Thursday, May 28, 2015

Booneville Backroads 100K

Booneville Backroads 100K

Lately I have been receiving quite a few questions about what it's like to run ultra distances. What all goes into running a 100K or 50 mile race. I will use the experience I had in Iowa, running the Booneville Backroads 100K (62 mile) race, to hopefully shed some light on what I go thru.
You hear the phrase "It's all mental" a lot with running no matter the distance. I want to break down the 100K both mentally and physically as best as possible.

At The Start
I stood in a parking lot next to a swollen river in rural Iowa at a little after 5 AM on what was the perfect weather for a run. I stood there without nerves. Without fear. In a calm state that understood the task at hand but was not afraid or doubtful of completing it. I stood with many others who had came out there to do the same thing that day, run 62 miles. Now no fear or nerves is new for me, I don't recall a race in the past with this little nerves. This time though I was mentally prepared for whatever this day would bring. Preparation for this task is a tricky one, it's easy to be over confident. It's also easy to find yourself questioning if you've trained hard enough. With an ultra of this distance it's hard to get a training run in to gauge where you are at. With marathon training I could go out and run 22, 24, even 26 miles before the marathon to get a good gauge of where I am at physically. With ultra's I generally use other ultra's to tell me if i'm ready for the next one. I had a good 50 miler in early April and felt like physically my body was stronger than ever. Mentally tougher than ever. 

The sunrise to sunset window of time was my goal for the day. A headlamp and reflective vest were required for any runner after sunset on the course. I didn't have either item on me. In the case that something went wrong and I was still out at sunset I would have been pulled. I did not leave myself the option to make a mistake out there. I had no fear of being pulled off the course at sunset. I was putting a lot of confidence in myself and my training.  

As the sun rose over the fields of central Iowa we started heading out on the gravel roads. Within the first mile we were pretty separated and the next 61 miles would be pretty much complete solitude.  I came into the first aid station at mile 10 and dumped one of my water bottles and filled it up with Gatorade. I was quickly through this station and back on road. At about mile 13 I passed the then leader and cruised through the next 10 miles feeling good to the mile 23 aid station.  At mile 23 I came in and filled both my bottles. I had been eating mixed nuts and some honey stingers and was feeling great. I moved though that one quickly as well and was on to mile 30. The miles between 23 & 30 were beautiful. They were mostly ran on minimum maintenance roads and plenty of hills to keep it interesting. I got to the 26.2 mark at 3:37 and still felt fresh. I made aid station 30 just as it started to sprinkle. I put my ipod and phone in a zip lock bag and headed out. I think thru the first 3 aid stations I had combined for under 5 minutes of stops. I had 12 miles to the next station at 42.

Miles 30 to 42 were a bit tougher and I started to slow down a little. These miles I thought of as the heart of the ultra. "Get thru these and everything after 42 would seem like the downhill." I kept telling myself.  I showed up at the mile 42 station still maintaining an average pace of 8:30 per mile. I took some ibuprofen, put a PB&J sandwich in my pocket. grabbed some snickers, filled my bottles and headed out of town. I still had not walked at all and didn't have many minutes of aid station stops. I had a water stop at 45 and was met with a big smile and got some awesome motivation from that aid station. The miles from 45-58 were the hardest. It took really digging deep to get thru these miles. 
Their is a place I can go mentally when I get into these miles. I changed my playlist, grabbed a hold of some memories that were both painful and tough times of my life. Grabbing onto these will help me push though. It's a true clarity of perspective. You hear it called Guts, Determination, Toughness, etc.but to me I'm getting prepared to hurt. 

At around mile 51 I decided to walk for a bit and eat my lunch. I drank most of my water trying to get my PB&J down because my mouth was so dry. I still felt comfortable with my lead, almost too comfortable. I knew I had about a 4-5 mile lead from some information i got at about mile 50. I dialed it back a bit at that point. At mile 58 I was so happy for water, I filled up my bottles, drank a few cups, poured some on my head, praised the lord for the simple perfection of water and then headed back out. 

Ultra running is about suffering, not just physically but mentally as well. It's about being able to remain focused on the task at hand regardless of the suffering. Sometimes I wonder where my skill in all this lies, am I a fair runner who's developed a seriously impressive ability to suffer. Either way, my pain is self-chosen, I don't love ultra's because I love pain. I do this because for me everything is more vibrant. The highs are that much higher, and the lows as well. The feeling at the finish line is unmatched by anything I've ever known.
I finished the day at 4:02 PM, giving me a time of  10 hours and 2 minutes. 36 minutes faster than the previous course record. That feeling at the end always makes every one of these worth it. To me running an ultra is 25% of what you do on that day and 75% of what you do the 6 months before that day. If you look back to the 6 months before I didn't take many shortcuts or days off. I went out when I didn't feel like it, in snow or rain or ice or whatever. I truly enjoy the training, no matter the conditions, every run I am moving myself forward with my training and my life. Running has become a way of life for me, it's my time to reflect, plan and drive myself forward. It's where I gain the confidence I have in myself at accomplishing my goals.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Lincoln Marathon 2015

Lincoln Marathon 2015

"Running has thrown me into adventures that I would otherwise have missed." - Benjamin Cheever

Let’s Timehop a bit to May 3 years ago…I’m not sure what I was doing this very day, but chances are it was normal every day routine stuff: working, playing with Kiera, maybe playing basketball on my lunch break. I wasn’t a runner, I didn’t see a runner on the side walk and immediately get jealous because they were out running and I wasn’t. If quizzed I’m not sure I would of known how far a marathon was or a 5K, why Boston holds so much significance, what in the world ultra-marathons were and why in the hell anyone would do that. Western States meant Oregon, Washington and California, nothing more.

I knew trails as something I use to explore, in my younger Colorado days. I knew adventure as something I use to have. At that point in my life I thought of adventure as needing to be somewhere special; not something that is within you that you can find anywhere. Certainly not something you could find on a random Tuesday after work, it took money and vacations to find it.

Since we are sticking with May; let’s move to May 2 years ago.  My first “official” post college run. I may have ran thru a sprinkler or from a dog at some point between college and now but never a consistent part of my life. I’d been playing basketball 3-4 times per week so I thought I was “fit” enough for it. I was going to do a 5K at the end of the month and I needed to figure out how to give my best so I went out on the roads north of town. I quickly found out basketball was not like this & I definitely did not feel “fit”. I couldn’t hit ½ mile without walking, I felt like my lungs were on fire. But some other fire kept burning in me to get back out there and keep trying to get better & better.  I did not feel like a “runner” though, I felt like I was always intimidating runners. But I kept doing it, I kept lacing them up & getting out there to improve myself. I had made promises to myself I was going to fulfill.

May 2014, I lined up in Lincoln, NE to complete 26.2 miles with 2 half marathons under my belt. 1 insanely stupid, drank way too much the night before & could barely get thru it half marathon & 1 nice even paced one that built some confidence.  At this point I had been living a sober life for 7 months. I never found drinking to be a big part of my life but I remembered how much better all-around I felt without out it so in my journey to better health and fitness I gave it up in October that past year. I trained hard and had a great first marathon experience. I can’t find words to explain the feeling of crossing the finish line at my first marathon. From where I started to where I was 1 year later made that finish line such a proud moment for me.

365 days have gone by since that day last year in May.
406 times I have laced up my shoes and went for a run since that day.
2561 miles have gone by on streets, sidewalks, single track trails, treadmills, indoor tracks and fields. That is almost the distance from LA to NYC.

It’s safe to say I feel like a “runner” now. Not because I was born a runner, because I made a decision to revive a version of myself that I had grown pretty tired of. Because I made a decision to consistently work on improving my fitness and health. But more than that I feel like an adventurer now. I feel blessed that I find adventure every day. For me, adventure is a state of mind; It does not take vacations and amazing places, it takes a state of mind that is always open to the opportunities God puts in front of you.

So I laced up my Nikes this May in Lincoln with numerous ultra-marathons & other marathons under my belt. 

Prepared Focused & Ready I stepped up to the start line in Lincoln. It never gets easy or less nerve racking but it is always worth every bit of effort it takes. I could start comparing my goals to my actual mile times but I don’t want to bore you with the statistical runner data. 
Instead I will sum the run up like this: this race made me feel fulfilled with where I am this May & overwhelmed with excitement with where I will be in May of 2016.


"Through the ups and downs of running, I have found new perspective in life. The suffering and success has made me a stronger, happier person." - Christine Casady