Monday, October 28, 2013

24 Hour (or 13) National Championship Report!

You know that thing when you're gliding along at mile 82, just smiling and joking with the folks you're passing, and then suddenly you're declared all but legally dead at mile 83 for no apparent reason?

Yeah, that's basically my race report for this past weekend's 24 Hour National Championship out in lovely Oklahoma City.  The Handsome Cowboy of Race Directing, Chisholm Deupree, hosted this year's 24 hour family reunion in a nicely wooded park on the north side of OKC. Sure, it was a little rainy and windy and cold, but we've all signed up for races that intentionally boast extreme weather in all of those categories, so all of the sky's activity basically amounted to a nothing more than a bonus distraction for us to talk about as we looped the park all day and night.

Oh, and I also earned the right to check the box marked "Ran a race during which a city's tornado warning siren sounded for 5 minutes" on my lifetime bucket list. So that was convenient.

Lots of hugs and handshakes were shared with with friends I only get to see every couple of years. Physically catching up with them on the course in order to conversationally catch up with them was the weekend's highlight. There are some genuine, good people in this sport.

Having to stop, rather suddenly, after 83ish miles and only 13+ hours of running has me lacking any useful info to relay in terms of the race report, but I did kill some time with a bic while flying out to OKC for the race, so I'll conclude this unorthodox race report by transcribing the following in-flight thoughts, which no doubt would have served as the opening to my real race know, if I actually ran the whole race.

I'm currently flying somewhere over the clouds in between DC and OKC. It's the penultimate eve before this great country's 24 hour national championship, and I'm finding it quite enjoyable to be sitting on United Airlines finest 1970's era flying air machine.

The Airline Downside: After decades of use, all that remains of my seat is nothing more than a thin cut of leather tautly stretched over what I can only assume is the world's largest diamond. I say that not to claim my bottom is presently perched upon untold riches, but rather to recall my high school chemistry lesson in which I learned, on the hardness scale, that talc and diamond represent the extreme ends.

The Up, Up, and Away Upside: When the electrical engineers designed this plane immediately upon returning from their brave service in the Korean War, they didn't need to worry about equipping the passenger cabin with fancy technological advances like, well, anything other than an overhead light. This means, quite delightfully, that I am sitting here without access to any video or audio entertainment. Pen is hitting paper right now and I couldn't be happier - I need a few hours to start sloooooowing things down in my head right now. Uncle Danno is tired.

Sometimes races fall perfectly in step with the rest of your real life schedule. Sometimes they fall this week:

1) Work is moving at a billion mile per hour pace these days, and I know this because I find myself saying things like, "I really need to get up and hit the bathroom, but..." multiple times daily.  

2) At home, Sammy, who I couldn't love more, apparently couldn't love sleeping past 5:30am any less this past week. He's the only person in the world right now who would actually look forward to those obscenely early 100 mile start times.

3) The stupid Red Sox are in the World Series again. I mean really, it's great and all, but these baseball playoff games are so long that they just finished playing the 2007 Series last week. ...and yes, you can ask "Why don't you just not watch these games and go to sleep?". Well, I, and everyone else in Boston, will happily give you 86 years worth of reasons why you don't take something like this for granted!

The bottom line: Brain cells aren't just being fried this week, they're permanently wedged at the bottom of a wire cooking basket at a State Fair concession stand. The faint, muffled echoes of REO Speedwagon - or at least their former bassist and three other guys claiming to be REO Speedwagon - could be heard in the distance when I closed my eyes to pass out for a small handful of hours each night this week.

Despite (or perhaps in step with) all of the above evidence of my imminent mental collapse, I'm pretty darn happy to have the chance to run around a paved circle for 24 hours on Saturday.  Yes, I may collapse with fatigue or death at some point, but along the way there will be no cell phones or emails or meetings or...anything, really, other than left-right-left, left-right-left. I can definitely smile and relax while doing that!

Funny how it played out pretty much exactly as I predicted. I would have loved to run the whole time and continued to finish that report, but it wasn't in the cards this time around. Running these races is usually a pretty miserable experience at one point or another, but the company we keep out there keeps us all coming back. I'm looking forward to being miserable among friends again soon!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Guaranteed Ego Boost

Hey lonely single guys, want to feel the rush of literally hundreds of women chasing after you?  Be like me last weekend and agree to be the Rabbit at an all-women's race!  Thanks to Tracy Dahl, RD of the annual VHTRC Women's Trail Half-Marathon, this was my morning last Saturday (Thanks to the great Aaron Schwartzbard for all the photos!):
Less than 4 minutes before the start, they told me I had to wear the Bunny hat too!
One second to go!

If you were to suggest that I gave myself a wee bit of a head start to ensure I wasn't caught in the first meter of the race, you may be 100% correct.

Sneaking a peek after the first hairpin turn...

Eeeek!! Here they come!!

It was all business from here on out: Full-on stride and anaerobic gasping. Thank you for nearly giving me a heart attack while I worked hard to stay in front, Super Speedy Ladies!

Monday, August 26, 2013

End of Summer Update!

As always, this summer has flown by like a Flock of Seagulls haircut passing you on the sidewalk. We all want it to slow down so we can enjoy it more, but long before we're satisfied, it has sadly passed us by...
Come back, Summer!
In terms of running, after all of the fun in the Black Hills, I spent the first couple weeks of July realizing that the trade-off for racing 100 miles on light training is a crazy painful recovery period. I had no injuries, per se, just completely and totally destroyed legs.  I wonder why my quads felt so beat up?...
Oh, I see....Just a wee bit o' stress on the running sticks there...
Yup, welcome to Blown Quad City, Dan. Population: You.
I guess the good news is I was too excited during the race to realize I was crushing my quads so much on the downhills. In retrospect I'll trade pain after the race for fun and success during, so in the end I can't complain too much!

Now that I'm fully back in the swing of things, I'm getting excited to head down to the 24HR National Championship in Oklahoma City at the end of October. It's been 4 long years since I've run the Championship, which more than anything else means that I'm getting incredibly old. It'll be a blast to run loops with so many great friends who I don't get to see that often, and it's also nice to check your true fitness level on such an important stage. There's no hiding lazy training when running on a 24 hour loop with the best of the best! 

Speaking of the best of the best, I had a nice summer highlight a couple weekends ago when US 24HR National Team member (and 3rd place finisher at the most recent World Championships!) Suzanna Bon came to DC to drop off her daughter at college. We met up for a sunrise run on Sunday morning and covered a fun ~16 mile loop that included just about all of the DC and VA monuments and notable sites any out-of-town visitor could want to see. It was blast to chat with Suzanna, as always, and to show off some of the massive network of paved trails we have in the area. Plus I had an excuse to bomb around the single track on Teddy Roosevelt Island again - I run by it all the time, but haven't skipped over the bridge to do the ~1.5 mile loop in about 6 years! It's always fun re-discovering running routes in your hometown.

On that note, I'll end with the story from this past weekend that reminded me why I love running:
I ducked out for a standard evening 6.2 mile loop around 7pm on Saturday. This is a loop that I've run (according to my running log) 81 times for a total of 500+ miles thus far in my 2013 training...One could say I'm familiar with the terrain. So, off I went on a pleasant DC summer evening as the sun was headed down.  About 3 miles into the loop, I hit the point where I normally turn left into a delightfully shaded trail that eventually brings me through a tunnel under the highway and back up the other side for a couple miles to return to my doorstep. The surprising thing about this, the 82nd time I've run the loop this year, however, was when I took the left onto the trail I saw a shiny new path on the right which lead to a brand spankin' new bridge over the river connecting me to a brand new trail.

If there was a way for me to write that last sentence in candy letters so everyone reading it could just eat the tasty tasty words as they saw them, that is how runners like me feel about finding a new trail so close to their home.

Of course, my excitement far exceeded my common sense once I took the hard right to hop over the new bridge and onto the trail. Predictably, I both ran out of sunlight and trail after a couple miles, and despite my lame efforts, could not use the side streets to make my way back to anywhere I recognized. The good news is, my night-vision had a banner evening as I eventually turned around and got back to the new (and now very dark) trail to retrace my steps back home without falling flat on my face. All in all, it was the best 13 mile version of a 6.2 mile run I've ever done!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Black Hills 100 Race Report!

Wow! What an amazing adventure! It's not too often that one's lofty expectations before a trip like this are not only fulfilled, but vastly exceeded. My journey out to South Dakota for the Black Hills 100 this past weekend was most definitely an example of the Vacation and Running Gods joining together to make everything spectacular. For those of you considering running this race in the future, save yourself the time of reading everything below and just sign up now. You won't be disappointed. Just be sure to note it would be a huge crime to head out to this race and not give yourself 2-3 days purely dedicated to being a tourist first. Simply running the race itself would still be awesome, but you'd be missing out on so much more cool stuff that this area has to offer!


First off, how about getting upgraded to First Class for the flight out?  

"Another mimosa before take-off, sir?"

You bet!!
I don't always fly First Class, but when I do, I wear my Drymax.
Upon arrival in to Rapid City, SD on Thursday morning, I headed into town for some supplies and lunch before doubling back to the airport to pick up my brother in-law and awesome crew member Jeff. I immediately immersed myself into the local cuisine by ordering a buffalo burger at a downtown bar. While chatting with the bartender and a friendly barfly named Fritz, I learned much about the lay of the land and some spots I should visit while in town. I also smiled when I saw the ad for this year's events in nearby Sturgis -- Note the June 29-30 event. That's our race!

My Tatanka Burger. Always have to sample the local cuisine. So very very tasty!
After picking up Jeff, we headed about 45 mins west into the southern Black Hills to take in the two Must See attractions out there:
Mt. Rushmore, and...
The Crazy Horse Memorial.
Both carvings were obviously super impressive (especially on the gorgeous weather day we had), but it was during the trip to Crazy Horse that I had the special bonus of learning a little more about the history of the Black Hills and the Lakota tribe who inhabited them long before the pioneers and settlers made their way to the region in search of gold and silver.  The video you see prior to viewing the Crazy Horse site includes interview excerpts from former Olympic 10,000m champ, and Lakota tribesman, Billy Mills. I saw this as a positive sign since I have both met Mr. Mills in person, and the classic video of his stunning 10,000m victory in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics was the subject of my 4th post ever on this blog back in 2007!

From Crazy Horse we headed north through the Black Hills up to our hotel in Sturgis. If anyone is considering this great race in the future, I highly recommend staying at the Best Western in town. It's the nicest hotel in Sturgis, an easy 2 mile ride to the race start/finish, and has a fantastic restaurant ("Caddy's") attached to it.

Once in Sturgis you notice one major theme: Harleys. Obviously the annual week-long Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is a huge part of this tiny 6,000 person town (400,000+ bikers attend each year!), and all the t-shirt shops and bars that line the main drag in town promote their goods accordingly to the riders passing through. Jeff and I saddled up at the Knuckle Saloon to sample a couple local brews shortly after arriving in town. My favorite was this tasty treat from the Crow Peak Brewery one exit up the road in Spearfish:
"Pile-o-Dirt" Porter = Yum!
Friday morning saw us head back down to Rapid City to pick up the 3rd member of our team, my father in-law Paul. Some of you may recall him as one of the survivors from my crew during the sub-freezing 24hr race in McKinney, Texas back in 2008. Apparently the human brain can only remember horrible hypothermic memories for about 5 years, so I was more than lucky and excited that he forgot about that miserable experience and decided to join in the fun at the last minute!

With Team Rose all present and accounted for, we headed back into the Hills to visit the historic mining/casino town Deadwood. If you haven't seen the eponymous HBO mini-series, you're really missing out on something special. I loved the show, and it was a HUGE treat for me to tour all of the historic sites in town that have existed since the boom of the 1800's gold rush. Here's Jeff and Paul in front of Sheriff Seth Bullock's Hotel (played by Timothy Olyphant in the show):
Sheriff Bullock would definitely respect the Sheriff and Deputy of Team Rose!

Another highlight from Deadwood: Just above the city on a steep cliff sit the gravesites of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane (played brilliantly in the show by Robin Weigert)
After our visit to Deadwood we headed back to Sturgis for packet pick-up and a bite to eat before crashing for the night. All in all, we crammed in about as much sight-seeing as possible in two days...a nice warm up for the 100 miles of running/crewing that awaited us in the morning!

The Race

Race day came as sunny and pleasant as any runner could hope for. I met up with my fellow VHTRC teammates (about 12 of us made the trip from the east coast) at the start for our group picture:
The "Blue Train" is ready to roll  (Photo: Kimba)
In all, about 200 runners were ready for some fun on the Centennial Trail in the Black Hills, and at the stroke of 6:00 a.m., we were off!
My plan for the race was to go out easy. I wasn't in bad shape heading into the race, but I definitely wasn't in great shape either. Dealing with a crazy work schedule this spring, and never wanting to compromise my Family Fun Time on the weekends, I ended up not running any single run beyond 20 miles in the 8 months prior to this race. Prior to Sammy's arrival, I'd do that multiple times a week, but it's just not what life allows right now, and frankly I have no problem with that! Instead of long runs, I found somewhat regular spots in my weekly schedule to run two workouts a day on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Those runs pretty much maxed out at 10 miles each, but I hit them all pretty hard and worked in as many hills as I could. On the other nights of the week I just settled for a hilly 10k when I could squeeze it in. Overall, I only averaged 65 miles/wk (usually I like to be up around 90-100), but they truly were all quality miles.

I should also mention that, even though he can't run a 6 minute mile yet, baby Sammy is one heck of a great training partner for me. Pushing him in the stroller is a fantastic resistance workout, and even though our regular "Sammy Loop" is only 6.2 miles long, it is an absolutely lung-busting affair with some serious hills (and lots of headwind) mixed in. Yes, we usually stop about 4 miles in so he can play at a sweet playground by the river for 20 minutes, but the mile long climb back up out of the riverbed more than makes up for the break I get while playing on the slides with him!

I guess what the paragraphs above should convince most ultra runners is that running 100 miles successfully is truly equal parts mental and physical. You really don't need long runs, just regular, quality workouts, and the confidence that you can get yourself to the finish no matter what. If you truthfully assess the physical shape you're bringing to the starting line, and you adjust your race pace plan accordingly right from the gun, you will succeed if you really want to. It's not magic, it's just managing pain for 15-20 hours or so.

So, given the light training I mentioned above, I knew I needed to keep my pace nice and relaxed during the day in this race. Once the Sun Beast started to retreat in the 2nd half, my plan was to empty whatever was left in the tanks on the way back to the finish. My mantra for the race was "Survive the day to enjoy the night". I repeated this to myself about 2,000 times in the first half of the race whenever I noticed I was pushing too hard. As the course profile shows below, it was nothing but ups and downs all day long on the semi-technical mountain trails:
It was a common pattern the whole way: Up, Down, Aid Station...Lather, Rinse, Repeat...for 100 miles.
 My trick for staying relaxed on both the steep grunting climbs and the speedy descents into the aid stations was to breathe exclusively through my nose (both in and out) the entire race. The only time I opened my mouth was when I chatted with fellow runners in spots or when I talked to my crew at the Aid Stations. I've controlled my pace this way for short stretches in races in the past, but never for anything close to 100 miles. For whatever reason, it just happened naturally in this race. If I felt the need to open my mouth to get more air on a climb, I just backed off the pace so I could keep breathing through my nose. 
See? No mouth breathing!

After the initial 5+ mile stretch over a steep but short foothill on the way to the first Aid Station, we passed under a highway and into the Black Hills proper. Recalling the stories I'd been told of the native people who originally lived in these mountains, I took a moment to ask the Lakota spirits to grant me safe passage through their land over the course of the day. In exchange I promised to leave the Hills in better condition than I entered them. I found holding up my end of the bargain all day to be easy as I stopped to pick up any runner trash I saw while running the course. By the end I picked up 6 or 7 gel wrappers. That's not cool, runners! My silly "Deal with the Lakota" story aside here, 100 milers in the woods aren't road marathons with street sweepers. Don't throw your crap on the ground!

Somewhere on the first big climb heading to the Bulldog Aid Station (Mile 10), I hooked up with Anthony Parillo as we settled somewhere around 6th or 7th place in the field. Anthony was a fun guy to run with who also happened to be fresh off a sweet 100 mile victory four weeks earlier in the heat at Old Dominion! We ended up running a funny yo-yo effort together just about all the way to the 50 mile turn around. The pattern would be him pulling away from me pretty effortlessly on all the climbs, and me catching up on the downs. In the middle we'd chat about this or that before one of us would naturally start pulling away
Doing my best to keep up with Anthony early on.
on our preferred terrain and say "I'll see you on the next up/down". Understandably feeling the hard miles of OD100 on his legs, Anthony decided to back off the pace and enjoy the day a bit further back in the field after the 50 mile turn around. It was great to share those miles with such a talented runner though, and I look forward to chasing him up all the climbs in future 100s!

On the way to 50 mile turn at Silver City, we passed through hot (but not too hot) and rugged (but not too rugged) terrain. I enjoyed the beautiful vistas from the ridges, and the delightful shade in the more thickly grown areas of ponderosa pines. With basically no humidity out there, all I needed was a little shade to feel 100 times better after a longer stretch in the sun. When the sun was beating me up a bit, Jeff and Paul were always more than ready for me with ice and a cold towel at all the aid stations. My crew was awesome.
Jeff brilliantly handed me an ice water bottle a couple dozen yards ahead of where he and Paul set up my bag in the shade at each stop. This way I could chug/spray the cold water as needed before grabbing my new pack and heading out without delay. Such a perfect flow we had at each aid station. ...and yes, if you can zoom in, you'll see my mouth is still closed here!

You can find these guys in a file labeled: "Crew, Awesome".
During the long final descent into Silver City, I was able to see everyone ahead of me on their way back to Sturgis. Returning champ, and course record holder, Jeremy Bradford was firmly in the lead, and I was running in 8th place. The most notable runner in between was Kaci Lickteig, a Olympic Marathon Trial qualifier who was making her first attempt at 100 miles. Lightning fast and beyond light-weight in appearance, I was quite interested in seeing how she would fare over the final 50 miles as she ventured beyond her previous distance PR of 100k.  As for the other guys in front of me, as soon as I started making my way back on the course, they quickly became targets for me to try and reel in over the last 50 miles. When the sun started to drop and the shadows grew long, daytime was quickly turning into Go Time. As I promised myself from the start, I survived the day, and now it was time to enjoy the night!

In 100+ mile races, one big thing I've learned is you need to be 100% honest with yourself and your abilities as a runner. It's super cool to win these things, but that's also obviously really really really hard. For me, when running in the mountains I know my limitations. Shoot, I live at an elevation of 100ft. and train 99% of my miles on roads. I don't have easy access to train in the mountains on long climbs, so I don't pretend on race day that I can hang with the dudes (and dudettes!) who are great climbers. One natural ability I do have regardless of my regular training routes, however, is a freakishly strong ability to run fast down technical mountain terrain. Maybe that can be attributed to my build, foolish confidence, luck, or some combination of the three. Whatever the reason, in the second half of this race, I felt confident I could rest on the climbs and use my fresh legs aggressively on the descents to reel in the field ahead of me.
Guess who's ready to fire up the legs on the downhills? Bombs away! ...also, mouth still closed!

...and so it began. After a big grunt out of Silver City, I passed the #7 runner at the end of the long downhill leading into the mile 58 aid station. We entered the AS at basically the same time, but my crew saw the look in my eye and quickly handed me my fresh pack as I bolted back onto the trail in about 30 seconds alone in 7th. The next section's shorter climb and much longer descent worked brilliantly into my favor as I bombed the long downhill into the Nemo aid station at mile 64 absolutely on fire. My crew let me know the gaps to close with the next 4 runners ahead of me (all within 20 minutes), and I was quickly off to catch them.

I saw the #6 runner toward the end of the big climb out of the aid station and stayed back a bit saving my legs and biding my time for the pass on the downhill. Everything played out as planned in the next two miles as I passed him with legs spinning like the Road Runner on the descent. My crew was psyched to see me striding out of the woods ahead of another runner at Dalton Lake (mile 70.8), and I started to really feed off their excitement as well. I grabbed my headlamp and readied for the next 12ish mile section before seeing my crew again. They told me I was 13 minutes behind the next runner, and off I went to reel him in.

It was a long climb out of Dalton Lake, and about 1/2 up I started to see the headlamp of #5 (the speedy Scott Kretzmann from Denver). I hadn't turned my light on yet, preferring to run stealthily while catching up to him from behind. I pulled up behind Scott just before the top, and chose to run behind him for a few minutes to chat and rest my legs a bit for the downhill pass. I enjoyed chatting with him and easily could have enjoyed his company for much longer, but my engine was purring and my sights were set on the guys ahead of him. I asked to slip by on the downhill and quickly shot down the mountain, blowing through the Crooked Tree aid station at mile 77.5 on my way to my crew at the mile 83 Elk Creek aid stop.

When I pulled into Elk Creek, I was again boosted by my crew's excitement from how fast I was moving up the field. I was entering another 12ish mile section without my crew, and I knew my goal was to catch and pass the two runners who were 10-12 minutes ahead of me in this next stretch. Again, no time was spent at the aid station, and just as in the previous sections, I saw the headlamps I was chasing shortly after I started the long uphill out of the aid station. Recalling this section's terrain extremely well from earlier in the day when I ran it with Anthony (we both commented on how great it would be to run the long downhill into the final aid station at mile 95), I was steady and patient on the climb up, very slowly pulling closer to the two headlamps ahead of me. Giving a little extra effort to finally pull up behind them at the top, I took a few moments to chat and realized one of the guys was a pacer for the other. This meant I had caught #4, but had no clue how far ahead #3 was. Time to get to work! #4 let me slip by and I quickly took off running like my pack was on fire down the dark and rocky trail. After about a mile of downhill screaming, I saw #3 slowly walking down the trail, clearly dealing with some blown quads. I gave him an encouraging pat on the back and let him know the Bulldog aid station was just a mile further up.

Happy to not only be running in 3rd place, but also with tons of fire left in my legs, I just needed to know one thing: How far ahead were Jeremy and Kaci? Thankfully, the good folks at the Bulldog aid station (mile 90) had the answer for me while I ran through without pause. I was half-disappointed to hear the insurmountable 40 minutes for Kaci and 50 for Jeremy, but the other half of me was happy I wouldn't need to sprint this thing all the way to the end. I always enjoy being able to cruise in the last few miles of a satisfying race when I can appreciate the stars and peaceful silence of nature in the wee hours. ...but before that, I wanted to make sure I had a big enough gap behind me from the guys I just passed!

After the short climb out of Bulldog, I hit the gas on the last long downhill into town. To say I smoked this section would be an understatement. When I pulled up to my crew at the last stop, I had gone from 10-12 minutes behind the 4th and 3rd place runners to 20 minutes ahead of the closest one behind me. Not bad for 12+ miles work!

No time wasted at the final stop had me grunting up the short but stupid-steep climb out of Alkali Creek with happy thoughts that I wasn't going to be caught from behind. In other words, I went into Cadillac mode and took plenty of time to cruise comfortably over the top of the open foothill while gazing at the sparkling stars and brilliant pink-orange half moon. I truly enjoyed the calm and cool miles of this section as a reward for working so hard in the second half. All was well in my happy nighttime running world.

 As I passed through the tunnel under the road and onto the bike path back to the finish line, I recalled the RD saying it was almost exactly 1 mile from there to the finish. I thought this was good news for sure...

...but then I looked at my watch.

It read 19:52:30. Crap! Now I had to beat myself up over the last mile for the pointless, yet un-ignorable goal of breaking 20 hours. We're stupid like this, we runners. So off I went, in trail shoes on a concrete path and with 99 mountain miles on my to run a 7:15 mile for absolutely no sound reason whatsoever.

Half way there, I was surprised to see a lady coming back in my direction. She was a 100k runner who turned around because she said she saw a mountain lion on the path ahead of us. Hoping she didn't confuse my lack of slowing down for heartless non-concern, I just said, "Follow me, I'll scare the s#!t out of it so we can get by!". I'm no mountain lion expert, but I figured if I just told the cat I was sprinting out a 7:15 mile for no good reason, it would think I was rabid and/or simply insane and just leave me alone. I think that's just solid Darwinism on the mountain lion's behalf.

About 100 yards down the path I saw the eyes of a deer off to the side of the trail and yelled back "It's just Bambi, he won't hurt you!", and was off on my final sprint toward the finish line. As I entered the lights of the stadium, I saw the official clock ahead read 19:59:30, and I knew I had done the work to break 20 hours with only 100 yards left to go. I cruised in with 15 or so seconds to spare and gave Jeff and Paul triumphant hugs after their brilliant support in helping me execute my race plan perfectly.
Coming in for a 19:59 landing...

Sure, it's blurry and I'm looking off to the side, but you can still see my big smile, right?!
The mouth was certainly open smile with pride! Talk about a banner day for Team Rose, a.k.a. The Deadwood Three!
In the end I was proud to break the existing course record (which was my #1 goal heading into the race) just so happened that Jeremy (19:05) and Kaci (19:12) also broke it by a bunch more on their way to winning the Men's and Women's races. Hats off to them for brilliant races!

The next morning we returned for what I had been psyched about (and blogging about) since I signed up for this race last December: I was awarded my 2nd place Tatanka Skull!

Of all the skulls I saw at the pre-race meeting, I liked the 2nd place red-white-and-blue one the best. Perhaps the Lakota did reward me in the end!
Close up of the skull (you can see Kaci with her First Place skull off to the left)
One more runner I want to mention here before wrapping it up is Gary Knipling. Gary is one of the major forces behind the success and fun that pervade all Virginia Happy Trails Running Club events. Everyone knows Gary, and to know Gary is to love Gary. He was instrumental in selecting the Black Hills 100 as our club's road trip race this year, and without that added element of fun, I'm not sure I would have committed to come out myself. He's simply a good dude. Oh, and did I mention he's 69 years old and finished this race well under the tough cut-off time at 31:22? Talk about friggin' awesome! Here's his triumphant moment on the track:

For those of you who know Gary, you are well aware it's not just Coke mixed in that cup! (Photo: Keith Knipling)
After the Awards Ceremony, Paul and I used our final day in the area to drive about an hour east to visit Wall Drug and the mind-boggling geological brilliance that is the Badlands. Much like the Grand Canyon, amateur photos do this area absolutely no justice. You need to come out and see it for yourself if you haven't already.
Paul's dad brought him here as a kid, and he in turn brought his own kids here years later. You can bet I'll be passing on privilege of seeing this magical site to Sammy when he gets a little older as well!

Of course, none of the fun I just wrote about would have been possible without the support and energy of many many people. Time to give some much-deserved THANKS:

Obviously Jeff and Paul deserve the biggest high-five of all time for flying all the way out to South Dakota for the joy of spending 19 hours and 59 minutes waiting for me to emerge from the woods, mumble a couple things for 30 seconds, and take off again...about a dozen times. All crews are selfless, but these guys are amazing to boot.

Huge thanks also go out to the RDs and all the volunteers who put in the hundreds of hours it takes to organize such a smooth and seamless 100 mile race. For such a new run, it sure operates like it's been going on for decades.

Giant THANKS, of course, to my lovely wife for giving me the green light to chase down a dream in the Black Hills while she took on solo baby duties back home. I'll owe you a looooong time for that, baby! YSC!!!

...and, once again, I'll put the ol' record on repeat: If you're not wearing Drymax socks in your 100 milers, you're making it too hard on yourself! The stats, yet again, from race day: ONE pair of Drymax Max Pros worn = ZERO blisters or hot spots. Thanks, Drymax!

...and finally, to help anyone reading this understand why I have absolutely no problems cutting back my running and racing now that I'm a daddy: Here's the scene captured on a blurry phone, well past a certain baby's bedtime when I arrived home from the airport. Sammy was so excited to have me back home, he used all of his little 17 month-old strength to help push my luggage back into the house so I wouldn't leave again!
Daddy loves you, Sammy!!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Getting Excited to Run to the Hills!

Yeah yeah yeah, I know, it's been forever since I've posted. As soon as someone out there wants to pay me quit my busy busy busy job so I can run all day and write about it, I'll promise to post more!

Here's what I've been up to the past couple months:

1) Got really super crazy sick the two weeks before the Bull Run 50 so I had to skip that race. Missing two weeks straight of running felt like forever, but both Lizzy and Sam were also sick as dogs, so clearly whatever we all passed around to each other was nothing to mess with!

2) I haven't had the time to run my usual long runs (30-40 milers) every week while ramping up for 100+ mile training, but given my crazy work schedule this spring and my daddy duties (which I love, mind you), I'm actually quite happy with the miles I've been able to squeeze in.  Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays have all become routine double-run days, which I really enjoy. No huge mileage totals, but quality miles and definite fitness benefits have come out of this schedule. Also, Sammy and I have found a sweet hilly 10k loop that we do every weekend morning. I like it for the resistance training (he's getting heavier every day!) and he likes it because we pull over at a sweet playground about 4 miles in so he can get his 20 mins of cardio in as well.

3) I realize I'm not in top form for the Black Hills 100 at the end of the month, but I'm still super-excited to head out there. My brother in-law (and master crew chief) Jeff is flying up from Dallas to join me in the fun, so I'm psyched to have him out there to help get me home faster. I never mind running solo in races, but even the simple act of not needing to stop and refill my Camelbak at the aid stations will save me 30+ mins over the course of the race. I'll happily take that time off the end when the hours are wee and the legs leadened!

I've been familiarizing myself with the BH100 course description, etc. over the past couple days, and have learned some great info about the area which we'll have the pleasure of exploring before/during the race: The race itself runs almost 100% on the Centennial Trail which was first explored during Custer's Army Expedition of 1874, and the gold mining history of the Deadwood and Lead areas are legendary (see: the amazing HBO series). I'm really looking forward to taking in as much of both areas as I can while out there (cuz really, when am I going to get back to South Dakota?!).

I also found this video from the 2011 race that I thought was worthy of passing on. The course and scenery look great, but really, the best part is the hail storm at the end. I mean really, is there a better way to run a 100 miles than while being pelted by giant hail? I can't wait!

Monday, March 25, 2013

"Spring" Update!

Cherry Blossoms and Snow...something's not right here!
Sure, the calendar says Spring came last week, but the snow storm I ran through to get to work this morning obviously didn't get that memo.  I guess this was a year for March to come in like a lion, out like a lion, and probably spill its lionishness over into April as well. It's all good though, as I've turned the corner from some early season issues and am rounding nicely into shape, so the weather can't get me down too much! The key for me getting healthy this year was finally figuring out that my ongoing hamstring issue in my left leg (that dates back a couple years) isn't actually a hammy problem at all. Turns out it's all connected to a sciatica issue in my back. As soon as I figured that out, it was an easy fix to get my back warm and loose before my runs to keep the nerves from misfiring down my leg. It's always great to find the true root to a nagging injury like this one, and it's beyond great to be back running full steam ahead!

In terms of miles, I've slowly and smartly ramped up the miles the past 3 months (150 in January, 200 in February, and 300 this month), and now that I'm 100% healthy, I'm looking forward to a couple "normal" 400 mile months before the Black Hills 100. I'm really looking forward to that adventure in South Dakota, and while I normally don't run these things to win, I will admit I'm hoping to bring home the giant skull trophy from this one!

In addition to figuring out my sciatica issue, I also credit mixing up my shoes a bit to take care of a foot problem that shelved me for a couple weeks in January. Since then I've run most of my road miles in the super cushy Hoka Bondi Speeds to help "actively recover" from the foot pain, and on the trail the past month I've enjoyed the low & responsive Salomon Sense Mantras quite a bit. I've also just come into a pair of shiny new Adidas Boosts, which, if you believe all the advertising hype, will give you more cushioning and energy-return than any other shoe...while also apparently making you smarter, more attractive to the opposite sex, and guaranteeing you low low interest rates on any future mortgage refinancing deals. I think I need to run a few more miles in them to see if all their claims pan out, but for now they do seem like a comfortable shoe to run in, and that's really good enough for me.

On the race front, I won't be running with the fellas up front this soon, but I am excited to say I'll be heading back to test out the early-season legs at the Bull Run 50 miler on April 13. I've even teamed up with a couple speedy friends in the Team competition to keep me motivated to grunt through some lung burn in the last 20 miles or so. Nothing like a little peer pressure to keep the ol' legs moving! I'm looking forward to writing a Race Report in a couple weeks to recap all the fun. Now if only we can figure out a way to get the temps up out of the 30s and 40s by then...hmm...maybe the Adidas Boosts can also help with that?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Frozen Birthday Run Fun!

This past Saturday I dragged my frozen legs 36 miles around the rolling trails of Lake Anna State Park in central VA. The occasion was my annual Birthday Run, on which I run my years in miles to remind me both that:

1) My chosen sport makes me do stupid things, and  
2) February is a horrible time to have a birthday when you're forced to run outside for 5+ hours in sub-freezing weather.

Now that the adventure is over, I'm sarcastically happy to say that 2013's edition succeeded in validating both counts yet again!

This year my actual b-day (Feb 5) falls on a very busy work Tuesday for me, so I took the liberty to run my 36 miles the Saturday before (Feb 2). This was especially convenient for me since the "Icy 8HR" race took place over the weekend, so it was as if 125 others came out to celebrate my birthday run with me too! Notable in that field was my buddy Andy, with whom I planned on running the whole time...and not just because he promised me some homemade pumpkin birthday cupcakes at the finish. In the end, I enjoyed those cupcakes quite a bit, even if Andy made me look bad by running an extra 4.7 mile lap to push his total over 40 for the day. Show off. For me, I very much enjoyed not having to run for the full 8 hours as I sat wrapped in blankets at the timing tent for a couple hours enjoying hot soup and sipping a special birthday gift from Gary Knipling (it was the kind of eggnog they don't let Santa drive the sleigh after drinking!).  All in all, it was my most enjoyable birthday run to date, that's for sure!
Bundled up in the coooooold. I guess it's true old people feel drafts all the time.

The added bonus of stopping at 36 miles was saving my out-of-shape legs from being wrecked this week. I caught a case of the dreaded "too much, too soon" running disease at the start of January and needed to be smart and slooow in ramping up my miles all month while hamstring/foot issues healed. I pretty much stuck to an easy 6 miles most nights all month (while wearing my cushy Hoka shoes to protect the foot), and while that type of light training won't allow me to run a quick marathon in March, my eyes are most definitely on the real prize of giving the Black Hills 100 a solid effort. I'd like to do well in that race, if for no other reason than to see the look on the TSA agents' face when I try to get my "trophy" on the airplane home!
If I fill it with magazines and candy, can it count it as my carry-on?