Sunday, April 30, 2017

2017 Canton Football Hall Of Fame Marathon

When your calfs and quads start cramping a little after the halfway point of a marathon, you know it's going to be a long day!

I signed up for the 2017 Canton HOF Marathon more than a year in advance. Jim Chaney was running a deal, dropping the price to $26.20. This was too good to pass up! The other motivator that keeps me signing up for road marathons is that ever elusive sub three hour marathon.

My training wasn't terrible, but nothing spectacular and certainly not good enough for a PR. I got up to a 51 mile week, but the rest of the weeks ranged anywhere between 15 and 40 miles. The last month of training in April, I dropped off and only recorded six runs! At this point, I knew sub three or even a PR was not achievable so my plan was to back off and try for a 3:30-3:45.

I started out with Kelly's cousin, Greg, who was running the half marathon.  I met up and ran several long training runs with him, mostly starting from Lock 29 in Peninsula and running north or south on the Towpath.

The splits below tell the whole story.  I actually didn't start out as fast as I thought I had and kept a pretty even pace through the half.  But as the temperature and humidity rose during the race, it became more apparent that I was not taking in enough electrolytes to replenish what I was losing.  My calves and quads started cramping around mile 14 or 15 and by 18 it became quite a struggle.  I slogged along doing the marathon shuffle, trying to avoid a massive calf cramp.
 

I tried using the pace groups as motivation by staying ahead of them for as long as possible, but one group after another passed me.  And before long, the reality set in that this would be my first marathon over 4 hours.  I was actually fine with this thought.  All I wanted to do was finish.  This finish would be a different kind of accomplishment.

I ended up running a 4:13:29, my worst marathon ever by nearly half an hour.  Kelly and Greg were at the finish cheering me on and Greg hopped in to run the final stretch with me.  I was so happy to be done!


Afterward as we waited for the bus to take us back to our car at the fairgrounds, I started feeling nauseous and dizzy.  I was sitting in the shade with Greg and ended up puking.  I can't remember the last time I puked after a race and definitely never have after a marathon.  I'm not a good runner in the heat, so today was rough.  I saw one guy during the race on the ground with paramedics around him and an IV.  There were plenty of people hurting out there today and plenty of slow times, so today was just a good tough training run and an accomplishment just to finish.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

2016 Burning River 100

In 2009, I paced my brother on his quest to finish his first hundred. He was 29 years old and finished in 29 hours.

I've been surrounded by many friends who have run several 100 milers. Some of them I've met through the NEO Trail Club and others through running at the Cuyahoga Valley. For me, 100 miles seemed like the ultimate goal in running. For the majority of my running career, I've taken part in the "fast", competive side, racing in high school, collegiately and personally in marathons.  That side of running is fun, but eventually plateaus and can leave you burned out.

I started to get into trail running after college. I ran several 50Ks, 50 and eventually 100K. I really enjoyed being out in nature on the trails. It was easy to forget about running and clear my mind. Even more so than the roads. I didn't care about time or pace. Walking hills was perfectly fine. The goal in road running was faster, faster, FASTER! The goal in trail running was farther, farther, FARTHER!

So fast-forward seven years and it was now my turn, at 29 years old (ironic huh), to give this hundred thing a shot. I didn't have a specific date in mind that I wanted to attempt my first hundred by. It was more a matter of when I felt ready. Some people say you can never be 100% ready for 100 miles. I think you can be. 100 miles is a long way and a lot of variables can affect the outcome: training, nutrition, weather, health. But being 100% ready doesn't mean you have 100% chance of finishing. I've never DNF'd a race. I try to push my limits by competing in harder and harder races, but someday I expect a DNF.

The variables I mentioned above are just that, variables, because sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes we get week after week of 90 degree weather or blizzards, sometimes your stomach on race day just won't cooperate no matter how good your nutrition plan is. But the one constant you can count on if you train it well enough and one of the most important traits to have in ultra running, in my opinion, is your mental toughness. No matter what variables stack up against you, you can always fall back on this.

I signed up for the Burning River 100 the day after we came back from our honeymoon. Actually signing up for a race always gives me extra motivation in getting the training in, so I thought the sooner the better. The training to follow consisted of many ups and downs, like it always does. I got above 40 miles/week only twice with many weeks under 20. Not ideal, but I was able to get some key long runs in leading up to the race. 20, 15, 32 and 24 milers.

I was really confident going into the race due to how well I felt during my recent long runs and how well my nutrition went during those. Tailwind was a huge help for sure in getting my sodium (and other nutrients) in easier. Also, instead of using a bladder in my Camelback, I switched to 3 bottles and a handheld. I found this helped a lot in keeping me honest. One 14 or 16oz bottle per hour did me well. Also, peanut butter sandwiches helped get the calories in. I would pack as many as I could fit, which was usually three, into my Camelback and eat them throughout a 20+ mile run.

During the week leading up to the race, I felt excited, nervous, doubtful, calm, frantic and about every other feeling.  I had 6 drop bags that I filled with about the same stuff including pop tarts, face wipes, Ibuprofen, salt tablets, Tailwind, Vaseline, new shoes/shirt/shorts/socks, Clif Bars, PB sandwiches and extra bandanas.  I made a pace card with each of the aid stations and columns for distance from the previous aid station, total mileage, if there was a drop bag, estimated arrival time based on about a 26 hour finish, cutoff times, and notes about what was in a drop bag and trail surface for that section.  This proved to be very helpful when thinking and doing math in your head become extremely difficult later in a race.


The night before the race was the Olympic Opening ceremony.  I wanted to watch it, but still had to get some stuff together and get to bed.  I talked to my sister and parents then made it to bed around 7:30.  My mind was wandering, thinking about all the details of the race, so there wasn't much sleeping going on.  Before I knew it, my alarm was going off at 1 AM.  I was taking the bus from the finish line in Cuyahoga Falls up to the start at Squire's Castle in Willoughby Hills.  The bus was to be loaded at 2:15 and Cuyahoga Falls is about a 25 minute drive from our house.

Leaving home in the morning
The bus ride was enjoyable.  I talked most the way up to this guy from around Cincinnati.  It was his first hundred also.  When we arrived, we wished each other luck and made our way to the start line to do whatever last pre-race things we needed to do.  I wore flip flops up, so I changed into my shoes.

I tried to find my friend Les, who I had met through Shannon (another runner on our street) and had done a couple training runs with.  My last long run of 24 miles was with Les.  We ran a night run from Pine Hollow to the Covered Bridge and back.  We ended up making a wrong turn that night, went south on Wetmore Rd, a little out of the national park, turned around when we realized this and headed to Akron-Peninsula Rd and back up Quick Rd to our cars.  It was a great run mentally before the race to get us in the right frame of mind to finish this hundred.

I didn't end up finding Les in the sea of headlamps, but would see him later on.  The national anthem was sung, Vince counted down and the race was off!

Below are some of the key moments, highlights and memories along the way...
  • The first section of the race had a lot of roads.  I didn't really mind this, but made it a point to slow down and keep things at or above 10 minute pace
  • I saw Kelly, our dog Zoey, and my parents for the first time at mile 38 at the Meadows AS.  This was great seeing them! 


  • I got stung 4 or 5 times by a wasp around mile 30 or so.  A hiker warned us of the nest up ahead.  I sprinted through this area, which in hindsight it might have been better to walk.  It got me on the head, neck and wrist and hurt like hell, but the pain left within the next mile and there wasn't any swelling.
  • I can't recall when exactly, but before the Meadows, I ran into fellow NEO Trail member Ron Ross.  Ron is incredible both as a person and in running.  I think he's run upwards of 60+ hundreds, so seeing and talking to him throughout the race helped a lot.  Ron is real upbeat and always believes in you and in himself.
Leaving the Meadows AS with Ron
  • I also ran into another NEO Trail member, Paul "The King" Lefelhocz.  Paul is also a very accomplished runner and was actually signed up for Eastern States 100 (which he finished) the weekend after this race!  Paul is also another great guy who has tons of ultra wisdom.
  • Paul, Ron and I saw each other many times throughout the race.  From the Ledges AS (mile 66) all the way to the finish, we would pass each other frequently.  It was encouraging to see that they had their ups and downs throughout the race too.  One thing I learned is that no matter how many hundreds you do, this distance never gets easy.  There are points throughout the race, particularly in the later stages, where a bad attitude can lead to a DNF.  Attitude is
    Leaving Pine Hollow for the second time
    everything.
  • A runner from Indiana, Dawn, helped me a ton!  She was really positive and every time I saw her she said I was doing great.  She was running the back-half 50, but had done a hundred before.  I started running with her in the Kendall Hills area and ran with her at various other points throughout the rest of the race, the Perkins loop being the last.
  • I finally saw Les at the Ledges Shelter and again at Pine Hollow.  I ran with him and his pacer Bob Hunter for a little while.
  • I passed Paul midway through the Perkins Loop after the Covered Bridge (mile 82).  He couldn't stomach anything and would be pushing the Covered Bridge cutoff (5:34 AM Sunday) This was a crucial juncture in the race for both of us.  We gave each other encouraging words.
  • After the Perkins Loop, until the finish, I would keep calculating in my head what a 20 minute pace would get me in at.  I knew this was really slow, but I wanted to play it safe.  It seemed every time I calculated it, this pace got me in to the finish with 20 minutes or less left in the race.  Maybe my math was wrong, but this helped me keep pushing the pace as much as I was able.  I thought, "for every mile I can get under 20 minutes, I'm banking time.  And at some point, I'll literally need 25-30 minute miles to finish!"
  •  After the Covered Bridge II AS, I had 15 miles left.  Nothing too exciting happened during this time.  I ran when I could, but walked a good portion.  I actually didn't feel terrible and knowing that a slow walk would get me in before the cutoff was more than enough to keep my spirits up.
  • I didn't end up using a pacer.  Having no pacer was just me being stubborn and wanting to finish my first hundred on my own.  However despite having no pacer, I had plenty of help from my wife, parents, other runners throughout the race, the countless aid station workers and my brother and sister texting & calling me during the night.  So it was far from a solo effort!
  • I brought my mp3 player along, loaded with tons of music ranging from Rocky to Hall & Oates to current songs.  However, I didn't end up using it.  I was too lazy to pull it out of my pack and was just really focused on finishing this race.  Plus I enjoyed hearing the sounds throughout the night and talking to other runners.
  • Memorial Parkway with 4.6 miles left!
  • I ran some of the last stretch of the race past Botzum down the Towpath with a guy (whose name I can't remember) and his pacer.  I could tell he was starting to give into a really slow pace, one that could lead to a DNF if he kept it up.  I was about 400 yards back from them and caught up in the span of a mile by just power walking.  His pacer told his runner this trying to pump him up.  I told him to walk with a purpose and get it done!  We started running sections off and on and he ended up pushing me more than I would have on my own.  The three of us made a good team to the Memorial Parkway AS.
  • After Memorial Parkway, there's a big climb in Cascade Valley Metro Park.  I got to the last grassy straightaway on a trail called the Highbridge Trail.  It's the final stretch until you get to High Street to the finish.  On this trail, I heard someone call out my name.  It was Paul!  I turned around and yelled his name.  I hadn't seen him since the Covered Bridge, so it was great to see he got out of his funk and made it!  
  • Just a minute later, Ron was coming up behind me.  He was so happy for me and said I showed a lot of toughness out there.  It was cool to be participating in the same race as legends like Ron and Paul and being able to see firsthand how they've finished so many 100s - consistency, patience, riding out the storm and mental toughness.
I walked the final stretch down High Street with another runner until I could see the finish.  Once I got within 100 yards, I sprinted in.  I heard Jim Christ announce "I know this guy!".  I was so happy to reach the end and gave Jim a hug.  It almost didn't seem real that I was actually done.  Kelly, my parents and Kelly's sister, Steph, were all there congratulating me.  My final time was 29:07:54.

video 



For more pictures from the race click here.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Muddy Run

After work today, I drove over to Happy Days and ran the Ledges Trail and Pine Grove Loop.  The trail around the ledges was dry as usual, but Pine Grove was pretty muddy in spots.  I kept a fast pace throughout the run and felt really strong.  My training has dipped a bit due to getting sick and busy with random life events, but I hope to get back into the swing of things with a longer run this weekend.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Tour De Warren

This morning I did an out and back run from my parents house to my high school for about 11.5 miles.  Below are some pictures of the route.

Through Packard Park
Over the Mahoning River footbridge
Mahoning River
Past the Packard Music Hall



The Kinsman House
City Hall
Through Courthouse Square
Courthouse
Warren JFK High School
Back through Packard Park

Friday, December 11, 2015

Top 5 Running Moments

Something I love about running is that it continually pushes me past the limit I previously thought I was capable of.  I try to sign up for races that will push me past my comfort zone.  It makes the thrill of crossing the finish line that much better.  Below are my top 5 running moments that I'm most proud of:

     5.  URINEO 50M
This was the first time I went past the 50K distance.  There's no better place I like to run than Mill Creek Park.  There's plenty of scenery and landmarks to distract you from the mileage.  The terrain is surprisingly technical for Ohio, so you have to watch each step especially in certain sections.  This was a big mental barrier to overcome.  Being a 6-loop course, there are many temptations to stop.  Add in a warm log cabin filled with runners enjoying good eats for one of NEO Trail's premier events, and the last couple loops are daunting.
 

     4.  Oil Creek 100K

Finishing 50 miles at URINEO the year before gave me confidence to push it a little further in 2012.  I had watched my brother and sister run at Oil Creek before and knew I'd like to enter it some year.  I ran Pikes Peak Marathon a couple months prior, so I was in pretty good shape but didn't have quite the endurance training I would've liked.  I battled through muscle soreness and knee pain that I hadn't felt in races before.  It was a two loop course and, as it always seems to be the case in a race longer than 50K, I had to battle through thoughts of quitting.  My body told my mind that it was too tired, but prior race experiences told me to weather the highs and lows that always occur during a long race.  I was able to battle through all of this and earn my first buckle!
 

         3.  Pikes Peak Marathon
My dad and brother completed this race in the past, so this was one I really wanted to do.  From watching my dad run in it when I was little and riding up to the top of the mountain in the cog train, I knew of the beauty this race had to offer.  I trained by doing hill repeats at Firestone Metro Park, but there isn't anything in Ohio that can prepare you for the altitude.  I went out to Colorado the week before and even spent a couple nights in Leadville, America's highest city.  I climbed a mountain while out there which actually seemed to help.  I think I was on such a high out there having a blast that all the energy I spent the week prior didn't matter.  I didn't expect this race to be as hard as it turned out to be.  I underestimated the effect altitude has on you.  However, I love downhill running so the second half of the race was great.  Finally hitting pavement and crossing the finish line was a thrill, as you can tell by the photo below.

        2.  Boston Marathon (2008 & 2010)
The Boston Marathon is the grandaddy of all road marathons and the oldest annually held marathon in the world.  I qualified for the first time at the 2007 Columbus Marathon with about a minute and a half to spare.  What made it really special was that my sister also qualified at that race.  I also qualified at the 2009 Cleveland Marathon with a comfier 3 minutes to spare :)   Both years at Boston, I intentionally slowed down and enjoyed everything the race has to offer.  As I neared the finish, the sense of accomplishment hit me both years and I got chills and a couple watery eyes.
      
        1.  Speedgoat 50K
I wasn't sure how to rank these.  Maybe this one is at the top because it was the most recent and the freshest on my mind.  But I'll say one thing;  This was a hell of a race.  It's labeled the toughest 50K in the U.S. with 11k ft of climb and hitting 11k ft elevation 3 times.  I ranked this one first because of the difficulty of the course, the struggle I overcame due to lack of training and the fact that it was the closest I had come to DNF'ing a race, with about 5 minutes to spare at the final cutoff at mile 22.

I hope my top running moment is always my previous major race.  That means I'm pushing myself further each time.  There will be a point in time where pushing it further just isn't in the cards, but I hope that is a long ways away.  Regardless, the primary joy of running will always remain in a simple 5 mile run.  I feel if that joy is lost, then the motivation required to train for an event which pushes your limits further will also cease.