Friday, March 30, 2012

...and 75 thousand pounds

Good race lines heard over the years:

Lennox when asked how he felt going into the race by a rival school.
"I've ran more miles than your school bus."

Phipps when someone mentioned they were gunning for him in the mile.
"Pack a lunch."

Someone mentioned conditions looked like heaven today.  Williams peeled back
and looked at John and said, "Take a good look around Johnny, that's as close
as you'll ever get."

"Hey, how did Dunbar do in the half today?"  Williams said, "Tough to tell.  He had
those water trucks behind him putting out the fire trail he was leavin'"

Warming up one guy was walking on his hands and Williams asked what he was doing.
The guy said, "Maybe I'm getting ready for the circus."  Williams said, "Your whole teams
a carnival and were going to put you out of the circus business."

Unknown from West Virginia University CC Invitational.  "How you planning on doing today?"
Guy says, "See that cone down there. Once I get around that I plan on wrapping it up because
Mom's cooking fried chicken tonight."

Monday, March 26, 2012

A dollar and a dime

I am in the middle of my Ice Age training and it has been good.  I get pretty tired by the middle of the week and Monday is s-s-s-slow.  I went out to the course this past weekend and ran without stopping the watch for pit stops to get a feel for time checks.  12 to Duffin in Young (6.9) in 59:40 and back to 12 in 55:20.  12 to Dew Dip in 37 and back in 37.  3:09 total for 22.5 miles (8:24) and I felt reasonably well.

I'll continue to get out there and take time checks.  If you haven't tried this it is a great way to gauge how your doing.  It helps in taking away the how far to go trap.  I just concentrate on getting the groove on.  It's hard to set sail in the winding areas.  I might be better off going by feel than trying to exert more effort than needed in these sections because you have to break and turn a lot.  It is advantageous to train on the course and continue to learn how to run it.  Thinking of a 32 miler there myself Saturday...probably in the meat of the course.

The past two weeks:

3/12 AM  10.4
3/13 AM  15.3
3/14 AM   6.3
3/14 PM   6.8 trails
3/15 AM   6.4
3/16 AM   6.1
3/17 AM  26.8 w/ Bro. Grub - 4 Black loops (3:55:xx) running time only
3/18 AM   7.0 trails
Total        85.1

3/19 AM   6.3
3/20 AM   6.1
3/20 PM   7.2 w/ 5 x 4:00 w/ 2:00 rest
3/21 PM  13.4 Lapham 2:01
3/22 AM   6.3
3/23 AM   6.2
3/24 AM  22.5 Ice Age 3:09
3/25 AM  12.0
Total        80.0

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Let me sleep on it

Morris Stroud was a 6' 10" tight end for the Chiefs who was used on special teams to block field goals.  He stood under the field goal post and would jump up and block the lower ones.  The "Stroud Rule" came into being and it is now illegal.

Morris Stroud was big and you should be as well.

Running on the Drumlin several years ago a coyote was up ahead watching me approach.  I saw him from a half-mile away.  Not really wanting to see how close I could get, I raised my arms up in the air about a 100 yards out and he took off.

I got big and you should as well.

Getting big for ultras could be a number of things.  Everyone knows increasing the mileage or loading up on the long runs at the right time help you get big, but what else can I do?  I've tried a few things of my own and listen to others over the years.  Here are a few examples:

- Some people go for the one big week and usually it seems to be 100 miles.  This is not easy to do, but if you can pony up for a week it can offer a huge mental boost later.

- Pick a day in the middle of the week, get up at 2 am and go run four - five hours before work.  It can be a different experience and one does have many obstacles to face you do not typically run into on normal runs.  It makes you adjust and in my opinion toughens you up.

- Friday through Sunday pick a high mileage goal for yourself (40 - 50 - 60?) and go do it.  This may be the toughest of them all, but it makes you analyze yourself and learn to make adjustments.  You have to work outside your comfort zone.

If your looking for something different to try on yourself and see how you do, these are it.  Not necessary to do more than 1-2.  The fact is when you are running and ultra of say 50 miles you tend to remember these.  More than likely you are experiencing issues close to what you did then.  Sometimes it is nice to have the confidence to say to yourself, "I'm hurting, but this isn't any harder than my be big session."

What do you have to lose?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Speech Class

This past Wednesday, Jeff Mallach asked if I would assist him this fall in addressing a group of runners concerning ultras.  I eagerly accepted because the opportunity to pass on what I have learned seemed fun.  Notes were soon jotted down and the gears began turning in my head.  It is something I think about everyday.  It also became a medium for me to share on this blog.  Below is the start of what I think about.  Many of the comments or phrases I reference are from people I have had the pleasure of learning from over decades of running.  They have become part of my verbage, so forgive me that I don't take the time to quote them all.

Mastering the time continuum has always been a foundation in ultras.  There are no tricks I know of other than training.  You have to build the foundation and the bigger the base the higher the peak.  The purpose of training is to prepare yourself to finish the task.  The more time you spend preparing to me means...less suffering and better results.  I have never been into death marches.  Simply put, running is how I would spend my time preparing and I would pass on any other activity to aid or supplement performance.  Nothing against weights, biking, swimming, stretching, crossfit, etc.  That was time I could be running.  The more time I spent running was more time I could learn about its magical powers.  This leads to consistency and consistency leads to an iron clad will to push farther.  This is what ultras are about to me.  If I had to incorporate other activities they would compromise my need to test my running limits.  Simply put, if I was into biking as well, I would have dual biking goals every week.  That's how I work, it wouldn't be enough to be average on the bike.

So it is beneficial to forget about time.  The struggle I see with beginning runners is they think by time.  How can you run for an hour?  What do you think about?  To me this is easy...I think about the act of running.  I don't try and think in terms of an end.  If you run three miles in 30 minutes five times a week this is good physical conditioning.  They have a set limit and when they get closer to 30 minutes they percieve this is it.  They let themselves get tired.  They set it up this way.

On the other end you have a guy like Craig who is going to run 500 miles solo soon.  He has to master the time continuum in a manner I cannot fathom.  I draw from this because it makes me look at myself.  More so, it makes me look at the physical limits we set for ourselves.  Craig might be an outlier, but because I know him I know he is no different than me other than he sets the brain limit way beyond what seems possible.

I will run 4 black loops tomorrow which should be around 26.8 miles.  Those who are familiar know it is pretty darn hilly.  Sure, I have an idea of how long each loop will take, but you work to the point where it is another run.  When you get to the point the first two loops are the warm up and then you think...hey just two hours to are mastering the time continuum.  By the time Ice Age rolls around and you have done enough of these at times you can honestly say...just 2-3 hours to go and you do it.  For me the time gets absorb managing the act of running.  Trust me, enough stuff takes place you have to manage.  About the time you solve one issue another one pops up.  This is ultras to me.  The better the manager you are the better your run will go.

I guess this post ended up with more rambling than real info.  Hey, maybe I will eventually get better at keeping one idea in mind.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

We have ignition

My first big meet is the Tri-County meet in '76.  I can barely contain myself.  Seven teams were there, but they have a little handout with the teams, runners, and history.  They list the all-time top ten and their times.  You start hearing the stories about the heroes of past and the close races.  Everyone is putting on the mint glo (kind of like Ben-Gay) and lacing the shoes up like a half dozen times from nervous anticipation.  I don't remember any special instructions from coach.  Coach was a young guy who monitored the suspended students at school.  He hadn't grown up running, but was athletic.  He only coached us one year before I believe he got a real teaching gig somewhere else.  I would see him occasionally over the next couple years and he had started running.  He was always interested in how I did and that was cool.

If your reading and ran cross you know how it works.  You all line up by team across a long white line.  Everyone is flying their colors and it is the most people you have seen at a race ever.  This may have been my first race ever on a Saturday, so a lot of parents showed up.  Some teams (the good ones) had piles of supporters, but I'll bet we only had a handful watching us.  The official, dressed in the old school black and white stripes stands out there and gives instructions.  It was a pleasant day that October 9th.  I was ready to fly.  I was going to miss Fred as he was injured that day.  We were close all season and he beat me twice over the course of the year. 

The beginning was a blast as everyone tore out with the grass flying.  One kid fell and and we jumped over him and everyone hooted and hollared.  If I wasn't hooked yet I was now.  The course was layed out so it seemed like you always had a freaking little hill to contend with.  This beat the heck out of me and I remember having a rather poor day.  We wound up 7th out of 7 (naturally) with a get this 176 point total!  My time would have placed me 11th in the JV race.  I ran 18:19, Mark Albers 18:55, Tarso 18:56, Salmen 19:20, and Pickle 20:02 for the 3 mile race.  Neshannock went 1 - 2 with times of 15:47 and 15:48 respectively.  Surprisingly we were fired up.  Everyone had the chance to recount their race.  No one likes a beat down, but hey we had completed our first season.  How did Union do?  Well we must have upset then earlier in the year because they were 6th with 132 points.

We felt next year would be all upside. 

WABAC Machine

The early years of cross-country had no real allure from the outside.  The team sucked, you had the hand me downs from the track team, and you actually had to run.  It wasn't about the training then, it was about the racing.  Some people ran so hard they had the dry heaves at the finish.  Sometimes you would get this saliva like glue you couldn't spit hard enough to get rid of.  Some kids just let it wrap around their face or run down their shirt.  For me I would get powerfully nervous at school before races.  Not as much about who your were racing, but because of the pain you had to endure.  Remember, no tactics were taught or learned.  You ran to the front as long as you could and held on.

Dual meets were better for me.  I could wrap my tiny little mind around racing one schools best kids.  When you arrived at the course it was usually the local golf course or on the high school grounds.  Our high schools were in the country so there was plenty of land to construct 3 mile lay outs.  You walked most of the course so you had an idea where you had to go.  While the other schools planned strategy ot tactics we just kind of goofed off.  It wasn't long before you wised up because there isn't anyone telling you where to go.  Heck, there was at least one time we had to send out a search party to go find a kid.  One thing was certain, somebody was going off course every meet.

Late summer and early fall in the north was unpredictable weather wise.  Yes, all the combos you can dream of became reality.  Look at old cross pictures.  Guys wearing tossle caps, white t-shirts under tank top, a pair of white socks for gloves...and spikes.  We wore the sprinter spikes used by the track team.  Think about that, is it still that way today?  What kid didn't love screwing in new spikes?  Basically there was a box with recycled spikes and you picked out the best ones.  You stretched a bit, ran some sprints and then lined up to hear the beautiful sound of the starters gun crack.

A dual meet might have 30 kids tearing across a piece of ground.  It was almost a true sprint.  The adrenaline you had poured into your system was finally being released.  It would take about a half mile for the little packs to appear.  The idea was to get to the next pack ahead of you.  This process broke the packs down to a string of runners by half way.  For the most part it stayed this way until about a quarter mile to go (at least for our team) and you tried to pass as many guys as you could over the last fairway which always seemed uphill.  On a good day you could catch several guys and grab your stick or card and collapse on the ground.  I knew right then that no other sport in my high school was exacting as much effort as we were.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Do things

So now I know stuff and my foray in the world of cross-country began.  We had a few characters.
Senior Jeff McMurray who had the obvious nickname of Fred was the leader.  Jeff was a good runner who competed well in the 880 in track.  Never afraid to throw down.  He had the purest speed on our team.  He was also the funniest by far.  Because he was about the only one with running experience his stories were legendary to us.  He recounted races from the track stars of the past and it was inspiring.  I'm not sure what his racing strategy was, but he was the only guy ever from my HS in cross-country I saw during races.  He made the sport fun.

Senior Mark Albers was a skinny guy who was also funny, but in a different way.  He used to put mint glow by his nose just to keep his nasal passages open.  You can't make this up.  He figured it would allow him to breath better.  How he ran with his nose on fire I will never know.  Always willing to run at the front for as long as he could and then fade into the back.  He would usually explain to us in detail after the race why he couldn't hang on.

Tarso Canerio was a senior and a foreign exchange student from Brazil.  He was our 3rd / 4th man.  He worked hard and was always pushing the pace in workouts which most of us were not mature enough to figure out.  We spent most of our time getting him to tell us how to swear in Portuguese.

The last senior I remember was Dave DeRosa who due to prior football injuries was using cross-country to get in shape.  Dave wasn't going to be up front, but man did he make it fun.  He and Fred knew like the entire senior class so the inside details of what was happening with people older than us and stories about the teachers were priceless.  Dave didn't like to lose, so one time he suggested he take a couple opponents out in the woods on the way back to increase our chances.  I'm sure he wouldn't have went through with it, but it was funny to think about.  Dave went on to Slippery Rock were I went to school and I got to know him pretty well.  Great guy.

We never had anyone from the Junior class I remember.  Beside Fred and Tarso being scorers the rest were predominantly from the sophomore class.  We perceived by our second year we would just keep getting better.  Hope sprang eternal as we ran through that year.  We won our second dual meet that year against Ellwood City and I picked up my first win ever.  I remember getting to the front and being scared I would be run down.  That's when I learned being scared isn't a bad thing.  We were crushed by the other teams.  We had several teams who made states annually and had a couple guys who could get pretty well under 9:50 for the 2 mile.  Most of those teams swept us easily.  We went 2 - 5 that year in duals.  This is when my buddy made the claim, "We're not good, but we're funny."  It was good we had fun, but losing all the time wasn't settling to me.

Friday, March 9, 2012 was you and me

I wasn't born a runner, but by the time I was a young lad I knew I was faster than most.  Quicker may be the appropriate term.  You ran in spurts then.  Tag, baseball, and kickball didn't require running great distances.  It felt good to be picked first and you don't want to lose that feeling.  Such is life.  You grow older and suddenly there are other fast kids.  Sports changed as well and having speed wasn't all you needed.  You needed specific skill sets and at times a Dad who schmoozed the coaches.  By the time you enter high school one sees the pecking order.  As Bear Bryant once said, "Be good or be gone."

I always understood this.

In 1976 our high school entered the sport of cross-country and I eagerly signed up.  We knew nothing.  I mean it was so bad it was funny.  For practice we ran around the pond a few times and ran sprints.  After this brutal 2 week training regiment we headed to Union HS for our first meet.  I was a sophomore and when that damn gun went off I did what everyone else did or tried to do...I ran at the front.  After a half-mile my lungs were on fire.  I just kept chasing, but they got farther and farther away.  I was disappointed.  I was 3rd overall and first on the team in 17:50.

After my 3 years in HS was over, we finished with a 5 - 27 record.  The best part was we managed to win that very first meet by one point.  I was in the back of the bus heading home.  Suddenly I was allowed to sit with the other non-athlete upper classmen in the back.  The results of the meet were being passed around without any fanfare.  The sheet read: Union 28  Laurel 27.

I yelled up at the coach, "Hey, why didn't you tell us we won?"  He asked what I was talking about.  I said, "In cross-country the low score wins!"  "Oh," he replied.  "I thought it was like football."

That's when I became a runner.  I knew stuff.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

...and yellow white

Every morning I get up about 50 minutes before I run to drink coffee, watch ESPN, do stuff, and most importantly watch the weather.  It's usually not enough to watch it once I have to see it twice.  From there I figure out what I'm going to wear.

Mittens below 20F and gloves 20F to 50F.
Dress socks and cotton socks below 10F.
Two head caps below 0F, one of which I can pull over my neck if too windy.
Heavy head cap 0F to 25F and a thin one 25F to 40F.
Shorts 30F and above.
Thin running pants 15F to 30F.
Heavy running pants 0F to 15F.
Thin and heavy pants if wind chill is 0F and below on real windy days.
Fleet Farm top 40F+.
Fleet Farm top and pull over 25F to 40F.
Fleet Farm top, long sleeve shirt, and pull over top 10F to 25F.
Fleet Farm top, pull over and heavy vest -5F to 10F.
Fleet Farm top, sweat shirt, and heavy vest for really wind wind chill days below -5F.  Maybe toss in a wind breaker if wind chills below -25F.

The wind can alter these, but normally they have to be over 15-20 mph winds and I'm exposed a lot.

It has been an easy winter to run in.  I can't wait to the trails are ready to go.  I love the road, but the trail runs are more forgiving and necessary if you plan on doing and ultra on them.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

More barn

The thing I am relearning is it is easy to consider not running.  I mean the training is good and why not take a day off.  Plenty of stuff seems to get in the way, but I have been determined to get the workouts in...and make them effective.  Just when it seems running is pointless you go out and have another good workout.  The trick is not to over work the days you don't need to.  I just try and stay on the edge.  Find a way to will yourself into the zone and get the glide going.  Regardless of what the body chemistry is telling you if you work at it good things can happen after 30 minutes.  If not, you circle around and go home...which is another reason I run out and back a lot.  I have to get home and it is a big boost when you make the turn.  It's not like the run is just half over, it's like it is 75-80% over.  Capiche?

Mon AM = 6.6 w/ Jamie and dogs.
Tue AM = 6.1 w/ Jamie and dogs.
Tue PM = 7.5 w/ 10:00 tempo and 4 x 1:25 hill hard.
Wed AM = 12.0 w/ Jamie and his dog.
Thu AM = 6.5 w/ Jamie and dogs.
Thu PM = 7.0 w/ 22:00 tempo.
Fri AM = 6.1 w/ Jamie and dogs.
Sat AM = 16.2
Sun PM = 10.0 w/ my dog.

Total 78.0

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Most on earth

I'm not sure what program I'm on.  I guess it is partly mine and a combination of earthly scholars such as Beck, Setnes, and Daws.  Beck from the standpoint it is an all your eggs in one basket approach which includes three 3 week cycles with a 3 week taper.  Setnes kind of fills in the harder Tuesday through Thursday section, and Daws from the hill work and increased sharpening pace until race week.  Of course putting it together and executing it is my part. The input I bring is knowing I have to get to the trails a bunch and the ever crucial when do you push into red line range and when do you rest?

I didn't really mention long runs, but I figured everyone doing ultras knows those are a given.  I'll probably do one less really long run this time in favor of strength/speed.  I am hoping the everyday running and weekly mileage will fill in.  I am going to run the same way I have been, but am counting on the fact my cruising speed, trail miles, and familiarity with the trails/course will allow for faster running.

If I have learned one thing about Ice Age is that when I am able to catch a hot spot coming past confusion corner heading to emma carlin then this is when I run best.  This means I still have to manage the prior 33 miles.  I can't really start racing until past this point.  My feeling is because I have taken pretty good care of myself until then I can take a chance or two if need be.  Running hard to emma carlin and then back to horsemans is roughly 10 miles.  I expect to hurt like everyone else from there in and if I have to drop the bottle and just run through stations I do.

People really get out there from the start.  I know how that works, my window for a good run that way was usually tiny and involved suffering.  To me training is about eliminating as much suffering as possible.  Looks like a big crowd this year with a pile of good runners.  Those guys (gals) don't usually come back, but you never know who might blow up.  Last year was odd because there was not a lot of people to chase down.  It seemed pretty thin in my time zone.  Hoping this year there are a few more bodies to engage with.