Surf the Murph – 2011 50 miler

First things first lets get the big excuse out of the way, I had and continue to have a fairly good cold. I awoke at 3:45 Saturday morning and didn’t feel all to bad and convinced myself that sure I can go run 50 miles. After gathering up a my things and food for the road I set out for Murphy park in Savage.

I arrived, dropped off my drop bags, said my hello’s to a few friends and made my way back to my truck for a last minute check and some warmth. Before you know it we were all gathered up at the start line and heading down the trail. I was lucky enough to get in with a talkative group and lost myself in the conversation as we tackled the first 5 miles of hills. I was so engage that I hardly was annoyed that my batteries in my headlamp were dying and would only work for a minute or two at a time. We made our way out to the second aid station and got separated as some got supplies, some zipped through and some used the rest room. I felt good as I started out into the flatter part of the course and made my way around with little problem.

The course changed a bit this year but it was nice to be on familiar ground and it all came back to me as I rounded each corner. Before I knew it I was done with loop 1 and gearing up for the hills again. Little did I realize that my body was fighting two battles at the same time and my race was on the losing end. I made my way through till about mile 30 and than the wheels started to come off and the negative talk started. I was beat and seriously started to justify how I might drop from the race. But with 4 or so miles till the beginning of loop 3 I made a promise not to make any decisions till than.

At the beginning of loop 3 I knew my brother would be waiting for me and I would need to take the remaining miles in 4 mile chunks. I gathered up my supplies and with my brother in tow I headed off into the now seemingly endless barrage of hills. The conversation helped a lot as I took my mind off what was left and focused on the hill at hand and reaching the next aid station. But the battle raging inside was clearly taking its tole as I walked more than I ran. My brother did all he could do to motivate me but my legs and heart where just not in it. With little fan fare we moved along and I enjoyed the 4 hour conversation with my brother. Thanx Matt!

I arrived at the finish 11 hours and 30 minutes after I started (15 minutes better than last year) to the cheers of my mother and the small crowd that had gathered to see the finishers complete their goals. By this time I was such a wreck and wanted nothing else but to get my stuff and get home to my girls, a shower and warm bed.

Last week at this time I had thoughts of running a 100 mile race someday but somewhere along this journey that aspiration met with reality. I know if I put in the work and sacrifice I could achieve that distance but there comes a point, for me at least, that I wonder where the return on investment is. By no means to I minimize the accomplishment of a 100 mile race but for me it is not in the cards for somewhere around 40 miles I stop having fun and if I’m not having fun I can no longer justify the time training.

This realization to focus on Marathons and 50k’s also comes after three of my most enjoyable races came this year at these distances and the realization that the further I go down the endurance route the more I move away from the group of friends that get me up on Saturday mornings in January for a brisk run and coffee at Caribou.

What did I learn?

  • When fighting a cold and fighting a race the cold will always win.
  • The Marathon and 50k distance is where my heart is.
  • Running with my brother is always a good time.

Special thank you to the Surf the Murph team and its great volunteers. I was completely impressed!

Also a special thank you to my wife and daughters for their “understanding” as find my way through this passion of mine. Love You!

Rolling in the Beats

Rolling in the beats (live mashup) from Ithaca Audio on Vimeo.

Twin Cities Marathon 2011

It all started with an innocent text message prodding a friend about running the Marathon and before you know it I found myself one and half weeks out from taking on the race myself. You have to be careful what you wish for, for I found myself smack in the middle of my high miles training for my 50-mile race at the end of the month. After a quick look at my training schedule I noticed it called for a 31 mile trail run than a 24 the following week, though challenging I thought all I will need to do is to slip the Marathon into the 24 miles slot and I’ll be good to go.

Looking at this race merely as a training run might have been my strongest asset for I didn’t get that worked up about it, lost very little sleep and was almost giddy to have the opportunity. Though I did experience some negative thoughts during some runs the week before which I attributed to my heavy legs from the 31-mile training run the week before.

Race morning came early at 3:30 Sunday and I was anxious to get going. After a shower, stretching, food and FB post I was fortunate enough to get a ride with some friends in my neighborhood. I arrived early and was happy to find two friends I run with often waiting at our normal spot. Rod, Shelley and I sat and talk about our plans for the race and generally took care of pre-race things (bathrooms, clothing and nutrition). It was very relaxed as other familiar faces showed up and race time came closer. We worked out way out to the start after dropping off our drop bags and before you know it we were off.

Shelley, another friend Laura and myself opted to run together for the first little bit to let the crowd thin out and to get our legs underneath us. We made our way to the Walker, the Lake of Isles and to Calhoun with little effort. It all felt very good and comfortable but I knew that I was running out of my league with these two but I figured I would take it as it comes. As we moved in to Calhoun and Harriet I some how inched ahead of these two and before I knew it I was on my own running ahead of the 3:40 group. Let’s be clear that running at 8′s or sub 8′s for an extended period is not my normal speed but something about the day, the crowd and fresh legs carried me for the next 10-15 miles. I had illusions of keeping this pace up and running a sub 3:40 and felt confident I could do during this time, but as any experienced Marathon knows that reality can creep in at anytime.

An interesting decision came a little after mile 20 as I neared the hills that take you to Summit Ave., do I fall back to my plan and walk these hills or do I push thorough them as my ego want to and risk a collapse on miles 21-26? I opted to fall back to my trail running experience, which told me if you couldn’t see the top – walk. Sticking to the plan I walked the steep parts and ran the flats with success feeling I didn’t give up much to the runners around me. With only 4.5 miles to go I knew I could run a sub 4 hour Marathon but feeling good and energized I opted for something a bit more – a PR.

Earlier in the race I noticed how the crowds responded if you raise your arms to get them to cheer. It seems all these people are bored silly waiting for their runner and are looking for a reason to cheer. As I made my way threw each intersection I decided not to be blend in like every other runner but to be catalyst for the crowd and give them something to cheer for. Pumping my arms up and down I could literally feel the energy of the crowd as I passed by. Feeling the eyes of the crowd and the chills going down my spine moved me to keep on running. I also knew that just beyond mile 24 my girls would be waiting to see me and I didn’t want to be that walking guy as I approached.

The stream of runners moved to right of the road in an attempt to grab some shade but I moved to the left to be sure my girls would see their crazy Dad “blazing” down the road. I was greeted by my family with some short hugs and smiles and a bunch of cheers from strangers my Mom recruited. Only 2 miles to go, I run this in my sleep I told myself, buckle down and push it out.

Before I knew I was being engulfed by the 3:50 group and was determined to stick with them. Well I gave it a good old college try but the legs didn’t want to support that kind of kick at that moment. But soon after I was lucky enough to get a tap on the shoulder by Shelley, seeing a familiar face prompted to get a move on or at least a target to aim for. As I made my way from the Basilica down to the finish line I must have looked like a bird that had forgotten how to fly. Remembering the trick that provided a lift in the spirits earlier I awoke the crowd into what seemed like, at least to me, a roaring wave of applause, cheers and cowbells.

I crossed the finish line at 3:52 and some change to see Shelley just ahead of me receiving her medal. We exchanged congratulations and gathered up some food and our shirts and bid each farewell till next time. It wasn’t till than I realized that I had PRed at easily my favorite Marathon. To say the least I was surprised with my time for in a race that was going to be a “training run” it turned out to be so much more.

What did I learn?

  • My fueling seemed pretty close to on with gel shot every half hour.
  • I’m faster than I think as long when I don’t let the Garmin do the thinking for me.
  • Knowing people are along the course waiting to see you makes a world of difference.
  • Use the crowd to your advantage.

All and all it was one of my best Marathon experiences I’ve had and I’m still glowing from the days events. But the moment I will always remember was when I asked my oldest daughter if she wanted to wear the medal she replied “No thanks Dad I want to earn my own.”

Up for a challenge?

Opportunity often comes when your not looking for it but it also comes when you ask for it. In both cases most of us don’t see it coming. That was the case when I texted a friend of mine half joking about using his bib number for the upcoming Twin Cities Marathon. It turns out after some hesitation he said yes and before you know it I’m off to the races.

The Twin Cities Marathon holds a special place in my heart for it was my first Marathon and the place I love to visit every year while regretting that I didn’t sign up. Well not this year. Once I got my head around the idea of doing TCM again I quickly found myself realizing that my training for my focused race of Surf the Murph called for a 31 mile training run this weekend. Hmm, running 31 miles on the trails one weekend than running a Marathon on pavement the next this should be interesting.

Sure I’ve done back to back long runs routinely keeping my runs up above 15-20 but mentally this seems like a harder nut to crack. Maybe cause I’ve been preached to all these years about tapering and its benefits, well not this year. Any hope of tapering went out the window. I’m now going into nomads land for me and will have to pay very close attention to my body this week.

Tentatively my schedule reads like this:

  • Saturday: 31 at Afton
  • Sunday: 5 to 10 slow road miles
  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: 4 slow to medium miles
  • Wednesday: 6 medium miles
  • Thursday: 4 medium to fast miles
  • Friday: Off
  • Saturday: 1 to 2 miles
  • Sunday: Marathon

I’ll do what I can to post updates during the week with my progress and what I feel my goal time might be. As of now I’m thinking 4:15ish and as much as I hate to say it this might just be a well supported training run but we will see how I feel once the adrenaline of race day kicks in.

Jealous

This weekend brings us the Sawtooth 100 on the Superior hiking trail and I find myself extremely jealous of the friends and acquaintances that are toeing up for the race. I find myself fueling this jealousy by reading the blogs, FB comments and tweets. I have to admit I’ve even got a bit anxious about the idea of signing up at the last minute.

This idea sounds crazy and is crazy for someone who on first hand off hasn’t attempted a 100 miler and is coming off an injury and is only a month into training for a 50 miler. But still I find it difficult to withstand the draw of such an adventure. I know it will pass and I will pick up a few nuggets of wisdom along the way. I know I’ll be checking for updates regularly in hopes of getting a small glimpse of the goings on. And, I know I’ll pretend I can relate to what the runners are going through all knowing that it’s an entirely new world after after mile 50.

So what am I doing this weekend? Other than the obvious reasons, why am I not up there? Well my little brother is off to Madison Wisconsin to attempt the Ironman triathlon. After a 24 mile training run I get to jump in a truck and drive for 4-5 hours with my father to witness this event. I can only imagine it will be a spectacular time and great thing to witness. It will be something to see all the training come together and what happens to the body when confronted with a Marathon after a 2.5 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride.

To all the runners toeing it up at Sawtooth this weekend the best of luck, enjoy the roller coaster. I’ll surely be thinking of you out on the home turf of the Afton State Park. To my brother and all the other IM contenders I wish you the best of luck and safety as you enjoy your own roller coaster. As for me I’ll be taking in the motivation for my own ride coming up in October.

If you’re going to be successful you’ve got to be willing to give up sleep.

How Bad Do You Want It from Greyskale Multimedia on Vimeo.

Bridge

Bridge from Ting on Vimeo.

Coaching Endurance UltraRunning 2011 Part 1

Ups and Downs

I feel it has been a while since I’ve written about my running but to be fair their has not been much to say. After a month off due to injury I started training again for Surf the Murph 50 miler in October. I have been humbled to learn how fast ones endurance can slide in that time and how much of a mental battle it is to regain it. Now over two weeks into training I’ve done two long runs of 15 and 17 miles and a cluster of 4 to 10 milers during the week and from this I feel my legs are willing but my focus is lacking.
I’m sure this will come back as my endurance creeps back into the picture.

That said I’m excited to be running again, July was a rough month and I found myself a bit agitated with out my exercise release. Even my anti-running wife was hoping that I would get back on the road again. I have learned to fully appreciate the cleansing of the mind, the rearrangement of thoughts and alignment of priorities that occurs during running and how much I’ve grown to depend on this time.

This week is low week in miles before the schedule kicks into high gear as we move toward a 31 mile long run in a few weeks. I will continue to keep it slow and let my heart and lungs strengthen for I will need it soon.

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