Five Life Lessons – Running – Training – Racing – Ultra Marathon

Five life lessons that hold true for your running, training and racing.

1.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew – The current running boom has given birth to a large number of appealing races.  It’s easy to go from running your first 10k to signing up for a race of marathon distance or longer.  Every month brings a new issue of the latest running magazines filled with scores of glossy and flashy race ads.  With on-line registration it’s easy to commit to a race (and invest a good deal of money) before your body may be ready for the challenge.  To ensure success, build a solid base, train smart and be ready for that longer race.  Your body and wallet will thank you.

shalane

2.  You’re always a role model for someone – You may not think it.  You may not believe it, but someone is watching you. Someone desires that they could run as fast, as far or as often as you.  Embrace the impact you can have on someone else, we all can’t be Meb, Shalane, Kara, Dean, Anton, etc.  You need only to be “You” to encourage and inspire someone.

3.  Don’t cry over spilled milk – Did you miss a training run?  Did it rain so hard you had no choice but to cancel your long run.  Was the track closed for your last speed session?  You can’t change yesterday just like you can’t put the sand back on to the other side of an hour glass.  Accept that the day did not go as planned regroup and attack your run tomorrow. 

4.  Stop and smell the roses -  A personal record is nice.  An age group top three is wonderful.  Winning a race would be over the top, but don’t be so focused on your racing goals to miss the bald eagle that landed next to the trail.  The water fall you ran past at mile 12 or the family of deer that crossed the road at mile 22.  Running is about more than the time on the clock or your standings in a race.  Enjoy the world around you as you kick butt against the clock.

5.  Time heals all wounds…regardless of how you feel right now. – Did you have a crappy race?  You went out to fast and hit the wall.  Your planned finishing kick left you high and dry.  Take 24 hours, be angry, be upset and vow to come back faster and smarter, then put it behind you.

polls_24_logo_1_2117_103877_answer_2_xlarge

Running is part of your life…for some a big part.  These five life lessons can help you in the real world and the world in which you run.

What are some of your life lessons that play equally well in your running life?

Guest Post, First Ultra Marathon by Jeff

I would like to introduce, Jeff S, @JSmerc26pt2 on Twitter.  Some how even though Jeff pulls for another football team, located 100 miles to the south east of the Great Cleveland Browns, we have become friends on SM.  Jeff is an accomplish marathoner with 31 finishes at the 26.2 mile distance.  Jeff recently he ran his first Ultra-marathon.  I asked Jeff to wear orange and brown during the race but he declined and instead took me up on my offer for him to share his feelings on his first 50k.

Ladies and Gentlemen…..Jeff’s thoughts on his first Ultra and the LT J.C. Stone 50k – March 21 2015

jeff50k

The LT. JC Stone 50K Ultra Marathon is a very well organized event that is held at beautiful North Park Lake in Allison Park, PA. The scenic course starts at the North Park Boat House with a short loop, then proceeds to complete six five-mile loops around the lake. I suppose the course could be considered by some to be a bit boring and mentally challenging due to its six consecutive loops, but it is also a strategically perfect event for a first-time Ultra runner. The looped course on rolling paved roads has two aid stations 2.5 miles apart.

50K Start 3

While some could consider this a boring course, there is no shortage of beautiful scenery and wildlife consisting of deer, bald eagle, herring, Canadian geese and other wildlife. The Race Director does a very good job organizing this small event and the volunteers and spectators who support the runners are very helpful and enthusiastic.

A nice perk to being a loop course, is that you can park your vehicle and setup your support camp right along the Start\Finish stretch and stop whenever you need for refueling, or change of shirt or whatever you need. My support crew of 10+ folks had a blast at this event. If you have a support crew, they are to pace you and provide support as long as one person does not pace the entire event.

jeff50kb(Jeff did spot some Orange)

I’m glad I chose this small, local 50K race for my first venture into the Ultra Marathon World. I was nervous and anxious leading up to the Ultra, so it was nice not having to worry about travel, hotel, meals and unfamiliar terrain. Because I train at this park every weekend, I’m very familiar with the course, and it felt like I had home-field advantage not having to worry about the unknown.

I’ve now completed 31 Marathons including four Goofy Challenges, two Dopey Challenges and one 50K Ultra Marathon. I cannot thank my support group of friends enough. They kept me going and on pace throughout the entire run in addition relaying on all the well wishes and encouragement from Twitter and Facebook friends!

I thoroughly enjoyed my first 50K, and my support team was the absolute BEST that day, not only providing support to me, but all athletes as they passed by my base camp. I’d like to say I’ll do another Ultra in the future, but I honestly don’t know if I will. This one provided perfect temperatures, terrain and organization, and my support crew couldn’t get any better. I feel like I should stop while on top of the world! I don’t think I can top this experience or feeling.

Finish Line 1

I had some follow on questions for Jeff:

How did you feel once reaching the 26.2 mile mark and still have 5 miles to run?   I felt pretty good. (My longest run ever was 27.1 miles) My Ultra strategy of a comfortable 10:15 run pace with a 45-60 second walk break each mile kept me feeling fresh and right around that 11min\mile goal I had in mind. I always had at least one or two members of my support crew with me to keep the mood light and conversation flowing.  I was tiring somewhat but the adrenaline and visions of the Finish Line celebrations in my head kept pushing me forward.

How did this compare to your marathons?  I’ve had good and bad marathon experiences.  I do not run well in warm and humid conditions and tend to break down from dehydration.  Because this race started in the 40′s and never got warmer than low 50′s and was overcast I was in HEAVEN!  My first Ultra experience was an all-round WIN-WIN for me!

Why did you decide to run a 50k?  I have some friends that are Ultra runners and they kept encouraging me to give a 50K a try. My dear friend and Ultra Coach Marie B. is an outstanding Ultra Marathoner.  She Coached, encouraged and kept pushing me telling me I was capable running an Ultra. She wrote her prediction on a piece of paper and came with two minutes thirty two seconds of my actual finish time.  She told me – “I know you Jeff, I know what you are capable of.”  This meant the world to me knowing she had such faith in me that I could achieve this goal.

What was the hardest part of the run?  Past the 27.1 mile mark – this was the furthest I’d ever run.  I took a deep breath, exhaled hard told myself I can do this and keep pushing forward.  I’m not gonna lie, the last three miles with the rolling hills were more challenging than they seemed earlier in the race.  I also encountered a very strong head wind the last four miles that made it feel as I was running on a treadmill going nowhere at times.

What advice would you give to someone considering running their first 50k?  I would tell them YOU CAN DO IT!  It’s only five additional miles from the Marathon.  Unless you are an exceptional or elite athlete, you must start slower than you normal marathon pace.  Conserve your energy early so you still have some in the reserve tank for those final five miles. I was told on my very first marathon – You don’t bank time, you bank energy!  This is very true!  What a great feeling to finish strong and still have energy in the tank and the legs still feel strong.  I would also tell them, do your research. Find a course that sounds doable to you. Is it a road or trail course?  What is the elevation like? Is it an out and back or a loop course?  Find something that sounds achievable to you. Set yourself up for success not failure!

I have several Ultra Friends, and they are a different breed of athlete. I’m not sure if I fit into that category, but at least for one day I can say I achieved the honor of finishing and becoming a member of the Ultra Marathon Club. I now can proudly say I am a Runner, Marathoner and Ultra Marathoner!

Capture

Great Race Jeff, Congrats and welcome to the club of special idiots who run longer then 26.2 miles……

Running Hills, Hill Repeats, Hill Climbs and Ultra Marathon Racing

We need them.  They make us stronger.  We build them into our training and we sometimes avoid them at all costs.  They fight us and sometimes they defeat us.  Hills love them or hate them they are out there.

Ask ten runners and you’ll get ten different opinions on whether or not they like hills.  Myself, I’m a fan on a few conditions:  I know they are coming, I have time to get my mind right and the hill is winnable (or at least I have a fair shot at it.)

hillrunner1

I know they are coming.  I actually enjoy races with hills.  I like the challenge.  I enjoy the test.  I live for the moment that I win the battle with the hill at mile 10, the middle of an Ultra-marathon, or the finishing push at the end of the Marine Corp Marathon.  I know the battle is in front of me and I am ready for the challenge.  Conversely, I loathe the hill that is not on the race map, not listed on the elevation profile or that is right in the middle of a course that the Race Director claimed to be a “flat and fast.”  I love the hill I know is coming…but I hate the hill and the race with the secret.

I have time to get my mind right.  I love the challenge I know is in front of me.  I love getting my mind ready for the fight.  Just like a boxer who uses his entrance into the ring to fire him up for the oncoming battle, if I know a hill is coming I get up for the battle.  During the miles preceding the hill I tell myself I am hill monster, a hill destroyer, I reason my legs are hydraulic pistons ready to pound the hill into defeat.  All this self-talk ensures I’m ready to meet the challenge.  I hate the hill that pops up, catches me flat footed and mentally unprepared for battle.  I go into this hill feeling unprepared, not ready and behind the moment.

The hill is winnable:  I enjoy a good test of my abilities.  I don’t mind being stretched, but I want to know I have a reasonable shot at winning.  I’m not saying I want the challenge to be a push over, but I also don’t want to fight Mike Tyson in his prime.  No matter how well prepared I could be we all know the outcome.  Mike is going to beat me up and maybe eat my ear.  I want to fight the mountain, hill or raising terrain, but I also want to be aware that I can win…or at least have a shot at winning.

umstead Hills

Running hills has made me feel more confident about my running.  Battling a hill has made me feel strong.  Likewise, at times running hills has left me in despair.  If I know the hill is coming, if I have a chance to get my mind right and the hill is winnable I love to run, train, race, and defeat the hills on any course.

Do you love or hate hills….let us know.

Running Questions – Staying Motivated For Marathons, Ultra Marathons, Epic Runs

Running Questions – Staying Motivated

After every big race some runners are affected by a letdown.  That let down sometimes lasts a day, a week or it can hang around longer.  I’ve heard about some runners suffering the “post marathon blues” so bad they considered never running another marathon or in some extreme cases gave up running altogether.

After my first marathon (Shakespeare Marathon, 2005) I had not planned on running another.  I had no goal on the horizon and I had not committed to any other races (of any distance).  I did not get the blues, but my running suffered, I fell back into some lazy habits, I started to eat bad, and I got out of shape.  Then almost by chance I stumbled across a Runners World article on the Richmond Marathon, and I decided almost instantly I was going to run that race.  My motivation increased, my running regained its consistency, I looked forward to being active again and I looked forward to my long runs.  I had the fire once again.

Since then, and since the advent of my blog I receive numerous questions on how I stay motivated between marathons, races and big runs?  My simple answer is, staying motivated is as easy as keeping your race calendar full, use social media to keep you going and take on one epic challenge per year.

Umstead buckle

Keep Your Race Calendar Full:  Plan out your racing year in advance.  If you have a plan for the year, or the next six months it’s easy to stay up for that next race.  I’ve found that after a big race if your plate is empty, it’s easy to get into a rut.  Stay motivated by savoring the great race you just completed, but then focus on your next event. Remember that age old saying “a rolling stone gathers no moss.”

gy100buckle

Use Social Media To Stay Motivated:  From the outside many might see my blog updates, my race reports or my finish declarations as bragging.  But in all honesty I do it to keep the peer pressure on me.  I figure if I tell enough people of my running plans its harder for me to not run a race or to one day just sit still.  And I thank all of you who ask about my races and results…you guys keep the pressure on me!

umstead100cap

Take On One Epic Challenge A Year:  Whether it’s an 100 mile race, an 24 hour event or four marathons in four weeks, by doing something epic it keeps the fire burning.  There is something about signing yourself up for something you never dreamed possible…that lights the fire under your butt.

One race is great if that satisfies your competitive juices but if you feel the need to keep moving don’t let the blues sink in….keep your race calendar full, talk up your events and success and do something EPIC.

How do you stay motivated, tell us about it.

Product Review – the Running Buddy – Graveyard 100 – Long Run – Marathon

One of the problems of going on a long run in today’s high tech world is…how do you carry all the gadgets?  How do you carry your ID, keys and smart phone?

I love the all the technological advancements in today’s smart phones but they are getting larger and I’m running out of ways to carry them.  They no longer fit in my water bottle pouch, I dislike having an arm band, and I’m not wearing a fanny pack.  I thought the battle was lost…and then

The Running Buddy came into my life.

buddy3

The revolutionary Buddy Pouch™ is a lightweight, belt and chafe-free magnetic pouch with a water-resistant inner pocket.  Made with dri-fit and water-resistant fabrics, the Buddy Pouch keeps all your essentials secure, sweat-free and dry.

Trust me it works.  I recently ran the Graveyard 100 (a 100 mile endurance race run down the Outer Banks of North Carolina) and the Buddy Pouch worked perfectly.  The pouch held my Droid MAXX secure, no bounce, no chaff, and sweat free for 100.5 miles over 23 hours.  More important to all that is the Buddy Pouch provided me some peace of mind knowing that on the darkest, loneliest and most isolated part of Highway 12 I had my phone with me “just in case.”

gy100picturedunes1

You can read about my solo run at the Graveyard 100 here.

I’ll be honest there were times that I forgot I had the pouch on me.  The fit and ride on my waist were nonintrusive.  Once in position it fit and functioned perfectly.

I highly recommend this product to all runners, and anyone who wants to carry their phones while they exercise, are out on adventures and anywhere you need to have items available but want to be hands free.  The second pouch compartment is perfect for keys, medicine, identification, maps or a few extra bucks for an ice cream.  At the end of the race when I was presented my SOLO 100 mile buckle I slide it in my Running Buddy Pouch for safe keeping.

buddypouch1

Check out the Running Buddy web page

Follow them on Twitter

Like their Facebook page

And on Instagram

100 Miles – Now What – Grand Canyon – Leadville – Western States – Vol State 500k Ultra Marathon

You meet the right girl, and you fall in love.

You fall in love, and you get married.

You get married, and you have a child.

Life seems to follow a pattern where a major life event transpires and then it’s followed by an even more grandeur event.

So you run 100 miles (for the second time) and what do you do next?

I’ll be honest there was a point during Graveyard that I laughed at myself when I thought I could run races such as Western States, and Leadville. And there was a time when I told myself “5ks sound kind of nice.” But now a week later and I’m dreaming about the next BIG, LONG, HARD, UGLY event.
What should it be?

Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim – This unofficial event is calling me. I thought and was offered a chance to tackle this bucket list run this October, but I just can’t line up the logistics. At present a group of runners from the 757 are aiming for a spring 2016 trek out west.

gc

Why R2R2R, there’s something about seeing the Grand Canyon in away and from a advantage point that few have seem it. According to the National Park Service FIVE MILLION people each year make the trip out west and stand at the edge of the canyon and marvel at the beauty of this creation. I’ve often wondered what the very first person who stumble across this place must have thought. And I’ve wondered what it’s like to leave the edge of the canyon and become part of it by going inside.

Running the canyon from one side to the other and back in one day has the appeal of such a wonderful place, of seeing things few have seen and tackling a tough challenge.
It’s not a race, except against the sun but I believe running the canyon will change you and I want to experience this place.

Leadville or Western States – The pinnacles of Ultra running and racing. I never gave these two races much thought, then a friend of mine ran. Somehow after someone I knew, someone I could relate to, not equal to running wise, ran them they became real. Where before these events were much like the Superbowl, a great game, a world event but for other people, for elite people, for people out of my span. When Steve (and he is elite in my book) ran there the dream of running these hallmark races became real to me.

Vol State 500k – Much like the 100 mile race, I quiet can’t get this into my brain yet. Saying that, the door is open.

vol500k

The Vol State 500k is more than just another race, as one runner put it “The Vol-State is not just another ultra marathon. It is much more than that. The Vol-State is a journey, an adventure, and an exploration of inner space. It begins with a ferry ride across the Mississippi River, from Missouri to Kentucky, and finishes at “the Rock,” high atop Sand Mountain in Northeast Georgia. This race is 314 miles of unsupported determination and maybe some madness. It ring adventures and endurance…and maybe just a bit of lunacy. But for some reason lately I’ve wondered if I have what it takes?

I ran Umstead as my first 100 Mile run, and now I have my second at the Graveyard, I wonder what awaits? Maybe I should do something easy like jump out of an airplane.

What crazy run are you dreaming up?  Tell us about it…maybe we will come along for the ride.

The Graveyard 100 Mile Endurance Run – Solo 100 miles

Graveyard 100 was my second 100 mile race.  Almost since clicking on the registration link in early December I began to wonder how the Graveyard would be different from my first 100 mile race at Umstead a year before.  The most obvious differences between the two would be that I would be running solo, and that Graveyard would be a flatter course run point to point verses a looped course.

gy100picturedunes1

Solo:  How was running Graveyard solo a different challenge then running the same distance with a support crew and pacers?  At Umstead there were 2 named aid stations approximately 6 miles apart.  On top of that with proper placement of my own support team I had 3 refueling points which I could get any type of food/fuel or support gear.  Being a looped course we passed these pit stops 24 times.  At Graveyard the race provided aid stations were on average 20+ miles apart, providing only four opportunities to reload before the next leg of the race.

Compounding the separation of the aid stops, running solo meant that I could receive no other outside support.  Anything I would need at points other than the aid stations, i.e hydration, GUs, clothing, body maintenance, or anything to keep me in the game, had to be carried in my race vest or placed in my drop bags.  The end result being that I had an extra burden of carry those items on my back or account for the extra time to retrieve the needed items out of my bags.

The closing stages of a 100 mile race are hard, long and can be defeating.  For my run at Umstead I had two pacers who ran laps 6, 7 and the final lap number 8.  George and Ben made those closing laps as easy as the last 37 miles could ever be.  They talked to me to keep my mind occupied, they challenged me to keep me moving fast and they kept my spirits high when I just wanted my mommy.  For the Graveyard I was all on my own.

Part 1 of the Run Part 2 of the Run

Flat paved course on Highway 12:  The Race Director Brandon Wilson said in his race brief that when they laid the course out that they designed in the opportunity to run the entire length of the Outer Banks and Highway 12.  The course may be (mistakenly) viewed as easy because its flat, and has a smooth asphalt surface.  In fact it’s because of this surface that the 100.5 miles of the Graveyard are long, hard, and unforgiving. Approaching the midway point I noticed how much pounding my legs were subjected to because of this surface.  The shoulder section we ran along was at a constant slope, either to the left or right.  This induced angle to my foot fall wreaked havoc on my ankles.  Umstead and other trail courses may have unlevel and rambling trails but they vary in imperfections.  The Graveyard featured long segments of the same abuse subjected to weak and tired muscle.  The Graveyard course finds your weak points and pounds the snot out of them.

Part 4 of the Run Part 5 of the Run

Point to point (P2P) vs Looped course:  Outside of the obvious support issues between the two 100 mile courses the P2P race offered a more isolated running experience.  Within the first 5 miles of the P2P race the pack spread out to the point the other runners when a good portion behind or in front of me.  The pack likewise spread out at Umstead but being a loop course it was not long before you were in constant contact with the other 100 mile hopefuls.  Some of these runners where on the same lap, completing the lap or going out for another lap.  At Umstead there were periods (minutes) of time when I was alone on one leg of the course or another.  At Graveyard there were large periods of time (hours) where I felt like I was the only one on the planet.  In the lonely hours past midnight this isolation effected my brain.

Part 6 of the Run Part 7 of the Run

Is that a space alien?

In the middle of the night as I made my way to the end of Highway 12, I was on a section of the course that ran between two sand dunes.  In the dark of night, with low visibility, low mental reserves and at a low point in the race I approached a highway rest area.  Nothing more than an parking lot, out building with a porch and a parking lot.  As I approached this location something caught my eye and nearly freaked me out.  Unable to completely identify what I was looking at I thought I was in for a close encounter.

Crossing the Bonner Bridge Nearly done and in the dark

Maybe it was the lighting, maybe my waning eyesight or my lacking mental acuity but something someone was standing on the porch, and they were watching me.  As I approached closer and closer this person or visitor was focusing more and more on me.  The unique shape of this object confirmed it was a person of some type but it’s odd shaped head made me wonder if they were from a different planet or solar system.  And I freaked out.  Nearly jumping out of my skin along the side of the road I thought for sure that in the dark of night and all alone I was going to have an encounter.  Then one step before my time on this planet ended and I was abducted to another world my eye caught a glimpse of what was terrorizing me.  My visitor was a floor mounted pay for use tourist binocular.  The isolation of the Graveyard almost had another victim.

gy100solobuckle

I finished the Graveyard 100 mile endurance race in 23 hours 05 minutes and 20 seconds.

The Finish

I placed 10th out of 42 other solo runners and 29th out of the 131 who started The Graveyard of the Atlantic.  This was an outstanding, well organized, well supported race with volunteers that make you feel like a Rock Star and a course that lives up to all its advanced billing.

Check out my running of the 100k race at the Graveyard from last year, here 

You can check out the Graveyard 100 web page here

Other Graveyard 100 Race Reports:
Randall Woody Woods, Race Report

 

 

Race The Chase 50k In Cottonwood Falls, KS

I’m proud to announce that I have been presented the opportunity to run the “Race the Chase” 50k on 19 Sept in Cottonwood Falls, KS.

racethechase1

I’m honored to accept the chance to run in the Midwest’s premiere off-road endurance running event!  Founded in 2014 by Dirty Kanza Promotions, this race gives an unprecedented opportunity to experience some of the most beautiful, remote, and rugged off road running in the Midwest.  Starting and finishing in historic Cottonwood Falls, KS, Race the Chase runs through the Tallgrass National Preserve in Chase County. The Preserve, located in the heart of the Flint Hills is 10,000 acres of preserved tall grass prairie and is home to much wildlife including Bison!  I can’t wait to experience an endurance running event like no other.

racethechase

Check back often for more information on my preparation and training for this rugged race.

Check out the race website here
Follow them on Facebook here

Graveyard 100 Solo – Done

My running of the 2015 Graveyard 100 – solo – is done!!!!

GYsolobuckle

Battled the open road, the night, the cold, the loneliness and as Brandon (race director) predicted the wind.  And for some of us who went out to fast, I ran 50 mile PR in the opening half (insert Dumb move here), our bodies.  Full race report to come.

Bottom-line 23 hours 05 minutes 20 seconds..the Graveyard is done!
10/42 Solo
29/131 Overall