Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Dogs Life

Had a nice run this a.m. I did 6 miles before the group run with my buddy, Jon, and then 6 with the group as I needed to get on the road by 8:00. My wife, Kristy, and I headed up to my hometown, Halstad, to join my Mom and Dad and watch the start of the sled dog race. Wow, that was fun! Those dogs are so cranked up at the start it's hard for it not to be contagious. It reminded me of the start of any foot race that I have been to except, as humans, we try to contain our excitement a bit more. Well, some do. I work very hard at remaining calm before a long event as to not waste any energy. Staying calm helps me to focus more on taking it all in.

Like I said, those dogs got me so excited I decided to head back up to Arrowhead. I will start tomorrow sometime and do the last 65 miles. The tracking will be on so you can follow along. It will be a leisurely pace. I am hoping to see some of the beautiful sights of northern Minnesota without the influence of hallucinations.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Little Helper

People have asked me if I have any training secrets. I do have something I use to improve my running ability and to increase the pleasure of the run. Therefore, I must admit that I am a big proponent of using LSD. (Anyone else a Jimi Hendrix fan?) My experimentation with it has shown that it really works great! It has been proven time and time again by many other runners that LSD is something that should be more widely utilized. LSD has worked very well for me and it is one common denominator that most of the top running coaches have. When I am training for an Ultra, it seems I can hardly get enough LSD. I mean, a lot. (Have you ever gotten to the point where you could HEAR a color or SEE a noise?) When I am training for a fast marathon, I find I will use a bit less as too much LSD combined with a lot of speed work could result in injury. (Now that would be a BAD TRIP!) I would highly suggest the use of LSD if you are attempting your first marathon. Your objective should be to finish and LSD, used properly, will be the tool that will get you there. (Like a magic carpet ride). For your second marathon, you can use a little less LSD and more speed work. As I always say, LSD (Long, Slow, Distance) is what gets you to the finish line. Speed work will direct how quickly you get there.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Back To The Future

Most of the wounds, physically and mentally, from Arrowhead are gone so it is time to get back to training for the Fargo Marathon. I'm certain to run an Ultra sometime between now and May 22 but for now I will re-focus on Fargo. I ran with the marathon training group on Saturday and since we left from the Fargodome I had to stay and have some pancakes after the run. Good run, good pancakes and good company.

Being my 20x10 involves helping others to achieve their goals and my sister toying with the idea of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, I offered to pace her at Fargo. Her first full marathon was Fargo last year where she ran it conservatively to get a feel for what a marathon is all about and then she ran the Twin Cities Marathon in October where she wanted to run it in sub 4 hours. We successfully ran it together, both had a good time and came in just under 4 hours. We hope to repeat that success in running a sub 3:45 which is the time she needs to qualify for the big show.

3:45 is something I know we are both capable of though we understand that it all has to come together on race day to be successful. Though I have run marathons at this pace a few times, it can not be taken lightly. It is still 26.2 miles and I am old. A lot can happen along the way. We will work together on training strategies and get together once a week for some speed work. Training for ultras, for me, does not include a lot of speed work and speed is something I am certainly lacking right now so I am looking forward to getting into it.
How is your training going? I am really looking forward to shorts and running on dry pavement again soon.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Arrowhead 135 Ad

This is from an ad in the November 2009 Trail Runner Magazine for applications to participate in the 2010 Arrowhead Ultra.

Days and nights of 30 Below
Frostbit my nose and can't feel my toe,
Timberwolf paw prints dot the snow,
Am I still on the trail or where do I go?

Since I left I-Falls I wonder why,
I must be crazy to even try,
I'm determined to finish,
but I won't lie,
The Arrowhead Trail seems tougher than I.

135 miles of Arrowhead snow,
Frostbitten fingers and blistered toe.
Timberwolves howl and owl eyes glow;
Hallucination or Northern Lights show?

Frostbite Falls to Vermillion sky;
Afraid of the dark? So why even try?
Fearless will finish; fearful will cry.
Only the toughest will dare apply.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Good And The Ugly

The event started out well without much drama. It was -21 so I was glad to be moving and not standing around. A steady pace and 35 miles in I got to the first checkpoint. I was in good shape but spent too much time there. A few of us were traveling as a group, so it took us awhile to get our act together and get moving again. The checkpoint referred to as "Gateway" was the Gateway General store, which is a c-store located in the middle of nowhere along the highway. They have a computer there you can use and I teased a participant for spending too much time updating his Facebook status. Some used the time to dry off their clothes, some to sleep and some spent the time to chat a bit as you don't get to see too many others out on the trail.

As we sat around the table, one fellow who was pretty quiet was shivering. He said he was having a hard time warming up. After a half hour he was no better, so I went and got an EMT to check on him. They found that he was hypothermic and explained to him that they would need to get some blankets and a heater on him right away as his body was incapable of warming itself up. Not long after, I was walking around the store and came across another fellow in the same shape. EMT said he was hypothermic too. Soon he was under a blanket in front of a heater as well.

The checkpoint was a nice break from the grind on the trail. As it became clear that it was time to get going, you could see fear in some of the other competitors eyes as I looked around the store. You could tell they wanted to continue the race but leaving a safe, warm place to face an all-nighter at -20 with your only safety net a sleeping bag is a little scary. Soul searching time. I did no arm twisting but only asked if they were prepared and knowledgeable in using their equipment. The ones that weren't called it a day. A lot of people usually drop at Gateway.

Once back on the trail, it seemed like we had a hard time finding a good pace that everyone was happy with and we started to fracture. I did not want to see anyone left behind, so I brought up the rear. I could only go at this really slow pace for so long and I had to leave my companions on their own. I knew it was only a matter of time before they would drop and they did before reaching the half way point. At about 4:30 a.m. I became so tired that I could not stay awake. Kind of odd as I have been on my feet for a longer period many times and never had the sleep monster get me. Sleeping right on the trail is frowned upon and plowing into waist high snow is not fun. A snowmobile track just off the trail was the first viable opportunity for some sleep so I took it. My clothes were a bit wet from sweating and being I had a Gore Tex shell on, the inside of my jacket froze immediately when I stopped. I took that jacket off knowing I would not be able to put it back on. I had a spare, dry jacket in my sled. It is a down jacket that stuffs into it's own pocket that I use for a pillow. I slept for about an hour and was on my way again feeling somewhat renewed. After a couple miles down the trail, it was now daylight and a biker came up behind me as I was going downhill on a corner. I was right in his path. Being he was traveling much faster than I was, I had no time to react. He jackknifed his bike launching himself over his handlebars. He flew about 8 feet into some soft snow. I apologized profusely. He just said "No problem", got on his bike and pedaled away.

I reached the halfway point and would have to say all was well. I didn't get much rest but got my clothes dried, some food in my stomach and again was back on my way. I felt really good and was making good time. I caught up to my friend, Joe, just before a trail shelter at mile 83. He was just starting to get a bit delirious and was looking for a place to sleep. I told him there was a trail shelter a quarter mile ahead so we headed there together. It was about 7 p.m. when we got there. I sat down, ate something and we chatted while he set up his sleeping arrangement. He jumped in and I headed off.

I felt very strong and energized as I crossed the 85 mile mark where I had stopped the previous year. Shortly after that is a highway crossing where a pickup was parked. In it was a woman whose husband was patrolling the trails giving rides to Arrowhead people who were calling it a day. She was kind enough to be watching out for the safety of the competitors crossing the road and to be giving racers information about the upcoming section of the trail. She mentioned that there was a trail shelter ahead. I figured that I should get there at about 11 p.m. which would be a good time for me to sleep. She also mentioned that there was another shelter about 12 miles past the first one. I felt so good I thought maybe I should head for that one. It was -19 at the time, which kind of takes the fun out of jumping into a sleeping bag, plus when you stop moving you get cold really fast. Little did I know that only a few miles down the trail at around 8:30 p.m., I would begin struggling to maintain a decent pace and to stay awake. There was an Italian guy that I caught up to and tried to communicate with though it was futile. I don't know if he was incoherent or didn't speak any English. We were both staggering around on the trail trying our best to stay awake. Obviously, my focus now was to get to the closest trail shelter and get some sleep. 11 o'clock came and I wasn't there yet because my pace had slowed so much. Doing the math in my head, the finish line within 60 hours began to look like an impossibility. Either way, I had to rest. I made it to the trail shelter at midnight, set up my bivy and jumped in. I was warm, safe, resting and for the most part, still making good decisions. At least as far as my safety was concerned. It was at least -20 at this point. So there I was curled up in my bag safe and warm and just a little bit delirious. I was ready to be done. I was a bit concerned before I reached the shelter as I had been seeing alot of things that really weren't there. Mostly animals. I had slept for less than an hour when a snowmobiler came and woke me and asked if I was doing OK. I told him I was done and he started making arrangements to get me out of there and to safety. In my head, I did the math and had convinced myself that I could not make the finish within 60 hours so I might as well quit. My math was wrong. I think it was wrong because I wanted it to be wrong. I could have slept until 4 a.m. and still made it in time. I was down and out and made a wrong call. Not necessarily a bad call as I always would prefer to error on the side of conservancy. I got my snowmobile ride out of there and was still seeing things that weren't there when we pulled into the little town of Orr to meet up with a vehicle that would get me to the finish line hotel. We were waiting as the snowmobiler made one last pass down the trail to look for people and sure enough, he came back with another person who dropped out. It was about 3 a.m. now and the fellow that was picked up had made it about 108 miles. When he got in the SUV and we started chatting, he told me that he was 0 for 3 at Arrowhead and that was the way it would forever be. Too dangerous. Too difficult. Too much effort to not make it to the end. I got a sense from a lot of the people that have never finished in multiple tries that they want to finish it so they don't ever have to come back again. This fellow, after 3 attempts, vowed to never return. We'll see. I bet he'll be back next year.

As for me, the romance with Arrowhead is still there albeit a bad one. There were many times out on the trail I praised its beauty and said out loud, "What a treat". I felt very lucky to be where I was. For next year, I'm not sure if I should respect it or attack it. So far I have been pretty respectful and in my 2 attempts it has gotten the best of me. Do I come back on my 3rd attempt for revenge? Either way, I will be back. As far as my DNF, I've changed my mind a bit and am looking at it as a blessing. As my buddy Tim says, "Every run is a training run". I like learning. I don't mind failing. What I do mind is not trying. I have proven that though this event is extreme, I can participate in a safe manner. I will continue to learn, do what I can and take what the Arrowhead Trail will give me and maybe someday, it will be kind enough to let me cross the finish line.

"It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little - do what you can." -- Sydney Smith

Friday, February 5, 2010

What Went Wrong?

I've been back home now for 24 hours and have some time to ponder what went wrong at Arrowhead. Wednesday, before I left the hotel I had a chance to talk to the co-race director of the event, Pierre, who is also a participant and he reminded me to not be so hard on myself as this is a very difficult event. Everything has to go right. If one thing is off you will not finish and when the event can go 60 hours, there is a lot of opportunity for things to go wrong. Pierre has dropped at the half way point of this event the past 2 years. Pierre knows tough. He was once called the toughest man alive in a Minnesota Monthly article you can read here.

Rather than keep beating myself up over what went wrong, I have chosen to focus on what went right and build upon that. When I got home from last year's event, Kristy and I started a list of things I needed to change for 2010. We had 7 items on the list and implemented all of them. I was building. Though I only made it 9 miles further than 2009, I believe we made improvements. I have started my list of improvements for 2011 and truly believe that they will get me closer if not to the finish line.

The body will heal, the memories of the pain and troubles along the way will fade but the positives will remain and there were many. So for now, I will focus on them. I met some fantastic people along the way. We shared some funny stories and helped each other. Learned a lot about myself again and learned how much my family and friends mean to me and how instrumental they are to my success whether I reach the finish line or not. Arrowhead 2010 was a success in many ways.

So on Saturday, I will change my focus to the Fargo Marathon and meet with the group for a 9 mile run. In the next few days, I will give a full race report and give you some of the ugly details of what did go wrong. For now I need to say thank you to all of the well wishes i received via text or on the blog. I am overwhelmed and you guys have touched me deeply. Emotions can run high out on the trail and some of your messages brought me to tears. Again I have to say that you don't know how much it means to me to have your support. I only hope that I provided you with some excitement and entertainment in return. I invite you along for next year.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I stopped the adventure around 1 a.m. at mile 94. I'm 0 for 2 now. I will be better prepared next year.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Steady progress

Rick has been making steady progress since he left Melgeorge's Lodge. I have not heard anything from him but received an "OK" signal that he sent from his SPOT tracking device at around 6:00 p.m. At this point, it looks like he has traveled around 92 miles, which would surpass the mileage where he left the race last year. Pray for warmth and strength during the night. It is my understanding that there is an aid station at around mile 108. Kristy

The Final Half

I see by the SPOT tracking that Rick is once more on the move leaving Melgeorge's at approximately 2:30 p.m. Stay tuned.... Kristy
2:50 p.m. Just got off the phone with Rick. He wants to tell everyone how much he appreciates the well-wishes and prayers. He thanks all for the text messages and wishes that he could have responded to all of them, but phone coverage is pretty spotty at best. He was the last person leaving Melgeorge's on foot. There are 28 hours of race left in front of him. As another fellow racer in the AHU told Rick, "You will never want to quit a race so badly at so many times during the race". Will keep you posted as I hear anything new, Kristy

Half Way

Rick reached Melgeorge's Lodge at around 11:21 a.m. He will be stopping to eat some hot food and to get some sleep. Hopefully, as Mitch R. said in the comment section of the prior post, he will be "good as new". Keep the prayers going for a safe journey. Kristy

Word from the trail

Rick stopped at around 5:00 a.m. and crawled into his bivy sack and took about a 45 min. nap. It was getting hard to stay awake. He is back at it. The next goal is to reach the halfway point sometime this morning. Kristy

Monday, February 1, 2010

On the Trail Again!

I just spoke with Rick at 9:40 p.m. and he is back on the trail. He had some chili and some R&R at the Gateway Store. Warming up helped ease some aches acquired during the first 30+ miles. Rick said that his thermometer is reading 9 below at the moment. Maybe a cloudy sky will mean that the temperature will not drop much below that overnight. I just looked at and the low predicted for tonight is 3 below. I guess Rick must be creating some "wind chill" making his reading lower than what is predicted! We all know the quirks of weather forecasting. He thinks that he will reach Melgeorge's in the morning but also realizes that the overnight could bring some challenges which would make his arrival later than planned. I will keep the blog updated as I receive new information from Rick. Kristy

Why isn't he moving?

If anyone is tracking Rick at this time, it looks as though he has quit moving. All is well. Right now he is inside the Gateway Store, where he can purchase food, drink and sit down inside a warm building. I spoke with him a couple of times today and he is in good spirits and hanging tough. His plan is to travel throughout tonight and rest (sleep) at Melgeorges Elephant Lake Lodge, the halfway point, tomorrow - probably arriving there sometime in the morning. Pray for a safe journey, Kristy Wagar
Rick here. All is well. Now get back to work.