Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Every other mile

So, I'm changing the name of the blog.

When I started 100th Mile I was really excited about my race at Virgil Crest. I felt like I'd accomplished what I set out to do when I began running ultras and that the 100 mile distance is what I would focus on from then on. I still love the idea of racing 100 milers but it's the training runs, the time with friends and the journey from registration to race day that excites me the most about these events. I'm also really jazzed about some long self-supported runs this spring and summer that will take a day or more to complete and none if them are ending in a big round number.

In short, 100 miles seems more and more like an arbitrary number to me and I want to shift the focus of the blog from ultra-distance races to the everyday runs and occasional adventures that keep me inspired to run trails. I also plan to start writing more regularly, more freely, and more like an actual blog.

Looking forward to bare trails, big mile days and the summer of running ahead.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hudson Highlands 100k

I've been working on a race report for the Beast of Burden 50 miler but still have a ways to go before it's done. Meanwhile. there are a couple of races and runs that I'm really excited about. The first is a return to Wapack and Back. This race really beat me down last year and I'm looking forward to a rematch;) The next is the Hudson Highlands 100k. The second that I heard about this no-fee race along the Harriman Park trails with only 50 entry slots I jumped over the dog, raced to the computer and typed my info in as fast as I humanly could to get what I thought would be one of the last open slots. Not a single person has signed up since. I'm sure word will spread as the date nears and I couldn't possibly be more excited about this event.

I'd say that in preparation for both events I'm planning some long self-supported runs in the mountains, but its more like the other way around. My whole spring and summer are based around big solo runs in the mountains and these two races happened to fit in perfectly with my plans. Now, if I could just get into the Eastern States 100 (on the waiting list) I'd have a dream season of running ahead. If not I'm planning to plug in a couple more bucket list runs in the Whites leading up to this years goal race. I'm just not sure what it is yet. There are two tough, gorgeous point-to-point 100's in September and I'm still figuring out which makes best sense in terms of logistics. Just ordered a new pack, poles and a spot tracker and looking forward to the summer ahead!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Back Cove 6 Hour Fun Run and Food Drive

Atayne, a local company that produces top notch athletic apparel, had a pretty cool idea in their November newsletter. Hold a "fat-ass" style run before Thanksgiving, make the registration fee a non-perishable food item and donate the food to a local food bank or shelter.

My partner and I both work at the Preble Street Resource Center and really appreciated the suggestion. We are organizing the Back Cove 6 Hour Fun Run and Food Drive for Sunday, November 24th from 8-2p. The course is a 3.5 mile loop around Portland's Back Cove and participants can run a little or run a lot.

Entry is one food item that is both nutritious and delicious. We will have a white board on hand to track times and laps completed. There will be no additional aid on the course and the water fountains are turned off for the season. In typical "fat-ass" style everyone is encouraged to bring something for the aid station if they can.

Aside from collecting a ton of good food, our goal is to make this event accessible to everyone in the community. Walkers, joggers and runners of all ability levels are invited and encouraged to attend.

It is also our hope that some will use this event to reach a distance that they have yet to cover. First 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, or marathon opportunities abound!

Finally, I hope that some dude/dudette shows up with a hydration pack, compression socks and a pair of Hoka's and takes our invitation to run this as a 50 miler with a 6 hour cut-off seriously. Because that would just be rad.

Jokes aside, we hope to fill some shelves at the PSRC's food pantry next week, and hope to see some of you there! Feel free to send any questions pertaining to the event to: david@whybestrong.com

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Beast of Burden Winter 100

In 68 days I'll be running the Beast of Burden Winter 100.

After spending the past four months training for the Grindstone 100, which was cancelled due to the government shutdown, my partner Jes and I were feeling ultra'd out. We'd spent the better part of four months living in a small tent at Bradbury Mountain so that I could train. We talked and planned and mapped out Grindstone strategy endlessly. And,we sacrificed time with one another to invest in a goal that was deeply personal to me. I could not be more grateful for the love and support of this amazing lady.

When Grindstone was cancelled I did some soul searching. I went searching for the soul of a sport that I fell in love with at a no-fee fat ass in New Jersey, and which is now filled with races that are too expensive or too exclusive to get into. I searched myself to find the reason that these races and runs are so important to me. And I searched the depths of the interwebs for a race that could inspire me and excite me like Grindstone had. What I found was the Beast of Burden. It was the website that I couldn't stay away from. The race reports that I read and re-read. And the race that I did not (and do not) know if I can complete.

From the race website:

The Beast of Burden 100 & 50 Mile Ultra Marathon series is not a race at all. Sure, there's a timing clock, a start/finish line, and some truly awe-inspiring world-class runners who will travel from the far corners of the globe to toe that line and race that clock on one of the flattest, fastest and most runner-friendly surfaces on the earth in hopes of setting new world records. But, that's just a centerpiece for what really makes the B.o.B. special. This event is our semi-annual family reunion for ultra runners as unique as yourself.

Also from the race website:

Yeah....we know. You can run 100 miles.You can run it through the hills of the highest mountains and through the heat of the sun in the desert valleys, but can you run it in the heart of winter? Through inches or feet of snow? Are you ready to unleash the beast inside of you and run 100 miles on the frigid, historic Erie Canal Towpath? Ladies and Gentlemen, throw away your razors for the new year. This winter, you're going to need all the insulation you can muster!

I consulted with Jes and we agreed to take on the BoB. I feel like we are a team in the truest sense of the word, and hope that I can return her endless support as we continue to chase down dreams and slay dragons together.

I attribute my success at the Virgil Crest 100 largely to having my nutrition dialed in. I fueled my training with healthy, local food and how good I felt during this period leading up to the race was one of the inspirations for my book, Paleo in Maine.

My goal is to train for the Beast of Burden exclusively on local food from many of the farms and distributors featured in the book, and many of them have offered to supply us with some extra meat and veggies to support that effort. Feeding a hungry ultra-runner is a monumental task at times, and their support is endlessly appreciated.

I have also reached out to several local outfitters to see whether they could contribute some winter running gear to aid in my preparation for the Beast. This training cycle is going to take some serious cold weather apparel, and every little bit of support allows us to reach our big goals on a not so big budget.

I reached out because I needed support to do this, and the response was just amazing. If I am successful at the Beast of Burden this January, it will be because of the incredible team of people who have helped me to reach the finish line.

My race at the Beast of Burden Winter 100 will serve as a benefit for the adaptive services program at the Casco Bay YMCA, and will take place on January 18th in Lockport, NY.

Gearing up, and getting ready to run.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ted Corbitt 24 Hour Memorial Run

This weekend I had the honor of participating in the Ted Corbitt 24 Hour Memorial Run in Queens, NY. This is one of the most unique and memorable races that I've ever been a part of, and one of the best events in the ultra scene. Hands down.

Broadway Ultra Society
After the abrupt cancellation of the Grindstone 100 last week, I had a few options on my table. With vacation days taken and family plans etched in stone Jes and I were definitely heading to New Jersey. Originally slated as a stop on the road to Virginia, the visit to my aunts house became the focus of the trip. She practically raised me, and I don't get to see her nearly enough.

There were a handful of 50k races taking place in the area, all of which would have fit into our schedule and allowed me to get a good run in on a gorgeous weekend. There was also the option of solo adventure in the White Mountains or a long run with friends on the return trip. But all of these would have separated me from Jes, and this weekend was about the two of us celebrating a long summer of camping, training and overcoming obstacles together. It was the culmination of several months worth of effort and it marked a new stage in our lives together as we'd just settled into our new home before leaving town.

Ted Corbitt leading the pack. Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, NY 1957
After searching the ultra lists for a day or two I found this hidden gem of a race in Queens. And I'm so glad that I did.

The Ted Corbitt 24 Hour Memorial Race takes place on a 1.1982 mile loop at a small park in Queens. The name of the event caught my attention instantly. Ted Corbitt is nothing less than a hero in the world of ultra-running.

Ted overcame racial prejudice while setting new world records and redefining what it means to "go long". The event held on October 5th and 6th in Juniper Valley Park in Queens celebrated the 40th anniversary of Ted setting the 24 hour record in 1973.

The race also celebrated artist, activist, spiritual teacher and endurance athlete Sri Chinmoy. Sri was a personal friend of Ted's and a truly incredible individual. Excited to be part of this celebration I contacted Rich from the Broadway Ultra Society and signed up immediately. I set a personal goal of running 100 miles at this event and looked forward to my first 24 hour race almost as much as I'd looked forward to Grindstone.

The night before the race I was surprisingly relaxed. The normal pre-race jitters were virtually non-existent and I was truly excited to get out on the course.  Unfortunately, the ankle that I'd sprained a few weeks ago (and rehabbed meticulously ever since) had started to act up again while I was coaching a group run earlier in the week. I rested it well and hoped for the best, but by Saturday night I was still feeling a sharp pain when I moved it a certain way. Fortunately, due to the nature of the race I could pull out if things got bad without risking serious injury, or go the distance if fate, fortune and the alignment of the starts allowed. I slept well on Saturday night and woke up ready to run.

We arrived early and got to talk with Rich who directs the event and some of the other participants.. These were real deal ultra-runners, and the sense of community was just as deep as the storied history of NYC ultra's-which was painted on old race jackets, tattered t-shirts and across the faces of many of the 50 or so participants.

The race began with two and half loops around a track, then proceeded to the big (well, 1.1982 miles big) loop in the park. 83 loops around the official circuit equals 100 miles.

With a small but moving ceremony they started the clock and we were off around the track for the first time. I ran next to the previous winner (the event has been held every 10 years since 1983, with a special race held in 2008, making this a rare event. And making this experience that much more incredible.)

I hadn't raced in a while and was definitely there to give it my all. Although I would have been proud to race and come in behind any one of these runners, I had a good summer of training behind me and didn't want to sell myself short. I started out in the front of the pack and stayed there for the next 20 miles.

Needless to say, I wondered what it would feel like to run a single loop all day and night. By the time I made it around the park for the first time I was relieved. It seemed that the energy of the city coupled with the great community of runners and the presence of my ultra-amazing crew (Jes) on every lap was going to make this an event to enjoy and an event to remember.

The weather was awesome on Saturday and the park was filled with children playing soccer, a couple of young dudes slapping some serious handball and a ton of inquisitive Queens natives wondering what the hell was going on as we walked, jogged and ran circles around them all morning.

I felt great during the early miles of the race, smiling and chatting with people while truly digging the scene. On loops one through fifteen I was reminded by the timing crew that I was in first place, although I knew that meant very little so early in the game. By the 13th trip around the track I began breaking the race down into loops of ten. Seven more loops of ten to go and I would be at 100 miles, my first goal of the day. By 1pm things started to heat up a bit and I began carrying a handheld with NUUN and using my ice-filled Noolie to stay cool. The aid station was well stocked and Jes was able to mix drinks, hand me salt tabs and tend to a couple of unexpected needs that came up (got some hot spots early, but a quick change into my Darn Tough's and a little tape took care of that).

It was on the 18th loop that my ankle started to bark at me. By the 19th loop it started to bite. Shortly after starting the 20th loop I had to begin walking as each step that I ran sent a small bolt of pain right through my ankle. I knew going in to this race that, just like the Grindstone 100 or any run that I took this weekend the ankle giving out on me was a possibility-but it still hurt to think that I wouldn't see the stars come out in the park that night or the sunrise in the morning. I knew as I walked slowly around the perimeter of Juniper Valley Park for the twentieth time that I wouldn't reach the 100th mile of the race as I hoped and planned.

I could certainly have walked for the next 19 hours but this is not an option that I considered for very long. As much as I respect every walker on the course, this would not have satisfied me and my passion for running. Jes had made tremendous sacrifices to be with me all night, another evening spent with family before heading home would be an unexpected blessing and I could not risk a more serious injury for a 100k walk around the course.

Other than not being in a better position to stay the night and support the other runners, I don't have a single regret about this weekend. It was one of the most fun, most rewarding and most compelling races that I've ever done. I wish that I were healed up and back on the course as I write this.

A huge shout out to Rich the race director, the Broadway Ultra Society and the friends and family of Ted Corbitt and Sri Chinmoy. And huge respect to everyone who completed the 24 hour run this year. You've done something truly amazing.

Honored, grateful and looking forward to the Ted Corbitt Memorial Run in 2023!

My total miles run: 24.51

Men's winner: Jim Morris 116.39

Women's winner: Lan Nguyen 109.69

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Grindstone suspended

"The 2013 Grindstone 100 has been suspended due to the government shutdown."

I've never invested so much time and energy into a single event, and I felt dazed for hours after I read this. I walked around in a cloud all afternoon, checking e-mails from my phone every two minutes to see if anything had changed.

There were plenty of bumps on the road to Grindstone, from a diagnosis of Lyme's disease early in the summer to the subsequent joint inflammation that slowed my runs to a crawl to a sprained ankle three weeks before the race, which forced a cold wet night on the Appalachin Trail.

But, by the time that this e-mail came I felt ready to go.

I felt ready for the 6pm start on Friday night, ready for bright starts under the cool black sky in VA and ready for the hot, dusty and long day of trail running that would follow. Despite an extended taper from the ankle sprain I felt about as ready for "the hardest 100 miler on the east coast" as ready gets.

Now that the race is off I'm taking stock of what I've gained over the past several months, and figuring out what to do next.

I have some new running gear that's begging to be used. Black Diamond Z poles for long days in the White's, an excellent pack from UltraSpire and some Inov-8's and Hoka's that need serious mileage put on them. I'm feeling fitter and stronger than I have in a long time. And, I'm catching a fire for the sport like never felt before.

I'm planning on some big runs over the next several weeks and have a new goal race in sight. Here's a hint: it's like the opposite of Grindstone. And it goes down in January.

Endless thanks to everyone who's supported me on the journey to the Grindstone 100 and to race director Clark Zealand and the rest of the Grindstone crew who got dealt a crazy hand and played it well. I hope to run Grindstone 2014 and I'll keep on posting as plans for the next race develop.

Run strong and run long,


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Taper time

One of my goals for the summer was to blog more. I totally failed. My other goal was to train for the Grindstone 100. This time I succeeded. I got in some great runs, some tough runs and some runs that I'll never forget. Getting stuck on the summit of Old Speck in a lightning storm for example, and having to sleep beard to beard with a bunch of thru- hikers before summiting the mountain again in the pitch black and rainy morning was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I wouldn't wish the experience on anybody, but it was good, if  completely accidental, ultra training.

Unfortunately, that's the run where I sprained my ankle. Three weeks before the race.

It swelled to three times it's normal size, turned every shade of black and blue and left me with a lot to think about heading into my taper for Grindstone.

On my final double digit run this morning I took a few missteps and paid the price. You could hear me yell from Route 9. And I was on the snow mobile trail, about 5 miles away.

The ankle is still in pretty rough shape and with the race just twelve days away, I'm nervous. The Grindstone course is notorious for ankle bashing rocks and hairy descents. There is also a "best blood" award at this race. And I don't want to win it.

But, that's both the beauty and the allure of these things. You never know what's going to happen, everybody's got something hurting them before race day and one way or another, everything is going to shake out in the Blue Ridge Mountains in less then two weeks.

The Grindstone race means a lot to me, for many reasons. I'm thankful that I've gotten a summer of good training under my belt and I'm hopeful that almost two weeks of rest, recovery and some easy breezy runs around my new neighborhood will find me feeling strong at the starting line. But, in the meantime, I've got some serious thinking to do...

Assuming that the ankle heals enough that a finish at Grindstone seems possible (and that's what I'm assuming at this point. I have every intention of running this race) then what can I do from now until then to best prepare? As a coach, I find myself hesitant to ask these questions because, well, I should know the answers. Right?  But that's bullshit. It's just ego talking. I truly believe that coaches need coaches and I am absolutely humbled when I look around at all the amazing runners, talented coaches and genuine mentors that I have in my circle, and in my life. So I'm throwing these questions out there and appreciate all of the feedback and insight that anyone has to offer.

Ankle sprains: Has anyone else gotten a sprain before a big race? What did you do about it? Any advice, words of warning or inspirational stories of how you kicked ass regardless would be greatly appreciated!

Footwear: I'm wearing my Inov-8 Roclite 315's for the first half of the race, and changing into my Hoka Bondi B's for the second. Has anyone had ankle issues in the Hoka's? I sprained the ankle on a moderately technical descent off of White Cap mountain while wearing them. I feel like I would have landed awkwardly regardless but wonder if anyone can comment on the trade off between the added protection vs reduced proprioception and if they feel the trade off is equitable?

Trekking poles: I've always kind of frowned on the use of poles in a race. But, when a client asked me whether I was using them at Grindstone my argument against them just didn't hold up. I really don't know what my beef is with trekking poles and, if the ankle is still really shaky, am considering picking up a pair for the Grindstone. (I guess I felt like they offered an unfair advantage, but if they are within the rules I have to reason that makes them fair. And, just as some of us choose hand-helds over packs, Hoka's over Vibrams or show up solo as opposed to having their own personal entourage it seems more like a matter of personal choice.) Incidentally, the Hardrock 100 is an eventual goal of mine (and Grindstone is a qualifier). I would definitely bring poles to Hardrock so what would stop me from bringing them to VA? How high a mountain do you need to have for poles to be legit? And, more importantly, what do I want out of this race? After a respectable 7th place finish at last year's Virgil Crest 100 I purposely picked a race that scared me just a little, and humbly shifted my goals back to just finishing. My goal at Grindstone is to see all 101 miles of the course, and if a pair of trekking poles increases my odds then I just might bring them along.

Rhetorical questions aside, and long question short, has anyone used poles at an ultra? And if so, what was your experience like? Were they a major help or a pain in the ass? And what poles would you recommend for a race like Grindstone?

Thanks in advance and looking forward to your thoughts!