Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Long(ish) Run Adventure- 12/28/10

Jason and I had made plans to run further than we normally do during the winter. These ideas are usually formulated over beers, then neither of us are willing to admit our foolishness, so the plans continue to develop. We decided it would be cool to run 50 miles on the North Country Trail with no support or stashed supplies. It would be an "out and back" run into the wilderness, so everything we needed would have to be on our backs.
The cold weather would play a role in our decision to go "less than minimal" with our gear and supply selection. Here in Michigan, the weather can change at a moments notice(especially when you don't bother checking the weather forecast before going out the door). I loaded my Camelback with the following:
-waterproof, packable jacket
-extra gloves
-100oz water bladder
-1 lb bag of roasted, salted almonds(not exactly high carb, but delicious)
-4 equate brand meal replacement drinks(350 calories each- JACKPOT!)
-2 cans of Redbull
-1 Clif bar
-1 extra shirt
Only now do I realize how much heavy shit I brought with me. This may explain the bruises on my shoulders and back. I wore my New Balance NBx Windblocker tights, lucky green flannel shirt, new polartec gloves, and my favorite knitted hat(Grandma understands the needs endurance athletes have for quality winter gear).

We took off northbound on the trail from the M-20 staging area. About 1 mile in, we encountered our first photo op and a rather picturesque stream crossing.

The crappy weather was limited only to civilized areas.
The forrest still looked pristene in the bland winter weather

After stopping for some pictures, making some gear adjustments, and crossing the stream, we were off and running again until we reached a fork in the trail and decided to take a detour onto the Birch Grove Trail and headed toward the Schoolhouse. We didn't know what it was, so we decided to check it out.

 After a few minutes of running on the trail, I realized that this section of trail must have seen even less foot traffic than the NCT. The snow was quite difficult to navigate and felt remarkably close to running in sand. We haven't had any measureable amount of snowfall in nearly two weeks, so this particular snow was not powdery, nor was it compact, which gave it a greasy feel underfoot. 4.4 miles later, we came across the wildflower garden, which would be quite an amazing sight to check out in the spring. There was also an old basement that was still intact near the wildflower field.

Continuing on briefly, we made it to a crossroad, at which point we turned around, never making it to the Schoolhouse. I felt quite a low in my energy levels, so I felt bad about turning back. Jason had also lost a contact lens, so he was also accepting of turning back early with one eye. The trip back was particularly difficult as the snow warmed slightly and became more slippery. I havent been so humbled by a 30 mile run since my first forray into ultra distance running. Taking a few eating breaks and hiking some of the slippery uphills, we make it back in a time that was suprisingly long, even though we placed little emphasis on speed. I ran three miles less than my most recent race, but it took over 3 hours longer. I was elated to cross the stream and return to the car in the staging area.
We were the only people parked at the staging area. We found out why ater running the snow.

Jason and I contemplating how far we hadn't gone, but already making plans for spring

Monday, December 27, 2010

Summary of a week: 12/13-12/20/2010

AM: 20 miles. 15degrees F, windchill of -1, 15-20mph winds. This was a fairly epic run. The endorphines have since worn off, but it still goes on my "good" list. Left from home and ran the 6ish miles to KVCC, and found it was closed. I went there to enter the Al Sabo Preserve from the back, and was suprised to find the campus deserted. I knew it had snowed, but didn't really see the need to close schools. Oh well. I went around the back of the school to hit the trail, and was met with knee-deep drifts immediately after stepping off the parking lot. It had already crusted over, so I had to high-step it and posthole my way into the woods. Nobody had borken trail since the snow, so I was the lucky running hobo that got to make the first tracks I resisted the urge to run all my favorite single tracks first and headed into the south side of the preserve. I needed windproof gear to get me to the trails, but was able to shed the coat and pants and hide them in some brush while under the cover of the trees. After getting rid of the clothes, I was able to move much more silently. (Edit: I wasnt naked.I wore tights and a long sleeve shirt/fleece vest under my wind gear) The windproof pants made a sound that reminded me of my 14 year old self in a new pair of "husky" sized corduroys. I was happy to be rid of them for a while, but was praying to the running gods that nobody snatched them. It would be a miserable trip home if they disappeared.
To get an even 20, I would need to run 8 miles or so of trails. They looked like a whole new world, despite my very frequent visits to the same area. The snow had fallen and stuck to not only the ground, but the entire landscape-the brush in the wetlands, the cat tails in the swamp, the limbs of all the trees, and all the pine branches. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining brightly. I had to stop at some of the best vantage points to steal a glimpse. The run was filled with vivid images that couldn't be captured by a camera(I'd be willing to try- any companies out there want to give me one to review? Im such a prostitute).
My favorite part about runs like this that follow a good snowfall is that new routes emerge almost every time. The only large animals that have been moving since dawn are deer, and they don't always follow the beaten path. I kept an eye out for tracks, then darted into the woods after what seemed like nothing, but the faint trail gave a new place to explore. It was pretty slow going while ducking under branches and hopping down into gullies and back out the other side, but I found it pretty enjoyable. The 7 miles went by pretty quickly, but I only brought 2 GUs and had just taken the last one, so it was time to head for home.
The trip back may have been one of the worst runs ever, but there was something special about it. There was a headwind that nearly tipped me over, but the ankle deep snow/slush is what did me in. I was breathing quite hard and my legs were burning, but I was busting out some super solid 12 minute miles! I cut in on an eastbound road as quickly as possible to get out of the wind. Upon finding a gas pipeline, I decided to try that as a means to get me closer to home and stay out of the wind. The pipeline trail ended abruptly and I arrived at a fence with a cornfield on the other side. I thought, "This shouldn't be a big deal. I'll just cut through this feild and end up on Parkview." This feild had to have been 1 mile long. It was knee deep snow with hacked off cornstalks, rocks and a crust above the snow. I spent nearly 20 minutes wading in the cold with the wind in my face. I made it back out to the road and did a accelerations for 1 mile, then an easy cooldown for the last. Home free.
Also got conned into a 6 mile walk with Abbey, but that doesn't count. Real cold.
6 miles - About 1 hour's worth of running at Asylum Lake Nature Preserve with Evan and Alex. No watch or GPS, so Ill just guess on the low end and say 6 miles. nice run in the snow by the lake. Got a ride back with Evan and caught the early bus to campus. Studied and had some food before my Exercise Testing and Prescription final.
Got a nice 1.5 hour hike in in the afternoon(call it 5 miles). Tested out my spikes and explored some new trails
14 miles
PM- 7 miles at Al Sabo. Felt really zippy for the first time in a while. I explored some new trails(probably tresspassing, but I saw no signs) and crammed in a run. I intended to get up early, but I slept through the entire morning. The run wasn't particularly enjoyable, partly becasue I felt rushed and my MT100s gave me a nice blood blister on my 4th toe. Still fun, but running fast just because Im in a rush is less than ideal.
PM2- 7 miles at Gazelle's Wednesday Night Live. Good run with Alex, Phil, Mark, and Shawn. Beers to follow. 40 so far. Im already behind on my mileage goals for the week, but whatever. That's what I get for being ambitious.
4 miles- I won't be winning the "Mr. Consistency" award any time soon. Woke up late to being pulled out of bed by Abbey, who would then drag me out for a 4 miler. Without her, Alex, and the rest of my partners in crime, I'd be one lazy son of a bitch. It was a fairly slippery run on the sidewalks on the Arboretum loop.
0 miles- I went to Allendale to see Sam and got caught up in the "Holiday Spirit" (Holiday Spirit- awful rushed feeling of holiday shopping) and couldn't sneak a run in. It was cold and my shoes were wet. That's all I have in the excuse department.
HUFF 50k- 4:28:xx- 33 miles(The course was long). This was a strange weekend. I had no intention of doing any winter races, but circumstances allowed for an impromtu trip with my crew of Joggas. The run served as a training run, and it served its purpose. I felt no anxiety whatsoever and ran the course with little gusto. Im slightly dissapointed in myslelf for allowing such a malaise to overtake my usual zeal for winter trail running. It was a good fitness test, as I held a slightly faster pace than my recent 50mile race at Woodstock with a pretty low effort. I met some cool folks and had some laughs on the course(most notable of which was my accidental showing of my privates after a peeing trailside- I forgot to put my junk back due to frozen fingers and trudged along for several minutes until noticing that my...icicle was hanging out).
0 miles- The rest of the day was spent travelling and catching up with family, so I had no time for a run. The strange part was that I felt amazing. My legs felt as if I hadn't run at all. Other than some frostbite on my foot, I covered the distance, placed 15th out of 310ish competitors, and came out completely unscathed. Makes me feel tremendously grateful for my health and my abilities to move freely.
77 miles

I'll Just tack on the week of christmas to this post, as it was fairly sparse with running:
10 miles- Fairly speedy adventure with Jason at Hoffmaster. a few miles on the beach, followed by some hill repeats on a certain hill that needn't be mentioned, then a really technical run on frozen dunes, overlooking Lake Michigan on the way back. Got a chance to test out my New Balance NBx cold weather gear and enjoy the view of the lake. The inviting scene of Lake Michigan in the summer is substituted for a rather menacing and poweful sight of dark water and icy waves.
10 miles- An actual solo workout, possibly for the first time. A warm up mile on my ice-covered dirt road, a sub-8 mile to ease into it, then alternating easy/hard miles. Stayed sub-6 pace for 3 of them, then commenced cooldown. I was happy to see that the 50k hadn't stolen any leg speed, nor has my alternation between high and low volume weeks over the past month or so. Good off-season fitness test and  it was fun to get the HR up for a change. Though I usually enjoy a workout for more with my speedy training partners Alex, Evan, and Joey, it was nice to see that I can do it alone. I might be slowly turning into a runner.
8 miles- Tempo-ish run with Mark, Tony, Rick(accompanied by his three dogs), RYAN, and Tom. I hadn't met Tom before, but he's the steeple coach at indiana, and an elite mid-distance runner. He showed me some of the lesser-used trails and gave me an unexpected effort that nearly reached "tempo" intensity. Socialized with the joggas a bit, then headed home for yet another Christmas party(7 parties total, which explains the sparse week of running).
28 miles

So, to recap, I ran my goal for 1 week...in 2 weeks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

12/7-12/13/10 weekly recap

8 miles- short on time, but long on creativity, I turned my running club time into an errand-running session. I had to run the 4 mile trip to the grocery and back, then the run to class. I was enjoying the heavy snowfall so much, that I just ran right by the bus and took the long way home...in jeans and my bulky Brooks Cascadias, full backpack. The pace was decent considering the extra weight and bulky clothes(about 8:30ish pace). Got home and shoveled the deck and sidewalk as a cooldown. It was a nice day to ease into another week after last week's relatively high mileage.

PM- 5 miles- Went to Al Sabo, but didn't even plan on running any harder than it took to stay warm. Turns out, that was harder than anticipated. It took 2 miles before I even felt my feet. I may have to break down and wear socks. The run was picturesque, and I stopped to take in some of the views over the pond. A run like this would be great to be documented with a camera.
PM- 6 miles- 3 warm up with Abbey and Joey. It was nice to cruise around downtown before going into the gas chamber that is the indoor track. 3 miles indoors was enough for me, so I called it a day and headed to my meeting. After running a snowy trail on my own and indoor in the same day, my feelings about indoor running have not improved

AM- 5 miles with Abbey and Alex. An easy, flat shakeout jog on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. Followed by some lifting.
PM- 7.5 miles with the Wednesday night crew at Gazelle. Ran to campus, did a loop, headed up by valleys, saw some huge ass Christmas light displays, and took Crosstown Parkway back to the store. I wore my NB100 trail shoes, and they gave me considerable knee pain, even with the heel removed. Warmth and truly minimal shoes are not often found together, so I attempted to wear something warmer. I'd rather be cold.

6 miles- Looks like school and my procrastination got the better of me today. Got in 6 easy with Alex and Abbey this afternoon. It was a great run, but I would like to have gotten in some more miles.  I was up until 4 this morning working on my final project, so I opted to go home and rest instead of doubling. Another long night of schoolwork ahead.

0 miles. After feeling decidedly crappy yesterday, I chose to just take a day off. It threw off my plan of having another 80mile week, but suffering through it for the sake of an arbitrary number seemed senseless. As much as I love the proposed strength gains to be yielded from indoor track workouts, I have to wonder if they're for me. I've yet to have a good experience in the fieldhouse, and the poor workouts are usually followed by my injured knee feeling loose and showing some swelling. I'll try to acclimate to the dry air and speed more slowly, as I may have some sort of characteristic that keeps me from adapting as quickly as the fast guys I run with. The comeraderie I get from the guys at running club is unmatched anywhere else, so I'd like to hang in there just for the good times. The only part that is frustrating is the residual fatigue and soreness that results in cutting the easy, long trail miles-where my love of running really lies. Motivation also tends to disappear when I spend two consecutive nights in the lab working on a project until dawn. No complaints here, but running just had to take a backseat for a bit.

0 again. Another night of inadequate sleep and a truly booked schedule kept me out of my running gear again. 4 hour CPR class in the AM, Meetings all afternoon, and some socializing at night took precedence over running in nasty rain once more. Bummer. I really can't explain it, but I felt that this break, albeit excessive and abrupt, was necessary. After three weeks of slightly above average mileage, weeks that got progessively higher, a down week was sounding pretty good. I'd love to get to a point someday where a down week still consists of relatively high miles, but I'm confident that I'll get there.

Get ready...here it comes...0 miles. Woke up feeling exhausted, so I studied, slept, and read all day. Im getting really good at this sedentary stuff. Consecutive days off are getting to me, but They've also been helpful. Instead of saying to myself, "I'm behind on my miles, I should run xxmiles today," I now just have the itch to get moving. Numbers be damned.

Total for the week :37.5

Here's what the majority of my week consisted of. Note my official sign, thoughtful look, and calculator. If you need further proof that I was working, notice the pencil in my mouth. A true sign of mental depth.

I've realized that the reasons I run aren't for the same reasons as the next person. Not better, not worse, but different. I love being outside.
As I hear people talking about their disdain for winter weather, I can't help but wonder what the falling snow looks like at this exact moment. One of my favorite spots at the nature preserve is a patch of pines sitting near an open, prairie-like field. Once I get warmed up enough to slow down, I head to that spot and sit on a log, watching it snow. First peering out of the forest, watching the snow blow powerfully across the field in waves-not unlike the waves that lap over the sand at home on the beach of Lake Michigan when a storm rolls in. Turning around, I can see the same snow drifting through the canopy of the pines as it slowly and peacefully settles on the ground. I can sit there looking at a scene nearly calm enough to sleep in, while outside the shelter of the trees is a violent air that burns the skin as it freezes, chapping the exposed skin that peaks out from my shoes.
My affinity for running hasn't always been this way, but it's getting to be more and more so with each passing week. Could I walk and experience this? Certainly, and I do, but the pleasure of the experience seems to be heightened by a heartbeat that rises and falls in concert with the hills.

As finals week will surely come and go quickly, Im blessed with nearly 3 weeks off of school. As I write this, the thoughts of long runs, either solo or with friends, are looming in my head. The silence of the woods that I find just a couple hours North of home is inviting. It will help me appreciate those around me more and allow me to enjoy the pleasantly exhausted feeling after hours of running.

If anyone is reading this that doesn't see me often, please know that Im still a goofball who enjoys bathroom sounds and the dirtiest of jokes, but my writing has, for some reason or another, taken on this fancy-pants pretentious vibe. The wordy-er I get ,the longer it will take me to get to something productive.

Hope all who read this are well. All 2 of you.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


8 miles- Used running as my transportation for the day. 4 in the morning, 3 to school, 2 with running club before going to class. Running 4 different times in one day, mostly with a 30lb backpack, is a quick way to make the legs tired with low volume. It also helps when the buses refuse to run at their scheduled times. Met Abbey at the Rec for core work

10 miles. Workout done with Abbey and Alex. 1.5 to the feildhouse, 1.5 for a warmup, 5.5 miles worth of Oliver hill repeats(a substantially long, steep grade, if there is such a thing in the midwest), then 1.5 home. This was great workout, one that makes me greatful for great friends and good health. Added some explosive bursts at the end to work on speed after being tired.

8 miles with the Gazelle Sports Group. Good turnout tonight and a good group. Nice easy 6, followed by 2 to make an even 8. About 7 miles of walking today too, but what kind of runner would I be if I counted that? Ran on snow covered sidewalks and roads, adding a few subtle nuances to an old route. Met Abbey and Alex at the rec to lift weights(shoulders, chest, triceps)

AM- 6.2 miles at Al Sabo. I wanted to break trail on the more technical sections of the land preserve. I also ran some new paths. All I had to do was wait for some snowfall, then the deer showed me where all the good trails are. Headed toward the college and ran on that side for a few miles. One part that was particularly fun was a small "boardwalk"(slightly elevated 2''x8'' boards) that covers some wetlands. It was completely covered in snow, so running on it was akin to running on a tightrope that I couldn't see. Maintaining a fast pace over it was fun and challenging. Im not bragging. Wanna know why? I fell in. Nearly waist deep in water. At least I wasn't wearing socks-I dried up pretty quickly. Not sure if it was the RedBull, the snow, the perfectly cold temperature, or some combination thereof, but this was a greatly enjoyable run.

PM- 6 miles- Gazelle Sports "Run Through the Lights" in downtown Kzoo. We ran from campus to the shop, ran the 5k fun run, tacked on some extra, then headed home. Fun downtown run at a 6ish minute/mile pace. The light-heartedness kept it fun. Gazelle does some pretty cool community events, which explains the amount of good runners in the area.

PM- 4 miles- did a quick loop around my house with Abbey at 10:30ish. She had to work at the store during the run tonight, so I ran with her when she got out of work. NIce run in the snow, but ice covered sidewalks made it interesting. As I run around on the night known as "college friday," I realize that Im  a little bit of a social outcast, but I still keep good company.

AM- 6 miles with Alex. We headed downtown, but then headed down the River Valley Trail to Parchment. 3 out, three back. The snow is all gone on the sidewalks, leaving a nice crust of ice. The feets were a little numb and slippery. The day I find a warmer shoe than FiveFingers that doesn't give me knee pain will be joyous. We met Abbey immediately after for some weight lifting(back, biceps, legs). With 1 exercise left to do, I was feeling pretty trashed. I then realized that I hadn't eaten since the previous night. Bonk practice. Got some food, went to class, then finished my fitness assessment project, which involves finding my 1 repetition maximum for benchpress and leg press. Synthetic exercise is terrible and now my legs hurt.

PM- 4 with Abbey. I was feeling pretty beat up for some reason and didn't want to run, but was bribed with dinner. Same loop as yesterday, but in reverse. It ended up being a calm, relaxing run in the dark. other than our constant yammering, it was silent as the dusting of snow hung in the air on the "Arboretum" loop.

PM- 10 miles- A rather ominous solo run at Al Sabo The clouds were dark, making it seem like a late afternoon run, but was only 2pm. The first 2 miles served as a warmup, then I decided to follow some of the very faint trails that seem to only be used by animals. For some reason or another, I became dizzy, disoriented, and lost. Long story short,I woke, up on the ground, completely out of sight from any would-be passers by. I was only out for a second or two, but felt as if I were returning from sleep. I immediately downed a GU Roctane and shuffled back to the car. My vision was blurry and Couldn't focus on my footing. I glanced down at my watch to see how much further I had to go to get to the trailhead. I would have to call foul, but the pace read in the low 6minute/mile range for several minutes/. Other than in a 5/10/25k race, I'd be incapable of sustaining such a pace. How could I possibly be shuffling along, barely coherent at PR pace?  My best guess would be that a severe case of hypoglycemia  was the cause of the incident, although I had eaten and hydrated before the run.

I made it back to the car and sat down for a minute or two, drinking water and eating another GU to try to revive myself. Still a bit disoriented, I sat in my car reading for a few  more minutes before heading out again. I slowly headed back into the woods to give it another go. I felt stable, so I did another 7 miles of criss-crossing the preserve, with a few breaks in between of stopping and ejoying the silence. The wetlands looked suprisingly beautiful in front of the gloomy backdrop of the dark clouds as I sat near a stream and watched it trickle out into atwater pond.

Runs like this, despite the slight difficulties, impress upon me the desire to see more of nature and enjoy a world less influenced my our hurried lifestyles. Though I love trail racing, I'd be content with giving it up in exchange for endless hours exploring the world. I suppose that's the best part about trail ultras-that's how you train for them. What I need  to do now is find a locale that is conducive to such things.

PM- 4 miles- There wasn't much of a break between the last run and this one, but I did drive to Abbey's to start, so I guess its two different runs. We left from the Rec Center parking lot, did the downtown out/back, then stopped by the store to say hi the people working at Gazelle who were closing up shop for the night. (A store is something that lots of people may take for granted, but having a group of people nearby who really care about the health of the community is something special). We continued on, passing through the park as carolers sang in the christmas lights.

14 miles- Went to Al Sabo to meet the Dirty Herd Trail Runners. I got there a little bit early, so I did 3 miles to warm up. Alex and Evan arrived and we did 9 together in the trails. I was bored and not ready to go home, so I slowly jogged 2 more. It was a great run, jogging around in the freshly fallen snow. Ran A few miles with Tim, Lance, and Justin, some of the regulars in the running group.

Total- 80 miles

Saturday, November 27, 2010

weekly recap- thanksgiving week

Monday- 7 miles- took off with Alex, Josh, and Brian. I had class in a little over an hour, so I had to bail early and turn around. I got in a little unexpected tempo work when I realized I had gone too far. The return trip was a really fun tempo effort in the low 6 minute/mile range. My feet carried me back to school quickly, where I picked up my backpack and ran to the College of Health and Human Services for class.

Tuesday- 10 miles-
AM - did an easy 4 alone before class. Why I don't get off my lazy butt more often and do this is a mystery. An easy morning run feels great. It was, however, freezing. I wore shorts, and my legs were red and butning by the time I got back.
PM- 5-6 with Jason and Shelly at Aman Park. A  random trip that resulted from a stop in Allendale to see Samantha. I wanted to double, but figured the day was shot from working in the lab in the afternoon and travelling home. Stopped at the pub afterward. An unexpectedly fun start to the holiday weekend.

Wednesday- 20 miles- Why not do my longest run in a month the day before a 5k? Started out great with a warmup from home on the gravel roads, then 15 miles or so at a 7:30ish minute/mile pace. I made it to Muskegon State Park(my goal for the run was to see Lake Michigan), and did a couple miles in the woods. After that, I realized my fatal mistake. I brough one jet blackberry GU for the entire trip. I bonked really hard and struggled to maintain a decent pace. Luckily for me, I was only a few miles from my Grandpa's house. I ran there and downed a can of Coke to try to recover. It worked, but he still insisted on giving me a ride home. So goes the life of a running hobo with a great family.

Thursday- 7 miles- Muskegon Turkey Trot 5k. Had a great morning with my family. I started the race in the back of the pack, but quickly moved past all the turkey suits to get up front. It ended up being a tempo effort to tie with a high school senior for first. I ran 5 seconds off PR pace with pretty minimal effort on the flat out/back course. A little fatigued from the previous day's 20 miler, I decided just to smile and wave at all the people running and walking the course. There were children everywhere, so I just decided to take it a little easy. Certainly not worth plowing over a little kid or an old lady just to win a Thanksgiving day race. After the race, I did a cooldown with my adversary(we talked throughout the entire race, so thats not quite the right word. Great kid who just ran the state xc meet) to meet up with Emily, my 8 year-old cousin. We ran the rest of the way in, then returned to meet our family. We all finished together and went inside for some laughs and a raffle for homemade baked goods. Not exactly an intense day, just the way I like it.

Black Friday Fat Ass Run- 16(?)miles Great run/party/goof-off session with the Hobby Joggas. We met at Muskegon State Park at about 9am for some running and socializing. We had a pretty good-sized group with Jason, Shelly, Mark, Brandon, Andy, Rick, Alex and Myself. This group is becoming increasingly more like family for me. 4-5hours of running and laughing went by really quickly as we all froze in the wind that blew off lake michigan. We started off in two groups, eac running at a comfortable, easy pace as we trotted through the singletracks that wind around the park. This is easily one of my favorite places within short driving distance to run. The singletrack switchbacks that run along the ridges in the park offer great views, technical terrain, and even some decent hillwork. There are cross-country ski trails that are wide with rolling hills, hiking trails that offer more remote locations and challenging climbs, and my personal favorite-barely visible deer runs on the "un-runable" sides of the hills. We spent a few miles traversing these barely-visible paths, ducking under logs and jumping through brush. I doubt that we're the only ones to use this trail, but it clearly sees very little foot traffic, especicially on the nastier paths. The leaf cover made running exceedingly difficult. Jason, Shelly and I were the only people wearing trail shoes, so we did have a slight advantage. Alex and Andy were both donning shoes with nothing more that smooth EVA outsoles. As I led through the deer trails, I slipped and bounced off the ground repeatedly. The trails were so fun to run that I couldn't slow down. The trees grabbed at my old sweatshirt as I dove through openings in the tree limbs.

We then headed to the dunes and out to Muskegon Lake. The dunes are typically pretty fun to run. It wasn't so much the case this time. It was very cold, and I am very unadjusted to it this early in the winter season. The wind whipped off the lake and sandblasted us as we ran along the frozen ridges. As with all running, there is some sort of sick pleasure in the discomfort, but I'm a bit of a wuss, so I was happy to get back into the trails.

Our group getting ready for a day of running
Left to right: Andy, Jason, Shelly, Me, Alex, Brandon, Rick
The last 6 miles of our adventure would be spent playing our own half-assed version of the Tarahumara "Ball Game." We essentially just ran around in the trails like a bunch of children(this wasn't exactly difficult for our group to do) and kicked the ball up the trail, taking turns surging forward after the soccer ball. We used a partially deflated soccer ball to keep it from rolling too far away from us. This game started out a little rough, then quickly became an absolute blast. Everyone got a turn kicking the ball as we ran through the woods. We climbed hills, cut through the swamp, and pretty much went wherever the ball took us. Our three miles of playing the game turned into six without anybody noticing. Playing the game tired us all out. 16 miles of running around tired out an entire pack of ultrarunners. I was beat, so there must be something to turning running into a game instead of a chore. We all had a great deal of fun. No worries about pace, distance, or time-other than what time we would head to the pub.

Alex and I discussing the merits of eating leftover thanksgiving sweet potatoes as run fuel.

Family Portrait(but not really): Rick, Alex, Shelly, Brandon, Mark, Jason, Andy, Me
Saturday- 0 miles. I felt great(other than a slightly tweaked ankle from the off-camber trails), but had just enough other stuff going on to take a day off. My dad's been pretty sick the last few days, so I hung out and helped him out a bit. I fiddled around a little with a car Im working on, did some homework with Samantha, and even did a little of the oh-so-dreaded Christmas shopping. Taking a day off felt good, but the day would have been perfect if I had seen some trails.

Sunday- 4 miles. Just a quick loop around the "block" after returning to school. It was a pretty effortless run, but the pace was still pretty fast(for me anyway). The day after a rest day is always a great time to reflect on progress made. 1 year ago, a hilly 4 miler at 7:30ish pace would have at least felt somewhat difficult. Having it feel so great is a good incentive to keep the mileage up and have fun. It takes a fair amount of giving to a hobby like running before you get anything back, so I'd like to make sure that I'm on good terms with my feet and lungs.

Total- 64miles. This is what I hope for winter to stay like, training wise. Other than the low-volume weekend, This felt great. I'm eager for snow to show up, changing the scenery and bringing with it some new challenges. I won't hesitate, however, to exchange a day of running for a day of skiing or snowmobiling when the fluff arrives.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


5 miles- short on time, so just a run to Kleinstock and back, then headed to class. I felt pretty good, and wish I could have run more.

0 Woke up(late) feeling sick. It got progressively worse throughout the afternoon, so I chose to forego running club. Rest seemed like a better option. I was hoping that resting early on would help me fight off the sickness and I could carry on tomorrow. What a long-winded justification for taking one inconsequential day off.

AM- 5 miles- I woke up with the sun and headed to Al Sabo for an easy trail run. No real training merit, but I love running around in these trails this time of year. The area was beautiful and the running was great. This was my first run in winter gear. I wore tights, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat, and gloves. Within 20 minutes, The gloves were off and I was sweating. Maybe 30 degrees isn't quite cold enough for winter gear yet.
PM- 7 miles- Met up with the "Wednesday Night Live" group at Gazelle Sports. Since most of us are in the "off" season, we kept the pace pretty mild with around 8:00-8:30/miles. Headed from the store to campus, then around by the Valley dorms, then a roundabout way back to the shop.

7 miles- ran to kleinstuck nature preserve, but only to help Joey with his workout. Ran with Alex, Joey, and Evan. Those guys are fast. I hate to be pessimistic, but I doubt that my talent lies in mid-distance running.

Friday-0 miles. Missed the prerunning of the Turkey Trot course with Evan and Alex. I should stop using my phone as an alarm clock. I vaguely remember picking my phone up in the morning and looking at it. maybe I turned the alarm off. Either way, I slept an extra 2 hours. Fail.

Satrurday- 8 miles(?)- 2.5 warmup on the track, some striders. WMU Turkey Trot 5k was an overall success. Each member of the club earned a top 10 spot. The course is a notoriously long 5k. With all the local talent at this particular race, its always suprising when the winning time is just under 17 minutes. Most people are typically off their normal 5k times by about 1 minute. No excuses of course, but an 18:00 time seemed a little slow for the amount of effort. Alex Poulsen, my training partner, friend, and running cyborg, "jogged" a 17:20, which was over a minute slower than his 5k pace last weekend.He started out in our pack, but then broke off when I started falling apart. I understand why- there were ample opportunities to do what he does best, which is to hunt people down and represent our club well. No worries. Evan and I ran the course together, as he wanted to run the course as a group. He stayed with me as I struggled through the course. He could have easily run faster, but chose to endure a slower pace and the dissappointed head shakes of our coach. Most of the fun was had warming up and cooling down on the track, seeing familiar faces and talking to other runners.

Sunday- 11 miles. Took a trail from Sam's place to the grand river, and ran on the trails near campus. Mostly trail run with some roads in there. Great cool, dark weather. I did a lot of exploring and running off-trail just to see where I ended up. climbed a lot of leaf-covered hills. I encountered the same pack of deer repeatedly, and they allowed me to ger within a few feet of them if I approached them quietly. Though the run was very relaxing, there were some good hill climb efforts that took my breath from me. The views from of the river were a pleasant change of scenery. Jumping over creeks, balancing on fallen logs, and maintaining solid footing over leaf-covered descents made for a slow pace and an awesome solo run. At one point, I encountered an old log that spanned a rather large gully. As I trotted along, I realized that I was on the log, but the log was about 10-12 feet from the ground. to make matters worse, I noticed that it was rotten! I kept running across as lightly as I could and hoped for the best. Maybe I'll save such reckless behavior for when someone is nearby to help from now on, but I'm not that smart. I was a little disappointed to miss the run back at school this morning, but this was a fun alternative.

Total(unless I get out later, which sounds inviting): 41

The low mileage weeks are fun, but I'm hoping to bump up the volume in the coming weeks. I'll be home intermittently for the next month, so a change of scenery and maybe some fun trails will bust me out of this funk. If there's anything I've learned, its that momentum is hard to get going, but also hard to stop.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekly Recap and the curse of pre-race insomnia 11/8-11/14

Monday - 8 with Josh, Lauren, Alex, and Joe- 2.5 to the nature preserve, then 4 laps(total of 3 miles) of "Indian Run," - running in a line, back of the pack surges to front, constant turnover. Im not usually one for speedwork, but this is really fun. There is one hill on the loop, and we try to time it so that we can stick some poor sucka with surging up the hill(Think hot potato). 2.5 back. Fun way to recover from a 20 miler the previous day.

Tuesday- 10 miles-2 warm up, 6x800(2:55, 2:55, 2:55, 2:50, 2:45, 2:38) on the track, 3 miles of cool down w/striders, then 2 miles easy. This may be a little off, but not by much(Who cares?, it was a fun workout).

Wednesday- 7 miles with Sean and Phil at the Gazelle group. Kept the pace around 8:00 miles or so. More of an easy, social run. Downtown Kalamazoo has the Christmas lights up-makes me chilly just looking at them.

Thursday- 7- 2 to the fieldhouse(flat bike tire caused me to be late for practice, so I was on foot), 2 miles of "pick ups"- 3/4 speed effort on straights, ease up on the turns. 2 miles home. 1 mile of intermittent resting between miles. Nothing crazy, but just enough to get the heart pounding and feel "race legs." probably 6ish minute/mile pace. Im terrible at track workouts- they drain me of confidence pretty quickly.  Today's run was just to feel fast and get some speed in before a rest day tomorrow, then the Road Hawg 10k Saturday. I've never really "trained" for a race before, so this will be interesting. It does remind me, however, that Im not a runner. Im a guy who likes running. I have very little ambition to beat people or pound out miles on boring courses. I don't mean to say that I'm not competitive so that I can be passive-aggressive, but I'll take a solo or group run to a race any day. The races are just the end that justifies the means and measure progress.

Friday- 4- Pretty abysmal 4 mile downtown run with Alex and Abbey(on her bike). Pretty beautiful morning with the the sun out and keeping the chill off. Legs felt a bit dead, but I guess I should've expected that. A week of actual quality running will do that to a person like me who lives on junk food and junk miles. Abbey almost got hit by a car, so that was the most exciting part of the adventure. Coach said to run just far and fast enough to make a sweat, so that's what we did, then a light sesson of resistance training(been going to the gym 3 days/week for a couple weeks).

Saturday- Road Hawg 10k, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base 35:23 3rd Place. Not a bad performance, considering another pre-race fiasco that resulted in no sleep. I travelled to Allendale to attend a friend's birthday party. Little did I know that some of the partygoers planned on being up until about 4am-directly over my head on the next floor while I tried to sleep. I had to get up at 5:30 so I could make it to school on time to catch a ride to the race in Battle Creek. I had been sleeping very well all week, so I wasn't terribly worried about 1 night's sleep affecting performance. Other than the overwhelming frustration that comes from drunken noise while attempting to sleep, I feel that it hardly affected my running. I arrived on campus and walked with Abbey to our ride. Our coach, George Dales, was there to meet us along with Tom Coyne, who would be driving the rest of our running club to the race. We arrived in time for me to get registered and warm up with Joey, Mike, Alex, Evan, and Josh. They were warming up a little too fast for my lazy ass, so I jogged a bit with Tom and did a little stretching. With about 25 minutes to the race start, I made my mix of RedBull/Gatorade and downed with some water. A little more jogging around to warm up, and then it was time to head to the start line.

In typical small race fashion, I was suprised by the start of the race. All of the racers(5 and 10k) took off at the same time, and ran the first 2 miles together. I was within sight of Alex and Joey, but they quickly pulled away in the 1 and 2 spots in the 5k race. Mike and Josh were near me for the first mile. Josh stayed with me until the course split, and mike dropped back at the first mile-but only by a couple seconds. Evan and I were the only ones from our club running the 10k, and my goal was to stay with him as long as possible. Our running abilities are pretty closely matched(his time at the Grand Rapids Marathon was 1 minute faster than mine), so I figured we could help each other out as much as possible until we had to separate. I love running as a team; its great to feel the support of friends in a setting in which individuals and egos usually take precedence. About mile 3, Evan put some distance between us. At first I was a little frustrated, but quickly shrugged it off when I realized that I had gone through the 5k mark at 17:20- a new 5k PR! No matter how the race ended, I knew the day wouldn't be a total loss. I maintained even splits of 5:40-5:55ish pace for the rest of the course. It was mostly flat, with the exception of an elevated bridge and about 3/4 mile of hilly gravel access road(which is always a fun experience in Vibram Fivefingers).

10 miles total for the day with warmup and cooldown included.

Im incapable of being photogenic, so I make ugly faces.
Our group of misfit runners(left to right): Coach George Dales, Kevin, Joey, Me, Alex, Evan, Josh, Mike, and Abbey

Sunday- 5 miles with Sam- Went to Al Sabo for some hiking and running. I was wearing shorts and a long sleeve shirt, Sam was slightly dressed slightly warmer. We ended up doing more running than hiking to stay warm. ran about 4 of the 5 miles of our hike. Lots of fun climbs and descents of the little hills and lots of wandering around and running the fun sections. Great recovery run and quality time in the woods. This time of the year is always great. There is a strange beauty in the barren trees and brown leaves- the final sign that snow and frozen ground is upon us.

Total- 51 miles. If I can keep having weeks like this all winter, it will be a nice, relaxing season with time to socialize and study. quality running and lots of fun times with friends, but still enough to maintain some base.

final realization- Im running a decent amount of milage...just for fun. Really enjoying the ride!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Little Catch-Up

I haven't updated this in a while. Since the marathon, My running has been really unstructured. I've barely even documented it. The past two weeks have been a great time for running, especially since I've taken some pressure off of myself. I wanted to really focus on listening to my body and just running when it felt fun. Suprisingly enough, I still managed a couple weeks in the low 50's, even if it was really lacking any realy purpose. The weather was crisp and cool for a while, so why not just get out and ejoy it? Some of the highlights included some great trail runs with my friends Mark, Jason, and Shelly. These runs are what running is all about for me. We manage to use our residual fitness from a spring/summer of heavy training to propel ourselves all over the most scenic places West Michigan has to offer. Heading from the wetlands to the dunes to the beach to the leaf-covered trails feels nearly effortless as we explore the seemingly new area. The leaves going from the trees to the ground makes running(especially barefoot and in minimalist shoes) a new experience, even on the same trusty old trails. Leaving the watch, water bottle, and the ego at home for a change felt great.

Mark(left), Jason(right), and I looking cool for Shelly's new camera

Trying to find the roots under the leaves before they find my foot keeps things interesting.

Yes, we are dorks, no, thats probably not changing soon.
Last weekend was the Alger Heights 5k, a costume race held on Halloween. I got up and met Jason, Shelly, Scott, Brandon and Roger for some laughs and a little running. To maintain my last shred of professionalism, I'll just say that I overindulged at a Halloween party the night before and that I shouldn't have. I will, however, take some pride that I ran a sub 19minute 5k, with jeans, wolverine claws, a flannel shirt, a hangover, and roughly 2 hours of sleep. It was fun to run a relaxed race and just let the speed happen(sort of, I was humbled a little by the short, fast race). It was a great way to spend time with friends and get moving on a day in which the couch or a nap outside was beckoning(and eventually won me over later that day). Luckily for me, I had a costume still on from the night before to wear to the race. Running in jeans was not quite comfortable, but it was fun nonetheless.

Shelly and I happened to both be X-men for halloween. Great minds think alike.
 Another great side of running has been a sligh focus on speed when the timing is right. There are a few 5 and 10k races coming up that are great fun with little pressure. I have the support of a group of tremendous runners that help me break out of my ruts and do some actual speed work once in a while. The workouts hurt, but anyone who loves running, exercise, or pushing themselves in any way understands how the pain can be somewhat pleasureable. Time and pain seem minimal when you have a good group of friends to help you get through the tough workouts. My friends Alex, Joey, and Evan show strength in their running that I can only pretend to have, and its pretty inspiring to watch how hard they can push themselves. I may be the slowest guy in our club, but going sub-5 pace for a whole workout is good enough for this hobby jogger.

The last two weeks have been scattered with days off for a variety of reasons. I have no big races to shoot for, the nearest one being next year. I've been making a few weekly trips to the pool and twice-weekly visits to the gym instead of running once or twice daily. I have no real ambitions in the weight room, but I recognize the benefits of strength training and want to obtain some of them. Its been a great, well-timed season of racing and trainng-its time to take a break and just let the body rest. Some worry about detraining, but I can't say I have that concern. If I can go from wheezing my way to one 10:00/mile mile to running 50x 8:30/miles in three years, then a couple months of goofing around should be just what the body needs. There's something less daunting about a task after we've already reached it, and taking a rest is no sign of weakness. Guys like Scott Jurek and Yiannis Kuoros have been known to not run at all after strenuous seasons or goal races. Considering that they're a couple of the fastest beings on two legs, I'll follow their example in my quest for slightly-above-averageness.
This week concluded with a nice long run with Jason, Shelly, and Mark on the North Country Trail. We ran a nice out/back and enojyed running a little distance for a change. The run was somewhere between 19 and 20 miles on some pretty smooth singletrack. Though its been about 10 years since my last hunting trip, the cool air and color reminds me of the long hike through the woods with my dad to get to our hunting blinds. The sitting all day would drive me crazy, but the fast hike through the woods, over streams, and the sound of crunching leaves will always come to mind when I run through the fall landscape.

Happy trails, roads, treadmills belts, etc. everyone.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekly Recap: 10/18-10/24

A fairly boring week on the running front. Ran as much as I felt like. After the slightly disheartening experience at the marathon, it was a couple days before I truly felt like running. Some blisters from an un-broken in pair of FiveFingers kept me from running with anything on my feet for the majority of the week.
I was amazed at how sore I was following this race. Typically its one day of hobbling, then easy running the following day. Not the case. I attribute the extra soreness to a few things. The first is the pace of the race. I rarely(f ever) touch a 6:40 mile in training, and somehow managed to run 26.2 of them. The second would be the stomach bug that was present for the days prior and after the race. I wasn't able to keep food in my body prior to or after. It wasn't until about wednesday that I was able to eat and digest food. Lack of calories caused some weight loss and didn't allow for adequate recovery. I later found out that some of my family members and roommates had similar symptoms, so I guess it wasn't just me begin a head case afterall. I wasn't too worried because I don't have any immediate running plans, so rest after a rather busy season of racing and training goes totally unopposed by me.

zero. I did manage to run/walk the 3 miles to and from school, but it was pretty ugly
still nuthin'
3 easy barefoot with Alex at IM fields
5 around Kalamazoo, ended up downtown. Decent pace I guess. No watch
6 miles with Alex, Abbey, and Shy
Zero, felt sick and crappy, just rested. persistent little virus
0. Like saturday, but worse.
14 miles.
After adding this up, I realize what a boring week it was. No wonder I had so much free time!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Race Report: Grand Rapids Marathon 2010

I'll try to stay positive here.

October 17th, 2010, I completed my first marathon. After running ultras and longer-distance triathlons for 2 years, I suppose it was time.

One day a few months ago, I went on a fun group trail run on the North Country Trail. I was accompanied by Ken, Rick, and Mark. On the way back, the marathon came up. Ken asked, "whats your marathon time, Jesse?" I gave my usual reply. "I don't know, I've never done one." "What?" he asked in suprise. I usually take a little bit of joy in that I neglected to do one of the major milestones of a runner...maybe thats why I'm not always viewed as a serious runner. My lack of seriousness and/or sense of pride doesn't help that cause either. The guys told me that it was about time I give a road marathon a shot. This is probably where the seed was planted  

I decided that doing a marathon could be done on my ultra training. If I can win a 50 on it, why not run a halfway decent road marathon? training consisted of very little speedwork, a fair amount of tempo efforts, and lots upon lots of junk miles! Junk miles is a term commonly used by people who don't like running for fun to describe miles without specific purpose. The conditioning that results from my training is a byproduct of getting out and having fun. That's not to say that I don't have races in mind when motivation gets low, but living solely for race day seems a bit empty. Its a balance that is different for everyone, and I like to think I've found a level of commitment that works for me at this point in my life.

The only concern I had going into the marathon was the pace. My last race, the Woodstock 50, had me running about an 8:20something average pace. Since Grand Rapids was roughly half as long and completely flat, I know I should be able to run faster. The only issue with that was that I rarely run faster than 7:30-8:00/mile pace. If I was going to run the race, I thought I should be able to run a time I felt I was capable of. Since I rarely race on flat roads, it was hard to determine what speed would be appropriate for a runner of modest talent such as myself. Im not a speedy runner, nor am I super competetive. What should I aim for? 3:30? A Boston Qualifier of 3:10:59? Sub 3? I figured I would decide when I started running. Alex, Evan, and I were all talking about shooting for a sub 3 hour time. There was not a doubt in my mind that either of these two would be able to cross the finish in under three hours. They both have the ability to drop me at a moment's notice. I was a different story. My marathon splits for my ultras are pretty far from boston qualifiers,with the exception of a 3:16 marathon time on te Kal-Haven Tral ultra(33.4miles). That should be a positive indicator that I could run a decent marathon time, but as usual I was unconvinced.

Day Before
I came to Allendale to Friday night to see Samantha. She lives near Grand Valley State University's campus, so it would be perfect. I would be able to spend some time with her, and I would be close to the race. I arrived Friday, but it was sort of late. Saturday morning, We had planned to go for a short run, but opted for sleep instead. It was then that I realized that I wasn't feeling 100%, nor had I been for a couple days. Since thursday, I had been having flu symptoms. I won't divulge details-I understand that not everyone's mother is a nurse like mine. We don't all love hearing about projectile...nevermind. Anyway, I wasn't feeling pass-out tired like one does with the flu, just some of symptoms that prohibited food from staying in my body. Frequent bathroom trips were inconvenient and worrysome. I don't typically worry too much prior to races, so I honestly wouldn't attribute the gastrointestinal distress as prerace jitters.
Sam and I ate breakfast, then Alex came from Kalamazoo. We talked a bit and goofed off while Sam ran to the rec center for her own workout. She returned, cleaned up, and then we made the short drive to the expo/packet pickup at the YMCA. It was a pretty nice place to have the pickup, and it was cool to finally feel some semblance of prerace excitement. We met up with our friend and training partner Abbey, who would be going for her first boston qualifier at her first marathon. My friend Ryan would also come meet us at he expo. Ryan would be running his first road marathon Sunday, and was looking ready to race. He had injured his ankle a couple weeks prior to the race, but seemed optimistic that it would be ok for 26.2 miles. He completed the North Country Trail Marathon(half of which in socks), so this race would be less of a challenge with repsect to vertical and technicality. Our running group often gives ryan crap about his lack of preparation and less than stellar execution of marathon distance races, but the truth is that tenacity is an admirable trait. We all should envy a person with the guts to throw themselves into the void of the unknown. I waited 1 year after my first ultra to even attempt the marathon distance because of a fear of inadequacy. Ryan's "ahh, f*ck it" attitude reminds me that self exploration is less about sure things and more about the unknown.

After the expo, our group went for some food in Standale. We ate, watched some football(I never watch sports, so I more or less distracted everyone with conversation). More trips to the bathroom. More signs of the flu...or cohlera...most likely flu. My color was looking a little pale and I was feeling a little shaky. In past experiences I get more and more relaxed as the race draws near. I kept thinking "how could I possibly be nervous? Could it really be nerves?" The more the symptoms persisted, the clearer it got that I wasn't nervous. I didn't want to make anyone nervous, especially Sam. She's amazingly perceptive and caring, so I wouldn't want to make her worry. She had no reason to, but she cares about people in her life very much, and its more that I deserve. We left the restaraunt, and I made one more trip to the bathroom. I made a mental note to drink lots of water tonight, as most of it was pouring out of me(excuse the nastiness). I said to my group, "get me a cot with a hole in it, I got the cohlera!" Alex and Sam understood the reference as they're both going to school for medicine. We parted ways with Ryan and Abbey as they headed back to their respective houses and stopped at the store to pick up Alex's secret prerace breakfast-white bagels. I imagine that Alex's simple diet is akin to supersonic jets using not some secret formula, but actually low grade kerosene. He burns a bunch of it and he burns it fast.

We returned to Samantha's place to spend the rest of the evening. Alex and I took a quick 5.5mile jaunt around campus to look around and try to get a little feel for race pace. I only used the bathroom on campus once during this run, so I felt a little more confident that tomorrow wouldn't be a total disaster. After the run, Alex went to the library to study, and Sam and I went to Jason and Shelly's for a little bit to say hi and exchange one Zensah leg sleeve with Shelly. She likes my blue leg sleeve, so I thought we'd swap one just for fun(alright, I wasn't opposed to wearing one pink one, but Im trying to preserve what's left of my masculinity). We quickly exchanged 1 sleeve, wished each other luck and let Jason and Shelly put their kids to bed. Both Shelly and Jason are great friends, and I could probably talk with them for hours(well, 14 is our record on our longest run so I guess we must be decent friends if we didn't kill each other), so we took off before we spent the whole night chatting it up. Doing a race didn't seem quite right without a road trip with Shelly, Mark and Jason beforehand. Just more proof that running is just an excuse to have fun.

Alex, Sam and I spent the rest of the night slacking(except Sam, she studied). We went to bed early after a couple beers and tried to get some sleep. I counted how many trips I had made to the bathroom, but stopped when I realized that it was a bit of a negaive exercise. I just told myseld that there is no such thing as sudden onset Krohn's disease and went to bed.

Race Morning

We awoke just in time for me start falling asleep. I tried all night to sleep well, but couldn't stop alternating between shivering and sweating.

There's no better time to experiment with food than the morning before a marathon, especially when you have some mysterious dehydrating stomach issues that may or may not include slight intestinal bleeding(not sure about that, but it kinda looked that way). I downed a Honeymilk brand meal replacement shake and ate some gross Amway protein bar. I washed it down with a bunch of water to hydrate and wash the nastiness from my palette. Time to hit the road.

We found a decent spot to park near the YMCA, the place the race would start and finish. I was excited to see my friends who were running, and those who were there supporting. My parents were also on their way, but were cutting a little close on time. We saw Jason, Shelly, their daughter Ava, and Shelly's mother first. Shelly looked excited and ready to go. She's always really positve and never looks nervous before a race. She really runs for the fun of it. In agreement with many of our collective theories, it has made her progressively faster. In just one year her 5k PR is approaching that of girls I know who run for colleges(in training, mind you, not races. The real PR will be determined soon!).

Shelly and I before the race, sporting a sweet Zensah sleeve combo

We gathered our stuff and headed closer to the start, where we met Ryan and Mark. Mark wouldn't be running the marathon becasue he has enough sense to stay off a hard, boring marathon course. He, being the friend that he is, came to support us and take his patented 10000000 pictures during the race. I got a phone call from Abbey; she told me she was near the start and was looking for us. By this time, Joey, Alex, Shelly, Ryan and I knew we had to get to the start, so we headed over. Joey would be going for his half marathon PR, which would be a win compared to last years times. He's fast as hell and would be a top contender in the half.

left to right: Ryan, Alex, Me, Joey
 This was the first time that I actually took a place in the fron of the pack. I could actually see the start line. The three hour pace group, the fastest group, was behind us. Only a few people were shooting for faster times than us, so we figured we may as well. When I say "we," I mean that I was too proud to stand where I should've been, which was about 20 feet further back. The United States and Canadian national anthems played, and then it got quiet...besides Evan and I doing our signature pre-run techno-dance. Next thing I knew, we were moving.

The start. Joey out front in blue. I can be spotted in there with Evan and Alex

We took off nice and easy, which happened to be about a 6:30/mile pace. A bit fast for me. I typically like to warm up just a little before getting into race pace. I guess its not as much of an option in a fast race where every second counts. We backed it off to about a 6:45 pace, which was just a little slower than a 3 hour pace. We all knew we would be speeding up at least for a little while, so I wasn't sweating it. A few turns, and we were heading into downtown Grand Rapids. It was really cool to be on a closed street in one of the busiest areas of the city. There were bystanders waving out of buildings, spectators and supporters of other racers, and police officers lining the course. We saw Jason and Mark, who would be leapfrogging on the course supporting Shelly. This was the last time I'd see them on the course, but Mark did manage to snag some pictures. Around mile 4, Alex's parents, along with his roommate Phil, were waiting with some accelerade for Alex. I tossed my shirt to Phil. It was 40 degrees and I was hot. I had my gels tucked into my armsleeves, and my watch over the top, so removing them wasn't possible. So, I was sporting a bit of a running model look sans running model's body. What do you do? I was already wearing mismatched pink/blue leg sleeves and tiny, tattered shorts with toe shoes on. Does it really get worse if I remove my "borrowed" middle school cross country singlet?
Left to right: Me(red), Alex(Yellow), Evan(White with headband)

Really? Nobody told me my butt was hanging out?

The course took us out of the city, through a series of paved trails on the outskirts of town. All I could hear was the stomping of running shoes. They seemed to be hitting the ground in unison, running at a very close cadence. My pitter-patter feet moved quietly on the course. I have a habbit of matching my cadence to those around me, so I have to be careful when running in a group shod runners. Its not good, bad, or whatever, but if my cadence gets too low, I start overstriding and my knee starts bugging me. A few minutes later, I was joined on the course by my friend Jeremiah. We train together occasionally, and he was participating in the marathon as a member of MyTeamTriumph. It's a program in which a person with a disability completes a marathon in a stroller, accompanied by a group of runners. Im proud to call Jeremiah a friend and his participation in this program is a great reason why I do. Already having a stellar running season, one that included a fantastic finish of the Burning River 100mile followed by  the Pike's Peak Marathon just a couple weeks later, Jeremiah passed on running the marathon to help out someone who wouldn't be able to cover the distance without him. He ran with me for a few of the road miles before breaking away to go meet his wife, Susan, for a little while. He promised to be back later. It was great to have someone there to visit with for a while on the ealry part of the race. At this point, I was still running with Evan as well. Alex had slowly built up a gap, and I didn't expect to see him again until the end of the race.

"Dammit." I thought to myself as the all-too familiar feeling of a stomach cramp set in. Just when I had forgotten about my stomach issues, they magically reappeared. I just grinned and dealt with it for a while, knowing I would be in search of a bathroom before too long. There wasnt one around, so I just slowed up a little bit and let Evan go. I joined a small pack of guys from Indiana. They were all cool guys who were also running their first Marathon(from what I remember). They asked the usual questions about my fivefingers, and I answered to the best of my abilities. My heart rate was a little higher than it should've been, and I was fighting the stomach pain. I broke off from the group to water the bushes on the side of the road. It wasn't exactly the bathroom break I was looking for, but I had to piss and I thought it would help to "make room" in my abdomen for the other unpleasantness building inside. Yes, I've taken anatomy and physiology classes and I know that makes little sense, but desperate times and all that. I caught back up to the Hoosiers as we rouned another corner into another bike path. To say the surge I put on to make up for my exceedingly long piss was dumb is an understatement. My Garmin recored a 5:10/mile pace. I should have just let them go and paced my catch-up over a mile or two, not a couple minutes. Just in time to catch up, We arrived at an aid station with porta-potties. Thank goodness. To my suprise, they were all empty! I guess sub 3 marathoners dont stop for sh*t breaks! It was quick, and I foolishly left the restroom, downed a Jet Blackberry GU, and put on another surge. Egos are dangerous, and mine was temporarily running the show. My pace dipped below a six minute mile again, and I forced myself to slow down. I cauught another group of guys who were going for a 3 hour finish, so I talked with them for a little bit until the turnaround ahead of us.
grunting through a flu-induced wall...or at least thats my carppy excuse

"Really!?! Again?" My stomach knotted up and felt myself shivering. If I could stop running 6:30/mile pace and relax, I may have been able to shake it off. I knew the bathroom was coming up gain, so I smiled and waved at the spectators that were on the course. Reg, Annie, and Joe(Abbey's dad, mom, and boyfriend) were on the course, and I could hear them cheering me on. It was nice to see familiar faces, and that meant  that Abbey was still running strong, not too far behind me. I reached the john again, and hopped back in. I just took a second and laughed to myself. I've never had gastric issues on a run. I hardly ever even use the restroom before a race. I managed to hold my bladder for 4 hours and 23 minutes for the Kal Haven race this spring. the shortest race I've done all year, and Im droppin' deuces left and right while resisting the urge to puke. I lept out of the bathroom and joined the runners once again. I tore open another gel and spit the top onto the ground near a trash can. It was then that I hear a gentleman yell, "Oh come on! That went right on me!" I guess my peice of wrapper hit his leg. I apoligized and laughed awkwardly, hoping he was overreacting for the sake of humor. We exchanged a few more words, and I could tell he was pissed off. I told him I was sorry again and sped off. At least I still had the energy to outrun a socially uncomfortable moment.

About 1 mile later I got swallowed up by the 2:59:59 pace group. The GR marathon does kind of a cool pace group thing where the paces are named after celebrities who have run that time. Since Lance Armstrong's marathon debut was a sub 3, the pacer's sign read "Sub 3 Lancers." This group was my saving grace in those tough miles between 20 and 22. I kind of dissociated from the run and tried to hang on and stay comfortable. That lasted about 10 seconds. This was my pain. My moment. It was time to focus on it. It hurt. My guts were in knots, My legs were hurting(but I was pleasantly suprised by how slight the pain was), and I could feel my fivefingers eating a hole in my foot. At no point in my last 50 did I hurt this much. The rest of this race was goig to be run the wrong way. It wasn't fun. As much as I preach my hippie bullshit, sometimes you just grit your teeth and torture yourself for no good reason. We were back onto a part of the course that brings you back into the city. It was then that I saw Jeremiah. He was waiting to pace me into the finish! I was happy and relieved to see him. It was a bit embarassing to let one of my running role models see me in such awful shape, but I was still holding a solid pace as I broke free from the sub 3 pack and Jeremiah and I cruised through an aid station(note- I haven't mentioned aid stations or fueling, but I just brought 4 GUs with me and took about 1-2 per hour, with a couple extras at low points, taking only water from aid stations).

At one point, Jeremiah told me I was "looking great" about 3 times in one minute. As a semi- experienced pacer, this is how you know you look like shit. I dropped back a little as I felt my vision get dim on the sides. I saw Jeremiah point to a spot right next to him. "Right here." I shook my head, feeling the sweat fly off my hair and my vision sharpen again. I slowly crept back up to Jeremiah's side as we rouned a 90degree corner to the city streets. Two more corners and I was home free. My stomach was in knots, but I stood up straight and pumped my arms to get myself moving. Am I going to take my spot as the urban legend, the guy actually messes himself during a footrace? It was time to start the "kick" Jeremiah pointed out one guy who had been ahead of us for a few minutes as we sped up. "Should we take him down?" he said jokingly. "let's try." I leaned forward at the ankles and felt myself relax. I knew it was almost over, so I just let it flow. My pace quickened to about a 6:00/mile as we rounded the corner and I saw the finish. "Try to look happy. Your parents are watching. Sam's watching," I told myself. I mustered up a half-assed smile. I saw Shy, a friend from running club as I tried to look less like a zombie and more like a good runner. She was waiting to see us finish, so it was a pleasant suprise to see her there. I got closer to the gates and could hear "Marathon Don" Kern announcing the finishers names. Jeremiah Broke off and said, "take it, its yours. you owe me a beer." He may not know, but I owe him a hell of a lot more than a beer. I could hear Sam and my mom cheering as I came in to the finish. The clock was ticking away. 2:57:56. I broke 3 hours, no where the hell is the bathroom?

Last minute edit:
My group did exceedingly well on race day. Joey ran a 1:14 half marathon for a PR and 6th overall(I can't even get my head around a 1:14 half). Evan ran a 2:56:22, crushing the 3 hour goal he set for himself. Alex ran a 2:47! I knew he could, and he didn't disappoint for a 7th overall and an age group 2nd. Abbey ran a 3:35 and qualified for Boston in her first attempt! It was cool to see her gut out the finish and put all her worrying behind her. Shelly ran a 4:44 and PR'd as well. Brandon finished strong and made it look easy, as you can see in the photo. Ryan had some complications, but still managed a 6:30 on a pretty badly injured leg.

Abbey had some minor comlications, but its not as bad as it looks, honest.

My mom and I after the race
If there's ever been a picture that shows what the marathon is truly about, its this one of my friend Brandon and his daugher. No matter how many times I see finishes like this, it still gets me. Human nature at its finest.

Ava, Shelly, and Jason,

Alex showing Sam, my mom, my dad, and me how to dougie.

my sweet temporary tatoo/bumper sticker

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Weekly recap 10/11-10/17

A fairly easy week of running, topped off by a humbling attempt at the marathon.

The taper went well, and it was as close to a conventional taper as I've ever been. Running about 4 miles a day, once a day felt strangely awkward. I never thought that such an easy workload would be so hard to handle. To be honest, I've always been very skeptical of those who claim to feel awful when skipping runs. I was always quick to label them as obsessed or compulsive exercisers. I suppose Im not too far off of that, but I still enjoy a day completely off of running once in a while(which seems to usually be about 1 day every 2 weeks or so).

I broke down and had to buy another pair of Vibram Fivefingers this week. My old pair of KSOs were too sorely missed, and I've found them to be the only model of shoe currently available that I knew I could run marathon distance in on pavement. I finally found a pair that fit perfectly with respect to foot length. 43 men's fits like a glove...but on my foot.

The marathon was a good experience, but I found myself to be slightly below my expected abilities, both physically and mentally. I still eeked out a sub 3 hour finish and a Boston Qualifying time, so I'll try to keep the bitching to a minimum.

Hey, I thought I posted this already, but here's how the week unfolded.
4 miles with running club, nice somewhere between easy and hard
Nada, a ride with Abbey to get my new kicks
8 miles- 7 with alex, 1.5 with Megan
4 miles barefoot with Abbey and Alex on the downtown course
3 miles with Abbey and Alex. Abbey rolled her ankle, so I gave her a ride home. Im all about making dumb decisions, but when it comes to other people, I'll play it safe this close to a race
5.5 miles around GVSU campus with Alex. Explored campus and hit the upper end of our race pace.
26.2 miles at GR marathon. 2:57:56. Race Report to follow
51 miles

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mid week entry for no good reason

This week has been on the boring side of things, which means more thinking for my buzzing head to do. School has been fun, but overall less fulfilling than my senior year(my final senior year, hopefully) would be. Tying up loose ends with classes, searching for internships, and looking for part-time work to fill the time and help me pay my bills has been keeping me occupied. Running has been going well, and Im getting ready to go back and visit a milestone in any runner's life. I skipped over the marathon and decided to just go ahead and do ultras last year. I don't regret the decision, but I suppose that 26.2 miles is something I should experience at some point in my life. Im hoping that it goes well, but I predict that a lack of specificity in my training will lead to a sub-par performance. I guess I should stop being negative, stop thinking about it, and just run the damned thing. A poor performance will not spell disaster for this ongoing hobbyjogging adventure I find myself on. As I do with every taper week, I find myself wondering what all this is for. Why do I train with such resolve, when ultimately it doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things? I think the answer is very simple, so I'll give an overly complicated and confusing response.

I often wonder if my running stems from a desire to be an athlete. As a kid, I was poorly conditioned. I had chronic athsma that hospitalized me every time snow fell and melted. My knees ached every time my lungs allowed me to run, so I was prescribed knee braces and orthotics for youth soccer. I wasn't disabled or disadvantaged; in retrospect, I just lacked the patience to overcome the obstacles, so I used them as excuses to avoid high levels of exertion. To be honest, I wasn't sitting there pining for a life of two-a-day soccer practices, weekends full of tournaments, or superior attitudes that plagued young athletes. I think my desire to engage in sports was overridden by overly structured schedules and unsolicited advice. There was always this idea that each person's body is different and we don't need to be told by people that are unfamiliar with us that we're doing it wrong. This may be why more individualized activities like motocross appealed to me. Little did I know that I'd be covering more ground on foot in 1 week than I put on my motorcycle in a month.

Where was I?

Do I run for praise? I sincerely hope that I don't. That's not to say that I don't appreciate it. I have some of the best friends I could ever ask for, and their support makes me feel like I could do anything. My only mental struggle at the moment is making sure that intrinsic factors are my true motivation for pouring my heart and soul into aimlessly putting one foot in front of the other. I guess the only way to find out is to keep doing it and figure out where the happiness comes from. I don't run to feel superior to others, but rather to feel superior to my former self. It feels great to know that I can move under my own power for hours on end.
To test myself, Im going to attempt to include more long solo runs this winter. I feel as though running alone for long periods of time will help me grow mentally and appreciate the time I have with others when I do get to see them. My longest solo run to date is about 5 hours, and I'm hoping to increase that in this upcoming off season. This doesn't mean that I don't value long runs with friends. Running seemingly endless trails for hours in a pack makes me feel like I'm tapping into sometihng that has been lost to many for a long time. Its amazing to know that a great distance is being covered on foot for the sake of getting from one point to another, even if our society no longer necessitates it.

This post makes no sense, nor does it even stick to one idea. My apologies.

So, back to this weekend. This course does have some advantages to offer. I'll be running one of the flattest marathon courses around, selected by Runners World as one of the best courses for running a Boston qualifying time or a personal best. I'll also be running with a great group. Many people from our school's running club will be doing their first marathon on the course, and will my friends and training partners Shelly and Ryan will be shooting for PRs. My friend Joey will surely be looking for a top spot in the half. Alex, my friend and nearly full-time training partner, is preparing to run this race as his "A" race(if you can nail down any sense of priority in our lacadaisical running schedule) for the year. He's going to run extremely well and I'm excited to see how he does. Another one of my everyday training partners, Abbey, will be running the course as her first marathon. She will undoubtedly suprise herself and crush her goal time. She trains with us guys every day, running at or below her "goal pace" every day, unlike myself. Which leads me to me. I don't touch race pace but a few times a week if I start falling down a hill. I have no idea what's in store for this race, but at the very least I'll get to enjoy the success of my friends as they chase down a distance that's important to them. If I can pull it together, I'll have a good day too. It will at least be nice to see people once in a while, as my last race was run almost alone.