"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -- WOW-- What a Ride!"

Monday, August 29, 2011

First Half! A Race Report and a Weekly

This past week was notable in my running life because I ran my first half marathon ever.  On Saturday, August 27th I ran the North Country Run Half Marathon held on the Big M trails in the Manistee National Forest near Wellston, MI.

Most of the week was consumed with tapering.  Not sure if I did it right, but it seemed to work for me.  Took Thursday and Friday as complete rest days so I would be fresh on Saturday.  We'll pick things up with Friday.

Friday we had to put our dog down.  She has been a member of our family for 14 years.  It was tremendously difficult to say goodbye but we knew it was time.  We'll always remember her gentle nature and what a fine friend she was.  What was going to be a weekend of just celebrating a running achievement turned into celebrating the life of our furry friend and all the joy she brought our family.

It was time to pack up and go.  We got the camper hooked up and...  no lights.  What?!  Tried a different plug.  Still no lights.  Cleaned everything.  Still no lights.  Time was ticking.  If I was going to make packet pick up before 8:00 p.m. we needed a new plan and quick.  My wonderful wife suggested we tent camp instead and proceeded to get all the stuff we'd need and get it to the car in less than 30 minutes.  Wow.  Somehow we made packet pickup before they closed and still managed to set our tent up in the fading twilight.

Saturday morning came.  The whole family got up in the dark and they took me over to the race site and dropped me off.  The plan was for them to return at 1:00 p.m. or when I called, whichever came first.  The race director had some last minute details for us, the Canadian and American anthems were played and then the marathoners lined up and were off.  About 20 minutes later the Ultra folks lined up and then they were off.  Then about 20 minutes after that all of us half marathoners lined up, the race director said "go!" and we took off.  First a little .1 mile loop through the parking lot and then we were into the woods.  Did I mention this was a trail race?

For the first mile or two it was just one long, line of runners headed up the trail.  And I do mean up.  Up, up, up.  Surely there would be a down, right?  By about mile 3 or so the pack began to thin out and separate.  By mile 4 and the first aid station I mixed in with a small pack of people that I pretty much stayed with for the rest of the race.  We did a little passing back and forth but for the most part just clicked off the miles together.

It was a beautiful day to be in the woods.  Clear blue sky, cool temps, no humidity to speak of, and not much in the way of bugs.  There were times when I would just start enjoying the scenery and forget we were racing.  Then came the aid station at about mile 6.  Wow.  An incredibly steep climb up firetower hill, a brief moment to enjoy the view and gulp down some Gatorade and then back down that same steep trail.  My right foot had gone numb at about mile 4.5.  That climb and decent totally cured it.  I did not have any more issues like that the rest of the day.

From this small pack of intrepid half-marathoners there was a more seasoned gentleman than I that fell in behind me.  He said my pace was good for him and he didn't want to pass.  He called out the miles from his Garmin as they went by and was right there behind me all the way to the finish.  It was like my invisible runner that chases me suddenly became real.  I appreciated having him there to push me along and force me to dig deep.

Other than seemingly endless climbing and descending, the last 6.5 miles just clicked by.  One thing this course didn't have was any boring flat spots.  Whew, my thighs are still barking a little.

Then suddenly, there it was.  The final mile.  My small pack had strung out and there were just five or six of us now.  We all turned it up a notch and headed to the finish line.  I was only a few steps behind the guy in front of me, but I had nothing left.  There was no way I was going to catch and pass him.  Somehow I ended up with a medal the size of a dinner plate around my neck and someone was handing me a bottle of water.  Thank goodness for race volunteers.  We wouldn't be able to enjoy these great races without them.

This is what the race looked like to me:

Just a blur as I whizzed down the path avoiding tree roots and trying not to look too much like a noob.

The lead marathoners were finishing right with us mid-pack half-marathoners.  The coolest part about that is that I got to meet someone I only knew from Runner's World Online who was running the marathon.  He finished literally two or three steps behind me.  He was 4th overall in the marathon.  Cool!  Great job Thom!

My goals were to 1) Finish - DONE!; 2) Have Fun - DONE!; and 3) Not Be Last - DONE!  My goals I didn't tell anyone about were to finish in under 3 hours or a stretch goal of 2:45:00.  I finished in 2:41:59.  Yay!  I ended up calling my wife at 11:30 a.m. to come get me.  This left the rest of a beautiful day to enjoy some family time.

Post race the family and I went to the beach in Manistee, MI to relax:

After the beach it was time for ice cream.  Whoo Hoo!  One of the main reasons I run is for ice cream.  We headed on over to The House of Flavors in Manistee, MI and enjoyed some excellent ice cream in handmade waffle cones.  Yum!

The race was an awesome experience.  I can't wait to run some more trail races.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Last big week

Last week was my last big week (mileage-wise) before my first ever half marathon this coming Saturday.  Now it's time to taper, heal and trust my training.  Can't believe it's here already.  This is something I've been looking forward to, planning for and training for since last January.  I guess it's a goal race.

Race details:  It's a trail half marathon.  The course rolls pretty good, but isn't as technical as a western US mountain course.  We'll be under a canopy of maple and beech trees most of the time.  The trails are mostly single track.  Passing can be difficult, but I don't plan to pass much anyway.  The surface is sand, dirt, leaves and pine needles, some roots, and a few rocks.  My goals are to (1) finish; (2) have fun; and (3) not be last.

For anyone who will be at North Country 2011, I'll be the goofball smiling like a little kid on Christmas morning. I love trail running and it will be a blast to be around other people that love it too.

Last week I ran in more new to me places.  I ran Tuesday and Wednesday nights on the bike path between Charlevoix and Petoskey, MI.  Both were beautiful nights under a big, bright moon.  Little Traverse Bay was gorgeous in the moonlight.  The rest of the week was on my home routes.  I ended up logging just over 30 miles.

So, how's everyone been?  Any races coming up?  How's your fall schedule shaping up?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Running in New Places

In the summer I travel a lot for my job.  This year I struggled with how was I going to fit running into my routine while on the road.  What I found is that it's lots of fun to run in new places.  Since most of the places I go to are somewhat rural it's pretty easy to find a quiet road or bike path to run on.  The new scenery is a nice mental break to my normal running routes at home.  So, this summer I've learned that it's better to get up and out of my hotel room at night and get my run on rather than lay around and watch TV, no matter how slow I go.  A nice side benefit is that I feel better while working 12-ish hour days.  I also stay aware of my hydration and am careful about what and how much I eat, which has benefits beyond running better.

Do you try to work runs in while traveling?  Any strategies for finding a route you'd care to share?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chasing the Sun

Oops.  Missed a week.  Sorry about that.  I was traveling for work and got kind of busy so blogging about running got stuck on the back burner.

Lately I feel like I've been chasing the sun on my runs.  It's getting darker noticeably earlier now so I'm running more and more in the dark.  Time to make sure my headlamp has fresh batteries and all my reflective gear is ready to go.

So, a week in review.  As I said I was traveling for work, so getting my runs in was a challenge.

Monday - Rested
Tuesday - 3.1 miles up and down Sunset Hill near Central Lake, MI.  It was about 11:00 at night when I ran it, but from what I could see with my headlamp it was beautiful.  Startled a doe, came across some hillbillies shining deer, almost stepped on a possum.  Whew.  That was enough for one night.
Wednesday - Ran 6.2 miles on the Central Lake High School track.  The moon was almost full.  Much less exciting than the night before, which was awesome.
Thursday - 6.2 miles back on my home path.  Slow, but it felt nice to be back.
Friday - Rested
Saturday - 10.1 miles on single track forest trails.  There was a nice, cool gentle rain most of the time.  I had the trails to myself.  Awesome.
Sunday - 5 miles watching the sun set to my left and the moon rising to my right with night sounds all around me.  This was one to remember.

My trail half marathon is in two weeks.  I feel like I am prepared enough to finish, but not very fast.  That's OK though.  I'm only racing against me.  The fact that I get to spend the day with other trail runners and be out in the woods is what it's all about for me.

I learned the great quantities of garden fresh cauliflower taste really good, but don't make really good running fuel just before heading out.  Definitely did some crop dusting.

Hope you all are healthy and have been running well.  Summer is getting away from us too fast.  Do you have any fall racing plans?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sunday Recap

It's that time again.  Time to look back over the last week and assess what went well and what didn't.

Tuesday - 6.2 miles.  Weather was not a factor.  It was clear and cool.  I was feeling kind of blah.  Just chalked it up to being busy at work and being kind of tired.
Wednesday - 4.5 miles.  Visited my winter route to see how it's looking.  It looked weird without snow.  The humidity was starting to move back in.  Best way to describe it was cool and clammy.  A bat flew within a few feet of me.  That was pretty cool.  Still feeling kind of blah.
Thursday - 5.9 miles.  It got darker sooner than I was expecting and I hadn't brought my headlamp with me.  I ended up sticking to lighted areas and guessing on the turnaround.  I came close to my goal of 6 miles, so my guess wasn't bad.  Felt much better than the last couple of nights.
Friday - Resting
Saturday - Got up early (for me) and hit my regular forest single track trail for 10.1 miles.  No boring flat spots.  It's all up and down.  Lots of deer flies.  Saw a couple of cyclists on the trails and for the first time ever, another runner.  There were a lot of deer tracks in the trail but I didn't see any.  The tracks looked pretty fresh.  I think they probably heard me coming long before I got there and they hid in the underbrush.  I was shooting for an overall pace of about 13:00 minutes per mile.  I ended up with 12:40.  I'm really happy with that.  If I am that fast in my trail half marathon, I'll be ecstatic.
Sunday - Just a few easy miles to stay loose. Kind of warm and muggy.

Ended up with 30.7 miles for the week and 135.9 miles for the month of July.  The monthly total ties my previous monthly best set in March, 2011.  August should end up around 110-115 as there will be a taper week in there.

It's only about 4 weeks until my trail half marathon.  Yikes!  For the next two weeks I'm planning to continue doing my long run on the forest single track.  Time on my feet on the trail is what I'm after.  I also need to be a little more disciplined about stretching and rolling regularly over these next few weeks.  Some of the blah feeling this past week was due to the fact that was really stiff after sitting all day at work.  I just couldn't seem to get loose.  I need to be more intentional about working on flexibility.

The garden is really starting to produce.  The cucumbers are continuing hot and heavy.  We are getting some new potatoes, string beans, summer squash, cherry tomatoes, roma tomatoes, and broccoli.  Our peas are done for the year.  Who needs pizza and buffets right now?  There's plenty coming out of my own back yard.