Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Party Time!

FS Series had their holiday party thursday night and it was fabulous.  I end up running a lot of their races every year, it's local and by far my favorite production company.  So the holiday party was a great chance to hang out with the owners and lots of other friends and people I see at the races.  Part of it was odd to see these people not wearing spandex.  They dress up pretty good!

They also announced the TOA Triathlon series winners.  You know I'm a sucker for a series.  They had overall male and female top three, then instead of full age groups they did male and female 40 and over, and 39 and under.  You have to complete 5 of the 13 races listed to complete the series.  You get points for every series race you complete based on overall results of each race.  Some of the races are held on the same day, like a sprint and olympic distance for the same event when both are in the series.  This year there were 9 males in the 1-39 class that completed at least 5 races.  My buddy Scottie finished 3 and came in 24th place.  My buddy Brian got high scores in 2 races and still finished in 45th place.  I did two races in the series and finished in 77th place.  So obviously the key to a top 10 finish is actually completing 5 races.  There was 575 people listed in this age group.

I have to keep telling myself that next year I need to race less.  Sprint triathlons cut into the long stuff I should be doing that day instead, and the main target is a fast full Iron at Beach 2 Battleship.  So this FS series should wait.  Well, there is a 70.3 in the series.  And there is a few oly's in there, those are always fun.  So really you never know what's going to happen.   My plan is to run the series in the off-ironman year 2014.  if not sooner.  maybe.

So the party was fantastic.  They had a really great spread of food and an open bar.  It's actually the only Christmas party we're going to this year, my office doesn't have one here.  I got to brag some about the ultramarathon, which to a bunch of fellow triathletes is still pretty impressive.  Really it made me miss regular training.  I'm carrying some extra fluff around the midsection right now since I've only worked out maybe twice since the ultra. I asked Scottie how he was feeling these days since he was fighing a huge knee problem most of the year, and he answered "plump".  So really it felt great just to be among my own kind again.

Plus we racked up!  Kelley won a raffle prize of a Zoot transition towel that's the size of a beach towel.  Really cool.  Plus we got a couple of shaker bottles, two huge jugs of Heed, handfuls of hammer gel's and some other cool gear.  Merry Christmas to me!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cantata Time! and CT

The Cantata went great Sunday.  There is audio online at the Forest Hills website, the recording is called I hear the Prophet Calling from Dec 16.  My solo starts 14:33 into the recording, and is only the first few lines.  The whole thing is a very picturesque retelling of the Christmas story.

I Hear the Prophet Calling by Pepper Choplin is a particularly descriptive and relatable version of when Jesus was born.  Mary rocking a baby to sleep and singing a lullaby seems exactly the same way I used to sing to my babies.  The way he describes a star in the sky to illuminate all of mankind is certainly enough to reset your point of view.

I can't allow myself to fully process what happened in Connecticut on Friday.  Those kids were the same age as my kids.  That could have easily been my city.  I can't imagine what those families are going through.  Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to us as parents.  I don't care how old your kid is too, you should not outlive your children.  If they are in kindergarten, or about to graduate college, or killed on the job, or just dies early in retirement.  You should not outlive your children.

The cantata left me with a new perspective.  God came to us as Jesus the son with the foreknowledge that he was going to die on the cross.  It was a willing sacrifice, I know.  But that, to me, seems like the ultimate loss of a child.  And a parent living longer than a child is the hardest thing we could ever go through.  The image that was created of Mary holding the baby Jesus in the manger, singing a soft lullaby and trying to rock him to sleep hit me hard knowing what the eventual outcome would be. 

So in Connecticut right now there are a lot of grieving parents.  A lot of people are finding themselves in a position that nobody should ever be in.  I hope they can find some comfort.  I'm not sure I was able to pull this theory together into a cohesive post, but most of my ramblings barely make sense without an interpreter. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

They won't let me back in

If you're going to be in Raleigh this weekend, come on by Forrest Hills Baptist Church for the service this Sunday.  We're doing the Christmas Cantata so it's going to be a really cool service.  All singing, all the time.  We even have an orchestra playing with us this time.  The dress rehearsal was Wednesday night.  If you don't think that's going to provide much content for my triathlon blog, then you've never been to my church.  I love singing in the choir.

The rehearsal went pretty good, everything sounded fine.  Afterwards we got to socialize for a bit.  I ended up talking to one of the violin players (first mistake) who kept calling me "sir". I didn't slap him.  I consider that a moral victory.  I knew the guy lived in Boston and was just home for the holidays.  I was shocked when I found out he was only a sophomore in high school.  I thought he was a student at Berklee.  This kid has serious mad skills.

I think there should be a Southern Redneck Exception granted to the "no cursing in church" rule, especially when you're talking to kids. Every now and then you want to drop a "holy shit" or a "fuck you, no way" when you hear something unbelievable.

Case in point: I got to talking with this one dude that seemed pretty cool.  Until he mentioned he was only in the 8th grade.  I can't remember the last time I had a decent conversation with an 8th grader ( have to check the restraining order).  But that little revelation definitely deserved some cursing.  I actually used the phrase "when I was in college - wait that was before you were born" and then wanted to cry.

The french horn player only has one semester left at  UNC.  Finally somebody who won't call me "sir".  But wait, our rehearsal ended at 9 and after 2 hours of singing and an incredibly long work day I was completely exhausted.  She had to get back to Chapell Hill for another practice.  Yep, I can't hang with that.  The only thing I'm starting at 10 pm is a blog post.  My fraternity has a chapter in that school of music and I meant to ask her about those guys.  I can't keep up with these young people.  Soon enough they'll be coming after my job too.

The one bright spot was a couple of girls - one in the choir and a floutist.  Juniors in high school and headed off to my alma mater Appalachian State to be Music Ed majors.  We got to talk about ASU some, but I didn't get warn them about the guys in my fraternity there.  I should explain that I am in Phi Mu Alpha, a professional music fraternity that primarily attracts music majors.  Now, since these are church girls I can't decide if I should have advised these girls to get in good with these guys or stay the hell away.  They seemed like nice kids.

I do have a small solo in the cantata.  It's only a couple of lines but I got a lot of comments about it from the rehearsal.  This is going to be a fun performance!  I love bringing in the Christmas holiday directly from the church.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jingle out the year!

Saturday was the Jolly Elf Trail Run in Bond Park in Cary.  December of 2011 this is the same place I set my current 5k PR (21:58 bitches) and this year it was the last race I'm doing in the Grand Prix series.  My goal was to finish without crying.  Running a 5k a week after a 40 miler might have just been poor scheduling on their part. 

I started close to the middle/back on purpose. The legs were feeling ok but not really great yet.  I wanted to just take it easy, not push anything and keep the heart rate low.  I started out and passed a bunch of people anyway.  This is a really fun trail course made of three loops.  The first loop is first, then the second loop, then you run the first loop again.  And yes, the first and second loops are different trails.  At the end of the first loop is the one mile marker, and you can see the finish line clock as you run past.  Last year I hit it at 6:31, this year it was 6:45.  Good thing I slowed down.

I was actually able to keep my heart rate down.  Saw my friend Troy out there in the second mile.  Also my right foot started hurting pretty good.  That loop had a pretty steep hill in it too. 

The repeat of the first loop was completely uneventful.  I ran it, the foot hurt, and then we had the finish line.  This is a really fun course.  Great trail and a really popular and well organized race. 

I finished in 23:03, a full 1:05 slower than last year.  I guess that's taking it easy.  7:26 pace.
96/503 overall
12/20 M35-39

and so completes all of the races I ran in 2012.  All 27 of them.  Bring on the year end reviews!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ultra notes

Novembers totals:

Swim: 0
Bike: 0
Run: 127.3 miles, 15 runs
Strength training: 6 times
Yoga: 24 sessions

127 miles may I think be a personal record.  It was the last month of ultra training and included my frist 40 mile week and 2 weeks of taper.   I slacked off on the yoga a bit, but I'm still on track to hit my 300 this year.  Overall that was a big month with a lot of fun.  I'll take it.

So far December has 40 running miles.  I have a 5k on Saturday.  I predict by the end of the month I will have accumulated 43.1 miles.

The 5k on Saturday is the Jolly Elf trail run, where I set my current 5k PR in 2011.  I'm not going to speak about 5k pr's right now.  Right now, I'm only talking cupcakes.

I have gained a new appreciation for the grab bars in the handicapped bathrooms at work.

By about 18 miles into the ultra my quads were killing me. The downhills were really putting the burn on.  By mile 25 the downhills hurt just as bad as the uphills.  By mile 35 everything hurt all the time.

I had chafing to deal with.  Thigh, inside upper arm, and nipple.  It kept getting worse.  To note:  Bodyglide only holds up for about 6 hours.  I used liberally before the start.

You know how when you sweat a lot and it dries up you get the salt crystals?  Most of the time it's just on my arms.  This time I was covered.  I had salt crystals in my ears, on my neck, on my legs.  Sometime after mile 30 I was walking up this steep hill when I just couldn't go anymore, so I stopped and put my hands on my knees to catch my breath for a bit.  There was WHITE sweat dripping down my arm. The single bead of sweat had picked up enough dried salt to give it color.  I've sweat a lot over the last several years, but I've never seen that before.

I pulled the Garmin data and extrapolated for the missing mileage.  Turns out there was over 12,800 feet of climbing and 10,000 feet of descents.  That certainly explains why my quads were misbehaving.  My max speed was only 8.1 mph.  Remember this was more hiking and controlled falling that actual walking, and I've certainly fallen faster than that before.  Intense! 

The out and back part of the course had about 5000 feet of climbing each way, and the lollipop loop at the top had 2800 feet by itself!  I still can't believe I didn't fall into the creek out there.  Or over some waterfall. 

The healing is coming along.  Today (thursday) my abs, chest, arms, and neck have stopped hurting.  Most of that cleared up yesterday.  I can also stand up most of the time without groaning.  I did get on the yoga mat for a good session this morning after skimping for a few days.  It feels good to feel better, for sure.  Hopefully by saturday I'll actually be able to run that 5k.

I shaved the beard after getting back to Raleigh on Monday.  It's really a decent look for me, and fit the environment of the trail ultra crowd.  But it was a pain to maintain, kind of drove me crazy at work, and since we have some executives in town this week I needed to look my best.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holy Smokes

Today's word of the day is pain.  If you can point to it, it hurts.  I've got soreness, chafing, you name it.  This is insane.  I may be insane.  You people are certainly insane.  The Pine Mountain 40 mile trail run is certainly not for the weak of heart.

Friday night we made it down to Greenville and got the kids settled in with my folks.  Saturday Kelley and I headed to Georgia.  Cool part #1, we got to have lunch at Taco Mac with Mel's husband Jerry.  Taco Mac was great and it was really cool to get to meet & hang out with Jerry too.  We made it down to Pine Mountain, got checked into the hotel and made it to the packet pickup.  Got the stuff, and got to hang with The Snail for a bit too, which is always cool.

The town of Pine Mountain GA is actually a very quaint little town with the Calloway Gardens (whatever that is), tons of antique shops and cute little restaurants.  It's where FDR used to go for those "warm spring" treatments.  Very cool place!  We hit up some of the local shops and landed in a great restaurant for dinner.  I was ready to hit the trails.

Morning came early, and we had the Pine Mountain 40 mile trail run starting at 7 am Sunday.  I had no idea what to expect on the day.  No clue how far 40 miles would really feel or how much pain I would be able to endure.  And this race broke all of those expectations that didn't really exist.  I took in the whole thing and I'm kind of glad I didn't know what I was getting myself into.

The course was single track.  All single track.  I heard a lot of "wow, this was a tough choice for your first ultra" thrown out there.  As is usually the case with trail ultras, the people you meet on the course are some of the nicest and strangest people out there.  I really enjoyed talking to everyone I could find on the trail.  We had about 150 people start the race.
Notice the runners going up the stairs on the right.  We started on the dam up there.

At the starting line

Runners in the woods. 
The sun was barely up at the start.  Nothing like running through the woods in the dark.  Temps were in the 40's so it was quite comfortable once you got moving. 

Now when I say "single track", I really had no idea what I was talking about.  This trail was single track so tight you couldn't pass.  The first 2 miles or so was pretty kind of almost flat, and not too tough to run through.  Unfortunately, the single track was so tight there was no way to pass anyone.  And I wanted to be really conservative anyway, because burning out at the end could really be a bad thing. 

Then we started climbing.  and by climbing, I mean power hiking.  Going up stuff like this:
That's a tight trail covered with leaves hiding rocks. 

The craziest thing was almost falling on a road.  Actually I saw the Snail and looked up from the trail just long enough to trip over a rock or something.  I didn't fall, but it was a nice reminder to pay attention to the terrain.  And getting a little cheer from a good friend never hurts!

Switchbacks make it a little easier to navigate, but you're running over leaves on a slant hiding rocks.  It's a recipe for ankle breaking.  The parts of the trail that were flat enough to run fast on were covered in rocks.  The parts that weren't covered in rocks were so steep rocks couldn't find a place to settle down on.  The uphills were just as bad as the downhills.  We'd go up to a ridgeline, catch a nice view, then down to the valley below.  Cross a stream, then up another huge incline.  It was incredibly scenic.  Tough, dangerous, slow, but certainly beautiful.
On a ridgeline, you should be able to see a nice view back there.

mid-stride accidental picture that's actually pretty cool.

The course followed these rock outcroppings a lot.  Dangerous, but cool.
I really felt great through the first 6 miles.  Hit the first aide station then, took a gel, and rolled on.  After that the aide stations came about every 3 miles.  The course was a lollipop with 5 aide stations total so we hit four of them on the "out" route, then one in the top of the lollipop, then the first four got hit again on the "back" part.  It worked out really well.

looking down over the valley

9.12 miles in 1:54?  slooooooow going
Actually, I was trying to get a pic of the Garmin showing 9.11 miles because that's when I was ready to call 911 and be done with the day.  And how many half marathons have I done under 1:45?  9 miles in 1:54 is a crawl.  But that's what the trail gave me on that day.  This is single track.  It's all hills.  The ascent is just as difficult as the descent.  It's mostly hiking. That trail is gnarly and my legs were already shot.

The cool part is that there was all kinds of wild stuff out there, like this tree with a huge hollowed out center.  I really wanted to go use the bathroom in there, but didn't.  The opening was like 8' high!  really cool.

By mile 13 I was into a part of the course that had been damaged by tornado's in 2011.  Really sad to see this cool old forrest destroyed like that.  It also meant that there was lots of sun exposure.  I did actually find a quiet spot off of the trail and use the bathroom, only unscheduled stop of the day.  That made me feel a little better, but I knew I was out of gas and in for a long time on the trails.  Mile 13 is when I knew I was in trouble.

By mile 15 the chafing started with my left nipple.  I took off my shirt to stop the chafing, and had to run with it on my side for the rest of the day.  I also got off the course for the first time.  Not far, but a couple of other guys followed me off course and one of them fell on some rocks getting back down the hill.  The course was really well marked, but I just wasn't paying attention.  The last thing I need here is extra distance.  Pay attention!
Tornados don't play games

Whoever maintains this trail had their work cut out for them.  The recovery was pretty amazing.

Check out that incline!  Tight, gnarly stuff.
The course did turn back into more forrested stuff after we got through the next ridgeline.  It seemed like it got a lot tighter too.  check this out:
I'm actually sitting on one rock with my hand on another rock.  The trail went between the two.  This is crazy stuff here!  and of course the tighter it got, the more rocks you had underfoot.  And the more water you had to deal with.  Around mile 18 the course looped up for the lollipop.  That's when things really got interesting.

I thought the turnaround was going to hit around mile 20. Or the top of the loop or something.  Mile 20 came and went.  I lost the will to live right around then.  Then I had to keep going.  The lollipop is where the trail got really deep forrested.  I turned a corner and came up on this:
Incredible waterfall.  This little gem was just hiding out waiting for the runners to find it.  I also got a warning from a hiker that about half a mile after that it got really slippery.

My second clue was when the trail came up on some place called "slippery rock falls".  I figured that must be it.  I'm really glad the trail was clearly marked here.  There was several sets of these falls, and sometimes the trail would go right up there.  In between the rocks, the rock walls, and the trees it turned into more rock climbing or scrambling than running.  So cool!

The aide station at the "top" was actually at 22.8 miles.  They had what may be the best grilled cheese I've ever eaten.  The trail got incredibly wind-ish, with maybe a dozen creek crossings.  back and forth, over rocks, across the water, under trees, over more rocks.  Getting to that 22.8 was by far the coolest part of the course.

I grabbed my grilled cheese and headed out, when I heard the Snail screaming at me.  So cool to see him out on the course!  The next aide station was 1.7 miles away, and I had about 35 minutes to make it there before the first time cutoff.  That was a bit of inspiration I guess, as I made it with plenty of time to spare.  From there on out the course retraced itself, I put the camera away, and the aide stations were about 3 miles apart.  I don't really remember much else.  That kind of brain funk can only be caused by, well, you guessed it.  or something.

At mile 24.5, the garmin battery died.  It was around 5:45ish into the race.

I hit the 6 hour mark long before I hit the marathon distance mark. 

The next aide station was 28 miles.  They said I was an "official" ultra runner then.  PDR baby!

next one was at 31 miles.  I really had it in for that 50k mark. I wanted it, and I got it.

The 34 mile aide station was the final time cutoff.  I cleared it by about 2 hours.  They said I could walk in from there and still get an official finish.  I took that to heart.  6 miles left.

Since it was an out and back course the first few miles were pretty flat, runnable, and easy.  That also meant that the last couple of miles were flat, runnable, and easy.  After 4 miles of walking through the hills I had the energy left to run the flats.  It hurt, but then everything hurt no matter what I did.  I came around one corner and heard music.  Thought it was the finish line.  Got off of the course again for a bit, just missed a turn.  still, that's a bad time to add mileage.  Got back on the course and had the sad discovery that the music was not at the finish line.  But soon enough, there was some white flecks peeking through the trees.  Could it be cars?

then this finally happened.

I got chicked

Yea baby!  Finally done.  Started at 7 am.  Finished at nearly 5 pm.  Cannot believe it is finally done!  40 miles is one helluva long way to run. 

This race broke all of my expectations.  There was about 150 people who started, and I finished 90th out of 118 finishers.  It's been a long time since I did something and wasn't a complete badass at it.  But this course humbled me.  It really broke me down in some unexpected ways.

Hanging with The Georgia Snail at the finish line.  I still can't believe one text from him was all it took for me to sign up for this crazy shit.

This doesn't show all of the chafing
I had to muscle up for a MattyO style double bicep finish line pic.  That was about all of the energy I had left.  I finished, I got my fleece, I ate some unbelievably good BBQ, and we headed back to Greenville.

The kids were practically asleep by the time we got back there.  Monday we headed back to Raleigh, and I could barely move.  I really couldn't get enough to eat.  My final thought is that I may be one and done on trail ultras.  I realized something about myself on that trail.  I am really good at fast road marathons and on-road triathlons.  I should stick to what I'm good at.  Even if "ultra runner" is a pretty decent look on me:

It's a rugged look for sure.

Part homeless chic, part whole foods employee, all badass.