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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

In Prepatorium

It's like a memoriam for my preparation phase. I finished recovering from the Twin Cities Marathon just in time to taper for this 50 mile trail race on Saturday. That sounds completely absurd. I mean, when you say it out loud you can expect to get slapped.

This past weekend, I planned for an easy 10 mile run just to let the legs turn over for a while. About 1 mile in my quads stopped flushing lactic acid just like they did in mile 22 of the marathon. So my 10 miler turned into only 5. The next day I found a promotion from my hot yoga studio for a week of unlimited classes for only $29 so I jumped on that too.

The quad thing feels like an inflammation reaction to the previous stressor. If it kicks in on saturday I'm totally hosed. And I'm not going to be an idiot about it, if I don't finish the 50 thanks to an inflammation reaction that's totally ok. I am totally grateful for what my body has allowed me to do in the last couple of weeks. The mantra for trail running is to take what the trail gives you, and I can accept whatever the day holds on Saturday.

The course for the WC-50 is supposed to be pretty rough. Some single track, lots of roots, 7000 ft of elevation gain. It's 4 laps at 12.5 miles each. I can pick up a pacer for the last lap, if anybody wants to volunteer. Originally my goal was 10 hours, but since last years results only had 1 guy finish under 10 hours and 22 people that DNF'd, I am going to rethink that. I'm shooting for 3 hours per lap, just like at Umstead. there's a 14 hour cutoff so if I can come in around 12 hours that's a win. Since I've never gone more than 40 miles before, anything over 40 is a PDR. If I make it through 2 laps, 25 miles is close to marathon distance for the 2nd time in 2 weekends, that's another star in my Marathon Maniac  record. I'll take whatever I can get.

I also made it back into the pool this week. We're going through a stroke drill phase on the swim team, so the volume isn't quite as high as it usually is, but in the long run it's going to help me a ton as a swimmer. Really it just feels great to be back in the water.

Hot yoga was incredible Tuesday night. It was just a hot flow class, but I haven't been in the 100* room in months. and I've missed it. Getting a few more classes in over the next few days too. My hope is that the detoxifying affect of the hot box will help keep this quad thing at bay on saturday, then some restorative yoga will help me recover on sunday and monday. After some recovery time from this 50, it's time for the Umstead 100 training to start in earnest.

Here's a few more pictures from the Twin Cities marathon

Me, Lisa, and Megan in strong form. One of Megan's friends put this on facebook.

an actual decent race photo for me!

Evil Genius loved the U of Minn Golden Gophers hat that I picked up
After my questionable run on Saturday my friends William and Jessica came into town, she had a work thing nearby so William and I hung out drinking beers and watching football all afternoon, after a large plate of sushi for lunch. Jessica totally surprised William too, she scored tickets to see his favorite hockey team (the Red Wings) play at the Carolina Hurricanes  that night. So cool.

I'm a bad influence
One other thing I haven't posted about yet. I've been coaching my friend KC all year through her first Ironman, she signed up before ever completing any triathlons and finished IM Chattanooga in a fantastic 13:10! I'm so incredibly proud of the year she's had, the work she put in, and the result of that work that she saw. KC made it to sushi with the rest of us and I got to download her entire race day. What an amazing story. She's also started a blog about her journey too.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Better than Meth

Marathon day has arrived! Sunday morning felt like I was sleeping in late for marathon morning. But that's the joy of being on central time. Breakfast, coffee, but I couldn't make the morning constitutions. Now it's time to walk out to the staring line!

The new Vikings stadium! It looks like a pirate ship.
The starting line was only about half a mile away so that was a perfect warm up. We got to walk around the starting area for a while, and I saw Thad, a friend of mine and local (to NC) running coach! Very cool, I knew he was going to be there, but to actually find the RunnerDude himself among almost 9000 people was unexpected.

Lisa and I before getting everything lined up

the "sweat drop" bags were loaded into UPS trucks by bib number

They had a line of port-a-lets that spanned an entire city block!

Lisa, me, and Megan her running club buddy
Eventually Megan found us, they dropped off the "sweat drop" bags that would be waiting at the finish, and we made our way to Corral 2 for the start. Once in there I got recognized! Thanks Jim, it was great to meet you. That never happens to me, so very cool!

TC is billed as the most scenic urban marathon in the US, and I was seeing why. There were almost 9000 runners lining up there. Split into 4 corrals, we ended up in Corral 2. To give you an idea of how many people that is on one city block, here's the amount of people in front of me, then the amount of people behind me.

Towards the starting line

Away from the starting line
You can see in the first picture a skywalk bridge between the buildings. This is an incredibly cool feature of the city, as it gets so cold in the winters residents can still walk downtown without having to actually be outside. There are miles of these things. Beyond that is the actual starting line. Our plan was to line up in front of the 4 hour pace group, then stay in front of the 4 hour pacer. The balloons behind me are from the 4 hour pacer.

Before you know it, the race was starting! Apparently it took 6:50 for Corral 1 to clear out and then we were off on the course. It started out weaving through downtown Minneapolis before getting out to some of the lakes. There was a ton of water (lakes and river time) on the course.

The first lake

"letting" Megan and Lisa lead (they schooled me the entire time)

Still smiling!
Pretty sure these were taken around mile 3. The crowd support out there was amazing! The only noteworthy thing about these pictures are that there are no people on the side of the roads. Some of the stats said there was 300,000 spectators. Some set up impromptu aide stations, like the dixie cups of beer in mile 24. Some were just holding out boxes of Kleenex, which I thought was hilarious since runners were using them then throwing them on the side of the road. So suddenly all of these well meaning friendly people suddenly had a front yard full of snot rags.

Near the 10k mark?

I'm still smiling. Them? yea, not so much
They had live tracking with timing mats around 5k, 10k, half marathon, etc points. Near the 10k mat was a giant balloon arch, big banner hanging, and maybe 200 people hanging around with a radio playing music. Again, the crowd support was like nothing else I've ever seen.

I love that bottom picture too because Lisa and Megan are obviously talking about something but it looks like they are in agony and I'm still trying to smile. Candid shots are the best. Really, we all still felt great at that point.

Crowds are starting to thin a bit

Not smiling anymore
It was only 48* at the start, so I layered up appropriately. In mile 10, I took off the blue shirt, then took off the gloves in mile 23. Around mile 21 I let Lisa and Megan go on ahead of me, after talking smack and keeping my heart rate low for 3 hours my quads were finally too fatigued to keep going at that flat 9 minute pace. Turns out, Lisa held on until mile 22. Megan made it and finished her first marathon in 3:59, Lisa pulled a 4:02 right behind her. I went into death march mode at that point.

Actually somewhere in the second half I came up with a mantra that got on repeat in my head:

This is our gift
We have been given a gift from God of strength and endurance
When the miles get tough, we show others our gift
We can always go farther
We can always be stronger
This is our gift

Repeat that to yourself for a couple of hours and you start to believe it. You also might go crazy. But then, you'd have to be crazy to start one of these things.

Then in mile 25 I got my second wind and ran into this guy! Steve in a Speedo was totally cool and I wish I had more time to hang out with him. He finished 3rd in the loony challenge and ran the 10 miler that morning in 1:03 (that's really fast). He was out waiting on his wife who was also running the marathon. Steve was one of the first people to ever comment on my blog and I've been looking forward to meeting him for years.

The mile 26 marker was a giant American flag hung between two cranes. Quite the spectacle. Make no mistake about it, there are hills in Minnesota. it's not all lakes and rivers. The last 5 miles of this marathon are no joke. My quads fatigued around mile 20 and became unbearable on some of those hills. When I saw this, I knew it was all downhill and around one more curve to get to the finish line. You can see the Capital building back there, and that's the end of the course.

Right before the finish

and right after
I got an "in front" and "behind" pictures from the starting line, then grabbed before and after shots of the finish line too. So glad to see that finish line. Marathon #16 and state #8 is in the books. 4:08:03 was my finish time. I left the Garmin in NC so I don't have mile splits or any of the data that I love. But just going on feel, with Lisa's pacing, and coming in strong to the finish after such a tough last few miles made this one really great.

Got a nice free local recovery beer

Lisa and I with our finishers medals

Me in front of the Capital building in St Paul
The finish line area was a massive throng of people. We found the beer garden, then got our finishers shirts and made our way down to the light rail to get back across the river to Minneapolis. The finishers area is the only thing I didn't really like about this race. It was so large and unorganized. with a point to point race like that there is no way I would have been able to find my way back home without Lisa. If I was by myself and drove to the start, it would have been incredibly difficult to get back to the start where my car was.

The other thing that I didn't like was that I made plans to meet up with Carly at the finish line, another blogger I've known for years but never met in person. She was apparently there, close to the same time I was, and I couldn't find her anywhere. That's just my own disappointment and doesn't have anything to do with the race organization.

Overall this was an amazing marathon. Beautiful course, well organized, incredible crowd support, Twin Cities has it all. If you're doing the 50 state thing too, or just want a destination marathon, I can highly recommend this one.

Once we did make it back to Lisa's apartment, we got cleaned up and she gave me a ride to the airport. The flights were uneventful, thankfully, but my legs did not recover well by sitting for that long. Finally by Thursday they weren't sore anymore. Lisa and Megan are real champions of consistency - they kept those 9 minute miles coming. I usually go more with the flow of the course, hammer sometimes and walk when I need to. This recovery time is no joke. On the plane, I was talking to a West Point grad who said my addiction to marathons was "better than Meth" - hence the title. When you're in that much pain you find humor anywhere you can.

and to think, I'm only 9 days away from my first 50 mile trail ultra.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Time to get Cold

Before running the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday, I had to get up to MN. This was my fly to state for this year. Luckily, Lisa agreed to put me up for the weekend and show me around her city while I was there.

The tops of the clouds

I thought this was Minneapolis

This is actually the Minneapolis skyline - pretty awesome
Friday afternoon I flew into Minneapolis and it was COLD. There was a hurricane blowing through NC that did quite a bit of damage to South Carolina. We didn't see more than a lot of rain in Raleigh, but I still had some concerns about flight delays. Needless to say I was quite relieved to land in Minnesota and discover 60* and sunny skies.

Turns out, 60* is really cold when there is some kind of canadian arctic breeze behind it! Standing outside of the airport was as cold as the dead of our winters here in NC. This was the farthest north I have ever traveled.

Twins tickets!

Lisa's apartment overlooks the Mississippi River

Seriously, I couldn't get enough of this view. Amazing!

Lisa and I on the balcony enjoying the view
I picked up some tickets for the Minnesota Twins game that night. I love going to watch baseball, this was the last weekend of the regular season and the Twins were in the playoff hunt. Unfortunately, they lost and it got bitterly cold at the game. But it was still a fantastic night to be at the ballpark, and I got lots of souvenirs for the kids.

Target field was walking distance from the apartment. Really cool place!

our seats sucked. notice that handrail blocking my view of the batters box.

A rare Phil sighting! He does exist!
Also notice how everyone else was so bundled up in the stands. That last pic is me, Lisa, and her boyfriend Phil. Everyone around us was making fun of me for being cold because I totally wasn't used to it like they were. Very true, I was shivering most of the weekend. But I also had one of the best bratwurst ever (locally) made at the ballpark - I love getting local finds like that when traveling. It really is the best part of the experience.

Saturday started off horribly. I woke up with a migraine like I haven't had in a decade or so. Actually, I puked twice before Lisa woke up. it was that bad. After several doses of medicine it started to clear up, so we met Phil out for brunch at a local Arepa place. If you've never tried Arepa's, it's a corn based pocket bread, like the venezualan version of pita bread that gets stuffed with all kinds of beans and delicious love. fantastic stuff.

Then Lisa and I went to the race expo to pick up our packets and all of the cold weather gear that I didn't think I was going to need.

How do you fit 8000 people into an expo?

Like I said, when it's still 80* in Raleigh I didn't expect 60* in Minneapolis to feel quite that cold. Plus I outright forgot to pack a hat and my Garmin. So at the expo, I went ahead and picked up a hat, some gloves, and a long sleeve shirt to wear on race day. Also had to pick up some gels - they only provide gels at one of the aide stations on the course so I'm really glad Lisa reminded me to pick up some of those and let me borrow a fuel belt to hold them.

After that we headed over to the University of Minnesota campus. I picked up a puppet for Ella at the Twins game with something different for Evil Genius, but then of course she had to have a puppet too. Unfortunately, the Golden Gophers shop on campus didn't have anything like this, so she got a hockey puck instead. I got a few other things too, including a sweatshirt for Kelley that I promptly wore since I was missing her so much.

U of Minn Football stadium
After that outing, I had to take a quick nap to finally get rid of this headache. It really was a plague on most of the day. Once I woke up, we went out exploring a bit. First was a visit to a local theatre, because they had a balcony with an amazing view of the river.

The stone arch bridge is a well known landmark

Me in front of the stone arch bridge

it took a 3 story escalator to get us down from that balcony! This thing was intimidating.
After that we picked up some of the city's publicly available bicycles and rode around downtown for a bit. I can see why Minneapolis is consistently rated as one of the most bike friendly cities in the country! it was so nice to be able to ride around so easily. We stopped at several scenic places to take in the views.

The Mighty Mississippi

This building is the theatre we visited earlier

I look like I belong here now
After that we settled in at home for the night. Lisa made a wonderful chicken and pasta for dinner so we'd be carb loaded for the marathon and Phil came by to eat and watch some college football. The Clemson/Notre Dame game was a real nail biter! Still doesn't seem right that I went to Minneapolis to watch a Clemson football game, but we needed to have a chill night and that's what we got.

Saturday night I slept great and I was quite relieved to wake up Sunday with no migraine and ready to marathon. Make no mistake about it, Minneapolis is a cool city with lots of fun activities. I highly recommend visiting if you get the chance. I know I had a blast. And Lisa is a dear friend for putting up with me through that migraine.