Friday, April 20, 2012

Taper Madness

In two weeks, I'll be running in my first 62 mile race.  And no, I am not a dyslexic marathoner.  This will be my first 100 kilometer race.  The Miwok 100K is a very popular trail race in the Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco.  Most people will think this is insane, especially people who have trouble driving 62 miles.  When you add in the fact that the race has 12,000 feet of total elevation gain, some people may just stop talking to me altogether! I usually have to explain to people that I'm not running the whole time.  Running up all those monstrous hills are reserved for the elite runners.  "Back of the pack" runners like me will be walking most of the uphill portions (unless I'm still feeling frisky near the end).  My primary goal will be to finish the race within the 16.5 hours I am given.

I have completed 5 50 mile races, 8 50K races, and 2 marathons, so I'm no stranger to the running gig. And for the past 10 weeks, I've put in some relatively solid training miles. I am more prepared for this race than I have been for any other race.  So why am I having moments of complete terror? It must be the taper madness I hear so much about.  Normally I am so terribly under trained that I can go out there without any expectations and have fun! Now that I am prepared, anything less than a finish would feel like a complete failure! I know this moment of negativity and fear will pass. Anyone have a magic pill that cures taper madness?

If I could create a pill to cure taper madness, it would have to contain special drugs to remind me of all my blessings.  The drugs will have to also give me a photographic memory of all the things and people that inspire, support, and believe in me.  It will remind me that no matter what happens at this race, I am still an amazingly blessed human being.  My beautiful daughters could care less about how well their daddy does. And even though my wife is not a runner, she supports and believes in me.  If she thinks I'm crazy, she sure doesn't show it!

And lets not forget about my running friends, both old and new.  Not all of my running friends are amazing ultra runners, but almost all of them have amazing ultra hearts (sorry to get all mushy on you). So many of you inspire me simply with your love of running.  It shows in your blogs and your comments.  Mother Theresa once said, "We cannot all do great things, but we can all do small things, with great heart." Likewise, we cannot all run at super speeds or super distances, but we can all run at our own speeds and distances with gratitude, respectful humility and grace.

I'd like to thank all of you that have inspired me and have supported me over the years. In two weeks, I'll be at the edge of another epic adventure; one whose outcome is still very much unknown.  I know that regardless of how well or poorly I do, all of you that matter, will still support and believe in me.  For that, I am truly blessed. 

And a big congratulations to all you Boston Marathoners for your epic races! Your speed and toughness is very inspiring! And good luck to all of you with your upcoming races! I know a lot of us are currently residing in Taper Town!

Here is a breakdown of my training mileage in the last 11 weeks:
Week 1    34.5 miles
Week 2    30.1 miles
Week 3    25.3 miles
Week 4    36.1 miles
Week 5    28.2 miles
Week 6    39.1 miles (Way Too Cool 50K)
Week 7    34.4 miles (20.25 mile trail run)
Week 8    50.2 miles (24 mile road run)
Week 9    38.0 miles (21mile trail run)
Week 10    45.0 miles (35 mile trail run)
Week 11    28.2 miles

I know many runners who run a lot more than I do, but with 2 young children, this was about all I could muster.  I took off two days of work to get in my last two long trail runs that took practically all day. Leaving my kids all day for training runs makes me feel pretty guilty. Taking off work to run all day made me feel only a little less guilty.  Once Grace (my 1 year old) gets a little older and less dependent, it'll be easier for me to go on these little training runs.

Grace turned one only 3 weeks ago. Here is a picture of her on her first birthday.  She is about to chase me down and tackle me, while growling like a tiger or giggling like only an excited, cheerful baby can.

Monday, April 9, 2012

My Caballo Blanco Ultra Memorial Run - a 35 mile training run

On Friday, 4/6/2012, there was a Memorial for Caballo Blanco in Boulder, Colorado. I wish I could have been there. Friends and family that could not attend were encouraged to go on a memorial run for Caballo at 4:00PM. I had already been planning on doing a long run on Friday, so it became my memorial run for Caballo Blanco.
I was hoping to get in between 30 and 40 miles as my longest training run before the Miwok 100K (in 4 weeks). I took the day off from work and planned to hit the trails for the whole day. Having it coincide with Caballo's memorial turned out to be perfect timing. I'd run all day as a tribute the man who inspired me to run long and free.

I began my run at Alum Rock Park in San Jose at 9:00AM. My original route had to be modified due to some closed trail sections, so I ended up doing (approximately) 7 mile loops up the tallest summit in the park, 5 times. It was also my maiden voyage in a new pair of shoes - the Hoka One One Stinson B Evo.

The Hoka shoes may look a bit ridiculous, but they're supposed to encourage natural running form with their zero-drop between the forefoot and the heel. And the excessive cushioning allows runners to bomb the downhills without trashing their legs (a huge plus for ultra runners). I know most runners who enjoy their minimalist running shoes would be skeptical of these shoes (like me), but if you plan on running a lot of downhills in a long ultra, I think you should set aside your skepticism and try this shoes (and suck up the high cost!).

The 7 mile loop gave me an aid station every 7 miles if I needed it. The first 3 miles of the loop is mostly uphill (steep at times) up to a summit where the view of San Jose is pretty sweet. The next 3 miles are mostly downhill (mostly consistent, runnable downhills), followed by one flat (very slightly downhill) mile. After 4 miles, I decided to test the shoes to see how they feel on a nice downhill stretch. I pulled off a 6:38 mile and it felt pretty good! Still I knew I had a long day ahead of me so I slowed down for the next few miles (and still ran 8 minute miles - still too fast, but it felt really easy).

My second 7-mile loop felt the best, even if it was slightly slower. I was fully warmed up and feeling good. I did have some tightness in my right arch, but it cleared up after a few more miles. Then with each passing loop, I got slower and slower. Nothing hurt and I had no problems with cramping, but I just got more progressively tired as the day wore on.

When you're out there for so long, it helps to have a lot to think about. I thought about people in my life who passed away most recently. It made me a bit upset, because I felt as though my cousin and Caballo were short changed! Why do good people have to die young! And I told all my friends and family (especially my running friends) aloud that you all had better live long, healthy lives! Don't any of you go dying on me!

I thought about directing a race in San Jose someday. It would be a tribute race to Caballo, and the race entry would be ridiculously cheap, with all the proceeds going to Caballo's adopted people, the Raramuri. I'd run the race on a Friday. I'd have a 47 mile option, a 50K, and a 25K. He'd like that wouldn't he? Maybe next year.

The miles quickly passed. At mile 30, I hit a real low in energy, while hiking up to my last summit. I felt beat up. The negative thoughts crept in like vultures over my dead carc-ass. How the heck was I going to finish a 62 mile race, if I'm already struggling after 30 miles! I called out to Caballo to lend me some strength. I told myself to just keep moving forward. I've hit similar lows many times before, and they always passed. I drank a little more and ate some more of my Honey Stinger energy chews (pink lemonade flavored). They still tasted yummy which was a good sign. The negative thoughts went away as I made it up to the summit one last time.

I ran well back to my car at mile 34, and felt good enough to tack on one extra mile to make it an even 35. Total time running: 7:32:30. Mission accomplished. I might do one last long run (20-24 miles) next weekend, and then begin a three week taper to heal some of these niggling pains (thankfully nothing major).

Dear friends and family, please be careful and stay safe out there. Drive carefully, and run safely. I've had enough memorial runs this year to last me a lifetime.

Mile Split
1 12:35
2 16:45
3 20:19
4 12:51
5 6:38
6 8:45
7 8:15
8 11:40
9 17:29
10 18:52
11 9:31
12 7:01
13 9:14
14 8:59
15 12:48
16 18:25
17 19:17
18 8:02
19 8:11
20 9:43
21 8:46
22 16:51
23 19:43
24 17:12
25 9:36
26 9:42
27 10:44
28 13:45
29 17:19
30 23:45
31 18:07
32 10:38
33 11:36
34 9:39
35 9:15

These are my training grounds. This is also where we ran most of our cross country meets in high school.
This is a picture of the dreaded "hill" during our 2.85 mile cross country race that haunted me during my early running years. It also made me a lot stronger. Now, its the baby hill on my long run. Its family lay ahead! And what you see is only part of "the hill".

There is a nice bench at the peak where you easily lose yourself in. "Beware the chair!"

A rare self portrait.

This little weed stuck out of the hillside like a sore thumb. It reminded me of Caballo.