Once or twice a week I am going to post an update that covers both my training and how it is affecting my life. Similar to a television or comic book series, the entire thing will culminate with a confrontation with the “Big Bad” that is lurking in the background throughout the entire series.
I am a huge believer in momentum, and the Georgia Death Race was supposed to be my positive kickoff to 2016.
The Death Race is a tough event in the Georgia mountains that has more than 40,000 feet of elevation change between its start at Vogel State Park and the finish at Amicalola State Park.
I registered for the race for multiple reasons: It is a qualifier for the Western States 100; it provided me training motivation through the winter; and I’d get to spend time with a large group of local running friends who were going to be running the event.
There is positive momentum and negative momentum. Positive momentum can lead you to amazing summits in both running and life. Negative momentum can lead you to some dark and low places. I believe that we can chose which direction we are going — up or down. External factors do come into play, but the events of our lives do not control our lives, rather our reactions to those events control our lives.
Last week was all about family and celebrating Independence day. The theme to this week was #grinding4grindstone. I wanted to get back on track and really start focusing in on a few things that would benefit me when October gets here. While the week did not go perfectly, it went well and the miles added up.
In preparation for the major inclines at Grindstone I added in treadmill incline work. I set the treadmill at 12% and work my way to 15% over two miles of power hiking. It felt horrible. And I still hate the treadmill. I had planned a date with the tire on Thursday but was feeling a few tweaks that kept me from strapping it on. This week the tire and I will be spending some quality time together though. I also haven’t spent as much time with my core as I would like. I reached out to seasoned friend who recommended a series on YouTube called Fitnessblender. This week I hope to motivate myself enough to give that a try.
I cut today’s trail run a little shorter than I had planned. I went out yesterday and put in a good 5 hours running. Towards the end of the run I knew that I needed to foam roll, but I got home and didn’t. Today my IT band was talking to me pretty loudly so I cut my beautiful trail run short at 13 miles. I then went home, foam rolled and went out again for an awesome 9 miles. I need to get better about listening to my legs.
I spent my trail runs this weekend working on my walking skills. I learned during the C&O Canal 100 that what I had read many times before was true, during that long of a run, walking is required. So this time I am really attempting to walk more. I have been practicing running for 7 minutes followed by walking for 5 minutes. I have also been focusing on walking efficiently. I found this article from Ultra running Magazine pretty helpful, http://www.ultrarunning.com/featured/how-to-increase-your-walking-efficiency/.
One area I feel I have done well this summer is balancing my home, running, and work life. Back in April I accepted some additional responsibilities at work and I knew that I would see some additional work hours and stress as a result. I also pride myself on putting my family before work and running. So I immediately started running in the mornings before work. For me this means getting up at 4 AM and running 7 or so miles. This gives me time to get to work by 6:30 AM. When I get home, I am pretty much done. My wife gets home from the gym and we have plenty of time to hang out and enjoy each others company.
Getting used to 4 AM runs took probably three weeks. At first it seemed my pace would be off by 30 seconds or so per mile and I felt like my run quality was suffering. My running partner, Penny the dog, also seemed to have an issue getting going this early in the morning. However, as I built up the routine of waking up three days per week and getting the miles in, my pace picked up. I actually think I am starting to prefer these early morning runs to my afternoon runs. Its also nice since Penny would not be able to run in this heat if I waited till the afternoon. The only negative side effect is I am down for the count by 9 PM.
I know I owe a right up on a winter race I am craving, but that will have to wait till next week. Speaking of next week, I will be running the Rosaryville 50K next Sunday with a group of good friends. The trail is a home course of mine that I have been running since high school and the guys I am running it with are awesome. I am really looking forward to getting out there with them.
As always feel free to follow along on twitter @JaredMilesUltra or look me up on Starva.
Training this week:
Monday AM: 7 miles
Tuesday AM: 7 Miles
Tuesday PM: 2 Miles Incline Treadmill
Wednesday AM: 7 Miles
Thursday AM: 5 Miles
Saturday: 24 Miles (4 with Penny then 20 on trail)
I will start with the biggest news first. While enjoying a Sunday hangover, I signed up for the Leatherwood Mountain Ultra Marathon which is set for April 20, 2013. According to the website:
“Race course will take place over varied terrain in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Much of the race will be on single track trail, but will have a mix of asphalt, gravel, and jeep trail roads. Tree foliage should be close to peak at this time, so much of the race will be shaded when on trail. If you have experience running in the Blue Ridge Mountains you’ll know that the trail could change from one day to the next. One day could be dry, the next could be muddy.”
This should be 50 miles of challenging fun. I am excited about hitting up trails in a different part of the country. Another huge benefit to this race will be that my fiancé, Sara, won’t have to just stand around waiting for me. A 10 mile trail race is also being offered. Instead of staying in a hotel, there are awesome cabins for us to stay in and a decent looking restaurant to party in after the race. I have to give a shout out to Co-Race Director Tim Worden for answering a few of my questions and pointing me towards the Leatherwood Mountain Facebook page. Additional information can be found there or at the races official site http://lwmtnultrarun.com/ and @LWMtnUltraRun on Twitter. Tim is also a great follow on twitter @trailruntim. If you end up signing up, let me know and we will have pre/post race beer.
On to my training. The last few weeks I have attempted to refocus. This has included rebuilding my miles and starting P90X.
I know that I work significantly better when I do something everyday. It’s about establishing a rhythm and continuing it once I have hit my full stride. I started P90X three weeks ago. At first I was only planning on doing the weight lifting tapes. My assumption was that I do enough cardio while running that I did not need those other tapes.
I was wrong. I do not have the self discipline to only work out three days. A planned work out for Tuesday quickly becomes a “well it’s Saturday, I will start next week”. I had to change my way of thinking. I had to establish a rhythm.
I am now on day 7 of P90X. The only tape I have skipped is the Yoga X tape. I have attempted it before, I do not have the patience.
My running has also hit full swing. I finished the recovery program and I started a Hal Higdon marathon program to rebuild my base. I will modify the program slightly and increase my Friday and Saturday runs. I am a big fan of the back to back long runs when training for an ultra. Once I hit 18 mile long runs, I will diverge from the program all together and begin building toward the 50 miler in April.
The highlight of the last few weeks has really been being on the trails again. There is nothing in the world like being out on a trail on a crisp fall morning and I missed the hell out of it. So far I have stayed close to home running the St. Mary’s Lake trail. It’s an easy 7.5 mile loop but it’s a lot of fun to run.
To date I have had no issues with getting in miles and my foot seems to be fully healed. I ran 26 miles last week and have been pushing my pace on my shorter miles. Between the P90X and daily runs (yes the running streak is back) I have reclaimed my rhythm. My run streak is currently on day 23.
In order to remind myself to keep up my daily habits, I have used my iPhone. The operating systems has a program called Reminders. I have set daily reminders for running, P90X, and planking. It’s just a measure to guilt myself out of being lazy and placing a check in the box is a little satisfying.
With everyone running fall races I am also insanely jealous of what I have seen people accomplish. I have been following a fellow runner, Michael (@RIPTAR_Running) for a few months. In June he completed the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k on the same day that I completed the 50 miler. Unlike me he avoided a late summer injury and set high fall goals. He recently placed an amazing 18th at the UROC 100k. I followed his progress online and I am ridiculously impressed by his performance and envious of the belt buckle he received at the finish.
Anyone who is looking to start a running program, I mentioned Hal Higdon earlier. I highly recommend any of his programs no matter what level you are currently at. His plans can be found at http://www.halhigdon.com. To everyone who is challenging themselves, you are awesome keep it up.
The day of the race, I woke up at 3:30 am for the 5:30 start. I got up, put clothes on, and went down to the kitchen. My breakfast that morning was the left over spaghetti I had during dinner the night before. I tried to not think about what my day would hold and just act as though I was preparing for a weekly long run. After eating, I went upstairs and woke my fiancé, Sara, up. The plan was for Sara to drop me off, hang out for the start of the race, and then go back home and get ready for the day. She would then meet me at Great Falls aid station. After she was ready, I grabbed my drop bag (gear the race will pre-position for you at an aid station) and headed for Algonkian State Park.
Sara picked on me for how much stuff I packed into my running bag. I normally am the most unprepared person in the world. One year, I made it all the way to the starting line for the Marine Corps Marathon before I realized I didn’t have my bib. Luckily someone in my family was able to get it to me before the start of the race.
My drop bag for the North Face Endurance Challenge included: extra running shoes, three packs of Nuun, two pairs of sock, two pairs of running shorts, extra headphones, two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a pack of batteries, bandaids, and a ton of safety pins. I really did not want to leave anything to chance.
At the starting line everyone gathered in tight. The big concern was the amount of rain we had the night before. The field we were standing in was thoroughly saturated. The day before it had rained over an inch and I was actually concerned the race might be canceled as it had been the previous time I signed up for the North Face.
I was talking with Sara trying to contain my nerves when they made the announcement to head for the starting line. I turned on my light as Dean Karnazes gave a pep talk. The runners were awesome. There was so much energy as people bounced and stretched. Then the race started.
The course had us start by running around a field, by a golf course, onto something like a fire road, then down onto single track. The trail would take us 14 miles to Great Falls State Park. At Great Falls we would take 3 loops, which on the last loop I would be able to pick up my pacer, Josh.
About 2 miles into the race, I almost started laughing as I went waist deep into a stream that was over flowing from the day before’s rainfall. Not 20 minutes before there had been a huge pile up of runners as we encountered an extra soggy bit of field and everyone had made efforts to go around. Now there was no choice but to wade into the cold deep stream
The other runners were awesome. I spent the majority of the first 14 miles getting to know some of the others who ran my pace. There were runners who had finished the Umstead 100 (which is on my bucket list), runners who had done over 20 ultras, and ones like me who were out for their first 50 miler. It was awesome to be around a group of people who had put themselves through the same hours of training I had. Who knew what it was like to run at all times of night just to get a few extra miles in. They were just an overwhelmingly positive group of people.
Through the first few aid stations, I avoided food. I did however drink some Gu Brew, an electrolyte supplement. I normally would have had Nuun, my electrolyte drink of choice, but the aid station did not have any set out.
As the sun came up, I was able to see how beautiful the Algonkian trail was. It runs next to the river and has some breathtaking views as you roll along through the hills. The trail’s condition itself definitely slowed the runners though. With every foot strike, my feet would dig into the mud about an inch and then slip out from under me slightly. It took a great amount of effort to not fall and a much slower pace. Every half mile or so, we would run through ankle deep water.
By the time we made it to Great Falls, I was in great spirits and running with an awesome group of people. When I made it to the aid station, I was excited to see Sara and stopped for a moment to tell her how great things were going. After a small catch up, I put some Gu Brew into my hand held and headed back off through the trail.
Great Falls is an awesome park with a variety of trail types. The race routed us through a significant portion of the park with varying terrain and a few significant inclines. This included a breathtaking view of the falls on a part of the trail where one wrong step would send you a few hundred feet off a cliff, and into the falls. The course had the 50 milers, taking 3 loops at Great Falls.
It was during my second loop that I started having real difficulty. I was mentally off. My pace was falling. I was having more difficulty than I had previously had in any race. Gu Brew? I am not 100% sure that’s what caused my issues, but it was the only new factor which I could point to. As I made my way to the aid station where Sara and Josh were waiting for me, I was at mile 28 and I was shot.
Sara was concerned for me. I walked to my bag, grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and started stretching. I said hi to her and Josh and just preceded with my normal stretching routine. My intent was to act like I was just starting my run for the day. Josh and I have been on 100s of runs together, I was trying to tell myself this was just the start of a normal run for him and I. I also stopped drinking Gu Brew and started drinking just water.
Having Josh really helped me through that period of the race. He provided some humor and trash talk. Enough trash talk that I began threatening to throw him off the cliffs. And we actually had a guy run with us for a while to see if I would really do it. He also allowed me to walk him through what I had been doing fuel wise and come up with a game plan for how I could get back on track.
By mile 35, we were on our way out of Great Falls and I was feeling myself again. I think leaving Great Falls was the point when I really thought I could finish the race.
The quality of the trail was significantly worse than it was on the way into Great Falls. In addition to the 50 milers, a 50K, and a marathon were being run on the overly wet trails. The footing was just horrible. I have been running with Josh for years, he is one of those guys who trips every 20 yards. I have no idea how I didn’t end up having to carry him out.
The longest gap between aid stations is on the Algonkian trail. On the course map I think it said it was 6 miles, but according to my GPS it was 8 miles. This created a little concern. Not only was I significantly fatigued at this point, but I was low on water. Josh didn’t carry any water on him, and so we shared my bottle.
When we reached the aid station, I pigged out on skittles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. By now I had learned to request Nuun from the awesome staff that was working the stations. My legs were more than killing me, but I had run 45 miles. Worst case, I could walk it in from that aid station and would make the cut off.
Josh and I didn’t walk it in though. We ran. Slowly but we ran. As we came out of the woods, we were greeted by little kids who had run the kids running Challenge. I congratulated every one of them I passed. I love seeing kids encouraged to be active and it inspired me to pick the pace up a little.
The last 30 yards to the finish was pure mud. I crossed the line in 10 hours and 57 minutes. I believe that in a better set of trail conditions I could have performed significantly better, but I am damned proud of that time.
In hindsight, the race was everything I wanted it to be. I loved meeting ultra runners and how supportive everyone was. I cannot say enough or give enough thanks to the volunteers at the aid stations. Sara is awesome. She made it to so many of the aid stations and gave me so much support not just during the race but in training for the race as well. She even turned the hose on me when we got back to the house so I could go inside for dinner. I could not have picked a better pacer than Josh. It was not only my first 50 miler, it was also the longest Josh had ever run in his life. I am hoping that he now has the same sick desire I do and will do a few more ultras with me.
The first time I attempted to train for a 50 mile ultra marathon was back in 2008. That year the Washington, DC North Face Endurance Challenge was scheduled for September and I had decided early in spring that instead of running a second marathon, I would make the huge jump and give it a shot. I have to credit Dean Karnazes for much of my motivation. I had read his first novel, “The Ultramarathon Man,” and instantly had the bug.
My training predictably put me in a bad place. A month out from the race I could have probably PR’d for a marathon but I knew that I was in no way ready to attempt a trail 50 miler. I also had started to suffer from an IT band issue. I had never had the joy of ITBS and it wrecked my running. However, all the way up to a couple days before the race, I was dumb enough to think I could have run the full 50 miles. It didn’t help that my friend Kat had also signed up. To say that she was in beast mode during college would be an understatement. She was one of the few people I knew at the time that could show up on any given Sunday and a run sub 4 hour marathon. Committing to running the race and knowing that she could, definitely added some pressure.
I lucked out. A horrible storm rolled through and canceled the race that year. North Face stepped up and impressed me by having a banquet dinner for the runners. They gave out free North Face swag. Mr. Dean Karnazes signed books, stood around and talked with fans, and took pictures with all the runners in attendance. The race organizers for the Endurance Challenge went out of their way to try to provide the obviously let down runners with a quality experience.
Fast forward to November 2011. I had the privilege of cheering on my good friend Melissa during the Savannah Rock and Roll Marathon. A race I had signed up for and failed to train for. She was awesome and I had a blast cheering her and the other runners on. I also was dying to get out there with them. I signed up for the DC Rock and Roll Marathon before we left Savannah. When I got home, I bought a new pair running shoes.
Inspired by multiple people on twitter I began a running/beer streak. Every day I ran at least a mile and drink at least one beer. The theory being: how horrible can a day be if I was able to enjoy two things I love? Also, even though I had not been running much in 2011, I began researching races for after I finished the DC R&R. I noticed that the DC North Face Endurance Challenge had moved to the first weekend in June. I felt like it was an unfinished opportunity. It was a good month after I registered before I told anyone.
Training through winter may have been the best thing for me. I have always hated running in the cold, but there was something relaxing about going out in the cold dark evenings and pushing myself. It was also awesome that I was the only one running through my neighborhood. When I was able to hit the local train, an awesome 7 mile loop around a large man made lake, the only sounds that kept me company were crunching leaves. By the time that it started to warm up, I felt like the returning runners where invading my privacy.
I used the 10% rule (slowly increasing my mileage by 10% per week to prevent injury) until I was regularly putting in over 50 miles per week. I celebrated the first time that I ran over 50 miles in one week. I did not focus on the speed as much as focused on the miles. Sara and I also bought a treadmill. I had intended on using the treadmill to work on speed walking. While I had never walked much during marathons, I had read many times that it was imperative to walk the inclines to conserve energy. I had to admit that I did not use the treadmill nearly enough.
In March, the DC Rock & Roll was a strong performance. I managed to PR by 4 minutes running a 3:52 minute marathon. I also stopped around mile 6 and drank a beer with some friendly local Hashers (On-On). I did not taper for the marathon. I ran a total of 67 mils that week, ending with the personal best.
By the time late May came around, I was in the best running shape of my life. Additionally, I have never been more happy in my personal life. I felt like running was able to center me and allowed me to put everything into balance. Knowing that I was going to run at least a mile and normally an hour or more everyday forced me to prioritize everything. I made time for Sara, time for myself, was more patient at work, and felt awesome.
The North Face allows any 50 mile runner to have a pacer. I had never run with a pacer before, but then again I had never run 50 miles before. While I believed that I could finish the race unassisted, I reached out to an old running friend, Josh, for a little help. I have run more miles with Josh than anyone else. We were on the cross country team together and meet regularly to put in a few miles. He is one of those people that not only knows me as a runner, but will put up with me at my worst.
Sara and I would be stayed at her parents house, which was significantly closer to Algonkian State Park, which would be the start and the finish line. The night before the race I had a good beer, ate some pasta, and felt really relaxed. I can remember goofing off with Sara and being really relaxed. More relaxed than I had been for any other race. I was ready to attempt my first 50 mile ultramarathon. My first ultramarathon.
I am going to have an ongoing series of posts here on what inspires me. There are days when either it feels like there is no time or just no joy in the thought of going out for a 10 mile run. On those days it helps to think of a reason to run and I would like to share a few of mine. I’ll start with Chad Madden.
The first time I met Chad Madden was at a Fat Tuesday party. It was made very clear to me during our first conversation that he was living a full and adventurous life. Chad’s favorite pastimes include skydiving, base jumping, and numerous other things I personally do not have the guts to do.
Since that initial meeting Chad and I bumped into each other at work, parties, and even had the pleasure of running the Warrior Dash with him in 2010. Chad ran the entire race with a little bottle of Gatorade. He had emptied the bottle and filled it with bourbon. I will never forget watching his failed attempt at flipping over the top of the cargo net that I was afraid to climb. I had been hesitant to put my first leg over the top, he apparently placed his hands on the opposite side of the net and tried to flip his body over the top. Chad and I are not extremely close friends, but I see a lot of myself in him and I admire a lot of the things he has accomplished.
March 9th of this year, Chad was in a sky diving accident. Skydiving is to Chad what running is to me. He is an experienced skydiver and was working with a coach in California the day of the accident. He broke his C2 vertebrae and has been left a quadriplegic.
During Chad’s rehabilitation, his family joined him at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. He was then transferred to the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Hospital in Richmond, VA where he is currently continuing his rehabilitation. Unfortunately in June, his parents home in Idaho was torched in a wildfire. The link below is an article by Emily Smith of CNN discussing both events:
The human spirit is an amazing thing. Chad’s family has gone through two traumatic life changing events this year. Yet through it all they continue to be positive and to rally around each other. Chad has requested consistently to be challenged and pushed by his doctors so that he can progress. His sense of humor and positive attitude while dealing with his situation has amazed everyone.
In addition to just being in awe of Chad’s resilience, I am damned proud of how the community has helped him and his family. Co-workers have donated leave hours and hotel points to help offset expenses. A scooter is being raffled off with all proceeds going to help the family. A local yoga studio, that Chad attended, held a fundraiser in which they invited everyone to wear a ski cap to a hot yoga session (something Chad loved to do). And the skydiving community, which reminds me of the running community, has come together to raise over $8000. The amount of support that friends and total strangers have given him just makes me smile.
Last week I had the privilege of meeting one of Chad’s brothers at a local pub. I heard again how positive Chad remains. What I also heard though is that Chad plans on returning to his favorite hobby. Chad cannot wait until he skydives again. His brother, also a highly experienced skydiver, plans on jumping tandem with Chad when he is out of rehabilitation.
There are days when I do not feel like running. On those days, I sometimes think about Chad. To him skydiving is my running. If Chad could today he would be in Orange, VA prepping for a jump so, I need to put my damned shoes on and smile through my run. Also, life throws curve balls. I have been fortunate that my life and my health have allowed me to become an ultra runner. I cannot take that for granted.
Here are a couple of links for Chad if you are interested in learning more of his story:
Next week I will finally be back to running. Should be lacing up the shoes on Monday and restarting my running streak. So stay tuned to actually hear about how my running is going. Also, thank you everyone who visited my blog in its first week. I received some great positive feedback and I just want everyone to know I am extremely appreciative.
First, thank you for even pulling this blog up. This is day one of RunningForDays and I know it is kind of barren around here, but I will change that.
Why “RunningForDays”? Starting last November I began a daily running streak while preparing for my first 50 mile race, The North Face Endurance Challenge DC. At the height of my training I was putting in 15 miles on Friday and 25+ miles on Saturday. On my rest days I was running at least a slow mile to keep my streak alive. In between running, I was slightly obsessive. I was reading books about running, tailoring my food to benefit my running, changing my schedule to fit my running schedule, finding and following other endurance athletes on Twitter, and I drove out of the way on business trips to run strange new trails. In other words, everyday was based on training to complete the 50 mile race. It was the most fun I have ever had training and it helped me to better understand myself. Also, a huge shout out to my extremely supportive fiancé for allowing me to be this insane. So it is “RunningForDays” because thats what I felt I was doing at times. I was just running.
“RunningForDays” also fits because my end goal will probably have me running for a period over 24 hours. In the Fall of 2013, I plan on attempting my first 100 Mile ultra. I am eyeing the Pinhoti 100 Mile Trail Run (www.pinhoti100.com) for reason I’ll explain in a future post. That is if I don’t have any more set backs.
In June I completed my first ultra at the North Face. It was awesome. And I can say without a doubt that ultrarunners are the best community of athletes I have ever been around. I finished the 50 miles in just under 11 hours. I would like to think I could have done a little better if it had not been for the mud. Hitting waist deep water at 5:30 am did make the race a little more special though. My biggest and most humbling learning lesson came four weeks after the race. I had taken two weeks down time to rest then ramped my mileage up. I was on track to run more miles in the month of July than I had in any month this year. And then I got out fitted with a cute little boot and told I could not run for 6 weeks. My very first stress fracture (sadly I am sort of proud that I ran until my foot broke). The Run Streak ended at 235 days.
Being stubborn I immediately found pfitzinger.com, where Mr. Pfitzinger not only offers a deepwater jogging program but also a return to running program for those suffering from stress fractures. I have spent the last 5 weeks in the pool with an Aqua-jogger wrapped around my waste watching everyone in the neighborhood run past the pool. Know that if you have run past my pool, there is a chance I was in it staring at you. I was picking my pace up a little imaging that I could catch you, and wondering if you had any skittles in your waste pack. The whole experience has been torture and it has focused on how much this lifestyle means to me.
On August 30th, I should be cleared to run again. I will be taking my time rebuilding based one Mr. Pfitzinger’s program then gradually bringing myself back to where I was. It is going to take time and patience on my part. But I can promise you, I’ll smile every time I run past the pool.
Prior to my injury I had ambitions of running Umstead as my first attempt at 100 miles. My injury forced me to rethink my running plan for 2013. I took to the internet and Twitter in search of a 50 miler for April. What I have found is the inaugural Leatherwood Mountain Ultra Run (www.LWMtnUltraRun.com) and an extremely helpful co-RD, MR. Tim Worden. Set in the foothills of the Appalachians, it will provide me with challenging trails and also give my fiancé and I a nice little vacation. From Leatherwood till Pinhoti, I should have enough time to back my mileage down and rebuild. The point being to avoid this damned boot.
RunningForDays is going to be a weekly project that will track my training and progress towards completing my first 100 mile Ultra marathon. I will also post a few book reviews and commentaries that are running related. I used to think of myself as a bit of a writer, and I am excited at the prospect of combining two of my passions. On the way to competing my first 50 miler there were many blogs (ashwalsh.wordpress.com is a must) that I read for inspiration and to grab a few kernels of knowledge from, my hope is that this does the same for a few others. So thank you reading this far, and please stay tuned.