Tag Archives: 50K

Quirkiness Postponed

OH, WHAT A QUIRKY YEAR I’D PLANNED. But as Burns says about “best laid plans” it looks like my “year of doing quirky stuff” has been postponed.

This has nothing to do with Robert Burns, but I just couldn’t help it.

My schedule for 2017 originally included some out of the ordinary events. Nothing totally nuts, like skiing off Everest, just stuff I normally do with a twist or two added. And yet one by one, they had to come off this year’s calendar. Here for your reading amusement are some of the things that didn’t work out.

The Great New York Running Exposition

This is a 100-mile footrace, of which there are many these days. What makes this one special is that it takes place entirely within New York City. Think of it as a 24-hour sightseeing trip on foot.

With a strict limit on the number of runners, I made a note in my planner for the day registration opened. But I didn’t check my planner until late that day. Oops! Went to the website, and – sold out. I put my name on the waitlist and hoped for the best.

But as I was commiserating with my running coach, he told me about a brand new ultra in northern Michigan. Did a quick search and came up with the Lighthouse 100 – Petoskey through Traverse City and up to the lighthouse on the Old Mission Peninsula. Signed up right then!

In sort of mixed news, I recently got an email from the TGNY race director. A spot had opened up! I had to decline, as Lighthouse and TGNY are only one week apart, but told him I’d be trying again next year. And I’ll know what 100 miles on pavement feels like.

Burning Man – Black Rock City, NV

This was going to be my highlight for the year – a trip to the planet’s largest and most famous self-expression festival, with a 50K thrown in. My daughter Rachel, who knows several “Burners,” was dumbfounded, which by itself was worth it. Not often I can surprise her.

Registering is a multi-stage process, and I dutifully followed each step – until the day came to buy tickets. I did remember this time, but got caught in a meeting. Still, I got to the website less than an hour after the window opened. And guess what?

There are a couple more ways to get in at “last-minute” or exchange sales, but I decided not to try. Burning Man, with its emphasis on self-sufficiency in the desert, is not a place to make plans at the last minute, or just to wing it. So, next year.

Beat the Blerch” Marathon in Seattle

I thought this might be a fun family activity. Two identical marathons, one Saturday and one Sunday, with cake at aid stations, couches along the way, and featuring The Oatmeal, one of Rachel’s favorite comics. Plus there was plenty of time to sign up.

So what happened? A new job for my daughter which severely limits her time off for a while. Plus it’s a long way to Seattle, and an expensive place to visit. So that too got put on the “back burner.”

The WNBR – Portland, OR

What is the WNBR, you may ask? It’s a bike ride. Just that, an ordinary group bike ride through Portland on a fine June evening. Its purpose is to promote bicycle safety and awareness, which are so important given the number of vehicle-bicycle accidents each year. It also protests all the emissions we produce from fossil-fuel burning transportation. Stuff we can all get behind, right?

What makes this quirky? Well, it being a warm evening and all, most people don’t wear a lot of clothing. In fact, many wear nothing at all. Here’s a (more or less) SFW photo. (There’s lots more on the Internet should you care to do further research.)

WNBR stands for “World Naked Bike Ride” if you hadn’t figured it out already. And Portland is just one of these rides all over the world.

And just so you know, I didn’t go searching for this. I became aware of the WNBR from a Portland native, who basically dared me to do it. So it’s a matter of pride.

And yet fate intervened, in this case my new business, which is doing very well. In fact, I was asked to manage an event that weekend back here in Michigan. Adding to that, the friends we’d planned to visit there were invited on a tubing trip that week. Again, there’s always next year.

But I’ve gotten in at least one quirky thing recently. My daughter Tori got married over the weekend. It was a Harry Potter themed wedding – and look who crashed the rehearsal. One more glorious opportunity to surprise my kids!

Winter Warriors: Yankee Springs Winter Challenge Recap

4:45 a.m. on a January Saturday is when sensible people are nestled snug in warm beds. I was outside in single-degree temps, trudging through 100 yards of snow toward frigid vault toilets.

It was my own fault. I’d signed up for the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge 50K, and the Long Lake Outdoor Center has no indoor plumbing. Or bed linens. Or running water. “I wonder why I’m doing this,” I said to the lady at the Outdoor Center when I called for information.

“You are a winter warrior,” she replied firmly.

Geared up and ready to hit the snowy trail!

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers (and sisters)!

What a great answer! But why did I sign up for a winter ultramarathon? Well, I’ve run many ultras (this was #15 for me), and plenty of times in the snow, but never the two together. So why not try it? Plus it seemed like a fitting way to kick off 2017, my self-defined year for doing oddball athletic stuff.

I spent Friday night in a 20-bunk cabin instead of a hotel. The advantages were an easy walk to the start, a warm place to keep extra clothes, and the camaraderie of fellow runners, some of whom brought water and were happy to share. (Have I mentioned before how awesome trail runners are?)

Carbo-loading at Walldorff Provisions in Hastings Friday night.

Carbo-loading at Walldorff Provisions in Hastings Friday night.

For having to get up before 5 a.m., I was surprisingly awake and energized for the 8:00 a.m. 50K start. I would run two 25K loops, so there was a chance to make adjustments at the halfway point, which was really helpful on a day like this.

For those of you interested in such things, in the next few paragraphs I will share my gear selections and race strategy for this event. If you’re not, but would like to know how it turned out, you can, “skip a bit, Brother.”

Gear Selection

Shoes were my Pearl Izumi EM N2 Trail. The course was wide singletrack, packed snow with just a little fresh powder. I had great traction throughout. I brought my old Hokas as backups or to deal with deep powder, but I wore the Izumis the entire way.

Socks were my Xmas present Darn Tough Endurance. They got a bit wet but not enough to need to change them, and they did a good job keeping my feet from sliding around, which can lead to blisters. Feet were never cold, either.

For the body I wore a Merino wool base layer with my Heater Hog over that [*] and a light wind jacket on top. Standard winter tights for the legs. Core was always warm, although arms were a bit too sweaty and got cold toward the end of the first loop, so I changed to fresh shirts for the second.

Head: a balaclava with a knit cap over it. This combo kept the wind out of my ears and the cold off my face. Some people wore buffs but they got moist from breath and then froze. The balaclava retained less moisture and dried out quickly so I could pull it back over my mouth when needed.

Hands: I wore my warmest gloves, but my hands always somehow get both cold and sweaty, so I changed to a fresh pair after the first loop. I brought hand warmers just in case but didn’t resort to them. Just clenched my fists inside the gloves.

Food and Hydration

I ate my usual breakfast of a banana and Clif bar an hour before the start. At the aid stations I ate mostly trail mix and bananas. My usual favorites of orange sections and PB&J froze early on, but I got down a few. I brought Gu but never used it.

I drank less than usual. The water in my bottles got so cold I didn’t drink more than a little at a time. At the aid stations where they had soup or warmer water I drank more. But my “fluids check” that occurred every 90 minutes or so was clear, so I was adequately hydrated.

Let's see...do I want frozen bananas, frozen potato chips, frozen olives - or just a Coke slushie?

Let’s see…do I want frozen bananas, frozen potato chips, frozen olives – or just a Coke slushie?

For electrolytes, I took two S-Cap salt tablets every 90 minutes. Usually I take them every hour, but figured I was sweating less. I supplemented with Gatorade and salty soup. I had no digestive problems or nausea, so it seems to have worked fine.

Race Strategy

I elected to run my standard 50K pace – faster than conversation pace but not hard breathing. I was able to run the entire way, with just a few power hikes on the steeper climbs. Toward the end of the second loop I pushed my pace to ensure a sub-6 hour finish. It was uncomfortable but not painful. My lungs seemed to handle the low temps just fine.

As I finished my first loop I noticed my cold arms and a hot spot in my left foot. In addition, my gloves had frozen. So I sacrificed about 15 minutes to change clothes and tape toes. On a warmer day I might have let these go, but Saturday was no time to fool around. The temps never got above 15 degrees, and the wind chill was most likely below zero. Safety had to come first.

===  End nerdy runner stuff  ===

So how did I do?

If I'm dumb enough to be here at the starting line, I suppose I'll have to run it!

If I’m dumb enough to be here at the starting line, I suppose I’ll have to run it!

I finished the first 25K in just under 2:40. Due to the aforementioned issues, I began my second loop around the 2:53 mark. I still hoped to finish around 5:30, but it was not to be. As many runners confirmed, the second loop seemed much harder than the first, perhaps because it got colder instead of warmer. Running in the snow also takes more effort than on dirt, so the extra fatigue added up.

The last few miles seemed to stretch on and on, with more hills than I remembered from my first loop. When it began to feel like a Twilight Zone episode, I lost it a little mentally, and the woods heard a few colorful phrases. But finally the road to the finish line appeared, and all was good again.

I ran the second loop in 2:57. finishing just under 5:51. This was good for second in my age group and #11 overall. Not too bad for my first winter ultra! And I remembered to have fun out there. Being “in the moment” even once or twice, and grateful to be healthy and fit, really puts minor discomforts into perspective.

Swag: Finisher's snow globe and age group gloves + gift certificate.

Swag: Finisher’s snow globe and age group gloves + gift certificate. Worth six hours of running on brutally cold trails? You bet!

Lessons learned for next time:

  • Maybe wear a sleeveless wind vest rather than a full jacket.
  • See if I can find a way to keep my water bottles warmer.
  • Bring water for brushing teeth and stuff the night before.

Overall grades:

  • Race organization: A. First-class job all around, from registration to the great fire at the start/finish to the aid stations to the post-race chili.
  • Course: A. Starkly beautiful. Mostly wide singletrack with a minimum of roots and rocks to worry about. Total elevation gain was about 3,000 feet, mainly from rolling hills. Only a couple of steeper climbs, and no issues with traction.
  • Lodging: B. Cabins were comfortable enough but the trek to the outdoor toilets sucked.

Bottom line: If you’re interested in trying out a winter race, Yankee Springs is an excellent choice. I might even go back next year!

P.S. In addition to the 50K, there are 10K and 25K options if you’re not up for an ultra. There’s also a 50-miler, but since you start at 6:00 a.m. and likely finish in the dark too, you’ve got to be really nuts. (I’m not saying anything those folks don’t already know.)

[*] – Unfortunately, the Heater Hog is no longer available, but you can likely find something similar out there.

Chilling Out, But Still Running

BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE.

Winter has Michigan firmly in its grip. The snow is falling, the wind is blowing, and we have below-zero wind chills. So my non-runner friends have begun asking (with tone assuming Yes), “So you’re done running for the winter,” and “I suppose you’re doing your running inside now?”

Nope.

First Snow Run 2015-2016

I admit it’s harder to get motivated to run outside than in the non-winter months. Here I rely upon sheer habit, and having others to run with. So far it’s worked, even with my new 6:00 a.m. midweek run. The only thing crazier than my friend Hirak and I running together last Wednesday in the frigid dark was that we saw a few people running solo. Sorry, but that’s just dumb – slip and sprain your ankle at that hour, and you could be a statue by the time the ambulance arrives.

I run year-round but I consider this the “off season” when it comes to racing. This means the workouts at Body Specs are pretty brutal, but they’re meant to build strength for the spring and summer. So I cut back a bit on distances and don’t race as much.

It's as much fun as it looks.

Yes, that’s a tension strap around my shoulders. It’s as much fun as it looks.

I did sneak in the Holiday Hustle 5K on December 10. Since I was also managing our Zero Waste team for the race, I was there from setup through teardown. So my afternoon went something like this:

– Freeze my tail off for four hours
– Get warm for 20 minutes running the 5K
– Freeze my tail off for two more hours.

I think he brought the weather with him.

I think he brought the weather with him.

So you might think I would be looking forward to a nice warm interlude until the Bigfoot Snowshoe 5K in late January. Do a little training on the treadmill, or just curl up by the fireplace with hot chocolate for a few weeks. Seems only fair.

So what did I do?

Signed up for a 50K trail ultra. On January 7. In Michigan.

And I’m looking forward to it.

The Yankee Springs Winter Challenge in Middleville, MI.

The Yankee Springs Winter Challenge in Middleville, MI (photo from their page).

To the inevitable question I can offer two reasons: because 2017 is my “off the wall” year for athletic events (more to follow there) and because I’ve never done a winter ultra before. So why not?

And you know what? Yesterday morning’s run with the PR Run Club started out pretty chilly and bleak, but we had a good turnout anyway. And halfway through, the sun came out in a bright blue sky, and the snow around us lit up in brilliant white. And boy, did hot coffee taste good afterward.

That’s why I run outside in the winter.

I really must run!

     (But baby, it’s cold outside.)

Go gotta have fun!

     (But baby, it’s cold outside.)

All Dieters, Please Skip This Post

I HAVE BEEN AN ACCESSORY TO AN ABOMINABLE CRIME.

Or, perhaps more appropriately, an abdominal crime.

It began with a call from my daughter in Richmond, asking for advice with a bread pudding recipe. She’s an excellent and innovative cook and I know my way around bread pudding, so I was happy to help. Well, this one is made with Krispy Kreme donuts. I’d never heard of this variant before, but there are several recipes online. Here’s the one my daughter found.

DD bread pudding

The problem? 18 of those god-awful donuts, plus heavy cream (one quart), milk, condensed milk, and a dozen eggs. And whipped cream topping. Just reading it makes me feel like I’ve gained a pound. It’s a recipe with absolutely no redeeming qualities. There is espresso in the topping, though. I suppose you could use decaf.

A more responsible father would have given her advice designed to thoroughly screw DD bread pudding 3up the result, causing her to trash it and never attempt it again. Unfortunately she has me, who can’t help trying to solve a problem. So I advised her to cut back on the heavy cream and to pre-bake the donuts to get them dry like stale bread. The result was by her account a smashing success. So good, that her friend and baking companion expressed her satisfaction on Facebook in obscene terms.

I felt so guilty that I made myself run 12 miles on Saturday morning without any breakfast. (Well, not on purpose. I just didn’t feel like eating before the run.)

In related news, there’s quite a debate out there on whether running on an empty stomach has any benefits – other than the normal benefits of running, that is. I’ve done long training runs both ways and not usually felt any difference. For races, on the other hand, I always make myself eat something beforehand. For short races, I want the energy to be there for running hard; for trail ultras, I need to stay ahead of the energy curve. It took some time to get used to eating on the run, but it’s essential for the 50K and beyond.

By way of penance, here’s a recipe for a low-fat banana bread pudding. I used lowfat milk instead of the fat-free half and half, and added chopped dates as well. It was a hit. (And caramel sauce with a nip of brandy didn’t hurt, either.)

Bread Pudding - small