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!!