Monday, July 29, 2013

Noolies, new shoes, and an update from the woods

Since moving to Bradbury Mountain State Park for the summer I've gotten some great runs in. I've also made some incredible memories, both on and off the trails. A few weeks ago though, I got my butt kicked by a tick and had to reshape my training around some serious joint pain thats slowed me down to permanent late stage ultra-pace.

Since the last post my long runs have been 4-5 hour exercises in patience. I've had to walk/hike at least a quarter of the time and could barely manage 13:00 minute miles when I was able to run. Still, I figured it was better than sitting in my camp chair reading Trail Runner. I'm happy to say that I got in 17 miles of pure running yesterday afternoon and am starting to feel like my old self again. I've got a birthday 50k planned for next week and the forced slow-down led me to reevaluate my race plans for 2013. I've got something exciting to add to my calendar and I'll post the details later this week. In the meantime, here are some quick highlights from the past couple of weeks at the 'Brad.

1. Noolies- On the fourth of July I ran twenty miles from my campsite to Portland to visit Jes. It was a crazy hot day and I wrapped a bandana soaked in cold water around my neck to stay cool. Later that evening Jes and I started talking about ways to keep core temperature down during long runs and she had an amazing idea. Being the awesome, fire breathing, go-getting lady that she is Jes put this idea into action and Noolies-"Coolies for your Neck" were born. Jes has been working hard to get these fun and innovative bandanas on the market. They have sewn in pockets for ice and are just an awesome addition to anyone's gear box. As a runner I'm really excited to see this happening. They're incredibly effective and the prototype model has helped me through several hot long runs. The ice cubes stay cold and solid for a long time and when they melt, they send a cold stream of water through the bandana and onto your neck. Just awesome. As her partner I'm so proud and impressed with what she's done. Check them out at and order a Noolie asap!
Noolies prototype

2. Perspective-While on one of my slow-mo jaunts around Bradbury over the past month I had a sudden realization. And a renewed sense of perspective. I was running at a painfully slow pace around the Island Loop trail and, in the midst of self-pity and frustration, I realized how much worse things could be. And how lucky I was. I spent several week over the course of the winter on crutches and would have killed to be able to run a mile on these trails. With Lyme disease, the suspected diagnosis surrounding my symptoms, being such a sketchy devil I could have been immobilized and in a hospital bed right now. Instead, I was able to run for twenty miles at a time, albeit at a slower pace than I would have liked, and that was something to be truly grateful for.

Roclite 315's straight out of the box
3. Last remaining pair of Roclite 315's on the planet-I've been scouring the web for a over a month, trying to locate my favorite pair of running shoes. The Inov-8 Roclite 315's served me more than well for my first 50 and 100 mile races and hundreds of trail miles in between. After a tireless search I found them in my size at a Peter Glenn Sport and Ski, in Florida. Score! (I wish that I could still buy them directly from my friend Ian instead of shopping online and ordering from Florida but unfortunately, that's not the case.) My first run in them reminded me of what an exceptional shoe they are-and how well they're going to perform at my new goal race of 2013. Again, stay tuned for details...

4. Running with Rob-I had a chance to run with a pretty incredible dude yesterday. Most people who run ultra-marathons are some kind of incredible anyway, and I feel very fortunate to be in such amazing company. But, this guy was on another plain entirely and I wanted to share the experience. Rob is my friend Nancy's son who lives out in Moab, UT. A few months ago Nancy mentioned that Rob was running his first 100 miler, the notorious Wasatch Front, in September, She also mentioned that he would be in town for a week in July and that we should run together. I was disappointed to find out that his visit coincided with my illness from last months tick bite and the joint pain that left me running in slow motion, but I was excited to meet the guy. I didn't plan for us to run together for fear of holding him back but we set up a time to meet and talk ultra's. That time came yesterday afternoon when Rob showed up at my site around 1pm. An exceptionally nice guy with a midwest mellowness, Rob emerged from a van with Alaska plates. He was a little sweaty, and clued me in to the fact that he'd run 17 miles already this morning. It turns out that he hooked up with the Trail Monster crew on the Saturday group run and had been running ever since. I explained my situation and he still seemed willing to hit the trails together, slow motion miles or not. With the understanding that he had license to leave me behind in order to get a good training run in we headed straight up the summit trail and into a truly fun run where I got to know a little bit him. It turns out that Rob is a mountain guide and spends a lot of his time taking clients up to the highest heights that they're willing and able to scale. Aside from designing courses for adventure races and collaborating with Montrail on some new racing vests/hydration packs, he apparently spends the rest of his time running trails. Without a trace of ego he told me about 40, 50, and 60+ mile mountain runs that he's done, all of which led him to the line of his first 100 miler in a few weeks.  We ran into my friend Jordan mid run, who, like a true bad-ass, promptly turned around and ran back the way that he'd come to share a few miles with us. We ended up out on the power lines with the Pineland Farms trails in sight but were met with an electric fence at the second of two major road crossings. This forced us to turn around or bushwack even further into the woods. With Jordan needing to get back and a good hour of running between us and the park we filed bottles at an abandoned house with a hose and moved on. It was great to see J and talk details about a planned Pemi Loop and a trek across the Wapack and Back course planned for early fall. Always great to share the trails with Jordan and looking forward to some serious adventures right around the corner.

Rob and I got in a solid 10 miles together (27 total for him). I tacked on an additional 7 after he and Jordan hit the road for the best 17 miler since the tick attack. Grateful to have shared some trail with Rob and my thoughts will be with him and his mom (who's pacing for the last few miles) at Wasatch this September. Go get that buckle brother!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Vermont 2013: DNS

On Wednesday night of last week as I lay in my tent, a wave of tremors, cold chills, and body aches came over me. I pulled on my boots along with my thickest hoodie and tried to sleep it off, I had a 25 mile road run on tap for the morning and suddenly, the Vermont 100 just two weeks away.

Since pacing my friend Jeremy in his stellar 2012 performance at Vermont I've wanted to run this race. I didn't expect this years registration to fill as quickly as it did and I ended up with my name at the rear end of the waiting list. I e-mailed the director to inquire about my chances of getting in and her (always prompt) response was: Highly unlikely. I might want to consider the 100k or plan for next year. But she'd keep me posted.

With these odds in mind I didn't give much thought to the race and put the Hampshire 100k and The Pine Creek Challenge 100 miler down as my goal races for 2013. I began camping full time back in June to train.

Flash forward to a rough race at Wapack and Back, a series of 20-25 mile redemption runs with the Hampshire 100k on my mind, and the fact that I'm living at Bradbury Mountain and biking 15-20 miles a day, every day, on top of my running starting to pay dividends. Flash forward to an out of left field e-mail from Julie two weeks ago. Congratulations! You've been accepted into the 2013 Vermont 100!

I immediately began reaching out to friends in my tight knit trail running community for training advice and resources while sourcing out every opportunity to make this small adventure happen. These are some of the best people that I know and their supportive responses only reaffirmed that fact. A dream race was suddenly in sight and I began running harder than hard. After a series of good trail runs culminating in a 6 hour mix of hills, roots, rocks, and roads I was feeling good. Flash forward to me shaking in my tent on July 3rd bundled up like it was January 3rd, feeling bad.

I woke that morning a little behind schedule, rushed down a quick breakfast (had to go without coffee,and everyone knows that you can't run without coffee), filled my bottles and hit the road. I couldn't tell if what hit me the previous night had moved on but the next 25 miles would reveal. And if I were really sick my amazing partner Jes, whose house I was running to in South Portland, would scoop me up. I had my cellphone in my Northface waist belt along with a $20 bill. And hey, it was the Fourth of July.

I used the high and humid temps to explain away how badly I was feeling, and how poorly I was running. But by mile 4 I was legitimately thinking of turning around and saving my legs for another day when I could actually do something with them. Finally I decided that suffering through a hot stretch of road with absolutely no energy would surely be a part of the VT 100 if I ran it and this would be as good a training opportunity as any. Plus, I had a bunch of festivities to run through in nearby Freeport, an easy afternoon with my lady to look forward to when this thing was done.

I made it 16 miles before a combination of hydration issues, a strange stiffness in my neck, and the extreme fatigue that I'd been battling all morning caused my to pull out the cell phone and make the call. I told Jes I'd meet her near the Martins Point Bridge in Portland 4 miles away to give her time prepare and to round the run out to an even 20.

Afterwards we went to one of our favorite cafe's to eat but I could barley get anything down. My appetite picked up a bit later on and then died out completely. For the next several days.

By Friday night I was getting worried as I was suffering from fever, chills, a migraine headache, and an inexplicable pain in my neck and hip. I was also beyond fatigued. As I cooked another dinner on the grill that I wouldn't be able to eat I ran my fingers through my hair in frustration-and there I found it. An engorged tick buried in the crown of my head.

Upon removing it, and realizing that it had likely been there since at least Wednesday and rode the 20 miles to Portland with me, I suddenly felt sicker than sick. I jumped on my phone and started researching all that I could about Lyme Disease. I've got some smart friends and resources began streaming in.

By this time darkness was setting in, the chills were getting worse, and one of the scariest nights I've ever had began to unfold The stiffness in my neck shifted into a panic inducing numbness and my heart started beating fast. I felt too weak to move and as I lie in my tent I began to seriously wonder how something like paralysis sets in? How does it feel to fall into that last deep sleep? I'm not exaggerating here. Things got deep. I knew that I was hospital bound at this point, the question was whether to call an ambulance to the camp that night or head over first thing in the morning. After much debate I found myself nervously drifting off and anxious for sunlight.

Morning came, along with an unofficial diagnosis of Lyme's (blood test results still pending, and from what I can tell, close to worthless), my first dose of doxycycline, and a day spent totally racked with pain. Jes is a healer in the truest sense of the word. Her strong spirit, endless patience, and attention to all of the little details of the day got me through the roughest stretch of road that I can remember.

It's been tough travelling since but I'm far from beaten. I'm learning more about the disease, it's co-infections, and other possible forms of treatment. I'm also discovering one of the most contentious debates in the world of science and medicine and watching big ego's, big money, and big ideas fight for space in a crowded room. I'll be posting more about the resources that I uncover and the experience as it unfolds.

I'll also be posting more about a planned peak bagging adventure in NH, a race report from the Hampshire 100, and my backyard adventures at Bradbury Mountain. All leading up to my next 100 miler in September. Vermont 2013 wasn't in the cards for me but I'm looking forward to seeing my teammates go down and do their thing. My heart is with them and I'm sure they'll be bringing some hardware back to Maine. And my 2013 racing season is far from over, this is just a bump on the road, an unexpected scale back week, and a reason to run harder, stronger, and better than I ever have.

On a final note, to all of my trail running friends-do your tick checks and do them well.  For real. Keep safe, keep smiling, and keep scaling mountains.

I'll see you up there.