Saturday, June 28, 2008

The first few miles of the course

I went out to Squaw Valley this afternoon and did the climb to Emigrant Pass. The smoke in the distance was pretty thick, especially at lower elevations. Regretfully, as we all know, I couldn't drop into the Granite Chief Wilderness and continue on the course. Instead, I turned around and ran back down to the base lodge at Squaw Valley. I got some lunch, met my family, did some shopping with my wife, and then went swimming with the kids.

There were a lot of runners on the first few miles of the course this morning - both going up and going down as did my hike/run. My time to the top today was 5 minutes faster than it was in the race 3 years ago and I didn't feel the elevation at all. Regretfully, feeling good like that just makes everything a bit harder to take.

As we were swimming a while ago, I found myself playing "where-would-I-be-now" again.

But soon, we'll be having a nice dinner at Wolfdale's and some nice wine will help to get rid of those thoughts about the race.

Decisions, decisions

So, what to do today? After sleeping in and having a little bit of coffee, we had to decide between going back to the Bay area or staying in the Tahoe area. In the Bay area, we would visit with friends and maybe go to a wine tasting.

In Tahoe, I was thinking about doing the first climb on the WS course, my wife suggested rafting on the Truckee and we discussed having dinner at a restaurant called Wolfdales, a restaurant that was pretty amazing about 20 years ago, when we last ate there.

Tough choices. It turns out that we can't find out if Wolfdales has tables until after 3:00. So, we extended our hotel room for a night. I think I'll go for a run. We'll stay here for one more day at least.

If I was running, I'd probably be heading to Duncan Canyon right now. I'll probably spend some time today thinking about "where I'd be if...". But not too much time.

Good news

We found out today that this year's WS runners will be automatically accepted into the race next year, and we won't need to run another qualifying run. So, I now have a full year to obsess about the race. Those free plane tickets are going to come in handy.

Rather than entering the Vermont 100 to run a qualifier, I'll stick to my plan of pacing a friend there.

Back to my vacation...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Going to California

My family and I just got back from a great dinner at Eclipse Pizza. The last song we heard on the radio on the way back was Zeppelin's "Going to California". The phrase "Going to California with an aching in my heart" kind of hit me hard.

Today, we were driving from Yosemite to Truckee, after a few days with no cell phone and no Internet access. My wife turned on our cell phone and checked our messages. The first two messages asked why we didn't pick our dogs up at the kennel on Sunday, as scheduled. Luckily, we straightened out the kennel later and they hadn't evicted our dogs.

But, the next two messages came from my pacer and a crew member. My wife gasped out loud as she heard that the race had been cancelled. It was silent in our car for a long time after that message.

In 2002, I missed the race with a torn ACL. In 2005, I missed a time cut-off at mile 93.5. I have been contemplating the possibility that this race would be my last 100 (by choice - not for any physical reason), and now there is no race. I don't want to retire from running 100s without finishing WS. It would be like a marathoner who never goes to Boston. It's just something that needs to be done.

One of my crew members is still in the air right now, although he knows that the race has been called off.

I keep going back and forth. Mostly, I guess I'm disappointed. Early in the drive this morning, I told my wife that it was finally all here - I was healthy, fit, the leanest I'd been in a while, the snow levels weren't terrible, and it was time to slay the beast. I'm ready. And, it's not going to happen.

The cost of this vacation is significant. But, it's a good family vacation, with or without the race. So, we'll enjoy the trip and not worry about things we can't change. Hopefully, a year from now, I'll be in this same area, getting ready to run WS. Maybe I'll be in even better shape next year.

Hopefully, they'll find a way to accommodate this year's runners and other runners as well. I don't envy the race management right this minute.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A prophet on the burning shore

Only a Deadhead would recognize that subject line, but to me it means "California", which is where I've been for the past 24 hours.

Last night, it was hot when we got here and I had a hard time falling asleep in the heat. But today, the temps were a lot cooler and it was a nice comfortable 80F when I went running. I did a hilly 7.5 mile loop at Rancho San Antonio in 65 minutes today and it felt great. I've run this loop so many times over the years, and my all time PR is 53 minutes and change. When I was in good shape, I'd run it in 60-62 minutes, and I could go sub-60 if I pushed a bit. The last time I ran this course was 9 days before WS in 2005, and I ran it in 69 minutes that day.

Of course, these numbers mean absolutely nothing as far as next weekend goes.

Tomorrow morning, we are heading to Yosemite until Thursday morning. My wife is going to do some rock climbing while I spend a couple days relaxing with my kids - doing some easy hikes, maybe some slow-water rafting, some swimming, and I might run a few miles once or twice.

Thursday, we'll make the drive to Squaw Valley.

I realized today that my last 2-week break from work came 4 years ago. This is going to be a nice trip.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Off to a good start

I'm sitting in Dulles airport right now, drinking a glass of nice Pacific northwest Pinot Noir. I've got some time to kill because we took a voluntary bump from our flight to SFO. We got four free round-trip tickets for a 3-hour delay.

Not a bad start to a vacation.

Back to my Pinot...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Last little details

I just came back from a visit to my chiropractor - one final adjustment before we head to CA. The chiropractor is heading west next week to work at the Olympic Trials, and he's pretty excited about that.

I still have some packing to do. I have to drop the dogs (I always type "gods" instead of "dogs" initially, probably respecting my dogs' opinions of their status in the world) off at the kennel tonight. I swear my older dog knows when something is going on. I don't know if it's the suitcases or something else, but he seems to know that something is up. Stop the mail. Have somebody feed the cats. Unplug the TV and computer.

I have to make sure I have a printout of every reservation for the next couple weeks.

I just need to relax and enjoy the time away.

If travel goes OK tomorrow, my run on Sunday will be at Rancho San Antonio. There's a hilly loop of about 7.5 miles there that I've run hundreds of times in my life, but only once in the past 10 years or so. I'll run it in the heat of the day on Sunday.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Not bad for "I don't feel like running"

It was pouring when I got off work tonight. I wasn't in the mood to run anyway. So, I decided to drive home (I was at my "other" job today - an hour away from home) and see if the weather was better there. The forecast had been for widely scattered showers and thunderstorms.

It took longer than usual to get home, due to road construction, but it wasn't raining at home. Too bad, because I really wasn't in the mood to run. I felt sluggish, tired, unmotivated, whatever. But, I'm not going to run again until Sunday, so I decided to head out. I figured at worst, I'd run for 15 minutes, decide to call it a day and turn around.

The first mile felt terrible and I ran an 8:40, which is faster than I usually do my slow runs. In my head, I'd already abandoned my plan of tempo miles, and I was going to run by how I felt. But, the time for the first mile surprised me. I decided to push a bit, but run slower than tempo, and see what happened. Mile 2 was 8:15, but felt easy. Mile 3 was 7:28 and still felt easy. Then, a 7:30. Mile 5 had 3 climbs - one of them significant - and I did an 8:35. Then, another 7:30.

By the time I finished my 7.2 mile loop, I'd averaged a 7:55 pace. Not bad for a fat, old gimpy guy training for an ultra. Fifteen years ago, I could sleepwalk through a 7 miler at that speed, but I was primarily a (much younger) road racer then.

I think I am going to bail on lifting tomorrow morning though. I want the extra sleep and I don't think I need the lifting workout any more at this point in time.

If I'm tapering, why am I hungry all the time?

For the past few months, I've watched my diet pretty well and I've slowly lost about15 pounds since the first of the year. I've done it without being hungry a lot. For some reason though, as I've started to taper, I've been starving all the time. Right now, my lunch is being delayed by a meeting that hasn't started yet. All I can think about is food at the moment.

My wife just reminded me by e-mail that I shouldn't undo months of good work by eating too much during my taper. I felt like saying "Thanks mom" to that advice. But, she's right.

Eight miles after work tonight, with 2 tempo miles. There is a slight chance of thunderstorms, but hopefully they'll miss me. Tonight, I start packing my clothes for the trip. My ultra gear is all packed already.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ten Days

Ten days until showtime.

So, after my complaints about airlines and TSA a couple days ago, I called United Airlines yesterday. There was a note on my itinerary online, asking me to call to verify that I knew about the schedule change. While I was on the phone, I mentioned to the woman that I was unhappy about my flight being changed from 2 hops to 3, especially taking me through Chicago and Denver in the same day. She told me she'd look around and then informed me that there are no longer any 2-hop routes from Vermont to Oakland. I then mentioned that Oakland wasn't really my preferred airport anyway - I'd rather go to San Francisco or San Jose. Very quickly, she found alternate flights with a single stop, got permission from a supervisor, and changed our flights for no extra cost. While she was getting permission, I checked car rental prices at San Francisco and they were the same as Oakland, so I re-booked my car while she re-booked the flight.

Now I have to hope that our new flights are on time.

This morning was weights and stair climber intervals. I did incline DB presses, 3-point DB rows, Swiss ball push-ups, cable rows, lunges, squat presses and mixed-grip lat pulldowns. I did anywhere from 3 sets (the first two lifts) to 11 sets (squat presses) of each lift. Then, I did 6 x 40 second intervals on the stair climber. That's it for today's workout.

My wife got a tattoo last night. She had been talking about it for a few years, and last Christmas, I got her a gift certificate from a local tattoo shop. In the past year or so, she's lost a lot of weight and gotten herself into really great shape. She's the lightest and fittest she's been in the 28 years I've known her. She's fit enough that she bought a bikini this spring. She hasn't owned a bikini since I've known her. So, she decided she was ready for her tattoo.

She went to have it done last week, and within seconds of starting, she passed out from the pain. It really caught her off guard. This time, I went along for support, and she also followed some advice about being sure to eat some food just before she got there. It looked painful, but she got it done. She chose to have the rose from the Dead's American Beauty album tattooed on her upper back:

I think running 100 miles will hurt less than getting a tattoo.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Easy intervals

I ran 8 miles this morning, running from home to work. My wife and I both work for the same hospital, so I can put my clothes and my lunch in her car and then run to work. If I time things right, my clothes arrive just as I do.

The plan this morning was intervals - 5 x 3 minutes, but not at an all-out effort. I wanted to run faster than my tempo pace, but not by much. For the most part, I stayed around a 6:45 pace during the repeats - not fast, but the pace felt pretty good. I felt good enough that I added a 6th repeat at the end. My overall average pace was 8:45 for 8 miles, so I was pretty slow for the low-effort part of the run.

Right now, the mosquitoes are really bad here in central Vermont. Most of my run to work is on dirt roads. If I stop for just a few seconds, mosquitoes will be all over me. So this morning, just to reduce the chance that I'd need to stop, I wore my trail gaiters, to stop the road dirt from getting into my shoes.

My wife was rock climbing this past weekend and despite using insect repellent, she was bitten up pretty badly. She got a few bites near her eyes that have prevented her from wearing the contact lenses the past few days.

It will be nice to run in CA with fewer bugs and no humidity, although there is that heat issue.

My next run will be Thursday - 8 miles with 2 tempo miles.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Weights this morning

Am I really only going to work out a max of once per day for the next 10 days? It just seems wrong. I really enjoy working out in the morning and again in the evening. Well, most of the time anyway.

This morning I did squats, Romanian deadlifts, Swiss ball crunches holding a medicine ball, weighted step-ups and kettlebell swings. Then, 20 minutes on the stair climber with 3 x 2 minutes of intervals. I was soaked with sweat at the end of the workout, as usual.

Tomorrow morning, I'll run 8-9 miles with intervals. I think I'm going to do 5 x 3 minutes tomorrow, rather than the 2-minute repeats I've been doing.

I got most of my equipment packed yesterday for the race. I still need to get my running clothes packed up this week. I put the Velcro for my gaiters on 3 pairs of shoes yesterday - glued on so it will stay in place. I still have to portion out my Perpetuem into bags so my crew has an easy time mixing things. I think I packed about 7 or 8 lights for the trip. I use a headlamp and handheld at night. I have an extra headlamp to put at Last Chance, in case I'm at risk of getting to Michigan Bluff after dark. I have a back-up of each type of light in case one fails. Then, I have a few more lights for my crew and back-ups for my pacer. I should own stock in battery companies.

I did learn 3 years ago to not start the race with a light. Going uphill at a slow pace at the start, it gets light fairly quickly. If anything, I'd want to use a very small "throwaway" light at the start, but I'll pass on that this year.

My biggest worry right now is travel. I deliberately paid a bit extra for plane tickets that were only 2 flights rather than 3, and that avoided the Denver airport and the risk of afternoon thunderstorms. But, the airline has changed our flights about half a dozen times, and we are now going through both Chicago and Denver on Saturday. Because car rental prices are higher now than when I booked, I worry about getting gouged on our rental if we don't get in our original flight or to our original airport. That happened to us in 2005 and Enterprise doubled our rental fee because we arrived after midnight - on a separate calendar day. We are flying to Oakland, but San Francisco or San Jose would work just as well if there are issues with our primary flight. But, my car rental is set for Oakland.

To be perfectly honest, between the way airlines are struggling and treating customers, and the way TSA personnel treat passengers, flying simply isn't fun any more. For years, I flew a lot for business and I loved flying. I just don't enjoy it much at all any more. On my flight to Massanutten last month, some TSA dude spent about 10 minutes examining my passport with some sort of microscope, while everyone else in line kept streaming past me. Two Canadian passengers who went through the X-ray area close to me were treated very rudely by TSA staff. Even though we don't need the information, we are traveling with all kinds of identification for the kids and back-up forms of ID for my wife and me.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Time to kill - random thoughts

Yesterday morning, I ran an easy 10+ miler in the morning. I ran the flat miles at about a 9:20 pace - nice and easy. The run felt almost effortless. I spent the rest of the day catching up on work around the house - going to the dump to get rid of recycling materials, the redemption center to get rid of returnable bottles, the supermarket, etc. I installed a new 3-way light switch - my mental challenge for the day.

I hooked up a new stereo receiver that I bought for my son as an early 15th birthday present (we'll be in CA on his birthday). He's really gotten into music in the past year and he's been buying a lot of CDs. I gave him some old speakers and and an old CD player, so he now has a decent music set-up in his bedroom. I may never see him again, except when he wants a ride somewhere.

Late in the day, we got hit by some thunderstorms and torrential rains. I'm sure the people running the Pittsfield Peaks 53 miler will have some great stories to tell. I was inside during the storms, drinking a margarita and hanging out with my kids. We were hoping that my wife finished her climbing day in the Adirondacks before the rains hit there.

Today is a rest day and I'll spend most of the day doing computer work for my second job - testing some software that I've been writing. It's still wet and gray outside - a good day for hanging out inside and taking it easy.

My run yesterday put me at 1009 miles for the year. WS will be my 10th 100 mile start. This will only be the third time that my total miles for the six months before the race has exceeded 1000 miles. The other two times that happened were when I ran (and finished) Wasatch and Hardrock.

My weight yesterday was 181.6 - not quite to my goal of 180 pounds. But, in my previous 100 milers, I've started only Hardrock at a lower weight and I've never started a 100 at a lower body fat percentage than where I am right now.

Given the fact that I'm tapering, even though I'm being pretty careful about what I eat (yesterday's margaritas excepted), I doubt that my weight will drop any more between now and the race. So, I'll probably miss my goal of making it to 180 for the race, but I should weigh in lower than I did in 2005, when I was at 187.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Double workout days

I work out twice a day quite often. On days that I lift, I lift in the mornings, and I'll often run after work. On other work days, I sometimes run in the morning and again in the evening, often running to and from work.

On Wednesday, I lifted in the morning and did an easy run that night. I realized this morning that I won't be working out twice in a day for a while, which feels kind of nice. My evenings are suddenly a lot more relaxed.

Yesterday, my only workout was an 8 mile run with two tempo miles in the middle. I was a bit disappointed by my time, which was slower than last week, but yesterday's terrain was rolling and last week was flat. This morning, I lifted and did more stair climber intervals.

Every workout for the past five days has included some kind of intensity, but the total time at a higher level of effort hasn't been that high. Monday, was 4 minutes of stair climber intervals (out of 20 total minutes), Tuesday was 14 minutes of hard running, Wednesday was 6 minutes of stair climber intervals, yesterday was 14 minutes of moderately hard running, and this morning, just 4 more minutes. That's only 42 minutes of hard effort for the week - enough to hopefully help with my efficiency, but not enough to lead to injury.

Tomorrow, I'll do an easy but hilly 10 miler. Sunday will be a rest day. Next week, I'll lift three times and run 3 times. Each run will be about 8 miles, with intervals one day, tempo another and easy hills the third.

After that, I'll essentially "coast" into the race on the 28th.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

WS Pace Chart

I took the results and splits from last year's WS race and did some calculations with them. For all finishers, I figured out what percentage of their total finishing time was spent in each segment of the race, based on the data from the WS web site.

I used last year's data because last year's course is the same as this year's course (I believe) and both years will be low-snow years. Last year was cooler than average, so a hot day this year may invalidate some of this data.

After calculating the percentages by segment, I grabbed the median value from each data set. The sum of the medians was 99.14%, so I divided each segment percentage by 99.14%, so I'd end up with 100%. From this, I calculated an expected arrival time for each runner at the major (timed) aid stations, based on a pace of 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28 and 30 hours.

I like to give my crew something like this for every race (usually only for 24-30 hours though), so they can use this to estimate when I'll be at the next aid station. They can also see if I'm picking things up relative to the pack or if I'm falling off. I added the faster split segments this time in case any fast readers happen across my blog.

Please note that my times for the 24 hour pace are slightly different than what you'll find on the WS web page.

Click on the image to see it in a larger and more readable size.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Change in the weather

The past few days have been very humid and hot. Yesterday, parts of Vermont got hit hard by thunderstorms as a cold front pushed into the region. We had a quick afternoon shower but it was sunny when I got home from work. My wife was out for a book club dinner, I'm tapering, and I had a free evening. Because the afternoon storm had been so short, I performed the exciting task of mowing the lawn. I finished just before the next round of thunderstorms showed up. Around 9:00, a severe band of storms came through, and both kids came into our bedroom to "hide" from the storms in our air conditioned room. I dozed off and then woke up and realized we had four people and one dog sleeping on my bed.

Eventually, my wife got the kids off to bed and the storms let up. The weather today is beautiful - cooler, no humidity, beautiful sunshine.

I lifted this morning and did stair climber intervals. Tonight, I'll run an easy 4 miles. Tomorrow, I'll sleep in and then do 8 miles after work, with 2 tempo miles.

I'm trying to really focus on getting lots of quality sleep right now. I had forgotten some of the more fun aspects of tapering - free time, more sleep, not wiped out all the time, etc.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Not to be lost in all of these training details is that fact that this stuff is fun. The training is fun. Planning my training is fun. Sitting on the couch on a Saturday night, after a tough run, sipping a glass of cold wine, with no guilt at all, is fun.

I've made all kinds of friends through this sport. I travel to support them and they travel to support me in races. I may write mostly about how I'm training or eating or otherwise getting ready to race 100 miles, but mostly, I'm having fun with all of this. Every single day, every single workout.

Right now, I simply cannot wait to be on that starting line in Squaw Valley. Two years ago, when I was there to pace, the year after my 93.5 mile DNF, the start was very disappointing to me. I wanted to be racing.

Yeah, it's hard sometimes and unexpected issues pop up during a race, but it's the fact that we can fail that makes it interesting.

I'm looking forward to a great vacation with my family. I will see many old friends from my years of living in CA. I will be hanging out in Yosemite for a few days, perhaps the most beautiful place on earth.

And in the middle of the trip, I'll have a chance to run a really tough 100 miler. This time, I intend to make it to the track, take my victory lap, and tell my crew and my pacer that it was fun!

Tuesday morning intervals

It was hot when I started running. Well, it wasn't really hot (80F), but it was humid and it felt hot. Last Tuesday, I ran 8 miles with 6 x 2 minute intervals. This morning, I added a 7th repeat.

By the end of the 3rd repeat this morning, I thought I was going to throw up from the effort and the heat. But, on the 4th, I felt a bit better and the next few repeats went well - until the last one. On the last repeat, I just felt like I was spent - no speed left at all.

From there, I did a cooldown of 2+ miles for a total of 8 miles.

This afternoon, we are supposed to get hit by some nasty thunderstorms and then the first heat wave of the year should be over. But, by the weekend, humidity will start to return.

This weekend, my wife will be off rock climbing in the Adirondacks. I'll be home with the kids.

I'll get in an easy 10 miler on Saturday and then I'll spend the rest of the weekend getting stuff ready for the race. I need to put Velcro on my race shoes to fasten my gaiters. I need to make sure all of my lights have fresh batteries. I need to check my socks for holes, get my foot care kit together, etc. I also need to do some sheets for my crew, so they have expected times at aid stations and they know in advance what I expect to need at each aid station.

The attention to details before a 100 seems ridiculous at times, but after all the training and time and expense that goes into getting ready for a 100 and then traveling to the race, there's no reason to fail at the race because of a minor overlooked detail.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Weekend heat

I was out of town all weekend, visiting my mother in PA. I got in a 2 hour run on Saturday. I deliberately ran later than I would have preferred, so I'd get the full effect of the heat and humidity. It was 80F when I started and 93F two hours later. I felt OK for the first 80 minutes or so, and then the heat started to affect me a bit.

The heat here on the east coast is very different than what we'll hit at WS. At WS, the humidity will be low enough that the sweat will evaporate quickly. For me, this can actually be a bad thing. The cooling effect is good, but I often don't realize how much water I'm losing, which can lead to dehydration. On Saturday, I was soaked the entire run, so I was carrying enough water in my shirt to remind me to keep drinking.

Yesterday was a rest day as we drove home from PA - all day in the car.

This morning, I lifted and did stair climber intervals. Right now, it's 97F outside, so I'll run in the heat after work, unless the thunderstorms get here first. This heat will be great training for the race, as long as I can run in between the storms. I doubt that my lazy dogs will want to run in this heat.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Last night was 7 miles, with 2 easy, 1 hard, 1 easy, 1 hard, 2 easy. The hard miles were done in 6:58 (slight uphill) and 6:32 (slight downhill). The 6:32 was my fastest mile in quite a while, which is both good and bad. It's good that I'm getting faster, but I'm still pretty slow.

My weight seems stuck at 183, despite the fact that I'm eating very carefully 6.5 days out of the week.

My blood pressure was 106/57 this morning, the best reading I've had in years. Since substantially cutting the carbs in my diet over the last few months, my BP has gradually been droppping from borderline high to a much better range. This hopefully means that I won't get any funny looks when they take my BP at WS in a few weeks.

I'm at 967 miles for the year and I'll hit 1000 next week.

Tomorrow, temps will be in the 90s when I run.

No running today, but I lifted and did stair climber intervals this morning.

My race number for WS is 263.

22 days until showtime.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

90% of this game is half mental

On our group run last Saturday, I was talking to Nate about the mental aspects of running 100 miles. He's gone from 50K to 50 miles to 100K quickly and his first 100 miler will be at Vermont.

One thing that I told him is that all of the talking we do during training is cheap. It's easy to say you want to run 100 miles. To actually pull it off, is quite different. At some point, and for me, this tends to happen in the 60-80 mile range of a 100, you aren't really running a physical race any more. You're running a mental race, and this is where you find out if you really truly want to finish a 100 miler.

No amount of blathering about running a 100 miles before the race will get you past this point in the race. You no longer care what others will think about your performance. You no longer care about anything except the task at hand. Your body is screaming at you to quit and you have to find a way to keep going.

It's one of the things I love about 100s. Our world is so full of complexities and relationships and jobs and finances and advertisements and communications, etc. Eventually, in a 100, I reach a point where I have my running shoes, I am dealing with pain, I probably have a good friend for company, it's dark, and I'm wondering what the hell I'm doing here. Why am I doing this? WTF was I thinking when I signed up for this. But, as I think those thoughts, the outside world is gone. There is no job, no deadline at work, no mortgage payment, no broken down car, no roof to be replaced on the house. It's existence at its simplest, in many ways. Eat, drink, run.

I will admit that I've given in at times. I have not finished every 100 miler that I've started. But, my DNFs have mostly come with good "excuses". Mostly. In at least 1, I honestly quit. I was in over my head and didn't know what to do. Quitting was easy. In another, I gave in mentally, although my physical condition was questionable. But, in my head, I know that I gave up.

So, how do you get through the dark times? First, I constantly remind myself that "I chose to do this. This is what I do. This is part of who I am." It may sound trite, but it reminds me that it's all up to me. Either I have to want it or it won't happen. No one else is forcing me to do this.

Sometimes, I think about friends I've run with over the years. Some don't run any more or can't run any more. In particular, I think about friends like Jutta and Lydia and Karl and Mike and Mia - people who should be running, but who aren't even alive any more. Cancer took three of them, a heart attack took a fourth, and a drunk driver the fifth. If they can't run any more, perhaps I can run a mile for each of them.

I also try to remember that the time cut-off for the race will come and go, no matter what I choose to do. When that time limit expires, I will either have been victorious or I will have failed. Since I can't control the time, why not simply persevere and do the best I can with the time that's left. Isn't that how we should live our lives in general anyway?

Anyway, four easy miles with the dogs last night. Tonight will be 7-8 miles with 2-3 of those at tempo pace, depending on how I'm feeling. Tomorrow morning, I'll lift and do cross-training intervals. Saturday will be a 2-2.5 hour trail run. Not too much excitement there.

Mostly, I'm starting to get myself mentally focused on the race.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New Toys

I've had a new ultra toy for a while, but I somehow forgot to mention it here.

For running at night, I've been using a BD Zenix headlamp and a Gerber handheld light. Both are quite nice for what they do. My only complaint has been the size and the weight of the Gerber handheld. Over numerous hours on the trail, it just seems to get heavier and heavier and more cumbersome to use.

So, all spring, I had been thinking about the Fenix lights that ZombieRunner sells. I talked by e-mail with Don at ZR, and eventually decided on the P3D Premium Q5. It runs of CR123 camera batteries, which is both good and bad. Those batteries are very light, but they are expensive. What is amazing is how small and compact the light is. At its brightest setting, it's way, way brighter than my Gerber light, but the battery light is under 2 hours at that setting.

At the same brightness setting as my current Gerber light, and with a much whiter light, one set of batteries will go all night long in a race. I will certainly carry a back-up set of batteries, but I think the Gerber is about to become a flashlight for home improvement work rather than ultras. Or perhaps, my crew will enjoy using it during races.

I also got an "Original Buff" (see review here) to use as an ice holder at WS. It will be easy to soak this hat and fill it with ice at the aid stations to keep my head cool.

Yes, I continue to be a gear junkie.

Workouts - just as planned

Last night, I ran 8 miles, with 6 x 2 minute intervals, just as planned. I did a 15 minute warm-up, then ran hard for 2 minutes and recovered for 3, repeat. I did a few very slow miles after the intervals and my total time was 73 minutes.

This morning, I did incline dumbbell presses, three point dumbbell rows, push-ups, cable rows, lunges, lat pulldowns and squat presses before 20 minutes of stair climber intervals. For intervals this morning, I did 40 seconds on/80 seconds off, times 6. For the first time ever, I had the stair climber at its max setting during the intervals.

My shirt felt like it was holding 5 pounds of sweat by the end of the workout.

Tonight, I'll run an easy 4 miles with my dogs.

This weekend, I'm going to get some good heat training, finally, although it will also include some east coast humidity as well. I can't imagine how tough the Old Dominion 100 miler will be this weekend with temps near 100F and very high humidity readings. I was thinking about maybe racing somewhere on Saturday, perhaps a road race in the 10K-1/2 marathon range, but I think I'll pass on that in the heat and humidity.

I think I'm going to install our air conditioners tonight. We don't use them all that often in Vermont, but they'll get used this weekend.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A short run and then DSO (mostly Deadhead rambling)

I ran an easy 4 miles with my lazy dogs last night. Then, I headed to Burlington, Vermont's Higher Ground club to see Dark Star Orchestra. I've seen many shows by DSO and other bands at Higher Ground, but last night may have been the first time I didn't have any beer while at a show there. For the past few months, I've been staying away from alcohol completely during the work week and usually only having any alcohol on Saturdays.

It's amazing how drunk and out of control everyone else seems when I'm completely sober. Of course, that leads me to wonder how I might appear to others who are sober when I'm not...

Anyway, the show by DSO, as usual, was fantastic. I mentioned yesterday that I try to guess when the show that's being re-created was originally played. The first set seemed to put the show in 1973 or 1974, although it turned out that some songs in that set weren't played until 1976 - something that I didn't realize.

The second set opened with Samson and Delilah. I knew that song, from the Terrapin Station album, hadn't been played live before 1976. Thanks to DeadBase, an online searchable database for Deadheads, I found out that 6/3/1976 was the first time Samson and Delilah was played live. That show featured 5 new songs that the Dead had never played live before, including two others that were in last night's first set - Supplication and Lazy Lightning. If I really knew my Dead history, those songs would have put the show in 1976 or later early on.

My favorite Grateful Dead set lists are from their tours in 1976 and 1977, although the quality of the music didn't always match the quality of the set lists. I've read that part of the reason for the shows being less than spectacular in that era had to do with the use of alcohol by one of the band members and that Jerry wasn't happy about it. There is a certain irony in that, given how poorly Jerry played under the influence of heroin and other drugs at times.

By the end of the show, I was guessing that the show had been in late 1976, but it turned out to be from 6/4/1977 in California (setlist from Deadbase):

06-04-77 The Forum, Inglewood, Ca. (Sat)
1: Promised, Tennessee Jed, El Paso, Peggy-O, Jack Straw, FOTD, Lazy Lightning> Supplication, Candyman, Minglewood, B. E. Women, Music
2: Samson, Ship Of Fools, Estimated> Eyes> Drums> Good Lovin, Terrapin> Playin> Franklin's> China Doll> NFA> Playin E: Saturday Night

Deadbase's mnemonics for certain songs are easily deciphered by Deadheads, but not by everyone else. For example, Promised is "Promised Land". Pretty straightforward. FOTD is "Friend of the Devil". B.E. Women is "Brown Eyed Women". Etc.

After they announced the date of the show, I was going to head home for some sleep, and skip the last song or two that they usually play. But, before I could head for the door, the band introduced Mike Gordon, the bass player from Phish, who would sit in for the next song. They played U.S. Blues and Mike really seemed to have fun with it. I had seem him play with Phil Lesh and Friends a couple years ago, where he and Phil did a free jam, while Mike was standing on a Seqway. Seeing him up close last night made me think he may have used that Segway because he's so short.

I got home just before 2:30 a.m. and got about 5.5 hours of sleep last night. If I was younger, I'd go see DSO again tonight, but I'm old and I've got more important things to do with my spare time these days.

Tonight, I'll run about 8 miles after work, including 6 x 2 minute repeats at about 6:30 pace. Then, I'll have dinner and get to bed early.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A couple graphs

Yes, I'm a geek. I'm at just about 950 miles for the year so far. One graph above shows my week-by-week mileage for the year so far. The other graph compares this year to the previous four.

I see sick people

In the next 3+ weeks, my biggest fear will be getting sick. The volume of training that I've done recently most likely has left my immune system at less than 100%. A week before the race, I will spend an entire day in airplanes and airports, probably coming into contact will all sorts of nasty germs and viruses.

Right now, I'm almost paranoid about getting sick for the race. If it happened right now, I'd be able to recover for the race, but of course, I'd rather not be sick.

Last Friday, one of my co-workers came into my office to ask a question and she also mentioned that she has a cold. On Saturday, one of the runners in our group was sick. This morning, at the gym, one of my daughter's friends was hanging out. Her dad was working out and she was there because she was too sick to go to school today, so she was going to work with her dad (her dad owns his own local business). Sick people are everywhere!

This morning's workout was squats, Romanian deadlifts, Swiss ball crunches, step-ups and kettlebell swings, followed by stair climber intervals. Tonight, I'll run an easy 4 miles before I head out to see a concert at a local club.

I'm going to see Dark Star Orchestra, a Grateful Dead cover band that I've seen many times. DSO re-creates entire Dead shows, including the arrangements as they were played in the original shows. They're always fun to see and it's fun to try to guess the date of the actual show they play. At the end of the show, they always announce what show they've duplicated, and I've often been within a couple months in my guess of the re-created show date. After they announce the date of the show, they usually play a couple extra songs as well. The downside to seeing them is that the show won't end until after 1:00 a.m. and I'll have an hour drive to get home after the show. I'm too old to stay up that late any more, and the only times I seem to stay awake until after midnight are for ultras or DSO shows.

On a completely unrelated note, Saturday night, my wife and I drank a bottle of 1985 Chateau Meyney. It was our last bottle of 1985 Bordeaux and it was pretty amazing. I paid $11.85 for the bottle in 1989 and we had never tasted it. After tasting it on Saturday, I wish I'd bought a case at that ridiculously low price. Meyney is owned by the Cordier family and all of their properties in Bordeaux make solid wines. I've still got a fair number of Cordier wines from 1986 and 1989, including more Chateau Meyney, and I'm looking forward to drinking them in the future.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Is that all?

Yesterday, I ran 22+ miles with a bunch of runners who are doing the Vermont 100 this summer. We ran on the course itself, a portion of the course known as the "Camp 10 Bear loop". During the race, you hit the Camp 10 Bear aid station twice, at about miles 46 and 70, and the second time through is where you meet your pacer. We did skip one newer trail section that is on private land, so we did a bit less mileage than runners get on race day. I'm not sure if everyone who was there is running the VT100, but most of them are entered.

I normally train solo and it was really nice to spend a day with a number of other ultrarunners, talking about running and all kinds of other subjects. One topic that was repeated through the day with Sherpa John falls into the category of "what's said on the trail, stays on the trail". That rule was introduced to me years ago by Sue Johnston, who regretfully doesn't live in Vermont to train with us anymore. But, we certainly had some good fun at John's expense during the run.

For the most part, I was amazed at how good I felt. I didn't run with the fastest people, but I more than held my own in a mid-paced group of solid runners. The run pushed me to well over 90 miles in the past 8 days, and I felt strong all day.

Back in the winter, I laid out a plan for my WS training. The core of the plan was my long runs and long races. I am now done with my long training runs for WS, and amazingly, I nailed my plan pretty well. I also planned to lose weight for the race, and I've done that pretty well. I'd still like to drop a couple more pounds before the race, and I think that will happen with my focus on speedwork for the next couple weeks.

Without a doubt, I'm in the best ultra shape I've been in since I ran Hardrock in 2004. My training plan and its execution have paid off. It almost seems anti-climatic at this point, hence the subject line of this post (and also a U2 song that I like a lot).

But, of course, the training isn't the end product. The race result is the end product and that work remains to be done. I still have four weeks in which I need to remain healthy, do some tuning work, and get myself completely ready for the race.

Early in the year, I speculated about my chances of running sub-24 at WS. Given my past speed in road races, I think I possess the ability to get into sub-24 hour shape. But, I'm not there now and that's not going to change before the event. However, my current fitness level should allow me to run a smart, tactical race without having to worry about cut-offs along the way. If we get hit by intense heat for the race, I'm fit enough that I can back off through the worst of the heat and still have time to finish the course.

If I was racing the Vermont 100 this summer, I would certainly shoot for a sub-24 there, but WS is a much tougher race that VT.

So, I've got 27 days until I start WS. I need to be smart about the rest of my training, stay healthy, eat well, sleep enough, rest enough, and I should arrive at WS ready to run a great race. Right now, I can't wait for June 28th.