The week of Sept. 14-20 saw a well-deserved change of scenery as Anne, Noah and I spent five nights in Duck, North Carolina, vacationing in a beautiful ocean-front home with family. My family vacationed twice in Duck when I was a kid. We're talking almost 25 years ago. Needless to say, while much in Duck and the Outer Banks area has changed over the years, it is still a beautiful vacation spot.
Driving down to Duck (a 12-hour jaunt with a DC stopover at the home of my old college pal, Don, and his family), all I could think about was how my body needed the cold ocean water and my mind needed a change of scenery. Maybe the cool water would help repair some minor aches and pains and restore my muscles to 100 percent. Maybe the time away with my family would reinvigorate me mentally. The morning we left I went on an 11-mile run and felt--well--terrible. Yes, I needed this vacation. I needed that cold ocean water and beautiful scenery for some good therapy and family time.
A word on my DC stopover. I stayed at Don's house in Bristow, Virginia, a nice (but busy) residential area on the outskirts of our nation's capital. It was great reconnecting with Don and visiting with his family. Don is training for the JFK 50-Mile in November, and so it made sense for us to go on a run on Sunday morning before we a) went to IHOP for a send-off breakfast and b) headed to the beach. So Don and I went to the Bull Run battleground and ran a little over 10 miles along some beautiful and historic countryside with statues, monuments and markers galore. The sun beat down on us as we chatted away and had a nice time. As a historian by education (master's degree in history), I could practically feel the ghosts of first and second Bull Run hovering around us. This was some run.
Now for Duck. I'll keep this focused on running as I'm sure you couldn't care less about our vacation details. The water was cool--a good thing--while the waves were rough--a good and bad thing. I rode some nice waves on my body board, creating lots of fun. But some of those same waves beat the hell out of me. I took a few nice licks, including a vicious lick that left my right hamstring tendon a little sore. No worries--it's better now. The important thing is that Noah had a nice first-ever vacation and that it was in Duck, North Carolina, a beautiful place. It took me two days to fully unwind and I think I still may be unwound--a good thing, of course.
I managed some solid mileage while in Duck, completing anywhere from 10-15.3 miles per day. The Outer Banks is a very narrow straight of land, meaning there are few running options. Most of my runs were along a paved path on State Road 12 (the main drag), with a few diversions into some neighborhoods and two very scenic beach runs. I couldn't find any dirt trails, and I would have run along the beach more if only the footing were a little firmer. With the North Coast 24-Hour Endurance Run only a few weeks away, there was no need to risk injury, so I stayed on the road most of the time.
Oh, and I ate entirely too many chips. Chips are my weakness.
We returned to Cleveland on Saturday. I wasn't able to run a step on Saturday due to all the travel. But I made up for it on Sunday, running 26.2 miles--22 at 7:28 pace in Solon with the Southeast Running Club and 4.2 later that day on my treadmill. I ran the last 3 miles in Solon with Tim C., who is also doing the NC24 and looks awfully strong. Not a bad day, or a bad way to officially end my training and transition into the two-week taper. I completed 93.7 miles for the week.
My North Coast 24 training has gone fairly well. I've stayed very focused and held the line at anywhere from 90-100 miles per week, with some nice quality sprinkled in. My track work has been decent and my tempo runs have really impacted my leg turnover. I've had two decent tune-up races--a 1:03:23 at the hot, humid Perfect 10 Miler and a 17:39 at the Aurora Labor Day Classic 5K. These past few weekends have presented many time challenges that prevented me from going on long runs. I adjusted by breaking up my runs, maybe completing 10 in the morning and 6-8 or so that night. Not ideal, but it's mileage. Sunday's 26.2 miles was most needed.
With the taper now on, my focus is on actually preparing for race day. I need to make sure I have the right clothing, gear and aid on hand. It looks like I'll be wearing a Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital tee-shirt during parts of the race as I'll be running to raise money for the hospital. If you haven't yet contributed to my Run for Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, please do so by e-mailing me for details. The patients and families of Rainbow need your support!
The North Coast 24 is going to be the biggest ultrarunning challenge I've taken on. We're talking about 24 hours of running on a one-loop paved loop. I've considered lots of strategies. A few years ago Kevin Setnes completed 160 miles at the now-defunct Olander Park 24-Hour deploying a 25-minute run/5-minute walk strategy. There are many other strategies that are well and good. For me, I think the best strategy is just to run a smart race and stay focused on my own race and not what others are doing. In a race of this distance, lots can happen.
Now for some philosophy as it relates to the North Coast 24. If you didn't know any better, you'd think life in the 21st century is about having material things--a BMW or Lexus, a $200 pair of jeans, a McMansion, the latest iPhone, etc.--and achieving optimal comfort. Many runners think they have to have a $150 pair of shoes and the latest gear to achieve their goal. Many think you can do less and achieve more. This is often the message of certain popular running magazines.
What ultrarunning has taught me is that I get out of it what I put into it. There is no faking it in a 100-mile or 24-hour race. You have to have paid your dues. Ultrarunning has also taught me that I can live and run on far less than I previously thought. All I really need is my soul and a well-trained mind and body--not $150 shoes. It's taught me that comfort is over-rated. When you boil it all down, that's what ultrarunning is about--a spiritual challenge. If your mind and spirit are weak, you will crumble when your body surrenders.
With my taper now on, the goal this week is 55-60 miles with a few intervals at the track and a few miles at marathon pace.
Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'.