Friday, December 25, 2009

2009 Year in Review and 2010 Race Calendar

Last year at this time I was swimming, floating around, and splashing Erica in the Gulfo Dulce while on our honeymoon in Costa Rica. We decided to take our honeymoon before our wedding for a couple of reasons. 1) We knew we were moving to Portland, OR shortly after our June 20th wedding and 2) It is just brutally cold in Ithaca, NY! The warm, tropical weather down there made it difficult for me to NOT go looking for some epic trail runs, even though I said I was going to just take it easy. So, after a stellar 2008 race season and a short break, my training started in the jungles of Costa Rica for 2009.

I must say it is nice to be back in the states for this holiday season. It was a little weird sweating my butt off while kayaking on Christmas day last year. So now, as I sit here next to our little Christmas tree, I am able to reflect on all the amazing things that happened in my life over the last 365 days... and some things that I learned.

When I got back to central New York in mid January I could tell that 22 days in that climate really conditioned me physically and totally replenished my spirit. I kept on going and as cold as it was I continued to hammer the hills of Ithaca through snow, sleet, and sub-zero temps. One of my training partners Michael W. introduced Gunn Hill repeats to me and I really started noticing some high levels of fitness. In February I signed up for the H.M.R.C.C. winter marathon in Albany, NY. You can read the race report HERE. I decided to run it on no taper and part of a 104-mile week as an up-tempo long run. Well...I had a great race...ended up winning in 2:47...and left the race with a big ego. Lesson learned.

From that point on I continued to train like I was some super-human machine that didn't need any rest or recovery. I had all these great race plans for the year and, in hindsight, was unable to control my enthusiasm. After a couple hiccups in my training I was still able to make to the starting line for the H.A.T. 50K down in Maryland feeling pretty confident about my fitness. Again, I had a solid race and ended up finishing third place but toward the end felt some remnants of an old IT Band injury. Uh oh!

Things gradually got worse and I had to skip The North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain, NY. From that point on I struggled with thinking I was getting better and coming back too quickly and then subsequently re-injuring myself. I raced a few shorter distance trail runs and really worked hard to rehab my leg including barefoot workouts (before Born to Run came out!) and Active Release Therapy along with massage. I decided to set my scopes on The Finger Lakes Fifties scheduled for the fourth of July. In the mean time we had a beautiful wedding celebration at Stewart Park in Ithaca on June 20th, I finished up my term at SUNY Cortland, and started getting prepared for our big move across the country.

The fourth of July rolled around and I took off like a bandit on the course of my first-ever ultra a few years ago. About 38 miles into the 50-mile race I felt serious pain and tightness and was forced to swallow my first DNF at mile 40. Ouch! Time went on and, again, I started feeling better and incorporated many strengthening exercises. By late July I had run a 40-miler on my last day in Ithaca and wondered about my future race plans that I had already signed up for in advance.

We made the big move across the country and I made the big decision to give Where's Waldo 100k a go. I'm still perplexed about why and how I was able to finish this race pain free. This race gave me a nice intro to the beautiful state of Oregon and I was very satisfied with the outcome. I went into 100 in the Hood thinking that I was "cured" but after 50-miles found out that was not so. I was able to tough it out and ran the second half of the race on an injured leg. That would be my last race of the year and, even though I still finished in seventh place with a respectable time of 18:53, I know I have so much more in me.

So after finishing my first term at Portland State University and meeting so many great people here I have constructed a plan for the new year. They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and I'm going to try and learn from some of my mistakes.

Here is my tentative 2010 race schedule:

*Badass 50k fun run (training run)
*Capitol Peaks 34-miler (training run)
*Orcas Island 50k
*Hagg Lake 50k (volunteer)
*Chuckanut 50k
*Peterson Ridge Rumble 30k or 60k
*Capitol Peaks 50-miler
*Forest Park 50k (training run)
*Bighorn 100
*White River 50-mile
*Where's Waldo 100k (volunteer)
*Virgil Crest Ultra 100 or Palm to Pine 100 (same day...haven't decided yet)
*Lithia Loop Trail Marathon
*The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler- San Fran.

Whew! that makes me tired just reading it ;o) Now...this is just a tentative list mind you. Naturally things come up, plans change, injury (hopefully not too many this year!) that will cause me to alter this list, but these are the races I have my sites on for 2010. I also want to say that I wouldn't be able to do half of this without such an awesome supportive wife! Thanks babe I love you much! :o)

So will I see you at any of these races?

I look forward to a great year and hope to see you along the way as we dance the trails in the great sport of ultra!

Happy New Year and Happy Trails!!! :o)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Visiting the Northeast

I'm just wrapping up a nine day visit to the northeast as I sit here in Syracuse airport updating my blog. This part of the trip could be compared to being at like mile 75 of a 100-miler. I'm almost home but still have a solid 6 or more hours of traveling to go. From here we head to Newark...hopefully we will not run into any weather causing delays or cancellations. Then it's across the expansive country to my new home of a little over four and a half months.

This trip gave me a relative break from the computer, Internet, blogs, facebook, school, etc., and my eyes needed a reprieve from staring at a screen. I can't say I was completely cut off...I mean I checked a few times at coffee shops and on my phone, etc. but for the most part I just enjoyed the company with family and friends. My last couple days of the fall term consisted of final exams wrapped with back to back 15-milers around them and a red-eye flight Thursday night after my last exam. I like to try and tire myself out for these long flights so I can try to get some shut-eye. It often works but I also have to get up and stretch out every once in a while.

Friday morning I landed in Syracuse and was picked up by John O. and we headed east on I-90 to southern Vermont. John and I both love to bowl so we started a tradition of bowling a few games every time we see each other. So in Utica, NY we stopped and I was almost able to get that elusive 200 game but had to settle for a 173. After that we enjoyed a nice lunch and then it was off to the B&B in Vermont. There we would prepare for a good friends surprise 40th birthday party. Our friend Doug F. thought he was just going for a romantic weekend with his fiancee at this bed and breakfast. Little did he know that 50 or so good friends and family bought out all the rooms and were hiding in the back den. When he entered....well....all I have to say is that it was classic! :0) We spent the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning was such a memorable weekend! My face hurt from laughing so much and it was great talking to and meeting everyone. Sunday afternoon we were off to Ithaca, unfortunately, in a freezing rain storm. I counted 11 accidents in our 3.5 hour commute!...but we made is safely. I must say...I don't miss that kind of weather!

The next six days I was staying with my brother and his family who live completely off the grid in central New York. Yep, solar panels, wood burning stove, gravity fed mountain spring flowing into a timber framed home that was built by my brother Jamal. It's always so relaxing and refreshing to recharge my batteries on Nobles Hill. I met my niece Amani who was born 11 days after I moved to Oregon and thoroughly enjoyed the company of my other two nieces Lydia and Makana and my sister-in-law Daura. It was also a treat to visit with the rest of the Nobles Hill gang that included Rob, Shena, Nimah, Alden, A.J., Nick, and Maggie. Tuesday I met up with some friends on the Finger Lakes Trail up around Connecticut Hill and got in about 10 miles with Nancy K. and Mark T. I took Wednesday and Thursday completely off and had to remind myself that it's OK to do that while on vacation. Friday I had a beautiful eight mile run as the sun set over to the location of the annual solstice party. There was a ceremony that kicked off the winter by lighting a huge bonfire and we danced the night away to some jammin' live music. My last morning in the Ithaca area I joined some Finger Lakes Runners Club members (Karen G., Shelly M., Jim M., Mark T., and John W.) for a 15-miler through downtown and Stewart Park (three loops of the 5 and 10 course). The final five mile loop Mark and I picked the pace up to about 7 min./mi. pace and it sent me on my way to the airport...again...fatigued. I feel so blessed to have such an awesome family and great friends. Well...the journey continues and we'll see you guys next time! :0)

I also was notified that I will be representing Team Inov-8 for the 2010 season and I'm super stoked about that. This is my second year on the team and I really think that Inov-8 has some great momentum going. The products are top notch and I'm excited to try out some new minimalist shoes and packs, etc. The 2010 team is posted HERE

I'm really excited to be home with my wife and I hope everyone has a love-filled holiday season.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jingle Bell Run

The jingle bell spirit is in the air and if you were down on Naito Parkway in Portland on Sunday you would have heard lots of jingles and people having fun running a 5k for arthritis. If you weren't running you probably would have froze your you know what off! (What's up with this cold...I thought it was supposed to rain here a lot? I'm ready for some rain...I've had enough of the cold from living in central New York!) You would have also seen most people dressed up like Rudolph, Santa, elves, or something in between... or just plain goofy Christmas apparel (like me).

It was first mentioned to me by my friend Chyle whose wife Jana has rheumatoid arthritis. I thought that this was a great way to give to a needy cause and have fun with some new found friends while doing one of the things I love most. In fact now that I think back I did my first ever marathon (Marine Corps Marathon) with Team in Training (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society), and my first 100-mile run for Lupus awareness in honor of my sister in law Janna. Crazy coincidence with Janna and Jana! ;0) Anyway, I think doing charity events are important and very rewarding because it gets you outside of yourself a little bit and helps you appreciate things we may take for granted.

We had a crew of....geez...let's see if I can remember everyone...Chyle, Jana, Dale, Matt, Annie, Tom, Dan, Ken, Allie, Margaret, Carol, Andrea, Starlet, Darla, Leigh, and me. What a colorful bunch!...check out some of the pictures below :0)

I made sure that I wasn't going to race it hard on Sunday morning by going out Saturday evening and doing a decently hard track workout in my Vibram Five Fingers. I had a nice workout with some ladders of 400, 800, 1200 and then back down at like a 5:30/mi. pace. Enough to build up a little lactic acid in the calves and get the legs moving quickly. It's been a while since I've done a workout like that and my lungs were definitely burning! So Sunday morning I had no desire to run fast although I would be lying if I said that I didn't look at the starting line to see who was up there :0) Plus, I had too many clothes on to be running fast ;0) We had a fun time down there and enjoyed a nice breakfast/lunch afterwards. Good clean fun for a good cause!

Next up was checking on my training buddies that ran The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler down in San Francisco. I've got to give a shout out to Joe Grant who place 9th overall in an insanely tough field of runners. Joe smoked the tough course in 7:24. The funny thing is I told Joe on our last run together not to come home unless he was in the top ten! :0) Maybe it helped Joe, eh? Our other buddy Nick Triolo was attempting his first 50-miler and totally nailed it in just a hair over 9 hours! Congrats Nick!...all that training paid off...way to go bro :0) That has got to feel good for the both of them!

Well as many of you know and could have anticipated I didn't get into the
Western States 100 via the random lottery this year. I must say that I had a lot of fun with the suspenseful process. Cheers to everyone that did get selected and I know I'll get in there sooner or later. Now that obsession of Western States 2010 is over with (well...kind of...) I am getting closer to the final construction of an epic race calendar for the new year.

Time to go take three final exams this week and then fly to New York to visit family and friends. Hope this blog post finds you well...happy trails! :0)