Sunday, January 31, 2010

Strength - Endurance - Solitude - Survival

I'm ready to go. Just a little sleep and we'll be on our way. I will try to post from the trail sometime. Otherwise, my wife ,Kristy, may post an update from time to time and, of course, the tracking will be on.
105 brave souls will line up tomorrow for the start. Temps are looking to be around -17 with out the wind chill. Hey it's the Ice Box. What else would we expect?
Thanks for all the well wishes and prayers for safety. I am blessed with the best family and friends. I am very thankful and humbled to be able to participate in this event. Thanks for the support.

Hello from International Falls. Had a nice drive up here yesterday after stopping by my Mom and Dad's for a quick visit. Got up here around 3 and went through gear check with no issue. A lot of entrants this year and most will show up today. With almost double the number from last year today will be a long day for the gear checkers. They methodically go through your gear making sure that you have the mandatory equipment. There are no "aid stations" only 3 check points along the 135 miles so the mandated equipment is primarily for your own safety. If you get into trouble, you are expected to bail yourself out.

Lots of nervous energy there. I talked to a couple guys who were making their first attempt at the Arrowhead. I almost feel a little sorry for them as I got the sense they had no clue what they were in for. Being on the trail is one thing. Being on it for a couple days is another. There is only so much you can say. You just have to experience it. My experience from last year has me certainly more confident going into it this year though I know I still have a lot to learn.

I'll find a church to go to this morning and then maybe go for a little run to calm the nerves a bit. More later

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Moving Forward

I'm off to International Falls this morning. I'll go through gear check today and then just mostly chill at the hotel and gather my thoughts. I'm not nervous. Just anxious. All of the preparations are done and it is now time to execute.

Last year after I dropped out, other than a warm bed, the first thing I thought of was what I needed to do to be successful next year. I started making a list immediately. I came up with about 10 things that I would do differently and I have now made all what I would call "improvements". One thing I did was make a pouch on the front of my shirt to warm up food. It gets really old eating things that are frozen solid, which just adds to your problems. After you've been out there awhile eating on your feet while on the move is just something you don't want to do. For me, that is where the trouble started. I wasn't taking in enough calories and my body wasn't creating the heat I needed to do to stay warm. It was about -10 when I quit and the thought of going through another night had me concerned for my safety. Though I was banged up physically and mentally, I was still moving forward but I know I made the right call in pulling the plug. I now know what I could have done to keep me going but at the time I did not and I have no regrets. Live and learn. Two steps forward and one back is a positive net gain. On the ride back to the hotel I was already planning for next year so I was still moving forward.

Many of the people that don't make it to the finish of Arrowhead do not return the following year. Some have tried every year and not yet made it. All I can say is that I am here and I will give it my all. Regardless of whether or not I cross the finish line this year, I will continue to keep moving forward.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What You Don’t Know

As the start of the Arrowhead 135 draws near, I can’t help but think of the challenges that will be faced. The cold, the terrain, the isolation, and the distance should be enough. However, there are other concerns.... like animals. Though I saw some eyes glowing in the dark last year, I don’t think I saw one animal bigger than a squirrel. I did see what I would call the largest “dog” footprints I have ever seen. Of course those were Timber Wolf. There were lots of Deer and some Bobcat tracks as well. I kept wondering to myself - Are there any Mountain Lion way up north? And what about bear? Thankfully I remembered that the bear are in hibernation, so I won’t have to worry about them. I run with a bell in the summer when I am by myself to alert the bear of my presence and have wondered if I should do so in the winter? To the Mountain Lion and Timber Wolf it may sound like a dinner bell. Maybe I need to try and be really quiet. I don’t know.

I was running through the woods with friends Tim and Joel this past summer and the topic of bear came up. Tim said he was not concerned at all about being attacked by a bear. He didn't know if there were any around or not, and it didn't matter because he said he knew that he could run faster than Joel. You see, he focused on what he did know. After Tim's comment and a chuckle, though not from Joel, we started chatting about something else. Funny though that when you are by yourself for hours in the woods, your mind can start playing some tricks on you. What was that? What is behind those glowing eyes? I saw a "rabbit" . I saw "Big Foot" . I don’t know...... I don’t WANT to know. What I do know is that the likelihood of an animal attack is slim to none. So when I start to hear the noises and see things, like Tim, I focus on what I do know and not what I don’t know.

We spend too much time being fearful of the unknown which seems like such a waste of time and energy. Take what you do know and work from there the best you can. The things you don't know can't be controlled so they will have to be dealt with in their own time and are not to be feared.

"Growth means change and change involves risk, stepping from the known to the unknown."


Friday, January 22, 2010

Accidental Long Run

Tomorrow is the first group long run for the 18 week training program leading up to the Fargo Marathon in May. It is put on by Fargo Marathon, Dick Beardsley Running Company, Go Far Events and the Red River Runners. I always look forward to the Saturdays building up to the Fargo Marathon. Seeing some old friends and making some new ones. All of us there for the same reason but all having different goals. By the time we are done with our training, all of the snow will be gone, we will all be running in shorts again, some goals will have changed, some already realized, and some let go. A lot can happen in 18 weeks. I've seen a lot of lives changed during that time. Including mine.

My first year of marathon training with the Red River Runners group, I hooked up with one of the trainers who was very energetic, funny, fit and always encouraging. Every Saturday morning when the group got together I looked for her and ran with her nearly every week. Sometimes we ran in a large group where I took to the back and listened to the banter and sometimes it was just her and I. When the last long run over 20 miles came, it was just the 2 of us after the 10 mile mark when she began to struggle and slow down. She needed to walk. I walked with her. We ran when she could and walked when she had to. She told me many times to go on ahead but the gentleman side of me couldn't leave a lady behind. She had become my friend and I couldn't leave my friend struggling. She was kind of embarrassed by her performance in not being able to hold up her end of the deal. She joked, the student becomes the teacher. Little does she know that what I consider one of the most valuable lessons I've learned about running was taught to me that day. Do your long runs slow. We finished our 22 mile run in 3 hours and 53 minutes. Way behind everyone else. No big deal I thought though way off the pace I had intended. I knew I had done the right thing by sticking with her and even if it may have hurt my marathon preparation, I still felt confident. So marathon day comes with all of it questions ready to be answered in the next few hours. Would I "hit the wall"? What will my time be? Will I even finish? Well, I did finish. And thanks to my friend, Marilyn, I finished in 3 hours and 53 minutes.

I enjoy being a back of the pack runner and I like hearing stories from some of the new runners who really haven't yet found their groove and offering support to them when they start to feel overwhelmed by all of the training miles they need to complete. It takes some guts to step out of your comfort zone and commit to running a marathon and for those of us who have been there and remember what it is like, we need to give the newbies every chance we can for them to succeed. I feed off of their enthusiasm. It helps to keep me going. So if you are in the training class tomorrow and are looking for some help, come find me and we will go through this together. You'll really be helping me. Even if it is accidental.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Men In Tights

Off to the cabin on Big Elbow Lake Friday night. Kristy and the girls stayed at home so I drove up by myself. Meeting me there was my brother John and his sons Christopher and Andrew. John was there to do some cabin chores, which in the Wagar family usually involves burning something, and the boys to do some snowmobiling and fishing. I was there to share some company and get out on the trails with my sled for a training run. I slept out on the deck of the cabin in my sleeping bag. Once I bedded down, I would have liked to been awake longer and gazed at the stars though I was really tired. Being one who is early to bed, there is not much left of me at 12:30 a.m. and if I am laying in a comfortable, warm sleeping bag, I am out like a light. I got up at 5 and started my morning routine. 2 weeks out from the Arrowhead 135 I wanted to simulate my race day routine as close as possible. I was on the trail a little past 7 hoping to beat the snowmobilers for the majority of my run. The temps were warm for January. As a rule, I use 30 degrees with wind chill as a threshold to wear shorts or not. I didn't even think about shorts as I prepared my bag Friday before I left town or when I was dressing Saturday morning. I didn't wear a jacket to start being it was already 25 degrees. On the trail, the gloves came off first. Then I put on a thinner hat. I wished I had worn shorts under my thin running pants but I had Under Armour running tights on. Hey, it's the middle of January. I don't have the physique or the guts to run in just my tights though some guys do. They make me a little uneasy though I guess if you got it, flaunt it. More power to ya. Even with the only audience being a deer, timber wolf or bobcat, I just couldn't do it. I rounded South Twin Lake and headed back towards Big Elbow. It was 37 degrees when I got back to the cabin and I had been out for just over 6 hours. 4 of which I was lamenting that I hadn't worn shorts. Oh well, lesson learned. It's all about choices. I kept my pants on and my tights covered up. Good choice? I'm sure the animals were glad I did.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Marathon Training?

On Monday night around 7, I had my wife, Kristy, drop me off just outside of town along highway 81. I hooked up to my sled, jumped into the ditch and headed south. In the sled I had extra clothes, food and a -20 sleeping bag. The wind was piercing and cold. With the snow being soft, going against the wind and pulling a sled, it was very difficult to run and not sweat. Actually, it was impossible for me to run and not sweat and when you are going to be out in the cold for hours, sweating is definitely the enemy. After realizing that I was going to be in trouble if I kept running, I walked. Once I got a mile past Christine, I figured it was time to turn around and head for home. Knowing that Kristy gets up at 5:30 a.m., I timed it so she could pick me up just outside of town as I didn't want to drag my sled over the asphalt and concrete streets. She was tracking me online so she knew where I was and picked me up at 5:45 with a warm cup of coffee. After spending a long night in the lonely, bitter cold, I was really ready to stop. Seeing her round the curve in the van and me knowing my little journey was soon over, was a big relief. The coffee was going to be the best cup ever. Isn't it funny how things taste better and you get more satisfaction from things you have to work for? Such is life. I didn't have to work to get a cup of coffee though the work is what made it taste that much better.

Is this how I am training for the Fargo Marathon? 10+ hours pulling a sled in a ditch? No. So if you are considering a marathon and wondering if this is what you'd have to do, it is not. I truly enjoy training for and running marathons and look forward to the start of training for Fargo. Right now I am training for a self-supported 135 mile trek through the woods on the Arrowhead trail near International Falls which begins on February 1st. Though not a true "running" event. It is probably better to call it a pure endurance event. I say I have been in training for this one since I started running 4 1/2 years ago as it takes all I have learned about running and enduring. I attempted it last year and got my only DNF, stopping after 85 miles. Although I am better prepared this year, I realize the difficulties and that finishing is still no guarantee. There was a 30% finish rate last year. With proper training, the chances of you finishing your first marathon are nearly 100%.

If you are a non-runner, someone just getting started, or someone preparing for your first marathon, please don't be discouraged or intimidated if I post something about one of the goofy events I participate in or am training for. We all have different goals we are reaching for. It wasn't long ago I was in your shoes. I have the utmost respect for anyone who has the courage to train for and get themselves to the starting line whether it be a 5k or a full marathon. If you are brave enough, your life will be forever changed. And remember when you are putting forth that effort in training for or participating in your event that you are adding some much needed spice to your life. For at the end of the day if you have put forth a serious effort, the coffee will always taste that much better.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ultra Friends

A year ago, I knew of no one in the FM area who was training for an ultra. Now I have a half dozen friends that have completed at least one and are working on their next. An ultra, or ultra marathon, is a running event with a distance of anything over the standard marathon of 26.2 miles. It was nice to head out to the hills of Rollag on Saturday for a few miles with some of these ultra friends. We met up and headed out of town together a 8 a.m., were running by 9 and finished around 12:30. The weather was decent and all were prepared appropriately. There was no complaining of the cold, only resolution to better figure out how to deal with it. No one really cared how far we were going or how long we would be out there. We just took of and figured it out as we went. Our pace was relaxed and conversational the whole time except when we were trudging through some deeper snow, which was difficult, and woke up some muscles I hadn't used in while. Again, no complaining from anyone, just resolve not to let Joel pick our route again. Most of us are not as hard core as Joel though he is a great leader.

When you put the time and miles in that us runners do with each other, under self inflicted stressful conditions, the shell slowly gets stripped off and your true self starts to emerge for all to see. Not always good, though true. We share a common interest in running. Stripping the phoniness off makes it that much easier to become real, true friends. Ultra friends.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ultra Friend Jerry - Note chincicle

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Clothing Choices

You have to love the version of winter we have to live in North Dakota or Minnesota. I think we have it the best in that we truly get 4 very distinct seasons. You know, sometimes when you wonder whether its spring or summer. No doubt about it. Today is winter. I look forward to the changing of the seasons and the different challenges it brings as far a running and training goes. The next event I am doing is in International Falls, Minnesota on the 1st of February so it will be a cold one. What better weather to train in but the weather we are having now. New Years day gave me a taste of what I will be in store for during the Arrowhead 135. Every year the event has been held the temps have dropped to at least -20 at some point. Last year it dropped to -34 the second night. Believe it or not, there are some participants from Florida that come up for this event as well as 25 other states and 10 countries.

During the training for my first marathon I did a lot of miles on the treadmill when the weather turned cold and slippery. I really came to look forward to the Saturday group long run as an excuse to get off the treadmill. Now I would rather be outside in the cold weather no matter what it is. Probably has more to do with my attitude about living here and realizing there is nothing we can do to change the weather so I might as well embrace it. As I say, there is no such thing as bad weather when you live in North Dakota, just bad clothing choices.
Stay warm and safe.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My 20x10

Welcome to the start of a new year, a new decade, and a new blog. I'm not really certain what I signed up for when I was asked to do this but I hope to provide you with a little encouragement along the way as well as some insight on what makes me tick.

I didn't have to think long to come up with my 20x10 which is to "Encourage and support others in reaching their goals". Whether I can help Fargo Marathon reach their goal of 20 thousand runners or help you get off the couch and walk your first 5k doesn't really matter. My first running goal was made 2 days after watching the first Fargo Marathon and was to run the full marathon the following year. I set my goal and took my first step. A baby step though one closer to my goal. A good friend of mine is always reminding me that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Running is pretty simple though not always easy. I'll share some of my problems here as well as some of the joy. As I always say, "A problem shared is halved and a Joy shared is doubled." Let's go through this together.

So, how about it? What is your 20x10? You have over 130 days to start your training for one of the Fargo Marathon events.