Monday, March 28, 2016

If you want to follow along

The Umstead 100 is coming up on Saturday. To say the nerves are setting in doesn't really do it justice. They have a very cool tracking service. If you want to follow along, look for me as bib #97 and you can get text alerts every time I hit the headquarters timing mat to finish a lap and the halfway point aide station at, well, halfway through a lap. The course is 8 laps of 12.5 miles each, totaling 100 miles. So you should get 16 text messages about me. I don't get a copy of your number or even see who has signed up to follow me, and they delete all of the phone numbers the next day so it's totally safe.

Tomorrow I have a 5 mile easy run, it's the last item on the training plan. Now, in the taper, I have to trust in my training, watch what I'm eating, and get my mind ready.

I have to believe that I will finish.

I have to believe that I can stand the pain.

I have to trust that I did enough to prepare.

This is certainly not going to be easy. It still seems early in 2016, but this is the only goal race for the year. Time to step up and see what I'm made of.

My strategy is to talk a lot through the first 50 miles. Then my pacers kick in to keep me motivated. First I get to finally meet the awesome Jess from the 21 Day Habit for lap 5. Then one of the preachers' wives from our church is going out for lap 6. And Kelley's amazing husband Ryan (who recently thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and hiked 2100 miles of the PCT last summer) is stepping up for the overnight laps 7 and 8. I'm planning to walk the entire lap 7 (5 hours) then pick up the pace a little again for lap 8. As long as the timing works out and everyone else gets there on time then it will only come down to my ability to stay on my feet.

After finishing 51 miles in January I wasn't sure I'd be able to drive myself home, and there was no way I could go back out for another lap. After 41 miles in February in Alabama I could have gone for a few more laps but really didn't feel like 59 more laps were in my legs. But this is when it counts. This is my home court. This is my backyard. This is my time to step up.

I will get beer after I'm done, but not inside of the state park.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wordless Wednesday

Haven't done this in a while, photo dump time!

Got a Yeti Trail Runners tank! Ready for some summer trail running
Got some fencing put up around the front of the shed

Left Gate

Right Fence
Got to ride home with the top down. Spring is eminent in NC!
I love my beard, but it's getting hot.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Weekend Fun

Weekends are for long runs, right? Well, I fit them in where I can. Three saturdays ago was the Delano Park 12 hour race, so I did get 41 miles done that weekend. The last two have not been so kind, but they don't have to be. I'm in taper now.

Two weekends ago was a blast. It was supposed to be my last big weekend, getting 20 miles each day Saturday and Sunday. I ended up only going to the State Capital Building and back each day, getting 10.1 miles instead of 20. Ok, I'll take it. The reason happened to be my fraternity brother Pat's birthday party in Charlotte.

the whole table (now with me in green on the right)

All of the brothers about to sing
This dinner party was on the northwest side of Charlotte, so it was about a 3 hour drive each way. I didn't stick around for the after-dinner festivities, opting to get back to Raleigh so I'd still be able to run on Sunday and hopefully do some other stuff too.

Well the time change screwed me up, as it always does. It's so hard to spring forward. Throws off the day, and the entire week ahead. So I didn't get out of bed until after 11 am and it started raining later in the afternoon, so I had a brief window of daylight to get my miles done. One capital run was all I could get. And I was not hungover.

The time change also screwed up all of the morning stuff. No yoga or strength stuff before work, having trouble waking up with the alarm, argh. all of that. no thanks. it's terrible and I hate it every year.

At least this puts me into taper. Two weeks from today (sunday night) I will be done with this Umstead 100. I'm ready to be done. I'm ready to do something other sport, like get back in the pool. Hanging out with the family more would be nice as well.

In fact, that's how I missed thursday night's planned 7 miler, and the 15's both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Thursday night I had to go pick up a raft with one of the other dads in Evil Genius's Indian Princess tribe, then Saturday EG and I went out to the Neuse River to decorate it.

The boat in the truck

EG painting her section

Rocking a giant unicorn masthead

Give a tagger some spraypaint

I really enjoyed getting to hang out with the other dads


The girls in front of their raft

Beautiful time on the river

One of the kids convinced me to put on her shirt
 EG and I had a blast together. It was just an overnight trip, 8 of the 10 of us stayed overnight in one of the other dad's river house. There may have been beer and poker, but EG and I still got plenty of time to hang out too, and she got lots of fun time with her friends. The raft is not exactly hydrodynamic, but it should perform quite well for them at the spring outing this year.

The kids were actually in Myrtle Beach all of this past week with Kelley's mom (and Kelley for most of the week), so I had most of the week to myself. And that was really nice too. Saturday I actually ended up meeting Neena partway between Raleigh and Myrtle Beach to get EG, then the two of us took off for Arapahoe, NC. Sunday I might have woken up with a bit of a hangover, and that might be my first hangover after turning 40. So I always forget how much they hurt. By the time we got back to Raleigh on Sunday afternoon, I was in no condition to run the 15 miles that were on my training plan. So I'm taking this taper thing pretty seriously, including a 5 day no-running time.

I still have 6 runs totaling 40 miles on the training plan. This really is coming down to crunch time. it's fantastic.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Delano Park 12 hour 2016

I've never done a timed race like this before. My friend Tammy told me that Delano Park 12 hour was her favorite warmup race to gain some confidence and test the fitness/nutrition strategy before the Umstead 100. She's done it for several years, and Kelley really wanted to visit Alabama again so I decided to jump in. Delano Park is in Decatur, just on the other side of Huntsville. And it turns out that Huntsville is the only city is Alabama that we can drive to without having to go through Atlanta, which Kelley also really liked. So this was setting up to be a good race.

The drive down was uneventful, we got all the way across NC, into Tennessee, across the Blue Ridge Mountains, got to kiss Georgia for a couple of miles and ended up in the Central time zone. Chattanooga was beautiful we crossed the Tennessee river several times, and that actually made me want to swim in it. Ironman Chattanooga, Swim the Suck 10 miler, whatever. That river looks like a lot of fun, and fast.

We got into Decatur around 10 pm and checked in. Ended up in the very next room from Tammy and her husband, they agreed to give me a ride to Delano Park in the morning so Kelley wouldn't have to get up or be stranded without a car, so that was really nice. I love changing time zones by going west, it gets so much easier to wake up early in the morning.

And sure enough bright and early I was dressed and in the hotel lobby eating breakfast by 5 am. We made it to the park in plenty of time to get my packet and get everything setup before the 6 am start. Timed races like this are a very strange format. This park contains a 1 mile trail. So they start at 6 am, and you run as many laps as you can until 6 pm. Everybody who completes at least 1 lap is considered a finisher. Totally fine to sleep in and start late, sit down between laps, change clothes, or even leave early. Just do what you want. Turns out, it's a pretty amazing format.

This is the trail through the park

Tammy and I ran together for many many many laps

This is the start/finish line on the other side of the park
It was an absolutely beautiful day to be out there. Started out in the 30's, so I had on a long sleeve shirt and long pants. Tammy and I started out together, and stayed together through the first 18 laps. We started out a bit fast, she had just ran a 4:15 marathon the weekend before, and I wanted to be very conservative here anyway. They had food at the start/finish line so my bottle was never dry and I got to eat every mile.

At mile 27 I knew I had Alabama knocked off of my 50 state list, so that was goal #1 completed. I stopped for a selfie.

Happy marathoner
 After that, well, I kept on running. It got slower, for sure, and there were a few laps of just walking. The sun came out and it got pretty hot. At one point, the cast of "The Wizard of Oz" from the high school next to the park came over and sang/greeted the entire course. And this guy kept following me all over the course.

Run like Godzilla is chasing you
Also important, I did become a fashion icon. The trail shoes that I started the race with did not last. After 25 miles I had to switch out to the road shoes that I brought as a backup, those trail shoes were toast. I hoped they would last through this race, but they did not have another mile to give. So I put on the pink road shoes with my orange shirt and green shorts.

Fashion. Icon. You wish you were this pretty.
The best part of this race is the people. On a one mile course, you end up passing, and eventually slowing down to talk to and walk with, everyone else who is in this race. It doesn't help when everyone there knows Tammy. I met some of the coolest people there, including an adorable younger girl with boob chafing problems (hey, I had a bleeding nipple too) and another girl who was only a week younger than me. Of course, when we figured out that we had both just turned 40, and I had her by a week, she made fun of me for being the old guy. ha! Got to love trail running people. Man we are a crazy bunch.

with new friend Chelsea

Obviously I had not seen Kelley yet but I would glad to be done.

41 miles! the last one took 22 minutes

Happy finisher
I was so glad to be done. Everything hurt after 41 miles. I was ready to be off of my feet for a bit. I really don't see how I'm going to be able to knock out the other 60 miles in just a few weeks. Delano Park was a wonderful race, and a great way to knock Alabama off of my 50 state list.

We found a local brewery in Huntsville called Below The Radar, and it was pretty amazing. I had first dinner there, then another dinner after we got into Tennessee. We wanted to cut the drive time down, so we made it to the other side of Chattanooga saturday night. Turns out, sunday was the Chattanooga Marathon, so every hotel was booked solid. Eventually we got far enough east to find a nice hotel, and drove the rest of the way back on Sunday. Splitting the drive like that made it a lot easier.

Kelley got to see the Rocket Center (Space Camp) while I was running, and got to go through the Botanical Gardens as well. So much fun! Overall we had a great trip. I am actually looking forward to going back to Alabama sometime!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Evil Genius Time

Lately I've been able to spend a lot of quality time with the Evil Genius, and it's been fantastic. She's at a great age now where we can have a lot of fun together. I realized that this goofball has been filling up my phone space with pictures so I thought I would share a few.

She actually ate the cheese out of mozzarella sticks and made fried cheese fingers

This is terrifying, and will happen again too soon.

don't I look horrified?

Taking a bite out of goofy

EG wanted to go roller skating for a school event
I'm also planning a special trip for just the two of us for the spring, just like I did for Ella when she was this age. It's going to be a blast. And I'm really appreciative of the time we've been able to spend together lately.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

February really happened

And boy am I glad that's over! February is winter's version of August. It's always terrible. It's the only month where I regularly get sick. They go and stick that made up greeting card holiday Valentine's right in the middle. ugh. spit. phew.

Swim: 0
Bike: 0
Run: 138.4, 14 runs
Strength: 7 times
Yoga: 7 times

Dang, everything was down. I'm ok with no swimming or biking, but I should have cleared 200 miles of running. 138 is pitiful. Yes there are excuses, I had the flu for a week, there were some recovery weeks in there. But the last week of the month was the biggest week in the training plan (70 miles) and I actually cleared 60 miles of that after bailing on the last day's mileage. My training plan had 20 runs totally 242 miles. I did miss 6 days for the flu. Wednesdays have gotten hard to run on thanks to other commitments. I'm at the point in the plan where I can't just knock out a quick 5 before work, it's all 10 miles or more that takes 90 to 115 minutes each. Ordinarily a 138 mile month would be nothing to sneeze at. But for 100 mile ultra training, it's just not enough volume.

That brings up my current point of panic - the Umstead 100 is one month from today, April 2nd. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. I volunteer, run a bunch of miles with these idiots, then decide to become one of them. It worked for me in Ironman. I'm trying to muster up enough confidence that it will work for me again. Hundo's are just as mental as ironman. I know that my body is capable of putting in the miles. I know that people drop out of hundo's because they don't eat enough, and I know that I can eat and run, and I know that they will have enough food to keep us all going. I have a 12 hour race coming up, and another 80 mile week before taper. it's going to be ok.

Topless Time

The weather in NC did open up to the truly beautiful a couple of times. I got the first shot on Feb 1 and the last one on Feb 28, because the entire rest of the month was too cold or rainy or just plain gray to ride around with the top down.

In the driveway after driving home from work

Evil Genius wanted to go to church on the 28th
In other happenings during February, I wasn't blogging. 2 posts last month was a new low. The closest thing to something remotely interesting was when Evil Genius and I both wore shirts from my San Diego trip on the same day. Trying to get a clean picture of it means Ella has to get in on the action too.

Hope you had a great month!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

On Running Form and Illness

A few weekends ago I was running on the treadmill because the weather was questionable when all of a sudden the Olympic Trials for the marathon came on. I don't always feel slow when I run on a treadmill, but when I do it's because I'm watching the fastest Americans  out there go crush it. Fortunately some of my favorites got into the top 3 spots so it's going to be a good time in Rio this summer!

Watching those people run was a lesson in proper form and it got my brain turning over a bit.

The first thing I did was match cadence with Meb. Sure, he was running 5 minute miles and I was clocking 9 minute miles. But we were footstriking at the same rate.

Running form, as I understand it now (reserved to change in the future), is to be tall with a natural forward lean. Use your abs to keep your hips level on all 3 planes (side to side, front to back, and center rotation), and at ground contact your shin should not be at more than a 90* angle to the ground (watch out for overstriding). This can occur with either a forefoot, midfoot, or heel strike, that's not as important as we originally thought. Overstriding is based on the angle of the shin, you always want to land on a bent knee to absorb the impact (force, motion) and return that energy back (force, opposite motion). The hips act as a fulcrum, and that is actually the key to the entire process!

Close enough except for the footstrike stuff (source)
So what makes Meb that much faster than me? How can we both keep the same 180 footstrikes per minute and not run the same speed?

There are a few ways to answer that question. The most obvious being the genetic and blood oxygen content capabilities to sustain Meb's speed over 26.2 miles. That's impressive by itself. There is also lots of math involved here, though.

Distance per stride: Each step involves pushing off from the ground (force) using the quads and calf muscles. The hips then act as a pivot point to bring the leg back into a forward position for the next ground contact. Shorter stride lengths mean a faster turnover because that leg doesn't have to travel as far to get into forward position.

Strength: The hamstrings and glutes are used to bring the leg forward. If one hip drops when that foot hits the ground (lateral flexion) then the force transferred to the ground at impact gets lost instead of being transferred back to the body during pushoff. Having one shoe scrape the calf when the leg comes forward, or having uneven arm movements (don't let your hands cross the center line of the torso!) can indicate hip problems. Bringing one hip forward (centerline rotation) can also throw off impact.

Conditioning: Think of the hips like a bowl. Dorsal flexion is letting the bowl tip forward to spill out some of the milk. A lot of the time, trying to run with a forward lean creates a problem where we bend at the waist, and the hip bowl spills forward as a result. Running tall keeps the bowl level; this takes core strength. Your current conditioning will limit how long you can hold this proper form.

When I need to run fast like Meb, I can push off of the ground harder. This will increase my stride length. My calves will fail first since I have ankle & knee inflammation issues, then my quads, hamstrings, and abs will fatigue. Before bringing my leg forward again for the next stride, keep the foot as far off of the ground as possible. This will maximize the distance that the hip (and glutes) have to bring that leg forward to start the next stride. But if I practice this technique often enough, I may be able to finish a 1 mile race in a relatively fast time, maybe around 6 minutes. Add in some conditioning, and I may be able to race a 5k in a respectable time (like my 21:54 PR).

And to think, it all starts with cadence. To calculate my cadence, I look at the clock when I can start counting my right foot strikes. After 30 right foot strikes, I look at the clock again. Ideally it will be exactly 20 seconds later. The math: 20 seconds * 3 is one minute, 30 right strikes * 3 is 90. It's a safe assumption that I also had 90 foot strikes with the left leg in the same time frame, so that adds up to the 180 footstrikes per minute goal cadence.

My theory is that you can run the goal cadence at any given speed for a limited amount of time. For a long race like an ultramarathon, just use less strength and a shorter stride length and you can slow down to a 9 minute speed. Then work on the conditioning to be able to hold that speed or go slower for a given distance, like 31 or even 100 miles. With enough base miles on your legs, aerobically you should be fine. I've done a lot of 20 mile runs this training cycle at a 180 cadence, 9 min/mile pace, and kept my heart rate under 150.

The rest of the story

So this was happening the day before Valentines. I cut this particular 20 miler down to only 15 because I felt some tightness in my chest and was starting to cough pretty good during the run. Kelley had been sick with an acute upper respiratory infection that turned out not to be cute at all. That evening, she was finally feeling better so the kids and I prepared her a lovely Italian Mixed Grill dinner with lots of veggies and different meats. It was a meal fit for a princess and she was feeling the love from us all, for sure.

I ended up drinking an entire bottle of wine with dinner since she didn't end up wanting any. The side effect from this is that I may have convinced the children that babies come from Tequila (hey, am I wrong?) so that's fun.

Turns out, I did end up having the flu. That meant I was drunk and sick saturday night, then hungover and sick sunday morning. Tough to tell which was worse. By Monday, I felt better but was still coughing too loudly to be around other people, so I worked from home all week and only got outside once. Wednesday night I had to run pick up some children's Advil since both of the kids picked up the flu and missed half of the week of school. Literally, I didn't even go out to the mailbox or put on something besides pajamas from Saturday night until friday morning, save for the one sweatpants trip to the drug store.

Eventually we did all come back to life. I went back to the office, the kids went back to school, and we're all ready to see the end of February. Hey, that's now! Alright.