Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lean Horse 50M

About 18 months ago I stumbled onto a book in the library that described ultra-running. It was written in a very engaging and humorous style. More than once did I look up from the book and told my wife about this crazy group of people that run much farther than a single marathon. An ultra-marathon is officially any distance longer than the 26.2 mile (42.195 km) marathon.

I loved the book and always felt the urge to go run as well after a couple of pages. Having run a few marathons at this point, I knew what a great amount of effort it takes to run such a race. I couldn't even begin to imagine what it would take to run farther than that. I set my goal to run an ultra-marathon within the next 12 months. 

I looked up local 50 mile races as I wanted to stay within a drive-able distance as well as join a race that doesn't have too much elevation change. Ultra marathons are not only known for their distance but often times have many thousands of feet of elevation gain and loss, so that you can't really compare it to any road race. 

In my preparation, I ran a couple of self-supported training runs of 50 km (~31-32 miles). The first one was in early 2013 in snow and cold temperatures (-18F) and the second was later on in the summer. The second time I ran the 50 km, it was very hot outside and I still I improved my time by almost 30 minutes. This gave me the confidence to sign up for the Lean Horse 50 mile race in the Black Hills of South Dakota only 3 weeks later.

The week prior to the race, I was still travelling in Europe for work and was concerned that jet lag and dehydration from flying will take a toll in the race.  However, the morning of the race, I was still jet-lagged, but it ended up helping me, as I had no difficulty waking up at 4am. My wife Christina and my friend Kyle joined me on my trip and were also ready to go. Aside from me spending hours on the trail, they would too do their own ultra marathon of crewing for me. 

We drove to the trail head for the beginning of the race and I felt calm and relaxed until about 5 minutes before race start. 

Getting dropped off at the trail head
The 100 or so people at the trail head were chatting away, laughing, joking, seemingly unaware of the ludicrous effort we were about to attempt. I realized I should try to use the bathroom before the race started only to run into a line of 25 people. 5 minutes until the start.

I nervously looked around for a place where I could relieve myself, but couldn't find a spot anywhere that wasn't occupied by people and I had no interest in popping up in the background of anybody's picture. 4 minutes to go.

I chat with another runner waiting for the bathroom to get my brain to stop thinking about the impending race and my ever growing bathroom needs. 3 minutes to go. 

The line has now moved 2 people. Dozens of runners shuffled to the start line. However, no one in the bathroom line moved. I got nervous. Maybe these weren't runners, but crew people or spectators. What if I stood here for another half hour? 2 minutes to go.

Screw it. I hurried over to the line. I got the familiar pre-race jitters that I have had in every single high school race and marathon, as well as before each of the hundreds of soccer games I've played. 1 minute to go. 

People were high-fiving, posing for pictures and wishing each other luck. My stomach turned inside out. 30 seconds.

Anxiously I jump up and down. My heart rate is at 180bpm and I haven't run a single step yet. 20 seconds.

I turn on my GPS watch and try to keep my legs from shaking. 10 seconds. 
The crowd starts counting down. 9...8...7...Why am I here?.....6...5...4...This is going to be a disaster...3...I'm going to puke...2....1....


Oh what a glorious feeling! The gun sounded and off we went. I felt weightless. After a few moments of finding a good spot in the crowd, where I wouldn't hit anybody's heels or slow anyone else down, I took brief inventory of my body. Shoes fit perfectly. Legs feel loose and light. Water bottles are full, but don't feel heavy. The shirt is bothering me, so I take it off and stash it in my shorts. Now the sun breaks through and the day officially begins. Looking up ahead and I see the first aid station. This is ~4 miles into the race, but I could've sworn I had only ran for 5 minutes. What a great start to the race. I take my only brief bathroom break, but have no need to refill my water bottles as I had not taking a sip yet. 

My pacing strategy was to run for 3 miles and then walk 5 minutes. This helped tremendously breaking up the distance into small manageable chunks, as well as gave me time to get rocks out of my shoes, stretch a couple of times when needed as well as eat a gel to consume some calories. 

Leaving the mile 16 aid station (backwards)
The next few miles go by without incident and I see my crew for the first time at mile 16. I get to drop off my shirt and refill my water bottles. All of this happens in under a minute and I am off again. 

I look at my watch for the first time at this point and notice that I am ahead of pace. I am glad I got to put some distance behind me before the heat of the day began to kick in.

I would be on my own for the next 10 miles as it was an out and back section with a lone water cooler stationed at the mile 21 marker. The turn around was great to sort out who was running the 100 and the 50 mile distance. Also, I could gauge what place I am in at this point as I see every runner in front of me. The top 3 runners are blazing by. They would end up far ahead of me later on. An impressive display of endurance as the temperature reaches it's highest point of 96F. 

Shortly before the turn around point I hit a low point and begin to think that I am not even half-way done. I was very conservative with my water until this point. However, once I saw the water cooler at the turn around point and guzzled the last bit of water I had in one bottle and poured the other bottle over my head. I must've been at about 15th place or so. Drinking some more at the water station and knowing that I am now heading back to the next manned aid station I got excited and switched from walking to shuffling. After a few minutes this went into trotting and eventually running. I rode this runner's high and ran the next 5K in ~26 minutes. I knew this wasn't sustainable, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. 

I beat my crew to the aid station, which was very motivating as I was still ahead of schedule. I slowly passed a couple of runners and made my way through a very lonely section of the race. The trail did not offer any shade and the sun was beating down. I passed another runner, who had pulled a muscle and told me he'd walk the rest of the way. I passed the marathon mark at roughly 4 hours, which was only 20 minutes slower than my most recent marathon time. I would probably have to slow down later on in order not to blow up at the latter half of the race. 

I reach the aid station at mile 33 and Kyle welcomed me 30 feet earlier to grab my bottles to refill them with water. Christina and my dog Surf were greeting me and she applied some sunscreen. Great idea.

 At this point my brain was fried and I wouldn't have thought of that. I check my split for 50km and notice that I set another personal best by another 20 minutes. Alright. only 17 miles/ 30km to go. 
My feet feel fine and I have no cramps. I eat some watermelon and decide to tackle the next 5 mile portion. I thoroughly enjoy the run now. I feel I can walk it in from here if I needed and would just have fun going forward.

During this time Christina and Kyle encountered some buffallos on the road. This makes me wonder how I would've handled the situation on the trail. I am glad I didn't have to make that decision :)

 Next, I come into the aid station that was a camper and I could choose from an array of food and drinks, but only get down some ginger ale, water and salty pretzels. I also scored some bonus points with my wife for picking a flower on my way to this aid station.

For this I deserved a misting down from the aid station attendant. Throughout the race, the aid station volunteers were extremely helpful and very encouraging. Big thumbs up to them and a big thank you for helping out during the day.

The next section proved to be the hardest as I approached my physical limits as the heat finally got to me and the rolling hills of Argyle Road began. Kyle got a great shot of me during this section.

Christina stepped out of the air conditioned car for a few minutes and re-applied my sunscreen. This was a very encouraging time of the race as I realized how lucky i was to have her to support me through such a crazy adventure.

I slowly catch about 3 people in the next few miles and begin to feel my second runners high. After I pass another runner I start bombing down a large hill and put distance between the two of us. I once again feel weightless and will only have about 8 miles to go as I reach the next aid station. Little do i know that this was the point where I bruised my tow running downhill too aggressively. Now, 3 months later, I still have a black toe nail, which I look at with pride every day :).

Surf is awaiting me at the next aid station and I catch up to the next runner. I do some stretches as I can tell my hamstrings are tightening up. I would have loved to join him on his blanket, but having the other runner so close by, my competitive nature kicked in. I asked for my MP3 player for the first time at this point. Mind over body from here on out.

My race took a literal turn for the worse during the next section. I ignored a well signaled turn (I blame my fried brain after 8 hours of running and the 97F) and ran about 1.5 miles off course. By the time I reach the next and last aid station, 5 people have caught up with me again. Now I was 11th overall. Christina later told me that this was the only time in the race where she didn't see me smile and i was genuinely mad at myself of making this blunder. I ran by a small lake, in which Surf played earlier on. Man this looked enticing. Just a quick dip to cool down. Only I knew, I wouldn't get back up again.

I turned off my music, which allowed me to focus on my stride and footing and dug deep. 4 miles to go.

I caught 2 people only 5 minutes after leaving the aid station. Good, I was in 9th place. During longer straighter sections I could see the next 3 runners. I had a goal and began to reel them in. The first guy did not put up a fight and I realized he was one of the 50KM runners. Meaning he was not in my race. Therefore i was actually in 8th. I got the next guy with about 2 miles to go. Now we entered Hot Springs. The next runner was clearly hurting, as was I. I passed him as he nearly stood still. Making the next turn I tried to speed up to put distance between us. This has worked in the past, as when the runner makes the turn and will see me much farther ahead than they anticipated. This can be devastating and keep people from chasing the next guy up.
However, on the tiniest of elevation gains (2 feet!) over a tiny bridge, my calves and hamstrings cramped up. I stood there like an idiot for 3-4 minutes without moving. I tried to moon walk backwards down to get to a point where I can use my arms as leverage to loosen my legs. At this time the other runner shuffled by me and was soon out of side. I was able to slowly move one foot in front of the next. Alright. I was in 8th place, but I was convinced the guy in front of me was in my age group and I would try my hardest to still get him. After passing each other about 4-5 times, I was able to pull ahead. I asked an elderly lady walking the trail towards me how far the next guy behind me was, as I had no energy to turn around. She said she didn't see anybody. AWESOME! 2 more turns and I pull into the finish.

My official finishing time was 9:04:05h. I had beaten my goal of 10 hours handily and was super elated to place 7th overall and winning my age division of 29& under. I immediately started thinking that next year, I would stay on the correct trail and could run under 9 hours.

Overall, I am extremely satisfied with my first 50 mile race. This includes time, effort level and the amount of fun I had running. The entire day could've gone differently if not for the great volunteers as well as the fantastic support from my crew Christina, Kyle and Surf. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dashes for Splashes 10K - Mobridge, SD

I was extremely excited when my wife told me about an inaugural 10K in her hometown, Mobridge, SD. The Chamber of Commerce put on a 5K on Fri evening and a 10K on Saturday morning to raise funds for a new indoor community pool.
The 10K is a new race distance for me, as I have competed in 800m, 1Mile, 2 Mile in high school and have run only a 5K in cross country. The next highest distance has been the marathons I've run. Therefore I was guaranteed a personal record :).
My aspiration was to run a sub 45min race and take it as a learning experience in regards to pacing. This way I learn what pace I can hold steadily and what it feels like to run this long distance at anaerobic level.
In the distances of 5K or less, I usually start off with my fastest pace right from the beginning and try to hang on for dear life afterwards. During the marathons, I give myself a rather long spell of recovery towards the 3/4 part of the race, before trying to pick up the pace towards the end again.
I imagined this 10K to be closer to the marathon pacing (at faster speed obviously), especially since I had just finished the Brookings Marathon the prior weekend.
After a brief warm-up I met up with my wife and her friends who had also signed up. I turned on my music, which was going to help me keep the same consistent pace. However, when the gun sounded I completely disregarded the music and sprinted out up front. I have never led a race before so I wasn't sure what to think. I looked back to make sure everyone else started as well and I wasn't a dimwit running off by myself :).
My watch showed that I was going out too fast and there was no way I could sustain that speed. As on cue, I was passed not even a half mile after the start. However, I expected more people to pass, but it remained only one guy. He had also slowed his speed and was a consistent 10 meters in front of me. A quick turn put us on the trail along the shore of Lake Oahe. I immediately felt the head-wind, even though it wasn't as strong as it normally is out there. There are little to no trees, absolutely no mountains and the lake is only surrounded by miles and miles of prairie. Nothing to block the wind.
I sped up briefly to catch up and try to draft of him by running behind him. From the trail we could see the rest of field trailing and I had a chance to waive towards my wife and her friends. The course was an out-and-back and I was looking forward to the later part of the race to see her again.
The other runner (I later learned his name to be Junior) and I distanced ourselves from the 3rd and 4th place and ran along each other towards the turn around point, which also was the only water station. I didn't need the water as I was carrying a small handheld water bottle and continuously drank during the run. Junior wasn't so fortunate and seemed to get tired and I looked forward to putting some distance between us when he would grab something to drink. However, he shocked me by skipping the aid station all together and stuck with me. Now it was only 3 miles towards the finish and the clock was right around the 21:30 minute mark (exactly my recent 5K race time).
We started running by the other runners that hadn't reached the turn around point and I knew unless we completely broke in, the race would be decided between the two of us.
After high-fiving my wife, I started speeding up for short bursts as I was planning on tiring out a now de-hydrated Junior. Surprisingly he started doing the same thing and it was bitter to taste my own medicine. In retrospect, this strategy helped both of us to run personal bests that day. After the second to last turn we both began our kick and I just couldn't shake him and h actually passed me as the last 500 meters were uphill towards the finish. I took the last turn at a high risk-high reward speed and passed him with about 100 meters to go. My lungs screamed at me in agony and my legs begged me to stop. I could feel my stomach turning inside out. As I crossed the finish line, breaking the tape, I could feel nothing of this anymore. I dropped to the ground breathing heavily, but feeling priceless. My mind was blank but I was overly elated. I had never won a race outright before and didn't know what that felt like. I shook hands with Junior who finished about 5 seconds behind and I heard the finishing time to be 43:07min. I basically doubled my recent 5K, including the exact pace. I immediately thought about what it would take to run below 40 minutes, but that would be for another day.
Then my senses came back. My music was still blasting. I hadn't noticed it in the last 45 minutes at all. I decided to go with the rhythm and continued running down the trail.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Brookings Marathon 2013

I chose to wait a couple of weeks to write my race report for the Brookings marathon to see what important aspects I think about now that the event has settled in a little bit more. It was my first official marathon since 2011 (California) and first in Brookings since 2008.

The minute I woke up I was extremely nervous, going through the pre-race jitters that are normal for this type of event : Did I train enough? Is everything prepared that I need? Should I just stay in bed?
I knew I can run the distance. I knew I had everything I needed. I had seen a physical therapist the prior 2 weeks to work on my IT-bands and left achilles, so that they wouldn't bother during the race. And the only way to get the butterflies out of the stomach is to toe the start line and give it my best shot.

Start line before sunrise
Last June I started running seriously for the first time and I had set my goal for this years' Brookings Marathon to run a personal best of under 3:21:19. In the last few weeks leading up to the race, I had to admit to myself that my training, though extensive, was far from ideal for a marathon PR. I had focused so much on volume, that I completely neglected speed training. I suppose that happens when your other goal is to prepare for an ultramarathon of 50-100miles. Either way, at the time I have nearly logged 1000 miles at an average pace of 9:19min per mile. If your goal race pace is sub 7:45min/mile, then it is not the right training.

Mass start

The weather forecast showed a chilly 40 degrees. This should be no issue as I trained through the winter at sub zero temperatures and I knew this could be a benefit as I don't do well during heat. The timing this year was done through a chip on the race bib and not on the shoe. I had pinned the number onto my sweatshirt, which is not designed for running and collects a lot of moisture underneath. During the cold start I started running in the sweatshirt and collected too much sweat that I was afraid to take of the shirt at the half way point of the race, when I noticed that I am getting too warm. Also, I would've wasted precious time trying to re-pin the Bib onto my shirt underneath. My fear was to start shivering immediately afterwards, as the second half of the race was outside of the comforts of town and mostly into the cold prairie wind. A little more on this in a few minutes.

At the start line, I noticed some familiar faces from the Brookings area. This is a great benefit of running in a small community. Be it a 5K, 10K half- or full marathon, you'll see many faces you know and it gives it an additional factor to enjoy. It was especially cool, seconds after the start gun sound, that I heard my track coach from High School cheer me on. He was running a couple of segments of the marathon relay later on.
As soon as I hit the Mile 1 marker, I noticed that I had gone out much too fast, as I clocked a 7:07min/mile. I guess I stayed with too many half-marathoners and marathon relay runners. The second mile wasn't much better at 7:20ish. I tired already and noticed that the pace is not sustainable and tried to slow down during the next 2-3 mile stretch.

Mile 3 by SDSU campanile (you can see the left IT-Band taping)

My favorite section of the marathon is the mile 2-6 stretch that navigates around the campus of my alma mater and always brings back memories. Unfortunately, the course changes slightly, so that we no longer run through McCrory Gardens (where I had met my wife 5 years ago).
While on campus a spectator's dog got loose and ran along the course with the other runners for a mile or so. When I caught up to him, I stopped him as I could see his owner way in the back, exhausted and frantic as she didn't know where her dog was. I grabbed the collar and went back to the woman, adding about a half mile to my total distance. The next few miles was easy coasting through the town and enjoying a beautiful day as the sun rose higher.
I realized that I am on an ideal pace at the half-marathon mark, as I averaged right around 7:30min/mile and still felt good. I had planned to use my MP3 player during the second half to keep a fast pace towards the finish. I couldn't focus on the music as the headwind was strong enough to out blast the music at times. It slowed me down enough that I had lost most of my cushion of the first half-marathon already during the short stretch from miles 14-16. Not only did I lose a lot of time here, but my moral was at the lowest point as I realized the slow-down and couldn't find another gear to try to counter-act the current events. Running into the wind and being over-heated from wearing the sweatshirt finally showed its result as I noticed that I stopped sweating and tried to catch up with my hydration. I usually train with a water bottle, but didn't think I need it during the race as there was a water station every 2.5 miles. However, I think I am more used to the regular intake of water instead of big gulps at the aid stations. Also, I can't help but spill most of the drink anyways.
By mile 17 I took a gel and noticed the sugar helping a little bit later on. Also the wind shelter of the town helped rejuvenate my spirits and I was able to get back into a regular rhythm. As I entered the Indian Hills neighborhood, I could feel the finish nearing with less than 6 miles out and I tried picking up the pace a little bit. I caught up to a runner (Bill) whom I chatted with a little bit to pass the oncoming fatigue. If I remember correctly he has run a marathon in 14 states in the last 18 months or so. I later found out that he added Wisconsin a week later.
I tried picking up the pace to improve my overall standings and was hoping for the generous downhill portion of the last 1-2 miles. However, with less than a half mile to go my left hamstring and both calves decided to simultaneously cramp. I ended up standing there unable to move for probably 3-4 minutes and had to walk the next 200 yards to shake out the cramps. I think I lost a good 5-7 spots. Hadn't I stopped for the dog in the beginning of the race, would I have made it across the finish line without cramping? In the end I wasn't close to my PR so that question is irrelevant. I nice touch was that my track coach from High School was running a few hundred feet with me right before the finish and helped me catch one more runner.

You can't see it, but my legs are protesting violently against any further running :)

As I crossed the finish line I was happy to see my wife, Who weathered the cold temperaure throughout the race together with our dog cheering me on at various spots. She took this lovely picture, which does not honestly reflect my level of exhaustion and the bitter cold weather that we had.

Overall, 3:43 covering 26.82miles is a good result considering weather, wind and

As I consider this my "home-town" marathon, I plan to continue to run it for years to come!

A brief adrenaline infused smile covering up the cold and painful legs.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Arbor Day 5K - Brookings, SD

I was curious about running a 5K after training for 9 months for the marathon/ultramarathon distances. I've run a 5K before in college and a few during high school cross country season. Unfortunately, I am not able to dig up any of those race times, as it would be fun to compare those results to the one from today.

During the last week I emailed with my high school track coach and came to the conclusion that for a short distance of 3.1miles, I should try to start out fast and hang on for dear life towards the end. In High School, I remember too often arriving at the finish line of a 1 or 2 Mile race with something left in the tank. Therefore, I don't know if I truly ran my best times. I want to make sure to be close to empty when I cross the finish line.

The only reference I have to a 5K running time is a time trial I did during the winter on the treadmill. I ran a 20:19min with a 2% constant incline. Now, running on a treadmill this fast is more like a controlled falling forward and is not as difficult as running outside, where you have to push off yourself, which requires more exertion. Also, on a treadmill you don't have to keep track of your pace as you just go with the set speed.

There must've been around 150 people, I think, to start the race, ranging from former SDSU cross country runners, families with strollers and about 25 ROTC members. This depsite it being very cold for a 5K and a 6.30am start time on a Friday morning probably limited the otherwise greater number of participants.

I noticed a runner seperating himself from the bulk of people after only 30 seconds and was soon out of sight. "Starting out fast" for me translated to a 6:31min 1st mile. I took advantage of the slight long gradual downhill on the north side of McCrory Gardens down to Frost Arena. Rounding the HPER and making the way up and past the SDSU track oval I noticed an unfamiliar burning in my quads: I was running beyond my comfortable training pace. I knew this would hurt more the next day even, but I was glad I was putting out near max effort. For the 2nd mile I slowed down to a 7:07min/mile, as I started noticing my left achilles acting up. I had taped it prior to the race, but didn't consider it worth to push harder. Also I had lost connection to the group of runners in front of me and nobody behind me for about 50 yards. Circling the SDSU campus always makes me a little nostalgic, but today I wasn't enjoying it as usual, since I was struggling with the cold morning air. I had mistakenly taken off my neck warmer right before the start as I felt too warm. This ended up making breathing through my mouth hurt more than usual.
The final mile was spent in solitude, as the next person behind me and in front of me were too far to challenge for positioning and I kept steady at 7:05min for the 3rd mile and "sprinting" the last .1mile. I hit my target for the day of breaking 22min by finishing in 21:35 (official time; even though my watch showed 21:18), which was good for 21st overall (out of 205 starters).
The best part was receiving a free tree as a reward for finishing the race. Much cooler than a standard medal-type reward. After a snack and brief conversation with some other runners, I quickly made my way home and got ready to start my regular work day.

I will try to run a few more 5Ks this year as they are an excellent speed training for the longer races and I think once the weather is above 40 degrees and there isn't snow on the ground, I will try to break the 20min mark.

Overall, it was a beautiful morning at McCrory Gardens and the SDSU campus and I liked the low-key atmosphere of the event.

3/50 Minnesota

About 3 weeks ago, I decided to add a 3rd State to my Marathon collection. I drove the 20ish miles (very runable this summer) over to Lake Benton, MN in order to run around the lake to add up the miles to just above 26.2 so that i can count it to my 50 states/50 marathons goal. The day was very beautiful and very sunny for the first couple of hours.

Beautiful look at Lake Benton

I listened to a few popcast and went with a very easy pace (about 10min/mile). Compared to the runs around Brookings, this seemed a little "hilly", even though it was only a few hundred feet of gain overall, but i did notice it taken a toll on my untrained muscle groups in my legs. I think this will be good to repeat more often to make sure I don't only run with my calves, but also with my thighs. Somewhere between miles 10-12 I was joined by two "pacers" as two farm dogs accompanied me for about a half mile. I noticed that they would go the entire way with me, so i turned around and tried to find their house. I think the one was maybe 1 year old and the other probably 12. So the little one snuck out and the old one stuck around to take care of the little one.

My four-legged running partners

I did find their home and was off again to the close-by Tyler, MN, where I stopped at the gas station for a coke, sandwich, candybar and gatorade, as I had just finished the one bottle I brought along. I think drinking coke towards the latter stages of a 4+hour run can give me a nice little energy kick without getting jittery.

From here it was a straight shot back to Lake Benton, MN and I decided to pick up the pace on the last mile and came in with a 7:51min/mile. It had started getting dark out and I was glad that I wasn't outside for much longer as it was only an hour later that the area was hit by sleet and ice with heavy winds.
Overall, I think I could've run this a little faster, but I think the drive to run close to peak performance is hard to come by outside of an actual race. I am happy though. Now I am 3/50 on US states. Miles year-to-date: 398.

Running on Empty

A few months ago I read an interesting article about performing training runs on "E" (empty). The conclusion was that certain benefits can be achieve by completing training runs without fuel intake. This wouldn't be unusual for your regular mid-week runs of 5-6 miles. I think your body starts burning off whatever energy levels you currently have in your system and will then start working off your energy reserve tanks (mainly fat). The goal is not to trim down and lose a bunch of fat. My understanding of the article was that you teach your body and yourself mentally on the times that you have no fuel intake for an extended period of time and still want to perform at a high level. This could happen if you get lost running on a trail or miss an aid station during a race and cannot load up on fluids and calories.

As these types of runs have a high potential of bonking, I choose to run within town and not venture out into the countryside. Also making sure that I still have my regular $5-$10 on me in case I need to drop into a gas station is a nice safety net.

It was the first "warm" day of spring in Brookings (32 Degrees Fahrenheit) and I ran in shorts for the first time this year (other than on a treadmill). Running my usual routes around town allowed my mind to wander and I didn't think about slowly getting de-hydrated. As a matter of fact the only times I consciously thought about drinking water, was when I picked up the tempo and elevated my heart rate, but still was able to calm myself knowing that I could have something to drink at any point, so I didn't overreact to the thirsty feeling I had around mile 10. I knew that I was only a 5K away from home and was convinced that I could make it without cramping.

Finally when I arrived at home after 1:48h (8:15min/mile) I rewarded myself with a nice cold beer. I came up with a rule, that while training for a specific race, I need to run at least 10 consecutive miles before drinking beer.
The beer may not be the #1 choice for re-hydrating after an "E" run, but it does taste exceptionally well at that point. Also drinking water and tea helped re-fueling.

I didn't feel specifically fatigued and was surpised that I had no onsets of cramping. I think it helps that I was hydrating well to begin the day and the days prior so that my hydration levels were at maximum. Also, running in colder temperatures usually doesn't require as much fluids. The Brookings area is completely flat and I ran a relatively easy pace compared to my goal of a 7:30min/mile marathon. Still, this type of training-run is more orientated for the ultra-marathon distance and not a Marathon, where you have an aid station every 2-3 miles. Still, it is good to know that if I get close to a PR time, I might be able to shave some seconds on the last couple aid stations by going straight through.

In order to let my body recover from this run, I won't have another "E" run for maybe 2-3 weeks, but do think I can push it to maybe an 18-20miler next time.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Running Goals

My running goals:

Marathon Goals:
                    I remember running my first marathon in Brookings, SD back in 2004, when I was 17. I recall seeing an elderly runner with a T-Shirt proclaiming that he had finished 50 Marathons in 50 States. I had to re-read the message and scanned the shirt for all his different times and places he’d run. What an amazing accomplishment! Not only physically, but logistically. Also, what a great excuse to travel the country!

                    At the time I was content trying to finish my first marathon. But that moment stuck with me. Since I have always liked lists and being able to cross off item by item, my goal is to finish one marathon in each state. I don’t want to think about the total being 50 and how many years this endeavor may take. I plan on taking it state by state. There is a disclaimer I have to make to this. My initial goal will include "un-official" marathons. Meaning, if I happen to be in the state of Mississippi and I got a few hours to spare, I will try to run 26.2 miles straight and cross the state of my list. I don’t see the greater value in paying $50-$150 for my troubles if I can do it for free on any given country road.
To contradict myself, my secondary goal is to run 50 "official" marathons as well so that I can go back and delete my previous comment :).
Another marathon goal is to run 50 marathons (official or un-official) in 50 different countries. I got inspired by this through reading the books from Dean Karnazes. His goal of running a marathon in every country in the world within the span of one year just seems so crazy, but yet I am very envious of the idea of travelling to each place.
I am fortunate to be able to travel around the globe for my job, which should make it possible, at least logistically, to attempt my two goals of running marathons. In summary, I plan on running 50 marathons in 50 states, in addition to running a marathon in 49 additional countries. I supposed to math will leave me at an awkward 99, but I will figure out something at the time to deal with that number.
So far I am at 3 states (South Dakota, Minnesota and California) and 2 countries (USA and Germany). It’s a humble start, but I think it’s doable. I’ll take any excuse to travel to another state/country and will make the time to run the 26.2 miles.

Ultra-marathon goals:
                Whoever hasn’t given up on me reading this blog so far, will likely do so in the next few minutes. I am not content running 26.2 miles without pause and calling it a day. Because finishing that distance should leave me with about 20-21 hours to spare in that same day. My goal is to expand the distance I can run without break continuously. I got hooked on the ultra-endurance events reading books by Scott Jurek, Rich Roll and Dean Karnazes. An ultra-running event is anything beyond the 26.2 mile marathon distance.
               So far I have completed one 31 mile run (50Km) as my furthest run to date. This was a training run to simply see if I can go out and run that distance. I will post another time about this run in particular.
I plan on finishing a 100 mile race in under 24 hours. In addition, I plan on running a 24hour running event to see how many miles I can add up on a flat course.
Any other length event I run in the meantime will count as preparation for the longer distances.

              I know this sounds nuts. But I think it sounds doable. I will prove it to myself that one or the other is true.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Running the Globe

Hello Fellow Runners and Non-Runners alike!

I consider myself fairly new to ultra-running as I only discovered my passion for it June 2012. I had been running for about a couple of weeks, but it was difficult to motivate myself to get out of the door. It was then that I stumbled upon the Smartphone App "MapMyRun" where one can track their progress online and review it later on a map.
I was with my wife's family in Minneapolis, MN for a weekend and decided to dust off my running shoes that I had purchased in California the year prior before moving to South Dakota. Night had fallen and I trudged around downtown Minneapolis until crossing the river and listening to another "B.S. Report" on my phone. Listening to podcasts made the long run seem fairly short. I remember having to stop about every 10 minutes or so as I felt out of breath. I had considered myself in shape, but more in a soccer-playing-on-the-weekends kind of shape and not running around for miles type of shape.
When I returned from the run I proudly presented my results of running just over 7 miles in about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Seeing the virtual progress motivated me tremendously. I have always loved statistics and monitoring progress by numbers (thanks to SportsCenter for this!). It was now that I considered running "fun".

                              I never considered myself a runner before. Growing up in Berlin, Germany I ran Cross-Country one day every year during the city-wide cross-country regional championships. I have no idea what my times, distance or placements were. Back then, it was all about getting out of school for one day.

Coming to the US as an exchange student in Rutland, SD, I joined the football team and cross-country squad in order to fill up my time after school and meet new people. This didn't work out in XC so well, as I was the only member of the Boys' XC-Team. Nevertheless I ran the entire season and practiced by running around the football field during practice. I was the kicker, so my practice consisted of about 2 hours of waiting around until we practiced kick-offs for 10 minutes. (We never tried a field goal or extra point during the entire season. Needless to say we went 0-8).

After a dismal basketball season, where I set a personal career season best of 5 points on 2-32 shooting, we prepared for track season. As noone seemed interested in running the mile or 2-mile I took this as my time to shine and went for the "long-distance" events. We were only allowed to compete in 4 events per meet, so I added the individual 800m and 800m in any relay team that needed an anchor (medley or 3200m). I basically did the 'dirty'-work for the track team, scooping up mile after mile, never finishing better than 2nd in any given event.

By the end of my tenure in Rutland I entered the local Brookings marathon. My goal was simply to survive it and being able to claim having run a marathon. A decent time of 3:32 at age 17 was secondary to the lesson I learned from a fellow runner during the grueling event:

"When you finish, you will be hooked for life."

I let that settle in. I didn't believe her as I hated training as much as going to the dentist. If I could skip out of practice I did it any time I could. Playing soccer was my only activity after this and I never considered running without a ball at my feet as fun.

Later in September, I had returned to Berlin, Germany and that quote came to haunt my thoughts. Was my marathon a once in a lifetime event or can I do it again? I contemplated this and ended up running my 2nd marathon at age 17. I had a pretty severe cold the week before and my doctor prescribed some sort of steroid to get out of bed, urging me not to win in order to avoid being banned from competition. I did as I was told and finished 32,456th or something like that in a horrible experience that inluded severe de-hydration and cramping.

8 years and 4 Marathons later I stilled hated running as practice, but did the occasional marathon to see if I could still finish the distance and to experience that all encompassing "runners' high". Still, I never called myself a runner.

                               Skip ahead to June 2012. A couple of weeks after that late-evening run in Minneapolis I set out for a Midnight run in Brookings, SD. My wife was with her folks out of town and I was wide awake and ready to disperse some energy. I turned on my podcast-mix of "Around the Horn" and "PTI" and left the front door. I wasn't planning on going long and therefore didn't take any water. I passed a waterfountain about an hour later and drank as much water as I could until I heard it slushing around my stomach. I skipped into the local Wal-Mart a half-hour later and got another drink of water. I was about 9 miles into my run when I decided to finish circumferencing the town. I started cramping heavily and and took of my shoes to give my blistering feet some relief. I walked a half-mile before shuffling back to my front door. I experienced my first runners' high outside of a marathon race and was elated as I had done 12.5 miles. Knowing a half-marathon is 13.1, I dropped my shoes and circled the park across from my house and finished proudly at a time of 2:08.
Being able to re-live my run on the internet the next day by following my route on Mapmyrun got me hooked.

Now, I was a runner.