saturday!

Fingers crossed for a little lottery luck to all of you who have your names in the various hats right now too!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Need for Speed (Translation: I am slow!)

Now that I'm a couple weeks into my new training plan, one fact has made itself abundantly clear:

I used to be fast.

...or at least much much much faster than I am now. Sure, it's been a solid 12 years or so since I've done any focused speed work on the track, but still, it's not like I'm in bad shape right now. Even with the lack of track time, I still run solid tempo runs every week, and I figured those would at least allow me to jump back in and run some relatively quick 1/4 mile laps. As it turns out...NOPE!

After two trips to the track, I think my legs and lungs are doing their best to quickly file a 'Cease and Desist' order to keep this trend from continuing. It doesn't seem like so long ago when I would glide around the track in what could be an endless string of 60-second 400s. Now, when I finish just a few at 70-second pace, it appears to on-lookers that I'm actively trying to breathe out of my eyes.

Clearly I've uncovered an area of my training that has been woefully neglected, and I know I need to pay the price over the next couple months to get things back to where they should be. The hard-working part of my brain is embracing the challenge with a mighty "Bring it on!!", but at this point the rest of me is most definitely responding with a "Seriously, Dan, what is wrong with you?". Hopefully the next couple months of track visits will result in all of me responding in a much happier fashion.

To all of you who are out of school and still keep speed work as a regular part of your training schedule, I have a whole new level of respect for you! Keep it up!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Richmond Marathon Race Report!

OK, so the Richmond Marathon didn't exactly go as planned. As most of you know, the plan was for me to pace my friend Amelia in her first marathon this weekend. As horrible luck would have it, a family emergency on Friday morning forced Amelia to stay in NYC and miss the race.  I was pretty upset upon hearing the news of the emergency, and at first wasn't too interested in going down to Richmond to shuffle through a boring marathon with my thoughts elsewhere.

After a couple hours of thinking it over, I randomly stumbled on a Facebook update from my friend Tammy. I was surprised to find out that she was going to be running in Richmond too.  I paced Tammy for the last stretch of the Vermont 100 a couple years ago, so I knew I'd be in good company if I ran with her again.  Amelia said she'd feel better if I still ran the race, so off I went to pace Tammy once again. As the following pictures will prove, no one runs a marathon quite like Tammy!

 Here we are at the chilly start...eventually the layers would come off as it turned out to be the best race-day weather I've ever experienced!

Proving the ultra-world is well-represented at every race, I ran into fellow VHTRC-er Mike Bailey (who I'm sure appreciates me including this "bottoms-up" photo of him!) and his friend James Carter just before the start. Mike went on to pace James to his first marathon finish - Congrats James!!!

 The race started off nicely as we ran through some beautiful fall roads in and around Richmond. Tammy only had to take her eyes off the views every few seconds as she put on an amazing display of running-while-texting early on. After we chatted with our friend Jamie on speaker phone for a few minutes, I realized we probably woke her up since it was only 6 a.m. at her home in Colorado. Sorry, Jamie!

Tammy is known for carrying her Sparkly fanny pack filled with waaaay too many supplies during races. The day before her running of the Javelina 100 a couple weeks ago, Jamie texted me to say Tammy had "15 lip balms and a poncho" in her pack. Here I am showing off the Chapstick I carried with me as a sign of solidarity for Tammy!

 Eventually we caught up with Tammy's husband Tristan and his dad around mile 12...for a much needed Cupcake break!

I was laughing at Tammy for eating the cupcake while we were running, but a couple minutes after that she really started moving!  I should also point out that Tammy's outfit (complete with pink everything, sparkly waist pack, and a lei!) made her a HUGE fan favorite along the course. Richmond loved her!

Of course she was also taking pictures the whole time too, so I think everyone got a kick out of that as well!

After running across a loooong bridge back into the city, we passed by the "Mosque Theater" where I took Lizzy to see a comedian on one of our first dates!

Shortly after the cupcake energy wore off, Tammy hit The Wall. ....actually, she never came close to hitting any wall. We clicked off even-paced miles in the second half to negative-split the race quite nicely. While you may not be too impressed by that fact per se, check out all the rest of the crazy stuff we did over the last few miles!

 First off, when Tammy saw a cute dog along the course, she demanded a photo stop!

Seriously, this happened multiple times!!

 ...but I guess I can't complain. I had my own reasons for stopping too...

 ...multiple times as well!  Tammy posed with me here to help me feel like less of a lush!

 The colors were extra-pretty the rest of the way!

 Sadly, the finish line came all too soon. ...and while you might think it took us forever to finish with all of the photographic evidence above, I'm proud to report we crossed the line in 4:07, just a couple minutes off Tammy's marathon PR! Sure I might come back in the future and try for a fast time of my own on this excellent course, but I guarantee I won't have as much fun (or beer!) as I did this time around!  Thank you, Tammy!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Volunteer Fun at Potomac Heritage Trail 50K!

Just because I'm not in racing shape doesn't mean I had to miss out on all the racing fun from this past weekend. With Mountain Masochist, the 100k World Championship, Pinhoti 100 miler, and NYC Marathon all taking place this weekend, there was hardly a moment that this ultra dork wasn't checking for online updates and split times. To help cure my racing jonze, Lizzy and I headed out to help volunteer at the Potomac Heritage Trail 50k on a beautiful day in DC!
Yes, it was quite cold out, but did I remember to wear gloves? Of course not.

The excitement of working the Mile 17 & 21 Aid Station kept us busy and distracted from the cold all day as 100 runners came through our oasis twice.

For added fun, this race has a few "Time Bonus" opportunities. Since runners had to pass through our Aid Station twice, we offered up a 10 minute bonus for anyone who could carry an egg (intact) over the 4 mile stretch of trail before they returned to our Aid Station the second time.
 Many took us up on the Egg offer, and all but a couple succeeded. It was safe to say the runners had a much easier time with their task than the guy in charge of getting everyone's splits as they passed through. Good help is so hard to find!

 As the sun went down and the last of the runners made their way through our stop, the cold was clearly telling us one thing...
Time to go home and sit in front of the fire!!

It was, indeed, a fun day working at the race yesterday. As much as I love running these races, I also enjoy being on the other side of the clip-board too. I know without the great volunteering spirit in the ultra world, none of the races I like to run would exist. It always feels good to give back a few hours of time to help give this great community of crazy people a reason to run outside on a freezing cold Sunday morning!

Yesterday also marked the completion of my first week of running again. The point of my 5-week break was to rest and recharge my body in preparation of a fun stretch of training over the next few months. The great news is not only do my legs feel great now, but I also don't appear to have lost too much speed either. Sure, I'm not going to blaze through a 50 miler any time soon, but it feels good to be able to cruise at a 6:30 or 7 pace without feeling like I'm working too hard on shorter runs. I expected Week 1 to be much more painful than it turned out to be. Of course, the last time I ran before my break it was still 90 degrees in DC, so I think the shift to 50 degrees helps put a little extra giddy-up in everyone's step this time of year!

The training continues this week, and as a Super Huge Highlight this weekend, I'll be heading down to Richmond with my friend Amelia to run her first marathon with her!  As a really good swimmer back in college, I seem to recall her thoughts about ever running a marathon falling somewhere between "Not in a million years" and "Not in a billion years".  So, technically-speaking there WAS a chance she'd run one someday. I couldn't be more excited that it's finally happening this weekend, and I'm super-psyched that I get to run it with her!

...now I wonder how I can convince her to run a 100 miler...hmmmm...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Back in the Saddle!

 So many reasons to be happy on this crisp fall morning here in DC...

1) It's November 1...That means I can officially start running again!

2) I actually cheated and went for my first run yesterday!

3) Since Lizzy and I moved into our new home during my running hiatus, I have so many new running routes to explore. My little jaunt yesterday took me over some hilly roads, a couple miles of paved bike path along a stream, some super-gnarly single track (that I spied off the side of the bike path and just had to explore!), an excellent 1/4 mile track for future speed work, and some slightly less gnarly single track that I enjoyed on the trip back home. I was like an excited puppy going around every corner thinking, "What's that over there? I wonder where this trail goes? Is that a squirrel? Oh, let's chase it!!".  It looks like I'll be strapping on the Garmin and exploring all these new routes for quite a while!

4) Not a lot of people know this, but I absolutely destroyed my back two weeks ago and could hardly walk for about 10 days or so (it was really really bad!). I was worried I wouldn't be able to run for quite a while, but it started loosening up over the past couple days, and when it felt pretty good after stretching it out yesterday, I decided to go on that little 6 mile run to test it out. I wasn't breaking any land-speed records or anything, but it felt so great to have it respond as positively it did. Back pain is the worst!

5) I'm someone who feeds off of the excitement and success of my friends in their running achievements, and the past couple weeks of PRs and CRs from my friends Tammy and Jamie have been so great to see! Amazing running, ladies!!  Also, I'll miss running the Mountain Masochist 50 this coming weekend, but I wish the best of luck to all my VHTRC friends and buddy Adam C. as he guns for one of those guaranteed WS100 spots. Good luck, everyone!!