Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Do I Think About in a 24 Hour Race?

One question about running I get asked a lot is, "What do you think about when you're running 24 hours?" I usually answer this the same way each time......the first twelve hours are about hydration, food, and pace. That is the focus of my every thought for the first twelve hours. No thoughts of quitting or how many hours I have left to run. THEN I tell them...the last twelve hours are a constant argument with myself to keep running. I usually lose that argument at some point:) However, that didn't happen in this race. Why? Well, I came up with the ultimate argument that couldn't ever be defeated.

Now I'm going to get very serious for a second. If you don't already know, I spend a lot of time praying during my races and this race was no different; however, when I starting feeling tired, or my feet/legs hurt, the one thing that came to my mind was the pain Jesus must have endured before, during, and after he was nailed to the cross. I knew without a doubt, that the pain I was feeling didn't even measure to the pain Jesus must have felt. So, I kept telling myself that the pain I was feeling wasn't significant and therefore wasn't a reason to stop running. This single argument was enough to run every step of this race except on my victory lap.

Jesus was the sourse of my strength. My pain became something I was very comfortable with....only because of Him.

"Through Him all things are possible." Phil 4:13

Saturday, January 19, 2013

House Money

This was hands-down the best ten days of my life. After finding out that I made the 100k team only four weeks before the race, the city of Modesto was a buzz of excitement. I had a front page article in the Modesto Bee highlighting my achievement, followed by a request to do a daily blog, which would be run in the paper while I was in Italy. The school where I teach, Prescott Middle School, was well aware of my upcoming race thanks to my highly supportive staff, which talked publicized it whenever possible.

Remember, just three months prior, I was the second alternate for the 100k Team and without a good running result in almost a year. The last three months came out of no-where in my mind. Everything was happening so fast. It seemed like a fantasy, but when that huge box from USATF arrived, it all became real. Holding up that USA jersey and realizing that I would be wearing this in just a couple of weeks raised up the hair on the back of my neck.

The highlight of the Italy experience was planning and spending the first seven days together with my wife sightseeing. I didn’t think much about the race during this time. How could you when you are taking a tour through the Vatican or climbing the steps in the Coliseum? We will have those memories to share for the rest of our life.

Our sightseeing would soon end and bring us to Serengo, Italy and the start of the race. The team would be staying in a mountain retreat outside of Serengo part way up the Alps. It was absolutely beautiful! On two occasions it actually snowed. I know the accommodations were much like what you would find in a college dormitory setting, but we did not mind. We both soaked up the whole experience and made friendships that would last forever.

Even the numerous transportation issues, which led to my late arrival to the flag ceremony, did not dampen my spirit. I was playing with house money in my mind; therefore, I was just happy to be there.

Race morning arrived and the “unknown” monopolized my mind. What would my time be? Could I place in the top 3 on my team? The answer to these questions would be answered in 100k, but I knew to run well, I would have to do it from behind. I didn’t usually run well from the front. So, I decided that I would run pretty closely with Joe Binder, on paper, our 5th man, then I would I would race it home the last 50k. I stuck to the race plan and after two laps of the 20k course, I was right behind Joe. I was maintaining a 6:30 to 6:40 pace and it felt comfortable for some reason. My 100k PR was 7:12….a 6:59 pace! When I hit the 50k mark my pace quickened, I passed Joe, and I was running low 6:20’s. As I finished the third loop, I felt strong and the objective was to pickoff as many runners as I could. My goal of finishing top 3 on my team didn’t seem realistic, but it wasn’t about that at this point. I was running the best 100k I had ever run and I was good with that.

Then, the drama began as it usually does the last 12 to 15 miles of a 100k. I could see off in the distance what appeared to be a USA jersey. It was Todd Braje. I was shocked! You could tell he was trying to hold on and he wasn’t the only one. The whole field was strung out at this point and runners were coming back to me. I was in about 30th place after 40k and now I was beginning to move up. As I neared the end of loop 4, I hit an energy low, but I quickly took a gel and by the time I finished that loop, I again felt strong. I crossed the line and began my last loop, I grab a bottle from one of our crew at our table, and to my amazement I saw Andy Henshaw, our number two runner, standing behind the table. I was in absolute shock! In a matter of a half hour, I went from fifth to third on our team. The hair rose on the back of my neck, and I was overcome with emotion. I gave myself a quick pet talk that first mile and knew I would have to battle this last 12 miles.

I tried to maintain the 6:20’s I was running, but that was beginning to take its toll. I hit the six mile mark on that lap and I recorded my first 7:00 mile. This was a wake-up call. I had to run strong now and not relax. My team needed me. I had no idea what place we were in as a team, but it didn’t matter. I approached the five mile to go mark and again to my surprise, I see another one of my teammates. This time it was Michael Wardian up ahead. Are you kidding me! He obviously was going through a low patch and soon I would catch up with him, I say a few words of encouragement, and then run by him. I think the sight of me woke him up because shortly after I passed him, he was back on my heels. It was a blessing and something I will remember forever. We were able to work together the last three miles and push each other to the end. I learned a lot about Mike on that day. I obviously was feeling better than him and he still ran stride for stride with me because he is so tough and would not allow himself to hold on. He made numerous comments about how we needed to finish strong for the team. He never mentioned one single “individual” thought.

 Michael and I approached the finish together and he told me to push it in and I did just that, finishing just ahead of him in 7th place(6:48:52). What a day! What a race! I don’t think I could have run a better strategic race if I wanted to. My wife and I shared a memorable embrace a few minutes after the finish. We both shed tears of joy, hard work, perseverance, etc…I had come a long way from my injury plagued years that proceeded. The race, the time shared with my wife, made memories that would last forever. It was hands down my most memorable moment of 2012 and my running career to this point.

Monday, January 14, 2013

"On the Seventh Day He Rested."

When I'm not training... I'm "rest" training. My rest training has a focus. The focus is recovery but at the same time continuing to keep my base. How can you recover and still keep your base? That is simple....very your terrain and keep the pace easy to moderate. Speed creates soreness and soreness is a sign that the muscles are under stress. Obviously this can't lead to quality recovery.

A month to two months of this type of training will enable the body to recover from your racing and set it up for a successful transition back to racing. I have found that the body adapts well to a consistent pattern of workouts. For instance, long runs on Saturdays, moderate efforts on Tuesdays, double workout on Fridays, hill work on treadmill on Wednesdays etc....the body is an amazing loves structure:)

Also, this is a good time to get your diet back on track. It is difficult to work on diet when your in the middle of your training, but during this recovery period, you can dedicate some time to your diet and therefore get through that very difficult first week or two of detox:) And when the diet is dialed in, it will be time to train for an upcoming race and the diet will be an after thought.

I have posted my four week rest training side of my blog.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Memory #2

12:30! I threw out this magical bulls-eye number prior to running the 100 mile at the Desert Solstice 24 Hour. I didn't really believe I could run this time. For one, it would be a 44 minute improvement on my best 100 mile time(13:14 at the Rocky Road 100 Mile in February) And that was done on fresh legs. this would be my fifth hundred of the year. If that wasn't daunting enough, I had to average 7:30 pace per mile. That seemed impossible. BUT I averaged 6:35's at the World 100k and I thought that was ridiculous. I wanted to end my year the way I started and to do that I couldn't run safe. I was going to go for it! What did I have to lose?

And go for it I did. I settled into a comfortable pace early and allowed Ian Sharman to lap me ......Nine times. I knew the pace Ian was running was realistic for him but it wasn't for me. After gaining a couple of laps back between miles 60 and 70....the rain, wind, and cooler temperatures wreaked havoc on the runners and it eventually took out Ian. Like it was all was a battle against the clock.

With two hours left, I was on pace to break the 100 mile American Record of 12:27, but it was too early to start the push. I decided with one hour left I would make the push and I did. Unfortunately, I could only keep the goal pace for five miles before the wheels started to fall off. I cruised in for a 12:29 finish and the second fastest time in US history on track. I could live with that and the fact I beat my goal time by 26 seconds:)

What a way to end the year!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Memory #3

Memory #3 was a choice between a near record or the race that started my race season...... I went with the latter.....the Rocky Road 100 Mile. I don't think I had a better three months of training leading into a race then I did for this race. Not only did I accumulate a number of 100+ mile weeks, but I did so with no injuries or setbacks along the way. Throw in a diet change and motivation I hadn't had in years and it had the makings of a perfect formula for a perfect race. When looking back this is what I saw, but when I was training for the Rocky Road 100 I had the memories of two sub par ultra running years filled with 100 mile disappointments and countless setbacks with my health. I was less than confident going into the race.

My goal was to run sub 15 hours if possible, but I was just hoping for a good race. Well, as race day approached my family was hit with a nasty flu bug. I couldn't believe I avoided it but unfortunately my wife and two kids all got it. They were planning to make the trip with me however that was quickly cancelled. I would make the six plus hour drive on my own to Coto de Caza, California on that Friday afternoon. I had no pacer.....I had never run a 100 mile race without one....and I had no crew. This was also a first.

After getting dinner, I spent the rest of the evening getting my supplies ready. I knew I would have to be extra detailed about race plans being on my own. Fortunately for me, the each 15 mile loop ended at the parking lot, so I could set up my own aid station next to my car and get aid from there without have to add much distance to the race.

Ben Hian, ultra running legend from So-Cal, was obviously my biggest competition. I planned on running with him as much as I could early on, so I didn't have to think too much about pace. That is exactly what I did. A group of five that included Ben ran much of the first lap together. It got really interesting on the second lap as two runners broke away from the pack. I decided to let them go. I knew what pace I wanted to run and that wasn't it. However, after leaving Ben early on in the second lap, I was able to catch the two lead runners at the very end of the second loop, and to my surprise, I was on my own the rest of the day. It was a surreal feeling. I never felt the urge to walk all day. My stomach felt great and besides a low point at the end of the fourth loop, my mood and energy levels stayed pretty consistent all day.

The only mistake I made was forgetting my headlamp on the last ten mile out and back. It probably cost me a couple of minutes but no worries. I finished in a time of 13:14! It was 2 hours and 17 minutes faster than I had ever run 100 miles. It came out of nowhere. Probably the biggest memory I will have from the race is seeing the spectators gather at the 5/10 mile aid station when I came in later in the race. You could feel the buzz and excitement in the air.

I was so excited about my finish that I wanted to share it with my family. After hanging out at the finish for about a half hour, I drove back to my hotel....took an hour nap....then took a shower...and spontaneously decided to head back home. I made it about  two to three hours before I pulled over at a truck stop to take another hour nap. I arrived home with Panera in my hand just in time for breakfast with my family. What a way to finish a perfect weekend!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Memory #4

My first 24 hour didn't go so well. 111 miles and 18:30 at the San Francisco One Day back in 2007 didn't quite leave a satisfying taste in my mouth. I knew I would run another 24 hour sometime in my life but it took until this year, and the goal of making the 2012 World 24 Hour Championship Team, to pull the trigger.

The site was the NorthCoast 24 Hour site of the United States 24 Hour National Championship in May. I had already signed up for the race figuring I wouldn't be traveling to Italy for the 100k World Championships, however, I got the late call to join the team and with the trip to NorthCoast already paid for, I made the decision to still run eventhough it only left me with 13 days of recovery time. Obviously, not ideal, but I had nothing to lose and in my mind, I was playing with house money.

I was pushed early in the race by Valmir Nunes, Serge Arbona, and David James. I just locked into an 8 minute per mile pace and just tried to run comfortable and under control. Valmir and David eventual stopped and the race Serge and I would duel it out throughout the night. The weather conditions were good. It was a little breezy during the day but the winds died down during the night time and the cool overnight temperatures stayed away.

I finished the first 100 miles in about 13:40 and I didn't have to walk my first steps until 17:30 into the race. From there I ran walked until I hit 21:50 and 151 miles. I knew at this point with a little over two hours to go that I could walk it in and finish in the lead. Serge pushed hard and made it interesting, but I was able to hold on for a 4 mile victory.

Charles Wickersham was my MVP! He made the trip with me to Cleveland and he crewed for the entire race.....taking no time to nap. Whatever I needed, he would supply. We looked like we had worked together for years. Charles kept me motivated, hydrated, and fueled for the entire race. There is no way I could have won the race without his support. Thanks Charles!

Adding a U.S. National Title to my list of accomplishments was definitely a dream come true. The mileage was good enough to qualify me for the 24 Hour team traveling to Poland for the World Championships, but I decided not to take the invitation because of a fatigued body and too much time away from work. The U.S. Men did take the Bronze medal and Mike Morton won and in the process broke Scott Jurek's 24 Hour National Record by 7 miles(172 miles). I plan to join the team traveling to the Netherlands in May for the 2013 World Championships.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Moment #5

The Modesto Marathon starts my top 5. That may be a surprise because I didn't even finish first, but it may have been my most complete race of the year. Moreover, it is my hometown race and the race in which my Teens Run Modesto runners have been training six months for to complete. All these factors supply a lot of motivation for me to run well. I feel a little pressure to run well because this is the only race I run in town, so this provides people one chance to see me run instead of just hearing about my running. I want to have a good result not just for myself, but for the kids at my school and the people in the community that follow me. Lastly, I just found out that I was going to Italy to run in the 100km World Championships for Team USA.

We had ideal race conditions. Morning temps were in the 40's and would warm to the 50's by early afternoon and the cloud cover and the absence of any wind just added to perfect conditions for fast times. As I settled into a six minute flat pace in the early miles, I kept the leaders insight......well I thought I kept them in sight but I would soon find out this to be untrue. I was nearing the half way mark of the race and just passed what I thought was first place, but after a couple of minutes, I could see a runner running back in my direction on this out and back course. My draw dropped not just because I thought I was in first place, but because if this was the leader, I was still a mile to 1.5 miles behind him.

After taking a minute or two to gain my composure, I decided to try to chase down the leader. I knew it was probably too late but I was going to go for it. I wanted to see how much I could push the pace the last twelve miles and if I hit the wall, I hit the wall. No regrets.

With the large number of half marathoners in the race, it was hard to see ahead of me. I had no idea where the leader was except my wife reporting to me he was eight minutes ahead with nine miles to go. I kept it at a good sub six minute pace and ran relaxed. I used the energy from the TRM runners and the Shadowchase Running Club members in the race. I wanted to be ready just in case the leader started to bonk. I kept trying to convince myself that there was no way he could keep up the pace. I was right. As I approached the 9th Street bridge(2 miles to go), I could see the leader running down the backside of the bridge. I was shocked! I looked at my watch to see how far I was behind and as I got the backside of the bridge, I saw that I was 2:30 behind the leader. That was a lot to make up in the last two miles, but I put the pedal down and tried to run him down. I could see myself getting closer, but I just didn't feel like I was making up enough distance. I was going to run out of road and I was right. I made the turn onto M Street and I could see him crossing the finish line. I made up 2:14 in the last two miles and with reports that he was dry heaving the last four miles, it was an impressive finish and race for the winner.

It was a 6+ minute personnel best for me in the marathon(2:33:01) I finished with a little tank and some confidence that would fuel me for the weeks to come.