Wednesday, March 23, 2011

THE BEGINNING

Nothing makes you feel more alive than something that makes you want to die.

Actual Date: March 23, 2011

This is where it all starts.

I shouldn't be a runner.  Maybe a sprinter or weight-lifter, sure.  But a runner, not so much. I'm short and stocky and have a ridiculously small stride.  I am not meant to run far. Here are a few of my basic stats:

Age:  30
Height:  5'6
Weight: 208 lbs.

I run a few times a week now, about 4-5 miles on average.  The last two weeks, I've done a 'long' run of 10 miles.  That's it.  I don't live and breathe running, I just do it to be outside and get away from it all. It is the primal challenge that appeals to me.  I like knowing that it's as simple as, "Start here, finish here."  No bureaucracy, no politics; just me and the task at hand.

The Promise Land 50K Ultramarathon is exactly 30 days from now and I have officially registered for it. It is known to be a very challenging course to even those who train for it, and I fully expect it to completely destroy me.  The question is: Will I finish?

Promise Land Altitude Profile

The course takes place in Northern Virginia and covers just under 8,000 feet of elevation gain and the same amount of descent.  Some say you, "go up a mountain, down a mountain... then back."  With a 10-hour time limit, I feel fairly good about this.

With only 30 days to train, I know it is going to require a solid balance of endurance and strength training without going overboard and injuring myself.  I will use this blog to keep a log of what I am doing and when, as well as issues that may arise (and hopefully how I overcame them).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fuel Plan

Actual Date: March 23, 2011

Running 5 miles, you can get away with not drinking water or taking any kind of fuel.  When it comes to greater distances, then hydration, fuel, and electrolytes play a vital role.  I am still trying to piece together the whole fueling concept, and here is what I am planning (as of now):

Every 30 minutes - (1) salt tablet (S! Caps)
Every 45 minutes - (1) power gel
Every 1 hour - (1) 16 oz. bottle of water

And I will repeat this process for 32 miles.

So, that's the plan.  Any advice that anyone can offer would be great.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Training Day 1

Actual Date: March 23, 2011

Weight: 207.5 lbs.
Run: 6 Miles
Cross-Training: Core Exercises (15 Minutes)

Run went well, I ran around the driving track at work enough to complete 6 miles.  Focused mainly on fueling, even though I really didn't need it.  Drank a half-bottle of water (16.9 oz.) every 1.5 miles.  At 3 miles, at a whole banana.  I really just wanted to see how I would feel after drinking and eating at these rates and everything seemed to work out really well.

The shoes I wore for the second half of the run (just felt like changing shoes; I was wearing minimalist Nike Lunarlon's prior) were a full size too big for me.  Maybe I'll just donate them or something.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Training Day 2

Actual Date:  March 24, 2011

Weight: 205 lbs.
Run:  3 Miles of Steep Hills (up and down)
Cross-Training:  Core Exercises throughout the day (70 Push-ups/35 Crunches/20 Squats)

Not sure if I will run today.  Just the way my schedule is, don't know if I will or not.  My plan for core exercises is just to do small sets of random exercises throughout the day and then post a cumulative tally at the end.  Push-ups, crunches, squats, whatever I can come up with.

Side Note:
Received Paleokits in the mail last night. Paid $100 for 25 small meals. Looking forward to making these my main meals for as long as they last. I am hoping to see more weight drop in the next couple of weeks if I can maintain a steady intake of these things. If you notice above, the weight is already starting to come off as I have been focusing on core exercises and running, as well as watching my caloric intake.

If you aren't familar with Paleokits, they are from http://www.stevesoriginal.com/ and are described as follows:
 
A small meal pack (center) from StevesOriginal.com.  Click to enlarge.
"A delicious mix of jerky, raw macadamias, almonds, pecans and dried fruits, PaleoKits are perfect for people on the go. PaleoKits are available in a small size for snacking and large size for meal replacement. A small contains two blocks of protein, carbs and fat and a large contains 4 blocks of each."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Training Day 3

Actual Date:  March 25, 2011

Weight: 206 lbs.
Run:  None
Cross-Training:  None

This morning when I woke up, the first thing I did was weigh myself.  Gained a pound.  Normally, no biggie.  But considering that all three meals yesterday were a small Paleokit (the snack size), I ran 3 miles of hills and drank a ton of water, it is frustrating.

It's just like on The Biggest Loser where someone loses 14 pounds one week, and then the following week loses 2 pounds. WHAT IS THAT?  I hear all these theories about how the body goes into starvation mode, and bla bla bla; I think everyone is just guessing.  I keep trying to justify why I am not losing weight as fast as I should be, usually it's one of the following:

"Maybe I'm putting on some muscle."

"Must be all that water I drank yesterday weighing me down."

Either way, whatever the reason, it just SUCKS.

I can SEE that I am losing some real weight. I can FEEL it.  Then why isn't it showing up on the scale?? I know most people will say, "Well, if you feel better and look better, what difference does the scale number make?"  But the number on the scale is just confirmation that I really AM losing weight and it's not just me 'feeling skinny' for a day.

Today I ate a bit more than yesterday.  Breakfast with the guys was an egg-white omelette with home fries and a side of corned beef hash.  Lunch was a small Paleokit and 2 tuna-fish sandwiches (lite mayo).  Dinner was a stuffed green pepper (stuffing was ground turkey and vegetables).  That, plus more than a half-gallon of water, has been all I've eaten today.

If I weigh-in tomorrow at it's more than 206, I am going to smash that scale.  Am I really the guy that will have to run for the rest of his life without enjoying ANY food in order to just maintain my weight?  Come on!

Signed,
Frustrated

Friday, March 18, 2011

Training Day 4

Actual Date: March 26, 2011

Weight: 206 lbs.
Run: TBD
Cross-Training: TBD

9:06 a.m.
Weighed-in first thing this morning. 206. Seriously?

I know I shouldn't weigh-in every day but it's been three days! Come on!

Today, Saturday, is always the day that my brother-in-law get together and play video games all day and eat junk. Not this time. Video games, sure, but there's no way I'm stuffing my face with a bunch of crap. I NEED to start seeing some weight come off. This is driving me crazy.

That being said, I am opening my breakfast... a small Paleokit. /sigh

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Training Day 6

Actual Date: March 28, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 4 Miles of Steep Hills (up and down)
Cross-Training: Core Exercises (Every half-mile during the run)

I stopped weighing myself. I didn't give up, I'm pushing harder than before. I am just getting frustrated with the same weight (or more) showing up on that damn scale. I know that the weight doesn't matter, as long as my body and mind can handle the hills and the distance. A great example of that was when one of my colleagues was busting my chops for being over 200 pounds and my response was, "Dude, I just ran 10 miles during my lunch break. Why don't you come with me next time." It feels good to be able to say that. I know I am very heavy for my height, but the numbers shouldn't matter,I know, so long as I am healthy.

Ran the hills at Monticello today, very steep. 1/2 mile down, 1/2 mile up, repeat until finished. Every 1/2 mile I would stop and do 15 of some exercise, either push-ups, squats, or crunches. What's great is that I can actually feel myself getting stronger. I remember starting to exercise again after the awful Winter we had and struggling through 10 push-ups. Now I'm blasting through all of my exercises while running the hills. Next time I will up the count to 20 and just keep progressing. I know that staying on the hills will be the key to my training since Promise Land has those darn mountains in the way! =)

Moved to six small meals a day, breakfast and lunch are small Paleokits. Fiber One bar as snack between meals, and a healthy dinner at night. Drinking between 1/2 gallon to a gallon of water everyday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Training Day 7

Actual Date: March 29, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 5 Miles of Steep Hills (up and down)
Cross-Training: Core Exercises (Every half-mile during the run)

Kicked ASS today. Ate like a champ and the run was incredible. Going up those hills is getting easier and easier. Yes, it's still difficult, but I'm not DYING the way I was when I started. The exercises are getting easier even though I haven't upped it to 20 reps per stop yet.

Feel myself losing weight, but I still don't DARE step on the scale. Even though I feel and look better, I would be crushed if the scale showed no weight loss.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Training Day 8

Actual Date: March 30, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: None
Cross-Training: Core Exercises (throughout the day); including 200 crunches (8 sets of 25.)

Did not run today. It was just a dreary day overall and a bit colder than I was ready for, so I decided to let my legs rest. After feeling so strong yesterday on the hills, I wanted to give my body a chance to recover a little and be ready for tomorrow's run. Ideally, I'd like to do 6+ miles of hills. I may or may not do the core-work at each 1/2 mile, because I need to start pushing more distance. I know that 6 miles of hills is going to be NOTHING in comparison to the 32 miles I have to plan for, but it's a start.

Having this week off from work at the same time my brother is in town was a huge concern for me. I had a feeling this week would be nothing but junk food and laziness, coupled with video games and no exercise at all. I am very proud to say, though, that I've been really kicking ass this week, and even though I treated myself to some pizza today, I have been in 100% control lately and it feels great. No soda,

Monday, March 14, 2011

Training Day 9

Actual Date: March 31, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 10 Miles (6 Miles of Steep Hills / 4 Miles Flat; 10 continuous miles)
Cross-Training: 100 Crunches (50/25/25)

After today, it will be April, and I will have to think, "I'm running an ultramarathon THIS month." That is a bit intimidating.

It is almost 8 a.m. and I am dressed ready to go run. The weather outside is rainy and a bit chilly, but it's Go-Time. As mentioned yesterday, I'd like to do at least 6+ miles overall, mostly (if not all) hills. I realize there is nothing stopping me from doing it, I just know it's going to be a very tedious challenge. Perhaps today will be a good day to test out some fueling strategies.

Last night, Annie and I watched The Biggest Loser and it was a good motivational push. I ended up doing core exercises through the whole show, which was a bonus. The reason the show affected me so strongly was because of this contestant named Rulon. He is a former Olympic Gold
Medalist wrestler who gained a significant amount of weight after he stopped training. Last night, I watched Rulon face some challenges that forced him to 'figure things out' (as Trainer Bob Harper put it). Watching Rulon at 300+ pounds do a handstand against a wall after trying for quite some time was very moving. I really despised the guy at first because he was so over-competitive with the other teams but I have come to really relate with the guy. He doesn't take No for an answer, and he knows almost no limits. Trainer Bob even told Rulon later, "I honestly believe that you can do ANYTHING. I wanna be Rulon when I grow up." Rulon is the kind of guy that people look at and think, "Big dumb wrestler." He even has that look to him. But I love love LOVE that he has the determination and drive of a feral beast and won't stop until he completes his task. I think we can all learn a lot from Rulon.

Time to go run...

______________________

11:02 a.m.: Just returned. Weather was worse than I expected. Raining. Did 10 miles anyway. Yep, 10 miles. And...

It. Felt. Great.

I could've done 15 without a struggle, I believe. I started the day with a PB sandwich on wheat, and that was it. Ran 30 minutes, took 1 electrolyte tablet (S!cap), and continued. At 1:15 I took another tablet and ate a Fiber One bar (in retrospect, those bars will be something I stay away from on race day). By the end of 10 miles (1:44:50) I was still strong. No cramps, no walking, it was great. Sure, the weather sucked, rainy and cold, but I was so glad to be out there challenging myself.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Training Day 10

Actual Date: April 1, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 4 Miles Flat (36:44)
Cross-Training: Stretching

Every morning, it becomes more and more difficult to not step on the scale. Still haven't done it, and I must admit that I am hoping that when I actually do weigh myself for the first time since I started training, my weight will be less than 200 lbs.

Not sure if I will run today, although I know that I should. It would be good to get a next-day run in after my 10-miler yesterday, not to mention the fact that we have company coming over tonight to hang out and there will be greasy food galore (meatballs, pizza, deviled eggs, etc.). I'd like to be able to enjoy a couple slices of pizza and a few snacks without feeling like crap for the next 2 days, so it's probably best that I run today to at least counteract the junk I might eat later. As long as I'm not eating that way all the time, like I used to (EVERY DAY), all should be well.

Right hip-flexor has just a hint of something going on similar to before, a bit of irritation. I am trying something new to try and alleviate it... stretching. Did some research online and found some stretches that really do a great job of stretching the spot that is irritated. Hopefully I can find a way to strengthen this muscle to a point that it won't destroy me on race day.

5:28 PM: Just finished running. Normally I don't care about time, but I figured that I would try to make the best of the 4 miles I ran by timing it. I wanted to maintain a challenging speed while keeping enough energy to finish strong in the end. Final time was 36:44. Just about 9:11 a mile which is almost a minute of each mile from my average pace in the beginning of this training.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Training Day 11

Actual Date: April 2, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 3 Miles of Steep Hills
Cross-Training: Stretching

Decided to run late in the day, just before dark. Hit the hills again, and went for speed. Unfortunately, I didn't time it. But when I was running, I was running with the expectation of going as fast as I could while maintaining strength for the duration of the evolution.

I stopped at 3 miles because it became very dark much quicker than I expected and these hills are on a main road. Not the safest thing in the world, especially in the dark, so I had to cut it short. I tell you what, though, my last mile was almost a dead sprint up the hill... and I still felt GREAT at the end.

I really hope this keeps up.

Oh, and I finally broke the news to the wife about the race. She told me she didn't want to be there to watch me destroy myself over 32 miles, and it was on me. I understand where she's coming from. She's seen me hurting like that before and just doesn't want to witness it again.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Training Day 12

Actual Date: April 3, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 6 Miles (3 Miles of Steep Hills, 3 Miles Flat; continuous run) [55:41]
Cross-Training: Stretching

20 days remaining until race day. That's a bit intimidating.

Knocked out 6 miles this evening. Once again, it felt awesome. First mile was a bit of warm-up, but then I got into a rhythm and really started feeling good. What really made my night, though, was when I ran my last mile of the 6 and it was 7:10. Yes!

Tomorrow it is back to work for me after a week off. I am looking forward to it, to be honest. Not so much to get back to work, but to get into the groove again of being able to run in the morning, maybe knock out a couple miles during lunch, and really get back into a healthy food routine. Don't get me wrong, I did AMAZING this week considering my usual eating habits, but I am excited to get back into the Paleokit diet and see where it goes.

I've also decided that my GOAL is to not weigh myself until AFTER my race. Even though EVERY single day I wake up and am seconds away from stepping on the scale, I know I shouldn't. I know that even if I wait until the day OF the race and I'm not as 'light' as I'd like to be, it's going to screw with me mentally for the entire run. I can't afford that. I need my head in the game for all 32 miles.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Training Day 13

Actual Date: April 4, 2011.

Weight: ???
Run: 10 Miles Flat (1:45)
Cross-Training: None

Feel like CRAP right now.

Ran 10 miles this morning before work, which was good. It was slow, as it was very apparent that my body was still recovering from the last 4/5 days of nonstop running of steep hills and speedwork (including another 10-miler last Thursday).

The reason I feel like absolute CRAP, though, is not from my run this morning and then a day of work. Throughout the day, I ate like a champ. Paleokits and a gallon of water (as well as a 6 in. Turkey sub from Subway) was all I ate today, and things were looking great. I decided to grill some turkey burgers for dinner with the wife, so I stopped at the grocery store and picked up what I needed. Then it happened. I was ALMOST to the register and I saw the Chips Ahoy! section right there. Thought to myself, "Ya know what? I've been craving cookies for like two weeks now, and I ran 10 miles this morning. I'm getting some damn cookies!"

Everything in moderation is fine. I don't have that ability, though. Before I even pulled out
of my parking spot, the cookies were open and I was nibbling. By the time I arrived home, half the package was gone. I'd just devoured about 1,000 calories of cookies in 10 minutes.

To make matters worse, when I got home, I grabbed a bowl of tortilla chips (with salsa and sour cream) and chowed down on those for about 10 minutes. An hour later, I was eating 2 turkey burgers for dinner. And that's when my body just SHUT DOWN and I slept from about 6:30 until 9 p.m. That brings me here, exhausted, bloated, and guilty. Can't let this deter me from training; I need to let it be a reminder of how I HATE feeling and why I need to learn to be disciplined with food.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Training Day 14

Actual Date: April 5, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: None (Rest Day)
Cross-Training: Stretching

Finally took a rest day and actually rested. Tomorrow will most likely be a 5 or 6 mile run before work, and MAYBE another run on my lunch break (3-5 miles depending on how I feel). I don't want to overdo it the next couple of days, though, because on Friday (before work), I'd like to knock out a 20-miler. I figure I can run to work (12 miles), then resupply there and take off for another 8 miles or so. The weather looks promising, and this will be a GREAT chance to test out my headlamp and other gear. If this 20-miler goes well, I'm going to be feeling pretty good about this race.

UPDATE: The T-Shirt I had made for Race Day came in today. Really hoping this shoves some accountability down my throat when I need it most.


Front: STAND UP and Finish What You Started
Back: The Body Has No Choice To Go But Where The Mind Sends It. 30 Days 2 Ultra .com

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Training Day 15

Actual Date: April 6, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: None
Cross-Training: Stretching

Did not run again today. It was very obvious that my body needed to recover still. I had every intention of running about 5 miles this morning (and then another 5 miles during my lunch break). But after I woke up at 5:30 and slept in the shower for 45 minutes, followed by another 45 minute nap in my car before work, I knew I needed more rest.

Tomorrow, however, will be a different story. I WILL run probably 3 miles just to loosen up and keep the blood pumping. Because on Friday morning, I plan on leaving the house at about 3 a.m. and running 20 miles before work. I estimate that it will take me about 4 hours, so this will be a great chance to practice more fueling techniques, test some gear, and really find out where I stand at this point.

Picked up some Roctane Gels today. From what I understand, they are modified Power Gels/Gu's that are made for endurance athletes. Specific amino acids and what not, I figured it was worth a try. At one gel every 30 minutes, I bought 8 just to cover Friday morning's 20-miler. And at $2.50 each, this is really starting to add up. I had to get trail shoes as well, because I have never run trail before and I KNOW that my minimalist shoes will NOT suffice (I've been doing all my runs in Nike Lunarlons with the occasional crossover to Vibram Fivefingers). I went with the New Balance 411's since they are a great brand with a great rep, and because it is a neutral shoe and I need something as close to minimalist as I can get. May need to bring these back, though, because they didn't have 10 1/2 Wide so I had to go with an 11 Wide and I think there is just WAY too much room to slide around in there. The last thing I need in my shoes at mile 25 is friction.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Training Day 16

Actual Date: April 7, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 3 Miles Flat, Easy Pace
Cross-Training: Core Exercises mid-run, Stretching

A little nervous about tomorrow morning's run. I should have everything I need by then (new shorts, Cytomax, etc.) but I feel like I have put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. I know that it really doesn't matter how fast I go, and I don't care about speed, to be honest. But, I want to finish relatively well so that I have confidence going into the next couple of weeks of training. I'm giving myself 4 hours to cover 20 miles which shouldn't really be a problem, considering that I am averaging 10 miles in about 1:30-1:45 at present.

What concerns me, though, is the possibility of my hip-flexor acting up. I know that pushing for 20 miles so early is very risky but I don't have much of a choice. I need to get a long run in to see where I stand endurance and fuel-wise.

5:31 p.m.: Decided to try 'Carbo-Loading' for tomorrow's run. I ordered the No-Rules Pasta from Outback with chicken and shrimp. Who knows, maybe it'll help. I've been eating the Paleokits so much lately, this meal will be a nice treat (and hopefully a bonus for tomorrow morning).

Weather for the morning looks nearly perfect! (knock on wood)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Training Day 17

Actual Date: April 8, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 21 Miles (3:55)
Cross-Training: None

Left the house at 3:40 a.m. this morning. Had to carry a full Camelbak (water) with my work clothes in it because I forgot to leave them at work yesterday. I wore my new Asics 55 shorts which have small netted pockets for Power Gels and what not. Also wore a beltpack with electrolyte pills and a Cytomax bottle.



The first 4 miles were HORRENDOUS. The pasta from Outback last night was a HUGE mistake. My stomach was in pain with very bad gastrointestinal distress. Finally arrived at a gas station to find out it was closed. Knowing I wouldn't make it to another one, I grabbed some paper towels from the windshield-washing station and headed for the woodline. Problem solved and it never came back. Whew.

The run itself for the next 10 miles was actually very enjoyable. MUCH, MUCH better than I expected. I ripped the audio from the movie Role Models and added it to my iPod list last night and ended up listening to the entire movie. Since I've seen it about a hundred times, it was as if I was watching the whole flick and not even running. Gonna have to do some more of that.

Reaching work, I'd covered 14 miles. I knew that distance when I started, and I knew it was going to be difficult to turn around and cover half that distance AGAIN when I could just stay where I was and relax; no one would know the difference. It was cold and I was freezing; covered in sweat and stuck to all my clothes. Nevertheless, I refilled my water and made my way back out. My initial intention was just to do the 20 miles and leave it at that, but since things were going relatively well, I knew I had time to tack on 1 more mile. So instead of turning around at the 3-mile mark, I made my way out a bit further and then returned back to the office; a total of 21 miles. I honestly believe I could have knocked out another 5 or 6 without much of a struggle. Beyond that, yes, it would've been challenging, but not disastrous.

Some additional thoughts: I was staving off cramps in my calves from mile 14 - 21. To alleviate this, I am going to increase my electrolyte intake to 1 every 30 minutes (up from 1 every 45), and I will need to do a gel every 30 minutes (up from 45). Not sure if it was the Roctane Gel or not, but every 10 minutes after eating a gel I was a bit nauseous. It could've certainly been much worse, but definitely something to think about.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Training Day 18

Actual Date: April 9, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: None
Cross-Training: None

Camping with the family today. Weather was miserable; very cold, and the sky pissed all over us long enough for us to be sleeping in puddles.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Training Day 19

Actual Date: April 10, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: None
Cross-Training: Stretching

T-minus 12 days until Race Day. Feeling really good. I won't be running today just because I want the weekend to recover from Friday's long run. I will do some stretching and perhaps a few crunches, but nothing more.

This week I plan on alternating 5 & 10 milers every other day. I don't know how feasible this is, I could really just be blowing smoke up my own ass at this point. Even so, that's what I've got in my brain now.

I'll be increasing my intake of (small) Paleokits to twice a day for meals, with a sensible dinner each night. I really feel like I need to drop more weight in the next 2 weeks before the race. And, thankfully, I still have yet to weigh myself and do NOT plan on doing it until after I finish.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Training Day 20

Actual Date: April 11, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 5 Miles Flat (43:11) [Vibram Fivefingers, KSO Trek]
Cross-Training: None

Arrived at work today and was excited to knock out 5+ miles today during my lunch break in my Fivefingers. Then, it hit me... I forgot my iPod. To the normal person, no biggie. To me, disaster. I NEVER run without my music. But as always, I went anyway. With my Fivefingers tight, I knocked out 5 miles in 43:11 and felt great. It was a bit warmer than I anticipated (78°) but all went really well.

I'd like to crush 10 miles tomorrow, although I don't think I will have time. Most likely, I am thinking that I will just do another 5 or 6, or maybe even some stairs with my 40 lb. weight vest. Then, since I have long lunch breaks on Wednesday and Thursday, I will attempt back-to-back 10-milers on those days. If I get super-motivated, maybe even 15 on Friday morning, too. Don't want to get crazy, though, because next Saturday is the race and I need to be smart (while still pushing the training physically and mentally).

Also, I bought a pair of New Balance 851 Multisport shoes today. They seem to fit well, and I will just focus on breaking these in over the next few days. However, if they don't work out, I may just end up running the entire race in my damn Nike Lunarlons.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Training Day 21

Actual Date: April 12, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 5 Miles Flat
Cross-Training: Stretching and core exercises

84° today during my run at lunchtime and it felt much hotter. Testing my water-intake pace (24 oz. every 5 miles), everything worked out pretty well. What did NOT go well were my new shoes. The New Balance 851s were TERRIBLE. They were heavy as hell, and felt like my feet were on fire. I didn't really time the run, but it felt incredibly slow, as my feet were carrying these 50 lb. shoes.

I spoke with a friend who is a 50-mile ultrarunner and he said that I need to stick with what works. I have been running in the Nike Lunarlons for several weeks now and have LOVED them. My buddy told me that if they work for me, then use them in the race. The only thing that concerns me is that I'll be losing toenails on the downhills after lots of miles, but I'm fairly certain I do have enough cushion for the trials, even if they are minimalist shoes.

I guess only time will tell.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Training Day 22

Actual Date: April 13, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 7 Miles Flat; Negative Split
Cross-Training: Interval Cardio (in the afternoon)

Seven Miles this morning felt good, but I must admit that I felt a bit sluggish. Could be my body telling me that it is rest time again. I wanted to do 10 this morning, and I could have without issue, but I left most of my gear at work, and I knew that no key-holder would be there before 6 a.m. So, I had to fit in 7 at best.

Right ankle feels very stiff. Not sure if this is a side effect of those crap shoes I wore a couple of days ago, but something is certainly off. Also feeling some slight shin pain on my left side. Perhaps tomorrow is a good day to rest, maybe do some stretching.

I did some research today regarding the race; found an awesome Race Report by Dave MacLuskie. He says that GPS Tracking places the course distance at 34 miles. He also says that it feels like the entire course is uphill. Lovely.

But what I really got a kick out of was the email I received from Race Director David Horton that said, "There will be no course markers from the start to Aid Station 1. Just go UP."

Monday, February 28, 2011

Training Day 23

Actual Date: April 14, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: None
Cross-Training: Interval Cardio (in the afternoon)

Aside from some cardio (non-running) this afternoon and maybe an easy Jujitsu class later, I am going to take today off. As I mentioned yesterday, I need to let my legs rest a bit.

I am back in the New Balance 411's at the moment, giving them one more chance to be my Race Day shoes. They are about a half-size too big, as well as 2E width instead of 4E, but I am about out of time for finding some real trail shoes. After reading the race reports yesterday and seeing some of the terrain in videos, it is apparent that I will need some traction up there.

I'm considering a 10-12 mile run tomorrow morning, and I'd like to do pizza tonight for dinner and see how that messes with my system for tomorrow's run. I read that the night before the race, they order 90 pizzas and everyone pigs out for a while. I figure, hell, if that many people are downing pizza the night before, there must be something to it.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Training Day 24

Actual Date: April 15, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 14 Miles: 10 Miles Flat (1:58) / 3 Miles Trail / 1 Mile Steep Hills
Cross-Training: Stretching and Core Exercises

I gave up on the New Balance 411's. They just weren't wide enough, and much too big. I picked up a pair of NB 1320 trail shoes to test. I am planning on putting them to work Saturday morning on an actual trail near the house, maybe a couple miles at best. I think I may even bring my Lunartrainers and see how they feel on a trail. If worse comes to worse, I'll be running all 32+ miles in those damn things.

10 miles this morning was rough. I didn't want to get out of bed, I didn't want to leave the house; I didn't even want to get out of the car at 5:45 this morning because it was warm inside, and cold outside (about 44°). I did it anyway, and it was slow and sluggish. I don't think the pizza I ate last night (personal pan with anchovies) made any difference. More to come.

7:57 p.m.: Took my NB 1320's out onto the trail this evening. It was my first time running a real trail... and it was AWESOME. I don't know what was it was about it that drew me in, but it was just so... different. So peaceful. Granted, I was listening to my iPod the whole time, but being out there felt amazing. Even after 10 miles this morning, I knocked out another 4 miles tonight (1 mile steep hills, 3 miles trail). This has been a great training day.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Training Day 25

Actual Date: April 16, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: None
Cross-Training: None

I actually had to FORCE myself NOT to run today. Wow, what a change of pace. I enjoyed being on the trail last night so much that I wanted to go back out there today with my new iPod playlist and give these shoes some more breaking-in time.

It was a great feeling to have my pants pretty much falling off of me today. At one point, when trotting into the grocery store, I actually had to hold my pants up and then use my phone's holster clip to keep them from falling. That's a great start to the day. Still haven't weighed in and it's things like that which keep me motivated and knowing that I am on the right track.

All the people I work with have lots of advice for me. Any topic from shoes, tapering, nutrition; you name it, they know it. Although, none of them are runners or even athletes. They may travel to the gym once a week at best, but you know what they say, everyone's an expert! Don't get me wrong, there are one or two people that I listen to, because they may have run a marathon at least, and I enjoy theorizing training with them. But all the other guys, thanks but no thanks.

My wife is still very unsure about this whole thing. She would bet her life that I won't finish this race, and asks me every other day, "Are you sure you want to do this?" Again, I understand. She doesn't want to see me get hurt, but I've committed to do this and it's too late to turn back now.

I received a very random email from my dad last night... It was a brief message and attached was the Promise Land 50K++ Runner's Packet. The message was:
Hi Ross!
Is this the 50k race you are going to run in? This is a killer; it starts at 1,300 Ft and goes all the way to over 4,000 Ft and back to 1,300 Ft. I hope you are ready for this, let me know if
this is the one! *Pop

I told him this morning over Skype that it was the same one he found. I couldn't assure him that I was physically ready, but I did make it very clear that I was mentally prepared. Any ultrarunner will tell you that ultras are much more mental then they are physical. The pain will be there no matter what... but it's what you do when it sets in.

This book is a MUST-READ for those of you looking for running motivation.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Training Day 26

Actual Date: April 17, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 2.5 Miles of Trail
Cross-Training: None

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Training Day 27

Actual Date: April 18, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 4 Miles Flat (2 Miles: 17:55/2 Miles: 16:38) Continuous Run
Cross-Training: None

Beginning to taper this week. 4 miles Monday, 3 miles Tuesday, 2 miles Wednesday, rest until the race. Breakfast and Lunch were small Paleokits, and I'm still trying to down a gallon of water per day; particularly this week.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Training Day 28

Actual Date: April 19, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 3 Miles Flat (25:14)
Cross-Training: Stretching

Ran 3 miles during lunch, 25:14. This is the fourth time I've run in the NB 1320 trail shoes, and even though the fit seems to be good, I feel like they are just going to be incredibly hot (they are all Goretex).

Beginning to feel nervous about the race, but I am very, very excited. I will need to keep an easy, conservative pace, and ensure that I don't let people around me determine my pace. It's just me and the course...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Resting Until The Race

Resting until race day. I'm trying to hydrate as much as possible, as well as carbo-load and get as much potassium into my body as I can.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Moment of Truth

Actual Date: April 23, 2011

Weight: ???
Run: 34 Miles of Mountains, Streams, Mud and Rocks

“It is a spectacular course and very difficult and slow. The starting elevation (around 1,300 feet) and highest point (4,005 feet) and the lowest point (around 1,100 feet) will take you from spring to late winter to spring to late winter and finally back to spring at the finish line!” -Race Director, Dr. David Horton

The night before the race was awful. As per the race director, I reserved a room at the Bedford Super 8 Hotel, which was a dump and I could hear every noise that the other tenants had to offer. I was restless all night. Finally decided to roll out of bed at around 3 a.m. after tossing and turning for several hours. Even getting into the car, I wanted to just drive home. The video below was from 3:58 a.m. inside my car, struggling to continue.



When I arrived at the camp, it was about 48° and raining. Because of that, I decided to use my new New Balance 1320's which are all Gore-tex. I've only run about 6 miles in them overall, but knowing that these were actual MOUNTAINS I would be climbing, I went with the trail shoes over the minimalist street shoes. Thank God. In retrospect, I don't think that I would have made it as far as I did if I hadn't chosen these shoes.

When the 308 runners stood up to the starting line, I made my way to the back. I needed to ensure that I was not being pushed by some crowd of people above my ability; I wanted to conserve as much energy as I could. I really didn't care how long it took me to finish... I just wanted to REACH the finish.

Under the Promise Land 50K Banner, we all count down from 10 and that's it... we're off. The adventure has begun, and I still can't believe I'm out here. 30 days earlier, this was all a pipe dream, and I never in a million years thought I'd have the courage to take this step again. Nevertheless, foolish or courageous, here I am. But I must admit... with the cold and rain, and the fact that I've only been training for this for 30 days, plus seeing all these serious 'RUNNERS' around me, I just want to go home. All these people around me train for this. They are ready for this. They all wear shirts of past mountain runs, 50 milers, 100 milers. I, on the other hand, am losing confidence quickly. I realize how much more I should've run. I remember how many people told me not to do this. And then I remember that I need to at least TRY before I do anything else. And off I go...

Running in the crowd, headlamps flashing all around, I seem to be the only person with a Camelbak on, carrying 2-3 times as much water and gear as everyone else. I don't know what else to do, though, because I am carrying all of the gels and pills (plus gear) that I know I will need for the next 8-10 hours of running. I can't guarantee that the aid stations are going to have anything that won't mess with my stomach, so I need to carry my own foods. All in all, I'd say it's about 10 pounds on my back. Not much, but I suppose it could add up over the climbing and running I'm about to do.

The first mile isn't bad, a gradual incline at best. Soon though, it turns into a very steep hill for the next mile and a half up to the first aid station. By now, I've already climbed about 1,400 feet, and I already have to refill my Camelbak (about 50 ounces of water). Moving on, I'm now on a steeper gravel road which takes me up to 3,380 feet and I admit, I can feel the difference. The air is a bit thinner, and I can't breathe as well.

Miles 6-8 aren't too bad. I am on a forest service road which includes just a little bit of climbing here and there, but for the most part is mostly downhill. I remember hearing stories about people having their quads destroyed on the downhills, so I try to take it easy. It doesn't last long, though, because it is just too easy to haul ass down the hills and enjoy the ride. I'm cruising pretty good through some very thick fog at this point, and I can only see about 40 yards in front of me the whole time; very movie-esque.

After the next aid station at 8 miles (now back down to 2,700 feet), I refill water and start climbing again. This time, another 1,304 in 2 miles. I am now at 4,004 feet at mile 10. More gravel roads and grassy trails, I'm finding myself feeling pretty good. A Power Gel every 30 minutes (plus an electrolyte pill) seems to be working well.

At about mile 13 or so, I reach the Sunset Fields aid station. It's like a party. Tons of volunteers and racers stopping to eat/drink/stretch. I don't stay long; just grab a few bananas and take off.

Now I am on what I think is part of the Appalachian Trail; not sure though. I remember the course profile, and it should be mostly downhill for the next 6 or 7 miles. Should be a breeze! Not so much. I am running on very rocky, technical singletrack which requires agility and a lot of concentration on each step. I am starting to think that this 'trail' is a dried up stream... so many rocks and roots everywhere. I know one wrong step will ruin this race for me, so I force myself to slow down. Admittedly, I can already feel my quads beginning to deteriorate. Every step is the equivalent of a light hammer strike on your muscle, and there are a LOT of steps...

After about 3 miles or so of downhill, my legs begin to seize up on me. Even though I've been averaging 45 ounces of water every hour, plus salt pills/power gels every 30 minutes, I am STILL getting cramps. And if that's the case, WHY am I still peeing CLEAR every half hour?? I just don't get it. Nevertheless, I just slow down and try to absorb a little more of the downhill shock with my knees instead of my quads.

Fighting cramps every step is nerve-wracking. It's frustrating. I know it's probably just happening because I didn't train properly, but I guess I really just thought that the fueling and hydration was my biggest problem. Guess not. Every footplant results in tightening muscles and a wince. I keep looking for the next aid station, which seems to never come.

Finally after 18 miles I reach the next station. They give me 600mg of Motrin and tell me to keep moving. I down half of a Pop-Tart, a banana, and carry on.

I've wanted to quit since I started. I admit it. Here I am, miserable, and wondering "WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING OUT HERE? What made me think I could do this? I still have another 16 miles to go, and I have nothing left!" I don't even want to think about 'The Dark Side' of the mountain that I know is coming.

I trudge through streams and mud, climb over rocks and roots, dragging my pained self for another 5 miles to the next aid station. My legs at this point feel like they're each 200 pounds, and lifting them is just causing more cramps. Isn't there a cure for this yet??

I ask around to see if anyone has an idea to help me resolve this issue, but people just tell me to avoid stopping or sitting, otherwise they will REALLY seize up and I won't get back up. I start beginning to think that this is where I should just say, "Okay, I'm done. #297 dropping out." It would be that easy. What do I care? Why am I doing this? Is it really worth all of this?

But I don't. I get more water, eat a banana, and I start heading for the trail. Before I get there, I stop and ask a volunteer how much further to the next aid station. "It's only about 3.5 miles or so." says this teenage guy. "But it's the Dark Side. The stairs."

I know what he means. All the race reports I've read and other runners I've talked to mentioned this part. This is called the Dark Side for a reason. It is a 2,100 foot climb over about 3 miles. There are literally STAIRS on the trail. And if there aren't stairs, there are rocks in the ground... just like stairs. Either way, after 26+ miles, with nothing left to give, I'm climbing.

This is my lowest point yet. Every time I move, I seize up. When I stop to pee, I'm looking for blood, just in case; that's how bad I feel right now. I cannot fathom going any further, let alone another 8 miles. Yes, it's true, you think to yourself, "I've already gone 26 miles, what's another 8?" But it's not that simple. All I want to do right now is stop moving. I want to go home, get in a hot bath, and just relax. I don't want to be here, on all fours, staring at the ground, wondering how I am going to do this. Make it stop.

I convince myself that when I reach the next station, I will drop out. I just can't go on anymore. And even though I talk to people every day about inner-strength, never giving up, or facing hard times, I am spent. I can't move another 8 miles, let alone climb another 2 miles up these damn stairs and rocks.

After over an hour and a half of dragging myself, I reach the top... I am at about 3,600 feet again and feeling every bit of it.

I try stretching, but can't. I try sitting, but can't. My body won't let me do anything but either stand still or move forward. How ironic. I hear someone say that the rest is mostly downhill to the finish line, there's just one more aid station a couple miles away. Knowing that, I suck it up and keep moving.

There's a tiny climb to some trail, and then it literally becomes all downhill; very steep downhill like your mom warned you about. Nevertheless, I can barely run anymore. This ridiculous-looking shuffle that I've acquired (to help minimize my legs cramping up) cannot be any faster than actually walking, but I just want this to be over with as soon as possible.

I keep trudging along, and then I see it... the Finish Line. I can't believe it. I actually did it. As much misery as I've experienced all day, the pain, the doubts... I made it. Not even an hour ago, I was on all fours on 'the Dark Side' convincing myself to quit. But I didn't. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other until I reached the next point.

It took me 9 hours and 34 minutes to reach that finish line. Any marathoner or ultrarunner will tell you that that is a HELLUVA long time for 34 miles, but I don't care. I challenge anyone to go out there and do it yourself. And besides, this whole journey wasn't about breaking records, or about even running 34 miles. It was about adventure. It was about determination. I needed to see that I could be faced with a challenge and overcome the odds.

My wife tells me that I should just train properly and races wouldn't be like this for me. I know she is right. And, I am sure I will do that from now on. But this, for me, was about proving to myself that I CAN do something big. I CAN look fear and frustration in the face and not give up.

For nine and a half hours, I heard a voice telling me to quit. And it was tempting. It was the easy way out. I literally just had to stop, and go home. I would never see those people again, and who cares what anyone else thinks? They are not the ones out here with me, suffering. But, knowing that this whole journey was about a testament to true character, I wanted to see what I was made of. I try to encourage people all the time to be strong, be confident in yourself, and never give up. How could I not follow the same advice?

Whether during a race, or just in life in general, there are some things to remember:

1) The doubts will always enter your mind. Listen to them, but don't follow them.
2) One foot in front of the other until you get to where you are trying to go.
3) Never give up.