Sunday, August 31, 2008


I had a great week after Green Lakes and after Monster Marathon on Sunday I am officially starting my taper for the Iroquois Trails 100 miler.

Total mileage for the week= 71 miles

Monday= Rest
Tuesday= easy 3 miles down Warren Rd. in morning; easy 5 miles in evening with Finger Lakes Running Company crew
Wednesday= 4 miles around SUNY Cortland campus in morning; 6 miles through Buttermilk Falls State Park in evening
Thursday= 10 miles on Black Diamond Trail and Cass Park add-on in morning; one hour massage in afternoon
Friday= Rest
Saturday= 17 miles through Cayuga Heights, Ithaca College and downtown loop w/ Jason C.
Sunday= 26 miles at Monster Marathon in Virgil, NY

I knew this was a debatable week as far the timing went for the 100 mile run. I went back and forth about taking it easy or doing some more relatively high mileage. I decided to play it by ear and see how the body (and mind) felt. Tuesday I was definitely still sore from Green Lakes 50K. By Wednesday I was feeling a lot better and I treated myself to an hour massage on Thursday for my birthday. By then I felt so much better but I still decided to take a day off on Friday...mostly because of other obligations though! I still wanted to squeeze one more quality back to back long run weekend in before the big race. Initially I wanted to do 30-40 miles on Saturday and then do the Monster Marathon as a training run at a much slower pace. Well, since I only did 17 miles on Saturday I figured I would see how I felt in the race in Virgil on the same course as the 100 miler.

I really like this local race put on by The Finger Lakes Runners Club. Usually Becky Harman is the race director but with her being in California Karen Grover and Tim Ingall took the reigns and as usual did a wonderful job.

I started at 8 am with a tough group of guys...Michael Wunsch, Chris Byler and Scot Jacobs to name a few. I started off w/ Chris and Michael but by about mile 3 or 4 was all alone in third place. I didn't mind this at all because of the staggered starts at this race you are always going by someone or approaching a runner coming at you. Honestly the way those two were moving from the get go I had no intentions of even attempting to catch either one.

The weather was great... shaded and cool for most of the first half marathon and lots of smiles. I must say it is so great to see and hear Bob Talda volunteering w/ his daughter at these trails races. His bellowing voice and enthusiasm are so motivating...Thanks Bob!

At the half-way point I stopped in at Scotie's car and refueled for round number two. I couldn't believe how much energy I had especially after running a hard 50K the previous Sunday and 17 miles the day before. I guess I'm in prime shape for Iroquois.

I climbed Greek Peak again and finally made it to the top. As I got further into the race (probably between 17-19 miles) people were telling me that I was gaining on the second place guy (Michael W.). This coupled with the fact that I was feeling amazingly good prompted me to kick it in to a higher gear to close the gap. I was having so much fun along the way too. I exchanged words of encouragement with other runners and smacked high fives.

Around mile 21 I caught a glimpse of Michael through the forest. I picked up the pace a little and passed him by and wondered where the leader (Chris Byler) might be. Well, after inquiring briefly from a search and rescue volunteer I accepted the fact that it was humanly impossible to catch him unless something bad happened. He was flying!

Traversing down the mountain was fun. I kept asking others questions like, "how many of your friends are running over ski resorts on a Sunday morning?" I think this sort of perspective was good for people regardless of how fast or what place you are in. I came into the finish area with a time of 3:46 and change... good for second place overall. This race was a huge boost of confidence for me going into my taper.

Once again thanks to the volunteers and it was great to catch up with locals and see some newcomers finish their first half marathon on a very demanding course. However, I didn't see the monster this year! did anyone else!? No more races for me until I complete the mother of all races...The Iroquois Trails 100 on September 20, 2008. Until then see you on the trails and happy running!

Quote of the week: "Running up and down a mountain is not just any old 10K road race. It's an adventure, a taste of excitement; it's a realization that the human body---your body---is a tough old thing. And that you're the boss of it, you can make it do this strange thing---this defying of gravity! Steve Ovett meets Sir Edmund Hillary."----Douglas Barry on Irish mountain racing

Monday, August 25, 2008

Green Lakes Gold Medal

This past week was capped off by a much anticipated and all around memorable day at The Green Lakes Endurance Runs in Fayetteville, NY.

Total mileage for the week: 63 miles

Monday--> Rest
Tuesday--> easy 8 miles through Central Park, Manhattan
Wednesday--> speed work in New Haven's Wilbur Cross High School track: 11 miles total that included 4 mile repeats 5:23/mi. 5:32/mi. 5:13/mi and 5:18/mi. I did 800 jogs in between miles and approx. 3 mile warmup and 3 mi. cooldown
Thursday-->easy 4 miles on Cayuga trail in morning; easy 4 mi. on Warren Rd. in evening
Friday--> rest
Saturday--> easy 5 miles up Cascadilla gorge and around Beebe Lake w/ Fingerlakes Running CO. crew
Sunday--> 31 miles at The Green Lakes Endurance Runs 50K

I was really looking forward to this race for a few different reasons: 1) I felt fit enough to go after the course record of 4:16 2)I knew the course fairly well and love the absolute beauty of the area and 3) Valmir Nunes from Brazil was going to be running the 100K.

Following the Olympic men's marathon Saturday night my father called me from Florida and let me know that it was up to me to bring home the gold for his native country Morocco since Sammy Wanijiru from Kenya took the gold over the Moroccan runner. We joked about it but I also thought of using some of Sammy's strategy in the race of going out hard since I knew it was going to be a hot day for us here in NY.

As I entered the race headquarters area in the state park I felt the Olympic type vibe as I saw some international flags hanging on the Great Room building. I don't think people realized the magnitude of Valmir Nunes from Brazil. This guy was basically using this 100K as a tune-up for The Spartathlon in Greece next month. Last year he placed 3rd at Spartathlon and won The Badwater 135 mile race through Death Valley shattering a 30 year old record by an hour! This was like shooting some hoops with your buddies and having Kobe Bryant stop by to play. I saw the start of the 100K and then finished preparing for the 50K.

The weather was nice and cool at around 6:30 am but I knew this was going to be short lived. I planned on running the first two laps fast to build a nice cushion. Off we went and I was feeling awesome. I gave a yell to Valmir as he passed me and flew through the first lap in 53 minutes. At the beginning of lap 2 I could actually feel a blanket of humid air fall down on me and as the sun rose higher and higher I knew we were going to get baked by mother nature. Still I felt very relaxed and came through the second 7.77 mile loop in 55 minutes.

This is where things started falling apart for me. I knew I had a decent lead on the majority of the pack but wasn't sure I would be able to keep up this pace with the increasing temperature. As I entered The Serengetti for lap 3 I felt something that I have yet to feel in a race. I was about to throw up! I could feel saliva building in my mouth and my throat muscles ready to contract simultaneously with my stomach. I started walking and held it down barely. Luckily I was able to make it to the aid station and grab some water and HEED from Mark Driscoll. I still didn't feel well but started running again after my blood pressure came down a bit.

Lap 3 was about 1:03 or so and I could feel the heat pulling me down even further. I tried to eat and drink and take many Endurolyte capsules because I was sweating perfusely and the sweat was very salty. I knew this was danger for me. As I entered the proper fitting name for the open grassy section (Serengetti) of this race on my final lap my left hamstring started to cramp. This really slowed me down to a jog. I saw Ben Clardy in the distance and I asked him for some salt tabs but all he had to offer was gel which I had too. I slowed down by now tremendously and wondered if or when I was going to be passed.

At about mile 27 my left hamstring completely seized up and stopped me in the shady downhill portion of trail. Eventually I crouched down to alleviate the contraction. Next thing I know a woman came by and asked if I were OK. I explained what was going on and how close I was to finishing and she got out a bag of electrolytes capsules and a salt tablet. I ate like 3 of them on the spot and thanked her graciously. I could see her tell some of the volunteers in the distance about my condition and they walked towards me. When we met the one woman filled my bottle with water and gave me the rest to pour over my head. Thank you all! I'm not sure if I would have been able to hang on without your help.

Within minutes I totally loosened up and descended to the lake trail feeling so relieved that cramping was over. I still had a 5K to go and passed the woman who gave me the capsules (Tanya). I was really surprised no other runners were in sight and told myself that I guess my strategy was effective after all. By now I could almost see the finish and knew I had the race and the course record for that matter.

I came through the last lap in like 1:12 for a total time of 4:04 or so beating the previous record by about 10 minutes. Two minutes after I finished Ed Housel came in for second place with a remarkable time on a weak ankle and scorching hot day. I was so grateful to be finished and to have won with the course record despite the circumstances. I wasn't thrilled with the way I won. I looked at Ed's splits and they were all almost identical. I guess I have never been great with balance!

Honestly I still felt like crap...nausea, over heated and exhausted. I was excited to see Erica show up and introduced her to Joe and Christine and a couple other ultra buddies. I gathered myself for a few minutes and headed down to the cold beach which helped immensely. I had a nice time chatting with William G.,Karl, Warren and Blaise and Joe from N.J. I didn't get a chance to talk with Shiran too much but hope he finished. Last time I saw him he had like 2 bottles of water and 2 cokes with him! I can't say enough about this race and the people associated with it. I have felt nothing but hospitality by Todd Baum, Dr.Riccardi, Ben C., Ryan O.,Tom P., Mark D., the timers and the group of people that consistently run and volunteer with passion. I was deeply touched when I found out that Todd had Donna bake me a cake for my 30th birthday on the 28th. That kindness and thoughtfullness really meant a lot to me.

Next, I wanted to see what Valmir was up to. Well, it proved that he is human after all as I witnessed him showing some fatigue from mother nature and the course on his final lap. As he approaced the finish Todd and I grabbed the Brazilian flag from the building and we gathered folks to welcome him after a long day of running. I was extremely honored to get pictures with Valmir and Todd and will definitely cherish this day for the rest of my life. I shared a few words with Nunes and his crew and wished him well at Spartathlon. When I get that picture it is definitely going in a frame on my wall. This was only the fourth year and Todd is doing such a great job with a great venue for running. I think my record will be broken in the years to come but it's going to take a valiant effort by someone to get Nunes' time. What a day!

I hobbled around SUNY Cortland today for my first day and met many more enthusiastic people that love sport and running. I am really looking forward to this semester and some cooler temperatures...but not too cold! After this week I will be starting to taper down for Iroquois and will keep Valmir's strong mind and heart with me as I continue my journey.

Quote of the week: "The five S's of sports training are: stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit." -Ken Doherty

Monday, August 18, 2008

Listening to the body

In the past I have run through nagging pains hoping that they would just go away. Sometimes they did. Other times they may have hindered my performance a little. After the last few weeks of relatively high mileage the arch of my left foot was yelling at me...and this time I listened. First I did a little bit of research and it seemed to be just a touch of plantar fascitis but I didn't want it to turn into anything worse.

Miles for the week: 51

Monday= Rest/ 1 hour massage
Tuesday= 4 miles through Cass Park and lifted weights at Island
Wednesday= very easy 8 miles through Iroquois Trails 100 course (Daisy Hollow out and back)
Thursday= up tempo run with Alona on Skunk Cabbage 1/2 marathon course (5k warm up, 10k at 6:43/mi, 5K cooldown)
Friday= foot was still hurting a little...took another rest day
Saturday= 14 miles with Ian, Andrew, Derrick and Scotie through Recway and Ithaca College campus
Sunday= 12 miles through Sleeping Giant State Park in New Haven, CT

I'm very pleased with the way I am feeling now. This drop back week was very beneficial in many ways and my foot is thanking me. I was supposed to run the Virgil Mt. Madness this weekend but we are tending to a very sick family member in Connecticut right now. I am happy to be of service to her as she is struggling from Lupus. Hang in there Janna!

I was surprised to find out that my brother Jamal placed 8th in the Madness 12K yesterday. A pretty good time for a tough course and just getting into the trail scene. Way to get that heart pumping Jamal! I have been using some arch support inserts over the last few days that have really helped and have avoided walking around bare foot. I'm really looking forward to Green Lakes on Sunday...until then enjoy the Olympics and happy running!

Quote of the week: "You have to imagine that training is like a bow that you can pull back as far as possible to shoot the arrow at an exact point in time. This can be dangerous. Sometimes you can't hold the bowstring back any longer. Or you can overpull it." Uta Pippig

Monday, August 11, 2008

We're Getting There

"We're Getting There" is what you will see on a sign out front of Gathering's pertaining to the construction status in the new Greek Peak restaurant. I thought this statement could be used in a number of different contexts including Sunday's ultra-long run through that area.

I wanted to also thank everyone that has donated for the Lupus charity that I am running for (along w/ a couple other runners) and invite anyone to give what you can for this great cause. You can donate or check our status at... Thanks!

I had another HUGE week and am definitely feeling it. Time to back off a little and let the body recuperate some.

Miles for the week: 87

Monday= rest
Tuesday= 5 mile easy run on Cayuga trail
Wednesday= 4 miles at Island Health and lifted weights
Thursday= 11 miles on Abbot Loop and Michigan Hollow Rd. add on
Friday= 10 miles on Black Diamond Trail w/ Cass Park add on

I geared up for another weekend full of running and working (which calls for being on my feet the whole time). This time I decided not to do the whole sleep deprivation thing but it kind of happened again unintentionally! ughhhh! Thank god I finished my Anatomy and Physiology class.

I decided to wake up early Saturday morning and drive up to Green Lakes again to run the 50K course. It was such an enjoyable run the previous week I didn't mind making the hour drive. Plus I felt that I didn't have the course completely dialed in. I do now! I did 3 loops plus a little add on for 24 miles. Sat. night work- go home- sleep

Sunday morning 5 am the alarm went off and I could hear the rain outside. When I looked I saw a big flash of lightning too! I thought of going back to bed but prior plans of meeting others for a 36 mile Iroquois Trails run through kept me moving forward as planned. After quickly having some breakfast I packed my cooler with Ensure's, EFS fluid, watermelon, and a diet pepsi. I also had my usual salted pretzels, dried red banana's, pistachio nuts and Honey Stinger gels.

I met Scotie at Gatherings and we dropped one car off at the planned finishing point on Daisy Hollow Rd. After getting back to our little hub in the restaurant's parking lot we lubed up in Body Glide, filled our water bottles and started our journey for a long day of scouting the course.
Also, we had to be back by 8 am to meet Jay so the first section of the course (about 6 miles) had to be under watchful eyes of the time.

Up the ski resort we went. It was good to be catching up w/ Scotie after he's been out for a couple of weeks on the injured reserve. We got to yapping and realized at the top that we went the wrong way! As we wandered around the resort we just decided to descend to the Alpine Center and figure out where we went wrong. At the base we finally figured out what we did wrong and it was a good learning experience. We won't make that mistake again.

We headed back to meet Jay and went for about a 17 mile out and back (section 2 and 3). Jay joined us for about 10 of those. Toward the middle of this part (around 18 miles or so) Scotie and I were starting to feel completely drained. The gels weren't doing it and we were running low on fluids. One thing that we did have going for us was the weather. It didn't rain but it remained nice and cool w/ lots of cloud cover. At one point we just started naming all the foods we had in the car and discussed what we were going to eat in 5 miles. It was a great exercise to keep our minds busy and to also feel that discomfort too.

Ahh! lunch!!! We had a buffett on the roof of my car and breaked for about 20 minutes. This was so helpful. I was feeling so much better but the arch of my left foot was really starting to bother me. It reminded me of a feeling I had a few years ago after a marathon which turned out to be a touch of plantar fasciitus. uh oh... i took some anti-inflammotory but wasn't thrilled about this painful realization.

After our break we stocked up and headed out for our final portion of our training run. We headed up Greek Peak again, the backside this time, and both were reminded how tough this race is going to be. I kept reminding Scotie that "we're getting there". We agreed that breaking 24 hours in the inaugural Iroquois Trails 100 is going to involve having one remarkable day.

There was one more little confusing part of the course that we took a wrong turn on that cut off a few miles but ultimately put us in the same spot. We were both amazed how good we were feeling after 30 miles despite my foot. We ended up finishing the run with 33 miles and drove back to Gatherings.

This is when I saw the sign again and it really reminded me that this race is right around the corner.

I had an hour massage today but the foot is still very sore. Hopefully taking it down a couple notches along w/ ice and self massage/anti-inflammatories will help. That's enough of the back to back long runs/ minimal sleep weekends for a while. I felt that they were very helpful though not only for the physical aspects but for the mental fatigue as well.

Well... more will be revealed!

Quote of the week: "There are as many reasons for running as there are days in the year, years in my life. But mostly I run because I am an animal and a child, an artist and a saint. So, too, are you. Find your own play, your own self-renewing compulsion, and you will become the person you are meant to be." - George Sheehan

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Ultra-marathon training this week became an experimentation to see how my body and mind responded to certain feelings that I can predict happening during a 100-mile race. Crazy...for sure. Stupid...maybe a little. Rewarding, informational, and glad it's over...YES!

Miles for week: 80

Monday= Rest
Tuesday= 9 miles- (Speed workout) 2 mi. warmup- mile 3=5:48, recovered one mile- mile 5=5:46, recovery mile, mile 7=5:53, 2 mi. cooldown... Warren Rd., Asbury Loop.
Wednesday= 5 miles through Cass Park and lifted weights.
Thursday= 14 miles on Iroquois Trails 100 course. Daisy Hollow Rd. past Hauck Hill campsite and back.
Friday= 12 miles through plantations climbing Mt. Pleasant then Cayuga/Pink Trails w/ Sambo.

This is where it gets a little nutsy. I decided that last weeks back to back quality long runs needed another little variable thrown into the equation. Running upwards of 20 something hours is going to be exhausting to say the least. Soooooo...why not practice navigating the trails sleepy with spent legs?

After my 12 miler on Friday afternoon I went into Watercress to work on my feet until about midnight. Went home- slept 4.5 hours, then drove to Green Lakes State Park to do a course run through w/ Todd Baum, Jimmy, Dr. Riccardi, Ben, Mike Wright, Andrew and a couple other buddies.

I had a great training run up there. The course is beautiful! I couldn't believe how green the water was!... and really enjoyed getting to know some of the guys taking part in The Green Lakes Endurance Runs on August 24th.

Also, very exciting news that world-class ultra-runner Valmir Nunes will be running the 100K this year. Man, this is quite an honor to be sharing the trails with a specimen that has won and set many course records including Badwater!

Anyway, I clocked 20 miles for the day and headed back to Ithaca. Although the couch was yelling my name I refrained and got ready to go back to work. Another long night on my feet. Got home at 11:30 pm and my personal alarm clock (Erica) woke me up at 3:45am...ouch...painful!

I purposely committed to volunteer at The Cayuga Lake Triathlon in order to get by butt up and also to help out fellow triathlon club members for this Sprint National Championship year. The initial plan was to volunteer from 4am to 8am then go for another 20 mile run on the trails. I thought that would do the trick for simulating fatigue and sleep deprivation.

Things were going great! Yes, I was loopy but enjoyed seeing friends compete and volunteer at this growing tradition at Taughannock State Park. I headed back home to get ready for my final segment of my experimental weekend. After getting some food in me I saw (and heard) the couch...and this time I gave in a little. I told Erica that I was just going to let my food digest a little when she yelled..."No...don't do it!"

15 minutes passed and I was still lying on the couch kind of drifting in and out of consciousness with the cat purring at my side. I wrestled with the demons in my head telling me that I need some sleep and rest, and that I can run later or tomorrow, or that's enough for the week.

Erica came over to sit next to me and reminded me that I would probably be disappointed in myself if I didn't go, and that the 100 is going to be much tougher than this. She also helped me think of how rewarding it will be when I can sleep afterwards (possibly for the rest of the day and night!). I feel lucky to have a supportive partner that urges me to go out and kill myself!

I rallied and off I went for another 20 miles...about 12 total on trails and 8 on road. I definitely had some tastes of what my legs are going to feel like and how the rational mind works. I had very little power going up anything remotely steep and had to walk on the flat road a couple of times just for a reprieve.

I made it home alive and napped for a little while. Now I can finally say, "that's enough for this week!"

Quote of the week: "The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy...It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed." - Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon champ