Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Best day this season

This morning I woke up planning on starting early and ending early so I would have time to study before my class at 4:00. I woke up early as planned but I heard the rain pouring outside...lame. I looked up the forecast and saw that it probably wouldn't be raining much longer so I studied first.

I got started with my run at about 10:30 and immediately felt amazing. I could tell it would be a good day from the start. I was planning to do a route that I planned would take about 2.75-3 hours that would take me over the Nickel Bridge, down Riverside drive, past some big building, over some bridge downtown, up to the Governors mansion, over the Belvedere bridge, back up Riverside drive, past the Nickle bridge to finish Riverside Dr. and back to my house.

I was cruising from the start. When I got to the end of the downtown bridge I decided to include an extra 2 or so miles that would include the Flood Wall and loop back over the downtown bridge for a second time. I was feeling strong and quick, my stride was sure, and the temperature was perfect. It was in the low 70s and the slight breeze caused the golden and red leaves to blow all over the still soaking street causing the normally black, and unattractive street to even be colorful. Normally, the phrase "beauty in death," doesn't evoke the most common emotion, but today, it could not have been more fitting to describe all the leaves.

After finishing the Belvedere Bridge I killed the only GU I had brought and chased it with a good serving of water. I looked at my watch just curious to see what time it was and I couldn't remember if I had stopped it at any point and forgot to start it again. I was going much quicker than I had originally planned. Riverside Drive seemed to be completely engulfed in a golden and red tunnel that turned everything the same color.

It's a bit funny to see the "seasonal" runners out there today. I went during a time when a lot of people should have been at work or class. Mid-day on a Wednesday is not when you go out for a run expecting to see half the neighborhood out there. But being the kind of day it was, I must have seen around 30 other runners. Strange sight.

Crossing over Boulevard where I would later turn back to cross the Nickel bridge again I was in the final section of my run and was still feeling fresh. This section of Riverside Dr. is especially hilly and usually where I make my decisions late in my runs to "just keep moving." Not today. Today the downhills were opportunities to go faster with no more effort. Today the uphills were an opportunity to work in some speed and hill training as a bonus. Today just worked.

Rolling back over the Nickel Bridge I was almost home. Upon reaching the last half mile or so I picked up the pace and just enjoying the day. I stopped my watch at 2 hours and 1 minute and 15 seconds. Good day. back to studying...

Monday, October 26, 2009

trip update

Everyone is being very very helpful with the trip! Anyone I talk to is very willing to help and I really appreciate it. People are coming up with their own way to help out with what they do best, it's really interesting to see how some people contribute. Mr. Wayne is a masseuse and he offered to massage my legs after Grindstone. It was great, and I really appreciate it, Mr. Wayne!

As far as fund raising, it is going up...slowly, but it is going up. Right now we are focused on corporations and trying to talk to them about possibility of sponsorship, so if you know anyone that you think would be interested in sponsoring me, let me know, I'm sure there are companies I hadn't thought of.


Marine Corps Marathon

I'll give you the end and then if you feel necessary, you may read the entire schpiel. Good day. 3:10:17. PR by 28 minutes. Boston Qualifier. Stoked.

I woke up race day at my girlfriend's parents house because they lived about a half mile from where the shuttles would take the runners from Crystal City to the starting line. I ran down there partially because I wanted to get a warm up run in, and partially because it was in the low 50's and being the genius I am, didn't take that into account when I forgot a throw-away long sleeve for the morning. The shuttle brought us to the starting area where there were tents, "Johns," and hot chocolate for sale. Since I hadn't planned on running with anyone I was walking around trying to find a windless spot so I could try to conserve any type of body heat.

Then I saw Mark Guzzi, the Tuesday night speed work guru and Sam walking around. I wasn't expecting to see either of them so it was a very pleasant surprise. Plus, Mark had an extra long sleeve I could borrow for the time being...also, very welcomed.

After about 30 min we made our way to the start line where people were packing it in and doing last minute shoe checks, gel counts, and saying prayers. Mark decided he would go for the mid 3:teens and told me if I was going to go for 3:10 I should stand near the front to avoid the crowds and can get a decent start so I don't have to play catch up when I was tired. I tried to find the 3:10 balloon guy, but couldn't. I was going it solo. The starting temperature was perfect. Cool in the shade and warm in the sun. I had a good start and could really only check my times every mile to make sure I was on track. The first 5 miles I did in the low 7's and high 6's. I felt good, and strong, and light on my feet.

Around mile 11 I saw a guy with a VCU Massey Cancer Center shirt on. I told him I recognized him from coming to the gym, and told him I worked there. He introduced himself as Drew and picked up the pace just enough for me to get uncomfortable, and I decided not to follow this early in the race. A guy that happened to be around us was also from Richmond. He introduced himself as Ryan, and then asked me if my name was "Mc...McNamara?...No..Mc-something" I told him my name and he said he recognized me from the article in the Richmond Road Runners magazine. He was really cool and it was good to run with him. We passed the halfway point in about 1:30-ish which was the fastest I had done a half marathon by about 15 minutes. I was still on track to finish on time. It was great to run with him, and he said he would try and help as much as he could. Running with him helped me stay on track, and it really made many of the miles between 11 and 20 much easier. I ran with Ryan until about mile 20 when we reached the bridge. Just prior to that they were giving out sports beans, so I gladly accepted the offering and immediately felt a pick up. Luckily I saw my family just before the bridge, ditched the shirt and hand bottle. And picked up the pace a bit.

I remembered the bridge as the section that I crashed on last year. This year, I felt strong going over the spectator-less section. Toward the end of the bridge/highway section, the 3:10 balloon caught up. I stuck with him until about mile 24. He was still in sight, but I could feel the effect of the quicker pace start to take a toll on my stomach.

Reaching mile 26 I saw Drew up ahead as he turned to go up the last hill to the finish. A few quick words were replaced by a struggling pace for the last 50 yards or so. The clock read 3:10:20, my chip time was 3:10:17. Afterwards I got pretty sick, possibly the combination of gels, mild dehydration, and the quick pace.

I found my family and went to eat for my Mom's birthday which was a great ending to the day. Plus, there was carrot cake.

There might be pictures later.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Coming Up...

Lately, my running has not been where I would like it to be. Unfortunately school has decided to take the lead in priorities mainly because it is hammering me into submission. Every day is some huge paper, project, test, homework, you name it, there's a good chance I have one due that day. That being said, I don't have a lot of time for much of anything else. Everyday is just a cycle. Wake up at 4:30 am and ride my bike 25 minutes to work. Sit for the next 3 hours only hoping the laundry hurries up so I have an excuse to get up from staring at whatever I'm studying to walk around. In my break I try to get a quick run in. When I say quick I don't mean quick from an ultrarunner's point of view. I mean quick from a weekend warriors point of view. Then it's off to class for the majority of the day where my brain is thoroughly battered, beaten, and flooded with information. Then homework or study time. If I'm lucky, this time is short enough to get a run in. Otherwise, it's bed time which is usually around 11 or 12, then I get up the next day praying the weekend would get there sooner. I'm so close to graduating, I got my cap and gown yesterday but I've still got a month and a half.

Enough complaining. This weekend is the Marine Corps Marathon. I would be a little more stoked on it if my dad were running with me, but injury has prevented that. I'll be flying solo, but I think I'll try my hand at a Boston qualifying time just to make things a little more interesting. Since I haven't had a huge amount of time for the long runs that I enjoy so much, I compensated by making the runs I could get in quite a bit faster. Whether that is enough to quicken my marathon time by 28 minutes, I don't know but I guess we'll find out. I did the math on my qualifying time (3:10:00), and figured out that I have to run 7:35 miles (or something like that). I got on a treadmill to see what that felt like. It felt manageable but we'll see. I have no sense of pace (except for 10 minute miles because it's just a really chill pace most of the time) so I'll try to hang with the 3:10 pacer for as long as I can.

The week after that is the Potomac Heritage 50k which is a trail ultra. I am pretty stoked on that one because it's in D.C. and it just seems like a lot of fun. Plus Keith Knipling will be there, and he's fast, so I'll be interested to see how that goes. More on that later...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Grindstone 100...DNF

This year, I started the Grindstone 100 with every intention of finishing the race, and a hope in the back of my mind of finishing well. My mental race, however, had a different plan.

Adam and I drove out to the start/finish line the morning of the race and attended the pre-race lunch and meeting in the early afternoon. The race was to start at 6 pm sharp. Looking around at the other racers I quickly realized this was a seasoned group many of whom had run their share of hundred milers. The race director asked those of us who had finished a 100 miler to stand. He slowly climbed the numbers of how many people had finished. Pretty soon he was up to 20 and four people were standing. He finally quit asking and just asked the four how many they had finished. Dave Snipes had finished 25. Another guy had finished 31...ish. Jay Finkle had finished 34. And Karl Meltzer (Course record holder for more hundreds than anyone can count) had finished 45.

After the meeting, I went out to the car to try to sleep because I was sort of tired and wanted to be fresh for the race. No dice. I rolled around, and rested but no sleep. The start of the race was just as expected. Karl led the lead pack, and within the first 2 miles had split off with Jason Lantz sticking with him to "see what was with this guy." I knew within the first 5 miles this was not going to be a walk in the park. My left foot which had started to ache around mile 50 of GEER last week had already decided to make a guest appearance. Unfortunately, this lead me to 1. run differently than I normally do to try to protect it a little bit, and 2. Think. Non-stop. About. It.
The latter proved to be the breaking point for me.

The course is tough. Up and down mountains that are miles up and miles down. And before long I was making the miles up and miles down in the dark. Soon after the first aid station at mile 5 it was dark. Heading up the first really big climb I met up with Todd Walker. We made the climb together in the dark and now we were getting up to the clouds. Literally. We entered the clouds and it was so thick, there were spots I couldn't see the ground despite the fact I had my headlamp on. At the top, we punched our bib numbers to prove we had been there and started to make our way down. The only problem was we lost the trail in the fog. We wandered around the top of the mountain until we saw someones headlamp. We found the trail and made our way down. Going down is usually where I sit back, relax, and let gravity work more than my legs and lungs. Unfortunately, my foot hurt more on the downhills than the uphills, and with the pain in my foot, came the pain in my ego. People passed me and they seemed like they were on completely fresh everything. Well, they were. It wasn't even mile 20 yet. I was supposed to be on fresh legs, and feet. This too, played out to be a menace on my mental race.

Upon reaching the first aid station with crew access, my dad shoved a Yoohoo in my hand and asked me what I needed. Water? Salt? Food? Band Aids? No. My mom was planning on coming the following day to see the finish of the race after she attended my brother and sister's cross country meet. I told my dad to call her next time he had service and tell her not to bother coming. The chances of me finishing this thing were slim. I left the aid station more out of stubbornness. I refused to drop out of a 100 mile race at mile 22. That is not me. "I can do this, I've done it before, I'll do it again, just wait for the pain to ease up some and find a rhythm. Just relax." I was talking myself into doing something I was mentally absent from.

The next aid station was 7 miles away. After running the initial mile, I was frustrated. Completely out of it. Mentally, I was done. I didn't come here not to finish this thing. I didn't drag Adam and my dad to the middle of nowhere to watch me drop. I decided I needed to relax, and just go for a walk. So I did. I walked until I wasn't angry any more. Which happened to be about 45 minutes. The pain was growing though. Still just climbing into oblivion and falling out of the sky, I wished I would run. I wanted to just do what I do and run. I wanted to hop up every hill and cruise down every rocky, rooty hill. I wasn't having fun anymore and I decided at the next aid station I would drop. It was a tough decision but I knew I had to. I was about 5 hours into a possibly 20-30 hour endeavor, and if it was this hard now, I didn't want to see what the next two dozen hours brought.

After I made up my mind, I could just try to make the best of the rest of my trip to my dropping point. I tried to make out the faint shadows of the mountains in the distance, and breath as much cool mountain air as I could. I would turn off my headlamp when the trail was lit well enough by the full moon and just relax wandering somewhat aimlessly at this point through the woods. After awhile, I started running. Why? I don't really know. I guess I just wanted to.

Reaching the aid station was bitter sweet. I told the aid station workers I was done. It had been 28 miles...they said nope, not allowed. "Not allowed?" "Nope. You have to get to the next one. That's where there is crew access. It's 5 miles. You can do it." They waved some peppermint stuff under my nose and told me to get going. So I grabbed a brownie, and hit the road.

At this point, I was positive, I was out of it mentally because I didn't even want to stroll through the woods. I wanted to stop moving and get off my feet. When I got to the aid station at mile 35 they had me weigh in. 154. I had lost 6 pounds in 7 hours. Not quite Jenny Craig. Not quite healthy. They asked me to sit down and eat and drink and I had no problem with this. I told my dad I was dropping. The aid station workers couldn't believe me and tried to talk me out of it. I was in 15th place, and "still looking strong." Don't know about all that, but I dropped anyway.

I was upset, and frustrated I couldn't do it. I'd never dropped out of a race, and not much of a quitter in general. In fact, I don't quit anything. I'm too stubborn and self motivated to let myself quit anything. I always have to prove it to myself that I could do it. Although it was hard to do, my dad said he was proud of me for knowing my limits, not pushing myself to the point where I really hurt myself, and it solidified a once shaky notion that I still had a central nervous system that I listened to. At the time, a comment like that sounds like a sympathy card, but a week later, it sounds a little like a complement.

The following morning, Adam and I woke up and went to the aid station where I had left some stuff and Dave was just coming in. We helped him along, and he looked good. He is a tough dude, and he finished well.

I'm still a little disappointed, but I realize that everyone DNF's every once in awhile, and for my first year of racing ultras, I'm still doing OK. I will be back next year to try to wrestle the monster that is Grindstone once more.

I'll be back.