Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Maryland at Last!

Turns out the 2nd time is the charm for finishing a marathon in Maryland. Sunday 11/15 was the Lower Potomac River Run Marathon held just on the MD side of D.C. and I finished in 4:16:05, knocking that state off of the list. My first attempt was a DNF in a trail 50k where there was a foot of snow covering the single track. I have a cousin who lives on the MD side of D.C., so I got to go visit with her the night before and had a wonderful time. Her husband recently lost 180 lbs so Matt was doing fantastic and Anna is pregnant with their first kid. Hope I didn't scare them too much.

Me, Anna, Matt at MatchBox for dinner
One of my favorite parts of the 50 state journey is finding local beers. Dogfish Head is a local brew there, and I also discovered Evolution Brewery - so yummy. And we got to hang out watching college football all night long, something my family has always enjoyed.  It was great getting to hang out with my cousin again! Makes me look forward to Christmas even more.

This race has options to start at 7, 8, or 9 am so I picked the 9 am competitive start. That means I got to sleep in until 7 am with plenty of time to eat breakfast, drive over to the park, go through packet pickup and wait around in the cold for the race to start. It seemed like the kind of morning where everything was going to go right!

Everything did go right. Packet pickup was smooth, there was nice swag, this had everything you'd expect to have at a small, no-frills trail race. The course was only 6.55 miles of wide gravel trail, making this a 2 loop out and back race. It's easiest to break it down into those 4 sections, and if they are under an hour each, I can break 4 hours!

Pre-race shot
Out 1: 1:00:11

At the start, I ended up talking to Rob Krar's sister in law! She was really nice but had to name drop when I started talking about Umstead. They also had a half marathon going at the same time, so the 2nd loop was going to be much less crowded than the first.  The start was otherwise uneventful.

The strangest thing about this leg was that nobody would talk to me. I have the trail beard in full effect now. Sure there are more grays in there than I wanted, but I was making jokes with the other runners and getting nothing back from these people. I hit the first turnaround almost in silence, then checked my watch to see that I had missed the 1 hour goal by 11 seconds. Not too bad.

Back 1: 1:02:05 (2:02:16 total)

I made it back to the start/finish area still in relative silence, but did manage to get a few laughs out of these people. I slowed down some miles, and pushed it some other miles. For this being the "uphill" direction it still felt a bit faster than going "downhill". The use of quotes is appropriate here because you're only dropping down 40 feet. There's no turns, it's a straight, wide, gravel path with a 40 foot drop. That is about the best kind of trail I could hope for.

Out 2: 1:08:04 (3:10:20 total)

Miles 13 to 20 were pretty interesting. I had to pull off of the trail for a poop in mile 18, then in 19 I caught up with Tammy Massie, a well known ultra runner and good friend. We ran together at her pace for quite some time as well and talked about my training and strategy for Umstead (she's done it about 8 times) and that's always valuable advice. Overall this leg just had a lot of dragging though. My legs got heavy and didn't want to turn over as fast, and I was just trying to run comfortably.

Back 2: 1:05:54 (4:16:05 finish time)

Coming back uphill to the finish line, I wouldn't say that my legs felt fresh anymore, but they felt exactly like I expected to feel when I'm over 20 miles into a marathon. My glutes fatigued first, then my hamstrings. Knees, ankles, feet, hips, all felt ok the entire time. I don't think my heart rate got much out of zone 2 at any time over the race. Considering that my longest run between the WC-50 marathon and this (about 4 weeks) was only 12 miles, I figured these miles would feel a lot worse than they did.

And I finally found someone else to talk to! A fellow Marathon Maniac and 50-stater who was in town from Memphis. Her goal was to break 4:15, and she missed it by about 20 seconds. Still it was nice to be able to chat for a while, and since I was ahead of her most of the race she kept saying that I was helping her keep a quick pace.

Finish 4:16:05

I don't really have any kind of placement information, but I know I was kind of near the bottom. The average time for this marathon is about 3:38, I think I saw my age group award go to a 3:12 marathoner or something absurd like that. The course is just that nice! Flat, fast, soft, exactly the best race I could hope for. I love these small no-frills events.

And it was actually a pretty nice way for me to see Maryland! I got to visit with family, enjoy fine cuisine, see some urban nature, and drive around the city with the worst traffic in the entire U.S. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Halloween 2015!

yea, so I'm about half a month late on these. But it's been kind of a crazy month. Now that the kids are in 5th and 3rd grades, we're nearing the end of the trick-or-treating era. Ella got invited to go out with a friend for her birthday so now that whole pre-teen thing is starting. and that's terrifying.

First up we had the Trunk or Treat at the church, and that was a blast. Getting candy out of trunks is always safe, right?

on our way to the church!

Parking lot full of Candy

We also had a fun night of pumpkin carving over at Kelley's Dad's house. He had 6 pumpkins to carve, and we ended up getting 4 more at our house.

Everyone loves to make a mess in the garage


It's not easy to get a picture of lit pumpkins at night
Finally the big day was here. Got pictures of both of their costumes before they went out on separate paths.

Captain Jack Sparrow, at your service

Cinderella, ready for the ball
The haul was a little light this year, but there was still enough candy for us to claim a decent parent tax. Hey, I gave you life, you give me Reece's. that's the way it works.

Every good Halloween ends by cuddling with Daddy
This was another fun time for all. Kelley's mom was up staying with us, so she ended up walking with Evil Genius up to too many houses. We ended up with a nice night in Raleigh to be out and about. Everyone had fun!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How to Finish a Shed

I think we did it! After 5 months of weekends, evenings, and lots of hard work it looks like the shed is finally done. Sure, there are always more little tweaks. We could use a little more pegboard on the interior walls or something. But now we feel comfortable moving all of the tools and shelving in there to call it done.  Here's how we finished it off. This is a ton of pictures

Kelley built a potting bench beside the back door! no dirt in the shed.

Exterior walls are all built out, now we just need doors and an interior

Electrical is all done, we even got a 220v outlet for the kiln

Front side has the underside of the gable finished off

Then I built ramps to get in. This is the front ramp

And the back ramp
I didn't exactly get the stepping stones propping up those ramps evenly spaced. And I did add more stones in front of those later. But now we have a completed shell and everything else is finishing touches.

There is a project management theory that the first 90% of a project takes as much time as the last 10% of a project. Starting with those ramps, I think, we're into the 10% side of the project. I'm just glad to cross over that milestone and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I started with a plan to build the doors out of the same siding and molding used for the rest of the exterior.

First door is finished and hung!

Having both doors done really makes the front look finished

Tough to get a picture of the exterior siding, but this is the left side

and this is the right

I look confused

that's better!

We got some luan up on the walls and nailed up a pallet to hold the yard tools

we put up some pegboard as well, and you can see some detail of the inside of the doors

Back doors are built and hung!

Very excited to be done building doors. The back doors didn't fit as well as the front doors did.
Got knobs? Back doors are finished!

I added hook-and-eye catches to hold the back doors open

Under the gable is finished too. We are some happy carpenters!

Finished product from the back

The plywood floor wasn't sturdy so we used leftover hardwood & bamboo to cover it

Final finished interior floor
Sure we could use some more luan & pegboard on that right side but the doors are locked and we feel comfortable moving our stuff inside. We started this project during the June trackout and finally finished it in October! So glad it's all done. Now for some organization...

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Christmastime is here!

Now that it's November 1st, it's ok to talk about Christmas stuff right? First we have to take a look back at October

Swim: 10,700 yards, 5 practices
Bike: 18 miles, 2 rides
Run: 99.2 miles, 9 runs, 2 marathons
Strength: twice
Yoga: 12 times

That's a mortal amount of swimming, unlike the Ironman 20k per month or swim marathon 50k per month. It feels like I need to do more. Not the 6 times a week like I was swimming, but some extra time in the water would be nice. Did some easy spinning on the bike this month to facilitate recovery from the marathons, that always helps the legs feel better. And if I had known, I would have thrown an extra 0.8 miles onto a run somewhere. It's ok to round up, right?

So far this year I have logged 725.4 miles. Hitting that 1500 mile goal for the year is not looking good, but I missed a few months in the spring so I'm ok with it. I mention the miles to show how many miles I'm going to log in these last 2 months. it's kind of insane.

I have written up a training plan for the Umstead 100. I am already following that training plan. I have not missed a run from that training plan yet. The mileage ramps up pretty quick, but after doing 2 full marathons in October I feel like my base is high enough to handle it. First week was only 30 miles, then this week is 41. For my plan, I'm running easy tuesday, wednesday, and thursday runs that are usually the same mileage (6 from week 1, 7 this upcoming week), and if I wanted to get crafty with it, I could vary the route to throw some hills in one day, or do intervals one day, etc. The key to the plan is doing long runs on back to back days every saturday and sunday. Week 1 they were both only 6 miles because it was a recovery from the WC-50 marathon. This weekend I did 10 miles both days, next weekend it goes to 12. November, December, January, February, and March are all the months that I have left to get ready for the 100. The key is to get in some 200+ mile months and build up to some 70 or more mile weeks.

This weekend was fun. KC came over saturday morning and we ran 10 miles together to the capital and back in 1:37, which ended up being a pretty fast pace for her. It's not an easy route, so I'm impressed with her progress so far getting into this marathon training plan. Then Kelley got some arepa's for lunch. Today's 10 miler was on the treadmill at the gym since it was raining outside, and by myself. That wasn't nearly as much fun.

I'm just going through it one workout at a time. Take each day as it comes, and strive to put as many miles on the legs as I can get. There's still 2 more marathons to come this year, and the 50 miler in San Diego in January.

A couple of other noteworthy things happened in October. Some deserve a post of their own, like Halloween.

We all went to see "Into The Woods" traveling broadway play at the big theatre downtown. Really fun night!

Evil Genius actually petting Nana's dog

And for national cat day, here's Ella with our big fella Blossom

Overall it was a pretty amazing month, and I have really high expectations for most Octobers. It is my favorite month of the year, the leaves are starting to change, and the summer heat is gone. Baseball is in the Playoffs (watching Game 5 of the World Series now, Lets Go Mets!) college football is hitting its stride, hockey and basketball are back. Happy days and holidays are all that lie ahead!

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Every year, it seems, I end up racing hard on back to back weekends. This year it's a "stupid fall". Doing my first swim marathon the weekend before a running marathon in a new state was really hard. But I didn't really achieve stupid status until I tried to run my first 50 mile trail race only 2 weeks after that. But I didn't schedule the WC-50, and I certainly didn't pick the trail either.

I should know better than to go to Charlotte for anything by now. It never ends well for me. And I do know better than to show up to a trail race without a beard, ugh. This time I am actually putting a positive spin on it and looking for outcomes.

Friday night I got settled in at my old fraternity brother Pat's house and actually got down for an early bedtime. Since the race started at 5 am, pre-race meeting at 4:45, I wanted to get there about 4:30 am. Since I thought Pat lived about 30 minutes away I planned to leave about 4, which means getting up at 3:30 am to allow time for breakfast, coffee, and getting dressed. The fact that I needed to get up at 3:30 in the morning should have told me something.

Why do we have to start at 5 am?

Bag drop area

The river is still calm & steamy

Starting in the dark sucks

The starting line was angry that day
The prerace meeting was actually the best part of the day. 4 laps at 12.5 miles each with the big aide station at the start/finish line. The RD said that the aide station there would have cocaine laid out, and after you were done with your bump, run up these stairs and get on the next lap. And he did it with a totally straight face. Too funny!

So before I was fully awake, we were off. The first 2.5 hours were run in the dark we started with headlamps on. I wouldn't call that fun, running unfamiliar single track in the dark. But it did happen. For the first couple of miles  I was running with other people, some that new the trail pretty well. Around mile 5 I had to step off of the trail to take a dump, it was nice to have the extra privacy of darkness.  Around 7:30 the sun finally came up. In mile 11, I saw a tree that had fallen across the trail, and thought "that tree is going to fuck me", and it turns out I was right. Tripped as I jumped over the tree, landed left knee first on an exposed root. Ended up with bleeding knee and hand, and chose to collect myself for a minute before continuing. That's when I knew I was going to take the DNF. I felt bad, was running very slow (as planned), and just wasn't having a good time out there anymore. It wasn't fun. First lap done in 3:03, which is only about 10 minutes slower than I wanted but my legs felt very fatigued, sore muscles, and aching joints. The course was much harder than I was expecting.

When I finished the first lap I showed the RD my garmin at 14 miles and told him I had found some extra-curricular activity out there. I was also very hungry, so I was kind of banking that eating something serious would help me feel better. Sure enough, I took about 20 minutes to sit and eat before heading up those stairs to start lap #2. I wanted to see the course in the daylight just to figure out what I had missed during the dark hours. I thought we were running by a river at one point, and turns out I was right.

Lap 2 was all in the daylight. I decided to go back out just to get past a marathon distance, and to see if my garmin was going to track consistently or if I got an extra loop in the course somewhere from running in the dark. The short version of that lap is that it included lots and lots of tripping, falling, cursing, bleeding, and walking. It still came in at 14 miles, and took 4:12. Over an hour slower than the first lap. I did feel better at first, after getting some food, but the muscle ache was still there. Eventually I decided I would just walk whenever I saw roots since I couldn't get my feet off of the ground enough while jogging to not trip. Then I couldn't pick up my feet enough to avoid tripping while walking. Lots of jammed toes, tripping, falling, scraped knees, it was awful.  These mile splits tell the tale:

Mile 1: 12:20
2: 12:21
3: 11:35
4: 12:12
5: 12:33
6: 14:10 (aide station)
7: 12:01
8: 13:27
9: 13:43
10: 12:59
11: 14:59
12: 15:11
13: 14:29
14: 18:46 - 20 minutes eating at the finish line aide station, some of that time ended up in mile 15 too
15: 21:51
16: 15:47
17: 15:00
18: 16:55
19: 16:02
20: 18:23
21: 17:56
22: 18:49
23: 19:02
24: 16:52
25: 19:46
26: 18:04
27: 17:17
28: 12:42

Garmin also reported over 2800 feet in elevation gain and loss.  Every uphill has a downhill, and they hurt equally.

There ended up only being 1 female finisher and 21 male finishers, as well as 1 female and 13 male DNF's. I finished lap 2 at 7:14:52, and since there is a 14 hour cutoff I would have had to negative split to even finish in time. And there is no way that was going to happen. technically I could have gone out for a 3rd lap before the time cutoff, but by the time I finished the 2nd lap I was ready to head back to Raleigh. College Football and my own bed seemed much more fun than more single track.

Fuck single track. I ate enough dirt out there to really lose my taste for it. About 95% of this loop was single track, where the trail is only wide enough for 1 person to run on, not like at Umstead where we get nice wide bridle trails or any of the rail to trail conservancy races. Highly technical single track like this stuff, with lots of hills, rocks, roots, slick leaves, embankments really forces you to pay more attention to not breaking yourself than to enjoying the time in nature. I've done enough of it and will avoid any race in the future that lists hard single track. I just don't need that in my life anymore.

The mile split breakdown shows the difficulty in this course. The 12 and 14 minute miles in the first half were ok, but the 19 and 20 minute miles in the second half are not. I don't think I was really conditioned for a 50 mile race anyway, and the difficulties of the course didn't help me any. I had put in so much time swimming this summer, trying to get ready for the Swim Around Charleston, that I just didn't have enough miles on my legs going into this. Overall I'm glad I went out for the second lap, it did push me past the marathon distance. And in my book, getting in 3 marathons in only 4 weeks ranks pretty high on the badass meter. Even attempting a 50 mile trail race only 2 weeks after running a 4:08 road marathon in Twin Cities takes some serious balls. So mentally I'm treating this like a marathon without a medal instead of a failed trail race. still my slowest marathon ever by more than two hours, but that's more like what it was.

I didn't carry my phone with me on the trail because of the amount of falling, so I didn't get any other pictures until I was finished.

The river was man-made, they turned it on when the center opened for whitewater activities

The upper tier view of the finish line

Ready to dive in the rapids

Still got my free post-race beer

The river was really cool when it was running

Bleeding knees suck.
The National Whitewater Center is a really cool place! They had a huge rock climbing wall, the manmade river really creates some fantastic rapids. They had kayaks and inflatable 6 man rafts going around, it was really cool. There was also a ropes course and zipline. The place had thousands of non-runners in there by the time I was done. really huge facility.

I would reccomend this race if you love really challenging single track. They also had a 50k race, 3 loops of an easier course than the 50 mile course. I needed the 50 mile to qualify for the Umstead 100, so that wasn't an option for me. But if you're into that kind of thing, go for it. The WC-50 is what it is, and I took what the trail gave me that day. I'm still grateful to my body for allowing me to push as hard as I did, and proud of my accomplishment.