Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Astounding Strategy for 24 Hours

My mindset in other 24 hour races has been, "This is going to be rough," and my strategy has been, "Just hang on for 24 hours and do what you can. If that's 70, so be it. If it's 100, great." I have an astounding new strategy this time- RUN A LOT OF MILES! Revolutionary, I know. I have GOT to minimize the breaks... and not even so much the four or five :20 rest breaks, but the little, "Hmm, what do I need?" breaks I tend to take at the end of each lap or two. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I honestly think I run fairly quickly in these events but waste so much time not running, it costs me. I'm going to get out and run at a decent clip for the first 30-40 miles and then go from there. Too often I look at my watch and say, "5 hour marathon? How did that happen? I thought I was running 9:00 miles." I think the truth is I AM running 9:00 miles, but also taking time to go to the bathroom, fix my clothes, decide what to eat, talk to people at aid stations, etc. I need to keep moving!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Freedom Park 24 Hour This Week! Now Hear This!

Freedom Park 24 Hour Run is this Friday-Saturday and I'm really looking forward to it. I didn't enjoy myself last year... absolutely no fault of the race director and volunteers. David, Rhonda & the Brown Mountain Running Club do an amazing job with this race but last year, I dunno... I came in undertrained and not used to asphalt. It drizzled & was about 35 degrees all day and night. Most people seemed to be in a bubble to me, but I read a lot of positive reports on it afterwards, so maybe it was just me that was in a bad mood! :) I left after 17 hours & 70 miles of sore legs last year.

Anyway, I'm excited about it and ready for it this year. I ran several long runs on roads lately to prepare for the 1 mile asphalt loop. Yeah, I said 1 mile asphalt loop! I've lost some weight. I've been doing hard workouts faster than I ever have as an adult. My long runs have been problem-free. It's time to set a goal. Haven't done that in a long time. 100 miles. Plenty of people run 100 miles in 24 hours. It was my goal at Rocky Raccoon 2009, but things happen. I've run 100 miles and four 24 hour races and still haven't quite got in 100 miles in 24 hours. It's not a particularly lofty goal but instead of saying, "We'll see," like I normally do, I will consider anything under 100 miles disappointing this time around. There, I said it.

I anticipate great weather, feeling good and getting in a lot of miles. Why does that seem weird. I usually expect the worst, and for the last few months, I've been visualizing brutally cold temps. 2 years ago, I understand it was something like 15 degrees with 40 mph winds! Last year was cold and wet the whole time. I usually do look forward to adversity (why?), but great weather is OK too, isn't it?? Forecast has changed a little the past couple of days but now says high of 52 and low of 36. Short sleeves & shorts! Totally not expected, but it should be good. I ran 92.26 miles in 24 hours in September when it was 95 degrees. I feel better equiped now and conditions will be much better.

Can't wait!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


My running has been good lately. Doing faster interval sessions with the kids, strong tempos, long runs easier than ever... Let's hope that continues!

I came up with my 2011 race schedule and there's a lot more on it than usual. 13 races totally over 500 miles. I think it'll provide the motivation and fun that's sometimes missing.

I found out yesterday Brooks will keep me on in 2011 as part of their P.A.C.E. program (Performance And Coaching Elite). They were restructuring the program and cutting the number of sponsored athletes, so I figured I'd be kicked out, but I was happy to get the contract yesterday. In anticipation of being cut, I bought a whole stockpile of shoes at discount last month. Oh well. :) Happy to be using Brooks products and even happier to get them for free or at a discount.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I've been having weird foot problems lately.

A) Severe pain that seems like plantar fasciitis some days and moves to the top of my foot other days. It's had a habit of coming & going. Not present at all in last week's 40 mile run or really for the last 2-3 weeks.

B) Strange nerve damage thing (so says my school athletic trainer) that feels like my part of my foot's in hot water. Comes & goes but some days it lasts most of the day.

C) Painful, but mysterious stone bruise thing on my right foot. Just started last week. I was fine on run Monday. Finished up and waited around for kids to finish. Stood around for 15 minutes. When I started to leave, I could barely walk. All night & next day was like that- extreme pain in ball of my foot. Hurt like crazy until about 2 PM the next day. Since it hadn't hurt in an hour, I thought I'd run on it at practice and did a hard workout. Didn't feel a thing. That night & next day, it killed. Off & on since then, but has never hurt while running.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

40 Miles on Blue Ridge Parkway with Ice

HEAVY sleet & snow for about 2 hours of this 40 mile run on the BRP near Asheville. Trying to run long on asphalt to get ready for Freedom Park 24 Hour Run on New Year's. Despite the weather (drizzle after the sleet), I felt just fine. No problems whatsoever. Honestly, except for the eyes burning b/c of cold & a hint of pain in my hamstring, I can't tell I ran at all. Nice feeling but remarkable on asphalt! Hooray!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

40 Miles at Moses Cone

Ran 40 miles at Moses Cone Park near Blowing Rock, NC. I've never run there before. Thought it would be a good faster paced run on smooth paths. It was smooth but it was pretty mountainous. There's one 4 mile climb up to Rich Mountain I did twice, one 2.5 mile climb up to the Lookout Tower I also did twice, and various others. Took me 6:39, which is just under 10:00 miles. I'm very pleased with that, especially in the hills. Foot hurt but other than that had minimal problems. Encouraging.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Blue Ridge Parkway Run Pictures

Started in the dark & ran from Price Lake to Rough Ridge & back. My foot (plantar fasciitis) has been bothering me. Considered asking someone for a ride on the way back. Beautiful run though, and enjoyed the faster pace of running on the road. Funny to think of running on the Parkway as being easier and faster than what I normally run in the mountains.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Great Day at Hinson Lake. 92 Miles.

I think the progression in these pictures says it all. Pre-race, 15 miles, 30 miles. 62 miles, 75 miles, 90 miles.

I've run 5 races over 100K (62 miles)- all in the past 18 months.

* Feb 2009- Rocky Raccoon 100 Miler- Unseasonably warm. Had bad heat issues that forced me to walk the last 20 miles, but I finished (though outside of my 24 hour goal).

* Sept 2009- Hinson Lake 24 Hour- Unseasonably hot. I didn't have many heat issues, but many did. Made it 90 miles and felt pretty good. Loved the race set up.

* New Years 2009/2010- Freedom Park 24 Hour- 35 degrees and drizzly all day. Got bored and joints hurt from asphalt. Went home after 70 miles. Felt OK about that decision.

* June 2010- Black Mountain Monster 24 Hour- Unseasonably hot. Blew up due to heat & being out of shape. Still struggled through 66 miles. Rough.

* Sept 2010- Hinson Lake again- 95 degrees- Record high! I still haven't run 100 miles in 24 hours. It'll have to wait for better conditions, but I did have a great time out there!
Hinson Lake & Mount Mitchell were the 2 races I looked forward to most this year. I really enjoyed Hinson Lake last year. Race organization is fantastic, the course is condusive for running major miles, and it's pretty close to home.

THE COURSE: The course at Hinson Lake is a 1.52 mile loop around a lake. When I read about this a few years ago, I thought to myself, "How ridiculous is that?! Somebody stop me if I ever sign up for that thing." I cannot stress how PERFECT the course is for me though. Both years, I stuck to a plan and absolutely followed it completely until around 75 miles & then all bets are off. You go out about .85 mile on a finely crushed rock (dusty, deeper and loose this year, but no complaints) path that's about 6' wide. Then you hit the only hill on the course. The first time this year, I kept waiting for it to get steeper but it never did. I commented to someone, "This is the hill? It was so much bigger last year. I'm sure it'll grow later on." So after the first 3 loops, I walked this hill. I had a tree picked out- one with a little knot thing near the bottom- if you were there, you know the one I'm talking about. I walked from there to the top of the incline each lap and that's all I walked for the first 75 miles, except for the aid station on occasion. Broken up like that makes it so perfect in my head... "Run .85 mile, then a walk break. Then run .6 mile, then an aid station break." Makes it so much easier to keep going. If the aid had been 5+ miles between stations like most ultras, there's no way I'd get through it on a tough weekend like this one. So much easier carrying nothing with you.

THE HEAT: I'd seen the forecast early in the week. High of 94. But these things change all the time, right? Not this time. Predicted 94 high and it actually got up to 95, tying a record for this date. Knowing my history in the heat, I was very worried. In the back of my mind, I sort of figured there were really only 2 results possible: A) Dropping out early after several hours of misery; B) Running a couple of hours, taking a couple of hours of break, and repeating for 24 hours. There was a 3rd option I hadn't considered- actually doing well!

THE RACE: I started off comfortably. I was running about 8:00-8:30 pace early on + short aid station breaks, so 9:00 miles, and I don't think I fell off that for 20 miles or so... it's hard to remember. The time spent at aid stations got a little longer after 10 miles or so, but I was moving nicely. Felt great!

At 30 miles, I wasn't sweating like I should and my stomach was sloshing with water, so I decided to take a 20-30 minute hydration break. I didn't want to, oddly enough (I usually welcome breaks.). Felt great still & wanted to keep going but knew I needed to cool down & drink. Got in the back of my car & did just that. Piled ice on my chest and neck. Ran most of the daylight hours with ice in my hat.

Going into this race, I felt more like a real runner than I have in recent years. That may sound strange. I usually feel like a guy who can stay out on a rugged trail for a really long time, but not like a runner. I've felt a little faster lately and have had good intervals and tempo runs with the team lately. Even though it's a 24 hour race, during the first half I felt like I was moving along nicely with quicker turnover and better form than usual. Good feeling.

At 45 miles, I had developed a really bad chafing problem all over. Anywhere skin touched clothing or skin touched skin, I was having problems. I think the salt sweated out was a big factor. My skin was on fire the whole race. You can see from the pictures, I'm bright red. Looks like sunburn, but wasn't. Just from the heat/dehydration. So at 45 miles, I decided to pull an unorthodox move and left the race for an emergency Wal-Mart trip to try to get the chafing under control. Saved my race but cost me 45 minutes at the store!

I felt pretty decent for another 10 miles and at about 55 I started a roller coaster pattern. Great for 6-8 miles, then crash. Repeat, repeat, repeat. The later into the race, the shorter the spikes. 8:00 miles one lap, followed by one where I hallucinate, can barely walk in a straight line, feel like I might pass out, etc., and then feel fantastic again. Strange. I was coherent enough to know there was a problem and to know that it would pass. Had I not had the positive spikes, I would've dropped out.

This is the 2nd consecutive race I've hallucinated a little (sea creatures were passing through my body last time) and before that, I thought people were exaggerating. Just before daylight after 21 hours of staring at the ground, I noticed, "Wow! The ground is so shiny from my headlamp. There must be millions of flecks of mica on this trail. It's so beautiful. It looks like stars--- wait no, it IS stars--- no, the mica on the trail is a reflection of the beautiful stars in the sky. But where's the moon? I can't see the moon on the trail." Soon after that, I was feeling great, and ran past Ray K. I slowed a little and talked to him for a couple of minutes. "Ahh! Did you see that?! A rat! Something just ran between us." His response, "Dude, there are no rats. You're hallucinating. The shadows this time of night play funny tricks on you." I saw, and hurdled two more just after leaving him, but I think he was right. I never listen to music when I run, but started to at night during these long races. I've also never been a big Metallica fan, but like to run listening to sort of fast, but not super fast metal & punk. I spent probably 30 minutes pondering, "I never realized it, but Metallica's 'Creeping Death,' was written for this exact moment. How did they know it was going to happen? How did they know I was feeling like death was creeping up on me? Did they know that I ran away from it & feel great now? That's so crazy b/c I don't even know those guys. Those dudes in Metallica must be really smart." Yeah, I lost it a bit. :)
75-85 miles was, by far, the worst of the race. I had a couple of positive spikes in there, but it was rough. That was the first time I strayed away from my "only walk on the hill strategy." I collapsed on a bench about every other time I got to the aid station and stayed there for 10 minutes each time. During the whole race, I probably took: one 40 minute Wal-Mart break, one 30 minute break to cool down & hydrate, two 20 minute breaks for the same reason, and three 10 minutes bench breaks. That's 2:20 of breaks + the time spent picking out food, drink & supplements at the aid station, which may have been about an hour total. My pre-race plan was to reduce these breaks, but on a hot day like this, I don't fault myself for all the lost time. I needed it.
Sun came up around mile 85 and I was more lucid. Had a smile on my face. I did a lot of walking because I knew I'd beat my 90 miles from last year but could not get 100. Didn't see much use in killing myself for 95 when I could enjoy a few more laps around the lake for 92. I saw these sort of as victory laps. Walked the entire last 2 miles I think. I talked to more people during this time than the whole rest of the race combined. Lot of "How'd it go" stories. Many people ran during the daylight hours of Saturday, slept at night and got in a couple of laps Sunday morning, so there were a lot more people out than there were at night.

THE ORGANIZATION: Tom Gabell and his crew do such a good job and are so unbelievably friendly!! I couldn't appreciate it more. When I was losing it, I felt like the bearded guy who counted my laps all day & all night was my best friend. After collapsing on the bench around 85 miles, I heard Tom say, "Anyone who completed one lap is a finisher." I yelled out, "Tom, did I just hear you say I was finished? I completed a lap." I my delirium, I thought it was the funniest joke ever. I recall trading jokes with the volunteers late into the race last year. Running for 24 hours is hard, but there is personal reward. Tallying laps or filling Gatorade cups for 24 hours is maybe even more commendable. What's the payoff? Entry was $24. Tom and these folks aren't getting rich. My ice filled hat goes off to these people for making the event possible. Most of them didn't take shifts- they were out there the entire time.

Ray K said this was the biggest 24 hour race ever held in the US with about 250 people registered. I certainly would never argue with his assessment of the ultra world past or present. Results haven't been posted but I think I was about 12th for men & probably 3-4 women beat me. I made the leader board of top 10 for a brief spell around 80 miles. I finished 7th last year with 90.0 miles and went 92.xx this year. I almost stopped at 91.25 but I don't like odd numbers, so... seriously, that's why I went out on another lap. Horn sounded the end of the 24 hours and you have to drop a banana with your name on it where you stopped. Mike Morton, the eventual winner flew past me dozens of times during the day. He finished 100 miles in less than 13:30!!! I walked some of my last full lap with him and I was the one who wanted to keep running. He said he really struggled after 100 but still managed to get in 152 miles!! Unbelievable especially in the heat!

REFLECTION: Had fun, met some people- some who have seen this blog and 3 who watched the 2009 Hinson Lake video I put on youtube, overcame some obstacles, and just generally had a great experience out there.
If I can run 92 miles when it's 95 degrees, I know I can crack 100 in 24 hours under good conditions. I'll have to wait for that day to come. As much as I didn't have a good experience (no fault of race director!) at Freedom Park because of the paved loop and yucky weather, I'm planning on going back. We'll see how that goes. Also can't wait for Hinson Lake 2011!!

92.8 Miles. Hot!

I made it 92.8 miles at the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Run. Official distance will be about 92.2 because I didn't finish the last lap in 24 hours. It got up to 95 degrees. I felt great for about 45 miles and then after that, it was very up & down. For the next 20 miles it was up for 6-8 miles, then a crash. Towards the end it would switch every 30 minutes. Never experienced such shifts. At 85 miles, I'm thinking, "I haven't felt this strong all day! I can run 8:00 miles from here on out!" ...and I WAS! Then 3 miles later, I'm walking for 20 minutes straight. After that, running strong again. Strange.

No big problems at all except chafing all over (I blame the sweat and salt.). Given the conditions, I had a VERY GOOD race. 100 miles would've been nice, but I was mainly out to beat my 90.0 miles from last year.

I think I finished around 12th out of around 250. Ray K said this was the biggest 24 hour race ever in the US. I'll trust his word.

More details later.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hinson Lake Heat- Then Again

...ugh... I REALLY hate the heat, but these past few weeks have been really hot, yet haven't seemed so bad to me. Granted, I've been running shorter runs, but being out there in the 90s this week hasn't been so bad. Maybe a summer to acclimate, losing some weight, and just being in better shape will work to my benefit.

I've never even thought of taking long breaks. I love a 20 minute break here in there in a 24 hour race, but when I see people get into a tent for extended periods of time, it's never seemed very appealing to me. I'll play it by ear, but it may be necessary to get off my feet, get out of the heat and rehydrate during the middle of the day. I've always been worried that I wouldn't want to start back up after a long break, but if I had the problems I did at the Black Mountain Monster, I may not have much choice but to stop and catch up with hydration. At that race, for about an hour, the only 2 things I thought of were: A) I'm going to end up in a hospital. An IV would be great right about now; B) I wonder if there's a freezing cold movie theater around here.

I'm going to have to be open to adaptation and the idea that taking it easy- or even a long break in the early afternoon might be the only way that I'm able to continue when it gets cooler at night.

We'll see. Bedtime.

Hinson Lake 24 Hour Run This Weekend- 94 Degrees

I've been eagerly awaiting the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Run since last year. I had a good race last time and really enjoyed myself. I haven't raced much in the past year and Mt. Mitchell and Hinson Lake were the two I was really looking forward to.

Ran a 24 hour run in early June but dropped at 66 miles because of heat problems. Had the gall bladder taken out the next week. All has gone well since then. Training has been better. Lost about 15 pounds (greatly needed but still room to lose for sure), and have generally been confident and feeling like, you know, sort of a decent runner. Couldn't wait until Hinson Lake.

Forecast for Saturday is 94 degrees. EEEk! Worried. I wrote that it was 81 degrees last year and people had big problems in the heat. I was OK, which was a little shocking, but I do remember it being hot. 94 is a different story. I've looked forward to this race for so long but I've vowed to be smart. I dealt with some potentially dangerous dehydration at Black Mountain Monster 24 Hour in June. Problems started early and I altered my plan a bit but kept going 14 more hours or so after the problems arose.

All summer, I had major leg cramping almost everyday when I came home from practice... I guess not really while I was running, so that's a good thing at least.

Plan this time is to minimize the problems altogether by being smart from about noon-5 PM. After dropping early in the past two 24 hour races (but feeling OK about both decisions & getting in 66 & 70 miles), I was 100% sure there was no way I'd stop early in this one. Thought to myself this past month, "I may not hit 100 miles, but I'm not going home early. No way." With the heat, I may change my tune. I've got electrolytes, salty Chex Mix, even pickles packed. If I follow my hydration plan, I'll drink over 5 gallons. Seems like a lot. I'll pack the hat with ice. I toyed with the idea of a homemade ice vest but will be stuffing ice in a compression shirt instead. A guy I know suggested sports bra and said he's worn one before and stuffed bags of ice inside. I just couldn't bring myself to buy a sports bra. Sheesh.

We'll see how it all works out. Excited but I've got to say, I'm a little scared of the heat.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

10K? Good Time.

I think I've only run one race shorter than a marathon since 2004. Decided to do something a little different and ran the XTERRA North Carolina Trail 10K today.

It was held at Beatty Park, where we've been running 3 days a week all summer. Feels like I have every step memorized going clockwise. The race went counterclockwise but I still felt like I had a rhythm from knowing the course so well. Beatty Park is very rooty. My leg and elbow are healing from a fall there last week. It was almost funny running a 10K. I missed the first mile marker and looked at my watch at the 2 mile marker at 15:20. "How could that be? 7:40 miles on a trail? I'm already 1/3 done?" I almost laughed. In reality, I didn't run much faster than I do when I try to keep up with my top girls on hard days. I was a little conservative, not knowing exactly how to run this distance. Strategy was: decent pace for first 2 miles, barely slower middle 2, all out the last 2. I stuck to that. Felt very good. I don't know how to explain it, but my stride felt powerful and longer than usual. Easily flowed over the roots and rocks. The race was pretty uneventful and was over before I knew it. One person passed me early and I passed five the rest of the way. I passed one guy 1/2 mile from the finish. He seemed to be struggling a little, but not that bad. He finished 10 minutes later and they had to call an ambulance & fire truck for him.

I finished in 49:11. 16th overall out of 60? 80? I may have been able to run about 1:00-1:30 faster and risked puking and blowing up. Instead, I went hard but within my limits, finished strong and felt good. I'm happy with it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Best Week of Summer

Best running week of the summer so far. June was rough coming off a 24 hour race and then gall bladder removal. July was better but H-O-T. This week was my highest mileage of the summer- 82 miles. This week, I got in a 12 miler, a 16 miler, and a 26 miler, along with a hard set of 800s that made me puke and three 6-8 milers.

Ran the 26 miler this morning at the beach- Harbor & Hunting Islands. Left at 5 AM before the sun came up. Lot of lightning for the first 20 minutes. Nearly 100% humidity and around 80 degrees. Soggy for 4 hours. Yuck. Ran almost all on the roads through the marshes. Actually, my legs felt better today than any day this week and I felt perfect afterwards.

Good week!

ps- Fast (for me) tempo run the day after the 26 miler... 13:34 for 2 miles in the middle of a 6 mile run. Felt great!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Great Time! Great Views!

We were headed up to the mountains this weekend. Around Wednesday, I decided to run a marathon on the Greenway in Boone they've been having every couple of weeks. The more I thought about it, the less appealling the 90 degree forecast, asphalt, 7 out & backs, and running by the sewage treatment plant 14 times seemed. I'd been having problems with dehydration and cramping all week. Instead, I decided to go into the woods by myself and start early in the morning. As is my habit, at 10 PM on Friday, I was still figuring out where I wanted to run.

I chose to park at Devil's Garden Overlook at milepost 236 on the Blue Ridge Parkway and run down the Mountains to Sea Trail into Stone Mountain State Park and then run up the mountain and elsewhere in the park if I had time. It was 64 degrees and breezy when I got out of the car. 88 when I finished. I ran over 5 hours and had a great time. I took a hydration pack and a two bottle belt and filled up the pack at the park. Drank 160 ounces and was still dehydrated. That's what happens when you sweat upwards of 3L/hour. Yuck.

Went from 3500' up to 3700', down to 1500' and back up to 2500' on Stone Mountain and then, back down and then back up from 1500' to 3700'. That was a steep climb! Walked quite a bit those last few miles. For the first time ever, I considered just parking it on a rock and resting for a little bit. It was slow going, but I made forward progress. Going down on the way into the park hurt my feet. I didn't realize at the time, my feet busted out of my sock in two places. I've worn those socks probably 30 times and never had any problems. Where one of the holes was, I developed a blood blister, but I barely noticed it when I ran. I felt good though, and the next day, my legs feel better than they have all week.

Went tubing with Wren & Jennifer afterwards. Good day.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

OK, I Cried a Little. Great Run!

I am not ashamed to say I cried a few happy tears during today's run.

We're at Virginia Tech running camp this week. Brought 14 kids. Today's run was a difficult 6.5 mile run all uphill to Mountain Lake. Pretty steep. Some of my kids were worried about doing the whole 6.5 and considered taking the 2 or 4 mile option, but all but 2 rising 9th graders did the longest option.

I thought I ran well. Never stopped to walk. I ran the first 4 with 2 of my girls with 2 guys within yelling distance. Then Jessica & Mallary took off while I maintained my pace. The guys left too. Chelsea was up with the other guys- who knows how far ahead.

A mile from the top, Jess, Malz & Patrick were within sight and I got a little emotional... I felt great and was just so happy to be running. More than that, I was so happy 3 of my girls were beating me! ...and on a good day for me! Made me feel like I'm doing something right in coaching and made me think about how much these kids mean to me. I think our first guy was about :56- he wasn't sure. Our first girl was 1:03. 1:13 for me. The run was comfortably hard. Perfect really. Not hard enough to HAVE to walk but hard enough to WANT to after 2 minutes!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Doughton Park- Longish Run

I pride myself in knowing an awful lot about North Carolina's geography. I'm very interested in where people are from (and what high school they went to). I look at maps a lot. I go places... but I'm sad and a little embarrased to say I'd never heard of Doughton Park before today. I googled around looking for places in the mountains I'd never been to to run today and stumbled across Doughton Park. 30 miles of trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Stone Mountain State Park- sort of in between Jefferson and Sparta. I'm still not clear about who runs the place. I think it's part of the Blue Ridge Parkway system.

I wanted to run 2-3 hours, but got a little bit of a late start and had Wren and Jennifer with me. I told them I'd be back in 2 hours. Started at Basin Cove Overlook at Milepost 244.7 on the Parkway, where there's a great view, including Stone Mountain. Wonderful 72 degrees when I started. Ran on some nice singletrack as well as an enjoyable fire road. I thought I'd read that it was all rolling. What I ran was not rolling. It was pretty darn hilly. Started at 3300' elevation, went up and down a bit, got down to 1400' and then went back up to 3300'.

I got a little lost and realized I'd be late. Then about 2:15 into it, I went from tired but fine to Bonk City. Felt like someone turned the power switch off and it happened instantaneously. Been years since that's happened. I figured I was only running 2 hours- didn't need to bring anything besides water. Wrong. Didn't know exactly where I was, but thought I was close to where we parked. Heard cars and just trotted across a pasture and onto the Parkway. Luckily, picked the right direction and ran a mile along the Parkway to the car. Finished in 2:50. Jennifer wasn't too freaked out I was almost an hour late. Wren had been discussing whether they would have to spend 1 or 2 nights in the parking lot waiting for me. She knew they had water, granola bars and they saw blackberries on the trail. Ha!

Didn't go perfectly, had to walk a lot post-bonk as I was going uphill, but I'm just happy to be out there running a fairly long run in the woods.

Friday, July 2, 2010

No Excuses Now

Poor training all spring. 66 miles at Black Mountain Monster in early June. Lazy week after that. Emergency gall bladder removal the next week. Now, three weeks from surgery, I'm back in it. Didn't know if I was going to be able to run at all last Monday, but managed 5 miles with some pain. 7 miles the next day with less pain. I managed to run a "tempo" run with the team this Monday. I use quotation marks because it was a lot harder than tempo pace for my present ability. But I felt good and was happy to get through it. Told the girls I was running with Tuesday, "Don't let me use the gall bladder as an excuse from now on. I'm OK." It does hurt a little still, but not bad when I run. Went to the mountains today after our run. Enjoying a 72 degree high and 52 degree low today after 3 weeks in the 90s in Charlotte. Going for a 2-3 hour run somewhere fun tomorrow. Back on the right track and happy about it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bye Bye Gall Bladder

I felt fine Friday. I ate a large dinner, but it wasn't that big. Felt full. By 9:30 PM Friday, I felt bad. Threw up at midnight. At 1:30, woke Jennifer up and told her I had to go to the ER for my stomach. Passed out in the waiting room from the pain. Worst internal pain I've ever felt. In & out of consciousness for a couple of hours. Took 4 hours for me to be seen by a doctor.

Ended up having an inch wide gall stone. They took the whole gall bladder out Saturday afternoon. I wonder how much of my "stomach problems" over the years have been more about this gall bladder. I've thrown up in more races in the past 10 years than I haven't. We'll see.

Recovery's going well, but I can't run for a week and didn't run much last week after the Black Mountain Monster, so that'll be 2 weeks off basically. Really itching to run.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Black Mountain Monster 24HRS- Extended Version


My running has been horrible lately. I have gained a good (bad) deal of weight. I've had to cross off one race on my calendar after another for various reasons. Been busy with teaching, coaching & watching Wren turn into a pretty exciting (biased, I'm sure) 6 year-old soccer player. My girls track team was 2nd in the state indoor and outdoor meets this year & 4th in XC, by the way. Guys have made incredible strides too. Things on the personal running front have been on the decline, but I'm ready for a good summer. I've never had a bad summer of running except due to injury. I plan on 300 mile months, losing the weight, being able to keep up with the top girls on my team again in intervals by XC season, and really getting in shape for Hinson Lake 24 Hour Race in September. Black Mountain Monster was a step in the right direction, but was a big challenge for me.

When I say things have been bad... In the past 4 months, I don't think I've run 6 days a week once besides the trip we took to the Pacific Northwest. 4 days per week has been the usual. I ran 70 miles at the New Year's 24 Race in Morganton, then Mt. Mitchell Challenge in February, and 4 hours a couple of weeks ago. Those have been the only long runs I've done, but I have gotten in several 2 hour runs if those count as long. Admitting my shortcomings is the first step to recovery, right? I'm ready to turn things around. I used to pride myself in doing 2-3 long solo training runs a month.

Black Mountain Monster has been on my calendar for months and as it approached, a feeling of dread filled me. A month ago, I figured out how I could squeeze some 2-4 hour runs into my schedule and survive the race. Half the battle in long races is having the confidence and experience that you can do it and have done it before. I'd be OK, wouldn't I? Maybe. Yeah... Nah... I think so.


Chafing is sometimes an issue with me and when it's an issue, it's severe. To prevent the chafe, I always wear a 9 year-old pair of Titan tri shorts under my regular shorts during long races now. I couldn't find the shorts easily when I was packing Friday afternoon, and just decided to spend the night at home. I was frustrated. I found them shortly after that but still stayed home. Drove the 2 hours the next morning for the 10 AM race start. The race was at the Manor House at Montreat College. I planned on cutting it fairly close and getting there at 9:20. I know the Montreat area and this place sounded like something that would be centrally located. I didn't bother looking at directions. Dumb. After a call to my mom to look at the website, I found my way to another property owned by the College. I showed up right at start time, not ready and the race director, Richard asked if I wanted them to hold up. I told him I had 24 hours to catch up and that was just 5-10 minutes I wouldn't have to run! I started 7 minutes after everyone else and caught up to some people about a mile into it.

To my knowledge, there have been 4 incarnations of this race in 4 years: 1) Run for Africa at Camp Rockmont in 2007; 2) Blue Planet 24 at Camp Rockmont in 2008; 3) Black Mountain Monster at Montreat last year, and; 4) Black Mountain Monster: The Race for Awesomeness at Montreat this year. I ran 25 miles with a relay team in 2007, 55 miles with a relay team in 2008 and didn't run last year. This year's course was different from last year's apparently. It was a good mix of rolling terrain with dirt roads, wide woodchip and dirt trails, 1/2 mile of paved greenway, and a little narrow, twisty singletrack. I liked it all, and really appreciated the variety. Wore Brooks Cascadias as usual, but you could've easily worn road shoes. A few roots but not rocks. There were mountains surrounding the course from all sides, but the town of Black Mountain is down in a valley so it wasn't particularly hilly. The course was a 3 mile loop with a common tent/aid area each loop and a self-service aid station on the other side of the loop. There was far less food than any ultra I've ever run, but I brought all of my own stuff, so it was no problem. Race volunteers were friendly. I'm supposed to be getting a technical shirt in the mail and the entry fee was modest, so no complaints about any aspect of the race.

The high Saturday was 86 and it was humid. As stated many times on here before, I fall apart in the heat. When I saw the forecast, I actually thought about showing up at 10 PM and just doing the last 12 hours as some people did. Within the first hour it was already hot. 3 hours into it, I was in trouble. Uh oh. Wasn't sweating enough, legs cramping, heat rash, dizzy... not good. I sincerely thought about quitting at mile 12 and again at 15. I took a break at 18 miles to cool off. My running, the whole race, was actually pretty good- there were just a lot of stops. I ended up taking four 30 minute breaks, spending time in aid stations and walking the hills.

I enjoyed meeting some people but ran by myself the whole time except for a few 2-5 minute sections. Met a woman who just started running in October and was on mile 33! Had never run a marathon before. Sheesh. Met two XC coaches. Talked to Anne Lundblad who was a few weeks out of back surgery, was walking 12 hours and was only a couple of laps behind me 8 hours into it! Passed some people laying in the middle of the trail. Caught someone cutting the course (a shame in a sport as non-competitive as this one, where 99% of people do it for personal fulfillment). A lot of people left early. Around 7 PM, I saw several of the 12 hour folks packing up early. If I had to guess, I'd say there were only about fifteen people doing the 24 hours, about thirty doing the 12 hour option, and about 5 relay teams. It was small.

Miles 30-50 were pretty decent for me. Cramping wasn't as often. Cooled off. But by that time, the damage was done. I'd like to think once the sun went down and it got into the 60s, I could flip a switch and click off the miles quickly. By that time, though, you've been going so long, your feet hurt, food and drink don't sound appealing... you're just ready to be done. Also at about 55 miles I started experiencing more of the dehydration symptoms again. Rather than fight it again, I told myself I'd quit at 100K- 62 (or 63, in this case) miles. Nice milestone number of 100K. As silly as it sounds, the way my day had gone, I picked it up at the end to finish strong. I passed a guy with 800m to go and told him I was done. He knew I coached XC and track and said something that bugged me.

Him: Why are you quitting?
Me: I umm... Man, I'm just done. I told you, I've been cramping up for 50 miles. I'm not sweating. It's been so slow going today, I'm not going to be near any distance that I'd consider to be a goal. I'm just going to take the 100K & call it a day. I've been hurting for a long time.
Him: Would you accept quitting from your team?
Me: I dunno. (But I wanted to say, "Yeah, if they were peeing brown, not sweating, had bad leg cramps, and had run 63 miles, I'd probably let them off the hook!" I didn't. "I dunno," was all I could muster. Bugged me.)

When I got to the tent and told them I was quitting, I asked how many people were still running. Only 5-6 solo 24 hour runners. I think I was somehow in 2nd or 3rd. How?? Dang. Could I keep going all night and end up with the most laps at the end? While I decided, I figured I'd keep moving. I probably only ran half of that 3 mile loop and walked the rest. I did not want to just trudge on through the night walking. I've done that before (Rocky Raccoon). No fun. I called it quits at 66 miles in a staggeringly slow 16:58. I've run 60 miles in 12:35 on some pretty difficult singletrack before.

ANOTHER REASON to drop out... I've always thought people were stretching the truth about hallucinating. Maybe not. For the last 8-10 miles, I could've sworn the ground looked like it had about 4" of water on it and I was actually running on the water- really more like I was running on a clear gel pad with water over it. Very ripple-y. When I rested for the last time after 54, everytime I closed my eyes, I imagined animals coming out of my chest- an anaconda, a whale, a sea turtle, a creepy little goblin-like thing. It was as if they ate me and continued on their path. I knew it wasn't real, and I wasn't asleep, but it was like a dream. Wacky.

SO. 66 Miles. I'll take it especially in those conditions. It's not my ideal performance by any means, but I think it'll be a springboard for better things to come this summer and fall! One thing to consider this summer will be do I try to avoid the heat and do long runs at night or in the mountains, or do I just get used to it in case I have to do it at Hinson Lake or other races? Last year was about the same conditions as Black Mountain but I handled it much better, largely because it was on the tail end of the summer instead of the begining. One thing is certain though... gotta turn things around and train well. I'm ready!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Black Mountain Monster 24 Hour Race

Went home early after 66 miles. Major major heat issues from mile 10 or so. 86 degrees. Legs cramping, no sweat, brown pee, goosebumps, fishbowl stomach, throwing up... It was ugly, but I pushed on for as long as I cared to. Didn't seem like a failure.

More later.

Friday, April 16, 2010

British Columbia Pictures

Pictures from April running trips between Vancouver & Whistler. Stanley Park in Vancouver was a great accessible park in the middle of the city with huge old growth trees. It poured on me at Lynn Canyon, north of Vancouver & was my least favorite run of the trip, but I felt rushed, Wren & Jennifer got lost and the trail was flooded. North to Whistler was absolutely beautiful! We had considered cutting this part of the trip because the weather was supposed to be bad, but it was the best part and the weather was great.

I intentionally didn't plan a running route for the day in Squamish because I knew the weather may dictate where I could and couldn't run. Quite a bit of snow at high elevations. Coming into town, there was a huge rock face- Stawamus Chief. Apparently, it's the world's 2nd largest granite monolith. I asked a woman at our hotel where would be a good, picturesque place to get a challenging 2-3 hour run in. She suggested "The Chief." Run? She must've been joking. The Chief tried to kill me.

I woke up before the sun came up and it had just risen when I looked at the park sign. "Let's see, the 3rd peak is the highest and longest trail. That should be the best one. Then, I can add on with other trails." I knew it would be difficult, but sheesh! Trail up is only 1.8K (just over a mile) but has 800m of vertical climb. Math & science whiz Mr. Jeff Wnek tells me that's 26.4% grade. It was also over some very unfriendly boulders and, after I got about half way up, over 2" of snow. I kept climbing & climbing and knew coming back down, scaling rocks in the snow was going to be impossible. I was also running out of time from when I told Jennifer to expect me. I turned around at what I imagine was about 20 minutes from the top and I heard the view from 3rd peak isn't that great anyway. It took me 20 minutes longer getting down than it did to climb up. I ran almost none of this trail. Impossible. Had a great time though!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More Olympic National Park

Ran an hour on the Hoh Rainforest Trail. It was an easy run, but the trail is 17 miles one way and gets up to Mt. Olympus and glaciers eventually. I didn't get nearly that far. Amazing old growth forest where I was. Green everywhere. Hiked 45 minutes with the family. They turned back and I started running. Worked out well. Hoh gets more rain (140'/year!) than anywhere else in the continental US, but it was sunny for us. Rained later in the day when we went to Rialto Beach. Took our time on a 3 hour walk on the beach. Fun day.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Seattle Area Running!

Flew out to Seattle Friday with Wren & Jennifer. It was a long day that ended at eating at a fantastic Morroccan restuarant. Never had Morroccan food before. Good. In fact, we've had several good meals so far... Ethiopian & Thai too.

After a long day of sightseeing Saturday we decided to go out Discovery Park since we had a little extra time. Very pleasant surprise. Finished the run just before sunset and had a good time. What a great urban park! Big trees, beaches, meadows, hills. Felt like it was miles away from the city. Friday & Saturday were both about 44 and rainy. I'm not sure Jennifer & Wren liked their hike as much as I enjoyed the run. I only ran for 45 minutes, but they were in the car when I got back, staying dry. Today was warmer at first but we got some heavy rain in the evening.

Took a ferry over to Bainbridge Island & then over to Olympic National Park. The road to Hurricane Ridge was closed because of snow but we drove up to the Lake Mills area, up to a ridge at 4,000', looking down at the lake which was 400'. Beautiful. I had wanted to run from there to Lake Crescent but couldn't because of the snow. I ran 2 hours around Lake Crescent to Marymere Falls and up to Mt. Storm King. Native American legend states that the Storm King got angry at warring tribes and tossed a huge boulder to seperate Lake Crescent and Lake Sutherland. The Storm King must not like people running on him either. Man, that was tough! Over 2,100' of elevation gain in the 1.9 miles to the top. I stopped often to take pictures. Couldn't make it quite to the top. I turned around when I got to 2" of slushy snow. I don't know how much worse it got, but it was so steep when I turned around that I literally had to get on my hands and knees for a 30'. I didn't notice it being particularly treacherous going up, but if I had slipped, I could've dropped well over 50'. Figured all fours was the best bet. Never had to crawl through snow before! The water in the lakes and rivers in the area are amazingly clear and bright green-blue. Standing on the dock at Lake Crescent, you can easily see the bottom, maybe 20' deep. Saw Pacific Loons & 4 female Roosevelt Elk today (2 young ones in one location and 2 adult females in another). The Storm King Trail goes through an old-growth forest of Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir. Trees maybe 8' in diameter and 500+ years old. Driving through the area, we also saw a lot of unsightly clearcuts.

We've had a wonderful time so far. Hoh Rainforest run in the morning, Beach at La Push tomorrow afternoon. British Columbia the following day for the rest of the week.