Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why I Run

I watched the ESPN documentary on Canadian legend Terry Fox last night, and within 10 minutes I was flashing back, quite vividly, to my days in the cancer ward. His motivation - to go out and fight for those still suffering through treatments - is exactly what I've felt from the day I finished my chemo treatments.  Obviously Terry faced far more challenges than me in his running goals (note the primitive prosthetic leg he had, and consider the condition of his skin/bone after running well over 3,000 miles on it), but my motivation is exactly the same.

The distance he covered and the money he raised are, quite literally, breathtaking. Even though I will never approach such remarkable feats myself, I find comfort in knowing that if I keep running, doing my small part to keep getting out there and striving to inspire, a patient somewhere may stumble upon my blog and be motivated to keep fighting through their own treatment. ...and if they're anything like me, Terry, and countless other patients, they'll find a way to give back and inspire their fellow patients once they get out of the hospital.

We're all quite different in our abilities and backgrounds, but together we make an amazing team of cancer fighters. ...and through my running, I consider myself lucky to be a member.

This is why I run!
(, not for the NFL/Verizon ad you have to wait through...the part after that!)

ESPN will be re-airing this 1 hour documentary a few times in the next month, but I'll be honest in saying the air times are pretty horrible. The good news is you can find it on iTunes and Amazon. I haven't checked it out yet, but I would hope that some of the proceeds would go to the Terry Fox Foundation (if not, shame on you, ESPN!). Enjoy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Self Transcendence 24 Hour - Race Report

Well, this one will be pretty easy to write. I drove up to Ottawa on Friday for the Self-Transcendence 24 Hour run. I arrived just in time to get this shot of me in front of the Parliament building downtown before the sun went down. 

Sight-seeing? Check.
I then drove over to the dome and got some sleep in the XTerra Inn. 10 hours of sleep, to be accurate.

In the morning I set up my table and was ready to rock and roll. I swear the location I chose had nothing to do with my neighbor's back-side on the left there.

At 8:00 a.m. about 50 of us were off and running around the 400m track. I settled into my prescribed 9 minute pace and adjusted my liquid and electrolyte balance to suit the warmer-than-expected dome. After 2 hours (roughly 13 miles), I noticed a strange pain in both of my legs. It wasn't muscular, but more like a bone ache deep inside. I ignored it and continued on figuring that it, along with all dozens of other pains that pop up in a 24 hour race, would just go away.

An hour later, to my great surprise, I started yawning while running. Seemed about 20 hours early for this to start happening, but I brushed it off and soldiered on. I was still running my 9 minute pace, but for such an easy cruising speed, it was becoming increasingly more laborious to maintain...and what the hell was up with that ache in my legs? It kept getting worse. When I passed through the marathon mark and finished up the 4th hour, I felt like I needed a nap. Like, really needed a nap. What in the world was going on??

Over the next couple hours, I pulled out all of my tricks that I usually save as motivational elements for much, much later in races (music, 5-hour energy shots, etc etc). On this day, all of those things would serve to give me temporary jolts of adrenaline, but all that fuel was needed just to fight and keep my pedestrian 9 minute pace.

After the 6th hour, I was so wiped out I decided to mix a recovery drink and walk a couple laps to try and do something to snap my body out of the funk. I can normally run 24 hours on a surface like this without walking a single lap, so the fact that I needed to walk so hilariously early (and after two 5-hour energy drinks!) proved something was wrong, big time.

Immediately after starting to walk, I noticed my leg pain felt much much worse than when I was running. All I could do was grunt out two laps of walking before the pain forced me to start running again. I had no clue what was going on, but I figured I'd let my recovery drink get in my system for a couple hours and see how I felt then.

At the 7 hour mark I was out of tricks, and even though my leg muscles felt good, that weird bone ache was now spreading up through my hips. When I heard my lap-counter say I was on lap #193, I figured I'd get through 200 laps (50 miles) and then try to regroup somehow. As it turned out, I hit the 50 mile mark in 7 hours 30 minutes...exactly 9 minute pace. From an outsider's prospective, you could say I ran those first 50 miles precisely to plan and was in great shape to knock out another 95 or 100 miles. The reality was, I was fighting those first 50 like I had already covered 100 miles before them. I was completely wiped out. I staggered over to my aid table and plopped on the ground for a solid hour of moaning and grunting. My body was done. Clearly, this was not my day!

So, what the heck happened? Probably a couple things: Most significantly, my body is still probably still dealing with the trauma from my 150 miles of hell on the Long Trail a month ago. I figured the flat terrain and easy pace of this race would be OK for my legs, and from a muscular stand-point, I was right. I didn't have any specific muscle pain or fatigue, just that overall lack-of-energy and the strange bone pain. Probably a result of my body needing more general recovery time than it had. Also, for the week leading up to the race, I was super-tired during the day for some reason. I had to take a 3-hour nap a couple days after coming home from work, and the night before the race I was fast asleep before 9 p.m.. Maybe I have some random cold coming on, who knows?

The bottom line is, I gave it my best effort, but my body just didn't want to play along yesterday. The lesson to be learned here: I need to space out my major events next year. I enjoy 100+ milers so much that I forget it's probably smarter to mix in shorter races between them to allow for better recovery.  I hate the fact that I dropped from so many races this year, and I need to learn to plan my schedule accordingly next year to make sure this doesn't happen again. I know I have a big 24-hour run in me, I just need to learn to get myself to that starting line in better shape.

Speaking of recovery, this is officially it for 2010. I'm taking 6 weeks off, and then starting a proper training schedule for 2011. I'll come back a smarter and stronger runner from what I've learned this year, and even though I won't be sporting the Red, White, and Blue at the World Championship next year, I'll use the coming months to quietly hone my skills in training. That way, when I do make it back to the Team, I'll be better equipped to help them bring home a Gold Medal!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Getting Loopy in Canada this Weekend!

First of, let me congratulate everyone for their fantastic performances at the 24-Hour National Championship this past weekend in Cleveland! I certainly missed being there to share in the fun (and try for one of the automatic bids for Team USA like last year), but my "real life" schedule (work & a wedding) never really made it possible for me to consider it this time around. It was fun cheering on my friends from my computer throughout the race though, and Serge Arbona and Phil McCarthy showed their grit and racing smarts by hanging on to finish 1st and 2nd for the men and earn their spots on the Team for next year's World Championship in Switzerland. Also impressive was the young (23 years old!) but strong and smart Nick Coury who charged past the 135 mile mark in the final hour to grab the last automatic spot on the team. Great job, guys!  On the ladies side, Connie Gardner stormed back to the top of the 24 Hour world by winning the ladies' championship (and finishing 2nd overall!) with Anne Riddle Lundblad and Anna Piskorska securing the other two spots on the Team. Fantastic running, Ladies!!

What does all of the above have to do with my race this weekend? Well, with Serge, Phil, and Nick officially on the team...and Mike Henze's impressive 154.5 miles at the worlds pretty much guaranteeing him an open qualifying spot...and the likely odds that Scott Jurek will not run World's next year (thus opening up his automatic spot on the team to the rest of us)...that means there are probably two spots left up-for-grabs on the team. Depending on how far back they stretch the qualifying window (it's been 18 months recently), it most likely means I'll need to run somewhere in the 141-145 mile range this weekend to have a good chance of grabbing one of the final two spots. There are still 3 or 4 more 24-Hour races left in the year (including the return of Across the Years) too, so nothing is guaranteed for me, but if I can grind out a 145, I think I'll be in pretty good shape.

So, do I think I can run 145 miles in Ottawa? Sure, why not?! I'll be running in a dome, so weather is taken out of the equation...and unless the 1/4 mile loops make me loopy, the flat and fast surface should certainly help me maximize my potential. I'll also be heading up to the race solo and running without a crew. Some may see this as a detriment, but I've actually run some of my best races when I've been all alone. Obviously I love having a crew and family/friends cheering for me, but when I'm alone I've found that I'm able to reach a tremendously deep level of concentration and focus as I slip into my running coma out there. I'll lose a little time mixing my drinks, etc, but in the long run of a 24 hour race, it really won't matter too much.

I'm excited to head up north and put forth the best effort I can. It'll definitely be the last race of the year for me (I did get into Mountain Masochist, to which I applied months ago, but if I do head down for that race in November it will literally be on zero training and I'll plan to just use it as a fun scouting run for a future "race" attempt). I need a solid 5 or 6 weeks of NO RUNNING between Ottawa and November to recharge my legs and bring back the excitement and desire for putting in a serious training period for 2011 (Read: I'm a little burned out on running right now!). No matter what happens in Ottawa, I'll enjoy 24 hours of peaceful calm as I loop the track at 9 minute pace and reflect on the ups and downs of the past 14 months of running. I fell short of a few goals, sure, but I also learned quite a few lessons along the way that will help me come back as a stronger and smarter runner next year. Sure, it'll be great to show off those new smarts in Switzerland as a return member of the Team, but I know I'll find some great new running challenges in 2011 no matter what happens in this final chapter of 2010!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Taking Stock

Now that two full weeks have passed since my Long Trail fund-raising success/physical failure, I think it's time to look ahead at the rest of the year and see what makes sense in terms of running plans.  First off, the good news is my knee is feeling much better after the ridiculous beating it took in Vermont. All the tendons, ligaments, and muscles surrounding the joint are structurally sound, and once the swelling went down after a week, I was walking pain-free. It still hurts to the touch in spots (probably a result of a bone bruise?), but I've been able to run on it a little in the past couple days, so that's encouraging.

Also encouraging is the fact that I hammered my legs into fantastic shape for the Long Trail, but didn't actually get a chance to beat them up as much as expected (stopping 120 miles early will benefit you that way). This means they're still in great shape and ready for one more big run before I shut things down for a bit. I've been racing/training for 14 straight months without a real break at this point, and I think it's foolhardy to tempt the injury gods much more before giving my body a chance to heal up completely.  Even though that means missing out on a month or so of fantastic fall running weather, I know I need to make the investment.

That said, my last big run of 2010 will take place up in Canada in a couple weeks. It'll be my only 24-hour effort of the year, so if I have any chance of making the U.S. Team again in 2011, it'll have to happen there. I think my knee will be fine, and my overall fitness should be pretty good too, so it's just a matter if the Circle-Running Gods want to shine on me or not up there. The insane part of my brain is actually looking forward to mind-numbing practice of running around a 1/4 mile track for 24 hours (that's 560 laps for 140 miles...yikes!). I'll be running w/out a crew too, so if there ever was a chance for me to slip into a 24 hour running-coma, this is definitely it. ...and if the race ends up not going so well for me, at least I can look forward to some Tim Horton's on the drive home, eh?!