Friday, September 13, 2013

A Change in Perspective

My 10pm walk with Queen Doom and the dogs last night was awesome. While totaling only about a third of a mile and still in my boot, I had no pain and actually started walking semi-normal again. It seems (as long as I monitor it) walking on my heel is behind me now and I can gradually start flexing and stretching the arch to the toes. Within seconds the smell of the wet asphalt, newly watered shrubbery and fragrant flowers filled my head. It was almost as if the torrential downpour in Golden Valley last night was a sign from nature, clearing away all the smoke in the air. Things that are broken, burnt or hazy will be become new and clear again with some care and of course, time. It’s ironic to think of all the epic runs I had this year a third of a mile walk around the block could be so thrilling. I was moved by the walk, so much so at 1am I woke up, got out of bed, grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled some notes.

I awoke this morning feeling fresh for the first time in months and hopefully ready to change my perspective, I looked at my notes tucked into my wallet before I did anything this morning.
October 25th
Burning Man
My two buckles
Nelson Family Clan

I've written down good things in my life (in no particular order), the things of which I am proud. Not everything of course, after all I did this in a, just awoken stupor, but the big stuff none the less. None of those things are perfect, but they all in their own way have helped me create a wonderful life. I've had trouble recognizing the good in things for a while now. I’m choosing to change; I’m going to look at this list once a day for a month first thing when I wake up, before the reality of the trials and tribulations of life creep in. I've found myself over the last 6 months or so not smiling and generally not terribly happy. I've allowed life’s issues to bury my positivity; I once sought the good in everything. Lately I dwell on the bad, unable to see the light.

Last night I was reminded of perspective. I could only walk a third of a mile, a relative blip on the screen compared to the 30+ mile jaunts in the wilderness of early in the year. I could (and lately would have) dwelled on the fact that a third of a mile is insignificant to me. The thought process of “all I can do is a measly third of a mile” would have been my go to thought. Instead, half way through the walk right after I said to Dominique “I’m glad we did this” my perspective changed. I’m not sure why, but the thought “I get to go around the block with my three favorite beings” dominated my mind. It was a perspective epiphany of sorts I guess.

I thought this foot thing was going to be 3-4 weeks, which in hindsight was idiotic and based solely on the amount of pain not severity of the injury. It’s been 4 weeks and I’m nowhere near close. It’s clear now; we are talking more like 6-10 weeks (you what I was actually told, but chose not to believe). 2 weeks from now I was hoping to do a double circumnavigation of Lake Tahoe, I had hoped to have been coming off the heels of an epic 130 mile solo journey to my most cherished city in the world, instead I've been blessed with time. Time to get my house in order; I've been amazingly productive on that front. Time to help my fiancĂ© with wedding plans; time to sleep in on weekends and time to learn how to ride that road bike I bought the last time this happened, a massive change in perspective indeed.

I love to run and run far. I miss my mornings on top of Peavine as the sun rises, for the first time since I started running in 2009 I could not run to my spot on Peavine and watch the hot air balloon races. I know those things will come back to me, hopefully I've learned that I cannot constantly push the envelope with my health. Because when I do, inevitably I will lose those things I love due to injury. 4 stress fractures, plantar fasciitis and a torn tendon in 4 years with 1.5 years being the longest I've gone without an injury is just not acceptable.  I do not have just myself to worry about anymore; I need to be healthy for my family. I need to step back from some of my selfish ways and start thinking about the how I can make this work. I need to stop doing what I want and start doing what is smart. If I’m to continue on with running, and achieving my considerably lofty goals, I have to make changes all over the place.

Life is a roller coaster and sometimes when the dips are long enough I forget that they will not last. I become cynical and negative. I make it hard for those around me to care for me, because I retreat back to my safe place. I think by looking at this list first thing in the morning I’ll be reminded of how truly fortunate I am. There have been times in my life when I could not write even 1 entry on that list, I’m blessed those days are gone. I know a lot of people who would struggle to find anything good going on for them right now; I am blessed to not have those problems.

I’ve got it good…real good. It’s time I started reminding myself of that more often and of course, cutting myself some slack. If there is one dominating thought I brought home from Burning Man this year it is this; the pursuit of perfection (ie my constant pushing of all things) is fine and dandy but you’ll always be disappointed if being perfect is the only acceptable outcome. I’m changing my perspective, it's my choice and that's the way it should be.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The End of the Rainbow

With my head down and ego bruised I finally made my way to the doctor yesterday.  Looks like I’ll be taking 3-4 more weeks off from running while my foot heals up from this Jones fracture. Bleh… BM run for this guy in 2013, maybe I’ll shoot for it in 2014. At this point it seems a little like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…..I can see it but I’m never actually getting closer to getting to it.
Lessons probably not learned (once again)…..
I should have gone to the Dr 4 weeks ago when I first felt a minor amount of pain; I Really should have gone after TRT when it hurt to run the next day, I REALLY should have gone last Wednesday when I fell after my first step out of bed. Stubborn much?

I probably should not have run so much for 8 weeks with a filled pack, 1 day a week probably would have sufficed not every run, or I should have ramped up to the full weight slower, maybe over 6 months.

So with that, I’m no longer sure what 2013 has for me in running. The wise move is switch to shorter stuff once I’m healed, we’ll see if I’m wise.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Running Home

Running....well that might be a stretch to call what I'm going to do running. More like walking briskly with some running thrown in there. I've finished the aid station chart for the adventure. Now it is starting to get real serious! I'm running from my house in Reno to my home on the Playa. The best I can estimate is 130-ish miles for the journey, in the heat of August smack dab in the middle of Nevada. Nearly all of it is pretty straight forward. Nothing terribly difficult to complete with the exception of the one 38 mile-ish section. In terms of terrain I would call this pancake flat. There are some rolling hills, but the entire course will have less than 3000 feet in climbing and a little over 3500 feet of descent.

From the last NDN Taco stand to Empire, it is roughly 38 miles with no water or aid of any kind. A completely exposed and shade-less straight line. This is the section that has prevented me from doing this run all these years. Last year I called the run a week before, because quite frankly I was scared out of my mind to attempt it. I got the last minute jitters. This weekends issues in the heat have only fueled the need to conquer this challenge even more. I'm not yet ready to write or talk about my first voluntary DNF, at mile 18 no less, of last weekends 50k, but I'm going over it in my head relentlessly. Heat has been the one true limiter for me in running. Every "hot" race I've entered, I ended up blowing up due to dehydration or some kind of salt issue. I can think of no way better to fix my heat issues than successfully completing this journey. Everything I do from now to run day will be to learn, fix, and obliterate my heat tolerance. I'm eager to see the growth I can foster in such a short time.

I have 28 days left to prepare, fear and insecurity are creeping in, but I believe this time I'm ready for the challenge. A 130 mile self supported run in the dead of summer across the Nevada desert,  daunting challenge that I look forward to slaying a month from now.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

TRT 50k

This weekend’s exploits in the heat were a wake-up call. My definition of drinking a lot is obviously nowhere near enough. I've clearly neglected heat training so it's back to long sleeves and blasting the heater on the way home (while drinking lots of water!!!!!).

It's odd how much more you learn from failure than success. I made it 18 miles and had to pull myself from the race for the first time. It was the shortest trail race I've ever had, yet I probably learned more at Tunnel Creek Aid Station than all the rest of the Ultras I've run combined. I came into the aid station in rough shape from the left knee down. They got me back out on the course only to have the other leg go south on me a mile after I left, at that point it was a "turn around and tuck your tail between your legs kind of thing" day was done. In the end it was all user error, I did not keep up on my fluids and from mile 4 on I should have made that the priority.

Instead I boldly, foolishly, stupidly kept on chugging along drinking only small portions. By the time I realized how dehydrated I was getting, I was in between aid stations and set to go up the Red House loop. The turning point came just before the end of the sandy downhill. I tripped over a rock and both my calf muscles locked up sending me head first into the sand like volleyball player going to a diving dig. From that point on it was a 2mph slog back to Tunnel Creek.

I've got a lot of work to do in a month! My run to Burning Man is only a month away and this weekends result does nothing for my confidence of tackling the 125 miles on my own. More planning is needed for sure.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Silver State 50 backyard has never been so unforgiving

The Silver State 50 mile race, my home turf. One would think I should dominate this race. I literally run on this course or rather this mountain (Peavine) all the time. My house backs right up to the freaking course, I am 1 mile away from the 5 mile mark. Yet with all these advantages, I've yet to have a good run at one of these events. I ran the half marathon in 2009 as my first ever trail race and the 50 miler in 2011 and 2013. Each of those experiences has been difficult and character building. The half marathon was brutal at the time. I was severely under-trained and so naive about the act of trail running. The 2011 50 mile race was an ass kicking humbling experience that left me questioning everything about running. I finished just short of 13 hours and I could not have gone another mile. I looked forward to seeing what 3 years of trail running and ultra experience would do for me.

Going in I knew things would be tough mentally. However I had convinced myself late the night before that I was stronger than my mind, I was sure I could manipulate myself to have a great day. This was, in a word, DUMB. A stupid naive thought that in reality now seems ridiculous. I learned three weeks ago my mom has cancer, nothing I can do is going to remove that from my mind. Yet, completely convinced of my mind powers, I started the race believing nothing was wrong.

I went into the race tired. I knew physically I was spent but that was the goal, I did not realize how mentally damaged I was. Within a couple of miles I was fully aware that my mental state was going to be the issue this time around.
108 excited runners about to embark on 50 miles of Peavine Awesome!
The start of this race is always fun. We start at the dog park and every year they water the park and the result of which ends in a sloggy wet mess we have to run through. This year was no different, 100 yards in we were getting wet. My buddy even lost his shoe in the mess. I ended up getting one foot wet. Normally I have no issues with watery feet but 100 yards in.....I've got 49.9 miles to go and ONE only ONE of my feet are wet. Was this a precursor to how the day would go?

The early miles of this race are interesting. Most people go out fast. The terrain is such that a strong runner can run all of it, but there is the rub. Who's a strong runner? Most people are not strong 50 mile runners, and running now, ends in a bad way around mile 30 if you over estimate your running prowess. I started slow, a classic maneuver I've grown to love. However today with tired jelly legs and mind, slow was actually snail like. I crested the switchback at mile 4, I got my first view of Reno and realized no one was behind me. I was last as far as I could tell. In 2011 I never once was in dead last until the cutoffs. Here I am 4 miles in....last. Holy Crap this day is not starting out well.

I was approaching the mark that is closest to my house and it was 7am. I considered for a short time running home and calling it a day. I was really not in the mood for a run but as I would tell myself for the next 12 hours "Chemo is going to suck much more than this".

8 miles in and I got a nice little vacation from the race. I reached the Pond, a place that is special to me. I've visited this spot more than probably anyone on the planet. It is 4 miles from my house and I'm probably there once a week. I've been going there since 2004, I've spent countless hours sitting by the water just pondering life. Today I would ponder my moms life. Fortunately for me Reno Running and Fitness mans the aid station at the pond and seeing their faces really helped me out on the mental front. This was good, because the rest of the race would be trying on the mental the point of almost breaking me.

I like to think I'm strong, but today was one of those days where I'm not so sure. I left the pond thinking about my mom. Within a couple of minutes I was leaking from the eyes, and thus started my day. Not crying, just leaking a steady stream of water falling from the corner of my eyes constantly for the next 10 hours. My god it sucked, but "Chemo is going to suck much more than this" I kept telling myself. My mom is a fighter and god damn it today I was going to honor that spirit. I walked almost all the hills this year, I was OK with that. There was a bit of a "bummed" feeling that I had since I have put in so much work this year to actually RUN hills but the reality was "just get what you can done" needed to be good enough today.

I relaxed, while still leaking and crested Peavine for my first time still quite ahead of 2011's pace. That year I got to this point and ran my heart out, it's downhill for the next 7 miles and if there is one thing I KNOW I do well in running it's getting down a hill fast. That year I remember averaging around 9 minutes a mile and I got to the long valley aid station (mile 19) crippled. I burned myself out and this year I was determined not to make that mistake. I started down the hill and saw another runner. I passed her and saw another....OK I thought to myself 14 miles in and now everyone is on tired legs and I'm doing good. Playing field is level....well except for the fact we were running up and down hills and all. I reached the mile 19 aid station and experience in ultra running was blatant. I averaged 8:45 a mile on my way to this aid stop and I in no way was taxed. All of it was easy running for me. I left Long Valley charged and ready to run. Only my mind and now my body had different idea's.

It has just started to get warm here and like always I underestimated my hydration needs. The leaking + warm weather meant I should have been draining bottles quickly. Yet I am almost 20 miles in and I've had a grand total of 40 ounces of water. I'd just refilled both bottles for the first time at the last aid station and I was still, even with this knowledge, completely unaware that I was thirsty and dehydrated.

This would unfortunately hinder me from here on, I just did not know it yet. Truth be told I should have drained both bottles right then, filled them at the next stop and drained them again before I left. I would tell anyone I was pacing to do this and anyone I coach to do the same. However, recognizing that as a runner is something I'm still working on. I got to Dog Valley aid station still feeling OK physically but the monotony of the road we were on was giving me time to ponder. Pondering was not doing me well in this case....more leaking and more dehydrating.

I got to the hill just before ranch creek and powered up it. I crested the top and had an odd sensation in my left calf. Another sign of dehydration that I refused to listen to. Cramps suck as I'm sure all women will attest too. I ran down the hill to ranch creek well but the pain cave was now within reach and I was headed straight for it. Golly gee, I'm 26 miles in dehydrated SOOOOO 2011! All this experience and training and I'm still making the most basic of mistakes.

I got to the River Bend a half hour ahead of 2011. Physically I was fine, I was cramping majorly but that was a hydration issue. I sucked down a bottle at the aid station. I really really wanted to quit at this point. "Chemo is going to suck much more than this" I kept telling myself. I just could not quit, and typical me I did everything I could to hide my true feelings at the aid station. The whole day I interacted with people like nothing was wrong, only to get to a point where I was by myself so I could let out how wrong everything was. I suspect most had no idea of the metal anguish I was inflicting on myself.
Drinking...just a bit late
 I left the aid station dejected. I had 17 miles to go and all of it was tough, I was about 40 minutes up on 2011 but I knew my legs were thrashed and running would not be in the cards the rest of the way. I ran no more than 10 minutes at a time and most times it was more like 2 minutes, then walk to recover. Again, were I coaching or pacing I'd have told myself to sit down and drink so of course I powered on not drinking. Sometimes being stubborn is a fault, this is one of those times. Thanks for that trait mom!

I reached the summit of Peavine for the second time, I had planned for this to be the glorious ending that resulted in me pounding out 8-9 minute miles for the last 11 downhill miles. I was in no condition to do that though. I sat down in a chair for the first time all day 10 hours into the race. I had a horrible bout climbing that last mile between my mind and my body. I wanted to run, I could not. I kept thinking, "this is probably how mom is gonna feel. Like she wants to but can not, Chemo is going to suck much more than this". Now the mantra was not helping, every time I said this I started to break. 10 hours in and I could not hold back the emotions.

I ate a whole quesadilla, a sausage and rosemary potatoes at this aid station. The "Squirrel" really had his minions in top form. I finally started drinking as well, slow learner I guess. I was having a horrible day but when the Squirrel asked me how I was doing I realized I was still 40 minutes better than 2011. The day was not going well but I was performing decently given all the circumstances.

The last 11 miles were a blur, literally and figuratively. Each mile brought with it another emotional breakdown, by the time I reached the last aid station I was done. I was going to finish but I just had nothing left to give to the run. I walked 3 miles to the finish, the downhills, flats and hills. I ran the last 400 yards, again in an attempt to show the world nothing was wrong.

I finished and saw my queen and my dogs at the finish. I've never been to the finish of a race where my dogs were there, it was quite awesome. I reached the line in a hair over 12 hours almost an hour faster than 2011. I succeeded, but I did not feel like I did. I finished but there was no elation on my part, no "happy" left in me. I turned to my queen hugged her and totally broke down. I was now crying, not leaking. I hated that run and everything I went through.

It was about this time that I saw another surprise. A good friend and the one I ran the half marathon in February with was at the finish. He also was at the finish of Western States, damn I thought to myself I know how rough a go he's had this last year and yet he's here supporting me. I sat down on the grass with both dogs licking my face. My queen on my left and my friend on my right. The next thing I knew the Prez was right there congratulating me on a fine performance. He told me I was strong and what an achievement today actually was. I told him that was the most excruciating 12 hours I'd ever had and I compared it to being in solitary confinement. I uttered the statement, "there is no way I can finish TRT if I do not figure this thing out" I simply could not escape my mind the entire day. Running did not provide me a safe haven, in fact if made it worse.

Zeke, my boy!
That's how I felt, but like it usually does time changes perception. I am so much stronger for running that race. I know now I am every bit as tough mentally as I am physically. I did not get the clarity I was looking for with my moms situation but realistically I was never going to get that. I did get the confidence that I can handle this, it is going to be day by day but I'm going to be fine. My mom is going to be fine too, she is so strong and taking this all so well. I had a great conversation with her a couple days ago and she seems to be in a great place mentally. Life is going to go on, I might as well embrace it rather than run from it. Ironic considering my hobby.

As I have come to expect the race was top notch. The Silver State Striders were out in full force and every aid station and course worker was excellent. All three distances offered are awesome, this is not an easy race for anyone but it so empowering. The course is relentless but rewarding. The views of Reno are outstanding and the fact it is on Peavine is awesome.

I'm running my first Reno Tahoe Odyssey this weekend and I look forward to seeing how I respond from this experience. I suspect I'll respond well to it, cause that's just what I do. Like my mom, I'm a fighter, I'm stubborn and both those traits work well for success. My running inspires my mom, she revealed that to me in our last conversation, that made me proud. I love to run, but I got lost for a month or so and questioned why I should continue. The "why " is probably going to change from year to year but I hope the benefit does not, running makes me happy. Its really as simple as that. I'm ready to get back to work, to be the best person and runner that I can be. I'm going to run TRT and I'm going to run it well. The granite underbelly of the TRT course has no idea what I have in store for it.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Losing My Will To Run

"Brandon, I'm just going to come out and say it. I have lung cancer", and like that my world stopped. This is not the type of thing you can be prepared for, a parent telling you they are going to die. We all know it is going to happen, yet most of us sit back in our pretty little worlds believing we have all the time in the world. Stage 4 lung cancer spread to the lymph nodes, not good. My mom had been a 2 pack a day smoker for 50 years. This was not a surprise, but at the same time it was a complete shock. I'm really not sure how that works. My journey to Western States ended the day I started the race in 2012, my mom quit smoking then as well. She'd not smoked since, up until she got the news that is.

Zeke, Mom and Sasha celebrating their birthdays together!

I'd prepared myself back in my late 20's that my mom would pass earlier than I wanted. She had been in and out of the hospital seemingly yearly with some major issue or another, almost all of them smoking related. It was clear to me that the end was near back then. I made my peace with her smoking, it was her life and it made her happy. The consequence of making that peace, I pulled away from her emotionally. I just could not deal with the constant barrage of sicknesses that in my mind were completely avoidable.

Once she quit, I could see the life come back to her. She got healthy (we thought) and I started to knock down those barriers again. I figured if she was taking an active part in becoming healthy to live, I needed to do the same with our relationship.

The last year I have enjoyed some of my most fond memories of my mom. However, as it usually does, life sorta pulled an about face on us. Her life will never be the same and I've now opened myself up to all the heartache I tried to shield myself from. I'm getting married in October and my only hope is that I can dance with my mom on that day. Every single day this month, I have spent countless hours hoping and planning a way to make that happen. My unfortunate reality is, I can do nothing. I can not work harder, be smarter, or buy a fix to this situation. I simply must sit back and let it happen. Anyone who knows me well, understands sitting back and waiting is about the hardest thing in the world for me to do.

I had the Silver State 50 mile race scheduled 3 weeks after we found out about the cancer. I'd tried to run "long" the two weekends previous to the race and both attempts failed miserably. I thought running would provide me a safe haven to escape life like it normally does. I can run for hours and just be lost and happy in the playground that is my mind. Within a few miles on both attempts I was a wreck, to the point I just had to call the runs and go home. The second one in particular was a group run from the River Bend aid station, we ended up with probably 40 people and I was so embarrassed about my mental state. We had so many people on the run and I was having such a hard time keeping it together. I got to the top of Sandy hill and completely lost it. My legs buckled, I fell to the ground weeping. I was 3 miles into a 25 mile run and I was done. My want to run was gone. I ran to the 50/50 split directed everyone the correct way and then left. It took me two hours to get back to the car. I might have been 5 miles away at that point. I would get so emotional I could not even see the trail ahead of me.

I've joked to friends I've never met a mental state that I could not force myself to run in......while that may be true, apparently a broken heart will derail me quite easily. I really was not sure if I was going to actually start the race up to the day before. In fact, running and even the thought of it, these last couple weeks seems so trivial and selfish that it has simply been unappealing. I spend so much time running, for what? Why? I once thought I had those answers, now I'm not sure I even want to run anymore. It seems pointless.

I had volunteered to work the registration and bib pickup of the race on Friday before at Eclipse Pizza. Once the registration and race meeting were over I sought a little council. I talked to two of my trusted running friends Gator Boy and the Prez. I asked if there were any tricks to coping while running and they could provide none. However, they assured me I was strong and capable. To take it slow and easy and of course since it was a run in my backyard there would be many friends to lean on along the way. Only, I'm not so good at leaning on people. In these situations I pull way back into hobbit mode. I disappear deep into my head and I do not come out till I've figured it all out. 50 miles seemed so far. I did not look forward to it, and 12 hours before the race I was still in "who knows" mode about starting.

Once I got home I got a good dose of perspective from my beloved better half. She's been amazing through all of this. I am truly blessed to have her in my life. So with about 6 hours to go, at midnight, I made the decision to go ahead. Ultimately it is what my mom would want, and maybe just maybe 50 miles of alone time would bring with it answers or at least a little bit of clarity. Surely after a couple hours the emotions would leave me and I'd be able run free and fast. Yes, that's it! Just make it through those first tough miles and all will fall into place, I kept telling myself as I went tried to sleep. I awoke at 4am dead set on running my plan.

The plan being run the race at 100 mile pace, concentrate on fuel and hydration and use the last 11 downhill miles to pick up the pace and finish strong.  I wanted sub 12 hours at an easy relaxed pace. I'd made sure to go into the race very tired to mimic as much as I could the "second 50" of TRT. I had two quality runs, one a 5k paced tempo run and a very hilly run.  On top of that I helped mark about 8 miles of the course on Thursday, two days prior to the race. With 28 miles on my legs this week, I was sure to be tired from the start. Plus, if all went well I'd have my biggest week of miles yet this year.

I left the house around 5:15. I had no nerves for the first time in a race. I surmised the lack of nerves was because I simply did not care about the race. I was determined to finish, but I had no idea what kind of day it was going to be. Would I be able to compartmentalize my pain from my grief and run well? Would this be a mirror image of the last two times I tried to go for a long run? I tried to prepare myself for what I would go through, but as I found out 12 hours and 10 minutes later, I had no flipping clue what I was about to go through.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Woodside Ramble 50k

I ran the Woodside 50k last weekend. It has taken me almost 2 months to come back from that nasty ankle issue I had back in February. While still a little sore after the 20th or so mile, I feel now it is as good as it is going to get. I can manage all the issues it presents me at this point. Since that injury I have made health the #1 priority over any fitness gains. I think I've turned the corner on that and really am starting to see the benefits of being healthy for an extended period of time. I'm now at almost 14 months of health and I have no intent on ending that anytime soon.

This 50k had a lot more climbing than I expected. I was shooting for a 6:30 race which would have been an hour faster than any trail 50k I've run to date. I left Reno Friday night and we got to Woodside around 8:30pm. A quick trip to Denny's for some fuel and back to the hotel and in bed by 10. My stress level has come down slightly since February and my sleeping habits have improved a bit. I actually got to sleep before midnight!

First off this race was 100% first rate. Completely marked, well stocked aid, tough as nails to run and a great vibe at the finish. A huge thanks to Inside Trail Racing (ITR) for the their efforts and giving the Reno runners a discount on the race.

As you can see there is really nothing flat on this course, long ups and downs were the name of the game this day. We started out climbing and within 25 minutes I realized I was in new territory. I was trying to take it easy but I kept finding myself starting to jog going up hill. I was not cursing the hills while I ran like I have so often, in fact I was actually catching people and passing them. I figured this was just early race jitters and my normal slow and steady would come back towards the middle parts of the race.

We got to the first aid station and I had just finally figured out the people I was running with were doing the 35k, this immediately sent up a red flag. I was running uphill with way I could keep up that pace so I better slow down. For the next 5-8 miles I settled into a very comfortable pace and tried to concentrate on eating and drinking. When we got to the next aid station I knew my time to shine was ahead of me. We had this massive 3-4 mile 1500 foot descent. I LOVE going downhill! I've been working on getting a fast tempo that allows me to recover and I set out down the hill. I passed about 15 people and at one point saw a 6:55 pace. I averaged between 7:45 to 8:15 on those miles and I new at this point nearly half way that I was having a good day. I also knew that what goes down must come back up on a loop course. I had a 4 mile slog back to the top so I reached down to grab a gel. Oh SNAP! I forgot to zip the pocket and I lost all my gels. I had not had one since the last aid station and would not get another till the next, so I'd be going almost 9 miles with no fuel. DAMN IT. I got a new waist pack 2 weeks ago and had not used it in a race, no other pack I have uses zippers and I just forgot this one did. Dumb move.

Starting back up the hill I see this woman running back at me waving her hands yelling we are going the wrong way. I asked if she was sure and she assured me she had just been over a half mile with no markings. I could not comprehend this as I had just seen one. Turns out she missed a marker and was mistaken but it took about 5 minutes of backtracking to figure it all out. Once back in the right direction and heading up the hill I got that feeling again. "I can jog some of this" I thought to myself. "OK to that tree then walk", I said. I repeated this over and over, it resulted in me running probably 75% of that hill and passing many people. I got to the top elated. I hit the aid station inquired about where I was in the race and they said top 25 or so.

That news got me all jacked up and I took off from that aid stop well fed but starting to feel the effects of the lost Gels an hour earlier. I knew I had about 30 minutes before a huge crash which would last about another 30 minutes. I tried to eat but I got to the point where I had more in my gut than I could digest, so I knew at that point all I could do was ride out the low point. I got passed shortly after by two older gentlemen who clearly had been holding back the first 25 miles.

I passed the last aid station and finally started doing the numbers. If I really hustled and pushed I could break 5:35 I figured. I set off like a bat out of hell down that trail. At this point the best I could muster was low 8 minute pace but it felt like 6. Then about 2 miles from the finish it happened, I'd finally pushed my legs too far and they stopped working. I had to walk some of the downs and all of the hills, my watch was telling me 5:40 was now out of the question but sub 6 was still in order. The last mile sucked, all uphill and I was wrecked with no energy to spend. I trotted into the finish in a lifetime best of 5:49 on the clock almost 2 hours better than my previous best. I was amazed. The training and extended health is really starting to pay off. I ended up 20th place and 6th in my age group.

About 20 minutes after the finish I got this huge blast of energy from everything I ate an hour earlier. My running mates from Reno started coming in and we all celebrated great days. We brought down 4 people all of whom placed in the top 40, with 3 50k PR's and the other non PR was a huge success as she came across the finish line stating she could "run another 20 no problem", which was her goal for the race.

I know now making health my most important goal has been and will continue to be the best bet for me. While I still regret choosing not to start that race 2 months ago, I am certain the result wold have been tragic to my goals for running this year.

My next race is Silver State 50 mile in May, I'm looking forward to us since I last ran that race in 2011. It was to this date the worst race I've ever run. I look forward to taking revenge on that course and running a lot of the hills! I think I have a shot at sub 11 hours if everything goes right.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Goal Setting and Why I May Have Been Going About It All Wrong

(I wrote this the day before my first 50k of the year in the middle of February.)

At the conclusion of my run to Auburn in 2012 I spent a couple days thinking about my life, where it was going and where it had been. I had such an amazing journey to Western States, there was so much I learned about myself in the three years I had been running. I  learned at a young age that when it comes to performing, I am going to go to the farthest depths that I can to get the result I want. I can push farther than your average Joe. Despite physical or emotional pain I have always had the ability to focus on the task at hand and get the job done. In my youth, I felt this was one of my best qualities. It made me feel studly and it gave the appearance to others that I was a tough SOB. These things were important to me because at the time I lacked self worth (am I worthy of that which I'm trying to attain or have been given) and self esteem (confidence that I can achieve). A double doozie for any young man to have.

I got a grasp on my confidence once I left the nest and went to college, as I suspect a lot of young men do. However, I still struggle daily with self worth. One reason I set so many goals is because I constantly feel unworthy. If I achieve, I must be worthy. If I do not, then I am not, pretty simple.

I had a revelation of sorts last night. I've never felt that my goal setting could be in any way unhealthy. How could it be? You set a goal, you achieve it. You move on to the next one. Setting goals in and of its self, is not a bad thing, but I now suspect the way I use those goals to make myself feel better is not the healthiest of ways to go about it. I make every goal so important that in many cases I continue on down the path of achievement against better judgement. I once viewed this as determination, and a positive thing. Now I'm not so sure.

Two weeks ago I injured my ankle at a race. I've been nursing it ever since, taking off Monday through Wednesday, lightly running Thursday, and getting long miles in on the weekend. I've kept the intensity of these workouts under wraps. Still, my ankle is giving me some trouble. I'm also apparently coming down with whatever bug has been going around and I'm generally feeling a little lethargic.

I have my first 50k of the season tomorrow.  My goal is a sub 6 hour run. I made that goal because I want to feel like all the training I have been doing is worth it. I've been busting my ass since December first trying to actually run up steep hills rather than walk. I have this need to feel inside myself that I am worthy of the praise my friends and family bestow upon me for my running exploits. I consider myself an average runner at best. My family and friends do not, I am special to them. I just do not see it that way. My reality (perception maybe) is, I am part of a very small percentage of people, who for what ever reason, choose to run distances most people do not even like to drive. Of those people who do it, I'm average, and I'm working on getting better. To me, my special quality in this sport is pain and suffering, or rather dealing with it, not my running ability.

So how does all this fit into a revelation while sitting in bed at midnight unable to sleep last night? Well, I hurt enough and felt sick enough, that I had to start pondering if going to the race tomorrow was a good idea.
As recently as a year ago (I in fact had this same conversation with myself last January) I would look at this decision and consider it an easy choice. You go, you run hard, you succeed. You signed up, paid for it, told everyone you were live up to your word. The outcome of that decision a year ago, and most of the others like that in my life to date, has been the same. I do go, I do succeed and I also end up broken.
Each and every time I pushed through relatively small issues only to find on the other side I made bigger ones. Just looking at the last three years of running, 4 times I have downplayed the importance of my health for the achievement of a relatively minor goal and each of those 4 times I was left sitting on the couch for months at a time mending wounds incurred.

It is funny, but last night was the first time I've put all this together. Do my self esteem issues hinder me in placing an importance on my health? Surely if true, I must do this in other non athletic endeavours. After some thought, I would say there are many parts of my life I downplay my health (mental or physical) in order to meet some arbitrary want.

I woke this morning to a familiar feeling, a sore ankle and a sore throat. I left for work positive it would all pass and made my plans for the race the next morning. My hour long drive to work affords me a lot of thinking time. I recalled my thoughts so early that morning and realized I may not be 100% unbiased in making this decision. Fortunately I have an ace in the hole. I'm fortunate enough to have for the third year in a row, a massively qualified ultra runner as a coach and mentor. After talking with her we both agreed that the goal of the year is TRT100 in July. She acknowledged how hard I was working and put a new spin on it. Basically, I know I'm in shape and the time to show that is when I am healthy. Pulling out a great race tomorrow is no where near as important as doing it in July. Skipping this weekends run will not instantly make me a sloth on the course, but going and getting seriously injured will. The benefit to staying home and swallowing some pride is worth more than being stoic, determined and injured.

So with that, I'm taking another step of growth. I can complete the race tomorrow, of that much I am sure. However, the risk in doing so is now too much for me to ignore. I'm going to stay home and recover as much as I can and push back the effort I was going to unleash tomorrow until next weekend, or the one after that. It is a tough decision for me to make. It sorta feels like quitting, but the reality is as bad as I may feel making this decision, I'd feel a whole lot worse for a lot longer if something happened in the race. Especially if I ended up hurt like so many other times these last couple of years. So with that, I'll take the DNS tomorrow and live to race another day.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Steep Ravine Half Marathon

I was asked some weeks ago by a friend if I would be interested in going to Marin to run a race with him. Since this year I am trying to be cost conscious to pay for my wedding, I had to inquire about the details. He said we had a free place to stay, he would drive and all I had to do was sign up. The next week I signed up for my second Trail Half Martathon. The Steep Ravine half put on by the great folks at Coastal Trail Runs.

The last time I ran a trail half was May of 2009 at the Silver State Half Marathon. It was my first trail race and I had no idea what I was doing. I ended up finishing and an hour later was convulsing on the floor at my house because I'd run so hard for my fitness level at that point.

I was determined that this run would be different. Life has been busy the whole month of January so I paid no attention to anything about the race. I had no idea of the climbing we would be doing and as uncharacteristic as it is of me, I planned only to show up for the race. That is it. I had a minor time goal of 2:15, but even that was just a guess since I have not raced this distance in so long.

We left Reno around 10 on Saturday and headed to Marin. I cherished the fact I would not be driving, it seems like I always drive and another of my cost saving practices I have taken on this year is to be the co-pilot as often as possible and just give some moolah for gas. I found out when we got to the house we were at that it was on a golf course, the house was very nice. The bathroom was especially...upscale. At least compared to my bathroom. It had heated toilet seats and the toilet also doubled as a buday, complete with temperature controlled water jets. I chose to use only the functions on it that I other words flush only! I should have known then what I was in for....if the toilet scared me what the heck is the trail from Stinson beach going to do?

We went into Fairfield for dinner and a movie. Then back at the house and before bed, a nice dip in the hot tub. My buddy went to bed pretty early and as usual I was up till almost midnight. With a 5:30 wake up in order I finally succumbed to the reality that I needed to try to get to sleep. I laid down on the couch shut my eyes and went through the routines I use to try to go to sleep. About a half hour later I finally fell a sleep.

Morning came quickly and I got up to get some food. My normal bagel and cream cheese served me well. I went with only water as a liquid source, and hydrated while we drove the hour and twenty minutes to the start of the race at Stinson Beach. I'd never been to this part of of California so the wonder of what would be around every corner made the drive go by quickly.

We got our bibs from the check in and hustled back to the car and it's warmth. It was not cold but being from the dry arid environment of Reno made the relatively warm 40 degrees feel like 20 with the humidity. Bibs pinned and clothing stripped we got out of the car and headed for the start. We were told to follow the orange and yellow ribbons.

The race started and we took off. I started slow, if the last three years have taught me anything it is that I have a lot better chance at doing well by starting a little slow and ending in a full on sprint than I do going out hard and hanging on. Once my body starts shutting down it goes down fast, plus the last thing you remember about a race is the finish, and if you finish hard, chances are you are going to feel a little better about the run no matter what your time was.

Within a quarter of a mile we hit the steps of a trail I assume was the Dipsea. I'd heard about these steps and made the foolish assumption that they would be no harder than a really steep hill hike. That thought was turned upside down within minutes. It is really like stair stepping, different muscles than I normally use and they protested from the get go. I realized that this was going to be a climb up descend down and repeat type of run, not much in the way to flat running.

At the 2 mile mark my back was killing me from bending over so much. I had to slow the pace even more and at one point pulled off the trail to stretch for about a minute. Once we got to the top there was an aid station, I walked around aimlessly at it for about 10 seconds trying to figure out where to go. Finally I found a volunteer who directed me in the right direction. The only thing I would have done different at this race if I were putting it on is use the yellow ribbon for the entirety of the half marathon course. From where I was, until I got back to the top of the hill, we followed the orange 50k ribbons. After a couple miles it was a little unsettling as I thought more than once I might be on the 50k route.

From that aid station we had about a 2 mile steep descent of which I took advantage. I ran hard down some pretty technical terrain passing tons of people. When we got to the bottom I found out there was a short 1.4 mile out and back on some rolling singletrack that headed to Muir Beach. I slowed my pace to 8:40ish pace since I had realized we would just be retracing our steps and I needed to save a little for the climb back up to the aid station.

Once done with the out and back, I started up the hill. I was surprised that I could still jog parts and my hiking speed was now above most of those around me. I was going the same pace as the first 3 miles up hill, so it was clear most of these people had not paced themselves the first 7 miles of the race. Half way up the hill I caught sight of my buddy and made the goal to catch him by the time we got to the top. Then we could take the 3 mile downhill to the finish together. I ended up catching him about a half mile from the top and he was having some quad issues. I felt great so I bid him farewell and started hammering the climb. I had realized by mile 3 I had no chance at the 2:15 mark, when I crested the top of the hill to the aid station I looked at my watch and it said 2:04 and change. I made it my goal to finish in 2:30. I knew I would need to fly down the hill to hold an 8:40 pace on that kind of terrain with so many people on the trail. I took off, I was speeding down the hill. I passed at least 20 people in the first mile and a half. I was putting some serious effort on this part of the run, yet I was having so much fun. Hoots, hollers, and yeehaws coming out my mouth every couple seconds. Letting my Hoka's suck up the terrain and blasting off every rock and root. I was jumping off the steps that I hated while coming up. I was doing old school skiing tricks like Daphies, Spread Eagles and Back Scratchers as I jumped. I was within a mile of the finish and thought that I better stop clowning around, so I slowed a bit and tried to pay more attention to the terrain. Within a minute of doing so I missed a step jammed my left foot into the ground then on the next step turned my ankle. Ironic....but so goes the way of trail running. After about 30 seconds my ankle was numb and I was back running fast. I crossed the bridge to get to the finish line just before Stinson Beach and headed on in. 2:30:05.....Damn I thought, 5 seconds from the goal!

My buddy came in shortly after and we enjoyed a Sprite at the finish. He was still hurting a bit (quads) so I drove us back to the house with a stop at Taco Bell on the way. Once packed up and fed we left the house, he said he was cool to drive and I made it home to Reno by 6pm and considered the weekend a success.

It was not until Wednesday of this week I realized how well I actually did at the race. I pretty much always end up in the 50-60th percentile in terms of finishing place. This day I placed 26 of 99 easily my best finish of my career. I was about 37 minutes off the winning pace, another shock to me. I'm still about 10 pounds heavy for this distance, well the reality is at a svelte 203 pounds I'm way heavier than I need to be. However 190 seems to be where I run best and since I've not been under 185 since High School I call that my sweet spot. I do have a goal of 175 by July's TRT 100, but at this point I can not fathom being that light. To have that type of output and result this early in the season I am thrilled. I have my first 50k of the season on Feb 9th and I'm thinking I might just be able to pull out a pretty fast time, maybe even sub 6 hours.

Till then I'll watch the Niners in the Super Bowl this weekend. I'll be doing 10 miles at tempo pace on Saturday and a long run of 20 or so miles Sunday. No taper going into the 50k, so next week will be a high mile week for me, I might even hit 70 miles. I am exactly 1 month from being injury free for a whole year. Since I started running the longest I have gone without hurting my foot/toe is 9 months. 2013 has the makings to be an awesome year of running for me if I can stay healthy!

13.1 miles 2:30
Shoes-Hoka Stinson Evo White/Blue
1 Gell + 1 20oz bottle of Hammer Perpetuem