April 21, 2014

The Feeling

You know the feeling.

Some people call it work. Others call it torture. Still others call it crazy.

You know better.

You know the feeling.

Sailing along a peaceful country road with only the sounds of your footfalls and a sweet, light springtime breeze.

Blasting around a compact oval in powerful mid-stride with the entire world reduced to the concentrated in and out of your diaphragm and your completely relaxed lower lip.

That resounding sense of worth from beating your 0345 alarm out of bed on a frost-covered December Tuesday workday morn because you promised yourself that you would.

The utter joy of tooling along at 4 or 5 mph and being completely awash in your own mind for hours and hours.

The unfailing beauty of the ever-changing pre-dawn light, especially when you're running along a mountain trail with the soft crunch of leaves underfoot.

The peaceful uneven softness of semi-packed ocean sand as the rising sun dots the skyline and early-morning waves give you relentless chase.

The purity that comes about from looking around and having it come home to roost that, yes, you are the only one up here on the top of this mountain. And that you got here by the power of your legs. And your will.

You know the feeling.

Freedom.

April 15, 2014

Favorite Moments from U100 circa 2014

We did it.

My buddy Jack Broaddus and I kicked, clawed, scratched and meandered our way through Umstead 100-Miler April 5-6. It was 64-years-young Jack's first 100-mile finish. I have a bunch more, but this 28 hours, 25 minutes and 53 seconds belongs absolutely, completely to my dear friend Jack.

Some of my favorite moments from the 8-lap trek ...

• Me nearly halfway through Lap 7, so some ridiculous time early Sunday morning when a bit of hallucination action kicked in: "Oh wow. That just looked like a guillotine back there. Damn. I think I need some food. Bad."

• Getting trail time with friends old and new, a list that is so long that I have absolutely no shot at naming them all. Each of you know who you are, and I hope you also know what a true delight each of you is to my very soul (yes, even you Tom Green!!).

• All the kind, kind volunteers who pitched in and helped us out across the hours and days. Your smiles, your laughs and your occasional kicks in the behind kept us buoyed and happy and ever-mindful of the idea that one can stay focused on the ultimate goal and still have a helluva great time.

• Me dropping back and falling sound asleep later on Lap 7.  While hiking. And eating a mouthful of animal crackers. Then me saying to Jack, "Dude, I just fell asleep hiking." And Jack coming back with, "Well, what in the hell did you do that for? Now, get back up here!"

• Every single step and all the laughs with the adorable Amy Surrette, who guided us around the course for the about 4 hours that were Lap 6. Amy is a dear friend, has one of the most shining personalities ever and is also among the toughest humans I have shared a race course with in all my days. So incredibly grateful for your help, Amy.

• Me and Jack trudging our way along on the final lap and just after passing the 11-mile mark on the 12.5-mile loop, we look up to see none other than our guardian angel Amy coming back out to meet us. She had gone home, grabbed a quick nap and daggone if she didn't come back out to check on us yet another time. Such joy in her smile that we were closing in on the final line that Jack and I even managed to break into a couple run segments as Amy joined in all the way home.

• Somewhere near the middle of Lap 8, Jack and I had the following exchange ...

Me: "Jack, you're leaning pretty far to right there, dude."

Jack (as he almost tumbles off the edge of the trail): "I am?"

• That blessed final section where you come back to the start-finish, me crowing to all who were within earshot at 10:25ish a.m. Sunday "This is Jack's first 100 finish!!" Him trying to get me to quiet down. Him realizing how remarkably pointless it was to protest.

• Jack breaking into a run as we made it halfway down that final downhill, and then holding it all the way up the final short uphill and across the finish line.

• The amazing sleepy, proud, radiant smile on Jack's face when RD Blake Norwood presented him with his finisher's belt buckle. Blake and I have been friends for 18 years now, and I'm not quite sure that I've ever seen Blake smile as widely as he did when he gave Jack that buckle.

This one was a good one. Really, really good. We went there with the goal that Jack was going to finish. Although it's so unlikely when this actually happens, I held out a glimmer of hope that we could do the whole enchilada together. Check. And check.

Moments that will last me a lifetime.

April 3, 2014

'Twas two sleeps before Umstead ...

'Twas two sleeps before Umstead
and all through his brain
ponderous musings were flowing
like a runaway train.

Will he tackle success at Goal No. 1
Helping dear pal Jack make the grade?
or will they both be too pumped
rip away too fast and fade?

And what of his own ride to the stars,
where Finish No. 13 lingers and jeers,
will he manage his energy at all costs
beat sleep and hear blessed Sunday morn cheers?

Has he packed all his goods?
Does he have all he'll need?
When the going gets rugged
Which call will he heed?

He knows how to do this,
He's been here before,
And raced o'er these grounds
Through times rich and poor.

The path is a wide one
Well-marked and hard pack,
The party doesn't start
Till the light scales back.

A gentle early pace
Should help Jack steer clear
Of U100's challenging nature
Despite its sweet veneer.

Laughs will be had,
Stories will unfold,
Kudos will be earned,
As dreams foretold.

'Twas two sleeps before Umstead
and now through his eyes
rests the easy breezy feel
that Finish 13's his prize.

February 10, 2014

Not Quite Two Loops, But Still ...

Although Saturday didn't go as I had planned that it would, I still managed to kill it out at The Wild Oak Trail.

Each 27-mile loop has about 8,000 feet of up and down. Translation: This one is hard. Real hard.

I was shooting for two loops this time.

Here's how it actually went down for me ...

One counter-clockwise loop with my dear pal/training buddy Jack Broaddus in 8:50, then off on my own for a second counter-clockwise loop with a promise to myself that if i didn't come across anybody going in my direction before I had to take on the really tricky snow-covered section on Big Bald solo in the dark, I'd bag it and run the road back. That's what I did. Final 9 miles on road with 3 outta every 4 iPod songs at marathon pace. 47 challenging miles total in 14:30:00.

Things I learned ...

• Ice isn't so scary bad if you have screws in your trail shoes.

• Ate a lot more than usual and drank a lot fewer calories than usual. Think I'm gonna continue that behavior if I'm going as slowly as we were (see Umstead 100, Three Days at the Fair 72-Hour, Hot TWOT).

• It's a lot easier on your legs if you stay mindful of how much you are running even on the seemingly "easy" trail sections of this loop. Nothing at all wrong with walking stuff that you would normally run if, say, you were only gonna do one loop. (Thank you, Jack, for taking the point for the final 2 hours of our shared loop and saving me from my sometimes greedy self.)

• Solved a bunch of problems throughout the day, and stayed positive and happy the whole time. A bonk-free 14h30m is something pretty sweet with all that 10,000-plus-feet of up and down.

• I know in my heart now that I have 4 continuous loops in me this October, and that it makes sense for me to line up pacers for Loops 2 and 4.

• It was pretty damn awesome to do 38 miles on those trails, then hammer the final 9 miles on the road. Very pleased with the training effect. (And when coupled with runwalks of 3 hours Tuesday, 3 hours Thursday and 2 hours Friday, this day pushed my weekly tally to 22h30m. Rough estimate of 85 miles. In only four days.)

• Saturday's 250-rep push-up review: 1x30 and 1x20 at the Big Bald lake. 1x50 at the fake Hankey summit. 1x30 and 1x20 at real Hankey summit. 1x50 at start of "new" Lookout Mountain trail. 1x50 on bridge crossing river before heading back to start/finish.

Overcame my fear of ice. Completely trashed my quads. Started in the dark. Finished in a different dark. Had a silly smile plastered across my face the whole time.

Loved. Every. Step.

January 31, 2014

Dear January

Dear January,

You have really been something. We’ve had quite the battle this year. You’ve bitten and kicked and wrangled with me almost every day. You’ve dragged me around and caused me to re-assess my running. And my supplemental exercise routine. And my diet. You’ve posed a lot of deep, piercing questions. Not sure I have all the answers, but I am working on that.

Now that you’re mere hours away from packing it in for another year, oh worthy opponent, how about we run a little scorecard and see where we stack up against one another?

Let us review these past 31 days, January …

• 60 hours of runwalk. That’s compared to 44 last year. (Score one for Me)

• 22 runs of at least 2 hours. That’s compared to 17 last year. (Me)

• Long-run breakdowns of a 6:09 (Red Eye 50K New Year’s Day), a 5:00, a 4:00, seven 3:00s and 12 2:00s (Seriously me)

• Living Room Yoga sessions: 3 (Draw)

• TRX training sessions: 7 (Me)

• Basketball ref action: 26 total games – 16 high school and 10 youth league (Draw)

• Days I did not run: 8 (January)

• Days I skipped running because the projected wind chill was more than -10F: 3 (Seriously January)

• Days I ran that were single-digit days: 4 (Me!!!)

• Days I ran less than 2 hours: 1. Although that day included a 20-minute tempo block at half-marathon pace … (still … January)

• Fast days: In addition to chunks of the Red Eye run and the aforementioned 20-minute tempo, I also churned out 5 times 7 minutes at 10K race pace, 10 times a 1-minute to 1-minute 45-second hill and another 20-minute tempo at HMP. (All me)

• Total number of push-ups this month: 6,200 (Draw, cuz I would have done fewer than this if the weather conditions hadn’t sucked so badly on several of your days).

So let’s see: Me 6. January 3. And 3 draws.

Truth: You kicked my ass, January. And even though I’m stronger and better and maybe even a little tougher now than I was before you showed up, I’m calling it even.

Thank you, January. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

January 21, 2014

Learning

Happy dog. New tricks.

I’ve run somewhere in the neighborhood of 85,000 lifetime miles, yet I’m only now just exploring rest days. Coming from the School of The Difference Between Ordinary and Extraordinary is Just a Little Extra, non-run days haven’t been regular for me since, um, 1979. Yeah. Starting with the last week of December, I’ve plugged in one or two rest days a week.

I am learning.

Non-run days are giving me extra juice so that I’m putting in more time on my feet than I was when I was hitting the roads every day. What? Yep. Bouncing between 12 and 14 runwalk hours each week. And I’m sleeping better.

I am learning.

Yoga can mean downloading a video and doing it for 30-45 minutes in my living room. And yoga can also mean doing eight or 12 moves on those rare winter evenings when I’m sitting around the house rather than out reffing high school basketball.

I am learning.

Push-ups have changed my exercise world. After doing 100 a day for a 100-day stretch that ended just before Christmas, I have bumped the daily tally to 200-plus. Running is better.

I am learning.

Merlot is growing on me.

I am learning.

Full-body TRX routines -- even the truncated four-move ones – really do kick your ass.

I am learning.

When those close to me say, “Read this,” I am taking immediate action to make this happen.

I am learning.

After consecutive years of 183 miles, 190 miles and 167 miles at Three Days at the Fair 72-Hour, this year I’m throwing down and calling it out. This year, the final total matters. This year, I’m laser-focused on cracking the 200-mile mark. And this year, I’ll taper. And get off my feet every couple hours throughout the event.

I am learning.

This year, I plan to reacquaint myself with The Wild Oak Trail that was my old friend for my first decade of ultrarunning (more than a decade ago now). My hope is two 27-mile loops in February. And two more than that in October.

Off days. Hard work. Big plans. Hopes. Dreams.

Using my head.

Listening to my heart.

Day by day, lesson by lesson – and sometimes, inch by inch – I am learning.

December 31, 2013

Laughingly Hopeful

More running.

More rest.

More than 200 miles at Three Days at the Fair 72-Hour.

More laughter.

More push-ups.

More pull-ups.

More clarity.

More living room yoga.

More great craft beer.

More embracing the fun on the way to what could be -- knock on wood -- my 13th Umstead 100-Miler finish line.

More good food.

More mountain sunrises.

More writing.

More pushing the pace.

More runs with buddies.

More reaching.

More laughing.

More Wild Oak Trail loops.

More trips up and down Reddish Knob on pavement.

More joy.