This is the obligatory, “It has been a while, but I am back” blog post.
Last year, I fell off in keeping up this site and contributing to The Endurist — my side project with Sara.
I enjoy reading the regularly updated blogs, such as Writer on Writing by Peter Clines and Macdrifter from Gabe Weatherhead. I was recently going through their archives and found myself wishing I had maintained this site a little better.
The Bigfoot 200 was the culmination of almost two years of planning and training. In my head — finish or fail — my participation in this event was going to be my victory lap.
In November 2014, I found myself in the middle of a surprise divorce.
Shaken both emotionally and financially, I was forced to reevaluate my plans to run the 2015 Grand to Grand Ultra, a unique multi-day challenge that was going to be the farthest I had traveled for a race. Instead, I sent a painful email to the race director and donated the non-refundable portion of my entry fee.
Pursuing your passions means finding a way to balance and prioritize.
I learned this rule in college: At any given time you can juggle three things — outside of work — and still commit enough time and effort to each.
You can pick a sport, learn to play an instrument, and have a dog. But you cannot start writing a book at the same time. Try to add a fourth and you can no longer invest the time to get a proper return on your investment. You’ll be spread to thin, stressed out and unable properly commit your time to accomplishing your goal.
How does this work?
There are 168 hours in a week. Of those 168 hours, I spend approximately 45 hours working and — if I am lucky — 49 hours asleep. On paper, that leaves 74 hours to commit to other areas in my life.
Sometimes the race isn’t about you, but in those times it can be the most rewarding.
A year ago I spent the third weekend in May working the finish line of the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100-mile run. I spent it with friends I had made in the pervious six months, watching runners complete a hard and difficult race.
That Sunday, I can clearly remember standing in the field by the finish, staring at the mountains, listening to the crowd cheering runners to the end, and crossing a mental finish line of my own.
It was the moment I knew I was alright with my marriage ending.
This year, I returned to crew and pace a good friend who badly needed a win of his own.
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.
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 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.