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Two Rough Weeks, But Now it's time to Perform

The Hip Flexor in Question

So once again, I completely forgot to write a blog last week…why?  Because I didn’t run for the entire week, and I guess it threw me off my routine.  Reflecting back over the last two weeks, it all started while pacing my wife, Alissa, the last 3 miles of the Philly Rock ‘n Roll half marathon.  It was her first, and after seeing her at the 5 mile mark, I had to run the course backwards to meet up with her again at mile marker 10.  She did great, finishing under her goal of 2:24, and I couldn’t be more proud, but unfortunately I didn’t fair as well as she did.  Right around the time I met up with her at mile 10, I began to feel a little hitch in my left hip…the same side of the body that may be afflicted by a sports hernia (which no longer bothers me), but the other side of the body from the hip that usually gives me fits.  If it’s not one thing it’s another.

No!  Not again…battling another injury while just 2 weeks out from my big event.  I’ve only gotten 2 runs in since the half marathon, and both have gone well, but left me hobbled for days after.  It’s a hip flexor problem that really gives me trouble as I transfer weight off the leg onto the other.  It feels like a tightness or cramping, and I just hope it isn’t a torn labrum as I’ve been trying to remedy with a combo of rest, ice, E-stim, and cross training to stay fit…I figure I’m still in good enough shape from the Marathon (now 3 weeks ago) that I can just ride that fitness out, and my main concern will be to avoid an injury that will prevent me from finishing the race.

WWW.OHFAR.COM

In addition to my big race, I’m now only 1 week away from another huge event, the O’er Hills and Far Away Race (OhFar) hosted by our non-profit organization, BaseCamp31.  It is an old-fashioned European-style cross country 8K (Little less than 5 miles) in a picturesque part of Hunterdon County at Valley Crest Farm & Preserve.  The race is going to be amazing as we have an Elite contest, pitting some of the country’s best against one another, a “Mortals Race” of the same distance for us non-elite types, and scattered with numerous other shorter distance runs for kids and individuals of different ages and abilities.  Oh yeah, and there’ll also be a huge party – Oktoberfest beer and food festival including games and live music.  It should be a blast, but organizing the event has been a load even though I haven’t even done the brunt of the work.  I have a newfound respect for all you race directors out there, and we have a whole team of people working on this one.  If interested, check it out at www.ohfar.com – there will be an expo this Friday 10/7 from 5-9 PM, and the festivities began Saturday morning 10/8 at 8:00 AM.

Next, looming in the not so distance future, is a mammoth run known as the Mountain Madness 50K.  I have no doubt I’ll finish it, but at one time I had hoped to finish quite well in it (top 10).  Not so sure anymore after 2 weeks of nagging injury, and now I’m just hoping to finish and still feel well.  I’m sure I’ll be fine, but would feel much better if I could get some training in.  Also found out this week after speaking with co-worker and fellow trail runner, Justin, that the course is a bear.  Trail runs are ranked based on how mountainous they are judged by steep inclines on a scale from 1 to 5, and how technical they are judged by rockiness and uneven footing on a scale from 1 to 5.  Mountain Madness is a rated a 5 – 4, one step away from the hardest trail run possible.  Now I knew I was in for a challenge, but I had no idea it was one of the most challenging 50K courses out there.  The good news is I’ve been training on these very same trails for almost 2 years now, and I really don’t know any different…the ultra high rating really doesn’t scare me in any way, it’ll only make the finish that much more enjoyable knowing I was able to conquer the madness of the North Jersey mountains.

Combine it all with hectic work weeks and some semblance of a family life and it becomes quite hard to juggle, but I guess that’s the trick to this whole endurance sport thing…so long as I continue to make it a priority in my life, it will continue to happen.  Hope to see you all out there at OhFar, and wouldn’t mind some cheers as I make my way through the mountains.  Leave a comment if you need to know more!

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UltraMarathon Training – Rest is for the Weak…

Actually, I don’t believe that at all…rest is a vital piece to any training program and without recovery you’ll just continue to break down your body, but following last week’s marathon on Sunday, I had one day’s rest before getting back to the grindstone training for the 50K.  It may not have been the amount of rest I’d recommend to everyone, but it was a recovery run afterall and probably made my legs feel better to get them moving again.

Anyway, let me back up a bit…lost in all of the excitement of last week’s race was the fact that I usually post something every Saturday.  Between the packing, the traveling, the fueling, the planning, and the scheduling, I just plain forgot, so I’ll recap a little day before here.

The week before the marathon I took it real easy after the half marathon trail run I did the weekend before (which I wrote about in my last post).  Aside from being a little more busy for work, it was a “hard” taper as my “coach” Frances would say…I put coach in quotations because she doesn’t actually know she’s my coach…I just ask her questions from time to time.  Work had me a little more wore out than usual, so I decided that in addition to fueling and hydrating I would sleep for 10-11 hours to rest up on Friday night, and then get a real easy 2 mile leg loosener in on Saturday preparing for Sunday’s race.  Although, the sleep felt great, I was real groggy for my Saturday run and felt like total crap and was having doubts I’d be ready for Sunday.  In addition, I was having some sinus headaches in my right eye and upper teeth and was afraid I may be getting sick.  I was also worried that taking medicine for the run may not be the best thing, so I took some AirBorne and some sinus headache meds the night before and it seemed to do the trick.  I trusted in my training and rest plan, so I felt ready and excited for Sunday.

Sunday came the the alarm sounded at 5 AM.  Had to be out the door at 5:30, at the start by 6:30 for a 7:00 AM gun.  After sitting in 20 minutes of traffic to park, I headed straight to the Porta-John line and made it to the start with 1 minute to spare.  Did a few stretches and I was off – I had no idea what to expect.  The first 2 to 3 miles are always the worst until your body gives you that shot of endorphines that makes all the pain go away and acts as a happy drug.  I was dealing with a cramp in my right big toe which tends to spring up from time to time, but luckily it went away in the first couple miles…running with my toe scrunched up in my shoe would have lead to the nasty blisters.  Luckily around this time, I also met up with a running partner who was committed to running the same 8:45 – 9:00 minute pace that I was at, and we decided to set off together.  She proved to be a real Godsend as she really made miles 3 – 16 go by easily as we shared stories of training, and fueling, and injuries, and on and on…it was a real pleasure.  I feel bad because I think she may have run a little faster than she wanted at times as I have a tendency to do that while I talk and she missed her goal of a 4 hour marathon my a few minutes…I hope I didn’t have anything to do with it.

Back to around mile 12, and it was awesome to see my wife Alissa cheering me on.  I’m usually not one for wanting a cheering section, but the long stretches of lonely trail left me yearning for a cheering section and seeing her smiling face was uplifting and reassuring that I could not only do this, but excel at it…Thanks Alissa!

It was at about mile 12 that I realized I had made a huge blunder in my marathon prep.  In the rush from the car to the starting line, I forgot a crucial part of my outfit.  As I stared down at the two large streaks of orange down the front of my shirt, I realized that I had forgotten to put band-aides in the appropriate place.  For you runners, you know what I’m talking about, but for those who don’t know, my shirt was orange because when the color red mixes in with my blue race jersey, it gives an orange appearance.  The red was blood coming from two protrusions from my chest that when rubbed with a shirt repeatedly for hours causes severe chafing.  Yes, I’m talking about my nipples and it’s quite painful….D’OH!  I made a rookie mistake and I should have known better.  I was that guy that we always see at the races and everyone feels sorry for…but at least I wasn’t wearing a white shirt.

Along the way, a marathon vet told me there were two races…the first 20 miles and the last 10K, so as I came into mile 20 I was a little worried…Mile 20, no problem.  Mile 21, no problem.  Mile 22, no problem.  Mile 23, there’s my cheer crew! No problem(Thanks Alissa, Amy, and Eric!).  Mile 24?  Huge Hill!  I was still feeling like…”no problem,”  so I ran the sucker while everyone else walked it.  I felt great about this…my legs were tired, but I was passing people left and right and it was uplifting.  As I summited and began my decent, the most awful pain I’ve ever felt in my legs began to take hold.  Every step was excruciating…somewhere between a cramp, fatigue, and burning and some steps sent a sharp shock wave all the way up to my head, but this is what I had signed up for, so I decided to embrace it and feel happy that I was doing something so hard that I could even put myself into this situation.  One of my running inspirations, Dean Karnazes, succinctly breaks the choices here down to one simple questios.  When you’re faced with a tough spot and a million questions and doubts are swirling through your head you simply make the decision…you can either stop or you can keep going…it’s that simple, and I chose to keep going.

Mile 23

The finish line came rather unceremoniously, but another vet graciously told me in the last tenth of a mile to get up there ahead of him and get my picture taken crossing the finish line, but keep that smile on my face.  Well I saw the pictures yesterday and I failed in the last part, but crossing the finish line was amazing.  I was ready to stop running and I was happy with what I had accomplished.  I set out with a sub 4 hour goal, and I ran it in 3:48.  I was able to walk away smiling with loved ones and still had the Browns game on DVR to look forward to with some fine brews when I got home.

So what’s next?  Remember, I signed up for this race as a stepping stone in my training for the upcoming 50K.  I took one day off and continued my training.  Luckily this week is a recovery week, but next week…48 miles, the following week….35 miles, then a taper…27 miles, and then finally race day.  I once had grand ideas about winning this race, but after experiencing the marathon and being humbled by it and totally in awe of anyone who has completed one, I am no longer thinking about that.  I’d still like to complete it in under 6 hours, but I’m looking forward to the experience.  I’m sure I’ll meet some amazing people along the way just like I did in the marathon, and it’s crazy the friends you make and stories you hear along the way.  I’m totally in…I’m hooked…I don’t know if I can stop….I love it!

Vision is the Key to Success

Another week has gone by…it’s Labor Day weekend, and I’ve got 8 days until my first marathon.  I’m pretty pumped about it, and figured I’d try to get some of my thoughts down on paper as the day closes in.  I just finished up a nice 13 mile training run on the trails, and actually got to join a few of the guys from the NJ Trail Series.  I guess since the Mountain Madness 50K is just around the corner, they decided they’d do some training runs out this way in preparation.

Thought #1:  I was starting to think I’m a pretty good runner and the distances I was running were on the verge of “Red-iculous.”  Boy was I humbled today.  A couple of the guys were just going on a leisurely 15-miler at around a 13 minute pace…not that big a deal.  That’s a little slow for me so I decided to head off with one of the faster guys.  A couple of miles in we got to talking and I found out he just completed this years Leadville 100 trail race…now that’s ridiculous.  It was good to pick his brain and we’ll definitely catch up again soon, but my measly 13 miles is nothing compared to what he’s accomplished.  Another lady headed out with us, but had to turn back so she could meet her second running group…they were planning on doing 15-20 miles, so she was probably going to put in somewhere around 25-30 on the day…no problem, right?  A few others were talking about their recent Ironman competitions or one’s they’d signed up for…all in all, I felt pretty insignificant.

Get it through your head that you'll succeed

Thought #2:  I find what is going through my mind predominantly during my runs is a visualization of competing in the 50K.  I’m looking forward to the marathon, but my real goal all along has been with the trail run, and it is even drawing nearer by the week (6 weeks out at this point).  Somehow I’ve managed to convince myself that I have a pretty good chance to do well in this thing and maybe even (gulp), dare I say, win it? My pace to this point has been on par with last year’s winner, but anything can happen in the last 10 miles.  I’m encouraged by the fact that I’m able to lose myself in these fantasies and can compare them to my wrestling days.  I’ve always been told and then coached to my athletes the importance of visualization to athletic success.  Other than wrestling, where I had a lot of success, I have not been able to reach that level of visualization where I become completely oblivious to what’s going on around me as I’m so locked in on my thoughts.  I always tell people that by the time I actually wrestled a match, it wasn’t anything new, because I’d already wrestled the match dozens of times in my head…and usually my pillow took the brunt of these visualization sessions as I’d lay awake at nights thinking about the match.  When I’d finally snap out of my daze, I’d realize that I’d been tussling with my pillow without even knowing it.  To this day, I can be in the shower, in the car, or anywhere, and if I think about wrestling, I actually get a raise in heart rate and feel myself getting pumped up to wrestle as I get the adrenaline rush.  I can still go to that place where I actually feel like I’m living the experience.

So now I’ve been running for a few years and I’m finding myself focusing on the 50K in much the same way I did for wrestling.  This has got to be a good thing, and I’ve visualized myself winning this event so many times, it may just come true.  At this point it’s a waiting game, but come race day on October 15th, I’ll have run the race in my head many, many times prior.

Thought #3:  How long is the marathon recovery going to affect me?  I’ve got 5 weeks between events, and I’d like to get some good training runs in during that time, but I have no clue how long it is going to take me to recover.  If it takes me 2 weeks and then I taper for a week or 2 that leaves 1 week worth of good hard training.  It may not be the end of the world, but I definitely don’t want to risk over-training and having it affect my performance.  I’ve already begun to feel some general fatigue set in and it may be because I’ve been going at it hard for about 12 weeks in a row now.  I took it easy this week (aside from today’s run), and I’ll take it easy this coming week, so hopefully I’ll be ready to go on Sunday and then the same 5 weeks later for the 50K.

Thought #4:  Am I going to crash and burn after mile 20?  I’ve trained up to around 22 miles, which I’m now doubting after today’s run…my mileage tracker said 15.5 miles in the end, but the guy I was running with has a Garmin which was reading 13.2 – crap, I’m pretty sure his is right, so I may not have actually done a 22 mile training run after all.  It’ll be interesting to see how I handle the upper miles.

Overall, I feel ready and I’m excited to get my first marathon under my belt and then to be able to call myself an ultra-marathoner…but first things first, let’s not get ahead of myself.  It all starts this weekend and the months of training will surely pay off.  I’m sure I’ll have much more going through my mind come next Saturday…the day before the race.

T-Minus 2 Weeks to Launch

I sit here today waiting for hurricane Irene arrive as I write this, and I rest assured knowing I’ve completed my training for the week and just hunker down for the remainder of the weekend to rest.  After a heavy mileage week last week (~40 miles), I took it easy this week to get some recovery in.  Last week I had just finished my first 20+ mile training run and was feeling pretty good about it, but the following day, I proceeded to participate in a volleyball tournament without allowing for the standard 24 hours of recovery time.  Playing 9 games of volleyball throughout the day took it’s toll and I sustained some type of hip injury.  Every step sent my hip into cramps and particularly any lateral movement and I was beginning to regret my carelessness fearing injury as my event date drew closer.  So I spent the night icing (really a miracle drug), and rested up for my weekly Monday Fun Run which went surprisingly well (painfree) but slow (heavy legs).  Tuesday and Thursday came and went and I got my usual runs in – 6 miles each and at a pretty easy 8:30 – 9:00 pace.  I actually began to lose a little steam in my training and just didn’t have the motivation to go for anything more.  Given that I’m not really following a strict training plan and have just been going based on weekly mileage goals, I’ve learned to listen to my body and maybe my motivation slump was my body’s way of telling me to back off a bit.

Then came this morning, time for my long run, and a hurricane on the way.  I got up early and got the usual fuel and water in me as I cleared the our outdoor porch in prep for the storm.  My plan was to complete a 10 mile route set up by my wife that she’d be running at the same time.  Since my pace is a little faster than hers, I’d then turn around at the end of the run to meet her and finish again with her.  This turned out to be a good plan and my farthest road run of my training as I’d completed most of my long runs on trails.  I definitely underestimated the run and my night before fuel and hydration plan showed that I’d gotten a little cocky after having completed the 22 miler the week before.  I learned that “only a 13 miler” is tough if you aren’t physically and mentally prepared for it especially when it begins to pour about half way into the run and you add about 10 lbs. of water along the way.

All in all, though, the run went well and so did the week, and I’m now 2 weeks out from race day.  I supposed everyone has weeks where the motivation just isn’t there, and I’m just happy I was still able to get my miles in. This means one more good week of training followed by an easy week leading up to the big day.  Generally, I would have tapered a lot longer than 1 week, but I’m really just using the marathon as a training run for the 50K I have coming up on October 15th and I don’t really have any ideas of running this race at a fast pace…I’m just looking to finish and would like to do so in under 4 hours.

So, this is my first marathon, and I’m unfamiliar with the course.  I just looked at the course map for the first time yesterday and there’s a lot of work to do ahead of time.  Where will we park?  How/Where will my “fans” see me?  How are we getting back to the start? – this isn’t a loop it’s an “out” course, so this will have to be considered.  Will anyone run with me?  How often will I be refueling and hydrating?  These are all considerations I’ll have 14 days to deal with, and with a holiday weekend coming up next weekend, I should have plenty of time.  As for right now, it appears that my next goal will be focused on making through this hurricane and getting back to training come Monday.

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?…

I know how you feel Peter

Yes, it was a not so good week of training, and I’d like to take a minute to complain about a few things that ticked me off this week.  I’m generally a pretty positive person (I think) and can manage to see the bright side of most situations and it’s pretty hard to get a rise out of me, but leave it up to a few hard runs that didn’t go quite that well and it’s easy to turn even the most optimistic fellow into a negative nancy.  So here they are, 2 things that really grind my gears (in the words of Peter Griffin for you Family Guy fans).

  1. People who find the need to floor it when they pass you in their car
  2. Paying for parking in a public park

Haha, I thought I'd never see this sign again

Let ‘Em Work Let ‘Em Live – this was a slogan down in North Carolina from my senior trip on a road sign indicating that traffic should slow down in construction zones.  My friends proceeded to steal one such sign, but that’s a different story.  I asked just yesterday a client a friend of mine who happens to be a Corvette owner why other owners of similar cars find the need to floor it just as they are passing a runner.  Now I’m not sure if other runners experience the same thing, but his answer was that they have to slow down as they pass because they aren’t sure what I’m going to do…maybe I’m going to jump out in front of the car and they are simply speeding back up.  Personally, I think this is BS, but everyone’s entitled to their opinion.  I experienced not 1, but 2 Corvettes on my Thursday 6-miler, whose drivers could not resist that urge to flex some gas-powered muscle as they passed to show the lowly runner who is the alpha male in town.  I could have bought the other reasoning if it didn’t always happen to be males…between the ages of 30 and 50…driving sports cars…or big trucks…and some are headed in the opposite direction.  I never really get this from a female driver in a Prius, so I’m just not buying it.  Well, anyway, here’s to you middle-aged, awesome vehicle driving, alpha male…you really do know how to punch the gas.

And for those of you wondering about the honkers…those are generally the 16-25 year old bunch who find it absolutely hilarious with a group of friends to scare the crap out of a runner or biker as they pass…equally as awesome.
Public Park(ing) – not a huge fan of Passaic county right about now.  Not only are their trails very poorly marked, but they charge a parking fee to enter their public parks…it’s not exactly public if you have to pay to get in (I realize this isn’t an entirely true statement, but I’m just venting).  As I prepared for my first ever 20+ mile run, I was excited and prepared all week.  I was going to travel to the location of the 50K starting line, and run some of the trails from up there where the course will run through.  I planned out and approximate 20 miles of trails with a couple stops by my car to refuel.  Everything was perfect until I got to the park (without cash) and was told I could not enter without paying the $10 parking fee.  After I drove 30 minutes to get there, the last thing I was going to do was turn around and go home, so I backtracked a mile to another parking area I had passed…still charged…so I backtracked another mile to a church where I parked for free.  Sure I had to run 2 miles to get back to the park and I’d have to change my plans a little bit, but I was not going to be defeated.  On the two-mile run up to the park (and I do mean UP), I envisioned flipping the teenage punk who wouldn’t let me in the bird as I passed, but realize that may not be the best way to get my run in…so I just waved and smiled.
How’d the 20-miler go, you might wonder?  Smashingly actually!  Well for about the first 12 miles.  That is when I arrived back at my car after the first loop to re-stock my fuel belt.  I was running low on water and had taken about half my GUs, I also needed to recharge my phone which was tracking my progress.  As I set back out, it was amazing how hard the climb back up into the park could be at mile 13.  I guess they figure anyone crazy enough to climb this hill has earned the free parking.  My next loop began by running next to a skeet shooting range which was interesting…It’s crazy how close the trail was to the actual range, and I prayed an errant bullet didn’t find its way to me.  The trails here again were poorly marked and after about a quarter-mile in the wrong direction ended in a dead-end, I got back on track and soon found out that the 5 mile loop I thought this was going to be was actually much longer.  Traveling 1 mile from point A to point B is a lot longer when doing it on switch backs, which is all this portion of trail was…and for those who know what switch back are, also know that means I’m either climbing or descending, and I did a lot of both.  This part of the trail will be around mile 10 at the beginning of the race and then mile 29 at the end of the race (there’s a spot where the trail on the way out crosses the trail on the way in, and I took this loop).  I’m glad I ran these trails because at least now I’ll know what to expect, which brings me to my next point…
I had a mini break-down around mile 18.  16 was my previous long run, and I was at my wit’s end with these switch backs, just going up, up, and then up.  I dropped a few F-bombs along the way, and was now yelling to myself rather than keeping it inside or saying it under my breath.  I was also running out of fuel and water again and was getting nervous and frustrated with the trail which someone kindly removed a lot of the trail markers.  I got sarcastic with myself with the witty one liner, “what goes up, must come down…right!?!…..F@!$”  If anyone had seen me, they surely would have thought I was a complete lunatic.  Finally I made it back to Shepard Lake which meant only a 2 mile run back to my car.  Overall I finished around 22 miles, but I’m not sure of the exact distance as my phone died at mile 19.  Judging by my first loop though, I did about another 3 miles.  I was tired when I got back, but not delusional, I don’t think, and did a good job keeping myself fueled and hydrated.  As I got in the car for the 30 minute car ride back I thought, “Now the real adventure begins!”

Leveling Up

In the gamer world, “leveling up” refers to the point where the user’s experience has gotten high enough that the character enters a higher level where baseline powers and abilities are greater.  Experience is often gained through time logged and missions completed and once the character levels up, there is no going back down to the previous level.  I’m not sure what it’s called in running, but I think this past week I’ve “Leveled Up.”  After 4 or 5 weeks of 25+ miles per, it just seemed to get easier all of a sudden…I went out Thursday and did 8.5 without even taking any water or gels and it was probably the best run I’ve ever had…I’ve just reached a new confidence level in my abilities and believe my form, leg strength, and fitness levels have improved to the point where I don’t have to work nearly as hard to cover these distances.  This comes just in the nick of time too, as I am now 4 weeks out from my marathon.

How can 14 be greater than 16?  Well when you are talking about running 14 miles on the orange trail vs. 16 miles on the green trail, it can happen.  I know the “orange trail” and “green trail” mean absolutely nothing to any of you, but they are 2 of the long stretches of trail that the Mountain Madness course goes over.  I realized today on my 14 mile excursion that the course and terrain are much more difficult leaving Ramapo Reservation on the orange.  I did a 7 out and back today, and the toughest of the terrain is the first 5 miles and then it evens out.  This comes at about miles 10-15 during the race and I’ll have to keep this in mind on race day.

Private Ground: I also ran into a camp today…I went another mile further down the trail than I’ve gone before, and up popped some sort of camp ground.  It was complete with log cabins, tents, archery ranges, amphitheaters, etc. and I’m pretty sure it’s private property…I don’t know how theses trails can run right through private ground like that and be on public trail maps.  I guess I’ll just keep running them until I’m told otherwise.

Welcome Guest: Nearing the end of my run, I ran into a teenage boy and his mom.  They asked if the trail looped at all, and unfortunately for them, it did not.  I told them that they’d have to turn back once they’d gone as far as they wanted to and the boy had had enough and wanted to turn back.  I carried on, and overheard him telling his mom they should try to keep up with me…a few seconds later I heard him rustling down the trail in his skateboarding shoes and jeans so I let him catch me.  I told him to be careful on the rocks so he wouldn’t trip and he told me that he was part Native American so he should be fine…It’s funny, I too have some Native American blood coursing my veins and have thought the same exact thing.  We chatted…he told me about the mile in school…I scared the crap out of him with my bear story, and he finally began to get tired after about a half mile or so.  He mentioned he had asthma, so I thought it best if he stopped and waited for his mom to catch up.  He assured me he was ok and sat on a rock, and I once again carried on to complete my last 2.5.  It was nice to meet you today Steven!  I hope the memory of that crazy guy running in the woods somehow inspires you to live a healthy life and explore your own physical limits through endurance sports.

Runners High:  I mentioned above that the 8.5 miler was one of the best runs of my life and part of that is because around mile 6 I definitely went into a “runners high”  I think I’ve been on the verge before, but blocked it out because it freaked me out a little bit, but this time I just went with it, and for about a mile I floated down the road without a pain or care in the world.  It was pretty awesome, it’s one thing the trails don’t afford because it requires so much attention on the terrain.  I also ran to a small nearby ski area and explored the woods a little…that combined with the 75 degrees, sunny, and breezy made for an awesome run.

My training:  I planned to take it easy this week, but ended up doing 4 runs of 4,6,8,14 for a total of 32 miles on the week.  I felt good, but am definitely having some pain in my ankles and feet.  Daily ice baths are getting me through it right now, and I’m just hoping it doesn’t explode into something more.  I’m just really glad that my groin injury still isn’t slowing me down one bit.  Overall great week – 4 weeks until Lehigh Vally Marathon & 9 weeks until Mountain Madness.

A "Red-iculous" Weekend

I got some pretty good feedback on last week’s post, so I think I’m going to stick with that style for a while, and I have quite a doozy to tell you about from this weekend. I just arrived back home after a weekend spent at PACER Team’s second annual “RED-iculous” relay. #REDrelay for you tweeters out there. Anyway, if you’re not already in the know, the relay is a human-powered (meaning bike, run, or even an “Eliptigo” this year) relay style run from the North-Western most tip of NJ (the monument in High Point) to the South-Eastern most tip of NJ (the lighthouse in Cape May).  It covers 260 miles, route depending, and involved shifts of biking, running, and eliptiGOing for 3 days involving around 14 people over the entire course.  Let me tell you a little about my experience…

This was my second year making the trek and after planning most of the first one, it was nice to let go of the reins.  Before I get into my segments of the run, I first want to talk a little bit about “crewing.”  Crewing, in this matter, does not refer to anything in a boat or have anything to do with a certain type of haircut, it refers to the crew of people who really make this all possible.  Charting and navigating the course, aiding the runner or rider with food, water, lube, and anything else that may be needed…and yes, I did throw lube in there as it is a much-needed commodity in these types of events.  To get the full experience, you definitely have to “crew” for at least a day to realize the hectic nature of such an event with wrong turns, sweaty people climbing into the car next to you, back seat wardrobe changes, and the works…it’s quite a time, and although running or biking a portion is great…the full experience is nowhere near complete without your turn in the crew.

Thursday, August 4th – The first day was planned to travel from High Point to our amazing home, BaseCamp31, covering around 80 miles.  The leg was planned to end at BaseCamp so that those interested in joining the team for a little run where I would jump in.  After a days work, I battled 2 hours of traffic on an otherwise 1 hour drive, to get to my start point.  The next 6.5 miles went by smooth and it was an easy run with a group…by far the most enjoyable run, but lots of hills.  The night ended with a little celebration and food.

Friday, August 5th – The team got moving at 8:30 AM from BaseCamp and were heading down the shore.  I had to work (leaving my house around 5:30 AM) and planned to meet them as soon as possible with some other team members after I was done at 6:30 PM.  Luckily the drive down was a breeze and after some searching we found the others around 10:00 PM about 20 miles short of goal for the night…it was gonna be a long one.  After 30 minutes of rearranging cars to get those not running or biking to the campsite for some much-needed Rest, Relaxation, and SMORES, we finally got underway, and I was up first…

If you couldn’t tell from my previous posts, anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m a bit of a “nervous nelly.”  I tend to get a little freaked out when things aren’t planned just so, but here I was running in the dark, by myself, on a wooded bike path.  Now…I had signed myself up for this thinking it’d be good prep for the 100 miler I ultimately want to do (quick shout-out to Jon Stoffer who recently completed the Burning River 100), but it didn’t make it any less nerve-racking.  You see, 100’s usually take at least 24 hours straight to complete.  After you battle the fatigue, dehydration, hallucinations, and nausea there’s still the night running and lack of sleep to contend with, so this may give me a little glimpse into my future.  30 seconds into my run…I’m flying…my hearts beating 100 miles an hour and I’m busy flicking the flashlight from side to side thinking something’s going to jump out of the woods at me.  I can’t really feel my legs due to the adrenaline rush and spend a quarter of my time running while looking backward in case someone is sneaking up on me.  After a couple of minutes I finally relax into a groove and begin to enjoy myself.  That is until I’m startled by the shout of “Passing on your right!”  as a bicyclist with no lighting goes whizzing past!  Not only did it scare the crap out of me, but the rider passed me going in the opposite direction…on my left…at least I got a warning.  Next came the usual 1 mile in the wrong direction, followed by another few miles on a dark and winding road.  By the end I found the experience exhilarating, and vowed to try more around my neighborhood…hopefully the town doesn’t think I’ve gone nuts.

Mike took over on the bike, and we pulled into camp around 12:30 AM and after a quick shower and bite to eat, I was in bed a little past 1 in the moring…thanks to Chris Bush for setting up our camp site.  Overall, I completed around 6 miles, and we completed around 140 on the day as a team…roughly 40 miles to go!

Saturday, August 6th – Up at 7 AM, brush the teeth, Banana for breakfast, take down the tent and back on the road.  Bikers first today to get the majority of the miles done early, and by the time I saddle up for my run there are only 10 miles left and the sun was high in the sky beating down…it’s gonna be a hot one.  I started off with Chris in a beach town and ran mostly sidewalks shooting the breeze as we cruised along at a 9 minute pace.  The town ended and after a quick stop in the tall weeds to use the “facilities” it was time for the pressure cooker.  About 3 straight miles of long, straight, highway roads, supplying no shade, but ample shoulder.  The views were good as we crossed a few bridges closing in on Cape May, but it was tough not to let the heat get to you.  At around the 5 or 6 mile mark, it was time to take a left onto what happens to be the Southern-most beginning of the Garden State Parkway and there was zero shoulder.  While my colleague chose to chance the cars on the highway, practically running in the middle of the road, I high stepped in through the weeds on the other side of the guard rail and then tight-roped a bridge with a ledge only wide enough for one shoe width while running on the white line.  Again, we emerged unscathed.

Enter beach town #2, and the pedestrian battle begins…weaving in and out of weekend warrior health do-gooders on their morning stroll through the town.  Somewhere in the middle of the town I “lose” my shirt leaving me running now in only my compression shorts (oh yeah, forgot to mention I didn’t bring enough running shorts and ran this final leg in tights – first time for that).  The sun continued to beat down and a couple of miles later I joined up with a couple other runners for the final trip to the lighthouse.  It was a good trip and although my legs began getting tired around mile 8, we made it to the lighthouse, continued to the beach, and then headfirst into the ocean…it was an amazing feeling.

The relay team finishing at the beach in front of the lighthouse!

Overall, great trip, and I wish I could have spent more time “crewing” although I wasn’t nearly as tired this year because I didn’t.  We happened to hit a small, dive crab shack on the way out-of-town and picked through a dozen crabs as we reflected on the trip, a perfect ending to another amazing adventure.  There are times when you get so frustrated tearing that crab apart, but when you’re finally awarded with the small morsel of meat, it makes it worth it…even if it’s only for a second.  In a way, these adventures are similar, they aren’t convenient, and there are much easier ways to “get your food”  but like eating that crab, it’s all about the experience!