Tag Archives: training

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.

Telling My Stories

I began this blog in 2011, which means this is my TENTH YEAR posting about my adventures in this spot. Wow. Really hard to believe. It really doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was writing my first posts and hoping someone other than my family would read them. And they have!

It amazes me to this day that people say to me, “I was reading your blog the other day,…” when I was sure they didn’t even know I had a blog, let alone read it. And for everyone who’s ever posted a comment, or liked my posts in WordPress or on Facebook, thank you so much. I appreciate it so much.

With recent happenings, my running adventures have been confined to my neighborhood, of course. No races, no run club (hey, I miss you guys!), and I even try to stay off heavily walked areas, including the wonderful new path along Huron River Drive to Dexter-Huron Metropark. When this all passes, you have to get on it. Walk, run, bike, whatever. It’s gorgeous, and will be even more so when it’s full of green things and flowers.

And the stay-at-home order does have certain advantages. One big one is more time with my wife. We actually get to see each other during weekdays, not just at the end when she’s exhausted from a long day and commute home. And we’re going on walks together just about every day.

Just yesterday we walked to the Fox Science Preserve about two miles from our house. I’ve run by it many times, but never actually went in. I had no idea that it’s 69 acres big, and represents a terrain very close to what it looked like when the glaciers retreated 12,000 years ago. We’re definitely going back to walk the trails sometime.

As for training, moderation is the conventional wisdom for now. I’m doing easy runs up to 16 miles, occasional intervals and hill work, walks, and reasonable strength training. Part of me feels the “guilt” of not hitting things hard as usual, but plenty of time for that later. And the fall racing season could be really packed, so it’s a good idea to rest up and be ready.

Training at Body Specs. I really miss this. Oh, yeah. Really.

And then there’s my creative writing. Funny, even with this enforced “at home” time, I still have to make time to write. And that’s what the most successful writers do. They sit down and work, even when they don’t feel creative. It’s the same thing I’ve had to do to train for races. Get my butt out the door even if the weather isn’t perfect, or to the gym even when I’m not motivated to lift heavy things or do pullups. You know what? It works. We shall see if I can apply the same discipline to my writing.

So I’m going to continue telling my stories, running and otherwise, on this blog and elsewhere. And if you have a story you’d like to share with my readers, running or otherwise, drop me a line. Stay safe!

Oh, The Pain, and a Grandmaster Prepares for a Race

IF I DON’T FINISH THE GRANDMASTER 50 THIS WEEKEND, it’s the fault of the Super 5K runners last Sunday.

Because they didn’t eat enough hot dogs.

Follow along here. Fewer hot dogs eaten meant there were a lot left over. And as the Super 5K is a Zero Waste event, they were packed up for composting rather than dumped in the trash. And as Zero Waste captain, I lifted the compost cart into the trailer. Whereupon I pulled a muscle in my back. And it still hurts to stand up. So therefore, … logically, …

I am following a “three I” rehabilitation program. Two of them (ice and ibuprofen) are the advice of my trainers at Body Specs. The third I came up with myself.

Apply liberally to mouth at first sign of discomfort.

Levity aside, it was my own stupid fault. There is a correct way to lift the compost cart, but I was in a hurry and used one of the many incorrect ways. Just goes to show how quickly and easily one can screw things up at precisely the worst time to do so.

Now for a bit about this weekend’s race.

I’d planned to work on strength training this month rather than run an ultra. But I got interested in the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), an intriguing and insanely popular race which in addition to a lottery, requires two qualifying races. So I began looking for qualifying races that would fit my 2020 schedule.

The Grandmaster Ultra caught my interest because it’s a UTMB qualifier and is only open to runners 50 and older – hence the name, “Grandmaster.” (As much as I’d like you to believe it means something like Grandmaster in chess, the truth would come out sooner or later.)

50 miles of this. Looks like fun, right?

Despite my untimely injury, there is some good news. I’d gotten in a three-hour training run the day before, so other than the back thing, I feel ready to rock this race. I have a good physical base from year-round training, but the brain also needs to be prepped for the sheer monotony of running at a slow pace for hours on end. And slower is tougher. Don’t believe me? Try it sometime.

The race itself will have the advantages of a new setting, the adrenaline rush from being there, the company of other ultrarunners, and a set goal of reaching the finish line. Long training runs have none of those, so pushing through three hours (and a bit over 20 miles) was enough. Plus I’ve run other 50-milers, and longer, so I have some idea of what to expect and how ready I am for it.

The other good news is we have 24 hours to finish, a very generous time. Most 50-milers I’ve run have cutoffs around 14 hours. And it looks like the weather will be good, too, with sunny skies and the Arizona desert temps ranging from 40 degrees to 65 or so. Since I just need to finish to get the UTMB qualifying points, the keys for me will be to run easy and stay hydrated.

As for being a bit hurt, I don’t expect to get much sympathy. When the subject comes up among runners, even those “of a certain age,” it’s about how they sucked it up and kept going. Like the time I asked someone what his toughest marathon was (“Colorado. At altitude. And I had pneumonia.”). Remember that guy who cut off his hand to escape from dying in the wilderness? He’d fit right in with trail runners. I’m not gonna say a word. Even if I need to hobble across that damn finish line, I’m just fine, thank you.

Only a Thousand

THE FIRST TIME I RAN a thousand miles in a year was in 2011, also the year of my first marathon. I’d had to step up my game that December to get the final miles in, and broke the tape, as it were, on the 29th. On New Year’s Eve I had one more run to get a total of 1,010.10 miles for the year.

My coach was proud of me. My wife was proud. And above all, I was proud. After all, it was nearly double the 567 miles I’d run the year before. I was a four-figure runner; I’d arrived!

From 2011: 1,000 miles! Woohoo!

The first Saturday in January 2012, I went out for the regular weekend club run. I really wanted to share my accomplishment with someone, but wasn’t sure how. Then I caught up with a couple of guys chatting.

“How’d your running go last year, Sam?” one of them asked the other.

“It sucked,” Sam replied. “I only ran a thousand miles.”

That didn’t really deflate me much, just bring me back to earth. And I’ve run at least a thousand miles just about every year since, including this year, where I also hit the mark on December 29. Yay me!

2019 – 1,000 miles! Woohoo!

To be fair, a thousand miles a year is not that exceptional for regular runners. Many of them run 2,000 or more. And at least one runner I know has reached the 100,000 mile lifetime mark. Does this diminish anyone who runs fewer miles? Not at all. If you run, you’re a runner in my book, and in the books of all the other runners I know. Mega-marathon runner? Good work. Only run a couple of miles at a time? Good work.

Now it’s true that my mileage total is unusually low for an ultrarunner. People are surprised to find out that I run 100-mile races averaging only 20-30 miles per week. But I also strength train at the gym, and supplement running with long bike rides. Meanwhile, a couple of people I know whose exercise is mostly distance running get injured or struggle to finish ultras.

What do I take away from all this? That everyone’s body is different, and there is no single “magic formula” for accomplishing your goals. And I like mixing up my training. Running 50 miles per week is not something I enjoy, so I find other ways to build the base I need. This allows me to enjoy the training as much as the events I train for.

All that said. . .it may be time to step up my running, enjoyable or not. I’ve decided to try for one of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) races. More about this later, but the nickel summary is: it requires at least two tough qualifying races, plus a lottery. This makes it at least a two-year process, running the qualifiers in 2020 in order to apply for the UTMB race in 2021. And, of course, there are other ultras I want to try out, possibly including a 200-miler, or even the ten-day, 314-mile Last Annual Vol State Race.

To get through all that I’ll need to be in really good shape. Additional strength training will be part of that, but there’s no getting round more running too. So I’ll have to decide if the extra effort is worth it. For now, at least, I’m assuming yes. So you all can look forward to some (hopefully) interesting stories in 2020 as I share my adventures in getting to UTMB, and beyond.

Happy New Year, everyone!