Monday, December 30, 2013

Don't post this, for it is embarrassing

Another week of scanty running, but hey, it's the holidays. Driving, family get-togethers, delicious varieties cheese-foods, and reflection on another year past.

"I'll start training after New Year's. It's not a resolution though, because it just happens that I'll have about 16 weeks to train and taper for this ultra that I'm doing in April. That's a good training block"

I thought I was being original. I pulled the same shit on myself last year with Umstead. Zane Grey shows quite a bit more promise of being a fun challenge. 8 loops on a flat gravel road was about as fun as counting to 48,000 while taking sandpaper to my forehead: Certainly tough, but not necessarily fun. "The toughest 50 miler in the US" has a little bit better ring to it. Mountains, technicality, beauty, and a new place to check out is an exciting idea. Now, how do I get my ass up and training?

After yet another transfer of colleges, and a move back to my Alma-mater in Kalamazoo, I'm hoping for a bit of a rhythm as I try(again) to start preparation. Daily runs, if not doubles, should build the legs back up to some sort of fighting shape, even if I'm far from any substantial climbs needed for a mountain race. My home environment, even if it was extremely comfortable, lends itself better to eating and laying about than it does running. I seem to be the only one affected by this, as my parents are both busy, productive members of society. I'm still optimistic that I'm a work in progress in that regard.

This mentality, this pattern that I have, frustrates me sometimes. I realize I'm likely to be a victim of my own lack of motivation, and also my impulsiveness. Is an admission of this a sign of humility or the creation of a self-fulfilling prophecy? I wonder how likely am I to be right if I valiantly stand up and shout, "this is my year!" Is it unwavering confidence that helps us transcend our own mediocrity, or is it being aware of how likely we are to fail?

For this answer, I can pull a memory from my childhood. Growing up riding things with wheels and engines made me familiar with broken bones(9 if you don't count fingers), bruises, and scars. The fun things, like riding a motorcycle over a log that spans a ravine or skipping a snowmobile across a pond, are often the things with the smallest margin of error. I remember one time in particular with my dad on our motocross bikes. He had been riding for years before I was born, and rediscovered the sport when I was old enough to get a full-sized bike(almost- I had to use a box, stump, or log to actually mount it). The only way across a creek was a handmade wooden bridge that had to have been less than a foot wide. I shut my bike off and yelled back, "It's too narrow!" My dad replied, "How wide are your tires? How much room do you need? An inch is as good as a mile." After enough time, I realized that worrying about the possibility of failure is only useful in that it helps us appreciate our accomplishments(and the accomplishments of those we care about).

I'll never forget that because it's true whether I need to hit a goal or avoid a misstep. An inch is as good as a mile. Look forward and accomplish. Stop too often to look down, and end up in a cold, muddy creek with a 250cc Suzuki on top of you. The risk of failure makes the payoff greater, and the fall never hurts as badly as you think it will.

That little rant came out of nowhere.

This week, I shit you not, I didn't run a step until Thursday. Kelsey came up North to visit and we trudged around in the snow on the trails and nearby dunes for about an hour.

Friday was kind of a half-assed hill repeat session in Kalamazoo alone in the dark. Short bursts of high intensity, ten repeats, very short rest interval

Saturday consisted of a bright and sunny change of pace. The cold weather broke and we enjoyed some warmth and traction. 4 miles.

Christ. I spend more time writing about training than actually training. I've got "management material" written all over me.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Monday- No. Up for approximately 36hours after a red-eye from San Francisco. No jogging.

Tuesday- Finals day. Incredibly not fun. Water aerobics(yeah, I still do that for now) and 3 miles of jogging in the dark. Actually a little sore from 23 miles of mountains. "pacer soreness" has a slight sting of guilt to it.

Wednesday- 7 miles - 1 hour at Muskegon State Park. About 6 degrees on Lake Michigan's shoreline. I plodded along and enjoyed the cold. Winter running is fun in its own way. That being said, being stuck in San Francisco wouldn't break my heart until I ran out of money.

Thursday - 3 miles - Quick jog from home. Still cold.

AM- 3(?) miles with Kelsey and Cohen at the Arboretum.
PM- 1 mile balls out barefoot through the snowy streets of Grand Rapids because whiskey and Evan made me.

Saturday - No running, just a few hours of downhill skiing. Really fun outing with Ryan and Nick, but I think the thought of skiing to a place sounds even more appealing. Fantasized about attempting a cross-country ski race this winter. Still, "skating" from place to place gave my arms and legs a workout I guess.

Sunday - 3 miles with Cohen(Kelsey's Great Dane).

A super impressive 19 miles this week. I guess logging them is a step to realizing how lazy I've gotten.

AM: 6 Jog around the streets of Kalamazoo rather aimlessly, except I was in search of toothpaste.
PM: 3 Arboretum Trails with Kelsey and Cohen.

Water Classes, and nothing else. Some random push-ups, pull-ups, and squats, but mostly just out of boredom.

Slept late.

Squats, lunges, etc. as a warmup, then a 5 miler around the house. First time I've opened it up on flat roads in a while. I wore the Garmin(mostly because I was paranoid about missing a phone call) Averaged a 7 minute pace in hardpacked snow on the side of the road, including warm up and cool down. Heh. Being out of shape is balanced out by fresh legs.

3-miles - A pretty nasty ice storm blew through and laid down a 1/8'' sheet of ice over everything. The roads were as slippery as wet glass, but my carbide-tipped strap-on spike things allowed me to get some miles in. Driving to the nearest trail head wasn't worth the risk. Shit, I must be getting old.

2 hours - 9 miles(?) - A run that actually evoked some thought:
I drove West to Muskegon State Park, my favorite spot to run when I'm home. Sand Dunes and Gulf Coastal Plain are a very rare eco-system that I've been fortunate enough to enjoy since I can remember. As I ventured down the scantily-salted backroads to the park, I wondered what the trails would be like. I anticipated knee deep snow and high-stepping it through others' tracks, and a blanket of white covering my home trail system. When I arrived, I was surprised(not sure why. Probably because I don't think very hard). I wasn't just the only one there, but I found no tracks. The dunes weren't covered in snow. They looked like
 it had missed the Western-facing sides entirely. What was there, however,was a thick layer of clear ice that could support my weight. What is usually difficult to run because it constantly gives way is now more difficult because itfsd doesn't give an inch.

Even a grade this slight required no sled for a bruised ass.

Maybe it was just being a little hungry, or maybe the caffeine. This slow, methodical stomp up and down ridges between two beautiful lakes felt perfect. It was cold, slippery, dangerous, and unforgiving. Water sat beneath the ice in some of the lowlands. As I dug my crampons(Why do I even own such things?) into solid ice on my way through a chest-deep cornice on the back of a dune, I felt like me. I sat up there in the wind and watched tugboats drag a ship through the channel. Some deer managed to find traction and wind through the trees, nearly invisibly.

It may be too much for a simple person like me to understand, or maybe I think about it more than other people. Maybe it's just part of the human experience. I find myself preoccupied with where happiness comes from. Of all places, why did an overwhelming rush of happiness show up here on this day? I'm not particularly fit. It was cold. I was alone. I could barely get out of my own way on the trails. The sun was nowhere to be seen, yet I felt the way I've felt in the Rockies, above Lake Tahoe, on the West coast, in the Appalachians or outside of Flagstaff.

Have I rekindled a love with the Midwest, vowing never to leave my home and forsaking all other places? Of course not. I could interpret this as a nice, quaint, "home is where the heart is" sentiment and stay here. I could also accept the ubiquitous notion that happiness will find me as long as I'm open to it. Follow intuition and think before saying no.

Frozen fingers and typing a blog post on my phone in a coffee shop has me all over the place. Blah, blah blog.

4 miles from home at 11:30pm. Easy flat run for no reason other than enjoying the quiet snowfall.

30ish miles on this week. That's a little better.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Log the slogs. They'll turn to jogs.

I've barely been updating this thing. After a hiatus from real training(okay, I seldom train) and life changes that just don't seem suitable for "real time" updates(a book about how seemingly sad things can turn out beautifully, surely). I think I'll start documenting miles on this blog again. I, for some reason, loathe the use of social media as an exercise log. I don't give a shit if "Hobby McJoggerson ran 10.526 miles and felt 'meh.'" Why is this? Do I dislike people that remind me of my own narcissistic tendencies? I roll my eyes at people who know what all the elite ultrarunners are up to according to as I secretly wonder when the hell Tony Krupicka is going to update his damned blog. Yeah, I'm a hypocrite.

I had the pleasure of attending the TNF EC 50 mile in San Francisco this past weekend. I accompanied my girlfriend, Kelsey Gray, as she tossed herself into the mix with the best ultrarunners around. She had an incredible run, and I'll let her tell the tale in her own time. From a fan/pacer/cheerleader standpoint, this was an incredible experience. I saw an area of the country I've never seen before, enjoyed some quality travel time, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing Kelsey run the latter half(ish) of her race. She impressed the hell out of me, especially on the downhills. She's tough as nails, and pretty damned polite even when she's in pain.  I'll hang around for more fun/laughing/adventure/de-mirroring of rental cars if she'll have me.

Enough gushing. I'm grossin' y'all out with my being all affectionate and what not.

obligatory Golden Gate Bridge photo.

Nobody fell off any cliffs, which is nice. 

Twin Peaks. Giant City.
I've been saying that the trip to California and subsequent pacing duties would be the kickoff to real training. 5 hours in the mountains isn't to be fucked with when you're "soon to be in shape." I've got about 4 months. Or is it 5? I'll say 4, so that I don't continue slacking.

Training for this particular journey will require a little creativity. Pacing at TNF will likely be my sole mountain run before heading to the Highline trail. How does one cover 11,500' of technical climbing and descending when living in the midwest? Running mountains would be the best thing because it would train specific muscles, build strength in specific muscles and be more fun, but such is life.
What does one need to run fast in technical mountain trails?
-Leg Speed
-High VO2 max
-Leg Strength
-Enough fast twitch muscle to dodge rocks.

A list titled "things I need to work on" would look a lot like this, so I guess I'll have to take some sort of "cross training" approach. I need power, but sustained power for climbing. I need strength, but sustained strength to bomb long downhills. Fitness is fitness, and I think I can attain it if I keep moving and remember to run fast.

Ah, fuckit I'll just run a lot with a lot of people and do hill repeats.

Oh, right. The documenting of miles. I'll do that next week.

Keep your heads up.

Precarious and Precious

"Do you know what happened?"
"You had a seizure. We're going to the hospital."

If you know Kelsey Gray, you know she's sarcastic more often than she isn't. On a normal day, I pride myself in being sharp enough to keep up with her wit. Facetious or not, I had no answer to her question. This day doesn't count as normal. 

It took a day or two to remember the mundane details leading up to one of the weirder events of my life. Even so, there are some gaps. It was a typical morning: wake up, lay in bed, drink coffee in bed, contemplate eating, and hop in the car to find a trail instead. We decided on the Arboretum trails just outside of Kalamazoo. A short trail system within a short drive of town, it's a great place to ramble about for an hour or so. Decent hills, some switchbacks, and even some pleasant views of a small lake. We pulled in, and started the slow, groaning jog as we shook off the dust from waking up at the crack of 10am(or whatever, I don't remember). 

We ran easy, chatting and laughing and talking about pretty much anything but running, as per the unwritten rules of jogging. 

I vividly remember standing on an overlook. A typical Michigan overlook that doesn't really overlook anything. 

I remember stopping at a bathroom.

I remember jumping over a guardrail that separates two sections of the park. 

The only things that stand out are memories stopping to look around. I felt calm, like I was right where I was supposed to be. A displaced feeling that had been nagging me had finally subsided.  

"I have to stop. I don't feel well."(That's right, grammar police. "well")

The next memory is of walking with my arm around Kelsey. I just assumed we were enjoying each other's presence as we walked to the car after a run, and that I was keeping her warm. She gets cold easily. 

She was holding me upright, and I had no idea. The more I ponder this fact, the more evident it is that realities in our minds can be inverses of  absolute truth. With each passing year, I become more trepidatious about about what I know, and more driven by what I feel. There are certain things that will never falter. 

We made the drive to the hospital, and calmly walked in and explained what happened. My mother, sister, and 10 month old niece came down just to see that I was okay, as did Kelsey's mother. 

Scans and tests at the ER showed no signs of seizures or abnormalities of any kind, and neither have follow-up visits to my primary care doctor. 

Other than a spotty memory, I'm fine. I've done runs of varying lengths and intensities and continued life as usual.

Vasovagal syncopal episode. Good, there's a name for the random thing that happened to me with no specific cause. I'm as guilty as anyone else of using medical terminology as a soothing way to say, "fuck if I know." Many have suggested that I hadn't eaten enough. When I heard this, I was insulted. I have a degree in exercise science. Telling me "your body needs food to exercise" is like telling a mechanic to put gas in a car's tank. Well, I've been a mechanic. I've let a fuel tank sit bone dry as I scratched my head with the hood up. Sure enough, I've lost weight.

I thought I was walking casually with a girl in a park. I was. Sort of. I've been wrong before. I'll be wrong again. Questioning things doesn't show a lack of faith. Taking things for granted, however, does. I've learned to feel free to change my mind. When we live this way, it isn't a lack of commitment. Those we love can rest assured that we haven't grown complacent. I collapsed in mud and didn't know which way was up, but knew who I wanted to be with.

Reality can change. Don't speak in absolutes. It's a surefire way to end up eating your words. This experience taught me for the nth time that life can slip away if you let it. Don't waste it doing things you don't want to do, or feeling ways you don't want to feel.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fall is the New Spring

Kind of a catch-all post. Everything and nothing at once.

I never liked Spring anyway. It's associated with new life and growth, but is really just part of a cycle. The grass trying to grow when there's still snow on the ground. The air is trying to be warm when it's obviously still cold. Everything is trying to reach the next level of maturity before it really can. The waiting is unbearable. It's ugly. Fall is where the beauty is. The finished product of a year of changes. Scars, growth, and beauty.

For me, Autumn is a time when I seem to flourish. By the time Summer is over, I feel exhausted and want to give up. Something great happens then. I do give up.

I learn(again) that what I'm doing and who I am aren't the same thing. It becomes clear that life doesn't have to feel like a constant uphill struggle unless I want it to. I'll try to relate it to running for now, since listening to a young man babble on about love lost and triumphantly regained is fairly obnoxious.

I struggle with my own waxing and waning motivation, and what it really means to succeed. As a runner, as a student, and as a man. When our greatest enemy is our own complacency, how do we seek motivation? What(or who) turns us back when we've become  alienated versions of ourselves? In the past, I've been lucky and able to dig myself out.
Sand Dunes will have to serve as mountain training for 4 months.

Falling leaves remind me of spending time in the woods of Northern Michigan with my father. I now choose to spend time accidentally disrupting hunters on state land running trails, but I like to think I'm keeping the deer moving. One thing I've learned in my time in the woods, though, is that being observant is more effective than being aggressive. Chasing everything at once doesn't give us much time for listening. If we don't listen, we have nothing to guide us. Setting goals and chasing them is wonderful. It's what makes us human. Making sure we're chasing the right things is what makes us happy.

After attempting to train all Summer, I've had a fantastic Fall. A self-supported run on the 47 mile Pictured Rocks Trail, A 50 miler with my friends at Woodstock, A 50 mile win at the Hungerford Games, and Even a 10k win at the Owassippe run just north of my house(Kelsey won overall as well, making it a great day). Small venues indeed, but being in a position to meet the challenge at hand is a wonderful feeling. I've been enjoying running and averaging 40-60 miles per week, nomadically travelling between Muskegon, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo for work, school, and sanity.

On the more adventurous side of things, travel and new places are on the horizon. I'll be heading to San Francisco in a month for the North Face Endurance Challenge. No racing for me(thankfully. this course looks like a bitch), but I'll be accompanying Kelsey out for the weekend for crewing and pacing(pacing for a 50? why the hell not?). I haven't been out of Michigan since July when I crewed for Dave at Kettle Morraine, and I can't think of a better trip to take. I should probably get my ass on the hills and track, since my runner happens to be training hers off. Seeing the total lack of boastfulness on someone's face when they count mileage out loud, "31 on Friday, 10 on Saturday, 20 on Sunday," is quite humbling, and reinvigorates my desire to see what I'm made of.

As far as my own running, I've decided that the best decisions I've ever made have been made hastily. In a timeline of about 20 minutes and 10 text messages, I was informed that the Zane Grey 50mile exists, is the the self-proclaimed "toughest 50 miler in the States," and signed up for it. Make no mistake, this was a beer-induced decision, but it sounds about perfect. I love mountain running(even if I'm in no position to train), but can't get to altitude readily. I haven't suffered ill effects below 9000'. I'm intrigued by the "graduate-level" ultras like Hardrock, but fuck all that clamoring to go pay a shitload of money to hike a distance I haven't really enjoyed covering yet. 50 miles is my sweet-spot for the time being. It's a distance I can truly run(dare I say "race?"), even on a more difficult course like Leadville's Silver Rush. Zane still has about 4000' more climbing, but I'm not good enough with numbers for that to scare me. Whether I try to actually compete or not will depend on how the winter goes. Slushy, frozen, choppy ankle-roller trails of Michigan Winter provide plenty of technicality to simulate the rocks of the Highline Trail. Heat? Well, I'm just kind of fucked, there. Lube up the critical areas, drink water, eat salt, stop crying. I'll have my best friend returning a favor of pacing duties, so I think she and I will just have to flatten the Mogollons out together.

Looks easy enough.

Somebody make me update this awful thing more often.
Just click publish and go to work for Christ's sake.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

More Jogging, Less Blogging

The first part of that title is misleading. Very little jogging has taken place since the since the Woodstock 50 miler on the 7th of September. No runs over an hour, mostly hilly routes at the state parks on the lakeshore. The extent of "training" was a 100 mile bike ride with Ryan and a speedier(it felt speedy, but I was quite hungover) hour run with Evan.

This week, however, had an interesting turn of events.

6 miles - Trail/hill loop repeats with Jeremiah. We both had less than an hour to run, but wanted some quality, so we took to the trails near campus and just ran a technical, hilly loop at a respectable pace. Very enjoyable to get the heart rate up after a mind-numbing day of math and sociology.

6 miles - A solo run at Muskegon State Park. A loop around the lake, up a ridge and over to the sand dunes. A little less than an hour of jogging and checking out the views on the trails(someday I'll get a watch again).

...oh, and instructing water classes. I forget that that's exercise because I get paid for it.

Felt blah, didn't feel like jogging. Settled for some core work and some homework.

3 miles - Quick run at Hoffmaster before work. Parking lot over to the stairs for a few repeats of the 200' climb to a view of Lake Michigan. I really do live in a beautiful place.

Cleaned out my cluttered menagerie of shit from my car. I've been basically living out of it since bouncing around between cities for school and work has me needing a wide assortment of shit...and coffee cups...and Taco Bell wrappers. Okay, I'm a slob. I had been living out of it, and I needed to live in it for the night. About as last minute as it gets, I was able to make it to the Hungerford Games 50 mile the next day. Car camping in the Outback.

50 miles - Hungerford Games 50. A new event, this one had a pretty small field. A small crowed milled about before the Sun went up, then we took off. I planned on taking it easy at the start, no matter who took off ahead of me. I told myself that I'd either play it cool and reel them in, or not. As it turned out, nobody took off fast. I ran ahead of the pack and never got passed. I have no idea what my splits were, as I only had a crappy digital watch on me. I started it about 6 minutes after the start, so I was quickly flustered by trying to do the math. Oh well. Just run.

I must have learned a thing or two from my nutrition/hydration blunders at Woodstock. 2 to 3 GUs per hour, emptied the 16oz water bottle between aid stations, and a cup or two of Gatorade at each aid station.

Anybody else ever have foam come out of their armpits when they run?

The event was really well done, and I expect it to grow. It's a surprisingly nice course, albeit flat and sandy. The route is either on gravel roads, sand two-tracks/powelines or the occasional asphalt road. The flatness made it conducive to a fast time, but beat me up more than singletrack.

I shuffled in at 7:12 for first place. I'd have loved to crack 7 hours for a PR, but I can't expect any kind of flatness to compensate for my rather unmotivated training. All in all, a great day. My Dad got to see me finish an ultra for the first time, I explored a new place in my own backyard, and a girl met me at the finish with a beer. Life is fraught with trials and tribulations right now, but days like this make me feel quite fortunate.

3 hours of Kayaking, which worked well because I didn't want to move my legs. At all. A "real runner" would do a shakeout run. I did this:

Total: 65 miles.
It must just be a habit to log miles I don't exactly quantify my weeks in terms of distance run any more.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Older I Get, the Better I Was: Woodstock 50M

I had every intention of writing a blow-by-blow of my experience at Run Woodstock this past weekend. A week has gone by, and I never quite found the time to do it. We've all read race reports any way.

It started off okay. Then it wasn't okay. Then I kept going. Running is wonderfully awful. Thanks to everyone.

I'm sitting here a week later, recovering from my first 100 mile bike ride and trying to start algebra, trigonometry, and sociology work. Might as well write a race report to get the juices flowing, eh?

As I mentioned before, I signed up for the Peace, Love, and 50 Mile race on a whim. I planned on having the Hungerford Games 50 at the end of September for my one and only ultra this year(unless you count the 100k I ran at Umstead, which I don't). After registration, a benefit for a family member was scheduled for that day, so I'll likely be far from my running shoes. The day before Woodstock registration closed, I signed up.

As usual, I should have put running on the back burner. A rather daunting semester had just started, I was(as always) low on money, and I had been sick for a couple weeks. These may be seen as reasons to neglect running, but ultimately I decided that they were reasons I needed to run. In a time in my life where I feel especially out of control of everything, there's one thing that I do seem to be able to manage, and that thing is my body. I knew that in spite of application processes being dragged out, math professors refusing to slow down their lessons, and graduate schools charging fees to process their fees, I still tell myself when to stop, no matter what. With this idea in mind, an "out of shape 50" was exactly what I needed. No concern for an expected finish time or overall place, but rather for an experience to reiterate to myself(and the world/universe if you're into that) that giving up is harder than continuing. That goals worth having will make you incredibly uncomfortable. My sole long run was my pictured rocks adventure with Jeremiah a couple weeks prior, so I figured that would do. The rest of my runs were less than 3 hours, and mostly on the easier side. 60 miles per week seems to be my max for the last year. How sad.

Michelle and Larry, a couple that I met at the North Country 50 in 2010, were kind enough to offer their home for the night before the race. They prepared a fantastic meal, and even offered us rooms on the top floor of their house. Though they acted as if it were a small gesture for friends, I can't express enough gratitude. They inspire me to be more giving and hospitable. Jeff, Mark, Shane and I had a few beers with Larry and Michelle before turning in. Other than waking up to a few coughing fits into my pillow, I slept like a log. Camping is fun, but beds are nicer.

We hopped in Jeff's van and drove the 2 miles to the race start. Shane didn't have to run the marathon(his first marathon, mind you) for an hour and a half, so the poor bastard had to sit around. I milled around, drop some shit off with what looked like a drop bag area, and hopped into the middle of the crowd.

After a very typical shuffling ultra start, we did the loop around the campground and popped into the woods. Erin, Jeff, and I ran along, passing a few people to get a little elbow room. Apparently we started a little too far back. This first of three loops was the easiest of the day(no shit, right?). 16.6 miles of gravel trail, single track, and a little dirt road. Not a single ache or twinge as I trotted along with Erin, talking about mountain running and races(she recently placed well at TransRockies). We parted ways and I finished the first loop alone. I have no idea what place I was in at this point, but was 1/3 of the way through the race in 2:25. A little too fast for the kind of shape I perceived myself to be in.

Finishing up the first loop. I found a turkey feather on the ground, so of course I put it in my hair.
Photo: Melissa Middleton
The next loop was quite difficult. I ran it alone with the exception of the first mile. A girl named Anna from Denver was running the 50k. Once we parted ways, I never saw another person going the same direction as me. No passing or being passed makes for a boring couple of hours, but I enjoyed the woods.

premature ultra shuffle: engage
Photo: Melissa Middleton
The lack of wisdom necessary to wear untested shoes that have an "itchy spot" immediately upon sockless foot entry can not be overstated. My Merrell Ascend gloves, in spite of being the perfect mix of zero drop, comfort, traction, and nimbility(that can't be a word), ate the shit out of my foot. As the second lap came to a close just after 5 hours, I knew I needed to change shoes and add socks. I hate socks. I hate hot sweaty feet. I hate my toes being all bunched up. I hate moisture trapped in my shoes making my outer layer of skin fall off. Alas, I had two quarter-sized bloody patches that could no longer be ignored, so on go the inov8 trailroc 235s and a pair of socks. More importantly, in steps the best pacer I never asked for, Evan Groendyk.

Evan ran the 5 mile, won it, and jogged 16 miles with my slow ass. 

Evan, even more last minute than I, decided to come to Woodstock to do some jogging of his own and do my last loop with me. Though I never asked E-Greezy to pace me, I never had to. Without him, I would have had a death march to the finish. He kept me company, encouraged me, and reminded of the little things(sugar, water, salt). Having friends like this makes me feel incredibly fortunate. Evan is one of many people in my life that have fostered my growth as an individual. He told me in the days before the race to "be ready to hurt." Turns out, he was joking. His intuition and kind nature coaxed out what little strength I had in my legs. Though often intense and competitive, he kept the positive vibes(of which he is an official enthusiast, according to his business card) going on the course, in spite of me being a little on the gloomy side during these last 16.6 out of 50 miles. The last loop felt like a different run altogether than the other two. More laughing, more walking, and a little more hurting, but it was one of the coolest runs we've ever done together. Multi-loop courses are interesting because the same hill can feel different each time. I ran some that I walked before, and vice versa(mostly vice versa).

This race was interesting because it was a close comparisson to the conditions of the same race in 2010. The 2010 race was one of the better performances of my life. This year, the hurt came early and never really left. My legs had no pop, but I never felt incredibly drained or sore. I never really "blew up" but rather just felt lethargic from beginning to end. I suppose that's the difference between being trained and coming back from a layoff.
Relieved to be done. Also: must purchase new shorts soon.

The rest of the day looked a lot like this

Shane (Left) ran his first Marathon and placed in AG. Mark(second Left) ran the 50M and placed in AG, as did Jeff(Right). The West of MI side did some representing.

I ended up finishing in 7:57 and slipping into 2nd place. 54 minutes slower than my last time here, but I'll take it since it's still my second fastest 50M time. (1st was here, second was the Leadville 50 in 2011). I had no idea what place I was in the entire day.

After a year, I think I'm starting to feel like I'm back into this jogging thing.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Week Ending 9/1:

Sick. Not sure whether allergies or a nice end-of-Summer cold got a hold of me, but it isn't awesome. I was feeling congestion, drowsiness, and airway inflammation the day before(and all day during) the Pictured Rocks run, and it's been the same for a bout a week. It nearly escalated into a full-blown asthma attack, but I've learned to calm down and keep my breathing under control to keep the mild freakouts at bay.

The coughing remains, but my energy levels are returning to normal. I didn't run a single step between last Satrurday(47 mile PiRo run) and Friday.  Between falling a bit ill and starting school this week, I've barely noticed the absence of running, aside from spending significantly less money on food.

Off. Going up stairs at a library nearly required breaks, so I kept my bitch ass off the trails.

4 miles - A nice beer run with Evan in GR. Totally estimating the distance. Bellies full of Ethiopian food made for a rather uncomfortable and slow run to Founders, but it was still fun. What better way to return after a layoff than jogging in 90degree heat to a brewpub?

7 miles - Trail run with Mark, Rick, and Ryan. Cool weather and a familiar run was quite awesome.

Driving, kayaking, other general out-of-doorsiness and no running.

So...11 miles. One week. Aren't you glad I took the time to update this?

Im going to parlay this incredible feat of human performance and sign myself up for the Woodstock 50 mile. What do you kids say these days? You only YOLO once.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Week Ending 8/25: A trip to Lake Superior

I can't believe that Summer is coming to an end. Though I felt a bit sad about not returning to Boulder, it's been more of a "get your shit together" kind of season. Running has been on the back burner, and I've been borderline obsessive about polishing my turd of a resume into something a Doctorate program admissions person would look at and say, "looks legit." Another semester of classes has started today, this time at Grand Valley State. Eyes on the prize.

No ultra races for the summer, with only a smattering of shorter distance things to keep me moving. When I think about running this year, I wonder if I'm thinking too much. I question my motivation for running long distances. I'm not incredibly good at it, and my attempts at 100s seem to have broken my spirit. I do know, however, that spending time outdoors has always been a therapeutic activity for me. A break from racing may not make me faster, but my soul needs more nurturing than my ego. 

In spite of a fondness for long mountain outings, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has always been special to me. My family has made numerous trips over the Mackinac Bridge for Winter snowmobile rides. Days of over 200 miles are normal on the wide, sweeping trails, and I've long suspected that my affinity for long treks stems from being brought up this way. From age 6 to age 11, I was clinging to my Dad's back as we rode through the snow to reach destinations. At age 12, the legal age that one can take to the trails on a snowmobile, I began to rack up miles as a rider and not a passenger, exceeding 200 miles per day in some instances. A few of our trips would take us to the Munising area, where beautiful views of Lake Superior and the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore were plentiful. 

Since hearing of the hiking trail on the Lakeshore several years ago, I've had the desire to check it out. It always seemed like too far to go for "just a run." After a summer with several reminders of how finite our time is on this planet, "just a run" can be the difference between a life lived fully and a live squandered. 

Because trips are better with company, Jeremiah agreed to come along. We both needed a little decompression before the start of the academic year, he as a professor and I as a student. 

The trail is one of the most spectacular things I've ever seen, even compared to the Rockies and the Tahoe Area. It has its technical spots and the occasional rocky climb, but for the most part is very smooth and runable. The singletrack often gets dangerously close to cliff edges with huge drops, but an inch is as safe as a mile. We took nearly every opportunity to escape the heat and jumped in either an inland lake, a creek, or Lake Superior, adding some extra distance to the adventure. We also accidentally added adventure to the distance by running out of palatable food and water. Yes, I know. Stupid.

A mishap with our shuttle service put us about an hour and a half behind our projected 9:30am start. Instead of a light breakfast and hitting the trail, we had a light breakfast followed by wishing we had lunch. We were confident that it wouldn't be a huge deal. GU and Clif bars would see us through. The snag, however, is that after 4 GUs, I couldn't stand them any more. Each attempt to eat one would make me puke. Same with the dry, sticky Clif bars. 47 miles on 3.5 GUs and 1.5 Clif Bars? No FKT this time. The hunger of the last half was not pleasant, but it 

This trip was an incredible experience. I'd suggest anyone in search of a good destination run give it a try. Now that I've run it in one day, I'd be more interested in breaking it up into two days and camping. 

My weekly mileage total was about 65 miles, most of it being this day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Week Ending 8/18: Summer of Awesome

Monday: 3 Miles. 30 minutes on the beach. Slow, slow, slow, but after a 15 minute warmup, I decided to throw in alternating 60 seconds of high and low intensity. Though the heart rate spikes, it's easier to cover ground if swing the arms and go like hell. Even though the rest periods were slow, still a negative split on the out/back.

Tuesday: 14 miles. I have no idea how long this run actually was. 2+ hours with Evan on technical, sandy, log-laden single track and beautiful Lake Michigan coastline. Calling it 13 because it's a decent guess.

Wednesday: zip. 11 hours of work would be a solid excuse,but I had plenty of time to run. Just felt tired.

Thursday: no running, just core work and water classes.

Friday: 16 miles. Flat as hell run on dirt roads and bike paths by my house. 1 hour each way. I felt a little off when this run started. Anxious, a little hungry, and hot. Brought my two new handheld bottles, but neglected to bring any calories with me. Hadn't eaten for a few hours prior, so this was a particularly draining run. Still, I'll be happy with a casual 16 miles in 2 hours. A little core exercise after that.

Saturday: 22 miles. Woke up to realize that I either need to practice drinking, or I'm not a kid anymore. Kind of hungover. Drove to Yankee Springs for a 30 miler with Kelsey and Zack. 22 miles of exploring the areas beyond the mountain bike loop, and called it a day at 22 miles. Not sore, or exhausted, but just felt the same shittiness that I felt at the start. Fun day on the trails, topped off with a pretty awesome veggie wrap from the local pub.

Sunday: 5 miles. Same route I always run from home, but it felt great for some reason. The slight ache from the "long run" was ever present, but I liked it. For the first time in a while, the hurt made me feel accomplished instead of defeated.

The latter part of the day was spent Kayaking on the Muskegon River and Muskegon Lake. 3 hours of paddling. Not incredibly intense exercise, but some peace and quiet outside.

60 miles for the week, plus the other activity. Not exactly the dedication of a champ, but overdoing it could be worse than slacking.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Week Ending 8/11

Another week in the books. No real breakthroughs on the training front, but rather steady volume increase and a couple good workouts. Wait...steadiness and real workouts are breakthroughs for me. Oh, the joys of slackerdom. Setting the bar low is the key to success, I tell you. Cracking 50 miles for the week, though quite pedestrian for the average ultrarunner, helps me feel like I'm contributing to my fitness not just drawing from base fitness to get me through.

Monday: No running, but core work and a 40 minute bike ride. No fancy lycra-clad cycling, just the long way to the bank to deposit my big fat shelf-stocking paycheck.

Tuesday: 11 miles. Water exercise classes, then high-tailed it to Yankee Springs for a night run with Kelsey, Joe, Erin, Lauren, and Shawn. A fun, low key effort in the dark for no reason other being asked to join. Driving from one's night job to a night run, only to get home at 3am and get up at 5am for the morning job is hardly a reasonable thing to do, but coffee cures all(temporarily). Laughs, tweaked ankles, empty Red Bull cans.

Wednesday: No running again. Tired from the sleep deprivation. Since I'm not training for a 100mile death march this year, I'll leave the zombie running to others. Push ups, pull ups, sit ups, and planks because my latest theory involves using upper body muscles to a)help keep the core strong to run well and b)look less gross while shirtless.

AM: 10(?) miles. Up before dawn to meet up with Evan for a track workout. 1 mile warmup, followed by: 2 mile tempo(12:30ish), walk/jog recovery, 8x1000m(3:32-3:45) with 200m rest interval. I loved this workout. I tagged along with Evan's workout, but this happened to feel really appropriate for my purposes too. 6 minute pace isn't incredibly tough, but still has applications for someone like me looking to run a hard 50 mile on a flat-ish course. I don't plan on any running at that pace for a 50, but I do want my cruising pace to be as fast as possible. I felt good for all but the last interval, where Greezy dropped me like a sack of crap and I held on to shuffle in a 3:45.

PM: 3 miles. I had some time between commuting from Grand Rapids and starting my aquatic classes, so I stopped at the State Park for a quick stair session. 3 repeats on the stairs with a mile each way to and from the car. I'm not sure which is harder: keeping the legs turning over for "running" the stairs, or high-stepping and powerhiking them. Hopped in the car for 4 hours of water exercise.

Friday: No running...again. No real excuse here, but felt like some strength work and some rest would be better. One legged step ups onto my tailgate, pull-ups, and push-ups. With all the credentials and superfluous acronyms and bullshit I've acquired with exercise science undergrad, I still like basic workouts. I guess if I was a desk jockey, I'd seek more variety. Wood splitting/stacking, dragging pallets at work, and doing water exercise keeps me in enough variety, so I like the idea of simply adding basic resistance training. Maybe it's just my aversion to whey protein chugging "fitness factory" bullshit.

AM: 16(?) miles. Another impromptu jog at Cannonsburg with Kelsey. Set our sights on 3 hours, but fell short because we're both late for everything all the time. Easy pace, but no real stopping to speak of on all the hills the ski resort loop and the state game area had. One charge up the chairlift hill for good measure. I really love running at this place, and wish it was less than one hour away. If I run next to a chairlift, that's like running mountains, right? A solid long run with good company.

PM: 3.5 miles. Regular out/back from home. Nothin' special, just enough to round out the day. My legs felt surprisingly good.

AM: 3 miles. Not quite a run, but I covered ground on foot and got sweaty. Sand dune hike with Samantha at Muskegon State Park.
Ankle-deep sand for an hour or so.
PM: 8 miles. A flat and relaxed, but faster, run from home. Warmed up, then whittled the pace down to a 5:50 mile. Slowed a bit to cool down, and did a fartlek back to the house. Finished up with step ups on the tailgate again. May as well ride this "functional fitness" wave while it lasts.

54 miles. Hey, not bad considering the 3 days of not running at all and no real long run. Even typing this silly blog is starting to feel good again. The balance that I struggle with mentally seems to be achieved at the moment. It's not a selfish, stupid activity I often mistake it for. It's a way for me to clear my head, spend time with great people, and push myself while I spend time outdoors.

Have a great week!
actually from last week, but I like the picture. Thanks Ryan.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Two Week Catsup

Monday: 8 miles. Slow strength builder on all the steep backdune hills I could scramble up. Deer runs, fallen logs, etc. Went about 45minutes north and then took the beach back with no shoes. I felt exquisitely shitty. The previous day's run must have bustes me up somethin' awful. Beautiful day in the sun and heat, so Im better off than most.

Tuesday: 8 miles. Slow ass shuffle to Riverside Park for a hill repeat or two, only to find the onliest good hill covered in thorns and deer flies. Turned around and shuffled over to the high school soccer field for some jogging sans shoes. This was the field I was escorted off of, one of two who didn't make the high school soccer team. Showed those fuckers. I peaked in my early 20s instead of my late teens.

Thursday: 5 miles. Just an easy flat run around home before heading to work. Averaged a 7:00ish minute pace, which was a nice surprise. I keep finding myself wearing my trusty old MT110's for everything. After buying a bunch of different road flats, "barefoot shoes," and such things, I get sick of even having to choose from my shoe rack. Aren't I supposed to be poor? Why do I have so many shoes? The 110's seldom give me blisters, have enough cushion for the road, have adequate traction on trails, don't weigh very much, and last longer than anything else I've had. My current pair was purchased in January and still has the obnoxious "KEEP UP" printed on the lugs. My last pair, shit you not, lasted from 2011(a test pair from NB that was sent for Pike's Peak). As much as I like shoes, I sure get a ton of miles out of a pair- more than the average person.

Saturday: 15(?) miles. Met up with Jeremiah in Grand Rapids for a jog around the city. Neighborhoods to a city park with dirt trails, then over to East Town for a couple repeats on the track. For a couple of out-of-shape hacks, a couple of 5min/mile paced 400s didn't feel to bad.

Sunday: 5 again. Nothing too special, but a nice jog in near perfect weather.

35 miles on the week. Not great, but an improvement over last week. It all felt pretty easy, so I'll creep the mileage up again.

Monday: 14 miles. 3.5 miles to Joe's House, 7.5 miles on the bike path with him, and 3.5 miles back.
Doing runs like this, with their relaxed pace(Joe is getting back into running after a significant layoff), remind me why I like ultra training. Slow "junk miles," if you believe in such things, beat the legs up and seem to have some benefit to them. Instead of fretting about pace, I'm glad I've come back around to getting out the door and logging miles.

Tuesday: 8 miles. Maybe one of the best runs I've ever had in my life. Sat on the beach and sipped coffee for what felt like way too long. I didn't feel like running at all, and enjoyed the relaxing sounds of being outside and not talking. After the coffee disappeared, I figured I might as well try a run. My calves were tight as piano wire, so I took a long, long time to stretch them and roll them out with a stick. The more I stretched, the more I realized that I'd be going slow, and that I shouldn't bother.

Then, I felt awesome. I shook off the ego and remembered that I started running trails because I like being in the woods but get bored with walking. I shuffled off, kept my steps tiny, and kept my back straight. I took a flat but root-laden path out to Muskegon Lake to shake the rust off. After a mile or two, I loosened up and felt nimble and springy for the first time in a quite a while. I probably wasn't going fast, but that's okay. I heard those subtle sounds in the woods that we hear when we focus our attention on the task at hand and stop thinking about other things. Time really flew by and I felt rejuvenated.

Wednesday: 8 miles. I'd call it a tempo, but the fast guys I ran with called it an easy run, so that's what it was. Evan and Rob came uo to jog the trails on the lakeshore. Hills, sand, and stairs. A dip in the lake at the halfway mark, and a great run overall. I'm reminded that the social aspect of running is what helps fill the gaps between moments of intrinsic motivation, and helps restore the mojo too. I've got little desire to actually make a living at running, but it does improve my life.

Thursday: Day off. Lacko of tine rather than motivation.

Friday: 8 miles. Friday 5k. 15minute jog warmup, ran the course, and then ran it again to pick up the course marker flags. 21 minutes or some such nonsense. To be fair, 2 of the 3 miles were in sand and hills. This course was pretty cool, and it gave me an opportunity to run hard without doing a solo workout. Even if I had the ambition to run to the track, I find it quite hard to push myself to give it everything I have. These Friday 5ks give a great group tempo atmosphere with enough competition to help us push each other, but in a way that is by no means stressful or intimidating for anyone. It's a reminder that many of us run not to flaunt our fitness or feed our egos, but just to celebrate and appreciate health. It's evident here. Physical exertion feels great, and it makes us all smile afterward. In our modern, overly-convenient world, appreciating and nurturing our vitality is a necessity.

Saturday: 2 miles. Yep. 2. 2 miles. Aimed for a long run, but my legs weren't impressed with the idea. I strolled to the end of the driveway, took my first running steps and thought, "Nope." I paused, then tried again. A few more steps this time. "Ouch. Shit." No one thing in particular hurt, but I felt as if I'd never run before in my life. Ankles, knees, quads, back, shoulders, eyeballs, etc. "Could I be that wrecked from a 5k?" Probably. Getting up the next morning at 5am to stack 12packs of bubbly corn syrup and gallons of milk probably exacerbated it. I went with plan B: A slow jog to the end of the road, where a faint deer run darts into the woods. I followed that to a trickling little creek, where I sat for a bit and thought about nothing. Isn't that a reason we run, just to turn our brains off for a while? After a few minutes of sitting silently, a few turkeys and a deer meandered by. I realized that this was better than a long run.

Sunday: 8 miles. I think. Met up with Ryan after work to do 90 minutes of hills. No pace or distance, but rather just a rolling watch and mutual prodding to keep moving. My bodily aches from the previous day were gone, and I was enjoying that weird thing between running and walking; the sweet spot where one could travel all day, and the heart and lungs can't tell whether the ground is flat, pointing up, or pointing down.

48 miles for the week? Hot Damn! This is actually a pretty good feeling for me. My runs were all great in their own ways, I had some quality in there, and the mileage is coming up steadily.

In other news, which is no less uninteresting,

I've decided to give my favorite distance another try. I registered for the Hungerford Games 50 mile in the end of September. Will I be competitive? Probably not. Too many fast people out there to expect to win handily these days. What I can do, however, is run as smart as I can and run steadily. My last ultras have been of the Run-Walk-Stop-Eat-Change Shoes-Run-Walk-Finish/Drop out variety, so I've got nowhere to go but up. After seeing my friend Dave relentlessly cover 100 miles at Kettle Morraine this year, it reminded me of why I love ultras of any distance: It's a long ass way to go, and if you cover it steadily and swiftly, the feeling is irreplaceable. Which brings me to the next cool thing:

I'm tentatively planning on running the 40-something mile Pictured Rocks Trail in Michigan's Upper Peninsula this month as a training run for the aforementioned 50miler. A self-supported one way traverse on the Lake Superior's coastline sounds like a pretty good "mini training camp" before the Fall semester starts. I'll attempt to log normal mileage in the days leading up to the trip, and tack on the 40miler as a peak. The following weeks will be spent doing academic bullshit, so a taper will happen naturally. That brings me to another cool thing:

The hay is damn near in the barn for graduate school applications. Observation hours are near completion, remaining prerequisites are scheduled, and schools are being selected. A few more t's need crossing and i's need dotting, but once I send the applications out, it's up to the choosy deities of the land of academia to decide my fate around the turn of the year. Some may find this stressful, but to me, it's just the imminent splitting of the trail. If I get into grad school this year, great. I'll have the path to a solid career as a Physical Therapist before me, which will help me finally get this "adulthood" bullshit going. If I get passed over,(I literally stared at the screen with fingers over the keys for several minutes just now and realized I have no plan B. All in, I guess).


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Monday: 5 mile tempo, sort of. As with the rest of the country, it's hot as two rats humping in a wool sock. 4 miles at a sub 7:00 clip, then a jog/stagger home to chill in the classy above ground pool. Even did some pool jogging for shits and giggles. That's a figure of speech. No pooping in there.

Tuesday: mmmmmnope.GRE test took me right up to work o'clock. Pool exercises only.

Wednesday: 6 miles. A great jog in the sauna that is Hoffmaster with Jofuss and Queez, my two cousins with awesome nicknames I change every day. 3.5 miles of rolling hill trails at an easy-ish pace, then the trail to repeats of the 200' stair dune climb. Soaked in sweat.

Thursday: Beach day with Sam before work. No mas corriendo. Nearly perfect. Sun, salad, beer, girl. Really grateful.
not a fantastic shot, but you get the idea

Friday: 7 miles. After getting up at 5am for work then hanging out at the hospital for observation hours, I meandered to Ferrysburg for the Friday 5k. 12hours on my feet and a humid 5k made for a lackluster performance, but I was surprised to hold a low 6:00 pace on a hilly course with lots of suicide turns.(not super hilly, but lots of bridge crossings. really fun). 4 mile warmup, zero cooldown.

Saturday: Working for money sucks. Lifting, stacking, carrying, pushing and pulling pallets of generic soda by day, aquatic exercise instructor bynight. 10 mile bike ride was the only supplement to the workday. Did it some of the best veggie fajitas ever so it was a good day.

Sunday: 12 miles. Hot, flat, dehydrated run after my shift ended. Im kicking around the idea of a road marathon next month, and wanted to see if I could do a 1.5 hour run at a somewhat acceptable race pace. Samantha came along on her rollerblades(which explains the unsavory bike path. Terrain takes a backseat to good company).Started out real slow to warm up, then hovered around 7:10 oace. After a few accelerations, it finally dropped to a 6:50ish pace. I was sweating profusely and breathing like a stuck hog. Sam hadnt eaten all day, so we took a break and ate fries. Getting going again hurt even worse, but it happened. Instead of holding a steady pace, I just alternated easy(7:35ish) and hard(6:15ish) miles. I found out later that it was 90 degrees, so that bolstered some confidence, but...damn.That was uncomfortable. Given that my 25k and half marathon have been 6:20ish pace with a decent recovery, I might be able to pull of a full in the 3 hour range.

Wow. Nice 30 mile week. Im sure a full marathon on such half assedness will be interesting.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Crawling Out of a Hole. Catching Up. Slowing Down.

I haven't written a single word in over a month. I'd forgotten completely that I had a blog until I read an email from a sponsor asking me to remove their ads from the sidebar. At first I was sad about a bygone era of my life, then I thought, "I'm not even good enough to be used for free advertising! A new level of awesome!" and actually laughed aloud at myself.

I decided to post on here after a convoluted path led me feel that writing is a part of me, for better or worse. I was taking a Graduate Record Examination(GRE) as one of the many monotonous, tedious, stressful steps toward acceptance into a doctorate program. In the "verbal reasoning" section, there was a passage about the French essayist Michel de Montaigne.(The testing center was  a strange prison-like building, or one of those places you go to in order to donate semen. Either way, I'm not supposed to talk about test content, but I hope that the mention of a writing sample isn't too much sharing). Montaigne was known for being a true skeptic among skeptics. The humility of knowing that you know nothing is the key to learning. The crooked path that is your own is vastly superior to relying on assumption and dogma. Jack Kerouac stressed the importance of "100% personal honesty." Writing things down helps keep me honest and accountable. The things I'm learning about myself are improving me, even if it hurts.

In the last months, death, injury, and disease have plagued my family. I lost my best friend from age 4 in a motorcycle accident. His wife and children are without him. The other things, I'll leave out. Not my story to tell. I can't quite bring myself to post about these things here.

I think back to older posts on this blog, and I get embarrassed. The aggrandized self-centeredness I've placed on running makes me want to talk to myself in the past on an old HAM radio(ever see that movie "Frequency?" It's a good one) and say, "Get the hell over yourself. If the worst problems you have in a day are running related, you're doing better than most." Running will always be a part of me, but now I'd like to think I've put the obsessive part behind. It's what I do, but I just don't have the heart to worry about it. Maybe it's a passive aggressive way of letting go of a dream, or maybe it's just a change I was bound to go through. Maybe I'm just putting running on hold and working my balls off to try to get accepted to grad school in Missoula, Denver, Flagstaff, or Pocatello, giving me an excuse to return to mountains. Maybe.

Life isn't as fun as it was a year ago to say the least, but given how incredibly wonderful life was to me during my mountain Summers, I'll pay my dues for a while. I essentially stopped training altogether for the Seaway Half Marathon in June, so I missed my foolhardy goal of 1:20. I did still run a steady pace in the humidity and hit a 1:23 for 6th place, but it was mostly just an excuse to get out of work(Oh, right. I forgot to mention. I work as a shelf stocker at a grocery store. Don't get an exercise science degree, kids). On a whim with no food or water bottle, I finished the race and jogged back to Grand Haven with Mikey and Erik for a total of 32 miles for the day. Without really training, I'm about as fast as I've ever been, with the exception of being abysmally slow at 5ks. Gots to hit the track.

The cups say Michelob Ultra on them. Mic ultra tastes like water anyway.

About halfway through the half.

beers after a half marathon and a 17mile cooldown. Having good friends is helpful.
Erik, Me, Mike

No real running goals for the immediate future, which is for the best. Running is dumb. Running running running. Blahblablablabla. Without people, it's all bullshit anyway.

even the small people.

I had something more relevant to say, but I forgot. Just trying to get back into the habit of kicking habits.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

4th week of may...ish.

7 miles - "Piss Cave" loop with Evan. A hilly route that took us through a long, dark, uphill tunnel, frequented by street folk with full bladders. Nice, eh? Who would miss Boulder when they have routes like the Piss Cave? Heat, humidity, 3 hours of sleep, and 3.5h of lecture makes for a pretty nasty experience. At least we felt like death together to pull each other along. 7:00-7:40 pace. Uuuuuggghhhhhh, shit.

5 miles - a nice surprise after a day in class, I had an hour to spare before going to work for the night. 40-50 minutes of trails and soft beach sand. Barefoot and khaki shorts because I had no shoes or shorts in the shaggin' wagon. Great little escape from books and bricks.

...or thursday. 22 miles with Mike and Kelsey. Started at 9:30am at Yankee Springs and ran until 2ish. Easy miles on the trails to help Kelsey get used to running trails at night with no sleep. Seems like a pretty solid run was had by all. My longest run, timewise, in quite a while. My lack of preparation had me eating candy and oranges procured from my car or a gas station. I did find a clif shot on the trail, though. Thank you, litterbug cyclists(I'm guessing).

This run gave me the itch to get back into ultras. The peace of mind that comes from the woods and good company, the relentlessness that comes from placing more emphasis on distance than speed, and the high that comes from being tired from prolonged exertion. It's not better or worse than, say, a good track workout, but quite different.

After finishing the run, riding back to Grand Haven with Mike, and driving myself back to Muskegon, I was just a few minutes shy of being up for 24 straight hours. Slept from 5-8am, then got up for a 14hour day of driving, lecture, lab, and teaching water exercise.

I seriously can't remember if I ran friday. I don't think I did. Worst blog ever. Wait...mileage isn't a function of blog quality. mileage and blogging skillz are sucking independently of one another right now.

Samantha and I went on a tour of the USS Silversides, a WWII submarine that now resides in our hometown. Though a bit embarassing, I find that each passing year results in me realizing just how unwise my former self perpetually is. I walk through the museum and see pictures of ships, wreckage, and artillery. Alongside these pictures are photos of men and women. These are the faces of people who gave up a life of whimsical goofing around. They decided not to wait for the perfect conditions to make something of themselves, and to contribute to something they beilieved in.

I thought of memorial day parades. How I used to hate the noises and the anxiety and having to watch old cars slowly drive by. How no amount of tootsie rolls or tiny frisbees with a local realtor's face on them could make me want to stay. This year, at age 25, I finally realized: It's not about entertaining me, but about honoring them. The people who fought in wars and came back different.

7 miles with Mark and Ryan at Hoffmaster. Hills, sand, and roots, but at a pretty mellow pace. Nice jog in some cool weather.

No running today, but a 10 mile bike ride with Sam.

41 miles
A bit of a down week by design, as I knew I'd be busy with the holiday weekend. It had been about 3 weeks of "training," and I'm a fan of the "three on/one off" theory. Three weeks in the 50ish mile range, backed this one down to 40s, Then pick it back up again next week. As usual, training for this upcoming race has been full of distractions like cool long runs, school, and family. I'm happy for it, though. Training solo like a robot, doing exactly what I have planned would have a high probability of falling off the wagon. With help from friends and fun jogs to go on, I'll be better off.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

3rd Week of May

6 miles - Just a loop around home, nice and easy, then worked into a bit less shuffly pace. Flat, flat, flat. Creeped it down to a 6:30 mile without pushing it too hard. Maybe the 25k was a nice little tune up.

AM - 4 mile out/back from home. Again, started out slow(about 7:40 for the first mile), then slowly picked it up before cooling down. Just nice to shake the legs out before my 1hour commute followed by 4 hours of sitting in a lab.

PM - 3 miles - had a few minutes to kill before going into work, so I did a 20-ish minute jog at Hoffmaster. No warm up. Frustrated by the fast pace of a Summer physics course, I just ran hard for what little time I had and hopped in the car.

4 hours of water classes to follow. Feeling the need for some volume on the legs, but I have to relax and remember that I already know how to run slow.

8(?) miles. Afternoon track workout with Evan. Whole thing from start to finish took less than an hour. Ran to the track(300m asphalt), 900m(3:15), 600m(2:10), 300m(0:59) with 300m recovery. Watched Evan knock off another 300m in 0:56 while I held back dry heaves. I'm still adjusting to the new schedule/perpetual despair of Summer classes, so I forgot to consume more than a cup of coffee and a box of raisins all day. Well-nourished or not, this workout felt pretty difficult. 5:40-5:50 min/mile pace, even for these short intervals, felt bad. One doesn't get fast by wishing they were faster, so I'll shut up and keep at it.

rest day, other than the aqua classes.

11 miles - several hours of homework, then a jog from home. Cut down to 6:30 ish pace until mile 8, then shuffled home. nothing too special, but running until I was tired felt good.

16 miles - Beach run with Mike in Grand Haven. I had a pre-existing blister that I definitely should not have run barefoot on. Never ripped off, but filled with fluid and altered my gait. Kind of gross, but it turned out fine.

10 mile bike ride with Sam in the afternoon

5 miles - 1 mile warmup, 3 mile tempo, then 1 mile of 30sec hard/ 30sec easy, then a walk cooldown. Hot with a plague-worthy amount of insects swarming around.

53 miles. As feelings of academic incompetence crush my soul, I'm glad I have running blow off some steam. Being "right brained" has never been so frustrating as in this physics class. Fuck it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

2nd Week of May.

8 miles...ish. 1:10 on the trails. Some gravelly flatter sections, hilly singletrack, and sand dune. Just kept moving and charging the hills. Still kind of blah feeling after that bastard of a 5k.

11 miles...or so. Real nice run around East Grand Rapids with Jeremiah, with a couple short trail loops thrown in. Varying pace from 7-8minute miles, with some emphasis on the hills.

AM: 7 miles...or thereabouts. Drove back to the State Park(been spending a lot of time there lately) and parked at the beach. Ran the 5k course from last weekend. Down the beach, up the "Sugar Bowl" dunes, and on the ridges back out to the beach. One loop barefoot, then another, with an additional mile of sand dunes tacked on.

PM: 5 miles - a speedier flat loop from home on the dirt roads. No watch, just a previously known route.

PM: 5 miles - same loop again with Sam after she got out of work.

17 miles? Shit, I've had weeks with less jogging than that!

Rest day

7 miles - a quick loop at Hoffmaster with Evan and Neil. Cold rain coming down, but still some good traction. I like running in rain that isn't half snow. I felt fairly nimble, but it was probably because I was the only one of us who knew where he was going, and Evan ran a marathon last weekend.

Went to the 5/3 River Bank Run Expo and signed up for the race. Why Not?

Riverbank Run 25k. Registered on a whim, stayed out pretty late the night before, and woke up feeling a little rum in my veins. For 4 hours of sleep, I actually felt really good. Perfect weather for a fast run. Low 50's and overcast with no rain. Other than a shoe coming untied and some...shall we say, digestive issues(I hate waiting in line to use the bathroom at huge venues), I think it was a great experience. 1:40 even, which is a 5 minute PR from my training days in college. Athletes are constantly searching for that perfect effort level- the feeling of exactly meeting a challenge and flowing effortlessly. This may have been the closest I've been to that in a few years(Woodstock 50 2010 may have been the very closest). At no point in the run did I repetitively stare at my watch, nor did my legs ever feel fatigued. Considering that it was a higer-volume week, I'm thankful for that. I haven't done much speedwork to speak of this year, but decided that this would make a great barometer for the upcoming half. I have about 5 weeks to do some speedwork and creep the volume up, and it's 2.4 miles shorter than this race. If I ran 6:30ish pace for a 25k, I could possibly cut that down. Dare I shoot for a sub 1:20 half marathon? Could be fun, right? Hot weather is the bane of my joggerdom, so I'll be at the mercy of our ever-warming climate. Anyhoo, I'll use the success and pleasantness of this experience to tell myself that all is not lost, and that I can improve.

59ish miles. I think that this may be "sweet spot" for mileage for me. I don't feel drained, I've been productive, and I'm feeling fit. shooting for mega-miles always leaves me on my ass and proves counterproductive. I think if I find myself with some extra restlessness or drive, I should dedicate it to another physical activity like cycling or wood splitting. Damn near ran out of firewood before the spring rolled around.

I'm starting a class next week that involves 16 hours of physics, and a few hours of homework every day, so we'll see if running turns out to be my saving grace a burden.

Monday, May 6, 2013

1st week of May, 2013: Inspiration in Sand

AM: 4 miles. I seriously hate getting out of bed when I don't "have to." Great little wake up jog once I finally got outside though. 2 out/2 back on the dirt road with one hill. 7:28 pace overall, mostly offset by the 6:40 outlier 3rd mile. research paper and test prep session later...

PM: 4 miles. Full stomach(sweet potato chips, bananas, oranges). Gravel road, trail, and pavement. 7:12 pace overall, pretty evenly paced throught.

8 miles on a monday. Better than the usual goose egg I've been doing every monday this semester.

One day of focused running, and I already feel better about myself. Such a simple thing that I've been overlooking.

7 miles - Hills. 3 mile warmup on the xc ski trails, then technical hill repeats. The thought of charging up a road hill just didn't sound fun, so I ran up hills of various grades, but they were either sand/roots or sand dunes that took 1-2 minutes to climb. After the last one, I stood up straight, and promptly plopped onto my ass. May have farted. Jogged the flat trail back to the car and headed to work.

Workouts like this are humbling reminders of the how much fitness I have to gain before I can feel confident in my jogging abilities.

4 hours of water classes.

6-7 miles - a hilly jog around GR with Evan. As is usual in this case, Evan put a hurtin' on me. He's tapering for the Kzoo marathon, and is ready to run like hell. First three miles at around a 6:40 pace, then we cruised at a slower pace as I shuffled a few steps behind.

These are the kind of runs I need, in moderation. I tend to be a bit soft, especially on solo road runs.
EDIT: Evan ran a 2:55 in the heat and hills of Kalamazoo this weekend, setting a 1 minute PR. Amazing feat.

PM was an intro to slacklining with mile munching monster monkey Mikey Jae. Definitely a cool summertime activity; a fun way to improve core and leg strength. If anyone could be the first to run 26.2 miles on a slackline barefoot while juggling clubs and eating bananas, it's Mike.

2 miles - 15 minute run right after waking up. Didn't even put my contacts in, and headed to a small trail loop down the road, ran it, and came back.

4 miles of barefoot hiking with Sam at the State park. Pretty relaxing, but hilly. Training? Not really, but enjoyable.

4 hours of water classes.
5 miles - Slept in. Flat jog around the block. Started slow but felt like trying to crack 35 minutes after a couple slow miles(~9:00 each) . The watch ticked over 35:00 with about 200m to go. A good lesson in running hard after hope is lost. Running a few low sixes was encouraging, even if it hurt a little.

Impromptu sand dune 5k in the tomorrow.

5k race - Earth, Wind and Tired 5k. Muskegon State Park. Somewhere between those obnoxious tough mudder/warrior dash/shock-your-private-parts-with-a car-battery-while-you-get-hit-with-foam bat races are my new favorite races in the whole world. The course is 99% sand, and about 1% flat. I'm fairly certain that I've run 5k mountain courses faster than this event. When one pushes off of a rock, it pushes back. Push off of a sand dune, and it just gives way. It also starts and finishes on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. This cool event deserves a little write-up of its own.
This is about 1 mile of the course. Photo taken this Fall.

9th overall with a time of 30:05. With regard to local races, I find myself at the mercy of whomever shows up. Sometimes, I get lucky and snag a win in spite of being unworthy of any kind of elite status. This time, a fantastic group of elite cross-country skiers came over from Wisconsin(the Cross-Lake Ferry was one of the sponsors for the event). They all ran fast, well-paced races and claimed the top 8 spots. I really admire people like this that dedicate themselves to athletic excellence, and long to emulate it in my own way.
"Must. Puke. Now." After this, I took a dip in the lake, ate 5 bananas, and had 5 beers. Nice little Saturday Morning.


Since most of my racing in the last couple years has involved galavanting across the country, my parents have usually seen my running through the lens of either Sam or Jason Robillard's camera. This time, even though it's just a local 5k, they saw me doing what I love doing, and are still support me as I creep up in the age groups(I keep forgetting that I'm not in the 20-24 bracket anymore). Seeing my dad standing on the top of one of the final sand dunes was pretty damn cool. He smiled, waved, and told me I looked like shit, reminding me the greatest of friends always know just how to communicate.
"Hold the bone" jokes aplenty, with or without banana.
I always wondered what these boxes were for as they sat by the luge.

The best part of this race had nothing to do with my experience, but the vicarious thrill I got from my family. Sam, with only a couple weekly runs under her belt, placed in the top third overall. Her tenacity never fails to impress me, even if it sometimes leads to argument. If she turns into a runner after such a success, then that's cool. If not, that's cool too. Being married to a normal person will keep my head out of my ass.
A section of smaller dunes toward the end of the course.

Samantha levitating in to a finish.

My cousin Andy was the one who, at the last moment, tagged me in a facebook post about this race. We signed up on a whim along with Samantha, Candace and Kimberly(everyone was impressive on the course). I hadn't seen Andy since our family Christmas party, and that was kind of a blur since Scott family Christmas parties involve kegs of beer, billiards and J├Ągermeister. Had he not greeted me first in the parking lot, I might have walked right by. After commiting to get fit for a few months, Andy lost an incredible amount of weight by way of diet and exercise alone. He stood there with his beautiful family as a 6'3, 180-ish lb athlete. Placing 28th out of 150 runners, he didn't do well "for a big dude," or any other caveat one would add, but just plain did well, simple as that. No asterisk. It was a true accomplishment. His family was proud, and his daughter held up a sign that she painted as he finished his first race. His wife, Karen, hugged him excitedly as he came through the cattle gates. It's more than a race. It's a celebration of a better life, and I was inspired.

I needed Andy to remind me of why I run. Medals and t-shirts and free beer and sweaty people are awesome and everything, but there's something else brewing inside of us. In a state that's not exactly known for its fitness, I see determination and toughness that can't be matched. We can get healthy. We can lead better lives for ourselves and our children. In a world where running as fast as your legs can carry you is entirely optional, it takes initiative to start gaining momentum. The whole point of competing is to find something inside of you that you knew was there, but needed proof. Yes, it's okay to seek validation, as long as its from yourself. I only believe in what I see. We've got nothing to prove to anyone else, but everything to prove to ourselves.  
finished in the top 20%, even after stopping and dumping sand out of his shoes.

I saw my running family all over this course too. Stuart, Ryan, Rick, Julie, and Mark all volunteered on the course and helped keep everyone from getting lost in the sea of sand between Lake Michigan and Muskegon Lake. Nature can make amazing things, and the human spirit is one of them. We're facing a time when that spirit is being tested, and 150 of us turned to sand and hills in search of...whatever it is.

A week of jogging wrapped up rather nicely. Super low mileage, especially considering that I've run 7 times in 6 days. I guess it's all good, especially considering the fun I had.

Jog on, Joggers.