November 30, 2006

Left Coast-bound perhaps?

Depends on how the Western States Endurance Run 100-Miler lottery turns out this Saturday.

Mike Whalen, a new ultrarunner who I shared some wonderful time with during the night-time portion of this past summer's Old Dominion Memorial 100-Miler, is offering to pick up the tab for my heading out to California to pace him -- that is, run the last 33 or so miles with him -- in late June 2007. Western is the granddaddy of 100-mile trail racing, and is so popular that there is a lottery for the 470 or so slots.

I've never been interested in doing Western as a race. A little too glitzy for my tastes. But Mike thinks he needs my help, so that seems like a pretty good reason to head west and maybe sample a taste of the big time.

November 20, 2006

The Hippy-Out Way

From the "Totally Pointless But Could Be Just The Rut-Buster You’re Looking For If You're An Ultrarunner" file, I submit this … The Hippy-Out Way.

If going fast and finishing first is your thing, find the Delete Key now.

Here’s how it works: You score points for the total amount of time spent on all runs 2 hours or longer. Points are tallied for the month. I still do a bunch of the shorter ones too, mostly in the 20- to 30-minute range, but I don’t score those. I don’t do speed work or push too hard in races any more, so I don’t care about giving either of those more value than a normal long run.

Notes: I do run/walks on all my runs, including anything on roads and including those less than 2 hours. For long runs, I might do 7 minutes run/3 minutes walk. Or 12/3, 8/2, 5/1, 4/1. Other than for races, life precludes my breaking free most weekends, so nearly all these are weekday morning deals. Helps that I only live 15 minutes’ drive from work, and, after 16
years doing ultras, training on roads gets me ready for training on pretty much anything I will be doing races on. Also helps that I’m cool with getting up at 4-4:30 a.m. to start running 4:30-5 a.m. before work. Yeah, it’s weird. Yeah, fits my personality.

So, here’s November. So far I have 8 long runs for a total of 25 hours, so 25 points. Included is a 10:25 at Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50-Miler. The next week I did 2:15 Wednesday, then 2 hours each on Thursday and Saturday. The week
after was the more typical 2 hours apiece in the more typical Tuesday, Thursday and Friday rotation. This morning, I did 2:15. I expect to get 4 more 2-hour runs in for the month, so that will be 33 points for 12 runs.

This is more of a tracking system than a training system. Training implies a plan. I have no plan. I have a wife, a 6-year-old son, a 40-hour-a-week job, a part-time job as a basketball ref, and an overriding need to run. I just run slow, walk fast and have fun.

Here are some numbers since I started this nonsense in 2003.

2003 312 points; 100 “long” runs; 7 ultras (1 100), 1 marathon and one
78-mile DNF.

2004 362 points; 122 “long” runs; 6 ultras (2 100s), 1 marathon.

2005 452 points; 143 “long” runs; 6 ultras (2 100s and the 71-mile
Massanutten Ring Trail), 2 marathons.

For 2006, I am poised at 399.25 with 131 runs, so tomorrow (or Wednesday, if I sleep in Tuesday) will crack the 400-point mark for a second straight year with slightly more than a month left to go. This year’s highlights include 2 marathons, 6 organized ultras (2 100s) and two other really stupid fun deals, the 77-mile Greenbrier River Trail in West Virginia all in one
push and a 3-day stage run of the 105-mile Skyline Drive here in Virginia. Probably will not get to 452 points for 2005, but probably will get to 145-plus long runs.

Bottom line: I am not very tough. I don’t really like to suffer all that much. The Hippy-Out Way allows me to do a buncha running and puts me in a great spot to finish a buncha ultras each year. More importantly, I am not beaten to crap all the time like I was during all of my first decade of running ultras. Most importantly, I am having fun.

Hippy-Out comes from my friend Craig, a former national-class duathlete who said this to me back in 2003: “Now that I’m not looking to turn pro, I gotta find a happy medium for my training. I can’t run 70 miles a week and bike
300 a week any more, but, dude, I don’t want to hippy-out like you, either.”

November 1, 2006

Call it the 3KBC Challenge

That would be 3,000 push-ups between now and Christmas Day.

That's 100 every other day until Santa comes, with a few extra days thrown in for good measure.

Oh, one other little twist: I can only do 10 in each set. That's to ensure quality control.

Stay tuned ...

September 26, 2006

Bobcats Forever

Me, Bill Richardson and Greg Wriston, standing in Wriston's front yard in beautiful Lost Creek, W.V., the afternoon of the recent Thursday WVU-Maryland football clash.

Trip summary: The Wings Olé wings are still as amazing as they were 25 years ago (has it REALLY been 25 years ago?!), even without beer to wash them down. Mountaineer Field is still among the loudest in the land, especially when the 'Eers jump out to a 28-zip first-quarter lead. The two-plus hours it takes to vacate Morgantown after a game seem a LOT longer when that happens as the clock strikes 2 a.m. Trips down Memory Lane are all the more sweet when spent with true friends.

I often wonder how different my life would have been had frat brothers Bill and Greg not already graduated by the time I became a West Virginia Wesleyan Bobcat … especially Richardson. We have enough stories as it is.

September 25, 2006

Day 56

Got in a light 25-minute run/walk this morning. Run four minutes, beep goes the countdown timer, walk one minute, beeeeeeep, repeat. Pleasant orange glow and a little gentle sweat to help kick-start the otherwise pretty ordinary day.

Today was Day 56 in a row of running for me, dating back to Aug. 1. Hadn't really set out to put together such a streak, which includes having covered the 105 miles of the Skyline Drive in three straight days.

Physical assessment: Legs feel good. Energy is up. Minimal morning stiffness. None of the telltale signs that say, "Hey, Knucklehead, take a rest day!" So maybe I ride this one out a bit longer and see what happens.

My all-time streak record isn't in any legit danger. That would be 2,465 days, or 6.75 years that covered my final three years at West Virginia Wesleyan and the first 3.75 years after. Sometimes, that seems a lifetime ago. That is, until I am actually on the run. :-)

August 22, 2006

Three Days On The Road

Random stuff I learned (and re-learned) while running the Skyline Drive in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park this past weekend, a jaunt I nicknamed the Tour de Skyline:

105 miles in 19:55 is pretty easy to do when you spread it across three days. A Gatorade-sweet tea-Red Bull combo provides a whole lot more fuel than just plain water. The Loft Mountain Wayside’s Big Greasy – what they should call the big-as-your-head sausage and egg biscuit – may be the tastiest breakfast food I have ever put in my mouth.

A pathetic little 800-foot climb seems McKinley-like when you think you’ve already reached the highest point for the day. One of the best reasons for going northbound is that the mile markers descend in order. My thoughts escape the buzz of my pea brain a whole lot more clearly at 5.5 miles per hour. Deer hooves make a distinctive clicking sound when they strike pavement.

You don’t need to eat much at all while on the run when your run distances are 40, 34 and 31 miles because there is plenty of time to refuel later. The hotter I get, the more annoying stupid drivers are. The 7-minute-run/3-minute-walk routine rules.

It sure is great to have friends, such as my dad who helped me with car shuttles and provided beer at the ends of Day 1 and 2, and my buddy Bob Ring who ran all of Day 3 with me. I figured this adventure would be a lot more difficult than it actually was, a testament to even pacing and no desire whatsoever to go fast.

Beer tastes so much colder after a quarter-day of sweating. It’s not every run when I get to look down on a hovering hawk.

I will never again see Shenandoah National Park – from my back yard, on my way to work, on my way home or any other time – without getting a really, really stupid grin.

July 20, 2006

A quotable quote (maybe)

My friend and fellow running bud Kent and I think we came up with a new saying while yakking during this morning's jaunt.

A grudge is easy for you to pick up but hard on you to carry.

July 18, 2006

A Day on the Greenbrier River Trail

On Saturday, July 8, my buddy Bob Ring and I traversed the Greenbrier River Trail, a rails-to-trails park that runs from Cass to almost Lewisburg in West Virginia's Pocahontas County. Here are some words about it.

The crunch-crunch-crunch of a couple hundred thousand footfalls. The simple solitude of the Greenbrier River, at times a roar but most often a silent companion. Many, many peaceful views across a land largely untouched by time.

A trail so canopied by trees that Bob Ring and I could have gone shirtless without sunscreen and not picked up a burn. Two pretty cool tunnels and 51 bridges. One lone town, Marlinton, directly on the trail, so what an amazing blessing to have Bob’s work friends Thomas and Jerry driving all over Hell’s Half-Acre with our aid. The realization that without bloodhounds like Thomas and Jerry on our side, this would have been an entirely different, exponentially more difficult trek.

The utter good fortune to have a 46F start, a low-70s day with no wind and no rain and a 54F finish to a July 8 run. The interesting self-reflection that happens when you spend the first 30 minutes and then the final hour of the same run in darkness.

The funny tricks your brain plays on you as you try to do simple math involving the following: A 77-mile-long trail with a stone marker at each mile, but with the markers labeled from Mile 80 to Mile 3. The amazing success we had with a 7-minute run/3-minute walk routine that kept us strong and steady the entire time.

Giving an A-minus to the experiment of going that whole way without any solid food, choosing instead to go with Equate meal replacement drinks, Fusion bottled smoothies, green tea, Red Bull, water and ginger ale. Fighting back just a few hours of mid-afternoon belly problems and having to a half-dozen potty breaks because, well, Friday night’s kielbasa/onions/home fries mix ranks as the dumbest pre-run meal I’ve ever consumed. Being glad that I solved that mess and that it didn’t really detract from the fun. Knowing that stuff is going to happen during a day full of forward movement that starts with a 3:30 a.m. wake-up and ends with a midnight bedtime, so dealing with it brings great satisfaction.

Finding a golf ball in the middle of the trail in the middle of nowhere around Mile 30. Wanna guess what the brand name was? Ultra. Spooky, huh? Yeah, I still have it. Good luck charm, I figure.

Seventy-seven miles. 17:17:16. 17 rabbits. 14 deer. Two new friends. Lots of gravels. Lots of laughs. Maybe being the first ones to ever run the whole enchilada in one shot. Feeling tired but not all that uncomfortable at the end. Having a cold beer while flat on my back with feet propped up at trail’s end, beaming with the joy of effort well spent, a plan well executed, a long day out of which we squeezed every ounce.

A run I will remember forever.

July 7, 2006

Training Camp

With my fam on vacation in Florida and me hanging out at home with Sherman, here was Training Camp 2006 (Subtitle: My Short Foray into Life as a Pro Runner Sans the Paycheck).

Thursday, June 29 - 6:15 with Bob out near The Wild Oak Trail. Big climb up to Reddish Knob (one of those rare almost 360-degree views), then road back. We're guessing 28 miles. Great heat training.

Friday, June 30 - weights, yoga, Pilates a.m. before work; :30 run after, including hammering a lap around the gravel trail at Mountain View Park in Grottoes in 10:10. My guess: NOT the 1.5 miles it's advertised to be. First fast running I've done in forEVER. Great fun. Push-mowed the yard 1:30 in the evening.

Saturday, July 1 - 2:00 of 7 mins. run/3 mins. walk to Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport and back. Comfy. Push-ups and abs before bedtime.

Sunday, July 2 - Gentle :45 run. Quads feeling remarkably good considering the Friday/Saturday combo. Lifted heavy in the afternoon.

Monday, July 3 - :30 a.m.; 2:00 of 7/3 p.m. in big heat. Pilates before bed.

Tuesday, July 4 - 5:25 on the 20-mile Browntown Loop with VHTRC peeps. About 20 folks in all. Excellent climbing and descending. Nice stop-over at a wonderful country store near the middle to wait a bit for the group to re-form. Wonderful cool-off in a mountain stream afterward.

Totals - 17:25 of running/hiking. 82 miles, give or take a few. Five supplemental training sessions.

When i started ultrarunning 15 years ago, this would have been a month and a half of long runs. :-)

June 20, 2006

Heidi's new ride

Our "new" 2002 Jeep Liberty. This puppy has power everything, heated seats, pretty much the works. My favorite part so far? Ben calls the sun roof "the skylight." :-)

Not the Jeep Wrangler of my dreams, but a reasonable facsmilie thereof.

This takes the place of the 1999 Honda Odyysey van, which gave us about 85,000 pain-free miles until the transmission started going whacky. I am glad to be rid of that thing. Always felt like I should sound the fog horn each time as I was pulling out in the van.

May 29, 2006

ODM 100 Ramblings

Swiping an idea from my friend Anita, here’s my Top 10 List of stuff from this past weekend’s Old Dominion Memorial 100-Miler.

10. Stopping to give directions to two young guys looking for an ATV trail, then seeing the shock on their faces when I answered their questions about “are you in a race or something” with “yeah, about 55 miles into a 100” and “we started at 5 a.m. and will probably be done around that time Sunday.” One kid said, “Dude, we think we’re crazy. We KNOW y’all are.”

9. Managing the seeming last-minute course change with a nod, a smile and a trip out to Fort Valley to drop one of our coolers. Went in thinking two 25-mile out-and-backs with nine aid stations per segment, only to find out at the Friday afternoon race brief that it was really three 16.67-mile out-and-backs with four aid stations. So instead of two up-and-overs of Woodstock Tower, we got three. No, the race Web site course info was never updated. Yes, the entrant list was. Some people at the pre-race knew about it because they had called beforehand. Look, it’s a 100-miler. Stuff is gonna happen. You gotta adapt.

8. injinji socks RULE! I wore the tetrasocks version of these glove-like wonders for the entire 100 miles of this paved road/gravel road course and got no real blisters. One tiny one on the back of my left heel. Stopped once to clean out my shoes. First race I have worn them in. Consider them an essential piece of equipment in the future.

7. An impromptu mixture of Red Bull and Lipton Green Tea with Citrus. That stuff is pure rocket fuel, and tasted yummy all three times I mixed it, even at midnight.

6. Twinkling stars in the nighttime sky as my buddy Bob and I power-hiked through the little burg of Detrick around midnight. Just me, a good friend and the gentle sounds of our footfalls on the pavement. Pretty peaceful.

5. Ice-cold rags at the Ballpark Aid Station. A true godsend during the heat of the day, and a reminder that simple pleasures often mean the most.

4. Equate chocolate meal-replacement drink held up great as the staple of my nutrition plan. Knocked down six cold cans of it throughout the day. Supplemented with a couple cups of chicken noodle broth, some Fritos, a little Gatorade now and then and the Red Bull/green tea combo. No drop-off in energy the whole time.

3. Hearing the melodious call of a single whippoorwill around 2 a.m. on the two-mile uphill climb out of Fort Valley. Even if I would have been having a rotten time, that would have snapped me out of it.

2. Dumping my chicken noodle broth into my hand-held bottle and bolting out of the 83-mile aid station after a 10-minute stop so I could move out with my new friend California Mike after Bob had decided that it’s just not much fun for him when the inadequate combo of his flashlight and lack of moon had reduced him to just walking. I would have been OK hiking in with Bob. On the other hand, helping Mike reach a first-100-mile-finish dream was pretty cool too.

1. The smile on Mike’s face when we crossed the finish line hand-in-hand at 23:42:53. You said you never would have broken 24 hours without me, Mike. Your legs. Your big heart. Thanks for letting me share the ride.

May 26, 2006

pre-OD jitters

Will it be hot? Will it rain? How will it be at night? Will my stomach hold up OK? Will I finish? Will I suffer? Will it be fun?

Tomorrow is the Old Dominion Memorial 100-Miler. Two out-and-back treks from the town of Woodstock up and over into the Fort Valley. All road. No trail. Big, steep 2-mile road climb followed by a more gentle 3-mile drop happens twice. Rolling hills the rest of the way, basically.

For this one, I am bringing my own supplies. Typically I just eat and drink whatever the race provides. This time, I am going for it supplies-wise. Green tea, Equate meal replacement drink, pineapple juice, Fritos, gummies. Will be worth it tomorrow and Sunday, but so far it has just been a whole bunch more things to think about.

This one is definitely not Umstead 100, my fave that I have finished seven times. Umstead is comfy. OD Memorial is raw. At Umstead, there are 200-plus starters and cots if you need a nap. Saturday there will be 35 starters. Maybe.

Will this weekend be the most difficult running thing I have done? No. Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 took me 34 hours. And the 71-mile Massanutten Ring Trail took me just less than 23. So no, I don't expect ODM to be harder than those. Different, but probably not harder. Probably not. Like I said, lots of unknowns.

Am I fit? Totally. Am I nervous? A little. Am I excited? Absolutely.

May 16, 2006


This is Sherman, our 8-year-old labbeaglechow. He is equal parts master of the house, keeper of the peace and love hound.

We rescued him from an abysmal setting up in the nearby mountains less than a week after our 13-year-old red Husky Darr died. As I sat on the tailgate of my pickup in a K-Mart lot on that sunny Saturday afternoon shortly after we plucked Sherman from his birthplace, I promised him, in between plucking ticks off him, that we would give him all the love we could muster.
After two flea/tick baths this same day, we wondered if he would ever come to trust us.

Eight years later, his love is as strong as it was that first night he fell asleep in H's lap. And he is still No. 1 in our hearts.

May 14, 2006

shining stars

Originally uploaded by runningetc.
Here are two shining stars in my life.

Ben is 6, a bundle of energy and curiosity, a constant reminder to me that the future is now and that this next moment right here in front of us is to be spent in full engage mode.

Niece Meredith is fun loving, way smart, strong in her faith, a sheer joy to be around. Her angelic soprano voice moves me to tears whenever she sings (see this morning at church!). She'll be a JMU sophomore music major next year, so we have three more years to see where her sweet talent and rock-solid work ethic take her. What a fun ride it is gonna be.

May 9, 2006

Will run for beer

Found myself doing laps around the Memorial Hall track Saturday for 2 hours, 30 minutes. Run 8 minutes, beep goes the countdown timer, walk 2 minutes, beep again. Repeat.

Sounds excruciatingly boring, but really I was loving it. Nice breeze. Could feel the heat radiating off the track surface. There was enough coming-and-going activity with a few walkers, a few soccer players, the ocassional runner and then even a military helicopter landing (no, not a hallucination: JMU's military science/ROTC folks are there and, well, it WAS graduation Saturday so ... )

Anyway, I hit a terrible bad patch about 1h45m into the run. Feet hurting. Left knee talking. Breeze stopped and, although I had been sucking fluid from my Camelbak the whole run, I was getting overheated.

That's when it hit me. "OK, look, here's the deal: Make it to 2h30m and you get a quart of beer. Stop before that, and you go home a whiner." A few minutes later, I was sailing again. Those final 40 minutes were by far the best of the run.

Amazing what the body can do when the brain gets out of the way.

Wonder how Will Run 4 Beer would look as a tattoo?

May 3, 2006

hmm ... wonder where this will lead

Been thinking of doing this for awhile, so here goes. Should be an interesting little journey. Hey, that could be the tag line to my life, really.

Maybe I'll uncover the answers to some of this life's most nagging questions. How come drivers never seem to go to the far right when they pull across a median and are turning left? Would I trade in my leather-football ultra running feet for a cast-iron ultra running stomach? Why do some people ALWAYS hit "reply all" when the response only matters to one of the 15 people on the list? Or maybe not. Guess we'll just have to see.

Anyway, stop in now and then and see what's up. Maybe some of it will surprise you.