Friday, May 29, 2015

A Deal With The Devil

When I decided to run (then proceeded to dedicate my life to training for and finishing) the Ghost Train 100 late last October I didn’t realize the price I’d be paying to do so. Oh sure, I knew it would be difficult to complete and I knew it would take me some time to recover. But I never imagined I’d be sitting here (almost 7 months later) still dealing with the aftermath of that one race.

Come to find out, in order to achieve the goal of finishing my first 100 miler, I’d unknowingly made a deal with the Devil… and he's taken nearly everything!

In the weeks immediately following the race, I enjoyed my requisite rest days. Taking one whole week off, then slowly coming back. Low-mileage, low intensity. Lots of “off” days. Just basking in the glow of my accomplishment. Eventually, as the calendar turned from December to January, I started ramping up my miles with thoughts of the coming years races dancing in my head. And the result was one bad workout after another.

I struggled through long runs. I struggled through tempo runs. I struggled through snowshoe runs. And, I struggled through gym sessions. In reviewing my log book the words “slow”, “tired”, dead legs” and “blah” showed up repeatedly from January through March. But, what was more alarming, was my DESIRE to run had almost completely evaporated.  I had ZERO motivation. And it showed. Every time I tied the laces.

At the time, I passed it off as a bad case of the “winter blues”. And, with the kind of winter we had, who could blame me? I figured once the trails opened up, and I could run on something other than asphalt, the “drive” would return and I’d be as good as new. I wasn’t injured and I wasn’t sick, so I just kept plugging away. 60 miles per week. Week after week. Like everything would work itself out. It didn’t. In fact, it just got worse.

March ended with a remarkably bad run at the Eastern States 20. I started off at what I thought was a conservative pace of 7:15 per mile and by halfway I was struggling to maintain 8:00 - with some miles pushing 9:00 towards the end. My “bread and butter” of finishing strong, a tactic that had served me so well during the previous year of running ultras, had completely abandoned me. And it felt like I was passed by nearly everyone in the race!

I finished in a personal worst time of 2:32:56 (7:39 pace). More than 5 minutes slower than the first time I had run it (when I had no idea what I was doing) and more than 20 minutes slower than my best time there. Again, I passed it off as a “bad” day at the asphalt office and looked forward with great anticipation to my next race. A 50k on the trails. Finally!

I had run the TARC Spring Classic 50k for the first time last year, and had a very good day. Despite the rain, and muddy conditions, I was able to crack the 4:30 barrier and set a new 50k PR in the process. This year, I knew I wasn’t in that kind of shape, but I hoped I wouldn’t be too far off. Boy was I wrong! The first two 10k laps went just fine and then the wheels started to come off. Badly.

I struggled home in 5:26:21 (9:54 pace) almost an HOUR slower than the previous year! I was having some foot pain, the course was a bit longer than in 2014 and it was warm out. So, I had plenty of reasons not to push the panic button. But, the results of this race certainly did give me pause. Just not enough to cause me to make any changes in my training. In fact, I amplified it by adding track workouts.  That would get me into shape! Or so I thought.

Well, let me tell you, slow 800’s, 400’s that make you dizzy and mile repeats that leave you gasping for breath was certainly no way to prepare me for my next “race” - the Pineland Farms 25k. Based on the results of my previous two races on the year, I came into this one with the bar set very, VERY low. However, I still somehow managed to find a way to trip over that damned thing and land flat on my face.

I started the first 5k segment very slowly and then proceeded to run each of the next four segments even slower than the previous one - with the final 5k taking a glacial 50:00 (five oh) minutes. That’s more than 16 minutes per mile! Yes it was hot, yes I was dehydrated, but something was definitely wrong with me. I crossed the finish line on Sunday in a 37 1/2 minute personal worst time of 2:41:36 (10:24 pace) and I haven’t run a step since.

I’ve decided this week that enough is enough! No more passing things off. Bad running (and worse racing) has dealt too many blows to my psyche this year and I won’t be running again until I FEEL like running again. Who knows how long it will take. A week? A month? More? I really don’t know. All I know is I’ve never felt this way before, and I definitely don’t like it. Not one bit.

Over the winter I put on a little weight. Not a ton, but enough. I ate because it felt like I was “missing something”. I assumed it was calories and continued to eat until I felt satisfied. Only, I never did feel satisfied. Just full. It didn’t dawn on me until this week (and everything I’ve been through) that the something I was “missing” was rest.

I’ve always known that I’m a “tired” eater. Rather than rest (because with four kids I usually can’t) I choose to eat in order to get give myself the energy to get through the day. And that’s what I’ve been doing. My body was telling me (and has been telling me since December) that it’s tired and what I’ve been doing is feeding it and telling it to “Shut up and keep going!” Well, I guess it’s telling me who’s boss. And now, I'm finally listening.

So, as I sit here "resting" and pondering my next move, a larger question remains... Would I do it all over again given the chance? Would I forsake everything I had in the world of running for the opportunity to finish my first 100 mile race?

And the answer to that question is an unequivocal YES.

I just would have looked more closely at the fine print before signing on that dotted line.

The GCS Team at Pineland. At least that aspect of the race was fun!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Anatomy of a Marathon

On May 17th, 2015 the Gate City Strider Running Club hosted a marathon in the City of Nashua. This feat had never been done before. In fact, during the 36-year history of the club, it had been extremely difficult to get hometown approval for any race longer than 6k. Never mind trying to do 5 of them, back-to-back! All while closing down Main Street and running through almost every corner of the City. So, how did the race organizers do it? And more importantly, how did they (in the words of one participant) create “An instant classic on the New England road racing scene”?
Well, here’s an inside look at how it all went down…

Monday, April 27, 2015

Crescent Moon

Recently, while taking my dog for an early evening stroll, I saw this...


Which inspired me to write this...

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Striving for Perforation

Lately, it feels like everything in my life is a battle.

Battling to get the kids up and out the door in the morning, battling with historically bad winter weather, battling to stay focused at work, battling with cars on the road, battling to get my weight down, battling with sore and tired muscles, battling to find enough time in the day to do it all, battling to feed, bathe and get the kids to bed at night, battling with the wife over honey-do lists, battling with the 7-year old over homework assignments, and battling with the 3-year old over just about EVERYTHING!

It’s WAR! And, it’s damn near exhausting!

Then, yesterday morning, while I’m battling to open the bag containing my (not-at-all card-boardy) low-carb sandwich wrap, I discover that the plastic is perforated - on the opposite end from which I’m
desperately trying to tear.  Flip.  Zip.  And, like that, all that low-carb goodness is suddenly opened up before me! Ahhh!

Of course, this leads me to wonder how many other things in my life are “perforated” for my enjoyment?  How many battles could be won just by looking at the problem in different way?  How many doors, that are blocking my path to success, have a secret key that can only be found by being relaxed and mindful?

Beats me! I’m too tired from all this battling to stop and figure it out.  :)

Monday, March 23, 2015


I haven’t written here in a while, because frankly, there hasn't been much going on.

The first two races on my 2015 Calendar were both rescheduled due to weather and each got moved to dates where I was unavailable to attend. So, the last time I ran a step in “anger” was 16 weeks ago at the TARC Winter Classic 50k, in early December. Which is probably the longest non-injury break I’ve ever taken from racing. And, even then, I was kind of going through the motions at that race as I was still recovering from Ghost Train.

In the absence of racing, I’ve been doing my normal amount of training this year. I’ve averaged about 60 miles per week (all outside) during one of the coldest and snowiest winters I can remember. I’m not injured, and I haven’t gotten sick. So, I guess I can’t complain too much. Still somehow, on most days lately, I feel rudderless. Adrift on the training ocean with nothing to steer me or guide me home.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Snowshoe Karmageddon

Late in December of last year, Eric at Level Renner put out the call for winter running action shots as part of an on-line contest. Tag a few of your favorite Facebook selfies with the #levelrenner hashtag and get a chance to win a brand new pair of Dion #121 Racing Snowshoes. Always being up for a good, healthy competition (and a free pair of anything) I jumped at it. Tagging every running picture of myself that I could find.

A few days later, while picking up my daughter at the airport after her semester abroad, I found out that I’d won. And before I could even finish responding to Eric’s text message I thought, “Crap! What am I going to do with ANOTHER pair of Dions?” So, rather than have them collecting dust in my basement as a back-up pair for the indestructible #121’s I already owned, or selling them to a friend, I decided to do something fun with them. I decided to raffle them off.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Persistence Hunt

            In his groundbreaking book, “Born to Run”, Christopher McDougall discusses a fascinating, non-weaponized, hunting technique used by pre-historic man. Rather than trying to outrun their much faster prey, hunters would instead attempt to outlast them. Because an animal’s natural instinct is to sprint away if approached, the men would run towards them in an effort to keep them constantly moving.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Winter of Discontent

Winter running sucks!

There, I said it. And I’m glad I did. Someone had to, really. It’s been far too long in coming.

See, there’s this false sense of bravado that tends to manifest itself around these parts (especially amongst people like myself who don’t run on treadmills) which maintains that running through harsh New England winters makes you stronger, tougher, and better prepared for the racing season to come. And, I’m here today to tell you that line of thinking is total B.S.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Unrequited Love

Have you ever been in a relationship where all you do is give, give, give and get nothing in return? You pour your heart out on a regular basis, and receive little more than a cold shoulder for your troubles?  Well, that’s the way it is between me and Boston. I love the Boston Marathon. But it does not love me.

             I’ve participated in more than a few 5k’s, 10k’s and half marathons over the years, but the primary focus of my running career has always been marathoning. More specifically, Boston Marathon-ing. Like many other runners who grew up in New England, Boston has always represented the Holy Grail of running goals. Not just an average everyday goal, but an all-out, full-blown obsession!

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Delinquent Blogger

Sorry. It’s been a while since I wrote anything in this space.

The problem isn’t because of a lack of ideas. Despite not having raced in over a month, I still have at least a half dozen stories that I want to get out there. At some point. The problem is that life just seems to be getting in the way of me carving out the time required to write them. Between the holidays, preparing for my clubs awards dinner, sick kids, my traveling wife, and the work involved in getting a brand new MARATHON off the ground, it’s been a pretty busy few weeks.

The other thing that’s been taking the majority of my “free” time is the writing and editing of my first book. The working title is: “Never Again – Adventures of a Veteran Dad and Newbie Ultra Marathoner”. I’ve been getting some great feedback on it so far, and I’m very excited about how it’s turning out. That being said, it’s been a bit of a grind and it’s seemingly sucking up all my creative juices.

Anyway, the point of this post is to let everyone (who’s still reading) know that I haven’t forgotten about you, or this blog. And, as soon as things start loosening up, I plan to continue to post regularly. My goal, as always, is one new story per week.

My only question is: Does this one count? :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Ends

January Hike
I started 2014, with a January 1st sunrise summit of Mount Monadnock. It was dark - about 6:00am. It was cold – about zero degrees. It was windy – about 40 mph at the summit. And, it was snowy – about 1 to 2 feet of fluffy base to trudge through. It took me about 4 hours to summit and return via the 4.5 mile long Pumpelly Trail off Lake Road in Dublin.

So, when I signed up for a Presentation at Keene State College for the last weekend of 2014 (and my travel plans took me right past the ‘Nock) I figured why not end the year the way I began it? With another Pumpelly trip to the summit. A "bookend" hike, if you will. Well, as it turns out, the conditions couldn’t have been more different!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Drifting Away

With all my goals pretty much met for 2014, the TARC Winter Classic 32m was all about having fun. The 8 mile Skyline Trail in the Middlesex Fells is no joke, even for just one lap. So, 4 laps would be a pretty sizable challenge. But one which, given my results from this year, looked like something I could handle with ease.

Then the rain came …