Me and Dzangel

Me and Dzangel
RMC 5K 2007

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fall 50 recap

Glad that one is done!! Check another one off of the bucket list. And yes, I'm STILL learning.
Although I planned on doing this one for a while, I really didn't commit until a week earlier, and I didn't register until the day before. Nothing like being really sure about my race plans, eh?
Tammy and I drove up to Sturgeon Bay the day before and stayed in a local hotel that night. Nothing fancy, but it beat a long drive from home at dark o'clock the day of the race. I tried to relax most of Friday, but the prospect of 50 miles kept me a little anxious and nervous. I had a less than ideal or smart supper. I actually slept fairly good. Maybe a little tossing and turning, but still a good nights rest.
I got up nice and early Saturday morning. A better breakfast than the previous evenings meal and a nice hot shower to wake and warm up. Tammy and I headed out around 5:30 a.m. for the drive up to the race start in Gills Rock. We drove through a few rain showers on the way up. Just enough to make me a little more nervous about the upcoming day! We got to the start area with enough time to get race numbers pinned on, check my waist pack for all the things I thought I might need and of course, one trip to the Porta-Pottie! Start line weather was mid 40's with a 20-30 mph NW wind, with some stronger gusts! Before I knew it, it was time to line up for the start with 157 other crazy solo runners! And then we were off!!
The first few miles went by quickly. Talking with other runners, enjoying the sunrise, watching the waves beating against the shore. Before I knew it, I was just about five miles in and hitting the first aid station. Tammy had my gear bag ready and I was back on the road quickly. My plan was just to break the day down as legs between the aid stations. My mind could handle that, I hoped.
Soon after aid station one, I fell in with another runner that was running the same pace as I. We chatted for a few minutes before he introduced himself. Surprisingly, it was a friend from a social training website that I had hoped to run with, at least for a part of the day! It was great to finally meet Lenny and share some stories. The conversation really made the miles fly by. Before I knew it, I was at aid station number two in Sister Bay. Over 11 miles down. Less than 40 to go!!
Leg three led us through Peninsula State Park. We wound around on the roads through the park, and enjoyed a break from the relentless wind. This was the longest leg of the day at just over 7 miles. Tammy was ready and waiting in the Nicolet Bay parking lot. She had me refueled and pushed me on my way. Just under 19 miles and still feeling good.
Leg four had us continue through the park and even gave us a little bit of trail running. Nothing serious, just a gravel path, but it was nice to get off the road and away from traffic for a while. We finally left the park and headed in to Fish Creek and aid station number four at Fish Creek Beach. I took a few extra minutes here and changed shoes. I had started in my Saucony Peregrines. I was just short of half way and switching up to my Hoka Stinsons was a nice change. It felt like I had big cushions on my feet! Amazing how something so simple can give you a little spark in your step.
Leg five led us out of Fish Creek on some scenic back roads. I was just glad I didn't have to climb the nasty hill on highway 42!! I'd been dreading that all morning. I had asked Lenny what our pace was earlier and he said we were running between 9:30 and 10:00 miles. I knew this was way to fast for me and started to slow my pace. I enjoyed the view of the bay on one side and the bluffs on the other. And I kept thinking of the "halfway buffet" at the next aid station. The thought of some warm soup and a sandwich kept drawing me forward. I reached Villagio's Italian Restaurant and took a short break. Some tasty soup, a PB&J and a quick change to a fresh and dry shirt. 28 miles in! Over halfway. I was actually beginning to believe I could do this!!
After this my goal was to get from aid station to aid station. I knew it would start getting tough around mile 30. My right hamstring/calf was starting to feel tight. Not bad, but I didn't want to push and end up with a cramp. At about the same time my left knee began to get sore. Never experienced this before! I'm not sure if I was compensating for the right leg, or it was just the miles adding up. Nothing serious, but I definitely knew it was there!
It was during the last few legs that I lost contact with Lenny. He was holding a great pace, feeling good and really pushing on down the road. I could see him for a while, but I knew I had to run my race and resisted the urge to push and catch him. In hindsight, it was a good choice.
Tammy was always ready and waiting when I came in to an aid station. Having that support and encouragement really made my race much easier. She kept telling me I could do this on the drive up Friday and all day during the race Saturday!! We do make a good team!
Even though it's a long race, I never really was alone. I could always see runners, or was running with competitors. The race also had a relay race, and when the team runners started catching me, that gave me an added boost. Almost every team runner gave me a shout, a thumbs up or a pat on the back. I can't count how many times I heard, "nice job solo runner". That little encouragement really meant a lot in the last miles.
Once I hit mile 40, I knew I would finish this run!! It was a good feeling to have the remaining miles down to single digits! I was slowing and talking a short walk break every mile, but the finish line was getting closer!
After leaving aid station number nine, I counted the miles down until it was just a remaining 5K! Damn, I can crawl in if I have to! I ran through the edge of Sturgeon Bay and headed to Sunset Park. I could hear the music and the finish line announcer. I picked my head up, smiled and ran through the finish chute and over the finish line!! 9:13:40. 65/132 finishers. 8/20 in SuperMasters (old).
 Lenny was waiting to give me a high five and Tammy was waiting just over the finish line!! I collected my "bling bling medal" on a chain. DONE! FINISHED!
We headed in to the finish tent for some beer and pizza. I was sore, tired, achy, hurt in new spots and just generally overall beat! But damn glad I did it!!
I said I'm still learning. So what did I learn? Well.........a hard (for me) full marathon two weeks before probably wasn't real smart. I feel I was recovered, but really never had a taper for this race. My nutrition was a little better. I ate more solid food than gels and bars. I drank when I was thirsty rather than on a time schedule. That seemed to work just fine. I learned that I should probably wear a watch and use that for splits. The phone app I use seems to be a little off, so I never know my real pace. It might have helped me to slow the pace earlier in the run. The big thing I learned is that I can run 50 miles. I have to admit that the distance really intimidated me. 50K? No problem! Now add another 19 miles. I had a hard time wrapping my tiny little brain around that. Will it make the next one (yes, there will probably be a next one) easier. I'm not sure. But it will be interesting.
Now, it's time for a rest and some down time. Really. Honest!! No, really!!!
Well, this was really long winded!! Thanks for reading. Comments are always welcome.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Whistlestop Marathon

Well, glad that one is done. And yes, I'm still learning. Just when I think I'm getting a handle on this stuff, I get schooled. But, I enjoy the challenge. If I ever stop learning then I guess it's time to quit and find a new endeavor.
This was a last minute type of race. I had it in the back of my mind for a few weeks, but didn't actually commit to this until the middle of race week. I actually didn't register until the day before. Yeah, not too smart. Then again, I've never claimed to be smart!!
I felt more nervous leading up to this event than I've felt in a long time. I knew I had the endurance and miles in me to complete this, but I wanted to give it a solid and honest effort. After my last post here, I needed to know if I could suffer. At least a little bit. 
I had the luxury of staying with family for the weekend. It sure makes thing more relaxing. Catching up on things, talking smart and just enjoying the time. That always makes for a great race experience, no matter the outcome of the race. 
Race morning came bright and early-6:00 a.m. Temps in the mid 50's and some clouds greeted me as I peered out the window. A quick and not so smart breakfast-a sweet roll and milk-and a hot shower to loosen up the kinks and knock out the cobwebs, and I was ready to head out the door. A short drive to town and I was on a bus heading to the start. 
The marathon started at Tri-Lakes campground just east of Iron River. I wandered about and tried to stay loose and relaxed. No matter what I did, the pre-race butterflies kept fluttering. I made a last trip to the porta-pottie and headed to the start line. Here goes nothing!
My goal heading in to this was to run sub-four hours. I started slow and easy. I remembered my painful lesson from 2008 when I went out faster than planned, got sucked in with a quick group and paid for it the last eight miles. I didn't want that to happen again. 
I panicked a little when my phone announced my first splits in the sub-eight minutes range. Whoa. Way too fast. Then I realized that my phone and the marked splits weren't matching up. Whew! But that led to another worry. Now I really had no idea what my splits were. I figured they were close to what my phone was rattling off, but how close. At that point I just wanted consistent splits. That should keep me from exploding and doing the death shuffle the last few miles. 
I tried to stay relaxed and comfortable as the miles passed. The race is run on a gravel rail trail, so that helped ease the pounding on the legs. I made it a point to take something at each aid station-water, energy, gel-to stave off the sure to come bonk. 
The miles passed by easily until about mile 22. Then I knew I was slowing. I wouldn't call it a bonk exactly. More of a just slowly building fatigue and soreness. I was used to the miles after three previous 50K this summer, just not the pace. The last three to four miles hurt! Yep, I can suffer. I know that now. I was tempted to walk at a few points, but I didn't give in to temptation. I just put one foot in front of the other. Once I hit the paved portion of the path in Ashland, I knew I could hurt just a little more. That last mile in town had my quads yelling at me to stop. I pushed around the last corners and finished with the all I had left. 
I ended up with an official time of 3:46:52.8. Under goal time! I might have had a little more in me, but not much. I ran close to perfect splits - 1:52:20 first half and 1:55:08 second half. Considering I didn't do any marathon based training, I'm really pleased with my race. My legs were used to a ten minute mile pace, not eight and a half minute mile pace. 
The recovery is going well. Legs were really sore the first few days. A four plus hour car trip home on Sunday didn't help. Plus some heavy leg work at the gym on Tuesday. Remember, I never said I was smart!! I've done a few short and easy runs. Another day or two and I'll be back to normal-whatever that is!
So, what's next? Not sure. I've got a couple things in mind. I'll have to see how the weather shapes up, how the legs feel and how much I think I have left in the tank. No matter what, it'll be interesting!
Almost done!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hard enough 2.0

Howdy all! Time for another mostly coherent post. It's 11-7 shift this week. Graveyard shift. And it's been a tough one. So I hope this stays on track and doesn't wander down some side trails!
I wrote a post a couple of years ago about effort, or the lack thereof. I've been thinking about this again lately. It's been a popular topic around the Svenofthenorth homestead.
This latest iteration came about after The North Face 50K. I had a great race and felt like I had a bit too much left in the tank at the end. I was running hard a few days afterwards. I'd like to think I just nailed it and my training finally came together. I'm just not convinced that that's what happened.
At North Face I kept to an easy pace up to mile 20. Mid 10's, a little slower when you tossed in an aid station. My fastest splits came after mile 20. Not fast mind you, but low to mid 9's. I kept telling myself to hold back, slow down, take it easy. But I felt good! In the back of my mind I had that evil voice talking to me, and I listened. "There might be some hills ahead. Better save your energy. You might start to cramp. Still ten miles to go. Anything could happen."
And that voice was partially correct, anything could happen. But what is the worst case scenario. I start going too hard and have to back off a little? I start to cramp and have to stop and walk or massage it out. I end up crashing and having to do the death march to the finish line? Certainly not the end of the day type of problems.
I ran the first few miles with a friend, who was kind enough to run at my pace. He's a much faster runner, and despite some limited running due to injury, I could tell he wanted to go! After the first aid station he took off and I didn't see him until the finish line. Joel ran over 45 minutes quicker than me. Really impressive when you figure he put a minute and a half per mile on me over that distance. Tammy said he looked like he was really pushing at the finish line. Looking at his race photos compared to mine shows the difference in effort. He looks like he is giving it his all. Me, I'm smiling. I look like I just did a jog through the park.
So, is it time to get serious and see just what this old body has left in it. I'm never going to be speedy or post any fantastic results. But I really think I can push harder and put up some decent times. I'm not going to be the guy who is puking by the side of the road/trail because I pushed too hard. Sorry, that just ain't me! I'm more concerned with finishing, than my time. Don't get me wrong. I'm competitive. I try to do my best. I'll give you a good sprint when that line comes in to view and there is somebody
I think my issue/problem is more that when it starts to get uncomfortable in a race or training, I tend to back off right away. I think it has helped me stay mostly healthy and injury free over the last 27 years. Then again there's the "no pain, no gain" thinking. If I want to do better and improve, I have to be willing to up the effort and hurt a little once in a while.
So, I'm going to push just a little harder and quiet those voices in the back of my brain. I want to give it a good honest effort and feel like I left it all out on the course. We'll see how it goes at my first test. I'm planning on running The Whistlestop in Ashland, Wisconsin on October 12. I still haven't decided if it will be the half marathon or the full. I'm being wimpy and watching the weather forecast. I don't mind giving it my all and seeing what I can do, just maybe not if it's going to be in the 40's and raining!! So much for suffering!!

Thanks for "suffering" through another post. And my apologies to Joel -on the left, myself on the right- for the finish line photo comparison. But I do think it shows how our efforts differed!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K

Good day, all! I thought I would sit down and put thoughts to computer monitor while those thoughts are fresh in my head. It sure beats trying to recall things a week or more from now, especially with my scatter brain!
I wasn't really sure how the day was going to go in the week leading up to Saturday. I had some niggling aches and pains that always leave me wondering if they will affect me on race day. Add in a helluva cold/sinus infection and I really wasn't feeling 100%. I took it really easy during the week. Only a few days of really short and easy running. I resisted the urge to do more. I even passed on a local 5K the Saturday before the run. Hard to do, but I've learned my lesson in that regard!
My eating habits weren't the best all week either. Not bad, but not exactly healthy! A big club sandwich, french fries and a tall, cold ( and very tasty ) beer the night before aren't really my first choice for a pre-race meal. McDonald's for breakfast ain't very wise either!!
Race day started nice and early at 4:30 a.m. for me. It looked like it was going to be a perfect day, weather wise. 40ish at race time and warming in to the 60's. Some sun and a nice breeze were forecast for the day.  A quick banana and some chocolate drink before a warm shower to ease the kinks out of the muscles. A fitful night of sleep didn't seem to have me too tired as Tammy and I loaded up the car and headed out from our hotel to the race site.
I got to the event site with plenty of time to check things out, wander around, try to stay warm and try to settle some pre-race nerves. I met up with Joel, a friend who used to live near me. We were planning on running at least a few early miles together.
A few minutes before 7:00 a.m. we all lined up and got a pep talk from Dean Karnazes. Right on time the gun went off and away we all went. I have a nasty habit of starting off too fast. Definitely not a good thing in a long race! I kept towards the middle of the pack and wound my way down some pavement before hitting the trail.
Joel and I spent the first miles talking and keeping the pace easy-for him. I had a few splits under 10:00/mile, which had me a little concerned. I usually don't have a time goal for these 50Ks, but that pace is faster than what I have averaged in previous races. Joel and I hit the first aid station just before seven miles. I grabbed some water and topped off my bottles. I knew Joel was getting itchy to pick up the pace, so he peeled off his coat and sped off down the trail. I'm glad the pace was slightly faster than I planned for those first miles. I just didn't know it at the time.
I fell in with another runner, David, from the Chicago area, just after the first aid station. Our paces seemed to mesh perfectly, so we passed the next miles together. David was using this for a training run leading up to a 50 miler and wanted to hold a steady pace and just keep running. We yo-yoed up and down the rolling hills for a while, talking and making the miles disappear beneath our feet.
I was being very conscious of my hydration and fueling during the race. During my last 50K in mid July, I let this slide and paid for it dearly. I was stopping at every aid station and grabbing something-potatoes with salt, PB&J, Mtn. Dew. Top off my bottles and I was moving again. I was trying to get in a bit of electrolyte or water every 15 minutes and a gel every 45 minutes. Top it off with an S!Cap every hour. Lots for me try and remember and still keep pushing down the trail.
I was feeling really good as the day wore on. No unusual aches or pains. No falls, which is unusual for me! No cramps, no stomach issues. I know I was hydrating well, since I watered the trees quite a few times. My splits were all over, but I wasn't worried about it. I was settling in to a comfortable zone and putting one foot in front of the other.
As the miles started to add up, I found myself running solo more and more. I got at the end of one conga line for a while, but that didn't last too long. I just enjoyed the beautiful day and watched the scenery go by.
I wasn't sure what to expect about the terrain going in to this race. I ran with a friend a few weeks earlier who had done this race a few years ago. He warned me to take it easy on the hills. The elevation profile didn't look too friendly, but the hills weren't as bad as I feared. There was a long and steady climb around mile 6 and again between 20 and 21 miles. Nothing steep, but steady. The worst thing for me was the stretches of energy sucking sand! The section going out wasn't too bad, but coming back, it felt like quicksand. There wasn't a good way around it, so it was just plow ahead as best I could.
At mile 21 I told myself, "ten miles to go. You've got this. Take it easy. Relax and rein it in a little." I was feeling really good and getting a little worried for some reason. Just waiting for the wheels to come off. Not that I was flying by any stretch of the imagination. My pace was averaging right around 10:35ish. In the back of my mind I started telling myself that I might be able to hit a 5:30:00 finish time. I had entertained this thought leading in to the race, but that would be a 15 minutes PB.
The last 10 miles went by smoothly. I did a few strides to change up the pace and use some different muscles. I kept the walking to a minimum, mostly through aid stations and up the couple longer climbs. I was getting feedback from the app on my phone of splits in the mid 9:00/mile range. Other than aid stations and the longer climbs, I stayed in the mid 9's from mile 16 on!
I hit the last aid station with less than two miles to go. I grabbed a . Dew from the volunteer and slammed it down. She told me I had less than two miles and asked how I felt. I told her "no problem. I got this!"
I pushed down the trail to the highway section we started on and headed the last mile to the finish. I felt great and kept trying to relax. No sense sprinting the last mile of a 50K.
I finished the race feeling great. A little sore, but come on, that's to be expected, right? Hydration and fueling went perfect. No major complaints anywhere. My pre-race goals were: A-to finish (of course) B-set a new PB for 50K and C-break 5:30:00. I nailed two of the three. My finish time was 5:30:45. Just over fifteen minutes faster than my previous best. And I felt great. Feet and legs were still pretty fresh. The Hoka Stinson Evo worked super. Yep, I'm a convert! I honestly had something left in the tank. Which begs to wonder, maybe I need to push a little harder and suffer a little more. A good subject for another day.
All in all a great day. I would like to think my easy (slow) pace to AS1 led Joel to his PB - 4:42:27. Can't even imagine that pace and effort! The course was excellent. The aid stations and volunteers were amazing. My thanks and appreciation to everyone who helped make this event and day flow so smoothly!
A bit long winded, I know. Thanks for checking this out. Now, to decide what's next. I might have one more race left in me! We'll see.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pre-race count down

T-minus three days to The North Face Endurance Series Wisconsin 50K this Saturday (September 14). I hope I'm ready. I am currently suffering from the normal pre-race niggles. These aren't to be confused with muggles (for nerdy Harry Potter fans), the Wiggles or British Beatle mania. I have a bit of an achy back, sore right knee/hip and one helluva cold/sinus infection/??? Nothing serious, and not an excuse for any possible poor race results. I'm sure that on race day morning, all the aches and pains will go away after a few miles. And with a few miles to go, I'll have a whole new passel of aches and pains, none of which will keep me from the finish line.
I'm hoping that a larger field of runners will spur me to a new PB. The two other 50Ks I ran this summer had smaller fields. By the end of each, I was running solo. No one to push me or run with, so I generally slow down. I may even have a running partner, if he can run as slow as me.
I may squeak in one more post before the run. If not, I'll recap my adventure afterwards.
Thanks for taking time to read this.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Every little bit helps

Being on vacation this last week has given me extra time to think and reflect. Not always a good thing, considering how my crazy, mixed up mind works. Anyhoo.......I was thinking how lucky I am to have support. A lot, okay most of what I do (or try to do) is made so much easier with the support of my wife, Tammy. She will never admit it, but she gives up huge amounts of her time so I can run, bike, ski, ....or whatever strikes my fancy. And I fully appreciate it! She pushes me some days, tells me to suck it up and get out there. She rides along on her bike on long runs to keep me company and supply me with water and food. She is there at the start, in between and at the finish of my races. Rain, shine, snow, whatever Mother Nature dishes out. Patiently waiting, sometimes for hours! She volunteers at races and cheers on the other competitors. I think you get the picture. And this truly makes what I love to do so much easier. I rarely feel guilty putting in hours and hours a week. We still have "our time". The last thing she did really blew me away and made me realize how lucky I am and how much she does.

Dear Hoka One One Gods,
I'm writing on behalf of my husband.  He recently discovered your shoes.  The first pair was The Hoka One One Stinsons which he absolutely fell in love with.  He used them to run
Dances with Dir'ts 50K and actually took a 3rd in his age division.  That was a BIG jump from the 50K before (of course he wasn't wearing the Hoka's then!) LOL
 The second pair is the Hoka One One Bondi B, which again he absolutely loves!  These are fairly new so he hasn't had a chance to race in them yet.
 He is running the North Face Endurance 50K in Sept.  I'm not sure which shoe he will be using (of course it will be one of the Hoka's)  I don't think he will run in anything else now!
 I'm not writing to request anything free.  But I would really like to know how I could get him a Hoka t-shirt?  I've seen other racers with your shirt on and would love to surprise him
before his next race.
 Lastly...I'm sure the other races I saw with your advertising on their shirts are your sponsored runners.  What would he (Hubs) have to do to get your attention.  I think he would love 
to be a Hoka guy!  This year he is running 50k's, next year 50 milers and then...who knows!!! Even if you can't help me out...just know that your shoes are loved 
Thanks Much
Tammy VandeZande

Pretty nice! I really didn't expect much of a response. Maybe a form letter type reply. She received a personal reply from Eric Emerson of Hoka almost immediately. I was surprised when a week or so later a box arrived in the mail. Inside was a shirt for both of us and two pair of technical socks. To say the least, her support and Hoka's is greatly appreciated. 
I also received some great support from The NorthFace. I received an e-mail a couple months ago inquiring if I was doing the NorthFace Endurance Challenge Series race in Madison, WI. It was on my radar, but I hadn't committed yet. Dani Chandler of The NorthFace presented me with the opportunity of running my choice of distance and covering my entry fee! Sweet! Almost like being a sponsored runner!! What amazing support of just a normal, everyday, middle of the pack ultra runner! And again, the support is greatly appreciated. Want to run with me? There is still time. Use DVZ13 (case sensitive) for an entry discount. #ECSWisconsin
So that is why what I do is so easy. A little support goes a long way and makes the miles and hours fly by!
Thanks to all who support me, believe in me and push me to places I never believed I could go!!
And thanks to all of you (both of you) who read this!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Still learning

Dances With Dirt Devil's Lake 50K is in the books. I had a great time out on the trails. I can't wait to do this one again! I learned a few more things this time around. Maybe one of these days, I'll put all this knowledge together and have one helluva race. Probably not, but I'm going to keep trying!
DWD was held July 13, in the Merrimac/Baraboo, WI area. Dirt headquarters was near Devil's Head Resort.
Race morning started at 5:30 a.m. Darn near perfect weather greeted the 50K and 50 milers. Upper 60's, overcast and a bit of a breeze. The sunshine and heat didn't show up until later that morning.
Since we stayed at Devil's Head, it was just a short jaunt to the start area. I did some nervous pacing around the start area for my warm up. I kind of figured the legs would warm up soon enough on the trails. We kind of seeded ourselves in to waves and off we went. Let the fun begin.
The first leg was a loop around the ski area at Devil's Head. The climb up to the top wasn't too bad. The trail kind of wound back and forth up the ski hill instead of going straight up. Not too bad! Along the top and then a quad burning trip down the double black diamond ski hill. Pretty much straight down. Against my better judgement, I let 'er rip on the way down. I knew my legs would pay for this in a few hours, but I just couldn't resist. It felt like I was running on cushions with the Hoka Stinsons on my feet.
Back through the start/finish area and out to the Ice Age trail to the next aid station. Through Parfrey's Glen and uphill. Lots of roots through here helped me slow it down and relax for the climb. I really enjoyed this section. Similar to the trails I usually run on "my" section of IAT.
We headed over to Devil's Lake State Park and through the campground. A bit of a chance for the legs to rest on the pavement. I almost missed a turn here, but somehow was aware and alert enough to see the bright pink flags leading through chest high weeds/grass/stuff. Legs were feeling good, so far!
Then I hit the climb to South Bluff aid station. Hundreds, no thousands, wait, millions of stone steps up to the top of the bluff. I didn't think it would ever end! I heard runners use words I've never heard before. If the faster runners were actually running up this section, I want to know how they did it! The views along the top definitely made it worth it, but I couldn't see or think straight enough to really enjoy them! I wanted to take some photos, but I'm not sure I could have figured out how to use the camera feature on my phone while trying to catch my breath and massage my aching quads!

A little more climbing out of South Bluff and then some fun trail to the next aid station. This was a two way traffic section so while I was going down I was dodging runners coming back. I had a drop bag at Bug Pit aid station and stopped for a fresh bottle and a couple gel packets. Not a long stop, just enough to refuel, replenish and get going. A short out and back to keep the distance honest and then back up the hills I had just come down.
Thankfully I didn't have to go all the way to the top of the bluff. It just seemed like it. A right turn on to a wide gravel road gave my legs a chance to relax and get in something akin to a rhythm. Or it felt like it to me. I really enjoyed this section. Nice, wide, smooth. Some climbing, but nothing like what I'd been through.
From this point it was the reverse of what I'd run earlier. I wanted to bomb the hills but some of the rooted and rocky sections made think twice. I hadn't done my Superman imitation, and I wanted to keep it that way. Once I got closer to the Parfrey's Glen area again, I tried picking up the pace. I was getting really tired at this point. I was coming close to six hours and felt like I should be done! I pulled out my phone and checked the app I use while running. 30.98 miles! And I knew I had at least a couple more to go! WTF?? I know that no two runners using some kind of GPS/app will have the same distance, but I didn't plan on being this far off. At the finish, my Strava app read 32.7 miles. I'm going to take it! It felt like I ran at least an extra mile. Not complaining, just saying!
All in all, I had an awesome time. Great trail, great runners, great aid and volunteers, well marked and challenging trail, great weather. I'll definitely be back.
So, what did I learn? Lots! I learned I probably shouldn't do a run commute comprising a half marathon before and after work, in the heat, less than a week before a 50K! I think my legs were mostly recovered, but not 100%. But I do love a challenge.
I learned I really, really, no-really need to pay more attention to my fueling. I thought I was doing well. I made sure I was always sipping at my water bottle. Hydration wasn't a problem. When I got to the finish and started digging through my drop bag, I realized I hadn't taken in quite what I thought. I went through three gels and two bottles of Accelerade. Approximately 700 calories for 6+ hours of running! No wonder the last hour seemed eternal!!
I learned why so many ultra runners don't wear a shirt. Let's just say I'm going to be checking out some NipGuards! OUCH! I ditched my shirt at South Bluff and was glad to be rid of it!! Glide just didn't cut it that day. Not sure why.
I learned I really need to give some honest attention to the hills. Hill repeats, hilly loops, hilly trails, HILLS!
In the end, I had a great day. 6:19:34. 69/210. 3/16 in my age group.
The Hokas worked great. No foot issues. Legs felt as good as can be expected. Glad I gave 'em a try.
What's next? Probably The North Face Endurance Challenge Series race in Madison in September. Probably another 50K. Yeah, gonna try and finally put things together and nail a good run. But........maybe a hard and fast half marathon might be fun. Anyway......thanks for checking out this really long winded report. More later as I train for ECS Madison!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hoka One One Stinson Evo Trail impressions

Howdy all. This is a new type of post for me. Instead of blathering on about my training, or racing or just whatever, I'm going to take a stab at a shoe review.
First off, I'm not a professional, not getting paid by Hoka, nor am I an expert in running analysis of any type. These are just my honest opinions and observations. Like 'em or not.
I purchased the Hoka One One Stinson Evo from an on-line retailer. The closest brick and mortar store is in Madison. Just a little far for me to drive.
The price was the biggest stumbling block for me. I'm used to buying last years models or sale shoes. I'm fussy though. I won't buy a shoe just because it's cheap. It has to fit well and work for my type of running and my weird feet. I did get a pretty good deal and saved a few dollars. Still at just north of $150, they are pricey-in my opinion. I'm used to spending less than $100.
My main reason for giving the Hokas a try was some foot problems I've never had before. Just very sore feet in general, especially in my arch. After my first 50K last May, my feet were actually bruised, in addition to being just beat to hell. I ran that in some Brooks PureGrit for the first 22 miles and then Cascadia 6 for the last 9 miles.
My first run was a short jaunt around town, mostly on roads and sidewalks with a short section of trail. The cushioning is definitely noticeable. It felt kind of like running on springs! An odd feeling but I got used to it fairly quick. It was an easy run. I was surprised when the first mile went by in just over 8 minutes. Not fast for some, I know, but faster than my normal training lately. It didn't feel that fast and it didn't feel like the shoes slowed me down. They didn't feel clunky, clumsy or heavy. Just different.
My next run in the Hokas was a true trail test. 16.5 miles in just under 3 hours on the Ice Age Trail in Waupaca county. Hilly, some roots and rocks. Tossed in some of the bike single track for fun. The shoes felt very comfortable. I was a little worried about catching a toe and doing my famous Superman imitation. It is a pretty normal occurrence when I run trails. No issues at all. And this was after eight hours at work. They didn't feel heavy going up the hills. They really allowed me to let it hang out on the downhills. I'm not exactly fast but the shoes did make me feel more comfortable going down hills. No issues at all with stability. I had imagined because of the thicker soles that there might be more of a tendency to roll an ankle. I've never had an issue with this, but I could see how it might be a factor if you have weak ankles or tend to easily roll an ankle. The sole seemed to have good traction. I've never had an issue on the trails I run, but I couldn't see much difference between the Hokas and my last few trail shoes.
The shoes come with quick laces. I'm not a big fan of that type of laces. I've had them in Salomon shoes and I've tried them in other shoes as an add-on. I either seem to have the laces to tight or to loose. I can't find that happy medium. They do come with normal laces if I want to change them, so it isn't an issue. Just a personal preference. I'll give them a few more miles.
I normally wear a size 11, and the shoes seem to be spot on. I read some reviews where people complained that they ran narrow. I had no problem with that issue. My feet have a wide forefoot and narrow heels. With a pair of normal thickness Injinji socks, I haven't had any issues with fit. They come with a pair of flat insoles and a pair with arch support. I'm using the arched pair since the flat ones made the shoes feel a little big.
In some very informal side by side comparisons with a pair of Brooks Cascadia 6 I came up with these measurements. Key word informal-well used kitchen scale and an inexpensive caliper. The weight was about the same-375 g/or just over 12 oz. per shoe-size 11 in both. Here are a few more measurements-
                    Brooks Cascadia 6          Hoka Stinson Evo
Heel width-               77mm                          92mm
Arch width-               64mm                          79mm
Forefoot width-         101mm                        100mm
I think there might be a very slight learning curve to running in the Hokas. I have had any difficulty, but depending on where you run and your current shoes, it could be a possibility.
Overall, I like the shoes. They will go in to my trail shoe rotation, mostly for longer (>25K) runs. I plan on using them in my upcoming Dances with Dirt-Devil's Head 50K. I'll let you know how they work out.
Questions? Comments? I welcome both. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Lessons learned, experience gained

Time to reflect after finishing my second 50K. I've had a couple weeks to mull things over. 
What did I learn? Don't run a race the week before. Not even for fun, or to run with one of my kids. And never, ever say before afore mentioned race, "it's only an easy 5K. What could go wrong?
I ran this easy 5K with one of my sons, to help pace him. Plus the opportunity to run with one of the kids is pretty rare. I figured an 8:00 per mile pace would be easy.  A good chance to stretch the legs a week before my run. We started out nice and easy. Less than a mile in, I caught a toe and did my best Superman imitation. I was up as fast as I went down, but not before landing hard on my knees, elbows and hands.  A little blood. How bad can it be?  Things didn't hurt until Monday. My left knee ended up bothering me late in my 50K. Okay, lesson learned. 
I learned that if I want to keep dropping my time, I need to run more/faster and walk a little less. My run 15/walk 5 actually worked great.  It was hard watching people pass me early on, but I eventually caught and passed most of them. I think I just need to increase the running interval. I'll be working on that. Maybe 25/5?
I learned that my training plan worked well. Admittedly I was training for 50 miles, so I had a good endurance base. I felt stronger and less sore at the end of this run versus last year.  The hills beat me up, but not as bad. If my knee hadn't bothered me, I might have been a little quicker.
Overall, I'd have to call this 50K a success. I believe I made the right move dropping to the 50K. My foot felt okay, but was beginning to complain by the end.  My nutrition worked well, although I could have probably upped the energy consumption a bit. 
I am going to take my new found wisdom, keep training, and do another 50K. I'm not sure when or where.  I've got a couple in mind. I'm not sure if I'll be faster, but I will be wiser!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

T minus 2 until race day

                                                 Great Lakes Endurance Iola trail race
                                                           Snowy trails - in April!
Race day is almost here, and I'm as ready as I can be. After my last post, I e-mailed the RD of the Ice Age Trail races and requested a move to the 50K. It was hard, but I think it was the right choice. I've got the rest of the summer and fall to nail that 50 miler. I've got a couple plans floating around in my tiny head. I'll see how Saturday goes and then move forward from there. I think my training was as close to spot on as it can be while working shift work. I got in a bunch of long runs (15+) including 24, 27 and 32 miles. The run 15 minutes and walk 5 minutes plan was working great. I was averaging 10:00/mile pace while employing this strategy. Keeping the pace easy and trying to burn fat instead of carbs has helped my efficiency. I used "Metabolic Efficiency Training" by Bob Seebohar and like how it worked.  I think all the long road miles finally caught up to my feet. The first four months of 2013 I ran over 800 miles compared to just over 600 for the last eight months of 2012. I believe some trail miles would have helped.
I managed a couple races since the last post. I ran a trail 15K at Iola Winter Sports Club, and the weather must have felt it had to go along with the name of the venue. The April 14th race was run entirely on snow covered trails. Cross country skiers were waiting for us to finish so they could ski! To add insult to injury, by the end of the 15K race, Mother Nature treated us to almost white out conditions. But I had a great race. I ran it easy and well paced. I felt in control the entire time and never laboring or working hard. My time was only a second slower than two years ago in much better conditions. I also ran a last minute road 5K with one of my boys. It was our first race together and I helped pace him to a PR. How much better can it get?!
So now it's time to relax, do one easy shake down run on Friday and head off to the trail. I can't wait. I'll let you know how it goes in a couple days!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Push on or suck it up? (Pride or common sense)

I'm posting this while sipping a cup of hot tea and watching the occasional  snow squall from Ma Nature. On April 19!! What the ?!@$ The crappy and unseasonable weather isn't helping my mood or my training. I've got my ultra in less than a month, and I've been on the trail once. In the snow!!!
Which brings me to the thinking for this post. I'm not sure if it's all the road miles, or just all the miles, but my body is starting to rebel a bit. I guess I'm not the genetic freak some of my kids think I am. Nothing serious (I think) but my feet are starting to complain. Yes, I've seen a medical professional, so I'm not self-diagnosing!! It's mostly arch pain, sometimes in both feet. Now it's spread to the top of one foot. My original thought was plantar fasciitis. That doesn't seem to be it. It stays around constantly. Doesn't go away (usually) throughout the day. The ache on top of the foot can really get my attention if it tries!
So what does this have to do with pride or common sense? I'm signed up for the Ice Age Trail 50 on May 11. 50 miles. I'm beginning to think the feet aren't going to put up with the distance. I've notched a 50K on the road, plus a few more above 20 miles. Add in a handful in the teens. After my latest 27+ miles, my feet weren't happy with me at all. The rest of my body was fine with the miles. My feet and I are no longer on speaking terms. I've been icing, heating, rolling and talking nice to them. Apparently they are stubborn piggies! So, do I suck it up and press on regardless? I know, long miles hurt. It ain't a walk in the park.  Maybe take a chance and screw up the rest of the season. Or do I try and contact the RD and see if I can move to the 50K? I know I can do that. The prospect of starting the 50 miler and DNFing is a thought I don't like. I've been running, biking and xc skiing for 30+ years, and have 3 DNFs-all mechanicals. I like to think I'm tough and won't give up. But, I've realized I'm not in my 20's, or even my 40's, anymore. I want to push myself, but I need to be smart too. My job doesn't allow my to relax and put my feet up either. I need to get up and head to work six days a week. Time off due to injury isn't an option. It would add insult to injury if it was a case of hard headedness and self induced.
I need a few days to think and mull things over. I know the taper that is coming up will help. And I'm not even sure moving down is an option. If not, I give it my best and take the miles as they come! I'll let ya know what happens.
Thanks for visiting!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Too long, again

Well, if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, my road must be smooth as hell! I mean to update this much more often than I do, but life just seems to keep getting in the way.
Anyway....My training had been going very well. I feeling better about my upcoming 50 miler, but not over confident.
I had a really solid January. The snow wasn't really good enough for cross country skiing, so I piled on the running miles. I got in a couple outings on the skis, but it was a running month for me. I logged 230 miles, which is most likely a personal best for me. Long, slow miles, with some walk breaks, but still good miles. Lots of cold miles too. I guess if Mother Nature wouldn't give us snow, she made up for it with cold.
I eased up a little in February trying to get ready for the Birkie. Not enough skiing made for a long day come Birkie Saturday. I had my slowest Birkie in memory, maybe my slowest ever. But, I finished and had fun. Next year, my goal is to train hard, weather permitting, and have a strong and fast Birkie. We'll see!
March is going strong. At the pace I'm going, I just might surpass January's miles. I'm getting in good long runs. I'm working on hydration and fueling. I've got my walk/run ratio dialed in. I wish I could get on the trails, but the snow is hanging on for dear life. I've had fun running routes I usually cover on the bike. It's nice to slow down and enjoy the scenery. But I do get some odd looks from people in the cars as they pass by, like " what the hell is that guy doing running out here miles from anywhere?"
I haven't spent any time on the bike. I know I'll be paying for that come WORS season, but I guess I race myself in to shape...again!
Mostly, I'm kind of proud of the miles I'm getting in while working shift work six day a week. I've run 24 miles before going in to work my 3 pm to 11 pm shift. I've run 20+ miles during my 11-7 shift. Actually my top mileage week was while working "graveyard shift". I got an 18+ mile run after day shift this last week and followed that up with over 16 after work on Sunday. I realize everyone has busy lives these days, I just like to think I'm proving that if you want it bad enough, time isn't an excuse.
It's an easy week for me this week, at least in terms of work. VACATION! Not sure if I'll squeak in some extra miles or not. The schedule I've been following seems to be working, and I don't want to mess with it too much.
I'll try to babble more later this week. Thanks for checking this out. Comments are always welcome.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Wishing for snow-sorta!

Well, it has been a few weeks and it's time to check in. I'm just wrapping up week 7 of my 50 miler training. Week 6 was one of my best weeks since ???? Admittedly being on vacation helped! I ended up with just over 62 miles, one day on snowshoes, and a day at the gym. To bad work always has to interfere! Week 7 is going just as well. I ran a 20 miler on January 11 in the mist, fog and somewhat unseasonable (40°F) temps. This is my longest run since my 50K in May of 2012. These last two weeks have me feeling just a wee bit more confident about my 50 miler. I have been playing around with my walk/run plan on my long runs. I'm not foolish enough to think I can RUN 50 miles with out some walk breaks! So far I've tried 25/5 and 15/5. Maybe something in between for the next long run. I've also been very cognizant of my pace while running. I've been trying a different type of training after reading "Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching The Body To Burn More Fat" by Bob Seebohar. Basically, it calls for easier paces and teaching your body to burn more fat instead of carbohydrates. To do that, you slow your pace and/or effort. Plus you don't consume as many carbs. Ideally, I'd head off to a sports testing lab at a college or hospital and have my metabolic efficiency tested. Being to cheap, not having the time and finding a location to have it done, I'm counting on 35+ years of experience, for what that's worth! I've been trying to stay around 9:30-10:00 per mile, especially on longer runs.This isn't to say I'm totally neglecting speed. I've hit the treadmill for some intervals, just to remind the legs that they can go fast, if they have to! All in all, I think my training is going well. Time will tell!
So just what does this have to do with wishing for snow-sorta. Well, in the middle of all this ultra training, I'm planning on doing the Birke. That means some cross country skiing. How's that going. Not so good! We had some pretty decent snow here the beginning of January. Between work, holiday hoo-hah and trying to keep to a running plan, I've been out once! And it wasn't pretty. I felt slow, awkward and generally uncoordinated. Now we've had a mid-January thaw, with temps in the 40's and some rain. Bye bye snow! I'm fairly confident I'll have an endurance base that will allow me to complete the Birkie, without much more skiing. I managed a sub 4 hour Birkie - barely- in 2012, with only 3 days on snow and about 35 miles. Will it be pretty? Nope! But it isn't goal number one this year.
That's how my new year is going. I hope everyone else has started of 2013 with a bang and has big plans and lofty goals for the the coming months. I'll be back shortly to update you.
Thanks for checking this out. Feedback is always appreciated!
Sven 'o the North