Sunday, July 26, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Ithaca

This past week has been comforting in that I've been running long and strong pain free but our time here is sadly and quickly coming to an end. The movers took away just about all of our belongings yesterday so now we're just living out of a couple suit cases that we'll travel with on July 31st.

Our big move is a little bitter sweet because we are super excited to embark on our journey to the Pacific Northwest but will also really miss this great community, the area, and family still living here.

In honor of all the extreme athletes that finished Badwater ultramarathon a couple weeks ago I went out for an 18 mile run on Wednesday in the middle of the day that gradually climbed up and out of Ithaca to Perry City. The temperature was only about 86 though (compared to in the 100's in Death Valley) but I could get a little taste of how the heat really slows you down and forces you to hydrate very regularly. I ran with a Camelback and a hand held and filled both with ice cubes (one with HEED) and that turned out to be a nice tactic. When I arrived to Perry City from my place on Warren Rd. I instantly headed down to the creek which was so refreshing! I felt like a new person good that I helped Nick and Rob dig some holes for posts for a about a workout!

The next day I went out again with the same idea in mind minus the post hole digging and picked up Jeff D. on the way. I ended up getting in another 17 miles on the Cayuga and Pink Trails and added on some hill climbs up by my house.

Thursday July 30th I have organized a long training run on the beautiful Finger Lakes Trail for my last day in Ithaca. For those of you in the area that care to join we will be starting at 5am at Lick Brook parking lot and jump on the FLT and head west toward Connecticut Hill. I plan on running out to the 20-mile mark, which is right around Rt. 6, and then heading back for 40 miles total. If people want to cut it much shorter, which is totally understandable, Mark T.'s wife Bethany has offered to shuttle people back down to the start. This is such a scenic part of the main trail which stretches over 500 miles from PA through NY and finishing down by the Catskills. I have a dream to set the speed record on this trail someday...maybe when I'm back for a visit.

The last five years have been good to us here in Ithaca, NY. A lot of major changes took place and now it's time to see what's in store for us as we start a new chapter. The next time I post a blog it will be from the beautiful state of Oregon! I'll always remember this place and the wonderful people I've met. So long for now!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Inov-8 Product Review (Debris Gaiter and Debris Socks)

Living in a great trail running area and close to many miles of deciduous forests in central New York for the last five years I have found it necessary to invest in some debris gaiters to keep those pesky pebbles and other organic materials out of the shoes.

Inov-8 makes three different variations and I've tried all of them extensively. Let's take a look at the details:

The first one is the Debrisoc 38- This is my personal favorite of the three. I really like the anatomical design of the single-piece gaiter/sock. The Coolmax sock that is attached to the outer gaiter is very breathable and dries out quickly. Rubber fastening loops stretch under the shoe and fit nicely between the tread pattern "lugs" (especially in the Roclite series) and a sturdy hook pulls it toward your toe hooking securely on the shoelace. This makes it just about impossible for any foreign objects to enter. The down side is if you ever have to change socks the whole thing will obviously have to be switched out.

Next up...the Debrisoc 40- Same design at the debrisoc 38 but this product offers Merino Wool instead of Coolmax which provides extra warmth but still doesn't skimp on the fast wicking properties. I wore these throughout this past winter, which was by far the coldest I've experienced in five years, and the debrisoc 40's helped keep snow out and my feet warm. This is another product from Inov-8 that I highly recommend.

The last of the three gaiters offered by Inov-8 is the Debrisgaiter 32. This gaiter is just an outer gaiter rather than being connected to a sock like the previous two so it allows you to changes socks in a race if needed. Also, the material is a fast wicking, quick drying Double Water Repellancy treated product which is very obvious in wet conditions compared to the prior two gaiters. I have had problems in the past with these by having it ride up over the heel of my Roclite 285's. Still a pretty solid product.

*Note: One thing that I have noticed about these three products are the rubber fastening loops become weak and stretched out after time especially if you put them in the dryer on high heat. To prevent this from happening you can hang dry them to prolong the life and when they do finally go you can order more through the company and easily switch them out. I think Inov-8 does a great job with these and I am anxious to try out some of the socks as well.

You can find these products and many more great ones at or by clicking HERE

On another topic I wanted to give a shout out to fellow ultra runner and friend Jack Pilla for winning The Vermont 100 this past weekend. I ran the first 25k with Jack on the 4th of July and knew he was in prime shape considering the miles he's been logging. Way to go Jack!!!

I had a solid week of running and have been feeling really good. I've been strengthening some weaknesses, stretching a bunch while building back up some miles. I'm planning on getting a four or five hour run this week and even more next week as I say goodbye to some of the local trails for a little while. We'll see how the body responds and more will definitely be revealed in the next couple of weeks. Ten days to our big move and a lot of emotions are stirring!

run happy and enjoy summer!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Badwater Time!

It's that time of the year! Dubbed "the world's toughest footrace" Badwater Ultramarathon starts today July 13 and will finish sometime on the 15th. The journey begins at 280 feet below sea level in the bowels of Death Valley and climbs to the Mt. Whitney Portals at around 8,300 feet above sea level over the course of 135 miles. It is run completely on pavement or whatever gravel can be found on the side of the highway and temperatures are in the 100-130 degree Fahrenheit range for the entire day.

I have read a lot about this race and watched movies/documentaries about the intense journey and, call me crazy, but it looks appealing. It's definitely on my list. I hope to possibly crew down there next year to get some experience with Death Valley. This year I have a couple friends running it and I made a list of people that I know or know of and tacked it to my wall with their respective bib numbers.

Local ultra runner from the Syracuse area Todd Baum will be running his third Badwater. I tracked him last year and am anxious to see how he prevails with a couple races under his belt. Todd is the race director for The Green Lakes Endurance Runs Ultras and friend of mine. He has helped me with my transition into ultra running and has done a lot for the Central New York ultra community. He even arranged a birthday cake for me last year for my 30th year upon completion of the Green Lakes 50k! We were also honored to host Badwater course record holder Valmir Nunes from Brazil at that very race and meeting and taking pictures with him is something I will always cherish. Good luck Todd! Sending you ice cube thoughts and lightweight blister-free feet prayers!

Next up...Anthony Portera. I've been in contact with Tony ever since I met him while I was attempting my first 100-mile run last year at Iroquois Trails 100. Tony was crewing for Bryon Powell but when I forgot some salt tabs at my drop bag Tony was nice enough to share. Since then we've emailed back and forth discussing everything from training tips to dreams about this very race! I was excited to find out that Tony got in and from reading about his sauna training and Bear Mountain hill workouts we think he's definitely got a strong race in him. Go Tony! GO!

Elizabeth Carrion is another person I briefly met at Green Lakes last year where she tore up the 100k. Elizabeth and her significant other Joe Azze are phenomenal athletes and make a great team through these endurance events. Elizabeth and Joe created Mountain Peak Fitness and you can learn more by clicking HERE. Elizabeth is definitely one tough woman who is accustomed to the heat already and watch out for a strong performance from her this year! Best wishes Elizabeth!!! and Joe!!!

Steve Hanes and Alisa Springman shared the same trails with me last year at Iroquois Trails 100 and although I don't know them very well I will be tracking them and sending out positive vibrations. Good luck you two!

The rest of the list of people that I will be tracking over the next couple of days consist of:

Jamie Donaldson- a teacher that I used to live close to in Colorado; former Badwater winner
Charlie Engle- a recovering addict/alcoholic that I admire greatly
Dean Karnazes- Dean doesn't need any intro. Reading his book a few years ago inspired me into ultras.
Jorge Pachecho- One of the top ultra runners and last years winner
Pam Reed- also a former overall winner and haven't read her book yet but hear it's awesome
Marshall Ulrich- a legend on the Badwater course and first ever to complete the unassisted trek

Although I will be keeping tabs on all the amazing people out in the valley right now above are just a few of the favorites.

As for me and my running...well...I got in a couple solid short runs Saturday (5 miles) and Sunday (7 miles) pain free and am looking forward to another beautiful 6 miles today at Buttermilk Falls.

Last week consisted of recovering, resting, a 90-minute massage, some Active Release, and strengthening and stretching of the iliotibial band. I'm gonna beat this thing! I was also able to get some camping in on my brother's land and visited the in-laws out in New Haven, CT. We're getting closer to our big move...less than three weeks away!

Not sure what the near future entails as far as the running goes but am thankful to be able to run shorter distances and am going to hopefully build back up while strengthening some of the weaknesses.

Happy Trails!

Quote of the week: "Running helps me stay on an even keel and in an optimistic frame of mind."--Bill Clinton, former president of the United States

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Finger Lakes Fifties

This was my third year participating in The Finger Lakes Fifties held in The Finger Lakes National Forest in Hector, NY. The event offers a 25k, 50k, and 50-mile option on a pretty mild and very scenic course that always has the potential for high temperatures.

This year happened to fall on the fourth of July and I was really excited to be back racing at my first ultra since H.A.T. 50k in March. I decided to sign up for the 50-mile but being that it is a multi-loop course I kept telling myself that I would stop at 50k if I felt any disturbances in my outer knee iliotibial band area.

Well, I left the forest Saturday with a taste in my mouth that I have yet to experience in a race of any length. RESULT: DNF.
As I sit here the morning after I am still finding it hard to swallow.

Race day morning we arrived at the campsite and start/finish area and I was excited to see many friends. Maureen (who was attempting her first 50-mile) and I got our little "pit stop" area all ready to go in the same place I did last year. Everyone knew that with all the rain that we have been getting recently that the course was going to be a mess. Little did we know how exponentially worse it would get when hundreds of feet came through it multiple times.

The first loop Jack Pilla and I decided to run together at a pretty good pace just as we did the previous year. This time was a little different. We didn't have Leigh Schmitt to pace us and Jack was doing the 50k in preparation for Vermont 100 in a couple weeks. Just like last year we came through the 15.69 mile loop in 2:05 give or take and made a quick transition for our second loop. We couldn't believe how much more energy was needed in navigating the extremely mucky conditions.

Shortly into the second loop I let Jack go because I knew he was intending on going for the 50k masters record and I just wanted to run my own race and pace myself smartly. My second loop was a little tough. Around mile 23 I felt a little bit of a hamstring cramp as I climbed over a downed tree. Also, at one point in the second loop I reached back to grab my electrolyte drink out of the holder to find out that it was not there. I quickly turned around to back track and came across a 25k'er that told me it was about 25 yards back. It was tough to be back tracking in a race but I figured if it was that close I might as well grab it especially since the temperatures were now rising.

As I came to the end of the second loop around the 30-mile mark I evaluated how I felt and besides the fact that I craved some "real" food my leg felt good so I decided to go on for a third. As I came through the campsite area Erica handed me my hand held bottle with HEED and some avocado, carrot, cucumber brown rice sushi rolls that I rolled up the night before. Jack (who won the 50k with ease and just missed the master's course record) hooked me up with a couple S-caps. My brother Jamal walked down the trail with me as I stuffed down roll after roll and I explained that I felt fine excluding the fact that I needed calories. He told me that I was in first place by about 20 minutes at that point and urged me to just relax and run well and reminded me to save myself and stop if I feel any complications regarding my leg.

About fifteen minutes after I choked down the food I started feeling much better. It was amazing how much better I felt. I went to turn on my IPOD that I had been looking forward to listening to but apparently I must have accidentally hit the power button earlier in the race because the battery was dead...dohhh!!!

No big deal...I packed it away in my Race Ready shorts and continued running and was excited to be feeling so well after 33 miles. The long downhill to the "Morgue" aid station was run at a sub 8-minute pace and when I arrived was happy to see John and Ian and briefly chatted with them as I grabbed a few pretzels for the road. Ian commented how muddy my legs were basically being totally caked from the knee down on both legs. It was kind of cool but I have never run in those types of conditions before and I think that it was a contributing factor to what was about to happen.

At around mile 37 I started feeling a little something in that general area down below the knee. Maybe it was denial but I thought that it wasn't in the usual area so I massaged it, stretched a little and it went away. I felt like maybe it was just a little crampy discomfort and now that it was gone I continued to motor on through the extremely squishy, quicksand-like mud. I figured out mathematically that I could finish under eight hours and for these conditions I thought that was still a respectable time. Last year I was close to finishing under seven hours (7:02) and I realized how much this mud really slowed us down. Not only did it slow us down but it caused us runners to twist and turn and use all sorts of different muscles that we're not used to recruiting for running.

As I entered the horse camp area I started feeling a little pain and this time I was sure that it was in my IT Band area. It wasn't an overwhelming pain so I slowly trotted on to the next aid station through the open horse trails. As I came up behind some horse back riders the painful friction started to be more intense and even a slow run was becoming more and more difficult.

I came to the "Outback" aid station where Dave Jones and Evan Kurtz encouraged me. I asked if they had any Ibruprofen and let them know that I may be dropping at this point...right around the 40-mile mark. I took some Advil, sat down and stretched for a couple of minutes, and then second place runner Derrick Spafford came in to the aid station and took the lead. I got up a couple minutes later and told Dave and Evan that I would try going on but may be back for a ride if I need to drop out. I was thinking that maybe I could alter my stride and finish off the last ten miles with a straight legged hobble mixed with walking. As I got up into the pasture walking alone became so painful that I immediately let out some cuss words and turned back to the aid station. Total bummer :(

Many people told me that I made the right decision this weekend but I can't really take the credit. I didn't really have the choice. My choice would have been to finish what I started. In hindsight if I continued to walk the rest of the way I probably could have finished painfully. Ten miles probably would have taken at least three hours and honestly it was just not that important to me and to risk permanently messing up my leg. Man, it's still a tough pill to swallow though!

I tried really hard to keep a positive attitude about the whole situation and am still trying to not beat myself up too much. Thanks for all the encouragement from friends and family. Congratulations to Maureen for finishing and winning her first 50-miler! Karen Grover for completing the 50k! Jack Pilla for winning the 50k, Derrick Spafford for running and winning a very solid 50-miler, and all the rest that toughed it out through the trail conditions whether it was one, two, or three loops!

Great to see everyone! I'm still washing mud from my body! Thanks again to Chris and Joe Reynolds for everything from the race's blog site, great course marking's and mowings to food, shirts, and just overall enthusiasm. The volunteers were awesome usual. This is a great race and I hope to plan a visit in the future around this event. You guys rock!

Time to rest up and start the arduous rehabilitation process again and hopefully re-surface again in the near future for some more adventures in trail running. It's all part of the gig I guess. I am human and when we're involved in extreme sports like this injuries are bound to happen.

Back to the drawing board.

Recover well everyone and enjoy the summer!