Monday, February 28, 2011

2011 (feeling) Green Hope (I don't puke) 5K

Saturday morning started with Shannon dry heaving in the bathroom.
It's normal for people to puke at the end of a 5K, but usually not before the race even begins.

It was 15 minutes before the race started, so I got our bibs and hurried down to the bathrooms by the track at the high school.
"Are you OK? You really don't have to run this if you're sick"
Shannon can be suborn though, "No! I did this to myself, I am going to do it"

The night before we had gone out to celebrate the sale of Shannon's house with beer and pizza. Normally Shannon does not drink much, because half of a light beer will get her drunk. But trying to sell the house had been a long and painful ordeal, and she wanted to party.

But the pizza place only had IPAs on draft, too bitter for Shannon.
"Have the barley wine", our friend Lori recommended, "it's sweet".

It's also very potent, because one glass left her with a bad hangover. "I can feel the alcohol seeping out of my pores" she moaned.

But she lined up with me at the start of the Green Hope 5K anyway. This was race was our benchmark test going into the Umstead Marathon this Saturday. We did this same 5K the week before Umstead last year, so I thought we could use it set our goals for the marathon this year.

I did not feel recovered from Uwharrie, but I was still hoping to at least match my time from last year.
Shannon was just hoping to make it the whole way without throwing up.

The gun went off and I was surprised to feel pretty good. Our friend Tim Gautreau jumped out in front and was never challenged, winning the race despite being in a boot for the last few weeks.

I paced myself with my Garmin, keeping it just under a 6 and staying just behind 3rd. But at the mile 2 mile marker, I realized the watch was off and I was 12 seconds behind schedule.
The last mile is a nice downhill, finishing on a track, so I pushed as hard as I could.

Coming around the last turn, I began to feel green myself, with the contents of my stomach roiling up. The clock was already at 18:45, and I had missed my goal by a long way so I decided to retain my breakfast and jog it in. I ended up 26 seconds slower than last year, which is not a good sign for Umstead.

Shannon wasn't far behind.
"How was it? Did you get sick?", I asked
"No! I felt great. 21:14, 20 seconds faster than last year!"

Crap. Obviously I did not drink enough. Further proof that hangovers make you faster.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Photo Contest Update

"The Feeling of Flying"
Jaclyn Kolev

The entries to our photo contest are starting to trickle in. While the quantity is low (five) the quality is fantastic.

Here is a link to the current entries.

I absolutely love the one above. That "Feeling of Flying" is an experience that is impossible to explain to a non-runner. It does not come often enough for me, but it is one of big the reasons why I run.

In stark contrast to "The Feeling of Flying", local running phenom Frank Lilley submitted a photo that invokes the  feeling of swimming. It's interesting that both images demonstrate the same activity.

"Uwharrie Stream Crossing"
Frank Lilley

This is from the Uwharrie 40 miler. What makes this photo especially great is that the runners missed the left turn and are actually going the wrong way. The Uwharrie course has a wonderful sense of humor.

"A Dusting Over Tanawha"
Brandon Thrower
The photo above was submitted by someone unknown.
Submitted by mountian runner Brandon Thrower, showing "The Tanawha Trail (part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail) winding through an open meadow with Grandfather Mountain in the background."
Ah, I'd love to disappear into that horizon on long, long run.

If you can do better, send in your photos. Cold hard cash, bragging rights, and international fame can be yours!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Boston Marathon Registration System

In case you have not heard yet, The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) announced a change in its registration process for the Boston Marathon.

In order to avoid the chaotic registration frenzy that occurred last fall, they have created a new tiered system, forming runners into different groups or "castes" based on qualifying time. Each group has it's own separate registration date.

As you can see below, the BAA used the Indian Caste System as a model for this new registration process.
Indian Caste System

Check below to see which group you now belong to find your registration date:

The new Boston Marathon Registration System

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 Godiva Geezer Pleezer

The Geezer Pleezer is part of the Carolina Godiva Track Club Winter Series.

I love this race, and I think there should be more like this. The playing field is leveled with age and gender handicap head starts. You results highlight some truly impressive athletic performances by the older runners.

Shannon took her camera running again, and got these shots from along the course.
Heiko's photos are here.
This is really a fun race. You don't need to be a Godiva member to run it, and it's only $5. So come on out and give it a try next year.

Since it was only 4 miles, I pushed as hard as I could, and I think scared some people with my grunting and groaning.
But even with an extra 45 seconds head start, I was still slower than last year. Hopefully it is just the fatigue.
Looking back at my running log, I discovered that this was the first time I have run under a 7 minute pace since the Turkey Trot 3 months ago. Hmmm. I guess that's what trail running will do for you..

Ug. Better start training for Umstead!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

2011 Groundhog Gallop

Worth risking injury
Yesterday Shannon and I headed out to the Groundhog Gallop.

Some Race photos here from On The Mark Sports.
Shannon's Photos are here, which of course, she took while running.

We had signed up because our friends Iris and Josh would be there, and a trail half is my favorite type of race.

It might seem excessive and somewhat stupid for us to sign up for a race just a week after an ultra.
But during the week everything fell into place: We finished washing loads of clothes we had worn before, during, and after the Uwharrie, we finally got around to hosing off our shoes, and I was actually walking normally by Thursday.

Of course, trying to race too soon after a hard marathon or an ultra is a good way to get injured. So we vowed to to take it easy and not push too hard.

That was before we saw the cool little Groundhogs given away as age group awards. They were definitely worth rupturing a tendon or two.

Ultra Brad 
As I walked up to the registration table the volunteer was holding out 2 bibs for me. I was severely confused for a good 3 minutes, because I hadn't told him who I was yet. But finally I realized it was Ultra Brad, who is usually kicking my ass in a race, and not behind the table.

We also ran into elite ultra runner Annette Bednosky who was there to practice running short races like half marathons. seriously.

Aline, freezing, but smiling

The race started promptly at 9:23am. I say prompt, because that was actually 7 minutes before the posted 9:30 start time. We were very lucky today, because usually 7 minutes before the start time is when we are pulling into the parking lot.

I ran the first couple miles with Barefoot Aqua Josh, discussing 19th century Russian literature (he just would not shut up about Vasily Zhukovsky!), while Shannon ran ahead of us.
The first mile was on the road, and then we followed a group of people down the trail onto a little wooden deck with no exit. We were trapped there a good 30 or 40 minutes, running in tight circle until someone found the exit.

The Watch
Back on the trail, I noticed a Garmin Forerunner laying in the mud.
"Hey a garmin", I pointed. Then I stepped over it, because I am thoughtless bastard.
Apparently it was some sort of morality test that I had just failed, because the watch was actually mine. I'll explain shortly.

I saw Shannon pulling farther ahead, and started to get agitated. She had been lording her giant 1st place Uwharrie trophy over me all week and I couldn't let her beat me. So I told Josh I was going to try to catch her, and sped up.

"Hey, how are you feeling?", I asked when I finally caught her.
"Terrible. I fell really hard.", she said. She had banged her knee pretty bad, adding more scrapes and bruises on top of the ones she acquired last week.

"I lost the Garmin too, it popped off when I fell.", she said.
"Crap! I saw it and stepped right over it. I'll get it on the next loop!"

On the next loop, I stopped and looked for it. But it was gone.

Josh, the good samaritan that he is, had been right behind me and picked it up. He turned it into the race organizers after his first lap. The watch reported that Josh ran an impressive 8:11 for his 5th mile, and was, in fact, morally pure.
Still works! 

The Water
Shannon provided more entertainment on the second loop, which was captured by the race photographer from On The Mark Sports. There is a stream crossing on the course, which presents a choice.
You can be hard-core and run through the icy stream, or be a delicate princess and lift up your dress as you tiptoe over the rocks.

That's me in the hat tiptoeing over the rocks. I was terrified of getting my feet wet and ruining my pedicure.
My lovely wife Shannon splashes through the water, while taking my picture.

Apparently someone at the aid station there suggested that if she got her hair wet, she would be awarded one of the little ceramic groundhogs.

So despite the 37° temperature, she took a swim. She said just did it for the groundhog, but obviously she was mocking me for taking the rocks.

Iris fished her longest trail race ever with a smile on her face, but failed to finish last.

The post race food included some wonderful chili, which I scarfed 2 bowls. 

A good time was had by all. Shannon and I both scored the coveted groundhogs without having to sacrifice any body parts. Though I think we placed in our age groups because most of the fast people were still in the bathroom when the race started early.

I would recommend this race to anyone. Though if you see a watch on the ground, please pick up. It's probably mine.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The boy who cried "OW!"

I complained all last week about being injured, and many of you offered your sympathies and condolences. Thank you.

But then I went ahead and completed the Uwharrie 40 miler.
People have pointed out that this is a recurring pattern on this blog;
I complain about being injured, but then run a race and perform well.

This appears to be pre-race nerves or "taper madness" or sandbagging.
So from now on, I will try to avoid complaining about my aches and pains unless I have photographic proof, like a bone sticking out.

But let me just rant about them one last time, and then I will shut up and stick to race reports.

Listen to Your Body
As a runner, you often hear the advice "Listen to your body".

For most of my running life, I did not heed this advice. Instead I would listen to Runners World, doctors, shoe salesmen, and physical therapists.

My knees would swell up with the message "Hey moron, quit over-striding!".
But I would silence them with ice bags, and start stretching my hamstrings.. 
In turn, my hamstrings would become inflamed and painfully shout:
 "Ahhgg! Quit over-stretching!"
But I would drown the cries out with Ibuprofen.

It took years, but eventually its message got through, and what my body was saying made perfect sense.
I ditched the ice, Advil, stretching, orthotics, and extra-cushy shoes. I started taking small steps.

I started listening it, and it rewarded me with a couple years of  healthy and happy running. It would tell me when I was overdoing it and I would rest.

Your Body may be Full of Shit
But one day last summer something strange happened. I developed an acute pain in my left quad.
It felt exactly like the pain you get at mile 26 of a marathon, except this was mile 3 of an easy run.
I turned around and gimped home, baffled. Two days latter the pain was completely gone, so I tried to run again I made it 16 miles without a hint of pain. Strange.

Then it happened again. In my foot, my back, my Achilles.  My body started cursing and screaming spontaneously and nonsensically. They felt like real injuries, but I love running so much that I ran anyway.
And miraculously the pain would disappear as mysteriously as it had come.

It seems that my body has developed Turrets Syndrome.

Maybe it is the excessive abuse I have inflicted on it that has caused it to go a little nuts. 
In any case, I will stop relaying these babbling aches and pains. Unless of course we get some good pictures of that bone sticking out.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2011 Uwharrie Mountain Run

This is continued from my somewhat unnecessary prologue here.

Here are some other good race reports from the day: Brittany ZaleAlicia ParrBrandon ThrowerKristi B, Sean Butler, and Frank Lilley.

Pictures that Shannon took during the race are here.
There were 260 that we edited down to 200.

Stalled out
We left the house at 4am and made the 2 hour drive to Uwharrie. The weather was standard issue for this race: 33°F, pouring rain.
We were about 9 miles away from the race parking, driving on a dark back country road, when I tried to pass a slow moving semi-truck. I say try, because as we were passing our car stalled out next to the truck.
The truck drove away, and we were stopped dead in the wrong lane. The car would not start again, like it was out of gas, though the gage said I had half a tank. "Uh. Now what?"

I got out and pushed the car into someones driveway as oncoming traffic dodged us. For a moment, I thought we would miss the race and I actually felt relieved. I was being spared from a day of slowly limping through the forest in the freezing rain.

Shannon flagged down some other 40 mile runners who were driving by and were gracious enough to stop and help. But we didn't need a ride, because the car mysteriously started again, and we were back on our way.

Alison serving up breakfast

Poor Frank got attacked by Big Foot.
Shannon stopped and gave him a hug.

Finally we made it to the Church parking. There was nice warm building with breakfast and bathrooms, where everyone made their last minute preparations. We said hi to everyone, then caught a shuttle to the start area.

The start area was cold, muddy, and dark. 
The rain continued to pour as we stepped out of the van into the mud of the start area.
By the time I got my drop bag organized the sticker label with my number on it was soaked. Some helpful folks gave me some pins to pin it to the bag. At first I was concerned it would fall off, but then I remembered I probably wouldn't make it to the turn around anyway.

Ultra Brad took second place once again.
We lined up at the start, where Shannon took pictures and race director Kim warned us of ongoing military exercises and Bigfoot sightings in the forest. I kissed Shannon good luck, and remember thinking that she should move further back behind the faster people.

But it was really me who should have moved back. When we hit the trail, I slowed to a walk up the steep hill and was passed by 5 or 6 guys. After the first mile, I started actually running and waited for the pain to come.
But it didn't. That strained muscle that had been bothering me all week had amazingly healed just in time.
I felt a small twinge when jumping over a log, but that was it.

Still, I was unsure of how far I would make it. My last successful long run was the Faust Marathon back in November, and I had to sell a tendon to the Devil just to finish that. And since then, I have twice had to quit runs and walk home limping because of that tendon.

So I tried to take it easy and not push myself too hard. I walked up the steep hills and hoped my legs would hold up.

Alicia Parr Crumpler, past 20 mile winner

Grace Wallenborn, 40 mile winner in 2009,
poses in a stream crossing

Shannon got a picture of almost everyone she passed.
This was one of the guys who stopped to help us when our car stalled in the morning.

Around mile 19, Trailhead Goofus played the harmonica and banjo.
Going to Uwharrie,
Fall on my face,
Going to Uwharrie,
Run a race,
Going to Uwharrie,
Break my neck,
Going to Uwharrie,
Run like heck

Shannon stopped and took a video too:
Someone else got another video here.

Too Fast
I got to the turn around in 3:31. I was so happy that my legs had made it that far. I chugged an Ensure, stuffed my pockets with skittles and ditched my fuel belt into the drop bag.

Shortly after I left, I ran into Shannon. She was less than a mile behind me, and the second place female.
"Are you crazy?!", I scolded her, "Your going too fast!"
But she was smiling ear to ear, "No! I feel great!", and gave me hug and kiss.
The exact same thing happened last year, when she bonked pretty bad. I assumed the same would happen again.

Organ Donor
My average pace was 10:40 at that point. I had to get it below 10:30 to make it under 7 hours and gain entry into the coveted Organ Donor club.

So I started taking the downhills as fast as I could, flying down them, bounding with huge strides.
I knew I was beating my legs to a pulp, and possibly ruining my races for the next couple months.
But my legs would heal eventually. Organ Donor would be forever!

I managed to get the pace down to 10:28, but at about mile 36 I was jumping over a log and I felt a twinge in my left calf. "Oh no"
This is the same calf muscle that popped off and ran away during the Umstead Marathon last year, and denied me my sub-3 in Detroit. I just had 4 miles to go!
Hoping to stave off the dehydration, I grabbed a cup of HEED at the aid station at 38, tilted my head back and dumped it all down the front of my shirt.

Stalled Out Again
I was 2 miles from the finish line, and I still had 24 minutes to get there. 12 minute miles? No problem!
"I'm going to make it!"
But then I hit the last hill. I didn't notice it on the way out, but coming back it seemed as steep as the side of a building. My left calf was about to pop off, so I could no longer use it to push up. I had to climb using only my right leg.

I watched the minutes tick away as I inched ever so slowly up. If I could just get to the top, I could fall down the other side to the finish, but it seemed to never end. Even though I was breathing laboriously, I started to get very cold, and my arms started to tingle like blood was no longer flowing to them.

I was moving so slowly that I actually considered crawling on my hands and knees because it would be faster. Finally! I got to the top with about a mile to go and 10 minutes left. I started to ramble down the other side...
But no, it was a false summit. The trail turned and continued to climb. This is where Uwharrie broke me.
I stopped.

Trailhead Layna "Willow" Mosley
2010  40-mile winner
Invisible Rope
Meanwhile Shannon was a few miles behind running with Willow, who was helping pace Shannon through the last tough miles. Shannon asked her to run ahead and pull her with the "Invisible Rope".

Must be some mistake
Realizing I wasn't going to make it under 7 hours, I stopped and rested for a minute. Only the thought of hot soup drove me forward again, and I gimped up and down that last rocky mile, finishing in 7:05.

I must have looked terrible, because Kim the race director seemed very concerned, "Are you OK?"
The soup was wonderful, and I was so happy to have finished.
I went to the radio tent to check on Shannon's progress. The ham radio operators keep a huge chart to track the runners as they pass through each aid station. This is in case someone gets lost out there.

I looked up Shannon's number and it said she had already passed the 38 mile aid station.
"That's gotta be a mistake", I said to myself. She was on pace to break 8 hours. I kept rubbing my eyes and double checking the chart.
"First female has not come in yet", I heard someone say.

I got my camera out, and look who comes down the hill in 7:51:03

My jaw hung agape. I was in awe.
"Oh my God. You won. I can't believe it! And you made Organ Donor!"
Somebody there whispered to me "say you knew she could do it!"
But that was not true at all. I would have laughed at the suggestion. I had doubted her every step of the way.

Another Shelf
So now I am facing injury yet again, as I have to build Shannon another massive shelf to house her giant 1st place finisher award vase.

Our roles have now reversed. Now she is the trail runner, and I am the one trying not to cry.

Monday, February 7, 2011

2011 Uwharrie Prologue

I had been preoccupied all last week about me.
"What the hell is that muscle, and why does it hurt so bad?"
"Will I be able to run the Uwharrie 40, which I have been looking forward to for a year?"
"Could, I, (gasp) become an Organ Donor"?

The answers to these questions have been rendered trivial, eclipsed by what Shannon did on Saturday.
In order to appreciate her accomplishment I have to provide some context. Sorry this is so long. I will do the actual race report tomorrow.

In the beginning...
When I first met Shannon, she was an accomplished runner, having done many races including a few marathons. But she only ran on roads. In contrast, I only ran on trails.

So Shannon (and my sister) got me into running road races, while I talked Shannon into running trails with me.

She did not enjoy trails at all. In fact, they made her upset, "I hate this! This sucks!"
She compared everything to the flat roads of Chicago. She hated even the idea of hills and tripping hazards.
"Why would you want to run where it is hard?"
One time I was running Company Mill with her, offering advice and encouragement, but it just made her mad.
"Can you go away? This is really hard! I hate that it is so easy for you."
After that, I ran the trails alone.

Trail Love

She would still run trail races with me however, just because I was doing them. She would usually fall and end up with "trail love", and sometimes she would cry. She would never give up though, and never turned down a trail race.

In fact she managed to complete the Uwharrie 40 last year, though she fell and hurt her leg crossing a stream, and then had to stop for a while for soup and hot chocolate. She vowed never to do it again.

Shannon running Uwharrie in 2010
Love Trails
But when it came time to sign up for 2011, she didn't want to be left out.
I told her that if she wanted to learn to enjoy trail running, she would have keep running on trails until they did not feel hard anymore, and that's what she did.

The past 6 months, we did many miles out on Company Mill and Sycamore in Umstead. Her 12:00 minute pace dropped to 11:00, and then she pushed it under 10:00. She started to get excited about Uwharrie.

Out of her League
My goal for the Uwharrie 40 was to go "Organ Donor" which is under 7 hours.
Shannon said her #1 goal was "to not cry".
But she was also peeking at the entry list to see the other women running it.
"Don't even think of placing in Uwharrie", I scolded her, "There are past winners of the 40 and 20 running it. These are hard core ultra runners, they are in whole different league than you. Don't try to run with them, just run a realistic pace for yourself."

Injured by Resting
The Saturday before the race I needed a rest day so I decided to finish a project in the garage.
I built this massive (8' x 7' x 2.5')  set of shelves to house Shannon's collection of framed photographs.

Now, the only exercise I ever get is running, and every unrelated muscle has long since atrophied away.
So it is no surprise that as I was moving the shelves into place, I strained a muscle on the inside/back of my leg.

Trail Running is My Thing
I forced a run on Sunday, but Monday I was hobbling around. It was painful to bend down, walk up the stairs and get in and out of my car.
"How the hell am I going to run 40 miles if it hurts to walk to the mailbox?"

My only hope was that somehow it would not hurt to run. So I took a test run for a mile on Thursday night, but it was painful from the first step. The muscle was swollen, and kind of flapping around. There was no way I could run it, I had to drop out.
I told Shannon "I'll still go. I can drop you off at the start, and volunteer"

"No. Trail running is your thing, this was your race", she said, "I don't have to run it, we can stay home. I don't want you to have to be there all day, feeling bad about missing it."

Of course I wouldn't let her do that, after all the training she had done. I knew she really wanted to run it, but my dropping out was putting a damper on things.
"Wait and decide tomorrow", she said.
And miraculously when I woke up Friday morning, my leg felt much better.
"What the hell. I'll see how far I can get!"
So I went and bought a pair of compression shorts, thinking it would hold the muscle in place, and we started packing our bags...

Continued here:  Uwharrie Mountain Run race report.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Uwharrie 40 vs. Blue Ridge Marathon

Continuing my Uwharrie preview, here is a some perspective.

Uwarrie regulars consider the hills to be tough there. But lets compare it to some wimpy road marathon, like the nearby Blue Ridge Marathon in VA:

Added note: And this is just the 2010 course. They added yet another huge climb for 2011.

Google-Earthed course map:

Of course, at Blue Ridge you probably wouldn't find your self in this situation:

Photo by Jason R. Rose (found it on facebook)

And of course we compare them both to pikes peek:
Whatever. Sorry, my heart isn't into this, because it looks like I'll have to sit out the race because of this strained muscle. I tested it out last night by running a mile, and the result was me repeatedly screaming "FUCK" down the street.
On the plus side, I have now cemented my status as "the weirdo" in my neighborhood.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Superfluous Uwharrie Mountain Run post

I see people searching the internets for "Uwharrie course map" and other things, so I thought I would post some stuff. Of course, everything you need is at the official Uwharrie Mountain Run website, so here is some redundant and superfluous info.

Course Map
The course is entirely on THE Uwharrie Trail. There are many trails in the Uwharrie National (Pile O'Rocks) Forest, but "The Uwharrie Trial" is 20 miles long, runs mostly North/South, and has few intersecting trails.

So really, the only thing you need to know about the course is this:

Trail Blaze
Follow the blazes (white paint blotches) on the trees. If you see 2 blazes, that means the trail turns ahead.
Maybe left, maybe right, and sometimes not at all.
If you don't see any blazes, stop. Walk backwards until you see one. People often loose the trail, so don't feel bad if you do.
You will not see any other course markings or mile markers. Ignore the yellow blazes.

If you really need a map, here you go:

Fun with GPS
I found some GPS recorded tracks from people who ran the 40 Miler in 2008 and 2009:  weezyl, loomdogruns, chickdhc. Hopefully they know their Garmin data is public. The one from Weezyl shows that he did it in 6:37, so obviously he was riding an ATV or a mountain goat (Thanks Joe!)

Here is the Google Earth KML track. With this you can plot the course on a satellite map and get this:

Not too exciting or informative. But if you play around with the perspective and crank up the elevation x3 you can make it look like it traverses actual mountains. This helps inflate our ego to "hard-core mountain runner" status.

Elevation Profile
Next is the obligatory elevation profile:
This profile is made by putting a Garmin track into GPS visualizer, using USGS data. So it is accurate.

Here is what we learn from this:
  • It does not even reach 900ft. So it is a "Mountain" run in name only
  • It does goes up and down a lot. (About 8200 ft worth)
  • There are some steep (30%) climbs, notably the very start and around mile 16.
  • The 8 milers miss out on that "flat" section between 10 and 13.
Of course, this needs to be put in perspective. so lets compare it to an actual mountain race.

Next up:

Comparing the Uwharrie Mountain Run to the Blue Ridge Marathon.

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