Tag Archives: Running

The Long and the Short of Running

A couple Januarys ago I had breakfast with my running coach, going over my planned race schedule. It would follow a pattern I’d established, of a target race in late May or June (100-miler or more), with shorter ultras in the spring to leapfrog up to it. So we mapped out a 50K and a couple of 50-milers. “Now we can plug in your shorter races,” he said.

And by shorter races, we were including marathons.

Even at the time we laughed about it, imagining what a standard recreational runner (or any non-runner) would be thinking if they’d overheard us. But that’s how I think of it. There are ultras and there are non-ultras; there’s a clear line. By definition, a marathon is not an ultramarathon. (Unless you get lost. I once asked a race director if I could get credit for an “ultra-half” for running 14 miles on a 13.1 course.)

This attitude has some funny characteristics. For example, every April there’s a trail marathon in my area. (Present-year disclaimer, etc.) Anyway, I work it as part of my zero waste events gig. And before I get down and dirty with that, I run the marathon.

Thing is, there’s also a 50K option, which means you run an extra five-mile loop following your 26.2. And for me, those five miles mean the difference between a fun “short race” and an “ultra” which on those trails is, well, hard. As in automatic bonk afterward, while I can finish the marathon and get right to sorting Gu wrappers out of the water bottle bins.

Me (far right) after a measly ol’ marathon.

And after those five extra miles on the trail.

Why? Who knows? It has to be mainly mental, although you’d think someone who’s run multiple 100s wouldn’t feel that little extra. Heck, I even pitch 50Ks to skeptical folks as “just a marathon with a five-mile cooldown.” But there we are.

I’m sure none of this makes any sense to runners who’ve never run this kind of distance. This morning my run group included someone training for her first marathon. Like most folks in her situation, she did a half first, and was now trying to wrap her head around getting from 13.1 miles to double that distance. It ain’t easy. I was there once.

The good news is once you’ve done it, the second is easier. The bad news is, you just might talk yourself into an ultra. Then you’re really screwed. Trust me. I’m there now.

At least I would be, but my local fall ultras were cancelled, and I still don’t trust airplanes yet. So I’ll have to content myself with shorter races until things improve. Maybe I can find a marathon around somewhere.

Streaking Again!

It’s August, and still no big races to be had for the foreseeable future. There are two ways a stir-crazy endurance athlete like me can handle the situation: (#1) drown my sorrows with chocolate, (#2) take on another 31-day streak of at least one mile per day.

Since they’re not mutually exclusive, I’m doing both.

The chocolate? Just about any good brand will do, but my current drug of choice is Endangered Species bars. Heavens, they’re tasty. And ten percent of net profits go to save wildlife, so I’m being socially responsible too. Win-win, if you ask me.

As for the streaking part: the May challenge from RF Events was to do at least one mile per day of whatever motion was fancied to get there. My wife chose the sensible approach of walking the mile (or more). Me being Samurai Ultrarunner, I chose to run. And one measly mile? Puh-lease. If it isn’t at least five, it’s not a real run.

The net result was 179 running miles over 33 days. And a sore lower body. It wasn’t the total miles – I once ran close to that distance all at once – but the cumulative fatigue of running every day. Rest really *does* matter.

So for this month, I’m mixing it up. Some running, some cycling, and even some walking. Skip at Body Specs said there was hope for me after all. And then he put me through the wringer. (Gotta train the rest of the body, too.)

One highlight of the August streak so far was a bike ride from our campground in Empire to Lake Leelenau, where one of my favorite bakeries (9 Bean Rows) is located. This year they’ve added outdoor dining and thin-crust pizza.

40 miles on a hot day to get here. Worth it.

I took care of an entire artichoke pizza and almond croissant. The round trip was 81 miles, so I burned it off, but those first few miles on the return leg with an entire pizza in my stomach was a tad sketchy. Worth it, though.

I have to admit that it’s a little harder to get out the door sometimes, given the heat we’ve been having. One way to tackle that is to run early, as I did Wednesday morning, with the added bonus of a new coffee shop right down the street from where we finish; Drip House at the corner of Stadium and Main, right across from Michigan Stadium.

This morning I had a goat cheese and olive pastry, and something called a Military Drip, which has espresso, and matcha, and cocoa powder in it. A lot going on there. Sorry, no pictures. I polished those off quick. Maybe next week.

Something New, Something Old, Something Trail, Something Road

I had a classic yin-yang run yesterday.

We went to our campground up north this weekend, and I brought everything needed for my regular Saturday long run. Shirts, shorts, socks, hat, handheld water bottle, gear belt, all that stuff.

Except my road shoes.

As I am not a barefoot runner, this was a problem. Fortunately, I had brought my new trail shoes. So my run would be on trails instead, and I’d get to try them out. There were some offshoots of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail I’d seen before, but had always left to “some other day.” This was the day!

Buying my new shoes had been unusual, even aside from masks and social distancing. Every pair I tried on felt good on my feet. I was out of there in half an hour with new Saucony Kinvaras, a slam dunk given my history with them, and the Topos, which were a surprise as they’d never fit me well before, and I’d tried on just for the hell of it.

I’d left the Kinvaras at home, so trail run it was. But I had a pair of old road shoes in our trailer, so I took them along to the run just in case.

Switching: Yin to yang.

The first half of my 10.5 miles, (the “yin” part) was in brand new shoes on trails I’d never done before, which included dirt, gravel, mowed prairie, and plenty of elevation change. I enjoyed it, and the shoes felt great. but after five miles I was done. I felt sore and sluggish on the long uphill climbs. I’d also had enough of mosquitoes and deerflies chasing the sweaty idiot with no bug repellent on.

So I returned to the car, switched to the shoes I’d once found on top of a trash can, and hit the road, circling Glen Arbor on familiar, fully paved roads, flat as the proverbial pancake. The perfect yang to the first half’s yin. And the distance turned out nearly identical to what I’d done on the trails. Just like I’d planned it, uh-huh, uh-huh. Whether karma or coincidence, I took it as an unequivocal sign to wrap it up and go get coffee

And at the coffee shop there was one more little twist. Normally I match a hot, bitter coffee drink with a sweet pastry. This time I had an iced chai latte (way too sweet) with a savory pastry. Why? Because that’s what my body told me it needed. Hope to God I’m not pregnant.

And speaking of, happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!

Run 31! That Was Fun, But I’m Done

I don’t know about you all, but I know what I’m doing tomorrow.

Resting.

Yesterday I successfully completed the “Head Goat 50K” challenge set by the imaginative folks at RF Events. All one had to do was run at least one mile each of the 31 days in May, and thus accumulate 31 miles, which as every fanatical trail runner knows is a 50K.

There were just two problems with meeting this seemingly trivial (for me) challenge: a) I’d never run 31 days in a row, and b) miles are like potato chips. It’s just not possible for me to stop at one. And so I set my own goal to average not one mile per day, but five, or 165 total miles for the month.

And, somehow, I pulled it off. After one mile yesterday, May 31, I officially met the challenge. So I ran 13 more as a cooldown / victory lap.

May 31 in Empire, MI, practicing safe social distance running!

Total for May: 179.1 miles. Shortest run: 2 miles. Longest: 14. And since I actually began my run streak on April 30, I also ran today (June 1) to cap things off, for a grand total of 33 consecutive run days, and 190.3 miles total.

So what did I experience and learn?

Physically, most of me feels fine. About halfway through I began to experience a general fatigue. Running slowly was no problem, but my sprints and other speedwork definitely suffered. My knees also began to get sore. I’m not sure why. I’m sure it’s in part to running every day, but I also suspect it’s because I’m not stretching enough after a run. I’ve heard that knee pain doesn’t always originate in the knees. Something else out of balance stresses the ligaments. So I’ve promised myself to get better at that.

And now the streak will end, because although I could continue it, I will not do so.

Why is that, I hear you asking. Aren’t you a crazy ultrarunner? What’s a few miles a day?

Okay, guilty as charged. Running fifty miles or more at a time is something I find oddly fun – every now and then. Doing that every couple of weeks (don’t laugh, some do) would quickly stop being fun. As does running more than a few days per week. Plus I’d like to get back to more formal training for (hopefully) more races ahead.

Not that I’m going to stop moving, of course. My wife and I have already signed up for the RF Events June challenge: “being on the move” for around 1,200 minutes this month. I’m looking forward to some nice long walks and bike rides to help meet that one. With plenty of well-earned rest in there.