Monday, August 31, 2009

Things are coming along

The cross country run is really coming along and some great contacts are being made. Everyone I talk to wants to help out in their own way, it's really cool how some people can contribute.

I was talking to Ray Storm, a professional mountain biker, (look him up, the dudes crazy on a bike) and one of his sponsors is an energy bar company named Can Do Kid. It's a really cool company that is run primarily by a mom who wanted to feed her kids something that they liked but wasn't full of sugar, and fake stuff. Their whole thing is getting kids to realize their full potential to do something great for the community. Anyway, when Ray talked to the owner, Deb Luster, about possibly sponsoring me, she was stoked! So now I will be eating Can Do Kid bars to energize myself for the run!

Also, thanks to my girlfriends parents I now have a Spot to help keep people up to date on my whereabouts and a way to get out of possible emergency situations. It has three buttons, one for OK/I'm good, one for 911, and one for family to send help. It's a great little remote that could really save someones life. Once I get it completely figured out, I'll post the website to follow my little blip on the map across the country. Cool stuff. Well, that's just an update for now.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mountain day

I decided since Grindstone and the 100k are mountain races I should probably do a mountain training run. Whether or not this was an excuse to escape the city is completely up to you.

I left this morning after I got off work and was in the parking lot by 11:30. This is a much later start than I wouldve liked but hey I'll take what I can get. My plan was to do the 4.8 miles up The Priest and back down, stop by my car for a bottle refill and head up the Appalation Trail for the Three Ridges, jump on the Maw Har Trail join back up with the AT and loop it back to the car for a total of twenty something miles. (I don't think I ever know exactly how many miles or how long it took me...I'm not much for counting these things) things rarely go according to plan, but today did. The preist was a very long hill. Four miles up. I ran where I could, shuffled where I could, and hiked the rest. I passed one through hiker and was called crazy for running the section I was... The term crazy came up several times today, not something I'm particularly proud of. It wasn't raining yet but the fog made views that were normally spectacular completly blank.

For me, the rain was a nice addition to the experience, if i can't see anything nice, ya might as well make it pour...and it did. It felt good. because of the climbing, I was generating plenty of body heat even though it was pretty cool for an August afternoon. Reaching the top was very anticlimactic because of the lack of view but it still felt like I accomplished something.

The run down was a ride. The Rocks got very slippery but somehow I managed to stay right side up.

I started the Three Ridges trail in the downpour. I didn't mind it too much but my feet were nice and soggy. Climbing mountains is not something I would put on the "easy" list. It certainly has it's ups and downs...get it??? I thought of that one out there and had to make sure I remembered it.

ANYWAY, I got on the Maw Har trail and was in for a surprise. That thing is no joke. Once you get to the waterfalls, it loses all run-ability. Especially because all the rocks you have to scramble over were too slippery. By this time the rain had stopped, but everything was still soaking wet. At the top I made the sharp right to get on the AT and immediately started climbing...again. The good/bad news is I found out why they call it Bee Mountain. Bees everywhere. I don't know how but I didn't get stung at all. Horseflies were a different story all together. By the time I got to the scenic overlook many of the clouds had lifted to a point where I could see!

The big one up front is one of the three ridges and the smaller one in the back is Bee mountain.

From here I knew I had one more big climb and then the rest of the way was mostly downhill. At the top of the last mountain I came across three backpackers. They were very nice and the second and third of the day to call me crazy for running the mountains. We got talking and they asked if I was training for anything so I told them about the cross country run and this blog, I don't know if they will ever read it but if they do, what's up guys from DC?!?

The way down was much quicker than the way up and I felt some relief actually running again even though they were long downhills. I got to what I felt was a decent pace and was in cruise control.

Killer quad busting downhills tend to be where I pick up time the most. The way I see it, bikes can go faster on downhills, why can't legs? I know there are limitations but it's just the principle.

At the very bottom just before the parking lot is the Tye River where I decided to go swimming because I was very muddy and didn't want to drive home like that. All in all: great day.

-- Patrick

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Must have mixed up the titles

While I normally love the heat as opposed to the cold, humidity maybe the one exception. I don't know what today's heat index was today, but it made me wonder how much houses in the desert were going for these days. I think the high today was about 93...which to a large amount of people sounds like hell to start with but that's not the part that gave me trouble.

Today was the only day this week where I didn't have to wake up at 4:30 for work so I set an alarm for 8 because I've been a bit sluggish while I adjust to the new sleep schedule. I must have turned it off in my sleep because I woke up at ten to a text message...which I didn't mind a bit. I made a peanut butter and jelly bagel to go, loaded up my baby jogger with every text book I own, and weights, and water, and anything heavy, and was out the door by 10:15. I didn't have class until four so I wanted to get in as much time as I could on my feet before then. I'm trying to take full advantage of the first week of school only being minor reading assignments and as much as I don't want to admit it, "doing the bare minimum" of what is expected of me for this introductory week. That said, I wanted to run all day until my class. Going up Riverside drive was tough even at that time just because of the humidity, and I knew from the first hill, I wasn't going to be setting any land speed records today. The first two hours weren't bad, I stayed hydrated and was fully fueled from the bagel sandwich I crafted at the start, but toward the end of the second hour, I was starting to feel the intense leg workout I did yesterday.

My plan was to get nice and tired from the jogger and the hills on Riverside drive and then go back to the house, drop off the jogger, switch shoes and hit the trails for the second part of the day. Upon reaching the house, the humidity was starting to get to me. I don't normally take Enduralytes (an electrolyte/salt capsule) during training runs but today, I could feel the lack of electrolytes and decided, in order for the trail part to be an actual run, I would need some salt. At the house, I dropped the jogger, refilled the my bottle, snagged the Enduralytes, changed shoes and was back out the door heading for the trails in less than 5 min. Right before I hit the trail head, I crossed the Nickel Bridge (even though the toll is 35 cents). The sun was merciless. It beat down so hard on my bare shoulders and chest, I ran a little faster just to make the quarter mile or so to the trail head go a little faster.

Normally after going at a pretty slow pace for a while, picking up the pace and stretching the legs out feels pretty good. I found this to be the case crossing the bridge and decided to hold that pace until I decided otherwise. The beginning of the trail was flawless. Entering my third hour I felt great, the pace was quick but manageable, and I had just soaked myself in a little creek and was feeling pretty cool despite the humidity. This did not last long. By the time I got to the hose to refill my water bottle near Reedy Creek, I was crashing pretty hard. I was sweating way more than normal, to the point where my feet were sloshing around in my shoes: not generally what I'm used to even on the hottest days. My heart rate was above normal despite the quickened pace, and my vision began to blur. I felt rough at best. After I refilled my water bottle, I decided to slow down quite a bit and walk a lot of the hills that I normally run. This of course added time to what I normally did much quicker. I was growing frustrated with the whole process of run, walk, run, walk, on a relatively short mileage day and decided to just run the rest so I could get back to the house quicker.

This worked for a while and I was able to forget that I was running for a little while, which is usually a good sign that I am very comfortable, even on the hills. After one of the trail sections, you have to go through a parking lot and then down a road for about 6 blocks or so where there is no shade. Having the sun beating down and the humidity so high proved to be stronger than my will to get the rest of this run over with. Following that section, I sat down. I never sit down on training runs. If I need to slow down, I do, but I never sit down. I just could not get my heart rate down, and could not seem to balance out the water I was losing with the water I was taking in.

After about 5 min, I got up and started walking which was also very disappointing, but at least I was moving forward. Soon enough, I was able to feel better and start slowly running the rest of the way back. A cold shower has never felt so good.
Lessons learned: eat more; take in more salt; and you can't beat humidity, you can only work with it.

Tomorrow is just gym and maintenance stuff, but Friday I'm off to the mountains for the day. I'm stoked to be getting in some good training for the hellish climbs of Grindstone.

I wish I took more pictures.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Heat Stroke?

Today, the fall semester started. School, for the next four months, will unfortunately consume my life. BUT, I have also stepped up the training. I am now back to my old two-a-day runs and weight training mixed in every other day.

Since I will be running on roads for the cross country run, I run more on roads...but since the three ultras in three weeks (12-hour, 100k, 100 mile respectively) in September will be all on trails, I'm also running trails concentrating on hills. Although, my primary focus for all of this is beating my feet into submission because that is my weakest part.

My feet are always the first thing to start aching, and never let up. Unlike quads, and hamstrings, feet do not hurt more or less on uphills/downhills. Once they start, they continue to give hell for the remainder of the run. So far, I am successfully killing my feet. I have been wearing my Asics DS Trainers more than the Gel 3000's because they have a thinner sole and there is more interaction between my feet and whatever surface I'm running on. These shoes would be a great race shoe, they are light, thin, yet still supportive when they need to be for the mild overpronator...I'll stop there at the risk of sounding like a shoe reviewer.

ANYWAY! I have had a couple questions about whether I have a trainer, or a coach; or if I'm planning on getting a coach. I have never been coached, and probably won't ever be coached. I ask a lot of questions, and read a lot. I like listening to different people's training methods and sometimes I even take some ideas try them for myself. This is the way I have always done my training. I just try what makes sense and if it works, it works. If not...I drop it fast.

Virginia has had some pretty hot weather lately, and the kind of humidity that fills your lungs. Translation: Good running days. Some will not run in really hot humid weather, and if you are sensitive to heat, or are prone to heat stroke, by all means, stay on the treadmill. But I tend to like running in hot weather. It takes a little bit more out of you, and yes, the grossness factor and sheer amount of sweat is enough to make anyone cringe, but to me, it makes sense to run in every condition no matter what. Besides, when it's hot, it feels good to dump cold water on yourself, or have someone wipe iced sponges on your back....but when it's cold, do you dump hot water on yourself? I'm serious, running while soaking wet feels so good. It just does. ---->

Since I moved out of the house I was living in, I have a longer bike ride to class and work everyday. This, I don't see as a bad thing. It gives me about 2 hours of total bike riding everyday just going where I need to go, on top of my normal running and weight training. It takes about 30 min each way to work/class, and I always do it more than once because staying on campus, and saving myself a trip just doesn't make sense.

So, for any one who really only wanted to read one sentence of this post, here it is: I'm running more to beat up my feet, get faster, and stronger besides, Virginia is hot and humid so there is no better time to do it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Update on the trip, all because I couldn't sleep

So sometimes I end up working long days. Since I work at my school's gym, I just sit there and swipe people in. During the summer it is dead. I'm talking no one. Not a soul. Normally, this would be the kind of thing to send me over the edge and cause me to start making up games like how many times I can say "Mississippi" in the span of ten seconds, or turning a tread mill on as fast as it can go and setting the incline at the highest, and jumping on hoping I don't fly back.

Since I have a lot to do with the trip, though, this extended forced sitting time is a good thing. Today, I completely finished the route I'm taking, when I'm planning on being where, about how much I'm running daily, and when I will need shoes sent to specific destinations. This is a huge step in the trip because, now I can start to contact people in the counties/cities to let them know I'm coming and hopefully set up a place to stay, and an interview with the local paper or news station...this trip IS so I can tell the most people about juvenile arthritis after all.

The list of cities is REALLY long. SO! If you know anyone in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, or Georgia and would like to offer them my name, my email is Please contact me on that email and I can send a list of cities.

In other news, I wrote an email to Dean Karnazes because I knew he lived in San Francisco, and I know it's not too far from Huntington Beach where I'm leaving from. I asked him if he would be interested in starting the first day with me. I didn't really expect a response but I got one that said he would be out of the country until Aug 5th...but he wrote "P.S. Patrick, I got your message. Please be in touch with me as we get
closer to your departure date. If I am on the safe continent, I would be honored to join you at the start. Best wishes in your training! Dean
" Awesome? I'd have to say yes.

People have a couple different opinions of the guy. Some think he is bringing a lot (too much) publicity to a small very specialized sport, where you can set some kind of record, and all you get is a pat on the back and the same belt buckle that the last place person gets...which I really like about it. Others think he is God. Me? I think he is smart. He took something people didn't know much (or anything) about, and he wrote about it. True, the man is an animal. It doesn't mean he is the only "animal" that has ever lived, or the best runner that ever lived, or the fastest, or the strongest. He's up there, though. You have to at least give the man some credit for being smart.

"Somebody poisoned the water hole!"
Toy Story 3: June 18th, 2010

...I'll have pictures up from Burning River soon...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Any day running is a good day

So, I have about 9 days to do as much planning for this cross country excursion as I can. I took summer classes until the 5th of August, and school starts again on August 20th. So far, things are looking good. I have mapped out my route in an pencil, of course. And I'm building a list of all the addresses of the companies I want to write to to hopefully work out some sort of sponsorship deal.

After working on much of this, I met up with Lauren Rinker for the photo shoot portion of the interview for Sports Backer Quarterly Magazine. She was very nice, and is working as an intern now. She was very thorough in the interview. If I were an employer, I would hire her for a position as an editor...hint. hint.

Getting my picture taken is always awkward. I get the feeling as this trip and the running thing get more serious, they don't always want every picture to be of you just cheezin' it up. Unfortunately, for me, I always get nervous, and the whole nervous smile thing comes back to bite me. Oh well, maybe I'll get more comfortable as time goes on.

Waking up every morning at 4:30 for work started to take it's toll on me today on my bike ride home from work...or maybe it was the 100+ degree heat, couldv'e been both.

I started my run at around 4:50 pm and had a destination in mind. I used to go to Tuesday night speed workouts with the Richmond Road Runners but as my work schedule and school needs piled up, I was forced to give that up and just do that work on my own time. Tonight, I didn't have any other obligations so I decided to visit my friend Mark Guzzi at the track. After arriving, no one actually wanted to do the speed work, and someone brought up a slower longer run instead. I am no one to ever turn down a longer run. It was good...still very hot, but good. I believe the temps hovered around the 98-101 range which meant finding a sprinkler in someone's yard was like winning the lottery. Upon returning to the track I was informed that a storm was supposed to blow in tonight, and the heat wave of the past couple days was supposed to end. I don't mind the heat. And I really really prefer it to the cold. But I did want to make it home before any lightning had a chance to creep me out.

It was a good run, about 3 hours, decent for a weekday that had some leg weight lifting in the morning. I'm just trying to get as much time on my feet on pavement, beat my feet into submission on the regular, and work on getting my recovery time down. I did have a missed call from my Aunt Vickie informing me that she had contacted Ray Storm, a professional mountain biker, through a friend of a friend. This guy is incredible, and he knew a ton about the ins and outs of sponsorships. He was really willing to help with letting me know how things worked with sponsorships. Plus, he's got a sick last name. Storm. Seriously, if I toed a start line next to a guy named "Storm" I'm not sure I could even start.

One of the things he told me is that I need to start an emailing list just to keep people up to date with training, races, news from the run, etc. So, while I personally think, this would be more in line with companies, or people who sponsor me, if there is anyone who wants to be on my mailing list, just let me know.
That's all folks

Monday, August 3, 2009

Burning River 100 Mile Race

Well, this weekend was the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run. I have to say, I had a blast. At the pre-race dinner there were so many people it was the biggest ultra I had been a part of so far. And for some reason, everyone looked fast, and like they were a top contender for a win, it was a bit intimidating. My dad, Colleen, and Kevin (siblings) came up to the race with me, and after check in started eating the pasta, meatballs, salad, and cookies that were set out for the runners and crew. At this point, Dan Brendan, whom I had met while crewing/pacing Dave Snipes at Old Dominion 100, came up and sat with us. He is in my top ten for most inspirational people. The guy is just an incredible runner, and quite possibly the toughest person I have ever met. At OD, he made a wrong turn that took him 9 miles the wrong way. He had to turn around, and run 9 miles back to the place that he got off course and then continue the race. The man ran 118 miles, overcame the mental undo that must have caused, and still finished well within the cut off time. Simply incredible. Besides, all of his 17 100 mile races per year, and all the times he has completed the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, and The Last Great Race, he is truly a very pleasant and incredibly modest person to be around. I'm not sure he could be mean if he tried. Bottom line: Dan Brendan is awesome.

After the dinner, my family and I went north about 20 min to Cleveland which is a really cool city. It's no ghost town, but it's not very crowded either. We also saw Lake Erie, so technically, I guess we saw Canada too because the border of Canada goes right through the middle of Lake Erie. I don't think I would like it in the winter because it is freezing there, but I think during the summer, it is a great place to check out. (that's the Brown's stadium behind us)

I was a bit nervous the day before and just before the race, not only because I always get nervous before any race, but because a cold had graced me with its presence.

I woke up the day before, and had that feeling in the back of my throat like I was going to be sick the next day. Sure enough, I woke up on race day with the feeling of clogged sinuses, and a full head. So, I did what any sane person would do, took some Airborne and headed to the start line. After arriving at about 4:30 am and checking in, I met up with Dave Snipes and Kirby and stood around shivering until the race started. Shivering on August 1st is a weird feeling, but it was chilly at that time. 4:59 rolled around and they gathered us all up at the line and they said something probably inspirational and probably very motivating, but my head was elsewhere. Next thing I knew, all 150 something of the starters were shuffling forward across the open field onto the road. As we neared the road, I could hear an Irish reel being played on the accordion. Yes, my dad had brought along his instrument of choice, and decided to give us a start I'm sure none of the other racers had experienced.

I told myself I was going to run how I felt the entire day. No faster. Within the first three miles, I could see the front runners. I could count what place I was in. 7th. I didn't feel comfortable there. There was no way, that was right. Everyone around me was experienced and a whole lot older. I'm talking like twice my age older. There was obviously something they knew that I didn't. So, I dropped back, and dropped my pace quite a bit. After holding that for a while, I ended up running with this one guy for awhile. Frank D. He pronounced his last name, but it was french, and there is no way I would spell it right.

He was one of the lead organizers of the Ohio Running club. Nice guy. We got talking, and I told him about my cross country trip coming up, and he remembered a girl who had just recently come through Ohio. He said her name was Katie something. "Katie, Katie, Katie Vasco?" Yea! It was the same girl that I initially contacted about her trip back when I first decided to do it. She gave me a couple contacts, and was very willing to help. Small world.

Reaching one smaller aid station, I saw my dad there, and next to him on the ground was my bag which held the sacred of all sacred ultra-fuel. Yoohoo. I snagged one and started shaking it. Immediately, a lady runs up to me screaming that she's going to report me, and I'm going to be disqualified! Um, what? Apparently, that aid station wasn't an access point for crews, and I was going to be disqualified because I picked up my Yoohoo. I explained to her that I hadn't actually opened it. Frank immediately backed me up, saying it's OK, I didn't drink any. She agreed that it was OK, but it was still a little nerve racking. As awesome as Yoohoo is, it's not worth getting disqualified over. Frank disagreed. Still a little nervous she was going to report me for not drinking Yoohoo, we left the aid station and continued on. After awhile running with him, I moved on because I was feeling good, and he needed a pit stop.

The next couple aid stations were well supplied with melon. It was the hottest day Ohio had seen all year so cold cantaloupe and watermelon tasted near immaculate. That and Yoohoo was my staple for this race. The next guy I ran with was a police officer from Toronto. We got talking, and it turns out he is going to be the official torch carrier of the Olympic torch across Canada!!! He's been an officer for 23 years, and they chose him and he is going to run across Canada with the torch. I love the kinds of people you meet during these runs. After he told me about his cross country run, I told him about mine, and how I am raising money for the Arthritis Foundation, he just looked at me, said, "Holy shit, dude, that is awesome. Here's a donation." He opened the little zipper on his water bottle holder and pulled out money, and gave it to me. I was stunned.

For the rest of the morning and early afternoon, I ran mostly by myself, which I actually like a lot. I get my best thinking done while I run. I might not be able to solve world problems in my head, but I can keep my mind occupied for long periods of time. Call it what you will, but I like it.

At mile 60.6 I was allowed to pick up a pacer. My dad said he would take the first ten miles, Colleen, the next 5, and Kevin would pick it up from 85 to the end. That would only leave me ten miles in between to run on my own for the remaining forty miles. My dad started out, and told me not to let him slow down at all. If he lagged, he said I was to leave him. I wasn't too fond of the idea. We slogged up the road and got to the trail head. The trails are where I picked up the most time. Especially the downhills. The rockier, and more roots, the better. Unfortunately, there was a long uphill entering the trail, which I could hear my dad's breathing grow heavier, and then a long downhill. I lost him. Bad son, yes. Good listener, also yes. Within the first mile, I was on my own again and had caught two people. Connie, and Tim. Tim was first overall last year, and Connie was first woman last year. Both are incredible runners. I knew if I were to keep my lead on them, it would take an incredible amount out of me.

I got to the aid station, and ate more melon, and chatted it up with the aid station workers. They got a kick out of me "losing" my pacer, and when my dad came in he declared he failed as a pacer. There is no way that is true, he just came back from an injury. He ended up walking out to the road and hitching a ride to the next aid station where Colleen and Kevin had the van.

At the next aid station, I still came in before Tim, but Connie had caught back up with me. I changed my socks, and took off with Colleen. This part of the trail was awesome. We had to boulder hop, and scramble between huge rocks. This was Colleen's first time pacing someone, and I could tell from the start she liked it. At the next aid station, she said she felt OK and was going to keep going for the next 6 miles...that would bring her to 10. She is an awesome pole vaulter and a very good sprinter. Ten miles is pushing her distance limits, but she wanted to go, and I was not going to turn the company down. The next section we were cruising down a hill and then there were a set of stairs, still cruising, we took the stairs and went down the trail. When we got to a road, there were no trail markings. We had missed a turn. We turned around and booked it up the hill hoping that Tim and Connie hadn't passed us in the time it took to fix my mistake. When we got to the next aid station, we saw them leaving. This really bummed me out a lot more than it would have, had it happened earlier in the day.

As the race progressed during the early afternoon I realized it was a realistic goal to finish mile 80 before it got dark. When Colleen and I got to mile 80, there was still plenty of light and there was a 4.8 mile loop back to the same aid station we were at now. Colleen decided she felt good enough to do the loop! This would bring her to 15 miles! Farther than she'd ever gone before. The loop was hard. Very hard. I was crashing and while, she didn't show it, I think Colleen was hurting too. Coming into the aid station she fell back a little bit because her calves were seizing up and her legs were really cramping.

After sitting down and resting for a minute, I pushed on into the night with Kevin. With 15 miles to go, pain had set in, and made itself a nice comfortable home in every inch of my body. Kevin was great, I couldn't have asked for a better person to take me the final 15 miles. Since he had hurt his hand earlier in the week, his hand was still in a protective guard and I was a little nervous he would fall on some of the trails. It was very very dark. Even with headlamps. To be completely honest, I don't remember much of the last section of the race except for the towpaths that never seemed to end and the sewage treatment plant that I'm pretty sure zapped a couple of brain cells as I hobbled by.

I do remember the very last aid station though quite well. There was a guy sitting in a chair, and I was sitting on the grass not wanting to get up with 4.8 miles to go. He looked at me and said, "You can sit there now, but I'm not letting you stay there long. You need to finish this dance, man." With that, I took a bite from an oatmeal cookie, did the hardest push up of my life, stood up on what felt like twigs wrapped in needles, and started walking. Kevin was still next to me, and offering some encouraging words, I'm sure. As we crossed the highway overpass, a cop turned on his lights and escorted us across the bridge that would start the last section. There was a lot of trail on this section, and then in the last mile and a half, there were stairs. Lots of stairs. What kind of demon soul would put stairs at mile 98??

We came up on a guy who used to be in 3rd place. The guy flew through the first 85 miles of the race and then decided his feet were wrecked. He was kind of unusual because, he looked like he sorta rolled out of bed and decided he was going to run 100 miles that day. Basketball shorts, and a cotton sleeveless t-shirt, now splattered with blood from his chaffed nipples. He had gotten his feet checked out and the bottoms of his feet were completely peeled! He was forced to walk the last 15 miles. After exiting the trail we had one mile to go, in which Kevin and I slogged on. Then I saw a figure running towards us. It was Colleen. She was allowed to join us for the final mile to the finish line, and so I knew it was close. So, I did what any sane person would do, I booked it. I ran as fast as I could. All three of us ran hard and we ran strong, all three of us ran in pain whether it be in our hand, or calf, or every muscle in our body toward a line in a town square that said I had officially completed 101.2 miles in 19 hours 33 minutes Who cares about the seconds? It's 100 miles.

I finished in 5th place overall out of 103 finishers. It was a good day, and the second I crossed the finish line, I completely forgot about the pain from the race, and couldn't wait for the next 100 mile adventure. I couldn't have done it without my crew. My dad, my sister Colleen, and my brother Kevin.