Friday, February 17, 2012

Injury update & schedule changes

I won't be running this weekend. There was a weekend last October that I didn't run, after having Lasik surgery Friday afternoon. And there was a weekend in September that I didn't run, after injuring myself in my 12-hour race. Before that you'd have to go back to May 2010 to find a Saturday and Sunday in which I logged no miles. I'm not a #runstreak kinda guy, but that's a pretty good stretch in my opinion.

But things are on the right track. By this afternoon I was walking around with hardly any clue that anything was wrong -- I even walked a quarter-mile there and back for lunch after spending the rest of the week just hanging out in the building. I'll credit that to my wife for a superb wrap job last night.

I'm supposed to follow up with an orthopedist next week, but in terms of when I'm back in action, I can probably judge for myself. Hopefully I can get in a good brisk walk of some distance tomorrow and see how that feels.

Now to the schedule. Last we spoke, I had devised a new plan for 2012 that would set me out on back-to-back marathons three straight weekends to earn a promotion to 6-star Marathon Maniac. No sooner had the 0s and 1s been sent through the tubes than a couple of the races in my plan were moved to different weekends than in 2011. Being such an advance planner bit me in the ass.

So, I have shuffled a bit. I would still say October's plans are tentative, but at least these are firm dates for these races (with a look beyond 2012 and yes, I think I'm gonna get back on that horse at the end):

*3/17/12 Dash Down Greenville (5K), Dallas
*4/16/12 Boston Marathon
*4/29/12 Big Sur International Marathon, Carmel CA
5/13/12 North Trail HM, Dallas
6/2/12 Old Dominion 100, Woodstock VA
7/15/12 Too Hot to Handle 15K, Dallas
9/3/12 Labor Day 15K, Dallas
9/15/12 Tour des Fleurs 20K, Dallas
10/11/12 Santa Fe 5K, Dallas
10/13/12 ING Hartford Marathon, Hartford CT
10/14/12 Amica Marathon, Newport RI
10/20/12 Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon
10/21/12 Solutia Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis Marathon
10/27/12 marathon TBA
10/28/12 marathon TBA
11/18/12 Big D 30K
12/1/12 Cajun Coyote 100, Ville Platte LA
2/2/13 Rocky Raccoon 100, Huntsville TX
3/?/13 Dash Down Greenville (5K), Dallas
4/?/13 Hell's Hills (50M), Smithville TX
7/?/13 Missoula Marathon, Missoula MT
9/?/13 8-Hour Run from the Ducks, Weatherford TX
10/?/13 Marine Corps Marathon, Washington DC
11/?/13 DRC Half, Dallas
12/?/13 White Rock Marathon, Dallas
2/21/14 Rouge-Orleans, Baton Rouge to New Orleans

The qualification for OD100 is a 50-miler within the previous 12 months. I haven't run a 50-miler, but I have covered 50 miles in 2 fixed-time races. The race director gave the preliminary OK so I will be mailing my registration form in a couple days. If they change their mind and don't take me, well, that will throw the whole thing into disarray because I'll probably then look at something like Heartland, flip the years on Cajun Coyote and White Rock, and go for 6-star Maniac some other time.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Race review: Rouge-Orleans

I sprained my right ankle and dropped at mile 65.5.

Obviously not.

I drove to Baton Rouge on Friday and checked in to the hotel around 2 p.m., hoping to get a quality nap before the 8 p.m. race start. I laid off the caffeine and had been driving for quite a while in the rain, so I should've been plenty ready to doze off, but it didn't happen

I walked over to the pre-race party about 4 blocks away, picked up my bib and goody bag and walked back to my room. My pack was loaded with a change of shoes, extra clothes, skin care items and a crap ton of gels, Honey Stinger waffles and chews, candy bars and thousands of other calories. I was uncrewed and didn't have a way to throw together drop bags, so everything went with me.

The race started with a cannon shot from the USS Kidd that probably incited barking from every dog in a 3-parish radius. The first few miles were on a paved hike & bike path, and I jogged along at an easy 10- to 11-minute pace.

My plan was to take in some calories at each relay exchange, so at 4.1 miles in I unsnapped my pack and dug out some Clif Bloks and a Gu, walking as I ate before resuming jogging for the rest of the next leg. Shorter run/walk intervals were probably preferable, but my "running" was not intense at all.

By now we were onto the gravel portion of the levee that would be the dominant surface for almost the next 100 miles. We had gotten lucky in that the rain had stopped just in time for the race, but it left behind plenty of puddles to dodge. Trying to miss them was made even more fun by the thick fog rolling in off the river. I didn't miss all of them, but that would be the least of my worries when it came to trying to keep my feet dry.

At the third exchange at 12.6 miles, we came down off the levee to detour around a construction site. Pretty much every other departure from the levee was along a paved or gravel ramp, but not here. We came down through the grass, which of course was quite wet. Ditto for going back up the other side.

A couple miles further on, I was stopped dead in my tracks by a giant sandbag covering the width of the trail. I had to pick a side: go right and run on the dry concrete reinforcements but run the risk of a single misstep sending me tumbling down into the river, or go left and avoid this risk of death but ensure I'd need a change of socks sooner than I wanted. I went right, of course, for about a quarter-mile until the line of sandbags ended.

After a brief run of a couple hundred yards back on top, another sandbag blockage appeared. This time I went left -- but this time the line of sandbags stretched for a mile and a half without a break. I had a feeling I was digging my grave. I tried to seek out the flattest area I could, but when you're talking about the side of a levee, there is no flat area. At one point I stepped in a hole. I didn't feel a great blast of pain, but this is probably where I was injured.

The sandbags finally ended and I was back on top of the levee. I looked to the right and saw the eyes of some unidentified critter dashing along the bottom of the levee by the water. No idea what it was. Later we ran by a family of cows just a few feet away. Across River Road, the howls of wild dogs and the barks of domesticated ones broke the silence. Cows mooed, and I even heard a goat in there somewhere. I took note of how tremendous the weather was -- cool and misty, with little if any wind. I got to the aid station at 27.4, reapplied Aquaphor everywhere and headed on, feeling great at 5 hours, 32 minutes into the race.

After another hour or so, things started to go wrong. I felt my heart rate getting faster as I jogged. I blamed it on being ahead of schedule; for convenience I had plotted my feedings by mileage rather than time, so I was taking in more food and thus more caffeine than expected. Now the wind was picking up as well, and the air felt a good 20 degrees cooler than it had. I put on my gloves and head wrap, but the wind was too strong to worry about digging another shirt out of my pack, lest its contents be scattered in all directions. I would have to just fight through it.

By now it was pushing 4 a.m. I soldiered on with the thought that I would just have to make it a couple more hours until the sun came out. Yes, dawn is the coldest time of day, but the sun in my face would do wonders for how I felt.

When day finally broke, I was down to just a walk, albeit a steady one at a good pace. My ankle hurt, but I figured that after 10 hours and 40-some miles, things would hurt. I was fully prepared to walk off the last 70-plus miles; if I could keep the same walking pace I'd be done in around 32 hours, which I would have considered phenomenal.

I got to the next aid station at 54-plus miles shivering but upright. I was hurting a good bit more by now, but thought another layer of clothes and something hot to eat would be just the attitude adjustment I needed. Some scalding hot chicken broth got my core temperature back up in a jiffy, and off I went.

Eventually it got harder and harder to keep up the pace. I zigzagged across the path, seeking out a route with the smoothest surface possible to minimize the instability on my foot. Not long after the 14th relay exchange at mile 60.6, I couldn't take anymore -- though I was mentally out of it enough to continue on to the next exchange rather than turn back to the last one and save quite a bit of time and grief.

I got a ride to the next aid station and let the captain know I was out. He let me sit in his truck, out of the cold, until my ride got there to take me back to Baton Rouge. (Aside: I rode to the aid station with the crew for fellow soloist Ken Rubeli, i.e., his girlfriend, Stephanie. Didn't catch her last name or that of the organization she heads, a non-profit in the Nevada/Arizona/California area that puts on 5Ks to combat childhood obesity. If anyone knows her or them, please let me know where I can direct a donation to show my appreciation.)


It's a big claim to make, being 60 miles from the finish line, but I think I would have been OK with the distance if not for the ankle. The tremendous muscle aches that made things rough at the end of my other 3 really long runs in the past did not present themselves this time around.

I would not, however, have finished. After thinking I wouldn't need to bring my jacket, I tried at the last minute to find a way to cram it into my pack. But there was just no extra room, meaning that Sunday morning came around and it felt 20 degrees colder than the Saturday morning I barely survived, I would've been frozen solid long before I got to New Orleans. In a way, the pain in my ankle saved me from a much greater pain later on.

I learned plenty of lessons and can suggest a few things for anyone who wants to run this race (some should already be clear based on what I encountered):
  • I firmly believe this race can be done solo uncrewed, but you must plan exquisitely. For one, it's not enough to say you're going to consume 270 calories per hour and just pull whatever out of your bag that adds up to that. You'll want to mix up your intake so that you don't eat all your solids early and leave all your gels for the end, when maybe gel doesn't seem so appetizing and then you don't have any other options. Or if you want to ply yourself with steady low doses of caffeine to stay awake for 30-some hours, mix in some non-caffeinated stuff in between.
  • The usual rule of thumb for running is to dress for 20 degrees warmer. But when you're out there all night, and certainly not running hard the entire time, that rule goes out the window. Dress for the temperature and plan for colder. As I alluded to earlier, you can take things off if you're warm, but if you're cold, you can't put on something that you don't have.
  • Don't wait for an injury to strengthen your ankles. I doubt those sandbags are temporary so you can expect that you will run on a slope for almost 2 miles. Look up ankle strengthening exercises and work them into your training. Obviously, running on as much gravel as you can find will help too.
  • If you're not a local, know that Mardi Gras in Louisiana is not just in New Orleans and is not just one day. The race is moved around each year to coincide with some of the Mardi Gras events, and that means it starts in Baton Rouge on the same Friday night as one of the parades. Consider this when lining up accommodations (or stay somewhere else).
  • I guess you're not actually required to wear gaiters and trail shoes with rock plates, but I would very strongly recommend it.


We all got a tech T, pint glass, sling bag and water bottle. The finishers got a buckle.


Dash Down Greenville, Dallas, Mar. 17.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Race preview: Rouge-Orleans

Baton Rouge, Louisiana (to New Orleans, Louisiana)

Friday, Feb. 10


I learned of this race about a year and a half ago and thought it just sounded so cool that I would make it my first 100 (it's 126.2 miles, actually -- sort of a 100-mile warm-up followed immediately by a marathon). I have a good running friend in Baton Rouge and figured she could help throw a crew together and it would be a big old time. But after a while I got tired of hearing stories of folks in 100s practically being carried to the finish by their crews and pacers and decided I would just do the whole thing myself.

Most of the field is made of relay runners -- 60-some teams, most with 6 runners each. I'll be one of 50-some solo runners.

Generally, the conditions should be pretty decent. We'll start Friday night with the temperatures in the 50s, dropping to the low 40s. Saturday will be sunny but a strong north wind will hold temps just below 60. The wind blowing across my body should be an adventure. It'll be back down in the low 40s when I finish early Sunday morning.


By living to tell about it. My wild guess was that it will take 36 hours to finish, which is a 3.5 mph average. That sounds extremely slow, but go run for an entire day and then see how quickly you're still moving forward. Either way, the time it takes is irrelevant. I just want to get out there and enjoy the views, dodge the cows and dogs and whatever other critters hang out on the levee, try not to go crazy, and still have a pulse this time next week.

If I can maintain control of my phone battery scene, I'll be posting updates to Twitter here. Seeing other people live-tweeting races usually makes me insane -- just run the damn thing -- but I figure I should keep folks posted for my own safety.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Race review: Miracle Match Marathon

At 3:20:41, this was my 4th fastest marathon of the 10 I've run, but on by far the hardest course, and coming off a 4-week stretch in which I could not run longer than 7 continuous miles before pain in my left leg forced me to stop. So I'm calling this my best race ever.

Pretty damn close, actually. I was 7th of 193 overall, 6th of 132 men and 2nd of 20 in my age group. OK, I was 46 minutes behind the winner, but still.

I'll start the story on Saturday, when I decided I'd actually try to keep a count of my carb intake to see if I could get to the recommended 700 grams. There was plenty of pasta and pancakes and Clif bars and OJ, and I pretty much felt stuffed all day. It was tough to keep an  official count but I was probably somewhere in the mid-600s.

I laid off the caffeine most of the day and went to bed early, knowing a 3 a.m. alarm was waiting for me. But my sleep was restless and interrupted by indigestion more than once. I hit the road around 4 and had trouble staying awake for the 2-hour drive to Waco. I was not off to a terrific start.

After fetching my bib and T-shirt and goodie bag, I went back to sit in the car. I should've learned from New Year's Day to go warm up no matter what, but the cold air was just a little too biting. Since I had no time goal at all, warming up within the confines of the rich wouldn't be a big deal.

And so that's what I did. We headed east for a 5-mile lollipop through part of the Baylor campus. My pace was easy; I felt fine. This was the flat section of the race so I had better be feeling fine.

Coming back through the start/finish area, the marathoners and relayers broke left and headed through downtown. From here on out I ran in virtual solitude. A couple relay runners zipped past me, a couple marathoners passed me and I passed a couple others. But that was it.

We started climbing up Austin Avenue, but the slope was gradual and thus not too challenging. Exiting downtown we ran through a mix of residential areas and main drags. We got a good taste of the nothing that is Waco. I crossed the 13.1 mat just shy of 1:40 -- still making steady time and running without pain, but still well aware things would be getting much tougher soon.

Minutes later, right at the 14-mile marker, there it was: the first big hill. My friends at elevation will scoff at a 68-foot gain over .18 miles, but in these parts, that's a good hill. Just a mile later was an even better one: 135 feet in .2 miles. Mind you, these are notoriously wacky Garmin measurements, but the point is, they weren't joking about the hills.

By this point I was already quite pleased with my day, since I'd gone this far without hurting. But I started to notice an odd phenomenon: I wanted the hills! I NEEDED the hills! With all my focus on Rouge-Orleans, a course with a typical gross elevation gain of about 7 feet over a mile, I'd hardly been running any hills. Now that I was encountering some hills, my legs were almost rejoicing in the new workout. Twenty miles passed and I felt totally fresh. There were more hills to come in Cameron Park, but as I passed the 2nd place female at the moment she was telling her bike-mounted sherpa, "it hurts," I felt like I could go much longer.

At the final real climb around the 24-mile mark, a course monitor shouted to me that I was in 7th place, and the 6th place runner was just up on that bridge, struggling mightily. I was stunned. I knew I was having a good day, but it just never dawned on me that I would be that high up in the standings (even though my finish time would've placed me 6th last year). I tried tracking this mystery person down, but never saw him (turns out the monitor was just throwing out encouragement since I was 2 1/2 minutes behind the next guy).

This race had a lot of comparisons to the Tyler Rose Marathon for me, which goes to show how performance can color one's view of a race. You might recall I didn't have many nice things to say about that race, but I really can't trash this one even though it had its share of issues (no spectators, skimpy post-race offerings). One major difference aside from how I did is probably why: course marking. Whereas I almost got lost twice in Tyler (and many folks made wrong turns), this course was exceptionally marked with chalk and cones almost the entire way. You could not be confused about which way to go.

It's a shame that the most scenic parts of the course were also the most difficult. Just as we got to the nice views of Lake Waco, the hills hit. And the peace and quiet of Cameron Park? Hills.

Hard to believe, but this was only my 2nd marathon (after Grandma's) in which I did not walk one step. I came pretty close on a couple of the hills, but I kept a running motion and intent, even if I could've just walked at almost the same speed.


8:16 pace last .42

This race brought the welcome return of the samplicious goodie bag. Where else are you going to get a Snickers bar thrown in? Among the other freebies was a single serving of what's becoming one of my favorite products, Biofreeze Perform. It's all the goodness of an ice bath without the indignity of sitting in a freezing cold pool of your own filth.

The medal is a cool, unique one that can also be used to slit a burglar's throat:

And in lieu of a finisher's shirt, you get a tastefully embroidered windbreaker with the race logo on the left chest.


Rouge-Orleans, Baton Rouge to New Orleans, Feb. 10.