Excuses Excuses

One of the many problems of aging is that you don’t have the energy or speed that you had when you were younger (as well as the capacity to down a 6 pack and still be OK in the next morning).  In the old days pre-Instagram this decline was only viewed by your friends, family, and the 12 people who looked at the race results post race at the timing tent.  Now, however in the information age my “results” are available for everyone to see and mock.  So what’s a Running Lonely to do? (well that’s legal in Virginia anyway).

Picture of the Pig halfway inside a potato chip bag.

This is only cute to you because they are not your potato chips he’s eating.  No, this has nothing to do with this post. 

For what I have lost in top end speed, I have made up for with increased knowledge and wisdom (it’s all relative folks).  Does my enhanced knowledge and wisdom make me a better racer?  Heck no, but it does help with coming up with excuses to why my times are not any better than they are.  Here are a few of my personal favorites:

Crowd Sourcing

This excuse goes something like, “I was ready to set a PR, but I had to spend all my effort in the first few miles weaving in and out of people.”  I like to think by being fairly slow I have helped many a person use this excuse over the years.

It’s not how you finish, its how you start

Almost everyone has gone out too fast in a race and paid for it by the end.  All you have to do is say “I started too fast” and it explains away everything for the rest of the race.  Oddly enough nobody notices that you have used the same excuse in your last 11 races.

It was a training run

As long as you have a longer distance race in your future (and 2026 counts as the future) you can always saying you were taking it easy and where just using it as a supported training run.

Equipment Malfunction

No, not that type of equipment malfunction.  That’s working just fine thank you.  Well, last time I checked anyway. I am just going to shut up now and tell you to say that you can always use the excuse that you had to stop and lost time because you had a rock stuck in your shoe.

It is a picture of my legs, monster knee brace and running shoes.  All sullied by the image of my equipment.

I’ve forever sullied shoe pictures for myself.  I wish this had nothing to do with the post.



French Toast Emergency

Before I start the main topic of the blog, I want to mention that Jamie over at Runster Inc did an interview with me about my 24 Hour race and the results can be found at:


Go ahead, it’s OK to laugh at me and athlete in the same sentence.  Just get it over with quick, so I can move on with the post.

This is taking longer than expected

French Toast Emergency

Here in the DC area they are predicting snow tonight and tomorrow and the forecast ranges from a dusting to 10 inches.  In a time-honored tradition the stores are packed with people buying eggs, bread and milk (thus French Toast Emergency).   Does everyone really need these ingredients, and if so, do they need them right this very second?

Its a picture of a toy pig eating a pancake.  The Pig prefers pancakes to french toast (and so do I)

The Pig and I prefer pancakes but won’t turn down french toast when offered.

Running can be a little like a french toast emergency (minus the sticky syrup).   You aren’t sure what is coming next but you feel you have to DO SOMETHING AND DO IT NOW.  Sorry, my cap locks stuck there for a second.   You start to feel that if you don’t get that 20 miler in this weekend with the exact pace your training plan has that your marathon will be a total disaster.  It may be only 14 weeks to your 10K but you are only running 30 miles a week and you know you HAVE to add hill repeats immediately!  You feel miss one run and you have relegated yourself to a season of last place finishes. You watch your friends on Twitter and Facebook (you do, me, I keep my distance due to legal reasons) and they are running further, faster and perform a flexibility routine that would qualify them for Cirque Du Soleil and you start to wonder what the heck you are doing wrong and how the heck can you fix it NOW (I really need to fix this keyboard).

I am guilty of this as anyone (OK, guiltier).  I worry that if I don’t start adding speed work NOW my 10 miler in April will be a bust.  If I don’t start adding mileage NOW then I won’t be able to train for an ultra down the road.  If I don’t decide on my race goals for the year this very second my running season will be ruined and I will be forced to limp behind the Stay Puft Marshmallow man in a 5K in July.  To add to the humiliation the Pig will win his species group and I will have to hear about it on the way home.

But that likely won’t happen (mostly because the Stay Puft costume is warm and running in that costume in July in the DC area would be suicide).  But convincing myself it won’t happen is an entirely different matter.

I’m not saying your shouldn’t have training plans, goals, or get in Cirque Du Soleil shape.  However, having been a runner for longer than many of you have been alive,  there is nothing that you will do this very moment that will change what happens 3 months down the road (other than hurt yourself).  I guess what I am trying to say in my own clumsy manner is improving running takes time and although it seems like everything has to be done this instant, it won’t change the fact that improvements take time.

Because oddly enough, just because the snow is coming doesn’t mean I need to make French Toast tomorrow.  Though I do have a hankering for waffles now…



It is a picture of a bag of Tuffles called Truffle Pig.  This tuffle is approved by The Pig

Truffle Pig!!!!!!


Flowers for Friday

I Ran (non Flock of Seagulls version)

Well I did run a couple of times this week. My legs are still recovering from my 24 hour race and it felt like I was running maple syrup (and yes my dear Canadian readers rest assured that it was real maple syrup and not the fake stuff). My knees are still a bit cranky but if you were part of my body you would be cranky too.

When I drafted this post I whined for several long paragraphs about possible running goals and the pros and cons of each. I will spare you that (for now).

So what’s a blogger to do when there is nothing to say? Distract everyone with pictures.

Have a Pigtastic weekend.





Flowers.  You are starting to forget this is my blog.

More Flowers

More Flowers.  Feel the distraction coming on.

Cupcake.  Are you distracted yet?

Cupcake. Are you distracted yet?

The Non Badass Side of the Story

Running a 24 hour race makes you sound like a badass (well until I ran one).  Running 85 miles makes you sound like a badass (even if you walked a good chunk of it).  However, there were several moments during my race that were anything but badass.

Yeah, but…

I walk running with a guy and talking about the race when this 12 YO passes us.  The guy turns to be and jokes, “Don’t worry, he will slow down.”  I respond, “Yeah, but so will I”.

How Much Do You Want It

During one of my frequent porta potty stops, I dropped one of my gloves on the floor.  I stared at the floor for a long time considering I was in the middle of the race.  Eventually I decided the floor was only marginally dirtier than I was 16 hours into the race and picked up the glove and used it for the rest of the race.  However once I got back to the hotel I threw it in a bonfire.  I didn’t have the energy to throw myself in as well.

Maybe the pretty picture can erase the horrible image in your mind.

Maybe the pretty picture can erase the horrible image in your mind.

Yeah, but Part 2

There is nothing like a conversation at three in the morning that discussed the pros and cons of running into rattlesnakes vs. Gila monsters during your run.  I could only counter with “Yeah, but have you ever encountered a member of Congress during a run?”

Oh Good It’s Not Me

If one got too close to the heaters in the heating tent, your shoes would actually start melting.  I was sitting in the tent when someone asked “Who’s on fire?”  I was relieved to find out it was not me.  Not because I didn’t want to be on fire, but rather because I didn’t want to move.

The 6%

From the Smithsonian nature photography contest

My directions during my ultra.     From the Smithsonian nature photography contest

I recently read an article of a study that showed during one race that ultra runners lost 6% of their brain grey matter during the race (note, it was a 4300 km race).  Around midnight I stopped at my table to grab a gel and wondered why some guy I didn’t recognize was at my table and why my table didn’t have my stuff.  After an uncomfortable 5 seconds I finally realized it wasn’t my table.  I looked at the guy and said, “Oh not my table.  Sorry, I’ve got ultra brain.”  This was a total lie, because 6% of nothing is still nothing.



Lessons Taught and Some Actually Learned

Well at some point you knew I would do a lessons learned from my 24 hour effort at Across the Years.  Of course it is mostly lessons taught at this point, since time will tell if I actually learned anything (and for the moment time is being rather closed lipped about it).

I am going to split this into two pieces.  The first is specific to Across the Years and that course.  The 2nd will be for general 24 hour racing.

Across the Year Specific

1. Wear Gaiters.  I did and it helped me a lot since the course has a lot of little rocks that have a way of finding their way into shoes.

2. Having a large tent is a great way to spread out all your stuff and keep you and your crew out of the elements.  It also keeps you from changing clothes in a portapotty and I think we can all agree that is a bonus.  At ATY they will rent you a tent and table and set it up for you and it was money well spent.  I will say if you are running the 48/72/6 Day races and plan on sleeping in the tent the beep of every time they a runner hits the start line may make it a little hard to sleep.

3. The transponder that goes around your ankle may rub if you don’t wear compression socks.  I do, so it wasn’t a problem for me, but I saw some people who had some problems with chaffing.

4. Consider a head lamp.  The course is fairly well-lit, but there are a few places where it is pretty dark.  Being a roadie, I wish I had better lighting for myself.  Once I started walking, it wasn’t as big a deal.

5. If it is going to go below 40 deg F, take it seriously.  One problem I had was I thought I would be OK since I am used to running at 32 deg F.  I was not however used to walking in 32 deg F for 10 hours.  The slower you go the less heat you generate and the more clothes you need.  If I ever do this race again I will be the warmest honking mitts I can find.

6. ATY allows you to have a person run a lap during the day or a few laps at night.  Take advantage of this since it helps break the race up.

This is your brain after a 24 hour race.  Any questions?  Well other than how crazy do you have to be to run a 24 hour race.

This is your brain after a 24 hour race. Any questions? Well other than how crazy do you have to be to run a 24 hour race.

General 24 Hour Lessons

1. I was going to put don’t start out too fast, and although I went out too fast, I don’t think I went out THAT too fast.  My marathon time was about 27 minutes slower than my Marine Corps Marathon time which certainly qualifies as going out too fast.  But I looked at the people who got 100 miles or over and compared the first 12 hours and second 12 hour splits (removing the ones who obviously were just running to 100 miles and then stopped at 18 hours).  Most of the runners (19 of 23) were between 57-63% higher in the first half than the 2nd half.  Nobody ran negative splits.  My 64% isn’t that far out of atypical splits.  Yes, I did start out too fast, but it wasn’t so freaking too fast as to be ridiculous (which for a guy who carts around a toy pig isn’t a hard bar to leap over).

2. For Ultra racing, strength training really matters.  My upper body strength training was spot on.  I didn’t have any issues with my arms and shoulders which was a pleasant surprise.  My hip/quad strength training needs to be upped if I am ever going to do this again.  My legs basically gave out and I risked damage to my knees because of it.

3. No blisters or scars!  I took the time to take care of my feet and changed shoes when felt a hotspot coming on.  Unlike my 6 hour race, I didn’t add to my collection of scars.  Double bonus.

4. If this is your first 24 hour race, try to have a crew for as much of the race as possible.  My brain really wasn’t functioning very well from 12 hours on (even by my low standards) and it helped to have someone to help with getting food, making suggestions on how to keep warmer, and just making sure I didn’t fall into the lake.

5. If this is your first 24 hour race, consider doing at least a 50 miler. I think it would have helped me to do a 50 miler first.  I didn’t do this for many reasons, but if you fit it into your schedule, it will help.  The leap from 33 to 85 miles is a huge one.

6. Don’t underestimate the walking.  Unless you are one of the top runners, you are going to spend a good chunk of time walking.  Given that, add this to your training.  I didn’t do enough of this and it does stress different muscle groups than running.  Although I could keep a good pace walking, I didn’t have the experience trying to keep that pace for hours on end.

The Pig called dibs on the chair early on.

The Pig called dibs on the chair early on.

7. Label your stuff clearly both for you and your crew. Since it was going to rain I put a bunch of stuff in garbage bags with really helpful labels like–Warm stuff and post race or “shirts”.  A more detailed inventory would have helped when trying to find stuff.

8. Adapt to the conditions.  I was worried that I would dehydrate in the desert so I ended going the other direction and drank too much fluid given it wasn’t that warm outside.  This caused a lot of bathroom stops that took time.

9. Checklists are good, but think about the assumptions.  I put together a checklist of what my fueling and fluid would be every hour.  This assumed I was running more than walking.  I also should have done a better job putting together a checklist for the clothes changes (and then I might not have run off without the transponder).

10. Ultra running is an entirely different ballgame mentally and next time I will be better aware of it (note I didn’t say prepared).  You can (will?) have ups and downs both during the race and (to my surprise) after the race.  I look at this as the price for admission for the longer distances.

11. Timed races are more social than other types of racing so use it to your advantage. I wish I had spent more time talking to others during the race because the laps I did when I talked to people went by quicker and felt better.  Keep in mind this is coming from someone who is just this side of a hermit (no not that side of being a hermit, the other side.  Give me a little credit).

12. I need to improve my transition times and be careful of grabbing something every lap.  I had a couple of long transitions.  Some it is was planned and some of it wasn’t.  I might try a timer to keep myself on task next time.  Also, on a mile loop, grabbing something almost every lap is time-consuming for you and hard on your crew.  It didn’t take much extra time since my table was near the course, but it all adds up.

13. Don’t forget to laugh.  This makes it easier not to strangle someone when they go “Only 22 more hours to go”.

14. Take in what you did.  Unless you are in it to win it (I was more in it not to come in last) take the time during the race to take in the course, the people, the sights and sounds—even it is the sound of your own groaning.  I took one lap to take pictures and take in everything and it was well worth the effort.

15. I am glad I took on the challenge of a 24 hour race.  A 24 hour race is neither easy to train for nor to race, but for me it was worth taking a chance.  I wanted to find out what I could do when I pushed myself distance wise and I found out.  I don’t know if I will do it again (or knowing me I’ll do even something even further out there), but I am glad I took the leap.

Seconds after finishing my last lap.  After 85 miles I was SOOOO done.

Seconds after finishing my last lap. After 85 miles I was SOOOO done.  The tents you can rent are in the background.  No leaping going on here. Go Rice!



Freaky Friday

No I am not swapping bodies with Lindsay Lohan, not that it would decrease the quality of blogging here at Running Lonely Central.

No running yet

I was hoping to tell everyone I had my first run and everything was on track with my post Across the Years recovery, until I slipped and fell and landed hard on my bad knee. My knee hurt for a couple of days and is still a little stiff.  I will delay my running until the weekend at the earliest, but I am trying to not panic too much about it.  My active recovery of swimming, water running and biking on the trainer has left me in pretty good shape recovery wise and I really can’t tell I ran 85 miles a couple of weeks ago.  Well, OK sometimes I check out the results page just to make sure my name is there, so I guess I really can tell I ran the distance ;)

Still Zippo on Goals

I’m still drawing a blank on goals other than knocking 3 minutes off my 10 miler PR (which I set during a half marathon, so go figure).  So basically I am directionless.  I have been spending time on websites looking at ultra and timed races as well as bunch of half marathons.  I think some of it is I am drawn to timed races (6 hours /12/24/etc) but less drawn to the training required (and wouldn’t it be nice for all us if we could race what we wanted without all that pesky training).  I wonder if my body could really handle full up ultra training with 75 mile weeks.  I am working on my leg and hip strength (I’ll spare you pics), but I don’t think I am ultra-strong at the moment (or at least 100 mile ultra strong).

Looking back I was lucky I wasn’t injured given I tried to make the training leap between a half marathon in September and a 24 hour race in December (with a marathon and a 50K in between).  I knew I was taking a risk at the time, but I was willing to accept the risk of injury for the payoff of my finisher’s mug (which the Pig promptly stole).

Stealing the mug is one thing, drinking the beer in the mug is just wrong.

Stealing the mug is one thing, drinking the beer in the mug is just wrong.

And the Rest of the Rest

I still am feeling disconnected from the world even by the standards of my introverted self.  Maybe now that my race is finished I am realizing how much I was associating my running self as my total self.  I think I started to notice this in Arizona when I finished reading a book for the first time in 4 months (I used to be a book a week guy).  Some of the association of running as my total life is that my social media presence is almost totally running (or some sport) and my blog is rather running centric.  I would remind myself there is life outside of work and running, but for the last 4 months there really hasn’t been (watching the Blacklist probably doesn’t count).  I realize this isn’t healthy or smart, but not sure what to do about it at the moment.  Trying to expand my life to include other activities (and/or expand my social world) takes time and effort, but would probably benefit me long-term.  Something else for me to ponder during my commutes home.

So life marches on and the seeds we soon plant will turn into the flowers of spring (sorry, that was perilously close to deep (or at least non-shallow)).

Flowers for Friday

Flowers for Friday

Have a Pigtastic weekend!



The Terrible Tuesdays

I think I should start a blog link up called “The Terrible Tuesdays”.  Nothing all that terrible is going on, I just am enamored with my cleverness (I know, that makes one of us).

I want to talk winter training (which given the temps that some of you endure, might just qualify as terrible).  So in the throes of winter, how does one catch up on fitness? (Yes, it is going to be one of THOSE sort of posts).

1. Tough it out/Suck it Up

What you are doing: Running outside just like you always do.

Pros:  This buys you cool Instagram pics and makes your friends think you are a total #badass.

Cons: Exercising in cold is badass.  Freezing to death or losing fingers to frostbite however not optimal and makes for less interesting Instagram pictures.  You have to tread a thin line between #badass and #droolingidiot.  Canada, this is doubly tough for you since to the rest of the world, your April temps seem like living in the Arctic Circle (which I guess for some of the country is true since it actually IS in the Arctic Circle).

Why isn’t there an Arctic Square?

You would think that given all the money in the world we could prevent this from happening

You would think that given all the money in the world we could prevent this from happening

2. Take it indoors

What you are doing: Treadmill

Pros: You won’t freeze to death.

Cons: You may wish you had.  Treadmill running has all the excitement of my Saturday night without all the alcohol.

3. Get on the cross train

What you are doing: Time to haul out the bike trainer, swim or water run.

Pros: It’s a good time to try other types of exercise and your running muscles need a break every now and again.

Cons: Well for me, as bad as I look in tights, it is worse with bib shorts or a Speedo (knee length not the other kind–jeeze).  Although you can work on your fitness during cross training, but when you start back your running your first few weeks will feel like you have concrete blocks on your feet.

4. Hibernate

What you do: As little as possible.

Pros: Conservation of energy and you finally do a rest day correctly.

Cons: As wonderful as the bed and couch are, you will eventually have to get up to get coffee, or go to the bathroom, or attend your kid’s college graduation.

5. Move to Key West for the winter.

All in favor say “aye”.

Problem solved.



Across The Years 24 Hour Race 2014/2015

Last May when I said I would run a 24 hour race I literally had no clue what I was getting myself into.  I had never raced more than a half marathon and hadn’t even run that far in 3 years.  Yet I decided to go on a journey and see what happened.

Turns out being clueless has its benefits

After a flight to Phoenix from DCA a couple of days earlier, I made the trek down to Glendale (where the White Sox/Dodgers have their Spring Training facility) the Saturday before the race for packet pickup.  I picked up my swag (bag, gloves, beanie, race shirt, really nice jacket) race belt and my tent nameplate.  Probably the smartest thing I did in the entire process was renting a tent/cot/table (which the organizers nicely put up for me in advance).  After picking up my number, transponder, swag, and went over to claim my tent.  Since I was fairly early, I was able to snag a tent fairly close to the course which made things a lot easier for the race.

The Pig starts the course preview

The Pig starts the course preview

I went and walked the first half of the course (the 2nd half was closed off until the race).  The course is mostly flat with dirt and some gravel.  There is a short paved section (which also has a little gravel).  I had gaiters for my shoes (you will see in a later picture).  I would recommend them for those running this race unless you are used to little rocks in your shoes.

So on race day it was rainy leaving the hotel.  The day before I raided REI for rain gear since the forecast was calling for up to 10 hours of rain with a slight possibility of snow (yes, snow in Phoenix).  In the end it only rained a couple of hours, but I used most of the stuff I bought during the race.  After unloading the cooler and all my equipment, I did some dynamic stretches and some light static stretches and it was off to the start line.

Hour 1- The Start

The start for this race was the most relaxed I had ever seen.  They said to line up and give room to the runners still out on the course.  Nobody moved.  With 5 seconds to the start of the race I finally said “screw it” and walked toward the start along with people who were looking for a fast start.

Uh, what the hell am I doing that far up? Being dumb as usual.

Uh, what the hell am I doing that far up? The monster knee brace leads the way!

So the first lap (~1.0495 miles) came in at 10:30 (too fast but no one is surprised by that with me).  The next lap the wind started kicking up dust in my eyes so after I finished my 11:00 minute lap I grabbed my sunglasses to keep the dust out of my eyes.

My original to plan was to start walking at 2.5 mile mark, but since I hadn’t been passed yet I thought I would run just a little more to see how long I could hold off the leaders.  Not much longer it turned out and they zipped by me just before the end of lap 3 (11:10 (no I am not going to give all the split times)).  I started walking and handed my jacket over to my crew and grabbed some water.  I was worried about becoming dehydrated and overall probably went too much the other way.  I ended up taking some sort of liquid on most laps.  I started walking and then doing run 5 minutes followed by walk 1 minute for each lap.  I was watching my heart rate to keep it nice and low, but now that I am looking at my split times, my next laps were 11:10, 11:17 and 11:24 which meant I was running too fast.  But hey, it was early and I was still optimistic.

Hour 2 The Rain In AZ falls mostly on Marsden

Well spending my life savings at REI came in handy when it started to rain.  I put on a rain jacket and handed back my now useless sunglasses to my crew.  It wasn’t a hard rain, but without a jacket it would have been too cold and with the jacket I was sweating pretty good (or pretty bad if you are the one who has to look at it).  I was finally slowing down the run pace and each lap during this hour came in around 11:50. I still felt good and with 10.5 miles completed in slightly less than two hours I was slightly better than my plan. About the only odd thing was a spike up in my heart rate that lasted about 5 minutes.  Not sure if it was a problem with the Garmin, or its user, but I walked for a minute and that cleared the spike.

Hour 3- It can stop raining now

At some point during this hour it did stop raining.  I was alternating laps of gel/water (Roctane or Chia Gel) and sports drink (Tailwind or Perpetuem).  For the first 6 hours I didn’t really want to chance solid food since I had problems with solid food during training (read hurling on the National Mall).  This lap was gel/water.  The laps averaged 12 minutes with longer for handing over my rain jacket and gloves and taking gel.  It was nice having a table at the edge of the course to get gels/water/drinks and get encouragement from my crew.

Well, fly is a relative term.

Well, fly is a relative term.

Hour 4-Feeling good, only 20 hours left!

The walk/run plan was going along well.  I was getting some looks for having a singlet on in 40 deg F weather (OK, I choose to believe it was the singlet or arm warmers and not me).  The laps this hour were around 12 minutes except for the lap when I did something I had never done during a race before.

I peed.

Lap time 12:50.  I really had to go at that point.  As a note for those looking to run this race there are portapotties at the start, and three other locations in the first 1/2 mile.  Inside the baseball complex there is one inside bathroom (heated!!) but it takes more time since you have to walk 20 yards from the course to get to them.

All in all I was pleased with how the race was going (you thought it was going to be about the peeing didn’t you).

Yes, there were Canadians in the race. They were too nice to run further than I did though.

Yes, there were Canadians in the race. They were too nice to run further than I did though.

Hour 5- About Face

One of the nice features of this race is that every 4 hours you get to switch directions.  This helps with the muscle strain of taking the same curves for 24 hours.  So the first lap you complete after the 4 hour mark you then go back in the other direction.  It probably made the ultracast odd to watch seeing people running in both directions, but watching me on an ultracast you were already in odd territory.  The laps this hour crept up to 12:30 on average except for the lap I did another bathroom first (and swapped singlets).  We will just leave it at that.  I also picked up my iPod shuffle and started listen to music for the next 4 hours to keep some energy in my pace.

Hour 6- Where will I be at the 6 hour mark?

When I was planning for my race I was hoping to be around 30 miles at the 6 hour point.  I knew I was getting a smidgen tired (do ultra runners use the term smidgen?).  However, I still felt reasonably good as I circled around.  The first lap of the hour I got little over enthusiastic and came in at 12:10 for the lap (oops) but the rest of the laps were around 12:30 again.  Just after 3 PM local I had hit 31.49 miles (50.69 KM for you KM types).  I was pleased with my time and effort to that point and I felt good about the race.

Hour 7- Crappy Transition and no rhythm

My plan was to swap out, all my clothes (shoes, socks, compression shorts, shorts, long sleeve compression shirt, visor) and to reapply BodyGuide and Vaseline where needed.  I noticed that my left knee was swelling a bit so decided to swap knee braces as well.

Yes, I was inside the tent when I changed clothes.  You would have heard about it on the news otherwise.  I did some light stretching and everything but my quads felt pretty good and the quads didn’t feel as bad as I expected.

However the transition took a bit and by the time I finally got back on the course it had been a while.  The lap with clothes change took 27 minutes.

I swapped to my Hokas hoping they would provide better cushioning.  The first lap they got a big rock stuck in the tread.  Then I had to put the gaiters on them because I thought the Hokas would be better at keeping rocks out then my Nimbus (wrong).  I finally toward the end of the hour started to find a good rhythm running 4 minutes walking 1 1/2 minutes with an extra 30 second walk break around my table to pick up gels and the such.  I gave up my Garmin for a recharge.  It took three more laps before I remembered I could take off my heart rate monitor as well.  I never did use the Garmin again the rest of the race.

It was also during this hour I got sick of taking two-three gels an hour and switched totally to drink mix.  This required more bathroom breaks but seemed better than puking.  My crew actually had gotten advice from an experienced ultra runner that if I got sick of the gels and puked, I would be fine with them after that.  I’m glad I didn’t get to find if that wisdom was correct.

Hour 8 Back on track(ish)

I started getting in a better flow of run/walking and picking parts of the course I didn’t want to run for my walk breaks (mostly the uphill and downhill (BTW we are talking 5 feet here, so it wasn’t Camelback Mountain)).  Most laps were in the 13:20 range.  I still was feeling halfway decent and still was optimistic.  As the hour ended I noticed there were still 16 hours to go and my optimism started to float away like dandelion seeds.

Hour 9 The End of the Beginning (About Face part 2)

This hour was the last of the good ones.  It started with going back in original direction we went in.  I still was feeling decent and my splits for the hour were 13:00, 13:09, 13:02, 13:06 and 12:59.  This is also when the sun set, so it would be goodbye to sunlight for another 14 hours (which is about as demoralizing as it sounds).  Looking back this hour (and the first lap of the next hour) was the end of the smooth sailing.  This was also when I stopped listening to my shuffle.

Hour 10 – Crap and More Crap

After a good first lap to the hour (13:34) I noticed my big toe on my right foot felt like it was starting to blister.  I went to the tent which then started a comedy of errors on my part.

1. I took off the right shoe and sock and there was a hotspot on my right big toe so I made the decision to go back to the Nimbus and swap socks to a fresh pair of Smartwool compression socks(so far so good).

2. I put on the compression sock on my right foot before applying Vaseline.  Take sock back off.

3. Put on right shoe before putting gaiter on.  Take off shoe and put gaiter on.

4. Do the same gaiter trick with the left foot.

5. Finally get out of the tent and back on the track.  Remember way too far down the loop that your forgot to put the transponder back on.  Go back and get transponder and go back on the track.

6. How to turn in a 31 minute lap in 5 easy steps.

The last lap of the hour was 14:18 but mentally I was rattled.  It didn’t help that it had started to rain again and was even spitting snow.  It lasted less than 30 minutes, but it took a toll mentally.  I also was trying to find a light that worked for lighting up the shadows of the course.  If you are a trail runner, it’s no big deal (or probably if you are road runner with standard balance skills).  If you are me with my ankles and knees, stepping where you can’t see where you are landing isn’t fun for hours on end (though this is only true for small parts of the course).  I tried a variety of headlamps, flashlights and the such and each solution was unsatisfying in different ways.  Eventually I gave up and just hoped I didn’t turn my ankle.

Hour 11- A milestone

At 10:45 I hit 50 miles.  Not a bad time considering it was part of a 24 hour race.  Ok, it was a great time considering it was me we are talking about.  It felt like I had accomplished something.  During this hour I also managed to dress for the evening (two shirts and a jacket and track pants) and managed to pull off a 18 minute lap.

Hour 12- Time to power down

It was at this point I knew I wasn’t going to get near 100 miles, or close to any placings (the guy who won it was a scant 23 miles ahead of me at this point).  So I made the decision to move to exclusively walking with some short (1 minute) run breaks.  This went well for the hour and I walked around 14:30 for each of the laps.  I ended the 12 hours at 55.6 miles.  I had pre-race felt that if I could be around 59 miles I would turn myself inside-out (not a pretty image, let me assure you) to get to 100, but I knew below 59 miles I just wouldn’t be able to pull it off (turns out I was wrong, I probably needed more like 65 miles). So at the end of the hour I started to walk exclusively to try to conserve my muscles for the long haul.  This may or may not have been the best decision since I didn’t really do 50-100K walks in prep for this race to build my walking muscles.

Hour 13- Walk Walk Walk and its getting cold

The walking average around 15 min/lap except for the lap I went to the bathroom and started a series of glove changes which would last the next three hours on and off.  The temps were quickly in the lower 30s (heading to around 28-30 deg F (or for my Florida readers-death)). I was having difficulty keeping my hands warm.  I tried one pair of gloves after another with and without hand warmers and never really resolved the problem for the rest of the race.  The one thing I didn’t buy at REI was a warm pair of mitts.  Lesson learned.

Hour 14- Like hour 13 except slower and colder

At this point all the food and liquid I was taking in was cold and I was cold.  If you think this isn’t the best combination, you are SOOO right.  I kept stopping to try to resolve my glove issues and the laps were 15:49, 21:04, and 17:14.  When I could keep out on the course I was still moving fairly well, but I kept making more and more stops to the tent.

 Hour 15- More slow walking

The laps this hour were 18-19 minutes as I fussed over equipment and trying to get warm.  My motivation was started to leak from me like a 4 day old balloon.

Happy New Year

On the first lap of the 11 PM hour I hit 100K.  I didn’t even notice until the next lap when I looked at the monitor that tracked the runners as they went over the starting mat.

At the start line they had a countdown to midnight, everyone who wants to can have some champagne.  Then the volunteers, families, and runner walk a lap together.  It’s a nice tradition and my crew and I enjoyed the festive lap on the course (complete with sparklers).  No, I didn’t let the Pig have any fireworks.  Even in my addled state, I know better than that.

However the slow walk made my lips cold and in fact my lips were turning blue. I had brought a UA ski mask as a joke to the race and put it on to try to warm up my lips (I’m tired and mostly mouth breathing at this point).  I also put on two pair of gloves with hand warmer and put on a hoodie I brought for post race.  I then stuck both hands in the pocket of the hoodie to try to keep them warm.  I also started to notice my right knee was hurting.

Hour 16 Downward Ho

The laps during this hour were all OK (around 21 minutes) given I was walking with my hand pressed up against my ribcage.  However, both knees were making it hard to push forward and I couldn’t really get my hands and lips warm (I know what you are thinking, and that wasn’t going to happen). At the end of the hour I went to the food tent and got some soup and went to the warming tent to sit down.

Hour 17- Why go Forward?

 My knees both hurt, I was cold and I had around 70 miles.  If I quit now it wasn’t like anyone was going to laugh (or it would be the same people who would laugh at 80 or 90).  I put my gloves near the space heater to warm up and sat as close as I could without setting myself on fire (some runners managed to start to melt their shoes).  My crew brought me some soup and I said may not go on.  They asked me if I was sure and just grunted that I was still thinking.  I closed my eyes and just sat there.  After a bit, I finally decided to leave the tent.  My knees had other ideas and I had to lift myself out of the chair using my arms (swim cross training came in handy).

So I got back on the course and immediately determine that I had been sweating because when the breeze hit me I started to uncontrollably shiver.  As I tried to gather up some speed to increase the heat I was generating, my teeth were chattering and I determined I would give it half a lap to warm up and if I couldn’t stop shivering I was going to pack it in for good.  I finally stopped shivering but was still cold.  Lap time including warming tent time was a blazing 49:07.

Hour 18 Life in the Heating Tent

I couldn’t stay out on the course longer than a lap because I was so cold, so I started a pattern of sitting in the heating tent long enough to eat something, warm up and go out for another lap.  It was at this point I figured out that putting a gel packet in a cup of hot water was a great way to warm up the gel (think Salted Carmel GU warmed up).  I was getting tired of potato soup so the gel helped keep my energy up.  The laps (including stays in the warming tent) were 30 minutes.  At the end of the hour I figured out it was only 6 more hours to go.

Hour 19 – Pancakes

Most of the solid food to the point didn’t really interest me, though I was eating some of it.  However, pancakes were a total godsend.  I actually was interested in eating those.  I would like to thank the volunteers who quickly brought food to the runners and hustled even for those like me who were barely moving at the time.  The food helped keep my situation from deteriorating further.  The laps this hour were also 30 minutes but I was at least slowly climbing up the leader board which gave some motivation.

Hour 20 – More pancakes and some faster laps

Between the pancakes and finding someone going my pace that I could talk to for a lap, I was able to bring down the lap times and actually had one at 22 minutes including the heating tent.  More pancakes were scarfed down in a manner unbecoming to a human.  By the time they stopped serving them I felt pancakes were the most wondrous food on the planet.

Hour 22- A Goal Reached

Around 6:30 in the morning I hit my top end goal of 80 miles.  My crew did a lap the lap with me to make sure I didn’t fall into the lake.

80 miles.  My attempt to reach my goal was a success. My attempt to recreate the end of Breakfast Club not so much.

80 miles. My attempt to reach my goal was a success. My attempt to recreate the end of Breakfast Club not so much.

Again I thought about quitting (heck I reached my goal), but felt I probably wasn’t making my knees worse as long as I took it slow.  As you can tell in the picture above there were not that many people out of the course except for those trying for placings (or in the longer races). I was getting passed by pretty much everyone at this point.

Hour 23- The Sun Does Exist

The sun finally came up around 7:30.  This brought out more runners back out on the course.  The light helped my mood a little and cranked out 28 minute miles.  I was still spending a little time in the heating tent but it was less and less each lap.  Just before the end of the hour, I got my phone out the tent and texted a couple of friends that I was still alive and that this was probably my last lap.

Hour 24- Pictures, Reflection and the last lap

I decided to take my phone with me to take photos of the course.  I would stroll along and take in the course and try to take in what I had accomplished.

The lake in the White Sox/Dodgers facility.  The light looked so good at that point.

The lake in the White Sox/Dodgers facility. The light looked so good at that point.

Start area

Start area

Around the half way point

Around the half way point of the course

Play Ball!

Play Ball!

At the conclusion of the lap I decided I had enough time for one last lap.  I told my crew this time it really was the last lap and the last lap I screamed in at 25:48 (OK, I was too tired to scream).

Final Mileage 85.03 miles, 136.85 KM, tied for 29th place, 24th male overall (out of 188 total runners).  Yes, I finished ahead of all the little kids in the race, so that was a double bonus.

I had done something I really didn’t think I was capable of and at least for a fleeting moment it felt good.  That being said it was the only thing that felt good at that moment, lol.

The finish.

The finish.  Styling as always

Post Race Aftermath

I turned in my transponder, got my finishers glass mug, and very, very slowly put stuff into the car.  I think a video would have had more movement out of the grass growing than me moving.

I went back to my hotel took a much needed shower, and tried to nap, but didn’t have much luck in doing so.  I struggled a lot over the next few days of why I went back on the course when my muscles had pretty much failed, I was cold, and my knees hurt like hell.  I fell into a depression of sorts (which later research showed mood swings aren’t that uncommon for some after long races like this).  After much thought this is eventually what I came up with–I wanted to see what I could do in a 24 hour race and the only way I could do that is to keep moving for all 24 hours.  That may seem like an obvious conclusion, but it took me a while to get there.  Would I do it again?-maybe.  I have been looking at 12 hour races which could lead up to a repeat attempt (or maybe the 48 hour race).  Then again I have been looking at my bed and it is so much nicer than doing 30 mile runs so who knows what is next.

I would like to thank the race organizers.  Aravaipa Running puts on a first class race which is great to run for both locals and those coming in from out-of-town.  The volunteers are the best (including one person who had run the 48 hour race, was volunteering on New Year’s Eve, and then was going to run the 24 hour race (#badass).

I also would like to thank my crew.  I would have ended up with hypothermia, fallen in the lake, or starved to death without your help.  I had no clue what I was doing and yet you kept me moving when I needed to move.

I want to thank all of those who supported me on the blog, on Twitter and on Instagram.  It took a lot of effort to get from a 10 miler to a 24 hour race, and your encouragement helped me along the way.  Thanks for being a part of the journey.  The journey is better with friends.

All in all I did what I set out to do.  In the end, can any of us ask more of that out of a race?  Well, that and for a day I had more mileage than just about anyone I knew in 2015.



Still Alive Friday

Hey, at my age it being Friday and me still being alive is something to celebrate.

I am still working on the full race report for Across the Years.  My brain has slowly wrapped itself around the race- particularly the last 7 hours.  The post should be up on Sunday if the blogging gods allow (and if the blogging gods don’t allow, they will have the Pig to answer to).

Last chance for Christmas lights.

Last chance for Cactus Christmas lights.

My current plan is not to run until this time next week.  My recovery is going well and my Chiro seems pleased my knees are not swollen (with the obligatory “I told you so” to me finally doing some strength training). I have been swimming, biking on my trainer, and aqua running to keep the crazies at bay (OK, the craziers at bay).

Still have no real goals for 2015.  I have signed up for Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in April and will start training for that if nothing else pops up.  I need to decide fairly soon if I will go for longer distances (ultras/timed races) or something more along the lines of beating my PR in the half marathon. Ultras have a certain allure, but many(most) of them are on trails which don’t play well with the monster knee brace.

On my white board I had put up pre-race what I thought the splits for the race would be for 64, 71, and 80 miles.

I got an A in penmanship in 5th grade.  It went downhill from there.

I got an A in penmanship in 5th grade. It went downhill from there.

So here is the comparison from the 80 mile plan to actual.

Hours   Plan(miles)   Actual (miles)

1-4            20            21

4-8            14            17

8-12          13            17

12-16        12            13

16-20        11              8

20-24        10              9

And by “plan” I mean “guess”.  For the first 12 hours I was fairly strong, and then I quickly lost steam in the 2nd half.  I knew it was going to happen, I just didn’t realize how dramatically.

This was the first vacation in a while that when I came back home it didn’t really feel like home and everything felt a little foreign.  Some of it is the contrast to the Southwest US but some of it was it just didn’t feel like home.  Typically this might mean a move in my near future, but now that I have a government job, just picking up and moving to a different part of the country has bigger implications down the road on retirement.

Well this weekend I will take down the Christmas decorations. I don’t want to since it adds nice cheer to the dark nights and mornings.  Since the lights are red and white I guess I could consider them Valentine’s Day decorations (or 4th of July or Canada Day).  Alas societal norms get the best of me again.

Here are your flowers for Friday.

Flowers for Friday

Flowers for Friday

Have a Pigtastic weekend!






Phoenix Odds and Ends (and with me mostly odds)

Since I am still procrastinating with the full write-up of Across the Years, I thought I would I toss in a few things that I did while I was in Scottsdale that didn’t involve resting or recovery (which is turns out wasn’t that much).

The Saturday before the race I did go to the botanic garden to see their luminary holiday display.  I had gone to the garden in previous visits,but never at night.  It was chilly (which I should have paid more attention to) but It was fun to wonder around.  They had some bands, and the obligatory cactus in Christmas lights.


One of the rare times the luminary didn't have a ton of people on the path.

One of the rare times the luminary didn’t have a ton of people on the path.

Although I don’t typically do a rundown of everything I ate while on vacation, fans of this blog (oddly enough there is such a thing) will appreciate my pre-race carb loading choice.  In honor of National Bacon Day, I went here:

As soon as I saw this place, I knew it was a mandatory stop.

As soon as I saw this place, I knew it was a mandatory stop.

Had the pancakes and a certain someone tried to steal some of my carb-loading.

I'm slow, but not THAT slow.  My pancakes were saved and were pretty good.

I’m slow, but not THAT slow. My pancakes were saved and were pretty good.

You may be wondering why the Pig would go to a place that serves bacon (and even has a “flight” of 8 different types of bacon).  Well…

I told him it was chicken

I told him it was chicken

Other than generically walking around my hotel (which did have some nice views of the mountains in the area), I went to the historic Portland area of Phoenix (which looks much like Portland Oregon if you removed the rain and added palm trees and moved it to the Southwest).

Probably plays better in person

Probably plays better in person.  So go the Phoenix see it and then read the rest of the post.  I can wait.

I’ll leave you with one of the pictures from the hotel I was staying.

Camelback Mountain.  It is named that because it looks like a Gila Monster

Camelback Mountain. It is named that because it looks like a Gila Monster