Friday, April 7, 2017

Team Beef Virginia!

I am now a sponsored athlete!  I'm a proud member of Team Beef Virginia, sponsored by the Virginia Beef Council.  I first learned about this team when a running friend, Karen Sanzo, wore a Team Beef shirt to a training run  I asked her about it, and she told me about the program.  Sounded interesting, but I didn't think too much about it.  A few weeks later, she posted a picture on facebook of a care package from the sponsor in the form of frozen steaks, and I suddenly got more interested!  I asked and she pointed me to the application.

Even with this incentive, I paused.  I can afford my own steaks, so is this really worth it?  But then I thought about what a great match it is.  I was grew up eating beef in Nebraska and Iowa, and still love it.  If they are looking for a beef enthusiast with an active lifestyle, why not me, with my 50 marathons and ultramarathons?  So I filled out the app, talked with Valerie, the state beef council director, and now I'm part of the team!  I haven't yet met any of my other teammates other than on facebook, but it seems like a good, active group.  Look for me in my new race singlet in Boston later this month, and at other races!

Why beef?  Obviously the taste remains a big factor for me.  But there are many health benefits as well.  I struggle with trying to maintain a good weight for running endurance races.  Some people think that as much as I run, I can eat whatever I want, but that simply isn't true.  I won't get huge, but there is a big difference for me between 165 pounds and 180.  I have to cut back on portions, and watch what I eat.  I still need to make sure I get nutrients though.  A 3 oz. serving of lean beef provides more than 10% of 10 essential nutrients and vitamins in less than 10% of calorie intake.  It's an especially efficient way to get protein, and an excellent source of zinc, selenium, niacin, and vitamins B6 and B12. 

What about the fat?  Well, that fat around the edges is "bad" saturated fat, but have you noticed that most butchers trim that away a LOT more than they used to?  And that marbling you see in tastier cuts in beef is rich in monounsaturated ("good") fat.  About 50% of the fatty acids in beef is monounsaturated.  So trim the edges well, including that wedge of fat you might see in the middle of a rib eye or prime rib, but don't fear the marbling flecks you see.

I'm not going to obnoxiously try to convince people to eat more (or any) beef, but it has been interesting for me to learn more about the role beef plays in my diet.  I'm happy to try to answer any questions or engage in polite discourse about beef, including the ranch to table process.  I sure don't know it all, but I've learned a lot in the last month.

One more tip I learned before I even joined the team.  Ever have the perfect grilling day, but forgot to take the steaks out to thaw?  No worries, just toss them on the grill!  It works better with thicker steaks, and you want to sear each side on the hottest part of the grill to start with.  I've found as advertised that you get a narrower "gray band" on the outside edges, which means more flavor.  A fresh steak is still best, but I no longer thaw steaks at home before grilling.


Friday, November 18, 2016

What's Next?

All endurance runners get this question, and ask it of themselves, especially after a race.  What's next?  Especially after a 100, it's almost a "How are you going to top that?" 

The answer is, I'm probably not.  100s are hard.  Not just the race, but all the training.  And they prey on your weaknesses.  Let's break it down.

My Strengths:
  • No sleep issues.  I don't think I even yawned once in either 100.  This would serve me even better in tougher 100 milers.
  • Persistence.  Mentally I usually stay pretty strong, even in multi-loop 100 milers were it would be so easy to drop while steps from my car.
  • Speed and endurance.  For races with reasonably generous time limits, I usually stay safely ahead of cut-offs, which gives me a lot of buffer if things do go wrong.
  • Race prep.  I'm a planner.  I read all I can about races, and I'm rarely surprised or unprepared.
  • Training.  I'm fortunate to be retired early, so I've got plenty of time and flexibility to get all the training in I need, including the long slow runs so important for the longer ultras. 
My Weaknesses:
  • Eating.  I'm a very picky selective eater to begin with.  I know some of you will be shocked to hear this. ;-) For example, just the smell of peanut butter makes me a little ill.  I'll get to an aid station and know I need to eat, but I won't see anything that really appeals to me so I'll grab a few pretzels and go.  Being able to take in fuel is essential for a long race, and I have trouble with it. 
  • Feet.  My feet probably take the biggest beating in most runs. Even with the well-cushioned Altra Olympus I use a lot, the bottoms of my feet are very sore late in a run, and after.  I last longer on soft trails over roads, but rocky trails are probably the worst.  Hokas are too narrow for me, btw. When I get out of bed in the morning, it's a hobble, mostly due to my feet hurting.  Not just a little bit, it's a full-on old man hobble, and I usually grab the hand rail my first time down the stairs. 
  • Knees.  I had a fluke ski accident in 2012, and tore my ACL, MCL and meniscus.  Surgery was  successful, and I've now run more marathons and ultras since the accident than before.  I also ski as aggressively as before.  But, I don't think the knee is 100% stable, which gives me problems on technical climbs and descents.  I start to get just a bit wobbly, and as I continue, the wobbling puts more stress on my knee, and I feel more pain and weakness.  It's not bad, but it's enough to slow me down, and truthfully, it's just not fun.  Instead of bombing down hills, I'm carefully picking my way to reduce the strain.  Even flatter technical trails become a challenge.  There's no joy in it.
  • Age.  I just turned 55.  I haven't lost that much speed, but I have lost some.  Recovery takes longer.   The direction is clear, but fortunately the fade is slow.
I like running on roads.  Paved, dirt, whatever.  I like running on rail trails.  I like running on technical trails.  I like running alone.   I like running with people.  I guess what I'm saying is, I like running.  And I want to keep running for as many years as I can, and I want to keep enjoying it.

So where does that leave me? 

Mountain 100s are out.  All those things I listed under weaknesses would really make it tough.   I think I could finish with the longer cut-off times, but I don't think I'd like it.  I want to do some trail runs for fun with friends, but not all the time out of necessity for training.

Flat 100s, I'm not too excited about anymore.  I got my goal, so I don't know what would motivate me to get me through the training and race again.  I felt like Tunnel Hill training took over my life this year and I don't really like that.  It wasn't even a very fun race, more of a survive and grind it out day.

Never say never, but 100s seem to be out.  Maybe I'll have a change of heart and put in for Western States in 2018, or find another race that intrigues me, but as of now I'm saying I'm done.

I've never done a 100K, and haven't had much success with 50 milers.  I'm not ruling them out, but I'm not too fired up to do another.  Comrades (56M in South Africa) interests me.  Maybe I'll try to finally do well at Mountain Masochist, or do something else local like Bull Run Run or Stone Mill.

Marathons and 50Ks seem to be in my wheelhouse.  A few hours and done.  I've got those pretty well dialed in that I can give a good constant effort and feel good about it.  I can run one hard and still enjoy the rest of a vacation if it's a destination race.  I'm still ahead of the curve on qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and would like to stay there, even if I don't do that race every year.  I think I can still hold up well even on mountain 50Ks so I'll still do some of them, but it won't be my focus. 

So there it is, marathons and 50Ks are mostly what I'll be doing. That tells you something about the people I hang around with, that I have to rationalize "only" doing 26-31 mile races.

Specifically for 2017, I'm doing the Boston Marathon in April.  I might do a Monday-Saturday double by following it up with the Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke, and maybe even a triple with the Promise Land 50K a week later.

Registration doesn't open yet, but I am probably going to take a trip out to Washington state for the Light at the End of the Tunnel marathon in June.  Less certain about fall, but a return to the Peak to Creek Marathon is possible.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Quest for Sub-24 at Tunnel Hill

Last year when I finished the Umstead 100, one of my motivations was to never have to do that again.  But, I never said I wouldn't.  Just that I didn't have to.  I felt I left a lot on the table, walking the last 30 miles (partly out of necessity), and could do better.  I decided I wanted to do one under a day (24 hours).  After some research, Tunnel Hill in Vienna, IL, fit the bill well.  Flat, non-technical rail trail, with plenty of access to crew and/or drop bags, and a good chance of decent weather.

After a rough start with posterior tibial tendonitis in the spring, training went very well.  Once I got rolling, I was generally hitting 60-80 miles/week, peaking at 109, with a lot of time logged on rail trails similar to the course.  This included two 50K "training races" at New River Trail and High Bridge Ultra.  I stayed injury free...almost...

Sometime in the final weeks, I developed a heel pain.  I couldn't even isolate it to the back or bottom, as the pain seemed to move.  Maybe it was the lower achilles, or maybe it was PF, or maybe something else entirely.  I'm not sure exactly when it started, but 2 weeks out I backed down even more than a normal taper, and shut down for the final week.  The good news is that it seemed to mostly hurt only after runs or in the morning before I got moving.  Sleeping in a Strassburg sock for the last week seemed to help.  I hoped that it wouldn't hurt while running during the race, but I knew the aftermath would be bad.  It's common for niggles appear late in training and then disappear on race day, but deep down I knew this was more than a niggle.

I made a pre-race shoe adjustment.  Rather than the zero drop Altra Olympus I had planned to run in, I went with my old reliable Mizuno Wave Precisions, figuring they would cause less strain on the back of my foot.  These are road shoes I've worn since my first marathon in 2001 and most marathons since then, and have logged many hundreds of rail trail miles in them.  They aren't even made anymore, but I had hoarded something like 8 pair when I found out they went out of production.  This was not a high risk change.

I drove most of the way to the race 2 days early, on my 55th birthday, so I could relax the day before the race.  Slept well, and finished the drive and checked out some of the course.  Vienna only has a flea bag motel, so I stayed a half hour away in Marion, where I again slept well the night before the race.  The weather shaped up nicely.  High 30s at the start, high of 58, and overnight low of 30.  Clear and not much wind (especially for the plains), and just a bit of damp chill at night.  And just a day before the super moon!

My crew and pacer meet me in Marion.  My nephew Kyle started the weekend as the family record holder for 100 miles, but he'll have to try to take it back at Rocky Raccoon in a couple months, which he's very capable of doing.  We've now actually each held the mark twice.  He's crewed the current Badwater record holder and two time champ, plus I always enjoy running with him, so he was ideal to be my crew chief and pacer.  My older brother Jim also came out.  Growing up I had an advantage over just about every other kid around because of all the time Jim spent with me on all sports.  He doesn't really run too much, so mostly he was there as secondary support and to help Kyle with the drive back to Nebraska.  I was in great hands, and I relied heavily on them because I mostly use my own food and drink rather than from the aid stations.

Tunnel Hill is a pretty big race for ultras, with 475 starters between the 100 and 50.  209 started the 100, but 99 dropped to the 50 at some point during the race, and 9 DNF, so less than a 50% finish rate for the 100.  While it's nice to get credit for a finish even if you can't do the full 100, personally I feel if 100 is your goal, you need to treat it as all or nothing.  50 as a safety net shouldn't be considered.  But for those pushing time limits or unable to get in the needed training, it's nice to be able to give 100 a shot and still have a nice consolation prize.  Needless to say, getting a 50 mile finish wasn't at all on my mind.

The course goes ~13 miles in one direction and back to Vienna, and ~12 the other way and back, for 50 miles.  Repeat for 100.  Crews can help at the s/f midpoint, and at aid stations about 10 miles out on each spur, and again at the same place after the turnaround.  11 points in all during the race.  I can't tell the exact mileage of the legs because distances and aid station mileage just didn't add up right.  A couple other runners I talked too the day before the race said the same thing, and we all laughed that we didn't want to be "that guy" who asked about exact mileage.  But really it was annoying that you'd see different mileages listed in different places on their website and docs.  The only difference between the first and second times was a 1/4 mile loop around the parking lot to spread out the field at the start, and I think the RD just fudged some numbers to try to make it come out or at least show as 50+50.  Just for example, one section was listed as 4 miles the first time, and the exact same section was 4.6 the second time.  Impossible. Garmin/Strava came out to 50.3/50 for me.

My race plan was to run for 8 minutes and walk for 2, repeating as long as possible.  The max slope was 2% on either side of the tunnel we went through, and mostly it was dead flat.  Since there was nothing about the course to dictate walking, and I knew I couldn't run the whole 100 miles, I figured I was better off with a run/walk from the start.  From my training, 22 hours seemed doable.  If everything went great, I could do better, and if not, I had 2 hours of buffer to still break 24.  Beyond that, I wanted to break Kyle's mark of 25:08, then my PR of 26:23, and finally to beat the 30 hour race cutoff.  I planned for 5 hours on the first 26, same for the next 24, than 6 for each the second time around, but that was a target, not a goal.  Sub-24 hours was the #1 goal.

OK, finally the race itself.  I was relieved at the start to have no pain at all in my heel.  With the big crowd, my 8/2 run/walk meant I was getting passed by some people while walking and then having to pass them back when running.  It was only annoying with one or two clumps of people who were taking up the width of the trail, but after a couple miles I just extended my run a bit to stay ahead of them until the packs unclumped.  Things seemed great.  I was more on a 20 hour pace than 22, and felt very comfortable.

Somewhere around mile 4 or 5, the heel pain came back.  Every time my left foot landed, I felt it, and it gradually got worse.  It also hurt while walking, and no matter what pace I ran, so I pretty much kept the same pace.  I tried to blank it out, but couldn't.  Music didn't help.  My gait must've changed a bit, as my hips and back started to ache.  I saw my crew just before mile 11, and when they asked how it was going I gave a very non-committal "OK".   I felt worse when I saw them at mile 16 after the first turnaround, and had Kyle walk with me a bit after the aid station to fill him in.  I really didn't want to start on the Advil so early but we decided it was needed. 

The next 10 miles were black.  The pain got worse, and made me nauseous.  I'm a terrible eater during ultras and knew I'd probably stop eating solid food at some point, but this early was ridiculous.  I was basically going into survival mode by mile 18.  I had to go with my alternate nutrition plan of a gel every 30 minutes, Perpeteum sports drink, and bananas, which I can always handle.  It felt like something was tearing in my foot.  I was getting worried I was causing real damage.  My quads were also aching now, and my knees seemed eager to join in.  My pace was falling off a bit.  I started to think about dropping.  I hated it, but the prospect of 95 miles of pain just to get a finish, and possibly ending my running career, was not appealing.  But I didn't want to give up without trying more stuff.  I still had the Altra shoes to try, and see if an Aleve plus rubbing on Biofreeze at mile 26 would take the edge off.  I decided I would go 50 before making a decision.  I had a plan, but I was still in a bad place.  I felt like I was at the tail end of the race rather than in the first quarter.  I really didn't think the Altras had much of a chance of working, but I committed to trying.

I got to the start/finish at around mile 26.6 at 5 hours and 3 seconds, right on my 22 hour pace target.  I told my crew that things were bad, and it was 50/50 that I would finish.  I actually thought it was more like 25/75 but didn't want to admit it.  This was supposed to be a quick in and out, but I had to sit to swap shoes, and while I had them off I switched socks and lubed up, and tried to eat a bit.  It cost me about 10 minutes but as Kyle walked out with me we agreed it was time well spent.  Certainly continuing on with no changes would not have been viable.  I told Kyle to set up after the finish line the next time I came through here, so I could at least get a 50 mile time and then sit and we'd evaluate what else to try and whether to go on.  I didn't like the safety net, but since it was there I might as well use it, and it was actually a motivation to not drop even earlier.

Things got a bit worse as I had stiffened up from sitting.  I walked for a few extra minutes, then started jogging.  No real change.  This was going to be a long freaking 24 miles.  I tried not to fall into a pity party, and just plodded along.  I couldn't help but contrast this with Umstead, where I felt really good for about the first 65 miles.  My consolation is that I wouldn't have to continue into the night.  We could go back to Marion and get a room, grab beers and dinner, and watch the Husker game.  Not what I trained for all summer and fall, but not a bad weekend.  After a couple miles I realized at least it wasn't getting worse.  It still wasn't fun, but I had stalled the death spiral.  I wasn't even thinking about pace at this point.

As slowly as things had gotten worse, they started getting better.  By the time I reached the tunnel at mile 36 before seeing crew again, it was tolerable.  At some point I remember thinking, "Damn it, now I'm going to have to run all night!"  The tunnel itself was surreal to run through.  It's straight and 543 feet long so you can see the other end, but in the middle it is pretty dark and disorienting to run through.  But I was in a better place and got a kick out of it.  Kyle met me before the aid station, and I told him things weren't great, but they were better.  After going out to the turnaround and back, I knew I was on a comeback and let them know I was back on the tracks.  I had to switch watches earlier than planned as my Garmin 220 with 10 hour battery life gave me a low battery warning at just over 7 hours.

All the pains disappeared between mile 40 and 50, except for the quads.  Incredible.  It all had taken its toll on my energy and nothing was going easy, but I definitely wasn't struggling anymore. The second watch didn't have the run/walk alarm so I used the mile beep to signal time for a 2 minute walk.  I started to stretch that to 3, but still ran most of every mile.  I came into mile 50 at 10:17, which is actually a 50 mile PR for me, albeit a very soft one.  17 minutes off my 22 hour target pace, but 10 minutes of that were at the last turnaround so I was still moving at under 24 hour pace.  There was no evaluation discussion.  The only talk was what I needed for the night.

Temps had plunged as the sun went down.  After my hypothermia experience at Umstead, it was drilled into me that 100 mile pace requires more clothes in the cold than what I'd normally wear for runs.  We ducked inside the depot we were right next to so I could put on an UnderArmour base layer and tights.  Swapped to another pair of Olympus shoes and socks since my shoes were off anyway.  I chewed up around 25 minutes of buffer here for various reasons.  It was helpful to have a lot of "just in case" gear, but it meant more time finding everything.  Still, I was now set for the night and this is the kind of thing the 2 hour buffer was for.  I had one concern here, I noticed my vision in my left eye was partially foggy.  I worried about "Hellgate eye", a temporary blindness some face in the cold of that December 100K, but figured I'd deal with it if it got worse, and maybe it was just somehow due to being inside since it was still well above freezing. The other eye was fine.  I set a goal of 6.5 hours for the next 26 miles, or 15 min/mile, and set off.

The second 50 was actually pretty dull and uneventful.  I ran and walked. Just the normal aches for later in a 100 miler, and I didn't notice anything really off with my eyes.  My walk breaks extended to 3 and 4 minutes, but I was keeping ahead of pace outbound, giving some back on the return.  I cheered when I got past my Umstead meltdown point at mile 68, but took nothing for granted.  My brother told me later that he was amazed that I looked stronger every time he saw me after the mile 26 debacle.  I'm not sure I was stronger, but I was more determined and focused.  I got back to mile 76 at 17:08 race time, slightly under 6:30 for the section.  Kyle was ready to join me and I got in and out quickly, with a bottle swap, bananas, switching headlamps, swapping back to my recharged Garmin 220, and adding a medium weight ski jacket to stay ahead of the cold.

More math.  6:50 in roughly 24 miles to make 24 hours.  I calculated that to be 17 min/mile pace.  It's handy to be able to do math in your head and trust it.  I switched my watch to do a 4/2 run/walk, knowing I would probably reverse it to 2 run/4 walk before the end.  The first mile was stiff and slow, but then I started putting a minute plus in the bank every mile.  My pace slowed at the trail rose gently toward Tunnel Hill.  I skipped a run once and saw it barely affected my mile split since my run was slow and my walk was still pretty brisk.  I wanted to walk the rest of the way to the tunnel, but Kyle suggested mixing in some short runs, otherwise I might stiffen up and not be able to get a run back at all on the declines.  So I ran 100 steps 1-3 times every mile.  It worked, because after the tunnel I went back to the 4/2 and ran the downhill pretty well, though I had to walk most of the way back up.

Just under 10 miles left now, and a tick over 3 hours to cover it.  18 min/mile pace would get me in with a few minutes to spare.  I shuffled my 100 step run whenever I could for a few miles, but blisters started forming on the bottoms of both feet and it was a lot worse while running.  I knew I had 24 hours in the bag as long as nothing bad happened, so walking it in seemed safer.

Oh, the Super Moon!  There were a lot of people running without headlamps.  I kept mine on because I needed to see my watch to know when to take gels, but it was cool to see and helped light the way.  Late in the night it was low and put a really cool reflection on a fog covered pond that we could see for a few hundred yards.  We took a pic but it didn't turn out well.

The sun started to come up, and I noticed that my left eye vision was still partially foggy, though no worse.  I was wearing a ski balaclava mask as a cap, so I adjusted it to cover my face around my eyes and try to keep it warm.  Good news came as we passed under the I-45 bridge at 22.5 miles into the section, and I had remembered it being nearly exactly 1 mile from the finish.  This gave me more buffer since I had less distance left to cover.  My walk quickened, and before long the final footbridge into the park came into view and Kyle congratulated me.  I managed a shuffle for the final yards to the end.

The stats:  23:36:21 finish time. 29th male and 43rd overall out of 101 finishers and probably about 200 starters.  3rd of 7 in the 55-59 group.  There was some leapfrogging, but no one who started behind me at mile 50 finished ahead of me, and I passed 7 who were on their second 50.  Still holding at zero hallucinations.

Post race, I went back into the depot to warm up and asked for medical help to look at my eye.  Dean Hart, who crewed on and provided med support for Pete Kostelnick's record breaking cross country run was there, and he said it wasn't too uncommon with LASIK eyes and should clear in time, as I also expected.  As I sat there, I bonked.  Just totally shut down, hunched over, head down, hoping not to spew.  Not sure if it was for 5 minutes or 30 or longer.  Someone suggested I needed sugar, and after awhile I took a Pepsi.  3 sips in and I had perked up.  So I had 2 silver bullets this weekend:  Altra Olympus shoes at mile 26, and Pepsi post-race.  By the time I finished the can I was back to normal other than sore feet with blisters, and aching quads.  My vision was clearing too.

The shame is that the bonk kind of took away from celebrating.  I was also a bit down on myself for walking so much at the end.  I think there's always a feeling you can run a 100 faster, but for most of us things will always go wrong, so it's foolish to expect a perfect race.  Jim and Kyle waited as long as they could but had to get back to Lincoln once I was on my feet, so they got my car all packed up and we went our separate ways.  It wasn't until later in the day before it fully dawned on me that I did exactly what I set out to do.  I broke 24 hours even after a very rough start, by hanging in there, solving problems, and managing my race well.

I could've finished this on my own, but wouldn't have broken 24 without Jim and Kyle.  When I was moving well, they got me right in and out of aid stations.  The 11 times they helped me had to have saved me more than 24 minutes of getting my own bag and sorting through it for my stuff, especially since I was doing my own food and drinks.  Kyle's suggestions all race, and encouragement while pacing me, certainly helped me as well.   I thank them both for driving out and giving up their weekend to help me out.

Lessons learned?  "It doesn't always keep getting worse!"  Keep trying to fix problems, and if you don't know how, try something, anything!  Remember to enjoy your victories!  Finally, I should've got my heel checked out before the race so I might have known whether it was safe to run through pain or not.

Some might remark that I toughed this one out, but that's not really true.  More accurately, I figured it out, and it got better before I couldn't take it any longer.

What's next?  My New Year's resolution will be to eat gels, because I sure as hell won't even look at another one the rest of this year.  I'll do the Boston Marathon in April for sure.  Thinking about The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon in Washington state in June.  It's a fast downhill marathon, and apparently I like races with tunnels--New River had one too.  Another 100?  Doubtful.  That's a topic for another post.  I had plenty of time on the two day meander back home to think about that.

Lastly, please give me a moment to mourn the loss of an old friend, the Mizuno Precision Wave.  I don't know why they suddenly caused such a problem, but it seems our ways must part.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Achilles tendonitis, Promise Land 50K, and next 100 mile training!


Long time, no blogging.  I should've posted about my Oregon trip in September, because it was awesome.  Started with running waterfall trails along the Columbia Gorge, a so-so performance at the Flagline 50K, then checking out as many trails (and brewpubs!) around Bend as I could, followed by a spin on Pre's Trail in Eugene and finally a bit of hiking in Portland before flying back.  October brought a 13+ minute BQ at Peak to Creek marathon in North Carolina, a fast, fast downhiller.  I took a shot at a PR but faded at the end and jog-walked the final 5 for a 3:26something.  My legs rebelled at Richmond in November so that was a slow finish.

For 2016 I decided to take the first part a bit easy, and focus on my 2nd 100 miler in the fall.  My goal is sub-24 at the Tunnel Hill 100 on a flat rail trail in southern Illinois, on November 12.


I started the racing year in March at the Virginia Creeper marathon, a very low key long-running marathon in SW Virginia.  The Creeper Trail is a rail trail, with a bit of a climb but the race only hits about a 2% grade max.  I had been dealing with a sore hip so I went in undertrained, but didn't really care about the results.  I felt good at the start though, just over 8min/mile pace for about the first 12.  Then I felt a pain in my lower leg.  At first I thought it was my calf, but it was lower, the Achilles tendon.  I slowed down, hoping it would subside.  It didn't.  I took walk breaks.  Didn't help.  I changed my gait a bit to compensate, but started to feel hip pain by mile 15, so I walked to mile 18, which passed by the start/finish, and dropped.  I could've walked another 8.2, but didn't see the point of risking more injury.

Next up, Promise Land 50K++ this past Saturday, with about 8000 foot of climb.  Unless my achilles recovered quickly, I didn't like my odds.  Every time I tried running on it, I felt it tug within a minute.  But I could walk with no pain, even up steep hills.  Even 30+% grade hills.  The week before PL I had a charity 5K which I planned to take easy, but I got stupid when I started in the lead.  2 miles in I was walking and in pain. 

My new plan for Promise Land was to try to power hike it.  If it started hurting, I would stop.  If I missed cut-offs, no problem.  I had 10 hours to run a 50K.  That's a 19:30 min/mile pace.  Easy peasy. But Promise Land is really about 34 miles.  That's 17:30 min/mile.  No problem on a flat course, but Promise Land is far from flat.  I set my expectations low for finishing.

Here's the condensed version of the race:
- Stormed up the hill on the road ahead of pace.  This is going to be a piece of cake!  Trekking poles are da bomb!
- Slowed down on the trail, and not as fast as I thought I could do on downhill, but I'm still ok.  I think.
- First cut-off coming.  Should be about 5 or so minutes ahead of it.  WAIT!  When did I stop seeing trail markers?  CRAP!  I'm off course.  I added a full mile.  (I went up to that giant FAA antenna right after the first parkway crossing, for those who know the course.)  I'm screwed.  But maybe I can talk my way past if I'm only a minute or two off and running in.  So mad at myself.
- WHERE IS THE AID STATION?  It's not at mile 13, it's 13.7, 14.7 for me.  Bad race prep.  I'm doubly screwed, but I run in anyway.  Really really mad at myself.  I'm 7 minutes over cut-off.  The end.
- "What do you want in your bottle?"  Don't you mean "Your race is over"?  Not gonna ask!  I'm still in the game, and I escape before the aid station workers change their minds.  HOORAY!
- Run downhill for awhile to make up time.  New math.  17 minute/mile to the end.  I can do that.  I think.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure of it.
- Back hurts.  Knee hurts. Hip aches.  Achilles twinging.  Technical downhill hurts.  No more running.  I'm walking it in.  This might be close.
- The "half way" point aid station, a bit over half way on distance, but generally considered the half point on time.  4:52, so I'm 8 minutes ahead even with the extra mile.  WHEW! My friend David Smith is sitting in a chair, having dislocated his shoulder in a fall at a creek crossing.  I give him 10 seconds of sympathy and assurances that he'll be ok (trust me, I know), and tell him I have to keep moving.
- Why aren't my power walking miles as fast as they were before?  I think I'm still ok...
- 2nd/last mid-race cutoff coming.  8 hours at mile 26.  At every mile I do the math, and I'm seeing it 35-45 minutes ahead of danger.  I come in at 7:22, 38 minutes ahead.  I'm golden!
- The big climb.  As long as I don't bonk I'll be fine.  3 miles up the hill, and 4 miles to the finish.  I should check that on my phone where I've got the course profile, but don't want to take the time, and it is what it is, right?   Plan on an hour up and an hour down, lots of time in the bank.  Whew!  Jordan Chang is at that creek aid station and tells me it's 3+ and 4+, but we agree I should be fine.
- Death march.  Not a full-on bonk, but I'm dragging, and trying to save a little in my legs for the finish.  Apple Orchard Falls is pretty, but I better not stop to take a pic.  Just in case. An hour passes and the top isn't in sight.  Can't be too far though, right?  Here's a sign.  Still 0.9 miles to the parkway.  It is more than 3 miles.  Did I mention the bad race prep?  Oh, man, I'm out of funds at the Bank of Bob (aka, the BOB).  This is going to be close.  Very close.  Might have to run some on the final road part.  I figure I can do 15 min/mile pace on the final section.  Any faster and I'm in trouble.
- The top!  What's the real mileage left, I ask?  5?  Five?  FIVE?  Terrible race prep.  I should know these things without having to ask.  70 minutes left.  That's 14 minute pace. I'm screwed.  Unless I run.
- Oh yeah, that's not the real top.  I knew that.  Still a bit of climb, with not-so-fast walking.  Not good.  Screwed a little deeper with every minute that's off-pace.
- The top!  Oh yeah, choppy trails down, which I'm having a lot of trouble with.  Run a bit, mostly walk.   I don't even want to look at my watch anymore because I know I'm falling farther behind.  I forgot that this trail part goes for a couple of miles.  It's over.  I hate life.  All that work to come up short.
- The road!  But I've got only about 25 minutes left, and it's 3 miles.  Or is it 2.5?  WHY DON'T I STUDY THESE THINGS BETTER BEFORE THE RACE?!?  Probably screwed, but let's see how running goes.  Might as well goes down swinging, though I make a decision here, that if my Achilles flares up I will stop running completely even though that absolutely guarantees a DNF.
- 10 min/mile pace.  No pain.  I don't dare go faster.  I think back to the missed turn and I'd kick myself but that'd probably just irritate the achilles.  I'm going to win the Horton stupid award for missing 10 hours because of that, but little did I know that award had already been claimed.  But that's not my story to tell.
- Where's that 1 mile to go marker?  I have visions of some of my CAT cohorts coming out to bring me in for an epic finish a la Gunhild Swanson at Western States, and AJW going ape in the post race photo, but I see no one.  It's gotten drizzly and cooler, and everyone has probably gone home.  Not that I want anyone to see me come in too late.  Boo-freaking-hoo.  Just run.
- There is is!  One mile! And 13 minutes left!  I've got it!  I walk 20 steps just to give myself a break, take a mini-celebration and one last swig from my bottle.
- But wait!  I bumped my watch off at least twice taking my pack off to get stuff during the race.  I know I turned it back on quickly, but just how long was it off?  Also I didn't start it right away at the gun.  How much time do I really have?  It's Horton's clock, not mine, that counts, and I don't know what his reads. Am I good, or am I screwed?  I dunno. I don't hate life anymore, just Horton.  Dare I pick up the pace just a bit? 
- The squirrel!  The turn for the camp is coming!  Whether I make the time or not, it's all going to be over.
- The camp!  Someone is there yelling something about time.  I take out my headphones and ask, he says I've got 3 or 4 minutes to run 200 yards.  WHEW!  But do I trust him?
- I turn for the finish, and there are a few people there cheering me in!  Why are they pointing to one side?  Crap, I missed the chute!  I jump the low rope and rumble in.  9:57:24.  Dead Freaking Last, but a finish!  I'm grateful for the many friends who did stay around for my finish. 

OK, that wasn't so condensed, and there's really nothing else to say, so that's all I'll write. Strava log here.   I've battled cut-offs before, but never from the start, plus I saw only 3 other runners in the last 20 miles, so it was mentally exhausting. Glad I brought music.  Physically, walking is different enough from running that I ache more and differently than after nearly every other race, and my feet are really beat up.  Pretty much everything hurts.  But not my Achilles tendon!  Hooray for that even more than the finish!


100 mile training for Tunnel Hill started today.  Guess what?  I'm behind!  But once I recover I'll start with some slow easy miles and make sure I'm really ok, then work into my training plan.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Suunto Ambit 2 review

The tl;dr summary is that the Ambit2 is a lot of watch for the money, and the tremendous battery life is a huge plus for ultra runners.  But...for older runners with aging eyes like me, the watch is very difficult to read while running. The main field is oversized with the 2 subfields are just too tiny. When racing I am in the habit of glancing down to check my current pace, overall time, and distance, along with lap splits as I finish miles, and I can only see one of these at a time, so this will not be my marathon or shorter race watch.  I'm pretty disappointed in this.

A week or two ago my Garmin 610 froze and seemingly couldn't be reset.  I tried everything for a day, and having been frustrated with something going wrong on every Garmin I've owned within about 2 years, I decided it was time to switch to the Suunto Ambit.  My Garmin actually recovered a day after I ordered a new watch online, but I don't know how much I can trust it anymore, so I'm not sending back the new watch.

I went with the Ambit2 since it has a better battery life than the 2r or 2s for not much more money, and I didn't feel I needed to pay extra for the bluetooth functions in the Ambit3.  Deals come and go, so the price I paid will be meaningless before too long, but I got it for $189 (free shipping) through  I think I paid $350 for my Garmin 610 and it's replacement, the improved 620, costs as much.

For the best reviews, go to DC Rainmaker's website.  This guy tries just about every watch on the market and I've found his reviews to be fair, thorough, and as far as I can tell, unbiased.  You should not buy a GPS watch without checking out his reviews.  I'm not trying to replace or improve on his review, but rather adding my own perspective.

The Ambit2 is noticeably larger and heavier than the Garmin 610.  72g to 89g due in part to more features, like an altimeter with barometric data--which I'm not convinced is all that accurate, since I actually know the elevation of my house within a few feet and it was initially reading about 100 ft too low, now it is reading about 30 feet too high.  The other part of the weight could be the better battery, a main reason I have for buying this watch, plus it also has a temperature sensor, which is kind of nice. It's not so much bigger that it's unwieldy for me, but I do notice it.

Battery life:  16 hours in standard 1 second GPS accuracy mode, meaning it takes a reading on your position every second, making for good accuracy on distance and pace.  25 hours in 5 second mode, which is still probably pretty accurate.  50 hours in 1 minute mode, which means that unless you are running in a straight line, you will lose some distance, perhaps a lot.  This is sooo much better than the ~6 hours with the Garmin 610.  The 610 may not even make it through a mountain 50K, and I'd never get it through a 50 miler.  I can use the Ambit2 for any race, and I won't have to charge it so often during training.  Huge advantage for the Ambit. 

GPS acquisition is incredibly quick, so far within 5 seconds every time.  Much better than my Garmin, which could easily take over a minute, even if starting from the same place I started and finished the last run.  Not a really big deal, until you're that guy who doesn't want a group run to start until his watch acquires GPS, or are in a panic as a race is about to start and you still don't have a signal.

Cable connection:  The clamp looks better than anything Garmin has come up with.  A big complaint I've had with Garmin over the years is that it gets increasingly difficult to connect the watch due to some flaw in the design.  It's really bad to set your watch to recharge the night before a big race or long training run, only to find it didn't stay connected and is at 10%.  Time will tell how the Ambit2 holds up.  I was initially frustrated until I learned that you have to have the watch in the basic mode for it to connect.  If you've gone down into an activity or other menu, it won't connect until you back out.  Not intuitive.

Buttons: lots of buttons, 5, too many to be intuitive.  I'm getting the hang of them, but there are functions you have to press and hold that I still have to refer to the manual on.  I guess with more functions you need more buttons, but really, I could do with fewer functions and more usability.  Part of it is that the 610 had a swipe function to do things like switch screens to replace buttons.  I liked the idea but it wasn't totally reliable, and I'd really get frustrated with the sensitivity when I was trying to scroll through menus to change options or view history.  Not really missing the swipe function, but all them buttons is bamboozling me.

Customization: you have to do a lot of it with an online app, that you can only do with the watch connected to the PC.  It's nice to be able to do this on a larger screen than the watch, but the drawback is that if I get to a race and remember that I want some kind of special setting, I won't be able to do it on the fly.  There are a few things you can customize on the watch as well, but I don't think too much.  For example, on a 100 miler I certainly can't use 1s mode for GPS accuracy, and ideally I'd like to be able to switch from 5s mode to 1m mode if I'm not going to finish in 24 hours.  I better not have forgotten to switch to 5s mode before the race, and if I'm running low on battery it'd be nice to bump it to 1m on the fly, but I don't think I can.

Watch display:  You get 3 fields, and can toggle the watch through up to 8 combinations.  Unfortunately for my aging eyes, I can't read the top and bottom ones well as they are much smaller.  But I need at least +2 readers, and really +2.50, so my eyes are bad.  For younger eyes, this is a non-issue. You can show just 2 fields, but rather than splitting the screen equally, the 2nd field is still small.  This is really bad for me, and much worse than the 610.  I really like to see 3 fields:  Current pace, distance, and elapsed time.  What I've done is create 3 different sets with each of these as the middle (large) field, and I'll scroll through them as needed.  I really don't want to be doing this while racing.  Huge strike against the Ambit for me.

Other shortcomings:
Current pace only shows increments of 5 seconds, which means that it will show 8:00 min/mile pace, or 8:05 min/mile, but not 8:02.  I know current pace can be a bit off, but I've found on most Garmins that it's usually pretty close.  They don't even say how they round (up, down, nearest :05?) so 8:00 pace display may actually be anywhere from 7:56 to 8:04.  That's as much as a 3.5 minute difference in a marathon.  Probably not a huge deal, but it seems like a ridiculous limitation.

No vibrate function.  I really like how my 610 can be set to vibrate every mile so that I'll look down to check my mile split time.  The Ambit2 can be set to beep, but I can't even hear it with headphones on, and it might be tough in traffic.

Autolap:  Each mile (changeable, kind of), the watch can be set to beep and display the time of the last lap completed.  Unfortunately it shows the time in the small bottom field.  The large middle field gets the lap number, so I see a huge 1 after the first mile but can't read what I really want to see, which is what my mile split was.  For all the things you can customize on this watch, this doesn't seem to be one that can be changed, and they chose the wrong field to display predominately, in my opinion.   Also, I'd like to set autolap to 1.01 miles, to reflect the reality that I usually come in around 26.4-26.5 miles in a marathon, due to not being able to run perfect tangents, weaving around people, and slight GPS inaccuracies.  My 610 was functionally no better at .05 mile intervals, which means that 1.00 miles was still the closest I can get.  I had older, less expensive Garmins give me that .01 granularity, and it would be nice to have that back.

Setup:  With windows 8.1, I had to run setup as administrator to get it to work.  Otherwise the watch would not connect with my laptop.  It would just keep beeping every few seconds like it was connecting and disconnecting.  I had to google the symptoms to figure this out.  Before that I was nearly ready to throw the watch back in the box and ship it back.

No wireless connection.  My Garmin 610 would transfer data wirelessly with a USB ANT stick.  To get something similar (better) you have to spring for the Ambit3 with Bluetooth.  Decide for yourself if that's worth it.  Obviously I didn't, but it would be nice to have.  Bluetooth, including being able to see texts and emails on your watch (if your eyes are better than mine) plus a slight weight reduction are about all I see different in the Ambit3, but check closer for yourself as other features that I don't care about may differ.

Here's a real nit, the Suunto site to download runs to and configure the watch from is called "Movescount".  Activities are called "Moves".  What an odd, stupid term.  Sounds like dancing.  Or BMs.  I go out on runs, not "moves".  Fortunately I just pass through Movescount automatically to Strava and don't have to look at my "moves" on their site, though I can't miss it when I go to that site to customize my watch.

Summary:  Due to the lighter weight and especially the readability of all fields, plus the vibrate function, I'll keep using the 610 for marathons and shorter races as long as it seems reliable.  The Ambit2 will be for ultra marathons, and probably most training, unless I'm doing a speed workout where I really like to track pace closely.  I guess I'll have to run another 100 to justify this purchase basically for the longer battery life. ;-)  I have to say I'm a bit disappointed in the Ambit's shortcomings. I'm glad my Garmin recovered and I don't have to rely on the Ambit for all races.  I've probably got a good, though pricey, combination in the 2 watches now, but I'd really like a single watch that does it all for me.  As I've said, for those of you with better eyes, my biggest issue is really no issue to you, which leaves the Ambit2 as a great watch for the price.  Older folks like me might want to borrow somebody's first to see it for themselves.  I feel like I asked the right questions of people on functions, and they gave accurate answers, but what I failed to find out was if it could do such-and-such function, and will I actually be able to see that?

Monday, June 1, 2015

2015 Summer/Fall Race Plans

Recovery time is over, it's time to race again!  Actually I've already done a few shorter races, both on trail and roads this spring, plus ongoing through the summer is the Summer Trail Running Series, 4 races between 5K and 5M at various venues.  It's fun to open it up once in awhile, and good practice to run trails faster than I do in an ultra.

Next up for the longer races is Highland Sky, a tough 40 mile race in the Dolly Sods wilderness in West Virginia on June 20.  I've run survived this once before, and wrote this race report.  I really haven't been too motivated to train since Umstead so I'm just in this to have fun and finish and hang out with a bunch of other friends who will run this too.

The heat of August means it's time for the Jarmans Invitational Marathon.  Everything about this race sucks.  That's not just my opinion, it's the tagline for the race.  5 times up and down a pretty steep gravel road, 7600' of gain/loss.  This "marathon" is 29 miles, that's how much it sucks.  Invitational?  More like a court summons.  You need to check out the vids for it on the facebook link above.  Last year was actually fairly cool and overcast and it didn't suck at all.  I'm expecting payback this year.

I'm trying to build a vacation around a race each year.  Last year I ran a marathon in Ireland.  This year I'm heading to Bend, Oregon for the Flagline Trailfest 50k on Sept 20.  Mostly it's just an excuse to see an area I've been wanting to check out for awhile.  I fly into Portland and I'll spend a day and a half along the Columbia Gorge, doing a few sightseeing hikes and runs on the trails there.  Lots of waterfalls.  My drive to Bend takes me past Mount Hood where I'll check out another trail or two.  Bend has some great looking trails in and around town, along with some brewpubs.  The race itself is just outside Bend with start/finish at Mount Bachelor.  I'll wrap up the trip with a stop at the McKenzie River trail, and a night in Eugene/Springfield with a pilgrimage to Hayward Field and/or Pre's Trail before ending up back in Portland.  The more I'm planning this, the more I'm looking forward to it.  It will definitely be a relaxed race so that I'm able to do all the other trails I'd like to see.

My fall goal race is Peak to Creek, formerly known as Ridge to Bridge, near Morganton, NC in October.  It's a downhill marathon on mostly unpaved roads, 2800 ft net drop with almost no climbing and no steep drops.  My goal is to safely qualify for Boston for 2017 (2016 qualifying ends in September).  I've run Boston twice, 2011 and 2013.  For 2015 I was fast enough to register but since they went over the limit I didn't make the updated cut-off.  My try for 2016 was a crash-and-burn at Steamtown last fall.  For 2017 I get 10 extra minutes, since I'll be 55 by that race and my qualifying time is 3:40.

Peak to Creek course profile
 I'll probably wrap the year up with the Richmond marathon.  It's a good fall back in case something goes wrong at Peak to Creek, and it's a well organized race.

This would put me at 8 marathons/ultras for the year, one more than I've ever done in a year, and 47 total.  8 seems like a lot (for some people, not to others), but I'm really only racing 2 of them hard.

Friday, May 1, 2015

One Month Later--A Look Back

Now that a month has passed since finishing the Umstead 100 I thought I'd look back at what stands out from my experience, and where I go from here.  Rather than the usual "did this right, did this wrong, learned this", I'll stick to things that have left a strong impression on me.

The Start:  I'm usually pretty relaxed right before a race.  This one wasn't much different in the hour leading up to the race.  Right until we started moving, then it became real and I almost had a panic attack:  OH MY GOD I'M GOING TO BE RUNNING ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT AND MAYBE LONGER!  WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO!  WHAT IF I CAN'T DO THIS?!?  I'M VERY AFRAID! 100 MILES!  I DON'T EVEN LIKE TO DRIVE THAT FAR!  (heh, we've all heard that, haven't we?  No, I didn't really think that last one.) And then a feeling of relief came over me that after nearly 7 months since I got into Umstead and have trained, planned, worried and generally let it consume my life, it was finally here and it would either happen or it wouldn't.  No more wondering, it was Go time.  After that I focused on running a very easy pace and not get sucked into anyone else's speed.  The enormity of trying to swallow 100 miles whole faded as I broke the race into bite sized pieces.  Run a mile between 10 and 11 minutes.  Repeat.  Eat something.  Walk the uphills.  Get to the aid station.  Finish the loop and refuel.  Repeat.  This is what I do.  I'm a runner.  A long distance runner.  A freaking ultra long distance runner.  And I will do this.

Hitting my goal times for 5 loops:  I had a plan for running a 24 hour race which I detailed in my previous posts.  The reality was that I could only hope to have the patience to hold myself back early, and the strength to only fall off 10 minutes per loop later.  I was pleased when my first loop came in a mere 19 seconds off my goal.  I was smiling as loop 2 was just 36 seconds off.  Loop 3 went well and I'm laughing as I came in a whopping 2:25 early, and thinking about what anyone who paid attention to my plan and is following me online must be thinking, that I am running hard and then standing 1/4 mile from the turnaround to nail my splits.  But I'm not.  I'm running by feel and glancing at my cheap Casio watch maybe 3 or 4 times per loop.  Loop 4 I'm a minute 49 seconds fast and my shoulder is hurting from patting myself on the back.  Loop 5 I'm just a few more minutes ahead and as I come past all the crew stations into the start/finish turnaround I just want to scream "LOOK AT ME, I'M STILL RIGHT ON PACE!" Of course it all fell apart during loop 6 but it was so much fun to have 100K of the race go so perfectly on plan, even if it wasn't the full 100M.

The C-c-c-old:  The forecast was all over the place in the week leading up to the race, but ultimately called for cold.  The day time temps never got out of the low 40s, cooler than expected, but that made for very comfortable running.  Night time temps hit the low 20s as forecast.  I was feeling pretty comfortable as the sun went down, right up until I threw up.  Then I immediately got terrible chills.  It was like a bucket of cold water was thrown on me.  I guess I just ran out of fuel and it all caught up to me but I was almost paralyzed with chills, even though it was still above freezing.  I survived until I got into the lodge to warm up, and even though it probably was below freezing when I left the lodge, I was stabilized and felt fine the rest of the night and early morning to the finish.  But I will never forget how cold I felt in the middle of loop 6.

Mayhem at the Lodge:  As darkness fell during loop 6, the course got peaceful.  No more hikers and bikers sharing the trail.  The 50 mile runners were mostly finished, plus some runners had dropped.  The field was spread out.  The woods were dark, and quiet.  It was almost eerie.  At the end of the loop, having made the decision that I had to sit to refuel in the warm lodge or my race was probably finished, I walked into the lodge.  It was like a being dropped into Times Square, or maybe a battlefield hospital.  I had visions of hunkering down by the fireplace, sipping soup by the dim light of the fire and talking in subdued tones.  Instead, there were florescent lights blazing, a loud din of people talking over each other, and the fireplace totally blocked by cots full of blanketed casualties.  Total sensory overload!  I suppose it was good, because I never got too close to the fire nor did I ever get very comfortable in there.  As bad of shape as I was in, I was actually thinking that I belonged out in the cold, quiet, dark woods rather than inside in the mayhem. 

The Finish:  A bit anti-climactic, actually.  Since I walked every step of the final 25 miles save for the last 50 yards, I wasn't as spent as I've been for most races I've done.  I didn't know how emotional I would be coming into the finish, but I held it together.  Finishing up the loop I was still a bit apologetic for walking so much and finishing 2.5 hours slower than my goal, but as I finished I pumped my arms, and then it hit me that I had finished 100 FREAKING MILES, which I had serious doubts that I could ever do.  I pumped my arms at least 3 more times and again hurt my shoulder patting myself.  Great feeling.  Part of the reason I did this race was to test my limits.  I hit a really rough patch where I think everybody pretty much figured I was done, and I got my butt back on the trail and finished it.  Ugly as sin, but a finish nonetheless.  Maybe I never really hit the darkness in this race, but I was really worried going in that if things got tough I might fold, and I never got close.

Disappointment:  It's not fair.  Dammit, I had it.  I was absolutely dialed in for a 24 hour finish.  I did everything right.  I just had bad luck with my stomach.  Nope.  That's just part of endurance running.  It's no different than if I'd have gotten lost, injured, or if my legs had just given out.  Whatever your weakness is, that's what's most likely to get you, though it could be anything.  With me, it's nutrition.  I didn't get it right, and it kept me from hitting 24 hours.  I get it.  It is fair. 

The Lack of Suck:  One reason I had avoided a 100 miler is that I figured at least half of it would just suck.  I would hate life and swear I'd never run again.  Why should I do something that will make me feel so, so miserable?  Instead, I really only had about 3 hours out of 26+ that really stunk, and even then I still had the mindset to get through it.  Most of my 50 miles have had longer times of suckitude than that.  This 100 miler went better than any of my 5 (4 finished) 50 milers.

I'm Awake.  Really:  Never once felt sleepy.  I figured sleep wouldn't be much of an issue for me, but it went even better than I thought.  I don't even remember yawning, and never had the urge to stop and take a nap even as I passed right by my car loop after loop.  I was more worried about my last pacer falling asleep on me.  In fact, I only dozed a bit on the 3 hour car ride home, and when I got home I stayed up until about 10pm and only slept about 8-9 hours.

Post-Race Agony--Not:  I had been warned that I would be stiff and sore and barely able to walk the couple days after the race.  Most likely due to walking the final 25-30 miles, I actually felt pretty darned good.  I woke up the next morning with very little stiffness, though I was walking badly due to huge blisters that popped up on the last loop.  I was ready to run the following weekend.  I tried a hilly 12 miler 2 weeks after and paid for it with sore quads, but shorter runs have been mostly fine. 

I'll Never Ever Have to Do This Again...But I Might!:  My mantra to get through this was to finish, so that I would never have to do it again.  I knew if I failed I'd be compelled to try again.  But if I finished...I was a 100 mile runner and I wouldn't have to prove it to myself or anyone else again.  Funny thing though.  I left something on the course.  I could've done better.  24 hours was not in the cards that day, but I can do it.  And I know my strengths, that I can stay awake and alert.  Maybe a mountain 100 is my forte, like Grindstone.  But hills eat up my legs, so maybe not.  Maybe another shot at sub-24.  Tunnel Hill in Illinois looks like a flat, non-technical 100.  2016 maybe?  Thinking about it.  Not committed.  We'll see.  Not really sure I want to focus on a 100 rather than running more 50Ks and marathons.  This fall is dedicated to getting a safe Boston marathon qualifier for 2017, when I get 10 extra minutes for turning 55.  The important thing is, I finished a 100 and still want to keep running.

OK, Congrats, But Get Over Yourself:  Got it.  I ran 100 miles.  So have a lot of my friends.  The world didn't change.  Earthquakes killed thousands in Nepal.  Chaos in Baltimore.  California is still in serious drought.  The Cubs probably still won't win the World Series.  Don't be That Guy who expects everyone to recognize him as The One Who Ran 100 Miles.  Somebody tell me when I forget this.  But give me just one more time:  I ran 100 miles!