Sunday, July 27, 2008

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

What a beautiful part of this country especially at this time of the year. Erica and I arrived in Portland, OR Monday morning with about four days to do basically whatever we wanted. While Erica scoped out yoga studios I zeroed in on some awesome trails.

Miles for the week: 67

Monday= 8 miles with a group from Niketown in downtown Portland running on The Waterfront Trail.
Tuesday= 7 miles through The Columbia Gorge's Angel's Rest trail.
Wednesday= 6 miles through Washington Park trails and Japanese Garden; lifted weights in evening
Thursday= 12 miles through Forest Park's Stone House Loop plus add-on.
Friday= Rest
Saturday= 17 miles running Iroquois Trails 100 course section 1 and 2 back to Gatherings (Jeremiah's).
Sunday= 17 miles running Iroquois Trails 100 course section 2 and 3 back to Gatherings.

Portland,Oregon, otherwise known as The City of Roses, is such a beautiful place and well known for running... I bought a waterproof trail guide that breaks down specific runs that can conveniently fit in your pocket. I found that Forest Park is the place to go running if you are in downtown Portland. There are like 30+ miles of well maintained trails on the outskirts of NW Portland. The Columbia Gorge area is a little bit of a drive but well worth it revealing stunning panoramic views of Mt. Hood.

Arriving back to Ithaca I was motivated to learn the 100 mile course better. I set out on on my own this weekend with fluids, fuel and trail descriptions to Virgil and Tuller Hill State Forest running/walking 34 miles of the course in two days. It's really starting to hit home how difficult (rewarding) this ultra is going to be. Ian sure did design a course that will demand loads of physical and mental toughness. There were times out there this weekend when I imagined how I will feel coming through after running many miles. It's definitely going to be an experience I will never forget.

Quote of the week: "We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves...The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, 'You must not run faster than this, or hump higher than that.' The human spirit is indomitable."- Sir Roger Bannister

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Forest Frolic 15K

This has been a great week of running even though the temperatures have been sizzlin'. After finishing this week with a win at Forest Frolic 15K I truly feel that last week's recovery week paid off. It was great to be running some of the same trails that I'll be covering in the 100-miler and also seeing friends and familiar faces at yet another enjoyable FLRC event.

Miles for the week: 55

Monday=Lifted weights in morning; 5 miles through Buttermilk Falls State Park in evening
Tuesday= 4.5 miles in morning on Tri for Y course; 4.5 miles at night through Treman State Park with Ian
Wednesday= 10.5 miles on Abbot Loop with Finger Lakes Trail add-on with Michael
Thursday= 10 miles on Monkey Run-Mt. Pleasant to Gamefarm- to campus with Drew
Friday= 6 miles through Forest Home to Turkey Hill- Ellis Hollow- back to Wildflower with
Saturday= 4.5 miles through plantations and Cayuga Trail
Sunday= Forest Frolic 15K (10 miles)

This was my first Forest Frolic as I was out of town last summer at this time. I knew it would be a tough (fun) race just from running in this area recently and knowing some of the course from Monster Marathon and Madness 30K. I thought more people would have showed up today given the free entry but I guess Grassroots Festival gobbled up a lot of runners.

Michael, a young IHS runner and myself barrelled down the hill at the beginning and coasted into the forest after about a mile. After about another half mile Michael and I took a left for the 15K and the younger guy went right...thankfully. Michael and I ran stride for stride for a little while... a feeling I've been getting used to as we've been dukin' it out at various local races.

At about 3.5 miles I started feeling a pretty bad sidestitch that seemingly got worse. It forced me to slow down a little and try some goofy-looking stretches...anything to get rid of it. The only thing that has worked in the past for me in this situation is to completely stop, bend over and breathe out with quick rapid breaths. It worked again!

By now Michael had a decent lead on me but not out of sight. I stormed up and down the trails thinking that "man... this is going to be over soon...might as well go all out!" I flew down a somewhat long hill with no brakes at all and realized that I was really gaining on him. As I crept up behind him he said "good job man". Again we were running stride for stride together and just when I started to wonder how this was all going to pan out Michael took a pretty hard fall. I asked if he was all right and then moved into the lead. I didn't see him again until the finish.

We had about 2 or 3 miles to go and I know Michael is a tough runner that is really good at climbing these hills in Virgil. I kept looking over my shoulder in vain. I know from personal experience that when you fall in a race like that it can sometimes damage your spirit and cause you to be a more tentative runner for the remainder of the race. I think that's what happened today to Michael but glad that we all came out alive with minimal cuts and scrapes.

Anyway, I came in to the campsite area with a time of 1:03:30 or so for the first place finish. No award, no prizes or recognition...just a nice big zorro-like scratch on my arm from a tree and memories to take with me.

It was nice being able to catch up a little with Running Times writer Rachel Toor, Brian Lee, Eric Maki and talk about shoes briefly with Gillian Sharp. Inov-8's Roclite 285's were absolutely perfect for this trail run! As usual it was just great mingling with locals and meeting others that traveled to this little campsite in the woods to run the beautiful rugged forests of Virgil, NY.

Erica and I are heading out to Portland, OR very early tomorrow morning for a little getaway adventure. It should also be nice checking out some trails and parks in the glorious Pacific Northwest. What won't be so nice is working on Anatomy and Physiology from the hotel room...but oh's gotta get done! Happy Trails!

Quote of the week: "I always loved was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs." -Jesse Owens

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Recovery Week

This has been a nice recovery week after The Fifties and the timing was convenient as I have been getting a butt-kicking in Anatomy and Physiology class. I got a chance to meet some nice folks out at SUNY Cortland campus where I'll begin in late August and I was able to scope out some running routes too. One of the track guys suggested that I try out for the 10K on the track and, as I explained that it probably wouldn't fit into my 100-mile ultra marathon training, I got some more deserved raised eyebrows.

I also was able to meet some welcoming people via the Internet from the company of Inov-8, who specializes in trail running, mountain running, orienteering gear,etc. I hope to join their team in 2009 but until then will receive half off certain products while promoting the company at races,etc. I am looking forward to sampling a more broad range of their quality products. Check em out at

Miles for the week: 40

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday= Rest
Wednesday= 6.5 miles through Treman State Park at night w/headlamps w/ Scotie
Thursday= 7.5 miles through Treman solo...beautiful!
Friday= light progression run down Warren Rd. to Asbury and back 6 miles
Saturday= 9.5 miles with The Finger lakes Running Company crew on Black Diamond Trail
Sunday= 10.5 miles w/Tim, Karen and Michael through Cayuga and Pink Trails

Looking forward to my first Forest Frolic 15K next Sunday as long as I don't head up to Lake Placid to watch Ironman.

Quote of the week: "You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement."- Steve Prefontaine

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Finger Lakes Fifties 50-Miler

I had a pretty successful week all around and am enjoying the absolute beauty of this area. Amidst all the running i was finally able to finish up my Associates Degree this past week and transition into my final year of my Bachelor's Degree.

Miles for the week= 66

Monday= Rest
Tuesday= 8.5 mile tempo run (6:12/mile) while Erica rode along side on her bike.
Wednesday= 7.5 mile easy run on Cayuga/Pink trails
Thursday and Friday= rest
Saturday= 50 miles

The Finger Lakes National Forest is a stunning area to have a trail race and this was my second consecutive year participating in this ultra-marathon event. Last year I won the 50K option and set the course record and also ran my first and only snowshoe race in January of this year. This year I opted for the 5o-mile race as it would also serve as a qualifier for the Iroquois Trails 100-mile race in September. Many thanks to Joe and Chris Reynolds who put so much passion into these events and maintaining the course. Another successful year in the books!

It was great to have the race on the day after the 4th of July not only because of the holiday weekend but it made for a great carbo-loading day on Friday. I hung out w/ family and friends out at Park Station and ate everything in sight knowing it would all be fuel for the following day.

I woke up just before 4 am on Saturday morning and gathered my gear for my first 50-miler. I knew that this would be different than other races i was used to because i must prepare food and fuel for the long day of running. I stocked a small cooler w/ a home made sandwich of almond butter/banana/jam and honey on wheat bread. I also had a 16 oz. Red Bull and some pre-mixed Sustained Energy. Other than that i would rely on what was out at the aid stations and carrying some Bee Stinger gels and endurolyte capsules.

When i arrived at the Potomac campsite i happened to bump into Todd Baum and chatted briefly about his preparation for Badwater...good luck Todd! I grabbed my number and mingled w/ some of the locals and some people that traveled many miles for the race. I did the same thing as last year which was set up my little "pit stop" area right next to the trail. Before i knew it i heard Chris make an announcement to make our way down to the road for the start. Just as i was walking down i see Leigh Schmitt pop out of a tent! Leigh holds the 50-mile record at this course and is a renowned ultra runner who just happened to make the trip down and register last minute. I knew i would be in for a tough day trying to keep up w/ him. I also saw Michael Wuncsh, who would be doing the 50K and probably gunning for my record, and learned from others that the field was pretty deep.

Off we went for the first of three approximately 15.6 mile loops and then a final 3.5 mile "baby" loop. The course is nicely mixed w/ single track, fire roads, meadows and the infamous cow pastures we would traverse across. Within the first few miles i wasn't surprised to see Micheal move on out of sight. Leigh, Jay and myself ran together for a few miles and then Jack replaced Jay for the rest of about 25 miles. Jack, Leigh and myself came through the first loop in about 1:55 and we all realized that we were out at a smokin' pace. I was able to keep up w/ these two experienced ultra runners for the next loop as well and exchanged many stories and conversation w/ them. I also was able to soak up some valuable ultra "tips" and felt honored to be going stride for stride w/ these guys.

By the end of about 30 miles and the second loop i was starting to feel the depletion of energy. I knew i had to get some food in me and that meant taking a little while longer at my "pit stop" and probably relinquishing running w/ Leigh and Jack. That was ok though and i took Nancy's advice of taking it easy for a couple miles and "running my race". Thanks Nancy! This turned out to be a wise choice because after a while i felt like i got a third wind! It was actually nice to be by myself and not talking or listening but to be solo navigating through the beautiful forests. I started having fun too. As i approached some people from the 50K race i would let out some "mooooos" and when they turned around laughing i would ask, "did you think i was a cow!?" I was still moving along at a pretty good pace, all things considered, and knew that my brother Jamal would be waiting at the campsite to run the final 3.5 mile loop w/ me. This motivated me to keep chuggin' along and i figured it out mathematically that i could break the 7-hour barrier if i hustled.

As i came into the Potomac campsite i was extremely energized by screaming fans and also the sight of Erica, Jim and Leo, Daura, Lydia, Makana and of course Jamal. It seemed like a big blur and i just focused on finding my cooler and chugging that last little bit of Red Bull and energy mix. I looked down at my watch and it read right around 6:32... i said to myself "boy it's going to be close".

Off we went for the last little portion and now i had some great company with me. Within the first mile Jamal said to me, "Man, i can see why you love this so much...this is awesome!" I told him about trying to beat 7 and he was all for it. He kept motivating me and telling me that i was doing awesome for already running 46 miles and change. At one point while telling him something i lost focus for a second and tripped over a root to go down pretty hard. It was the first and only time i fell suprisingly but he helped me up and we didn't lose too much time. I really pushed it hard those last couple of miles but with about a half mile to go i realized that it was inconcievable. We accepted it and proceeded to finish strong w/ big smiles with a time of 7:02 good for third place overall behind Leigh and Jack respectively. I learned that Michael did break my record...great work Michael! you deserve it. We had some food afterwards and hung out for a while enjoying the company and humor of friends and family.

Once again, another epic experience at the Fifties and thank you so much to all the volunteers, support, family and friends that participated in this event. Time to move on to the next one! Next ultra: Greeen Lakes Endurance Run 50K on August 24th. Until then...see you on the trails!

Quote of the week: "Running has made me feel the ultimate aliveness, and transcendence over body and mind, that nothing else has ever approached and that only another runner could understand."-Bernd Heinrich