Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in review

The last day of the year.  No more running until 2012.  It's been a good year for running.

Highlights:
  • 6 races of marathon distance or greater
  • 100 consecutive days of running
  • Marathon PR

According to my Garmin records, I ran 1109.81 miles, for 205 hours, 7 minutes, and burned 156,573 calories.

I don't have any particular goals for 2012, nor have I signed up for any races.  I would love to:
  • run 6 races of marathon distance or more
  • set another marathon PR
  • run a mountain ultra
  • finish another 50 miler (last 50 miler I finished was Feb. 2010)

Here's wishing you a happy, healthy, and active 2012!  Keep on running!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Nice Place to Run: Dana Peak Park

Last weekend, when the whole Mastin clan got together at Meme and Papaw's for a Christmas gathering, my brother and I got up early on Saturday to head over to Dana Peak Park for a couple of hours of trail running.  Only about a 30 minute drive from Salado, Dana Peak Park treated us to some rocky trail running with sunrise views over the lake and some nice climbs up Dana Peak and the hillsides around Stillhouse Hollow Lake.
Up and running before the sun on Christmas break. . . .
We came across these crosses carved out of a stump.
The lake is LOW, but we saw several people fishing in boats, so I guess the fishing is still OK.
We saw a bunch of deer, especially near the lake.  I thought about trying some persistence hunting.  It was a perfect opportunity.  The deer were on a point; we could have cornered one and . . . well, I didn't know what I would do with it once I caught it.  I didn't really feel like having to explain myself to a game warden.  I'm sure I could have caught one!  Haha.

I wouldn't say these are the greatest trails I've ever run on, but it's definitely a nice place to run.  There's not a lot of shade, so come summertime, you'll be wanting to jump in the lake.  If you're in the area and looking for a place to run, check it out.  I'm sure I'll be back sometime.  Here's a web site with pictures and descriptions of the trails.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Isle du Bois 50K race report

Pacing.  It's all about pacing.  After my highly successful run at White Rock on Sunday, where I ran a negative split, I thought maybe I would have learned my lesson about pacing.  For this 50K, I would hold back for the first couple laps and blaze to the finish on the last lap.  Instead, I ran my usual trail ultra, feeling good at first, gradually getting to the point of wanting to quit the stupid race, then feeling great for having finished.

This was the debut race for Endurance Buzz Adventures, put on by Dave Hanenburg of EnduranceBuzz.com.  I had never run at Isle du Bois and for some odd reason I was picturing a relatively easy course.  It turned out to be similar to the Cross Timbers course at Lake Texoma, although not quite as tough as that.  I would place it at tougher than Lake Grapevine's north shore, where I ran the Rockledge Rumble a few weeks ago.  Slightly more ups and downs, many more technical sections, and way more lose, pointy rocks.  Thankfully I never fell, but one runner I talked to had already fallen 6 times--on lap 1!  And check out this runner's busted lip! (Go to Julie's blog here and scroll to the bottom.)

I started out hanging around the back of the pack.  I thought I might replicate my White Rock strategy--start out in back, so I'm passing and not being passed.  That's probably a dumb strategy.  I passed a few people early, then fell in behind a small group of runners, including a lady named Chris and a guy with a mohawk.  I ran with them for a few miles, but at the aid station, halfway through the loop, I left before them and felt like I picked up the pace a little.  I finished the first loop in 2:00:46, feeling like I could keep that up and beat my Rockledge time (6:50).

Loop 2 started out well.  I was thinking negative splits, passing and not being passed.  I managed to keep a pretty good pace the first half of the loop, but after the aid station I slowed down, feeling like 2 loops would be plenty today.  After White Rock, my soreness and stiffness was gone by midweek, but the latent muscle fatigue began to rear its ugly head right about now.  Chris, who had been in sight most of the second lap, finally passed me shortly before we got back to the start/finish area.  I finished the second lap at 4:13:36.  Not a negative split, but still not so bad; loop 2 was .4 mile longer, after all.

I filled up my hydration pack--no cups at this eco-friendly race!--and got a snack to head out for the third loop.  I knew at this point that a negative split was out of the question, shortly gave up on beating my Rockledge time, and ended up just wishing to finish, to get off this trail and back home.  The field was so spread out by this time that I saw very few other runners.  One way-too-perky-after-having-run-23-miles lady passed me up, looking fresh like she was on her first lap.  A runner named Bill caught up to me with a few miles left and we crossed the line together at 7:17:31.

This is one race where I'm glad I didn't run in my VFFs.  Not knowing the trail at all, I chose to wear my NB MT101s.  There were some really nice sections of dirt, but with the sharp rocks, and with lots and lots of dead leaves masking the lurking obstacles, my feet would have been thoroughly bruised and bloodied by the end of the day if I had worn the Vibrams.

Dave deserves praise for putting on a first-class trail race.  Of course, the weather cooperated beautifully, which helps, but he busted his tail to make the rest of it fall into place.  Everything ran nicely, the support was perfect, and, as best I could tell, everyone had a good time.  I hope IDB becomes a staple of the North Texas race calendar.

Boring post, right?  No pictures.  Check out these other blogs for some great pics of the day.  You might even see a picture of me if you look hard enough!

Julie, who busted her lip.

The Trail Zombie.

And Dave, the RD, will surely post some good pics at EnduranceBuzz.com.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

100 Days of Running

After a running lull this summer, I decided that in order to get myself back in the running habit I would try running every day.  Even though I have been, at times, very consistent with a running plan, I find it very easy to stray.  One rest day turns into several, recovery days after a race turn into weeks. . . .  So as I looked forward to some fall races, I started my daily running.

Today marked my 100th consecutive day of running.  Starting at the end of August, I ran every day, a total of 595.74 miles, including a trail 50K and a new road marathon PR.  I think that PR is, at least in part, due to my daily running.

I did learn one thing: it's kind of nice not to run sometimes.  There were plenty of days when I just didn't want to get up in the morning, or, if I hadn't run in the morning, just wanted to go to bed without running.  I have decided that it's OK to have those rest days, and to schedule non-running days.  I guess there's some message here about my personality, that I somehow feel like I can only do things in the extreme or not at all.  Hopefully, moving forward, I can find some balance, following a training schedule consistently without having to compulsively run every day.

In the meantime, I'm sleeping in tomorrow.





Monday, December 5, 2011

White Rock IV

Today I ran my fourth consecutive White Rock Marathon, and it was by far my best and most enjoyable.  All week I had been checking the weather forecast for the race: low- to mid-40s and wet.  The forecasts were spot-on.  The temps hovered around 42-44, I think, and the rain came down continuously.  Thankfully, the rain wasn't very heavy; it ranged from a misty drizzle to light showers.  The result was a wet course, lots of splashing through puddles (VFFs are perfect in these conditions), and thoroughly drenched runners.  (Oh, and by the way, the rain kept some of the bands, who usually play along the course, away.  I didn't miss them at all!)
Slick and splashy was the order of the day.
One of the things I hate about these big urban marathons are the crowds, so I decided to avoid the pre-start mess as much as possible.  I intentionally went late, so I had absolutely no traffic.  I parked right at 8, and heard the National Anthem and fireworks from afar.  I got to the first bank of port-a-potties, and to my surprise there was a bit of a line, but I only had to wait a couple of minutes.  (Note to other runners: when you're doing your business in there, lock the door!  When it's not locked, some oaf like me will open it, embarrassing both of us!)

I jogged over to the starting corrals, and fell in with the crowd, walking slowly with the herd a few hundred yards to the starting line.  I ended up crossing the starting line at 8:23.  Pleased with myself for a smooth arrival and start, I began running by all the slower runners.  Since I was late I started several corrals back from the one I was assigned based on my projected finish time.  So the first mile or two I spent a lot of time weaving in and out of the slower runners.  Eventually the crowd thinned out, especially after the half marathoners split off from the full marathon course.

This was a unique element of today's race for me.  Usually, especially late in a race, I'm the one getting passed.  But today, from the start, all the way to the last mile, I passed virtually everyone I encountered on the course.  Unless I'm mistaken, the only runners to pass me were relay racers on fresh legs.  I kept thinking that it couldn't last, that I wouldn't be able to keep up my anticipated pace, but as I passed each mile marker, and remembered those places where, in prior races, my pace slowed for good, I kept pushing, determined to keep a steady pace.  Somehow, I did.  In fact, I ran reverse splits.  My slowest mile was the first, crowded one.  My fastest mile was mile 24, near the end!

At the race expo Saturday morning, I picked up a pacing arm band, which tells you what your time should be at a particular mile marker in order to have a particular finish time.  I almost picked up a 3:45 band, not trusting my training, but decided that I would give 3:35 a shot and try to PR.  I'm sure glad I did!
The volunteers had a tough, cold day, but were cheerful and helpful without fail!
I was more inwardly-focused during this race than I usually am; I didn't really talk to anyone, except to say hello to NTTR member Eunsup Kim, who I see at every race I run in.  But, as usual, I saw a couple of other runners who nearly stopped me in my tracks and made me thankful for two good legs and the ability to run.  One was a double amputee.  He ran on some of those prosthetic running blades.  I didn't stop and chat but was inspired by what must have been a huge effort on a difficult day.  A few miles later, I passed a wheelchair racer.  Just up the street was his cheering section with signs reading, "My husband is the stud on wheels" and "My dad is my hero--first wheelchair marathon" and that sort of thing. 

Besides running my best marathon time to date, the fact that I ran consistent splits and felt great throughout made this the most satisfying race I've run.  I guess I could always train harder, but I really wouldn't change a thing about my training, race day preparation, and pacing plan.  The only thing I would change would have been to lose those 20 pounds I have been meaning to lose.  How much faster could I have run without the extra weight to carry around!  I still love the trails, but come December 2012, you just might find me pounding the pavement of Dallas once again.

Bottom line: 3:33:51
462 out of 4530 overall
401 out of 2810 all men
83 out of 537 men 40-44
and best of all: Over the final 6mi I passed 285 runners and 0 passed me!




Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Yasso 800s and my WR prediction

The White Rock Marathon is only 11 days away.  This will be my 4th consecutive White Rock.  This morning I ran my last Yasso 800s leading up to White Rock.  Yasso 800s are an interval training workout that also serves as a predictor of marathon finish times.  (See my entry on Yasso 800s from this time last year here.)
This morning I averaged a 3:35 800.  The best thing about it is that if I leave out the first interval (I wasn't quite warmed up yet), intervals 2-10 ranged from 3:31 to 3:36.  I am encouraged by this consistency and by the strength of the latter intervals.  My normal pattern on intervals or tempo runs is to taper off with slower times at the end, and to be inconsistent in pace throughout. 

So based on the Yasso 800s philosophy, this should predict a 3:35 finish at White Rock.  This is actually pretty encouraging; my marathon PR is 3:35, set at White Rock 2009.  There are lots of factors, and Yasso 800 times are no guarantee, but I have been putting in more miles more consistently in the months leading up to WR  than I did last year.  (I'm at 87 consecutive days of running, and counting.)  Maybe, just maybe, I have another 3:35 marathon in me.  


Monday, November 21, 2011

Ultracentric at Lake Grapevine

I have been running in organized races for over 3 years now, so my volunteering at a race was LONG overdue.  I had absolutely no desire to run in the Ultracentric run, so I figured I'd spend a few hours there volunteering.  Lorrie, who hosts the NTTR trail runs, rounded up the volunteers and planned all the food.  I showed up for a few hours Saturday morning to help with food and registration.

The Ultracentric Experience is a timed run, with 48-, 24-, 12-, and 6-hour races.  Competitors run on a 2-mile loop as long as they can, as fast as they can.  The winner is the runner or walker who, at the end of the specified time period, has covered the most ground.  I didn't want to run because: 1. I ran in a timed race last year (Run from the Ducks, 8 hours) and decided that sort of race, running the same short course over and over all day, is not for me; 2. Ultracentric was run on pavement, with no shade; and 3. I ran the Rockledge Rumble the previous weekend and will run White Rock in 2 weeks.

When I got there, around 5 a.m., several of the 48-hour runners were plugging away, and some were sleeping, including one at the back of the food tent.  Shortly before 6, eventual winner Volodymyr Balatskyy hit 100 miles, less than 21 hours from Friday's 9 a.m. start.  He ended up with 208 miles, 68 more than the next competitor.  In the 24 hour race, Andy Thompson hit 90 miles, 6 miles better than the next runner.  The great part about is that at 61, he was older than all the others in the 24-hour race!

Special recognition goes to 11-year-old Isabella, who won the 6-hour race.  Apparently she and her dad travel all over the place running in races.  A fun bonding time for them.

I'm glad I was able to help out Saturday, and glad I wasn't running.  It was already getting warm and muggy when I left the event, shortly after the 9 a.m. start.  It must have been a long, hot day for the runners.  But I congratulate all those dedicated souls, thank Lorrie for her hard work, and commend Robert for putting on a unique event.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rockledge Rumble Race Report

Today the North Texas Trail Runners put on one of their flagship races of the year, the 16th annual Rockledge Rumble.  This race and NTTR are well intertwined in their respective histories.  As is the tradition, the Rumble is run around Veterans Day, with a theme of honoring America's veterans.

So starting with the most important part of the day, Tom Crull, race director, led us in the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, then introduced veterans who had come out for the race.  Today we were honored to be joined by veterans who served during WW2, one guy who returned from Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago, and many in between.  I can't help but be moved thinking about the sacrifices they and their families made serving our country, and thinking about the many men and women who don't come home.  And of course I remember my grandfather's proud service during WW2 and my father's service in the Navy.  Running a trail race seems so insignificant in light of their service, but the freedom to enjoy such hobbies and other pleasures of life is one reason they fight.  Thanks to all our veterans!
Granddaddy and Dad with the Mastin boys at Granddaddy's 95th birthday party.
I probably should have a picture of them in uniform, but I don't think I do.
I started out hoping to finish in under 6 hours.  I thought it was doable.  Two weeks ago I ran a little over 20 miles in 4 hours on the same course, so I figured if I could improve on that pace just a bit, I could do it.  I was on pace for a while, finishing 20 miles in about 3 minutes under 4 hours, and keeping that pace for another couple of miles to the 22 mile turnaround.  But after that aid station stop, starting out on the final loop, I knew I didn't have a 6 hour finish in me.  The first 22 miles, I averaged well under 12 minutes per mile.  The last 10 miles, I think I averaged over 15 minutes per mile.  Not so great.  So my finish was nearly 7 hours: 6:50:56 (39/76 overall, 13/15 40-49M).

Of course, trail running is not all about the times.  (At least for me; I know I'll never be a front runner, unlike Matt, who won the whole enchilada for the second consecutive year!  Way to go Matt!)  Trail running, for me, is about running in a beautiful setting and pushing my body harder than I normally do.
Lake Grapevine's north shore has awesome single track.  The shade was welcome today.
It's also about the people.  I got to run with Dave, who I run into frequently at these races and whose always interesting blog I read.  I ran into Andy from Abilene, whom I met at Run from the Ducks last year.  Mike was there, not running after having run at Cactus Rose 2 weeks ago, but his greeting at the finish was most welcome.  T. O. finished a few minutes behind me (he passed me late, then took a wrong turn), but while I will hardly be able to walk tomorrow, he'll probably be running the Fort Worth Marathon.  I finally met Dave from endurancebuzz.com face to face.  There were lots of familiar faces and friends.  The trail running community is a lot of fun to be around and at every race or club run I meet new folks and catch up with others.  All in all, a well-spent day!
Char and Fred, President and First Gentleman of NTTR.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire came out 30 years ago, but remains every bit as powerful today.  You don't have to be a runner to be inspired by Eric Liddell, the "Flying Scotsman," who set the world record in the 400 at the 1924 Paris Olympics.  Besides his highly esteemed character, his missionary work, other running feats, and rugby exploits, Liddell famously chose to forgo a chance to run the 100 meters, his best event, at the Olympics.  The qualifying heats for the 100 were run on Sunday.  He refused to compete on the Lord's day, so ran the 400 instead. 
Liddell winning the 400 at the Paris Olympics.

It's a moving story of one man's conviction and shows the real heart of a champion.  Even though I'm a Christian, and most Sundays you'll find me at church, I never have shared Liddell's conviction about Sunday.  At one point, as he's leaving church, a boy's ball comes across his path.  He gently chides the boy for playing on Sunday.  What?  Most of us don't spend all day at church, so why not spend the rest of the day playing?  I could almost see correcting the boy if he were chopping wood or something, but a pick-up soccer game hardly seems offensive to God.  I certainly have run on Sundays, even a few races, and have missed church because of Saturday races.  I'm quite sure I don't measure up to Liddell spiritually, but his dogmatic conviction about Sunday seems a little misplaced.

Charleson pretending to win the 400 at the Paris Olympics.
The running in the movie is fun to watch.  I'm more into long distance running, but that would make for a boring movie.  Liddell's sprints make for more interesting viewing.  Ian Charleson's portrayal of Liddell's passionate, no-holds-barred running style makes me want to go out for some hard sprints.  However, I don't think I have it in me.  Liddell's famous line from the movie is, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."  My version is, "God made me slow.  When I try to run fast I feel his mockery."  Here's a video of Liddell's finish in Paris.

 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rugged and Raw 20K race report

Saturday morning I returned to one of my favorite places to run, after too long an absence.  The trails along the north shore of Lake Grapevine are maintained primarily by mountain bikers, but they are prime trail running trails.  Over the last year, my trail runs have been on trails within a shorter drive from my house, but Saturday's run may have convinced me that the few minutes of extra drive time may be worth it.

Saturday's inaugural Rugged and Raw 10K/20K, sponsored by Back on My Feet--Dallas, served as a nice training run for Rockledge Rumble, coming up in 3 weeks, but based on some conversations I overheard, also provided an introductory trail run for some road runners.

I lined up for the 7:30 20K start with, I'm guessing, about 20-25 other runners.  I saw some familiar faces: Phil, with whom I ran at Lake Whitney earlier this year; Fred, whom I've seen at many races and who amazes with his finishes, including a sub-34-hour finish at the Wasatch 100 last month and a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim run this spring, all at the ripe young age of 62.  I knew I shouldn't try to keep up with Phil, so I let him go on ahead and fell in with the middle of the pack.  After a short run across the parking area, we immediately jumped onto single track.  Feeling good, I cruised along with the runners in front of me for a while.  A few minutes down the trail, I glanced down at my Garmin--I was running an 8:30 pace!  That's much too fast for me, certainly faster than I could maintain on these trails for 20K.

I let off the gas a bit and eventually fell in with a couple of other runners.  I ran with Teresa for a bit.  She runs in one of the BOMY running groups.  I enjoyed hearing her first-hand account of her involvement with the organization.  About half-way through, I ended up running with Brent, which was nice.  I let him set the pace, and I know he ran faster than I probably would have on my own, but I kept up with him, finishing in 2:08:58, second in my age group (out of 3!), 12th overall (out of 21 finishers).

Besides a nice run on a beautiful day on some terrific trails, this run and the whole mission of BOMY remind me of one of the great things about running: out on the trail (or street or sidewalk), everything else is stripped away.  We are not business owners and homeless people, flight attendants, medical professionals, and stock traders, single or married, rich or poor.  We are runners.  BOMY gives people who have ended up at a low point, either by bad luck or bad choices, a chance to participate in something that will not only build up their bodies and minds, but will give them a chance to interact with runners as runners, as people with people.  Thanks for the great morning, BOMY.  Run on!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Races coming up . . .


I've been a little light on racing this year, but I plan to rectify that soon.  If you follow my Daily Mile entries, you may have noticed I'm on a streak: 54 days in a row of running every day.  I've been following a training plan pretty closely, working toward Rockledge Rumble and White Rock.  Besides those 2, I have a couple more on the calendar.

This weekend is the Rugged and Raw 20K.  It's at Lake Grapevine north shore, same trails as RLR, so it will be a good warm-up run for the Rumble.  Plus, it's benefiting a cool charity called Back On My Feet, which starts running clubs for homeless people.  Check out their site and story.


Next is the Rockledge Rumble 50K, also at Lake Grapevine.  I have wanted to run this race, sponsored by North Texas Trail Runners, but if it's on a Baylor football weekend, I skip it.  This year Baylor has a road game on that day, at Kansas, so I'm running.  It's not the easiest place to run, but it should be considerably easier than the Toughest in Texas 50K I ran in Waco's Cameron Park last year.


I figured, since I'm going to be in shape for the Rumble anyway, and since I've run it the last 3 years, I might as well run the White Rock Marathon.  Yes, it's a crowded road marathon on city streets, pavement all the way, but going for 4 in a row, and trying to improve on my time from last year will make it fun.



For these first three, I'm signed up and ready to go.  Now I have to decide whether to sign up for a new race in the area, the Isle du Bois Trail Run at Ray Roberts Lake State Park.  This one was announced right after I signed up for White Rock, or I might have skipped WR altogether.  So, will I run WR, then 6 days later run the IDB 50K?  Or run the 10 mile?  Or should I go volunteer at an aid station?  Or just sleep in?  I don't know yet. . . .

As for 2012, I don't know that, either.  Will 2012 be my year to tackle a 100 miler?  Get another couple of 50 milers under by belt?  Hit a mountain run in the summer?  There are lots and lots of miles to be run. . . .

Monday, October 17, 2011

Runner? or jogger?

The other day when I was running in River Legacy Park, a popular mountain biking trail, a mountain biker approaching me on the trail called back to his buddy, "Jogger!"  I appreciate the consideration; I certainly don't mind mountain bikers being aware of me an not running me down.

However, his calling me a jogger irked me a little. . . . I wanted to holler back at him, Hey, I'm a runner!  I may not be moving very fast, but I am a runner!  I read Runner's World and Trail Runner magazines!  I'm a member of North Texas Trail Runners.  I sometimes shop at Fort Worth Running Company.

So what is the difference between running and jogging?  Here's what I found:

Merriam-Webster has two relevant definitions of jog: "a : to run or ride at a slow trot;  b : to go at a slow, leisurely, or monotonous pace."

And it defines run thus: "to go faster than a walk; specifically : to go steadily by springing steps so that both feet leave the ground for an instant in each step."

I do go faster than a walk, and normally both feet leave the ground in each step, but there's no denying that my pace is often slow, leisurely, or monotonous.  So by definition, I jog and I run.  Jogging is running slowly.  Running is like jogging, only faster.  I guess I need to get over it and admit that I'm a jogger.  And sometimes a runner.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Running America, with Marshall Ulrich

A few weeks ago, I posted a review of Marshall Ulrich's book, Running on Empty, the bulk of which covered his record-breaking coast-to-coast run.  Running America, a documentary about his run, presents a very different perspective from the book, visually capturing the trials and logistical challenges of such an attempt.

As Ulrich discusses in the book, he started this attempt not as a solo effort but with Charlie Engle, another ultrarunner with a long and impressive running resume.  Charlie dropped after a couple weeks, but stayed with the crew, riding his bike, speaking at several stops and participating with the crew.  Ulrich pressed on, completing the run in 52 and a half days.
Since Charlie was a main impetus behind the film--he had earlier done a film about his run across the Sahara with 2 other runners, Running the Sahara--he remained a focus of the film, even though he wasn't running anymore.  In Ulrich's book, Ulrich talks about the tensions with Charlie and the crew; that's not portrayed in the movie.  It's probably best not to immortalize that on film. . . .

The movie does have a positive spin that doesn't really come through in the book.  Shot during the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, the film spends a lot of time on a "one America" theme, interviewing onlookers and passers-by about being American.  This part didn't add much to the movie for me, and not only because I believe the result of the 2008 election was ultimately destructive for the U.S., but I would rather have focused on the physical demands and logistical details of Ulrich's run.

That criticism aside, Running America is a compelling story and a visual treat.  Runners will like it, and some non-runners might be inspired to get up and go.  We can't all run across the U.S., but we can all run farther than we think we can.

Friday, September 30, 2011

For mountain runners

I aspire to be a mountain runner, but I can't call myself one--yet.  In a recent reading of Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I ran across this quote, apropos of mountain running:

In the mountains the shortest way is from peak to peak, but for that route thou must have long legs. 

If only. . . . But I guess a mountain runner would say the fun isn't only at the peaks, but on all the ridges and valleys in between.

Happy running!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Karl Meltzer on The Human Express

Sunday night I happened to see The Human Express, a documentary about Karl Meltzer's run from Sacramento, California, to St. Joseph, Missouri.  To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express, Meltzer decided he would run the 2064-mile Pony Express route, something no one had ever done before.  The Human Express records the travails and triumphs of Meltzer and his crew as they follow this historic route.
No stranger to covering long distances, Meltzer has run the Appalachian Trail, and has won more 100 mile races than anyone.  But running 50 miles a day for 40 days has got to take its toll, right?  It would for most of us, but Meltzer seemed to gain strength through the run.  He took daily readings of his resting heart rate and other vitals, and, once he got stabilized after a couple weeks, his health seemed to improve.  Impressive.

I liked his comments on endurance and speed.  He said he doesn't do speed work, but trains for long races by running long distances.  It makes sense, but I have to wonder how well that translates to mere mortals like myself.  Meltzer lives and trains in the Rocky Mountains, so his daily runs must be hilly, rocky, at altitude.  If you're running on mountains every day, you probably don't need to worry about getting in some intervals on the track.  Still, his simple, high-volume, low-stress approach to training is appealing.

The Human Express served as a great commercial for the Hoka One Ones. These are the anti-minimalist running shoes, with so much sole they remind me of those moon shoes that kids wear.  I am a running minimalist, but the farthest I've ever run in my VFFs is 50 miles on trail.  Meltzer ran that much or more every day for 40 days on dirt and pavement.  The Hoka's almost cartoonishly wide soles and thick cushioning certainly made that pounding more tolerable.  His feet held up remarkably well through all that running.

Meltzer's run is an impressive accomplishment, one more to add to his unmatched running resume.  Here's a guy who loves to run, and has figured out how to get a corporate sponsor to pay him to do it.  More power to him!  I look forward to hearing about Meltzer's next insane distance feat.
That's a long, long way to run.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Holey VFFs and a custom pair

A year ago, I got a new pair of red and black VFFs (see here) after I wore a hole in the sole of my blue ones.  I finally started feeling a hole coming on my red ones, and this week it finally wore through.  I figured I must run more heavily on one side or the other, and pulled out my old ones to compare.  To my surprise, the hole is in the other foot.  The good news is, now I have a cool red and black and blue pair with no holes.  I figure since most of my runs these days are in the pre-dawn darkness, no one will be around to laugh at me for wearing mismatched shoes.
Kelly said I could make the full transition to barefoot running by wearing these until the sole is completely gone.  Hmm. . . . it's a thought. . . .
I know you're jealous of my one-of-kind, custom VFFs!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Lure of Long Distances, by Robin Harvie

If you've read my blog at all, you know I'm a sucker for running books.  I prefer the narrative/memoir books to "how-to" or training books.  The Lure of Long Distances is about as memoir-ish as they come.  I knew I could relate to Harvie on some level by the bio on the book jacket: After trying unsuccessfully to improve his marathon time, "he decided instead to see how far he could run before keeling over" and started running ultramarathons.  That's my story, too.  I started running seriously later in life, completing my first marathon at age 39.  Lots of running books talk about how our bodies start getting slower after 40, so I knew I'd never get too much faster.  I started reading about ultramarathons and decided that I may not be fast, but maybe I can last a long time on my feet.

Harvie was a younger man when he started running ultras, and has run much farther than I ever have.  The Lure of Long Distances covers his running history, primarily the year he spent preparing for the Spartathlon, the annual 152 mile race from Athens to Sparta.  He weaves in his training experiences, personal stories, reports from other races and runs along the way, anecdotes from history and modern running, and plenty of literary and poetic reflections.  He writes skillfully, putting together some beautiful and effective passages.
Harvie spent many hours running along the length of the Thames.
However, the overall product didn't turn out to be a very satisfying read.  All the well-written passages and stories flowed from one to another, kind of like the aid stations in an ultramarathon.  By the time you get to the end, you know there were some nice views and good conversations along the way, but they only fit together in the sense that they were part of one long race.

This is not to say I didn't like the book.  It was an enjoyable read.  But sometimes when I finish reading a book about running, I want to put my shoes on and head out the door right away.  This one made me sit back on the recliner and think about getting ready for bed.

The subtitle of the book, "Why We Run," is, in a way, a bit of false advertising.  Harvie sets out to discover why he runs, but it's up to us to find our own way.  He concludes, "Running is not about fitness, competition, or even other people.  It is simply about becoming a more sentient person, living . . .  a more authentic life." I'll buy that.  But I still ask myself sometimes, "Why am I doing this again?"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Running Man with a Plan

I have finally put together my training plan for Rockledge Rumble and White Rock.  Since WR is 3 weeks after RLR, I decided to treat RLR as my last long run before the marathon.  I used the training calculator on runnersworld.com, and am not completely happy with the result, but I think I can work with it.  The time goals are pretty ambitious, as I used my 2009 WR time (3:35) as the starting point.  It's been a while since I've run that fast.  I have also substituted a 3 mile easy run for the 2 rest days each week, in the interest of keeping up my streak (17 days so far).

With the ambitious time goals, I am sure I won't meet them, like today.  I set out to run a tempo run at a sub-8 pace, as prescribed here.  I knew I couldn't run that fast, so decided to shoot for mid-8's.  After a mile of that I was about out of gas, so I just finished 5 miles at an easier pace.  We'll see how intervals go next week.  I figure if I can get most of these miles in, at progressively faster times each week, I will do OK at these races.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Streaking

I have had a mixture of admiration and suspicion of people who say they have run every day for a long period of time.  I have been a firm believer in rest days.  But I wonder if a rest day has to be a non-running day?  After taking about 6 weeks of "rest days," I have been running every day for 10 days, trying to build my base back up.  I have been only running 5-6 miles per day at a pretty easy pace, with no long runs and no intervals.  So far, so good.  Now that I'm feeling better about my base, and with a couple of races on the calendar, I will definitely need to start in on some intervals and long runs, which may require a rest day.  But a rest day could mean a short jog around the block . . . .  I don't know how long I'll keep up the current streak.  30 days?  More?  One thing I'll promise: my streaking will be fully clothed.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Upping the ante: White Rock IV

I wrote the other day that I had signed up for the Rockledge Rumble in November to get myself back in training for racing mode.  I decided that even though I had sort of sworn off road racing, since presumably I would be in decent shape for the Rumble, I might as well pound the pavement with 30,000 of my closest friends 3 weeks later in Dallas.  Tomorrow the entry fee goes up $25, so I decided to take the plunge.

Now I really have to get serious about training.  For the last 2 years, I have run with the 3:20 pace group.  In both cases, I stayed with the group for the first half, then slowed down, finishing in 3:35 and 3:57.  I don't think I'll be able to get to a 3:20 pace by December, so on my race registration, I put in my predicted finish at 3:59.  Surely I can get in under 4 hours again.

I have a ways to go to even get that fast.  I have run 5 miles each of the past 3 mornings at around an 11 min/mile pace.  For a run like that, I should be running 8 or 9.  We'll see if I have it in me.  Cooler temperatures will help, as will quitting my Dr Pepper habit.

Monday, August 29, 2011

New race, new motivation

This is not a good pattern.  Shortly after the Toughest in Texas 50K in March, I went about 5 weeks without running.  Since the Capt'n Karl's 30K at Inks Lake last month, it's been about 6 weeks since I have run.  Not good.  I have to get back on a schedule.  When I put together a running plan in anticipation of a race, I don't always stick to it, but at least it gives me some goals and motivation. 

So last week I signed up for the Rockledge Rumble 50K.  I guess I'd better start logging some miles!  I am looking forward to the Rumble, the premier race put on by NTTR.  I have run many times at the north shore of Lake Grapevine, but never in a race.  It's only 12 weeks away, so I'd better work on a training plan and start putting in my miles!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Running on Empty, by Marshall Ulrich

If you have ever considered running across the country, or if you have ambitions of trying to set the record for running across the country, here's your cure: pick up Marshall Ulrich's Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America.  I do admire Ulrich.  How can you not?  He has accomplished all of the major ultramarathoning feats, and then some.  For instance, not content with simply winning the "world's toughest footrace," the Badwater Ultramarathon, four times, he decided to do it 4 times in a row!  He ran the course out and back and out and back, a total of 586 miles, non-stop.  His list of jaw-dropping, amazing running accomplishments is pretty long.
Ulrich complete Badwater one year totally self-supported, pulling this cart.
So it makes sense that he would aim to break the cross-country record.  Running on Empty chronicles that effort, with plenty of other stories about his running exploits and his life.  The first few pages surprised me and had me nearly in tears as he recounted his first wife's struggle with cancer and her death at age 30.  Horrible and tragic.  He attributes his running career in large part to his ongoing efforts to cope with his death.

The bulk of the text is, of course, dedicated to a narrative account of the cross-country run, from the steps of city hall in San Francisco to city hall in New York City.  It's a tale of misery, injury, fractured relationships, hardship, and excruciating pain.  Yes, there are highlights, short encounters with others along the way, and a great sense of accomplishment as he does break the masters and grand masters record, the third fastest time overall, 52 and a half days.
It's a long and lonely road from coast to coast.
If you are a runner, especially if you are an ultrarunner, and your friends and family think you're crazy (What?  You ran 50 miles in one day?  You ran in a race that started at midnight?  Your toenails fell off?), just give them a copy of Ulrich's book.  I can almost guarantee you that the craziest running event or accomplishment you have done pales in comparison to Ulrich.

Thanks to Dave at Endurance Buzz for the free book!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss

I'm not really one to be a hero worshiper, but in a lot of ways I would love to be like Dean Karnazes.  There aren't many people in the world who both love to run as much as he does, and can run as far as he can.  My longest races are a slow training run for him.  In his new book, Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss, Dean tells some funny stories of his running life, as well as reporting some of his race experiences (most of which are pretty funny, too!).  Just about anyone, runner or not, will be in danger of catching a bug for running after reading this.

Dean's not without his critics in the world of ultrarunning.  When his name comes up when I'm running with people, opinions will range from awesome to idiot.  Sure, some of his runs might be viewed as publicity stunts, but he's got enough wins and fast finishes in major races to be certifiably great.  He has completed Badwater several times, including a win, and has 11 silver buckles from Western States.  What more does the guy need to do?

When he's not running organized races, he runs forever just for fun.  That's what I like about his feats.  Sometimes he runs organized races, sometimes he runs on his own for a sponsor or charity, but many of his ultras are run alone, for the sake of the run.  This is a guy who sleeps little, needs little time for recovery, and is never as happy as when he's out for a long run.

I know I'll never be the runner Dean is (In spite of his repeated statements that he's just a regular guy, there's no question that the genetic lottery has worked in his favor.), but I want to be more infected by his joy of running.  He has made a life of it, and has included his wife, father, and children as much as possible.  If you don't know much about Dean, or if you have followed his career for years, you'll enjoy these stories.  And you'll have a hard time not going out for a run once you're done reading!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Shorter night at Inks Lake

As I posted the other day, I headed back to Inks Lake State yesterday for the Capt'n Karl's run.  As always, Joe Prusaitis and Tejas Trails put on a great race.  This one has really grown since I ran 2 years ago.  That race had 51 starters; last night there were 106 registered for the 60K and 144 registered for the 30K.  It made for a traffic jam at the park entry, and some parking issues, but the race organizers, park officials, and runners all handled it well.  
And, they're off!
I started out fully intending to go the distance for the 60K, knowing I would be slower than my last effort here, but ready to tough it out.  I did OK for 2 loops, but 1/2 way through the third 10K loop, I took a walking break that ended up being way too long, and I never really got going again.  After walking for while, I decided I was too hot, too lazy, too tired, too out of shape, too bored, and too under-committed to go 60K.  So I got to the start-finish and told Joe I was satisfied with 30K tonight.

The highlight was getting to meet Trey.  Last Sunday, when I ran with Don, he told me to look for his friend Trey.  "You can't miss him--he's the one with one arm."  Sure enough, just after the start, I saw him and introduced myself as Don's friend.  We ended up running together most of my race.  He's about as nice a guy as you'll ever meet, which isn't surprising, since the same could describe Don.  Once I started walking on loop 3, he took off.  I think he had held back for me a couple times, but he had a lot more in the tank than I did.
I tried to keep up with Trey but ultimately I couldn't do it.
Born with one arm, Trey is well accustomed to doing things with one hand (how about this: He played football at Sam Houston State and holds the school record for career blocked kicks!), but here's one he may not have encountered before.  At one point, his hand somehow had a collision with a cactus.  I helped him out, but I know next time I get a hand full of cactus, I'll be grateful for that second hand!

Even though things didn't play out as I had hoped, it wasn't a bad run.  The trails at Inks Lake are fun and challenging.  The moon, just a couple days past full, was beautiful.  It was hot (according to my car thermometer, 101 when I arrived at the park at 6, a cool 87 when I left shortly after midnight), but it could have been much hotter, and there was a bit of a breeze from time to time.  I don't know that I'll sign up for this race again, but I would love to come back and run these trails or hike them with my boys--only I think I'll wait until it's 40-50 degrees cooler. . . .

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Looking ahead to Inks Lake

It's hard to believe, but I have been maintaining this blog for nearly 2 years.  My first race report was for the Capt'n Carl's 60K at Inks Lake, August of 2009.  That was the longest race I had ever run (race report here).  I just read over that race report, and I fear I am not as fit as I was then.  Since I've been working days, I haven't been getting in the volume that I was at that time, and I've put on a few pounds.  I'm going back to Inks Lake this weekend, but I'm not sure I'll be able to match my time from 2009.  I am looking forward to it, though.  Look for a race report here in a few days!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nice Place to Run: Big Cedar Wilderness Area

I joined NTTR for another club run Saturday morning.  This is the biggest club run I've been too; over 30 people were there.  Some familiar faces, new faces, and, I later learned some I never saw!  It's a big trail system, so unless you happened by the aid table at the same time, it was easy to miss someone.

I know I have written this here before, but I may have found my new favorite trails!  Big Cedar Wilderness is on the property of Mountain Creek Community Church, which is on the highest elevation in Dallas.  The trails wind around for miles behind the church.  They're rarely flat, boast some pretty nice climbs, and you're treated to views of the surrounding area, including views of nearby Joe Pool Lake.

A hot spot for mountain bikers, some of the trails include jumps and obstacles designed for our two-wheel trail brethren.  But their presence didn't detract from our running.  On the contrary, they give us someone to blame trail litter on.  (Who dropped that empty Gu packet?  Must have been a mountain biker!)

So for hill training, pretty views, and shaded trails in the Texas heat, Big Cedar fits the bill.  I'll be back.

I pulled this picture from another web site.  I'll have to take my camera next time.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Taking recovery too far

Every runner knows you have to give your body a bit of time to recover after a race, a long run, or a particularly hard workout.  But my tendency sometimes is to use recovery time to indulge my laziness.

Case in point.  Last weekend I ran a 5K on Saturday.  I ran there and back, making my mileage total 26.3, surely enough to justify a recovery day, maybe 2.  So. . . .

Sunday morning: slept in.  Legitimate recovery.
Sunday night: went out for pizza, no running.
Monday morning: July 4!  Slept in, of course.  Maybe I'll run tonight . . .
Monday night: Nope.  Went to see the fireworks.
Tuesday morning: Nope.  Stayed up too late watching the fireworks.
Tuesday night: Nope.  Kelly was out, so I was alone with the kids.
Wednesday morning: Nope.  Too lazy.
Wednesday night: Nope.  Went out for Mexican food with Kelly's parents.  Too stuffed.
Thursday morning: I woke up one minute before the alarm went off, so I guess this morning's run was meant to be.

Laziness?  Lack of commitment?  Or my body's telling me it needs more time to recover?  I prefer the latter explanation, but I think the former has more explanatory power.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hope for the Hungry 5K

This morning, since I was at my parents' house in Salado, I decided to head over to Belton for the Hope for the Hungry 5K.  Hope has started these trail runs at their headquarters to raise funds for their ministry among the poor around the world.  I was not familiar with the organization until recently, when Danny Davis, an associate pastor at my parents' church in Salado and a long-time family friend, left his church position to go to work for Hope.  Check out their web site for details of their work: http://www.hopeforthehungry.org/.
I've known Danny since he was a baby.  I know I am on the short side, but we're on a slope here, so I'm not as short as it looks.
You may be wondering, "Paul doesn't run 5Ks, does he?  He only runs long trail races!"  True.  So I decided that to get my long run in, I would run to the race site.  The run there was nice.  I did hit a snag when my google map directions let me down.  That "bridge out" sign meant it!  So I had to backtrack and find my way there.  The run there was about 12.3, home was about 10.8, hot and slow.  Total mileage for the day, 26.3.  An ultramarathon!  (Barely!)

The race was a fun, 2-loop 5K through grassy fields, winding single track, and a little bit of dirt road.  Even with an 8 a.m. start, it was getting hot.  It would have been nice to have more shade, but we all need our vitamin D, right?  My goal was to come in under 30 minutes; I finished in 28:25.  I figure I could have run harder without my 12 mile warm-up.  I also thought I'd better hold back a bit so I wouldn't have to crawl home.  Still, I felt good about my pace and ended up second in my age group.

I met some nice folks.  Christian came out for his first 5K.  He's a sprinter, he said, so this longer distance was a challenge for him.  He did great, though, finishing a minute or so behind me, also second in his age group.
Christian, a fast 11 year old, ran a great first 5K.
Another runner had on a t-shirt that read "World Record Holder," so I had to ask what his record was.  Turns out he holds the record for most miles on a treadmill in 24 hours, over 160.  Sounds painful.  He also said he's getting ready to run Leadville and is training to qualify for the Olympics in the marathon.  More power to him!  (Here's an article about his treadmill record.)
I'll be watching for John's results at the Olympic trials!
I was home by lunchtime, was greeted by my kids and my nieces pelting me with water balloons, took the kids for a swim at the neighbors', and got to hang out with my parents and my sister and her girls.  All in all, a good day!
My cheering section on the way home.
Check out this awesome cactus tree!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel

Seeing this book and the subtitle, I was intrigued, yet skeptical.  If I follow my mind and run by feel, I will usually sleep in instead of run, and quit when I get tired.  I have a hard enough time meeting my goals without giving into laziness!  But Matt Fitzgerald offers up a slightly different way of thinking about training and running.

Reading Run made me realize that, while I have enjoyed reading many running books, the ones I enjoy most are the stories about people running, not so much the training or coaching books.  Run fits the latter category.  This book is directed at the serious runner, preferably one who has trained with a coach or a team.  Fitzgerald does give a nod to the casual runner at times, but the target audience seems to be the more serious running crowd.

That's not to say a back-of-the-packer like me can't benefit from his teaching.  To run by feel, run happy and confident.  Fitzgerald gives the example of Dean Karnazes, who loves to run long distances more than just about anyone, running for hours and hours just for fun (as well as to raise money and awareness as he did in his recent coast-to-coast run).  Then there's Haile Gebreselassie, who always runs with a smile.  (I reviewed a movie about him here.)  Confidence, Fitzgerald writes, comes from experience and training.  So, for instance, if my training runs have been at a certain pace, I have more confidence that I can run that pace in a race.

Fitzgerald seems not to be a fan of training plans, those schedules that tell you weeks ahead of time what you'll run on a particular date in preparation for a race.  However, unless a runner has a strong foundation from systematic training or coaching, or is one of that fraction of a fraction of a percent of us who is gifted with unusual speed or endurance, the running by feel plan will not get the runner race ready.  When we train with a plan or a coach, Fitzgerald would say that every day we need to be willing to alter or even eliminate that day's plan, depending on how we feel.

As a practitioner of minimalist running, I was heartened by Fitzgerald's embrace of minimalism.  He did dismiss the various stride training programs out there, like pose running and Chirunning, endorsing a simple change of footwear as a means to change stride:
The only common running technique flaw that exists at the level of gross motor coordination is that of overstriding, which is cause by the wearing of shoes and is best corrected primarily by addressing footwear, not by learning an entirely new way to run.  Indeed, I believe that if all runners ran barefoot, the various running technique systems would not exist. . . . Practicing running barefoot on grass, on sand, and/or on an at-home treadmill will get your neuromuscular system accustomed to making ground contact with a flat foot underneath the body's center of gravity.  Wearing the lightest, least cushioned running shoes in which you are comfortable in your everyday training will help you transfer your barefoot running form over to your shod running.
He claims that shifting to minimalist shoes changed his stride from heel strike to mid-foot strike and solved his runner's knee problem.  In fact, for running maladies in general, "eschewing pavement in favor of dirt is perhaps the most proven means of reducing injuries by reducing impact."

There's a lot of common sense in his book, and a lot of science.  But beginner runners need not apply.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My new running buddy. Not.


Last year we got a new dog.  He's a hyperactive poodle mix.  He runs around the house like a lightning bolt, jumps like he has springs in his legs, and always has tons of energy.  For grins, I decided to take him on a run.  I knew he wouldn't be able to make it for my usual 10K route, so I just set out for a mile around the lake.

Turns out he's more of a sprinter than a long distance runner.  He did OK for a few minutes, but began to slow significantly in less than a quarter of a mile.  I let him rest a moment, then proceeded to drag him while I ran a few hundred more yards.  He was trying to stop, so I picked him up and ran with him for a few steps before figuring out that was uncomfortable for both of us.  I put him back down and we continued around the lake, walking at a brisk pace.  Finally, after about 3/4 of a mile, he stopped.  Sat on the sidewalk and refused to move.  I picked him up and carried him the rest of the way home.  Oh, well.

Coco doesn't really get into posing for pictures.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Vibram Five Fingers Treks

I have been remiss not to give an update on my experience with my VFF Treks!  Short review: I love them!

You may recall that I had some not so great experiences with my VFF Trek Sports (read here).  I bought a pair of Trek Sports, and split a seam in less than 30 miles, got a replacement, and split the seam again in less than 30 miles.  I was pretty put out, but due to Vibram's generous return policy, I got my money back both times.  I finally found a pair of Treks and couldn't be happier with them.  Treks have the same sole as the Trek Sports and the same basic design, but they have a leather upper instead of the nylon mesh of the Sports.

So far, I have run a trail marathon (Cross Timbers) and a trail 50K (Toughest in Texas) in the Treks, plus a bunch of training runs on trails.  I don't know the total mileage, but they have held up well through it all.  I still love running in them, I just have to decide whether they will be sufficient for longer runs on rockier trails.  At the TnT 50K, when I was running with Joe P., I mentioned that I had met one of his Austin runners who was running in one of Joe's races in VFFs.  Joe's comment was, Yeah, but he hasn't finished those runs!  As comfortable as they are, they do lack the foot protection that many trail running shoes offer.  I may need to try another shoe for some of the runs on my calendar, but for shorter runs, and runs on trails that are less rocky, VFFs are the shoes for me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Quest for Adventure, by David Horton

Last year I wrote about the documentary The Runner, which followed Davd Horton's record-setting run of the Pacific Crest trail (my review here).  A few years before this effort, Horton set out to break the speed record on the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine.  A Quest for Adventure tells the story of his 1991 A.T. run, as well as his 3rd place finish in the 1994 Trans America race.  With daily dispatches from both runs, Horton and his co-author Rebekah Trittipoe give us a detailed account of what it took to finish both of these feats.

After watching The Runner, I was ready to lace up my shoes (or Velco up my VFFs) and follow Horton's footsteps on the trail.  The DVD has the benefit of both the visual element--the scenery was spectacular--and the time element--you get the whole experience in less than 80 minutes.  By contrast, after reading A Quest for Adventure, I was convinced that if I ever run or hike the Appalachian Trail, I will do it nice and slow, preferably in chunks.  And I don't think I ever want to run across the U.S. 

Horton does love to run, that's clear.  Unfortunately, the tone of Quest leans more toward pain, loneliness, and suffering.  Horton's wife was reluctant to send him away for the months the AT run would take.  He frequently speaks of how he missed her, of crying on the trail, of longing for home.  Some days he had someone running with him, but much of his time was spent running alone.  I'm sure the scenery was great, and the trails were great, but that paled in the misery of the long days (30-40 miles or more) day after day after day.  Even his finish in Maine seemed anticlimactic. 
OK, I've run the whole trail and set a new record.  Can I go home now?
At least the AT run was on nice trails and had a view.  The Trans America race was pretty much all pavement, with some nice views, at times, I'm sure (we live in a vast and varied nation with some beautiful sights to see), but running on the road all that time had to be a drag.  Some was on the shoulder of the interstate, some was even on highways with no shoulders, with 18 wheelers blasting by!  Plus, there was very little drama here.  After the first few weeks, the top spots were separated enough that the best the runners could do was to maintain their place.

Please don't hear me saying that I minimize or belittle the accomplishment of running across the U.S. or setting the AT record.  But I'm left asking, Why?  Horton, a Christian who teaches at a Christian university, speaks frequently about glorifying God in his accomplishments and relying on God's strength and provision.  He said he felt the prayers of his many friends and acquaintances who were praying for him, and he sensed God's answers to his prayers along the way.  I was reminded of the time I was deep into a 50 miler and asked God for his help to finish strong.  I clearly heard God laugh at me and say, "I never asked you to sign up for this race!  You're on your own, buddy!"  (OK, so maybe that wasn't really the voice of God. . . .)
During the Trans American run, David paused at the crossroads of the AT and the Trans America course.
Horton did give an idea of what a production each of these runs was.  In both the AT and the Trans Am, he had dozens and dozens of people crewing for him at one time or another.  And he doesn't go into a lot of detail about the expense, but it sounds like it definitely took some careful planning and budgeting to make these happen.  On the AT, he even washed dishes and cleaned to pay for some of his lodging!

The other striking thing is that he grew stronger through each run.  Rather than wearing him down, the daily runs built up his conditioning, so that he was running as strong, if not stronger, near the end as at the beginning!  Clearly, this type of feat is nor for everyone, but it seems to agree with Horton.

A Quest for Adventure may not be the most beautifully written or profound book you've ever read, but as a journal of 2 remarkable runs, and as a resource for those who want to take on such a challenge, it's worth a read.

More info on the book here: http://www.extremeultrarunning.com/quest.htm.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Justice Run done

Saturday I ran in the Justice Run at church, which I mentioned here.  I did a poor job of recruiting pledges, overestimated my readiness to put in big miles, and underestimated the heat factor.  In spite of that, we had a good time and raised some money to rescue young girls from the sex slave industry.

I started the day early, rising before 5 to leave the house and run to church.  I took an indirect route and got in about 15.5 miles before I got to church.  I took it slow and easy, maintaining a 10:30-11:00 pace, so I would have plenty in the tank for the run itself.  I got to the church with a half an hour to spare to get registered and rehydrated for the run, which was scheduled to start at 8:30.  I was waiting around for the start before I realized there wasn't really a start, just an open invitation to run whenever you want, so I took off a few minutes after 8:30.

I still ran pretty slowly, taking time to visit with friends who were running and to tarry at the aid station.  This was certainly more social than competitive, and many of the participants weren't runners, so there was a variety of paces and a lot of walking on the course.  It was nice meeting a new friend from NTTR, who came with 2 of her friends and her daughter.

After a few one mile loops, I realized I did not want to keep running in the heat to hit my 50K goal, nor did I think I could finish before 11:30, the stated stop time.  So I quit at 11:30 after having run 11 1-mile laps, bringing my day total to about 26.75 miles.  It wasn't a certified course, but using my Garmin mileage I'm putting it down as a marathon-distance run--a very slow marathon run!

Sorry, no pictures.  I should have at least taken a couple.  Many thanks to David Moore who organized the run, and especially to Kelly's parents for sending me my one and only pledge--and a generous one at that!  (If you still want to contribute, you can!  There are plenty of slaves needing redemption!)