Friday, November 30, 2007

100 miles

One of my (relatively) modest goals for 2007 was to run 2007 miles. As of tonight, I have 100 miles to go.

Even though the next 3 weeks having me traveling all over the country doing project work for a company I hope to have a long-standing relationship with in the near future, I cannot see me not reaching that goal.

Of course, if I had finished the OD 100 race and had reached my 130-mile goal at Ultra Centric I would only have 26 miles to go. :) That said I was shocked that November was only my 4th highest mileage month of the year. It is easy to figure out why (low mileage coming into and then back out of Ultra Centric) but when you trudge 70 miles in one day you really think you might have a great month. Alas. As always, my mileage is hardly awe-inspiring but I know every single one of my runs is important and I rarely have junk mileage.

It is time to start thinking about 2008 goals. While I am not necessarily shooting for it, I would not be surprised if I approach 3,000 miles for the year. With my plan now being to race very little and train much more, the miles may pile up much quicker than expected. Heck, it is a leap year so I get an extra day! That means I only need to average 8.2 miles every single day.


What races are planned? Honestly, none. I have my eyes on some but where my life takes me in the next few months will determine a great deal.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Trot?

Not for me.

Took all my energy to crawl out of bed and jog a three-miler. Still recovering from Ultra Centric and already full of food, I decided to share a little news about my friend Bryon Powell.

Last weekend he finished his 3rd 50 miler in 3 weekends. Dang.

11/3 - Mountain Masochist Trail Run - 8:30:34 - 15th place
11/10 - Stone Cat 50 - 7:58:06 - 6th place
11/17 - JFK 50 - 7:13:45 - 25th place including a 50 mile PR!

Now, having that ability is something to be thankful for.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ultra Centric Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 2; 32nd Edition
587.59 miles raced in 2007
Race: Ultra Centric
Place: Grapevine, TX
Miles from home: 1348 miles
Course Difficulty: 5.5 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 3.5 out of 10
Weather: 70-80s, bright sunshine
Finisher's Medal: N/A

"A fitting end to a difficult year in racing" is how I would sum up my 24-Hour run on Saturday in nine words.

My pre-race goals were lofty yet attainable. To begin, I wished to run a minimum of 130 miles and contend for one of the top three positions for the Men’s US 24-Hour National team. I found it funny that when I would mention this as one of my goals, one of the frequent questions I was asked was “So what does that get you?” I know this question was probably just one based on curiosity given the men’s team is just in its 4th year of existence. Heck, to some extent, when I first heard of the team (after I signed up for the race, mind you) I too thought the same thing. However, I guess even when you have reached what could be the pinnacle of your little niche of athleticism, there is always the question: “Yeah, so? Now what?”

Nevertheless, to even be considered for the team I had to run a minimum of 130 miles. Everything else would depend on where I placed against the competition on this day. But I was pretty sure I would need 135 miles at least, in order to contend.

As races approach, I usually keep an eye on the weather report for the race day but I was watching this particular forecast like a hawk. Unlike a hot day in a 10k or a marathon, which you may pay the price for running hard but can probably power through, I knew this race would be different. Running for an entire day, the weather was very important. As the race neared, the promise of a partly cloudy day and some light rain sprinkles still existed. Then, a once predicted high of 80 degrees dropped to 75. If everything kept going this way, it may not be so bad after all, I thought. Unfortunately, as the race drew near, the weather continued to get warmer and hopes of good race weather vanished.

The day before the race I saw a list of who was coming. There had been no posting on the website of the race participants prior to this. When I inquired about whom may be running, I never received an answer from the usually attentive race staff, which I found quite odd. A few other ultra runners had mentioned that they would not be attending because of this lack of information. As always when I have a complaint about a race or how it is run, I really and truly want to know only “why”. I try my best to figure out why someone has done something and if I cannot figure it out, I only hope I can get an answer. There usually is one, even if I tend not to agree with it.

Unfortunately hopes that perhaps some of the top tier gentlemen might stay away, making my attempt at getting on the US team slightly easier, were eliminated when I saw the list. Not only were the top three runners from last year here again but also some runners who seemed poised to put on a fight were signed up as well. Oh well, I just needed to run my own race. Everything else would fall into place where it would.

Originally planning on running this race unassisted, my friend Christine had made a last minute trip down to Dallas in order to assist not only me, but my friend Nattu as we ran the one day event. Another runner I was meeting for the first time, Ed, would be competing in the 12-hour race and would also benefit from her helpful hand. Nattu is a two-time veteran of Badwater, amongst many other races and Ed was trying his second Ultracentric 12-hour race.

When I checked out the course the night before the race, I saw that the original 2.4 mile loop had been replaced with a simple 2 mile version. This was welcome by just about everyone as having an even number made the math so much easier. As we watched the participants in the 48 Hour race go by (here in their 9th hour of racing) we noticed one thing: the wind. Gusting like crazy I could only hope that it would die down for the next day. With long stretches of this loop being either on the shores of Grapevine Lake or adjacent to wide open fields, there was little to stop the fierce winds from blowing.

I recognized a few people immediately. One was Bob Oberkehr who I had run 20 plus miles of the Old Dominion 100 with earlier this year. Bob was moving along at a great clip and I ran a few yards with him just to say hello (you weren’t allowed to run with anyone or pace them and I did not want to get Bob DQd). The other was Dave Goggins, a tall, lean, and muscular chap who was hard to miss. Relatively knew to the ultra scene, Dave is already running ridiculous distances in ridiculous times (he would eventually run 203 miles for the 48 Hour event).

Back at the hotel, I ordered a pizza from a local place to be delivered for dinner. So much for everything being bigger in Texas. The pizza, supposedly enough to feed two, could have easily been devoured by only me. I then settled into bed for a long night of sleep and hoped to dream of better times. I say this because, just a few hours earlier, my father had been admitted to the hospital. While his very high fever had stabilized, he was experiencing plenty of side effects. As such, my sleep was punctuated with fitful dreams.

When morning came, not a leaf was moving on the trees and it actually seemed a little chilly. I was elated. However, there was not a single cloud in the sky. I hoped this would not be a problem.

I received a ride from my hotel from a friend I had spoken to many times online but was meeting for the first time, Tim Lawson. Tim was here with his cousin Don who was running his first ultra. In fact, Don had never run longer than 9 miles before and was here to participate in the 6-hour race (he would eventually whip out 33 miles.) Tim, who was suffering from a stress fracture in his shin, was here to see what he could do. I pled with him to stop if he felt he was going to do any damage. At the tender age of 22, I tried to impart upon him how many more years of running he would have if stopped if needed. I have said many times to many people: Sometimes the best run we do is the one we don’t do.

At the starting line I noticed a few other well-known ultra runners including John Geesler, Roy Pirrung and Akos Konya. John is a fixture on the circuit routinely churning out stupendous upper-echelon times. Roy is a machine who was in the top three last year. Akos is relatively new to the scene as well but has already been the runner-up twice at Badwater’s 135-mile race. I also saw a few women runners who I was pretty sure I recognized but could not immediately put a name to a face. I assumed throughout the day I would.

The Race:

My plan was to average 11-minute miles, which equals exactly 130 miles for the day. If I had more in me, great; if not, at least I would have that minimum standard. From the get-go, I knew I was running fast but really felt like I was keeping myself in-check. I knew I should run slightly faster in the opening hours as that would be when I was most fresh and feeling great. The trick was to not go out too fast (as it is in any race) but the problem with trying to run 11-minute miles is that it is nearly double the pace I ran for my most recent marathon. Therefore, an 8-or 9-minute mile pace feels as if I am indeed going slow when I am not.

Within an hour I knew I had to slow down. I really began to pull back or at least I thought I was. What made it difficult was that there were two or three guys who were absolutely booking. I have no idea whatsoever what race they thought they were running as the lead runner ran the first two miles in barely over a 7 minute pace. What added to the challenge of the day was shortly after the 9 AM start, the cool temperature I was so enjoying in the morning evaporated and the heat began to build. And build.

No clouds appeared. Not a hint of rain could be counted on. The asphalt circle we were running on began to heat up and cook. After every lap Christine told me to slow down and drink. Every lap I did my best to do so. When I noticed Akos was still behind me at 18 miles, I decided to simply pull over, drink as much as I could and let him pass. An accomplished runner like this should not have been behind me, which told me I was doing something wrong. To be honest, at 18 miles in, with 3.5 hours of running, I was already done for the day. I would never admit it to myself then but now I can see the truth.

One of my biggest problems with racing is my sweating. I sweat so much in a race such as this that in order to keep fluids in me I am almost constantly drinking. By doing so, my belly often fills and I cannot stomach to take in food. Without food, I get no calories and with no calories there is no energy inside me. As Christine tried to force me to eat food (which I needed) I knew I was in trouble. I would take a few bites of something, begin to run and then would almost immediately feel the sloshing in my stomach.

30 miles

After I passed her at 30 miles and told her my split, Christine grabbed me and told me I was over an hour ahead of my suggested pace at that point. When I then passed the 50k mark in ~4:30 I had set a 50k PR by 40 minutes. This was a testament to both how awful the conditions were in the only other 50ks I had run and how fast I was going today (which was way too fast). So I decided I would utilize the hour of time by sitting for 5 minutes every lap and try to take in fluids and food and rest. Then I would run the 2-mile loop and repeat.

After 6 of these breaks (and using only 30 minutes of that cushion), I decided to try a different tactic. I noticed it was getting a little harder to get up and moving after my breaks. So, noting that the course (whose hills seemed to progressively get longer and steeper as the day went on) had a series of two major uphills, I decided to pay heed to the advice to a friend who is an ultramathoner herself and a coach to many: Lisa Smith-Batchen.

I began a series of runs where I would run for approximately 9 minutes and alternate that with a 2-minute race walk. It so happened that the intervals more or less put me walking on the uphills of this course, which was perfect. I then tried to grab food from Christine on one of these uphills and munch on it while I walked.

I was able to do this for the next hour or so soon, but then the dry heaves began. I could no longer take in food or liquid without immediately vomiting it up, when I commenced running. By now, it was nearing 5 o’clock, and the sun had finally started to cool some. But the damage had been done a long time ago.

As I passed the timing mat for 48 miles, I did not even stop for food or liquid. I knew I could set a 50 miler PR, if I just kept running for another 2 miles. Obviously, trying to set personal bests for shorter distance in races of much longer distances should not be done. But I was fried. I honestly was unsure if I would be going on any more and I figured I could at least set two new PRs in one day.

So, I pressed on, crossed the 50-mile mark in 8:23:44 and crashed into a chair.

Big Break:

By this point, another online running friend, Dre, who had made her way over to the race with her girlfriend, was offering tons of support and consolation. Having run to a nearby store to fetch me some Gatorade (I couldn’t take in any more of my Accelerade and Propel mix), I was bolstered by her return. Nevertheless, I knew I needed to rest. And eat.

For the next 45 minutes, all I did was take in calories. I did not know what I was going to do race-wise. I knew that there was so much more of the race to be run but I needed to have energy to race it. I was hoping my break and calorie intake would allow me to get back in the game.

Throughout the day I had been making calls to the hospital on my cell while I ran. My father’s condition first got better and then worsened. When you are running a 2-mile loop in the hot blazing sun, your mind has plenty of time to think about various things. Unfortunately, mine had been on my dad.

As I sat there munching on spaghetti, I knew I was still only half an hour ahead of my goal pace. Once the eating was done, I was now 15 minutes in the hole and not feeling any better. I finally decided to simply lie down and sleep. Hopefully the leaders were feeling the same and my rest would help me. Vascillating from 9th to 15th place overall throughout the day, I knew many of us were clustered within 2-4 miles of each other. All it took was a falter here or there and I would be back in the running.

So, I climbed in a sleeping bag and tried to relax. Before long, Christine was rousing me. I still had not decided if I was going to try for any more miles. I said to give me another half an hour. But as I lay there, I felt rejuvenated. About 10 minutes later I sprung up (that might be a bit of an exaggeration). The crew next to us who were working for a really nice guy very similar to myself named Chuck (same general appearance, former swimmer) applauded at my standing upright. I told Christine I was ready to go again. I did not know what I was going to do but I was going to try.

Mile 68:

It took me a quarter of a mile to get my legs working again. Plus I was now wearing my regular shirt, a long sleeve shirt and a windbreaker. It was hard to get warm. But once my legs were under me I felt great. I started to walk. I started doing math in my head and wondered if I simply walked 20-minute miles where I would end up. It came to me I would be around 92 miles. I did not see the point in that very much so I abandoned the idea. When I walked through the first mile after I left my slumber in 15.5 minutes, I recalculated. Hmmm. If I kept this up I would finish in 104 miles. So much math to do.

I continued on this pace of fast walking for the next mile or so. Then, I decided to jog the downhills, fast walk the flats and powerwalk the ups. Next thing I knew, I was doing sub 14-minute miles. This is pretty good for this stage, I thought. But then I had to make the last call of the night to my Dad.

Grabbing my cellphone and trying to walk, I realized by doing the simple act of holding my phone, I was getting cramps in my shoulders. In addition, a stage had been set up so that bands could play to keep the runners occupied. Unfortunately, the stage was set up literally feet from where the runners would be racing. I have not one iota of a clue who thought this was a good idea. Even half-mile away the sound, in the open air of this park, was deafening. Whenever you passed the stage you hoped it was not the moment the local myspace band didn’t hit their Pete Townsend arm waving strike on the guitar and blow your ear drums out. I mention this, not only to talk about the ludicrous nature of having such a loud disturbance so close to the runners but also to note that I could not talk on the phone for very long because anytime I got close to the stage, I would have to hang up.

Unfortunately, the news remained the same with my father. I will not say the somber news hindered my already weakened performance but it most assuredly did not help.

Soon thereafter, I could not just powerwalk a 15-minute mile. If I ran the downhills at a good clip and walked the rest, I could still get that 15-minute mile. But it was beginning to take a great deal more effort. I hit mile 68 and planned to take a 5-minute rest to recoup. This turned into 10 minutes. I then told Christine I might be done. For real. I had no energy left. I tried as much as I could to take in food but what would seem like a feast was just a few spoonfuls of chicken broth or potatoes. I decided I was going to lie down for 20 minutes.

Second Break:

At 20 minutes, Christine woke me. I told her I wanted 10 more. What seemed like 10 seconds went by before I felt her shaking me. Forget it I said, I am going to use the rest of my cushion (the cushion of time which would allow me to finish with 100 total miles). Let me sleep for 30 more. I am going to have to have my energy or it won’t matter.

Thirty minutes later I got up for good. My legs had stiffened greatly but mostly they were bereft of energy. I decided I was going to just get moving and see what happened.

70 miles:

Walking along, I made a call to my mother. I needed to know what the situation was with my Dad. She did not know much more than I did. We talked about what may need to be done and what I could do from where I was. While my dad had been dealing with some coherency problems because of his fever, the one thing he seemed perfectly clear about was that I was in Dallas running for 24 Hours. “Still being stupid?” was how he would answer the phone and I would laugh my ass off and tell him “Who do you think I get it from?”

The decision to stop finally came to me in this last loop. I had 8 plus hours to go. I know I could hit 90 plus miles even if I zombie-walked it. But I did not see the point. I read in a recent magazine about a person who did the Pik’s Peak Marathon. If you do not know about this race, it goes straight up the mountain for 13.1 miles and then straight back down. Well, the person did great for the first half and on the way back, fell several times. One time, it appears they may have struck their head. When they finally crossed the finishline, scuffed knees, bloody brow and sheer exhaustion racking their body, the author of the article said, “That is what I call determination.” Well, maybe. I also call it not too bright.

I mean, there is something to be said for finishing what you started. Earlier this year, I had a rather grueling race in Dalian, China. But quitting the race, in the middle of the run, when the EMTs that were giving my water did not speak English, was just as scary as continuing on in the state I was in. As the guest of a Chinese shoe manufacturer, there was not much I could do but get to the finish and find them. Otherwise I would be in a world of confusion, far worse than walking along to my second worst marathon finish ever (only faster than the climb through the mountains of Leadville, CO).

But here, finishing my 35th loop of this 2-mile course, I was reduced to a shuffle. All my goals were gone. I came across the one-time leader of the race, Caroyln Smith and we exchanged some words. She was calling it a day at the next lap as well. She held the same philosophy. The day is hot, I could tack some more miles onto my total so my training log looks really cute or I can cut my losses and keep myself from doing irreparable damage to my body.

Earlier in the day, yet another online running friend, Bill Allen, had come to the same conclusion. After pacing along greatly, a stop to change clothes had his IT band tighten up greatly. So, he said forget it. Sometimes that is far, far harder than continuing to shuffle on.

What was amazing, as I pulled into the clock at the final lap, was how the leaderboard had changed throughout the day. So many of the fast starters (especially the fools who went out at a 10k pace) had been leapfrogged by those who ran much slower but consistent pace. Ultrarunning legend Pam Reed (who I introduced myself to in the middle of the race and told her that her feats are incredible) had been slowly but surely picking runner after runner off as the fell to the wayside. Connie Gardner, who somehow handled the heat spectacularly (and inexplicably so, being from the Rust Belt of Ohio) not only took second place overall but just missed breaking the American Women’s record by .05 of a mile.

But with me, I hit the timing mat at 70 miles and removed my chip. No more rest breaks, no more eating while running and no more vomiting. Nattu, who had been affected by the heat as well, had dropped at 50 miles for the same reason I did: there was no reason to go on. But Ed put us all to shame by doing over 58 miles in the 12 hours and taken 3rd place. Tim, battling his stress fracture but in the end battling his ego and wisely pulling out, still managed 84 miles. So, while my goals were lost, I was buoyed by the great achievements of my friends.

Furthermore, after a long night’s sleep, I got to speak to my Dad again. Fever down, now back home, he was doing much better. I told him, even though my family doesn’t often express emotions openly, that this race was definitely for him. Miles 1-50 I did on my talent, training and heart. From there on, I was doing it for him. And then I stopped running because I stopped being stupid.

But I told him to not count on that lasting very long.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ultracentric Cometh

1. I was out on my last run of the week before Ultracentric. Just an easy 5 miler. Even though the temps have been cooling lately today was gorgeous. It was about 60 degrees and the leaves are both changing and falling. I just got a new cell phone and could not figure out some of the features. SO, I figured I would swing by the store to ask them for assistance at the end of my run.

The run is over and I am heading home. I am about 100 yards from being done when I roll my ankle. No suspense, it doesn’t hurt. But if you are a runner you know exactly what kind of roll this is. I stepped on a grate or a rock or something and for a split-second and the ankle rolled underneath me. Then, through the grace of God, I did not roll it enough, was able to right myself and no damage was done. Sheer panic and “ohmygod” ran through my head but no damage.

2. Ultracentric occurs almost exactly to the day in my life that my father was in when he was crippled in a hunting accident. You see, I turned 31 in May of this year and the race is Nov. 17th. My father turned 31 in April (of 1974) and then on Nov. 15th of that year had the bullet of a .44 rip most of his left lower leg apart.

When I was running 52 marathons last year and had all kinds of questions as to why would I put my body through this when I did not know what it would do to me in the long run, I gave many different answers (all true). But one that was always in my mind was the fact that my father assuredly did not think, that at age 31, he would never be walking again. So, when I heard things from people like a triathlon coach in Canada (Barrie Shepley) who said what I was doing was actually BAD for the sport of marathoning, I steeled myself by knowing what I was doing was for me, the charity, and my family.

It is extremely ironic I am taking on this challenge at this exact time in my life. Only after signing up for the race did I realize the connection.

So this race is for my Dad.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Elora Geier Holiday Benefit Auction

I have mentioned Elora Geier here before but please allow me to reiterate.

One of the race competitors in the Drake Well Marathon, Dan Geier, had a simple request when I asked him what he wanted to be listed as: "Elora's Dad". I assumed he was simply a proud father. I was wrong.

In April 2006, Elora, Dan's daughter, lost her life after battling with Leukemia. To honor her life, Dan set up, Elorapalooza, a 5K Run/Walk on September 23, 2007. Raising funds in memory of Elora, the race distance was a favorite of Elora's who, in spite of always finishing long after the other runners crossed the finish line enjoyed the 5k.

Well the race was a large success and now Dan and his family are throwing a Holiday Benefit auction to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Elora’s HOPE Foundation. To learn more about this event and how you can be a part, just click above or email Dan and Leslie at

Thanks so much for reading!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ultracentric looms

Ultracentric, the 24-Hour Race, which also serves as the qualifier to be on the US National Team, is this Saturday. I am extremely excited, strangely confident and ready to run.

Timing for this race will be done by a company whose website can be found HERE. I am unsure if they will keep updated stats as the day goes on (and on and on) but please feel free to check in on me anytime you want. Chances are I will also check my cell phone a few times during the day, so go ahead and say hello as well.

I am a little perturbed the decent predicted temperatures of mid 60s from last week have given way to mid-to-high 70s this week. Damn it! I am only hoping that running at a much slower pace will mean that the sun won’t sap me as much. And hey, it isn’t the 98 degrees of the North Face 50k or 90 plus of the Old Dominion 100.

That said, I guess my confidence comes from my hard fought war this year with crappy racing conditions as well as my performance at the Presque Isle Endurance Classic in 2003 (84 miles; a total which no one has come close to matching in the 4 years it has been run since). (Pre and post race photos below. the first being me not knowing what I was getting myself into.)

Regardless, that b.s. aside I am feeling good. Will I reach all of my goals? I rarely do mostly because I set so many that are usually out of my reach. But I am ok with that.

The clock keeps ticking and I am ready to run.

Palindromic numbers and Boston Marathon Winners

I finished my run today and totalled up my mileage for the year in my running log and saw that I had an exact palindromic total: 1777.71. That doesn't happen to often.

Then I sat down to my computer and opened up this email.

Am Robert Cheruiyot the current winner of Boston marathon and fourth
in this year chicago
please can it be possible for you to invite one of my friend to your
race please i know its very late but i can be very happy incase you
wish to consider him.

let me know if you can agree to welcome him i can also be willing to
accompany him and to run 21km just as a training,all i want to do is
trying to introduce him to international running if it can be better
and if its possible for you to help me out to pay his ticket i can try
to pay my own ticket if you invite us.

We already have the Usa visa but we can need the invitation letter at
the airport

i will be very happy incase you offer to help me out

There is a completely possibility this email is fake. There is also a complete possibility he sent this to every RD in the nation. But it is still pretty cool to have one of the fastest marathoners in the world email you.

The question remains, does he realize the 2006 Drake Well Marathon was run entirely on a track? LOL!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

MCM Pictures

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the MCM.

It's a MCM tradition!

The girls and me again:

The final push:

My fave of them all:

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Running with Fast Chicks

George Buckheit, a local runner who trains some of the fastest women around, set me the picture below. This is around mile 11 or so as the leade runners and I passed near the Kennedy center.

The ladies mentioned in my blog are pictured below with Lisa on the far left, then Alicia and then Kristen. I found out that on top of this being Kristen's first marathon (whcih she ran a 2:51 and won), Alica was previously a 3:20 marathoner. so she had a 20 plus minute PR. Holy crap! Way to go ladies!

(Pictures expands if you click on it)

Monday, November 5, 2007


As you may know, I was in Mexico last week. I picked a random city when I realized I had one week to use my travel voucher and I went. I picked Mazatlan. I knew nothing about it and just went.

So, when I heard some guy down there say there was a marathon in Mazatlan I figured he did not know what he was talking about. I guessed he meant a 10k.

Of course, the way my luck has been this year, of course, I missed the marathon ACTUALLY being run in Mazatlan by a few weeks. (Click on the US flag to read in English)

Oh well!