Sunday, June 28, 2009

Forge The Gorgeous

As I tapered down a little this week I made a spontaneous decision to head out to a trail race that I've never run before held in
Fillmore Glen State Park in Moravia, New York. A popular saying that one might hear around town (or see on t-shirts) is, "Ithaca is gorges", referring to the picturesque and unique geological formations specific to the region. (Learn more about how and why HERE)

Anyway, I really love running in this environment and figured I'd wander out a little to mix things up. Even though I did a relatively hard barefoot speed workout on the soccer fields with Eric S. two days prior an 11 hour slumber the night before left me feeling re-charged!

The 7-mile trail race is put on by The Finger Lakes Runners Club and directed by the colorful Joel Cisne (so a good intended pretty much a guarantee ;0)

As Maureen and I arrived to the park so did some dark purple clouds along with some rolls of thunder. Many past participants warned us about the hazards of this course mostly consisting of wooden and stone bridges that are like running on banana peels when wet. Of course you have the regular hazards of climbing and descending treacherous trails with sharp rocks and roots and cement blocks for stairs in some places. So it rained a little and the storm moved on out of sight as we all made our way to the starting line. Again, I toed the line in my Inov-8 F-Lite 230's that serve really well for these shorter races I have been using as part of my training. I don't think it would have mattered what shoes I wore in this race...some spots were just downright sketchy!

At the start I see Nate Lockett who has the course record and I pretty much told myself just to go for second place knowing his pure speed and strength. The only way I'd have a chance with him is if he got lost (which he is known for) but that still might not even matter.

So Joel sends us off and I follow Nate for the first mile and a half or so and then he's gone out of sight. To my rear is youngster Matt T. from Horseheads who just came off a nice race down at Tanglefoot and we climbed the gorge trail which seemed like a half mile...some parts being pretty steep. That's a good way to start off a fast race...straight up! Even once we summit the top I am unable to shake Matt T. so I put in some surges and finally lost sight of him after the first aid station. This course was no joke but at times I was so amazed by the pristine beauty of the park. We ran past waterfalls, over bridges, up and down quite a bit, and one part had water dripping off the bank which felt so good to put my hands and head under to cool off.

Before the race I calculated by looking at past years results that I could probably run around 50 minutes... so that was my goal...along with maintaining second place once I started. As I headed down the steep section with a little over a mile to go I did some math and realized that I may be able to break 49 minutes if I keep that's what I did. As I entered the field before the finish I look at my Garmin and it reads 48:35 and counting! I sprint through the downhill grass and as I approach the finish with just just about everything I got the clock ticks 49:01...dohhhhhh!!!!!!!!

I had a really fun time seeing everyone and the park is awesome! I may go out there again before I skip town to hike around and swim with Erica. Joel and company did a tremendous job and I love how they have different awards at the end like mid pack award, worst crash, youngest/oldest runner, etc. Also, the fact that this race is offered on a Thursday evening makes it appealing if you are accustomed to longer runs on the me. I also half-joked with Joel that he should have an option for this race in the future. For the finish...runners should have the option of a slip and slide down the grassy field...or...they can run...but whatever happened to slip and slide? ;0)

Another FLRC event with good peeps and great energy...on to the next on the fourth! More on that later ;0)

So a big weekend in the ultrarunning world with Western States 100 taking place in Cali starting Saturday morning. I figured out a way to honor the super athletes that will be starting up Squaw Valley ski resort in the wee hours of the morning. Why don't we plan a point to point training run up a ski resort? So that's what we did! Roughly 10 of us took off on the Finger Lakes Trail up the back side of Greek Peak at 6:45 am Saturday morning just about when folks are getting ready out on the west coast. The last time I was on this trail was like mile 75 of The Iroquois Trails 100 last September. We decided to take the trail from Gatherings to Daisy Hollow where we had dropped some cars. This morning was much messier than that crazy night in September but we had a solid 2.5 hour trail run. I let people know when everyone was starting for WS 100 and honestly I was anxious to get back to the live webcast to see how this battle was gonna go down.

First we had to head out to a good friends place to sit for a portrait. Annemarie Zwack, a local professional artist and dear friend of ours, offered to paint us as a wedding gift. Check her website out HERE The portrait still blows my mind when I see it! Thank you Annemarie...this is something we will cherish forever!

By the time we got back we were well into the
race and I was excited to see what was transpiring. East coast ultra runner and friend Leigh Schmitt was in second place behind Hal Koerner (defending champ)! I told people to watch out for Leigh because he has been running so well lately and I was pumped that it was continuing on one of the brightest stages in ultrarunning. For the next several hours I periodically checked back to the race webcast and was delighted to see Leigh still holding second place through 80 miles. I woke up early in the morning to find out that he dropped to 7th place but still an absolutely stellar performance Leigh...thatta boy!!! Leigh really taught me a lot and helped me get into ultrarunning and I've run a couple races with him as well. I also was rooting on fellow Inov-8 team members Kevin Sullivan and AJW who both clawed their way to the top throughout the day. Great work everyone...I look forward to hearing more about it and hope to take part in this demanding race some time in the near future!

OK so all this excitement has me really raring to go for the Fifties but I am also a little apprehensive about putting it all together in one run. I hope the IT Band will hold up. I keep telling myself that I will stop at 50K if need be but what I truly want is to just be done with this somewhat nagging injury! I wish I could have gotten in some more miles over the last couple of months but I have been incorporating many strength building exercises that are hopefully getting to the root of the problem.

I added up the mileage for the last month and came up with 277...not great...but not horrible all things considered. This week will be lots of rest, possibly a massage, light running, and lots of good eating!

Hope to see you out in the beautiful Finger Lakes National Forest to celebrate the Fourth of July!

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Fear is the strongest driving-force in competition. Not fear of one's opponent, but of the skill and high standard which he represents; fear, too, of not acquitting oneself well. In the achievement of greater performances, of beating formidable rivals, the athlete defeats fear and conquers himself."----Franz Stampfl, Stampfl on Running

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Western States 2009

Many people have blogged extensively about
The Western States 100 Ultramarathon (arguably the most well known, must-do ultra out there) so I am not going to even attempt to put down any sort of analysis or prediction. I will say that I am looking forward to Saturday as I will be spectating via race webcast from the site above. This is like the World Series or Super Bowl of ultrarunning and even well before I ever attempted an ultramarathon I read and heard stories about WS100. In fact, while down in Costa Rica this past winter I was on a long van ride with some other tourists and we got to talking about ultras and one of the women asked me, "have you ever run Western States 100?" Well, needless to say it is on my list and I hope to be toeing the line in the next couple of years. Best wishes to everyone this year as I am sure you all are chomping at the bit right about now. This year seems to be a very stacked field so it'll be very interesting to see how it all unfolds. Go get em y'all!! I'll be cheering you on from New York ;-)

Well...the past ten days for me have been a trip. I am officially a married man and have the paperwork and ring to prove it! I was able to get in 70 miles in five runs last week despite all the wedding planning/detail work and actually it really helped in burning off some of that anticipation anxiety and nervousness.

The weather on our wedding day was...well...let's put it this way...Erica and I are going to have a lot of good luck in our future if the superstition of rain is correct. I had to order a huge tent the day before and being an outdoor wedding many of the things we envisioned happening just didn't take place due to the inclement weather. It was still great though! I can't even articulate the love that I felt around us when having so many friends and family in one spot. Thank you everyone that made our day so special!

Just a few things that come to mind from Saturday: Mike K. (the officiate) did such an amazing job leading the wedding and everyone really dug the 3 minute mindfulness breathing exercise to "be here now" to start off the ceremony. The food...oh my god...the spread was to die many different kinds of food and my fridge is still loaded w/ leftovers...thanks! Jamal dancing on the table to RUN DMC's/Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" and my 92 year old grandma getting out there on the dance floor...Yeah!

As for upcoming races I have decided to sign up for the local Finger Lakes Fifties 50 miler on the fourth of July BUT I may stop at 50k if I feel any complications with my IT band during the race. I really enjoy this event and I know and train on the course often. I may even camp this year...haven't decided yet...but it's surely going to be a good time regardless.

Happy Summer!

Quote of the week: "Running is my meditation, mind flush, cosmic telephone, mood elevator and spiritual communion."---Lorraine Moller

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tying the Knot!

Above is a picture of our wedding site at Stewart Park in Ithaca, NY.  The next time I blog I will be a married man!  Crazy.  It's really starting to hit home as we are less than a week away from the big day and friends and family are starting to file in to town.  Please...if you are reading this right now pray for some nice weather on Saturday June 20th around noon EST to about 3pm...that's all I ask!

We have a nice little spot in the park and have the large pavilion reserved for food and in case of inclement weather.

If you're in the area and interested in coming...well...come on down!  We've made it a pretty open can learn more about the celebration by clicking HERE

We're really excited for the big day!

As for the running...well...I was able to get in 60 miles (in four runs) this week and it felt comforting to do some solid back to back long runs.

Tuesday I ran 20 miles in The Finger Lakes National Forest running the Finger Lakes Fifties Ultras 25k loop plus the 3.6 mile "baby" loop to celebrate Karen's birthday.  Thanks Nancy, Maureen, and Karen for a great run!

Wednesday I went out solo and ran down to the Cayuga/Pink Trails and did a double loop of that and back to my house for 23 miles.  There was a tiny smidgen of a twinge in the ole IT Band around mile 21 but it went away and to look on the positive side I guess it's OK if it happens a tiny bit after 40 something miles in two days eh?

Friday I went out to Hammond Hill and planned on 8 miles but ended up doing 10 because I got lost.  Oh well... I did ending up running into a red fox which was really cool.  Boy do I wish I had his speed...whew! he sure did take off when he saw me come flying around the corner!  The up-side of me getting lost was the beautiful scenery and weather and to practice walking some of the uphills and just walking in general...a big component of ultra running.  I got in about 2.5 miles of walking and felt some nausea when I got home...maybe a little dehydrated...again good training.

Today (Sunday) I rode my bike over to the Cayuga/Pink Trails locked my bike up to a tree and did a 7 mile loop and threw in a little walking at the end as well.  I like the biking to and from a run to warm up and cool down...and...another gorgeous day!

This upcoming week is going to be nuts.  If anyone has any advice for me regarding marriage, getting ready for the big day (without flipping out), and just overall stress management techniques they would be greatly appreciated ;0)

Thanks and Happy Trails!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tortoise and the Hare

I love the old fable that this race name is borrowed from and I have competed in the event the last two years.  The third time proved to be a charm as I was able to capture the victory this past weekend down at beautiful Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca, NY.  I had a good week all around finishing up student teaching practicum work, doing some solid early week barefoot speed workouts, and bumping up the mileage without any signs of the I.T. band injury.  Ya hoooo!! Let the summer of racing begin!  

We've also been getting ready for our wedding on June 20th and our big move out to Portland, OR in late July.  Wow...a lot of exciting changes coming up and I really feel blessed for all the gifts I have in my life.

Back to the race!... I toed the line in my Inov-8 F-Lite 230's 
which I really love and have worn in the last two races I've competed in and they served me well in both.  They're super light, equipped well for roads or trails, and...well...they just look really cool!

At the starting line I heard someone behind me say, "just follow the guy with the blue shoes on".  So I led and the pack followed.  The first mile was flat and fast around the boggy Larch Meadow Trail.  Next we made our way to the toughest section of the course.  We climbed about 400 feet in a half mile and that hill always seems to get me no matter how many times I run up it.  Kellen Wadach passed me going up the hill and I heard a few others breathing down my neck but I remained in second place.  When we did finally summitt the steep trail I quickly grabbed the lead back even though I was gasping for air.  One thing that I had going for me in this race is that I know the course inside and out.  I don't think the others that were in the lead pack had this in depth knowledge so I took advantage.

With about four miles under our belts the race turned out to be between Mike Murphy and myself.  I knew he was quick (he smoked me in the mile race a week and a half earlier) so I waited until the right time on the course for me to let loose on the downhills.  It happened right around Lake Treman where visibility is poor in terms of runners seeing you as it roller coasters up and down and winds a little about the forest.  Then we back track down the steep mountain down to the finish.   I think it hurts more to brake sometimes so I just let it rip wide open and hope for the best!  I gave a couple glances back here and there and realized I had it won.  As I crossed the finish line I hit my watch and the time was 44 minutes 44 seconds and 42 hundredths of a second!  That woulda been crazy if it were all fours!!!!  

This is a pretty low key local race but I was really happy to have run that well pain free.  Thank you KC Bennett (and John), Becky Harmon, Chris and Joe Reynolds, Josh Cross, Shelly Marino, Karen Grover, Bob Talda, the people with the big number one hands that were directing us, Diane Yates, Allan Lockett, Jeff Juran, and all of the others that volunteered and made it such a great event...again!  It's just a good vibe hanging out down at Buttermilk with all the kids running around and seeing friends and pushing ourselves.  

I took a couple days off from running and just got back from a 3 and a half hour 20 miler through The Finger Lakes National Forest.  I'll try another tomorrow in a different location as I prep up for some of these bigger ultras this summer and fall.  I just dropped my registration in the mail for Where's Waldo 100k on August 22 out in Oregon and am pumped to check out that part of the state but not before taking care of some business at The Finger Lakes Fifties on the 4th of July!  I hope all are well and if not...hang in will get better.  Run Happy!

Quote of the week:  "Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can."
-Lowell Thomas

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ithaca Festival Mile

I have never raced a mile.  I have run a mile for time in middle school P.E. many years ago and possibly high school...(can't really remember)...and I didn't run track in high school or college.  I have, however, run mile repeats for marathon training but that was after a few miles for warm-up and during relatively high mileage weeks.  Some people laughed when I told them I was running knowing that is a little out of my element but many were helpful giving valuable advice.

Last year Iroquois Trails 100/50 Ultras' (soon to be changed to Virgil's Crest Ultras next year) race director Ian Golden teamed up with some others to formulate a mile race that takes place right in downtown Ithaca.  We would be starting at the high school on Cayuga St. and be running straight towards the commons on a pretty flat section of road (except one little bridge maybe five to ten feet of climb). 

Last year I was just coming off a demanding race at Highland's Sky 40-mile in West Virginia so I didn't partake but this year I decided to jump in and see what I could do.  I really hadn't  done much speed work prior to the race although I was feeling much better in terms of my running health and was excited to be in a race atmosphere even though it would be short lived in a race of this length.  I calculated that I could finish right around the five minute mark.  The cool thing about this race is that it kicks off the Ithaca Festival Parade that is notorious for floats, people walking, and doing all kinds of off the wall things.  It is definitely a sight to see!  Anyway, we had a built-in crowd almost the entire mile with people getting ready for the parade and this sort of thing really helped in a race that hurts like the mile.  You're basically sprinting the whole way!

I went out with the elite pack but had no intention of competing for even the top five positions.  I mean even if I was completely healthy and trained specifically for the mile I don't think I could hang with these guys.  I settled in a nice clip for the first couple of minutes knowing that it was only going to get tougher but I didn't want to burn out too quickly.  We did have a bit of a headwind and it was a little humid that could have accounted for maybe a second or two but all in all a pretty fast course.  I ran shoulder to shoulder almost the entire way with fellow club member Adam Engst but was able to outkick him at the end.

I came into the finish line with a time of 5:04 good for 9th place.  Another thing that I would mention for next year is that it would have been helpful to have quarter mile splits because I felt like I could have started my kick earlier if I would have known where I was on the course.  I know I have a sub five minute mile in me but oh well I still had so much fun taking part in this event.

There are some great photos here from BEFORE, RACE START, DURING, and AFTER the race...Thanks Steve Gallow...the photos look great and are very artistic.

The men's results are HERE
The female results are HERE
We had fun mingling afterwards and like I said before the parade was an absolute trip consisting of some of the most eccentric people  that this great little city of Ithaca has to offer!

Thanks again Ian, Liz, Alan, Joe and Chris, Nancy and all that helped out!  I have heard so many positive things about the race and I can see this becoming a tradition here in Ithaca.

As far as my status goes I am so happy to be running some substantial miles on the trails.  I have been doing some barefoot speed workouts on a nice manicured soccer field and I feel that it is really helping with my form, speed, and strength.  We'll see how I feel with some hilly back to back long runs thrown into the mix.  

I think I'll head down to the Tortoise and Hare 6.7 mile trail race at Buttermilk Falls on Saturday June 6th.  Hope to see some of you there!