Sunday, March 28, 2010

Going Solo

Headed to Maplewood State Park yesterday and had an excellent group run. Jon, Penny and I went shorter than the others, who went 26.2 miles and are going to do it again today, wackos, but we got the appropriate miles in, considering the terrain, that was needed for the marathon training program. For Jon and Penny it was a welcome change to the grind on the pavement. Some of the terrain we ran on made it feel like we were running on clouds it was so soft. Your body really notices the difference when you get out on the trails.

The trails themselves were in pretty good shape with just a little water at some of the low spots to get your attention. It is fun to watch how differently people negotiate a potential foot drenching. Some try the jump over method, some will go way around and some go through like they didn't even notice it. For me, I use the tip toe, strategically placed foot, this water will never get me method. I am pretty much 100 percent unsuccessful at keeping my feet dry. I have no idea why I think that being on my tip toes is going to make a difference. Am I thinking the water won't know I'm there? It seems to push my foot deeper in. I think everybody got wet feet at one time or another and for some it caused blisters though I didn't hear anyone really complain. Not one complaint about the rain either.

Running as a group is so much fun especially when you stay together. The seven of us stuck together, starting and finishing as a group regardless of the differences in our abilities. These are good people and I am so fortunate to call them my friends.

As much as I enjoy running as a group, ultra training requires a few solo runs as the events themselves can put you by yourself for hours without seeing another runner. It has been about a month since I have gone long by myself so I am looking forward to getting out this afternoon for a solo long run. I'll have the tracking on (upper right side of page) so you can follow along. Track me down and see if you can name the trail I am on. First person to figure it out and shoot me an email at will get an Arrowhead 135 t-shirt.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Couch To 5K

When I started making plans to run my first marathon, I thought it best that I first focus on running something a bit less than 26 miles. Being it was going to take a year to get myself ready, I had plenty of time to focus on events less than a full marathon.

My first objective was a 5k. I found a plan that was designed to take a person from the couch to a 5k in 6 weeks. Well guess what? You have 8 weeks from today to get ready for the Fargo Marathon 5k. Maybe you could even be ready for the 10k by then. Either way, if you aren't signed up for one of the Fargo Marathon events, you need to be. Getting off the couch and becoming active is the best thing I have ever done for myself and my family. I think I have something to offer my family. If I would had continued living a sedentary life, the years that I would have to spend with them certainly would be cut short just as they were for my older brother, Gene.

You do not have to run the 5k either as there will be plenty of people walking it -including my Mom, who will turn 77 this year. My point is that if you are like me and searching for a reason to be healthy, you don't need to look any further than your family. What good are you to them when you are dead? Get off the couch. It is killing you. Sign up for the 5k to either walk it or run it. Being a part of something so positive can be a life-changing experience and become a stepping stone down a path that leads to a healthier life style.

I hope everyone will take the opportunity to participate in a 5k at least once in their life no matter their age or fitness level. I was 42 and fat when I got off the couch as well being a smoker. If I can get ready for a 5k in 6 weeks, you surely can too. I'll be cheering for you.

Here Comes The Weekend

A busy week of work after a busy last weekend of running. Did a long run with sister Jodi on Friday, with the training group on Saturday, and then with the ultra group in the hills of Hawley/Rollag on Sunday.

This week for a change of pace, Jon and I are going to do our long run at Maplewood State Park. It is Rachel's birthday run and she is celebrating by running back to back marathons. (Sat & Sun) We are meeting up with some friends who are a mix of first time marathoners, marathon veterans and ultra runners. Jon, a first time marathoner, and I will fall short of doing a full marathon with the training plan calling for 14 miles for this weeks long run. I've visited Maplewood before some years ago before I did any running. I remember being exhausted just walking up some of the hills there. Nothing better than the hills to train on to put some stamina in your legs.

I hope to get out Sunday afternoon for a long run. If I can figure out how to attach the tracking device to my pack, I will have the tracking turned on so see if you can figure out where I am.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sizing Up The Competition

During the first foot race I ever entered, a 5k almost 5 years ago, I learned a lesson that has stuck with me to this day. As I stood there, nervously waiting the start, I couldn't help but look around at the other runners and wonder if I was going to finish dead last. At that time I was uncertain if I could even run 3.1 miles.

As soon as we took off I noticed there were some walkers. I then knew I probably wouldn't finish last. Then I passed a group of teenage girls who were arguing with each other about quitting. I didn't give them much of a chance of catching me at that point. Then, at just past 2 miles, I came upon a mother and her son. He was maybe 8 or 9 years old, was now walking and complaining to his mom that he couldn't run anymore. My pace had slowed some but was still pretty close to the conservative pace I had started at. His mother was scolding him for slowing down and I could sense his frustration in that he really wanted to keep up with her but was now giving up. I wanted to pass them to put 2 more people behind me but I just couldn't. I watched their drama for a minute or two and then startled the young man when I said, "Hey, you don't want an old fat guy to pass you do you?" And guess what. He didn't. He found a gear that I don't even think his mother knew he had and off he went surging ahead. Yes, that gear only lasted him about a half mile though it carried him to the finish just ahead of me. He was happy, his mom was happy and I was happy. Win win win.

He's young and will learn about pacing so he doesn't crash during his next race and I am certain at some point he will turn the tables on his mom and leave her in the dust. For me, I hope I never pass him or his mom. They are not my competition. No matter how fast I run or how far I run, someone has run much faster and much further. I look at myself as my toughest competition. Trying daily to improve myself as a runner, husband, father and friend.

In the end, nobody truly cares where you finish more than you do so isn't that really the competition?

"There is nothing noble in being superior to another human being. True nobility is being superior to your former self."
- Tim Tweitmeyer

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Adding Some Speed

OK, I'm done mentioning Arrowhead. Time to get refocused on The Fargo Marathon. After a lovely slip-n-slide 14 miles on Saturday, I went out for a short and faster-paced run Monday morning and it sure felt good. Most of my miles this winter were relatively slow, as I have been mostly focused on the endurance aspect of running. With a faster paced marathon 10 weeks away, it's time to shift gears and get some of the stamina back that I've lost. We'll do that with the addition of speed work. I'm looking forward to it.

Oh, and on the bottom right hand side of the page you'll see that I posted some videos of my most recent trip up north.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Unfinished Finish

It really wasn't my intention to go back to Arrowhead to "finish" the event that I have started twice and failed to complete. When I was asked if I was interested in returning to try it again, I immediately said yes though quickly mentioned that I was not interested in doing the entire 135 miles... just the second half. I have seen the first half twice and was anxious to see what lies beyond the 95 mile mark. There were three others who wanted to attempt the whole thing as they felt their fitness and preparation for the February 1st event, which for various reasons they had to cut short, would be wasted if they didn't try again.

The plan was for me to stay at Melgeorges resort (approx mid point of event) Saturday night and meet the others Sunday morning. That would work out well for me as I would get a good nights rest, make them breakfast in the a.m. and we'd be on our way. Well, this is Arrowhead where you really have to learn to roll with the punches. By the time I reached the resort Saturday evening, there was 1 down (Anton) at about mile 25, another (Pierre) at 37, and the other (Alicia) on her way to meet us in the a.m. at Melgeorges. With Anton back home in International Falls and Pierre and I waiting for Alicia, he mentioned to me that her pace for the second half would be quite slow and that it may be difficult for me to slow to her pace. I assured him that this would not be an issue and, not only was I prepared for her slow second half pace, I was also prepared for her to not want to continue. After all, this is Arrowhead where I have heard the phrase "What was I thinking?" more than "It's cold here". When she came off the lake and into the cabin, I was at the stove cooking breakfast. Our eyes met and I could see that familiar "What the h*** was I thinking" look. She said, "I have never been in so much pain in my entire life." She didn't have to say it. I knew I was going to be on my own and that was ok with me. She also stated that she would never again attempt the Arrowhead 135. I won't hold her to that. I know she's tougher than the Arrowhead and I sincerely hope she'll be back to try again.

After the 3 of us finished breakfast and Alicia had officially called it a day, I got my things together and I was off. I'm not certain what the temperature was when I got going at 1:30, but it was warm enough for shorts and a single long sleeved shirt. Who would have thought my first day of 2010 in shorts would be at Arrowhead? The snow was soft and it was a constant search for a good place to land my foot. I found I was getting a back ache from looking down at my feet all the time so I worked on keeping them flatter to keep my heels and toes from digging in so much. That worked better.

I enjoyed the warm, sunny afternoon with a couple dozen snowmobilers passing by and waving nicely though I was looking forward to the night when, hopefully, the trail would firm up and allow for better footing. I wondered how cold it would get. I've always been told the second half of Arrowhead is much more hilly than the first. I have done 25 miles of the second half and, from what I could remember, the hills didn't seem too bad. I guess when you are to the point of hallucination, your memory isn't so good. I did not recognize miles 87-95 which I had traveled just 4 weeks before. I had to laugh and wonder how I did not remember some of the very difficult up hills, down hills and bridges. I guess I was more far gone than even I thought. I thank God for keeping me safe and Pierre for his persistence in mentioning that our mandatory equipment is there for our safety and that our -20 sleeping bag is our sanctuary if we get into trouble. Which 4 weeks ago, I did.

I stopped at a trail shelter around 10 p.m., called home, got a bite to eat and took a nap. 10 hours by yourself in the middle of the woods, it was nice to hear my wife's voice. I had planned on stopping there as I knew there was cell phone coverage. It was the trail shelter I was at when I decided to stop at the last event. I jumped in my sleeping bag and fell asleep right away. I didn't set an alarm as I really didn't care how long I slept. I woke up, packed up my stuff and started on my way again. It was 12:30. All together it was about a 2 1/2 hour break, which proved to be more than enough to keep me energized through the night. Another thing I had been told, but had to prove to myself again, is that when I stop on the trail to rest I will get into my sleeping bag with my shoes on. It takes too much effort to put them back on when they are frozen stiff. The only way to keep them from freezing is to bring them in the bag with you. So, they might as well be on your feet. I only took them off this time because the temperature was mild compared to -20 as it was about 5 above.

The next few hours were fairly uneventful except for all of the hills. At mile 108 is a big hill with a trail shelter on top of it. I intended on stopping and refilling my water supply. I had brought extra water to fill my hydration pack I carry on my back. The bottles were partially frozen so I put them inside my shirt for a while to thaw as I looked at the sights from this high point. From here you could see south out over the town of Cook. The moon was setting in the west and the sun had just started to light up the sky in the east. I had to pause and take it in. I stood there enjoying the sights and for a moment, there was no shivering, pain or fatigue. It felt like I was being given a gift. I felt fortunate that I was there at that very moment and wished everyone could have this experience. It was one of those moments in life that you didn't look for, didn't expect, and couldn't recreate if you tried. I then proceeded down the other side of the huge hill. Little did I know that it was the last one in all of the 135 miles. Maybe that special moment was the Arrowhead's gift to me for making it through all of the hills.

The last 25 or so miles were all flat and straight. At some points I think you could see a couple miles in front of you and a couple miles behind you. Though I was still dragging my 40lb sled, it was not very taxing physically, but mentally. It had gotten down to -8 just as the sun was coming up and I was eagerly waiting for the temps to go up. When I finished just after 1 p.m., it was well into the 30's. I crossed the imaginary finish line and then went and found my vehicle that Pierre and Alicia were nice enough to park there for me and I was off. I got about 5 miles down the road and the sleep monster came after me. I felt so good when I finished that I thought I might be able to drive home. I spent the night in Virginia and made it home in the morning just a couple hours late for work. Don't tell my boss.

All in all, it was an excellent experience and I think I gained some knowledge that will help me at next year's event. I got to try out some different things that I don't know if I would get the chance to in other types of training runs. I feel bad for Anton, Pierre and Alicia that they fell short of their objectives. Though as my friend ,Tim, always says , "Every run is a training run" so you just take what you can from the experience and move on. Such is life.