Friday, November 21, 2014

Turn the Page

It’s hard to believe that it’s been four weeks since my 100 Miler and even harder to believe that it’s been one full year since I decided to make it my Goal Race for 2014.

Looking back, it’s been a truly incredible year! And, I can’t really think of anything that I would have changed. My first attempt at a 100 mile training plan exceeded even my wildest expectations. I went the whole year without losing any time to injury. My races, turned out great - with only a couple minor exceptions! I spent a bunch of time having fun in the mountains. And, I was able to add meaning to my miles by helping raise money for a very worthy cause! In fact, the season went so well, I very much doubt that I could ever replicate it. So, I’m not going to.

Instead, for 2015, I’m going to do things just a little bit differently.

Rather than sign up for another 100 mile race right away (which I’d probably not have my heart and mind completely into anyway given how much of myself I put into this year’s 100) I’m going to give my body (and my heart/mind) some time to acclimatize to its new level and focus on something that I felt I lost a little bit of during the course of last year’s ultramarathon training. And that something is speed!

It wasn’t an issue that I really noticed at first, since nearly all the races I did during the year were 20 miles, or more. But, as the season drew to a close and I came back to the track to sharpen my speed, I noticed it was missing. Almost completely! 5 mile tempo runs that I used to finish with ease at 6:20 pace, now were a struggle at 7:20. Which is understandable, since I was specifically training for a race where I’d be averaging nearly double that! But, for someone like me who wants to be a well-rounded runner, it was still a little concerning.

With that in mind, in 2015 I plan to lower my weekly mileage slightly, mix in some additional speed work and run a “quicker” schedule of races.  I’ll still be doing mainly ultras, but with a real focus on the 50k distance and just one 50 mile goal race at the end of the year. In between the ultras I’ll be doing some shorter trail races to keep things interesting and to add a speed component to my racing. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do this in a seamless way, make it meaningful and still remain un-injured. Because, as was the case this year, that will likely be the key to my success.

So, without further ado, below is a preliminary list of the races that I’m eying for 2015, with a brief description of each:

DECTARC Winter Classic 32m – Stoneham, MA – Dec 6
With all my goals pretty much met for this year, this one is all about having fun. The 8 mile Skyline Trail in the Middlesex Fells is no joke, even for just one lap. So, 4 laps will definitely be a sizable challenge. But it’s one which, given my results this year, should be something I can handle. Plus, since I didn’t get into Hellgate, it’ll be my chance to show them what they’re missing out on!

JAN –  Cape Cod Frozen Fat Ass 50k – Barnstable, MA - Jan 31
In keeping with the “something new” theme, I signed up for this race to kick off the new year. I’m not so sure about potentially running over sand dunes and snow drifts for 31 miles, but from what I’ve read about this race, it’s just one big, well-stocked winter party, with a low, low entry fee.  So what the heck! Right?

FEB Old Fashioned 10m – Foxboro, MA – Feb 15
During my “marathon days” this one used to be my “go to” wintertime tune-up road races. And this will be the 20th running of this great race. It’s inexpensive, fairly fast, with a deep field and great post-race spread. I’ve run some pretty good times there, as well. So, hopefully, everything (including the speed) will be the same as I always remembered it! If only that were true!

MAR Eastern States 20m – Kittery, ME – Mar 29
I’ve been looking for an excuse to run this race again for a while now. It always seems to conflict with the New Bedford Half. But, since I won’t be running NB again this year, I figured why not give ES another shot? I ran an “out of my mind” 2:10:30 (6:31 pace) back in 2005. Anything close to that would be wonderful!

APRTARC Spring Classic 50k - Weston, MA – Apr 25
I ran this race for the first time this year and ended up setting a 50k PR of 4:29. Hopefully this year’s race wasn’t a case of “beginners luck” because, if the conditions are right, I’d like to think that I can lower that time by 15 minutes, or more. I just have to be careful not to completely forget all the lessons I learned there this year.

MAY Pineland 25k- Gray, ME – May 24
I'm planning on running the 25k team race once again this year, although I do reserve the right to increase the distance depending on how the team is shaping up and how I’m feeling.  The Pineland Trail Festival is one of my favorite events of the year.  So, MORE of a good thing is always better, right?

JUNAUG – Western NH Trail SeriesVarious Locations
Since it’s a proven fact that I’m terrible at warm weather ultras, I’m going to spend most of my summer running shorter races. This series is one which I’ve wanted to do for a while and will serve as the back bone of my speed work leading into my fall calendar of races. Not sure which of the 9 races I’ll be doing just yet, but I hope to do at least 5, or 6.

SEPTTARC Fall Classic 50k - Carlisle, MA – Sept 12
Again, a low-cost, fun event which will hopefully help me build towards the 50 miler in November.  The course is run at Great Brook State Park, which is right down the street from where I work, so there will be plenty of time to get familiar with the terrain! Plus, this will be another “first time” race for me. So, it’s a win, win!

OCTGhost Train 30m - Brookline, NH – Oct 24
Unlike this year, I’ll be running the 2015 version of the GT 100 as a pacer for a friend. Just one of many attempts to pay back some of the good karma that was sent my way during my race. Also, it will be a good chance to see what ultras are like from the crew/pacer standpoint. This will be the first pacing assignment I’ve ever taken on. So, hopefully I won’t screw it up too badly!

NOVStonecat 50m - Ipswich, MA – Nov 7
Heading back to where it all began! This is the biggie on my 2015 race calendar.  If all goes right for me during the year, I hope to run a 50m PR with a sub-8 hour race here.  If not, just finishing in one piece will be OK with me too!  I love this race and everything about it. So, just being a small part of it can be the highlight of any year!

Beyond Stonecat, I hope to have learned (by this point) which 100 mile race I’ll have gotten into via lottery. I’ll either be heading to North Carolina in March or Central Indiana in April for another crack at qualifying for the Western States 100m. Yes, I know I just said that I’m terrible at warm weather races. But Western States is Western States. What kind of Ultra runner would I be if I didn’t at least try to get in?

Also by this point I hope to have completed and published my first book. I’m working on it now and it’s tentatively titled, “NEVER AGAIN – Adventures of a Veteran Dad and Rookie Ultra Runner”.

More on this later…

Finally, I wanted to mention that in the wake of my 100 mile race, a couple of my awesome crew members wrote up reports on their versions of the race and the critical roles they played in it. Jesse Veinotte’s account of miles 52.5 thru 67.5 can be found HERE. Danny Ferreira’s recollections of the final (and very painful) 10 miles can be found HERE. Thanks guys, you made me sound a whole lot better than I was!

PS. Yesterday I finally got around to clearing the 100 mile splits from my watch.

So, it’s now officially time to turn the page and get back to doing work! Giddy up!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lessons Learned

The incredible journey that I was fortunate enough to take, in both training for and running a 100 mile race, taught me many valuable lessons.

Here are 20 of them, in no particular order:

1.       There’s no point in doing something, unless you put everything you have into it.

2.      Ultra marathons are insanely great. With both words having equal billing.

3.      It’s OK if you don’t know what you’re doing. No one else does either.

4.      Use your watch only as a reminder to drink/eat. Never for time of day.

5.      Laughing, smiling and singing (even when you don’t feel like it) can really help.

6.      Toenails are one of the most useless (and painful) parts of your anatomy.

7.      Never underestimate the power of chicken broth.

8.     A little dab of Desitin can totally save your ass.

9.     Puking can be surprisingly beneficial.

10.   No matter how bad you feel, it never always gets worse.

11.   When trying to run a long way it’s best to avoid warm fires and comfy chairs.

12.   It’s OK to be proud of the color of your pee.

13.   100 miles is not that far, but 10 can feel like forever.

14.   Friends can be a tremendous source of strength, if you allow them be.

15.   Never trust a fart after mile 92.

16.   It's always coldest right before the dawn.

17.   The only thing that suffering means is that you’re still alive.

18.   It’s best to finish, if you can. So you won’t ever have to do it again.
19.   You are awesome! And capable of way more than you realize.

20.  Run 100 miles. Not because you are fast, or strong, or smart.
        But, because you are crazy enough to believe that you can!

Friday, November 7, 2014

One Hundred

Shit! ….this can’t be happening!

…I said while rolling down the windows of my car, desperately hoping the fresh air would keep me from falling asleep at the wheel while driving to my first 100 mile race. I took another swig of Pepsi while wiping back the tears that had already started to come. All that hard work wasted because of my stupid pre-race anxiety. Anxiety that saw fit to keep me tossing and turning for three straight nights before my 24 hour adventure in the New Hampshire woods. Damn. This is not going to end well.

A mile, and a few more swigs, later. I began to formulate a plan, because that’s what I do! I would start the race, as scheduled. Then, when I got too tired to run any further, I would just nap in the car for a little while before finishing up. I had expected to finish in around 22 hours, and the race had a 30 hour cut-off, so I could literally take a 6 hour nap right in the middle of it and still finish this thing with time to spare! And now, with my new plan in place, I resumed feeling good about my chances at the Ghost Train 100 Miler.

Turns out, this “plan” was just the first of many tricks I’d have to play on myself that day (and night) to keep moving forward.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

I Was Wrong

Last week, I wrote in this space that I thought there were three things required to finish a 100 Mile Race. "Hard work, patience, and faith".

This week, I'm here to tell you that I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Please don't misunderstand. Those three things ARE all very important, and I wouldn't want to toe the line of any ultra (let alone my first 100 miler) without them. But, if another critical item is not there with you as well, then those first three things are far less meaningful.

...and, that magical fourth ingredient is "support".

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Leap of Faith

Hard work, patience, and faith.

That’s what it takes to finish a 100 Mile Race. Or, at least that’s what I THINK it takes to finish a 100 mile race. Since I’ve never actually run one. Oh, I’ve done the training. And read the best books on the subject. And spoken to plenty of people who have gone the distance. But, the furthest I’ve ever run at one time is 50 miles - which barely gets me half way!
So, what makes me think I can do it?

Hard work, patience, and faith.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Taper Time

So far, 2014 has been a very busy year…

I’ve logged 2829 miles through 41 weeks - for an average of 69 miles per week. Or, about 10 miles a day! My weekly average is 9 miles per week more than my biggest year. And, 17 miles per week more than I’ve averaged over the last 5 years. Which works out to one extra long run, every week! Speaking of long runs, my AVERAGE long run this year has been 24 miles.

That’s like running a near-marathon every week, all year long!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dream Team

A few weeks ago I put out the call for Help, and that call was answered…

On Saturday October 25th, I will be running my first 100 mile race. And I’ll be doing so with the help of 7 wonderful people who will be pacing me (in shifts) for the last 70 miles of the race. So basically, from early Saturday afternoon until early Sunday morning, I will have a team of runners whose sole purpose is to make sure I get to that finish line. I feel so very fortunate to have so many great friends who have absolutely nothing better to do than run back and forth with me through the woods.

So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce my “Dream Team” of pacers for the Ghost Trail 100m and a little  info about what makes each of them so special...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


"October.  And the trees are stripped bare, of all they wear.  What do I care?”

Autumn is a season of decay. The grass turns brown, the flowers wither, and the leaves fall off the trees. The bright warm days of summer are long gone. There is a chill in the air, a frost on the ground, and a foreboding sense that winter is right around the corner. Traditionally, this time of year is a melancholy one for me. As the weather gets colder, and the days get shorter, my thoughts turn darker – like the days ahead.

This year feels different, though. This year I feel hopeful. And, I’m not sure why.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mine Falls Fifty

When I mapped out my 2014 Race Schedule back in November of last year, I had originally planned to run the Pisgah 50k as my final tune-up race before Ghost Train. However, those plans changed when I became aware of a low-key, 50 mile run taking place on the same day in my “home woods” of Mine Falls Park. 50 miles in Mines?! I gotta be a part of that, right?

Of course, there were other reasons (besides proximity) which ultimately lead me to choose the Mine Falls 50 over Pisgah. And they mostly revolved around a single question: “Which race will better prepare me for Ghost Train?”

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mindset Makeover

Those of you who know me, know that I am not a patient man.  Particularly when it comes to running. I started running in 1998 and my first road race was the following spring when I bandited (sorry, not sorry) the Boston Marathon! So, yup. Zero to 26.2 in less than a year! If that’s not an impatient (stupid?) runner, then I’ve never met one!

For a while, my impatience served me well. Pushing me every day. Trying to finish my next training run faster than my previous one - every single time out. It worked well and I got quick, quick. But, after a while it began to wear me down and burn me out. So, I soon realized that if I wanted to keep doing this “running thing” long term, I’d need to add easy days to my hard days. This has worked for me with varying degrees of success.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Race Specific

I’ve been told by people wiser than me (which is just about everyone) that, with the Ghost Train 100 Miler less than 8 weeks away, it’s time for me to start focusing on “race specific” training. Meaning, I need to try and emulate the conditions I can expect to see on race day in my everyday training so that I can become comfortable with them prior to toeing the line.

So, what does that mean exactly for a race like Ghost Train? To figure that out, let’s take a deeper look at the aspects that make the GT 100 the race that it is...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Crescent Moon

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


Which inspired me to write this...