Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Dangerous Mind

The marathon training program the Saturday morning group I run with is using has this being a peak week as far as mileage and our longest long run of the 18 weeks. This Saturdays run will be 22 miles. Most of the runners have touched the 20 mile mark but this week will prove to be a tough one. Both physically and mentally. Though it is rare that any particular run goes perfectly, many will weigh their marathon training success on this longest of long runs. My suggestion would be to do that only if it is a successful run. If it goes bad, as runs sometimes do, learn your lesson and move on. To do any differently would be to ignore the dozens of successful runs you have accomplished to this point. This is just one run. Important? Sure. One to measure your over all success or failure? Absolutely not. With 3 weeks left after this weekends run there is still time to figure out and correct some training mistakes. Just because the training mileage backs off over the next 3 weeks doesn't mean your not still in training. Much to be gained or lost in these last 3 weeks. What you can lose is some fitness by not staying on top of things as far as diet, activity level and intensity. What you have to gain is confidence.

If you follow the training plan, you have trained your body to withstand the rigors of covering the 26.2 miles and along with that your mind is becoming familiar with what this is like as well which is both good and bad depending on how you deal with it. There is nothing like basking in an endorphin high after a tough run. The problem is during the run when you are struggling to keep pace and your mind is frequently telling you to stop or slow down. This is called the "I cant's". Don't listen to this. Get rid of these negative thoughts as fast as you can. As they say, go to your happy place. "Can, can, can, can". The more you dwell on your suffering the more it makes you suffer. Just ignore it and it will go away. If it doesn't go away, keep ignoring it. Of course if you are truly injured you must stop.

I believe that running is mostly a mental game. Sure you have to get your body used to pounding the pavement but the bottom line is always that the mind controls the body.

So if you've been sticking with the training plan for the past 14-15 weeks and whether you have a successful run this Saturday or not, trust that your body is prepared to take on the marathon and that you've earned your spot at the starting line. Now just convince your mind of that.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Added To The Mix

Add 2 more names to the growing list of Ultra runners from the FM area. This past weekend my sister Jodi and fellow Fargoan Jarod completed their first Ultra Marathon down in Bloomington at the Trail Mix event. The weather was nearly perfect for running with the temps in the mid 40's at the start with light wind and a blue sky.

As was the plan, Jodi started out the run very conservative and finished strong in the middle of the pack. The 50K (31 mile) course is set up as 4 - 7.75 mile loops. Her conservative start allowed her to have it in her to make the last lap the fastest of the day. Lap 3 was her slowest by only a couple minutes.
Here is what Jodi had to say about her experience:
"When Rick told me he thought I should run the 50K with him (about two weeks before the event) I had to ask myself, how far is 50K? If a 5K is 3.1 miles, I guess a 50K is 31 miles. Well, that’s only 5 miles more than a marathon…it can’t be that bad, right? So without a lot of thought, I agreed. I put a lot of faith in what Rick has to tell me. He has done all the reading and the research for me so I can be lazy and just ask him. If he thinks running a 50K five weeks before the Fargo marathon is a good plan then I’ll do it.

I’ve only done one other trail run – a 5K in Pelican Rapids. I really kind of hated it as it was hilly and wet. My toe started bleeding, I misread the signs and ended up running in circles for a while. Rick’s wife Kristy was with me and we actually ran a 6K. I forgot about that until the night before the event. I just hoped this wasn’t going to be a repeat of that (X 10.)

What can I say? Running 50K was actually a lot of fun! We saw turkeys, geese, pheasants, squirrels and ducks. We got to run on grass, wood chips, mud, dirt, sticks, sand and asphalt. We ran across prairie, through the woods and around lakes. But even that gets a little boring after about four hours. I have found that most of running is mental. By the last time around (the course was four loops) I was ready to be done. We got to the course at 6:00 a.m. (started at 7:00) and by the time we were done running it was almost 12:30. Six and a half hours of most anything is enough for me! Rick decided to make it fun by harassing me on the last lap. As we’d come up behind people, he’d yell things at me like, “Good Lord – would it kill you to wait until we’re at the top of the hill to speed up?” I would return his fire, making the people around us either laugh or look really uncomfortable. Just what I needed to break up the monotony.
Rounding the corner heading toward the finish line, I saw Kristy waiting for us. Eleven months ago when I ran my first marathon, she was waiting for me just outside the dome. I said the same thing to her this time as I did then, “Kristy, I’m going to do it!” Just before the finish line I waved to my girls, their friend and my nieces. We finished the race in five hours and 21 minutes.
Bucket list….marathon (check)….marathon under 4:00 hours (check)……ultramarathon (check). A big thank you to Rick for helping me reach my goals!"
As I always say, "A problem shared is halved and a joy shared is doubled." Thanks Jodi for sharing with me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lessons Learned

So off we were on another Saturday long run. A step back week of 16 miles for the day and Jon and I showed up as confident as ever that this would be a successful day. And as usual, we were nearly the only ones in shorts. With the steady routine of the weekend long runs and other weekly miles, including speed work, Saturday seems kind of like payday for me and sometimes I go into it a bit too casual. I only glance at the map they send out to the group for our prescribed weekly long run route. I'm not going to be in front and will be following nearly everyone else so why would I need a map? Jon is pretty good at memorizing the route but has been known to take a short cut from time to time though we always get our mileage in. Running with a GPS makes in nice in that regard. I always say that the only time you are truly lost is if you care where you are going. Most days I don't care and am just out there running. This day turned out to be a little different.

Leaving the Dick Beardsley Running Company (DBRC) store at 6 a.m. all was well. Since we would be passing a Stop-N-Go on 25th Street, I didn't have to find a bush to take care of business as I usually do being a middle aged male and a morning coffee junkie. Jon kept going as I sprinted into the store only to find the restroom occupied. As I stood there waiting, there was another guy wandering the store in running clothes so I started chatting with him. He told me that he and his female running partner, also his co-worker, are in the same running group as I am and are training for their first marathon. The women's restroom was out of order so his running partner was in the men's room. He mentioned she wasn't feeling very well and he himself was just getting over strep throat. We were 3 miles or so into our run and I wondered how the day was going to go for these two. Would they continue? As the minutes started to tick away I wondered how badly I really needed to use the restroom as Jon was getting further and further ahead of me. When the door opened I felt terrible for this gal as she looked pretty green around the gills. I suspected their day was over, wished them well and headed into the restroom. When I left Stop-N-Go, the two were a half block in front of me, stopped, and she was hunched over in the familiar "I'm going to be sick" position. I cruised by them, again wishing them well, as nobody likes an audience when you're heaving.

Just down the road was the first water stop set up by the DBRC. They refilled my water bottle for me, gave me a gel and I asked them how far Jon was ahead of me. They said about 5 minutes. OK. So as I took off I figured that if I ran about 2 minutes per mile faster than his pace, I'd catch him in 2-3 miles. No sweat. Well, a quarter mile away from the water stop I realized I was mssing something critical to my plan...... I needed to know the route. Which I did not. I had absolutely no clue where to go. The only thing I could do was turn around and hope the guys were still there at the water stop. When I got there, the two runners from Stop-N-Go were there. They knew the route so I tagged along with them. Being the route was an out and back, I knew we'd run into Jon eventually. I felt bad for him as I was pretty certain he'd be running all by himself and probably wondering if I'd been run over by a truck.

The two folks that got me back on track were some seriously tough, committed runners. When I first started running with them, the gal said that although she felt awful, she might as well keep running and gut it out thinking if she went home she'd probably feel just as miserable. They both did a good job of hiding their discomfort as we chatted away about running and life. I have no doubt they have what it takes to get through a marathon.

The pair went out ahead of us as I hooked up again with Jon, filling him in on my whereabouts. I felt foolish for not knowing the route. Jon always knows the route and I have become dependent on that. I should probably study the map a little better but you know how some guys are with maps and directions.

Jon did exceptionally well during this run, both physically and mentally. He gained confidence in the training program put before him and learned he is well on his way to being able to tackle his first full marathon.

As we arrived back at DBRC, the two ahead of us had finished their run and were headed home. They were all smiles and waving to us as they drove by. Their faces showed the joy we get from putting forth a tough physical effort and conquering those demons that tell us to stop because something is too difficult. The lesson learned is that most of us are much more capable than we give ourselves credit for.

As for me, what did I learn? That this is a big part of why I run. To watch people surprise themselves when they exceed their own expectations. Also to appreciate the efforts of others and what it does to contribute to my success.

And, oh ya, next time find a bush.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Making Progress

What a joy to be outside running in shorts again. I was surprised at the Saturday 6 a.m. group run that there was only one other person in shorts. I encouraged Jon to ditch his running pants for shorts and he did. The wind was out of the west which isn't much of a factor in town. Good call. I'd say we were dressed perfectly for running and it was a very productive day. 18 miles equals Jon's longest run ever. He handled it very well. Since we started working out some hydration issues and doing some specific speed work we are now starting to see the benefits of all of his hard work. After another good speed work session on Tuesday we are very confident going into this weekends long run with improved performance.

My sister Jodi is progressing well in her training and is gaining confidence. So much so that I hardly had to arm twist her into giving an Ultra a try. So the weekend of the 17th we'll be in the Cities running a 50k. No concerns with Fargo being 5 weeks after this event as she recovers fairly quickly and I encouraged her to approach it like an extra long training run. 31 miles at a relaxed pace and just enjoy the day with finishing being the only goal. It will be a big day. Jodi's first time running 31 miles and Jon's first 20 mile day.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Run Across The Praire

(Click photos to enlarge)

Sunday after noon I ventured out to the Sheyenne National Grasslands to run a section of trail that passes through it. People that tracked me figured out I was in the Grasslands though no one correctly identified the trail as the North Country Trail. Though most of the trail was dry, 5 minutes in to my 5+ hour journey I was walking though water half way to my knees. After tip toeing around the water for the first couple of minutes, and as usual being unsuccessful at it, my feet were soaked so I decided I might as well stay on the trail and go right through it. I had my car parked 28 miles away and I was less than a half mile in when I looked over my shoulder and could see my wife driving away as she had dropped me off at the trail head and was headed back home in Fargo. There goes my way out. I've run with wet feet before though I had never waded through brown water with cow pies in it.

4 miles in to the run I came across something interesting for being out in the middle of the prairie. A grove of evergreen trees. It felt like I was in lakes country for a moment. Smelled like it too.

A few more miles in and it begins to get a bit hillier and more trees. The first 12 miles are pretty much flat and open then the miles after that are not really ever flat. Gentle and rolling hills. Some low spots still had snow in them though I had to remember. I'm in shorts and a t-shirt running outside in March. I felt very fortunate and was enjoying the moment.

More miles of rolling hills with cows grazing off in the distance. After seeing countless holes dug by coyotes, a pheasant, a turkey and about 40 deer, and oh ya, a train, I was nearing the end of my journey. Tired but energized by the experience.
Some may call my little adventure extreme, weird, ridiculous or just plain stupid. I'll call it a blessing.