Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Results

*Winter Buckeye 50K: 4:36 (PR/1st overall)
Millcreek Distance Classic 1/2 Marathon: 1:29
Spring Classic 1/2 Marathon: 1:22 (PR/8th overall)
*Cleveland Marathon: 2:58 (PR/33rd overall)
Blossom Time Run (5.25 miles): 31:34 (1st age division)
*Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run: 19:22 (PR/4th overall)
Buckeye Trail 50K (Injured)
Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run: Paced Tim Clement to outright win
Aurora Labor Day Classic 5K: 17:45 (PR/2nd overall)
*Columbus Marathon: 2:59

*key event

Monday, December 29, 2008

A long weekend of foothills running / Training week 12/22-12/28

I hope you had a great holiday week. Ours was pretty OK. Noah came down with a double ear infection and we had to take him to the doctor on Christmas Eve. Fortunately, by Christmas day he was feeling better, allowing us to make our trek to Wheeling, WV where we spent the long weekend with Anne’s family and I got in some great hill running.

As far as running, the week started out kind of slowly and then by Christmas Day was in full swing. Despite a sore throat and cough that I still can’t seem to shake, I ended the week with 70.75 miles – finally breaking 70 after three straight weeks of 60something miles.

We got to Wheeling late Christmas morning. After we opened presents and enjoyed a delicious late lunch, I headed out the door to begin what would be four days of very challenging running in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. The biggest challenge to running in Wheeling is that there are very few easy places to trot about. Everywhere you look there are big, long hills. And so I embraced the land and ran hard, covering 47 miles over the 72 hours we spent in the Friendly City. There is no area in Northeast Ohio I’ve run that could compare to the hills of Wheeling.

Saturday and Sunday couldn’t have been more different. On Saturday, I covered a total of 20 miles in very clear weather, doing my PM run shirtless – yes, shirtless. I hadn’t packed for 70-degree weather and decided that I’d rather go shirtless than go hot in a long-sleeve tech tee. And so I ran sans shirt on December 27 – amazing. On Sunday, I headed out the door wearing just a thin long-sleeve shirt and a pair of shorts even as a nasty cold front was blowing in that morning. There on top of a big hill, totally exposed to the elements, I fought gusts of over 50 miles per hour and a very cold rain as the temperature continued dropping. By the time I got back to the house only 45 minutes later, I was soaking wet and within inches of hypothermia. But my condition was nothing a hot shower couldn’t cure.

So, all in all, it was a great week of running. I surpassed 70 miles and got in four days of great hill running.

Miles for the week: 70.75
Miles for the month: 266.32
Miles for the year: 3,900.95


With the new year only days away, it’s time to get serious about my 2009 race schedule. I have three big goals for 2009:

1) Break 4 hours at the Lt. JC Stone 50K in Pittsburgh on March 21 (weather permitting). My plan of attack would be a 3:10 marathon split, which would leave 49 minutes to cover 4.8 miles.
2) Break 18 hours at the Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run on June 20-21.
3) Break 2:55 at the Columbus Marathon in October.

More immediately, the goal for January is quite simple. I’m going to try my hardest to decrease my mileage by 10-20 percent while getting back into abdominal crunches, allowing me to enter February with fresh legs and a strong core. My interval and tempo training will begin on February 1 as I start to gradually increase my mileage with a goal of 100-110 miles per week by the beginning of April. April and May will be high mileage months. Going into last year’s Mohican, I wasn’t able to get in as many long runs as I’d have liked because of all that was going on at home with Noah’s joyous arrival on May 9. For the 2009 Mohican, I will be looking to get in at least a handful of 5-plus hour training runs (as I did for the 2007 Burning River 100), which will be made all the easier thanks to the beautiful new iPod Anne and Noah gave me for Christmas!

I’m also going to implement a three-week taper before Mohican. At the 2008 race, I suffered an overuse knee injury that had me hobbling by mile 80 and questioning whether I’d ever do another 100 again. I was nearly incapacitated for two weeks afterward as the severely inflamed cartilage in my knee slowly healed. My hope is that a three-week taper before the 2009 Mohican will help ward off any overuse injuries that would surely manifest themselves over a 100-mile run on a challenging course.

Then after Mohican I’ll give myself some time to recover before focusing on a 2:55 at the 2009 Columbus Marathon.


The roster of entrants for the 2009 Western States 100 is now out. With the cancellation of the 2008 race due to wildfires, the 2009 States should be especially exciting. As always, there will be some big-time talent toeing the line, including Scott Jurek (7-time winner), Michael Wardian, Anton Krupicka (who I picked to win the 2008 race), Mark Godale, Eric Grossman, Andy Jones-Wilkins, Nikki Kimball, Hal Koerner (2007 champion), Connie Gardner, Krissy Moehl, Graham Cooper (2006 winner), Jorge Pacheco and Erik Skaden. I’m sure I missed many other big names. At this point, I’m going to put my money on Jurek. It’s interesting that he’s coming back to States because he really has nothing left to prove with those seven consecutive victories from 1999-2005.

Hopefully my name will be on roster of entrants for the 2010 Western States 100.


I think Kyle Skaggs, 23, put up the ultrarunning performance of the year with his record-setting win at the Hardrock 100. The Glenwood, New Mexico, resident won by more than 6 hours with a time of 23:23:30, besting the previous record, set by Jurek in 2007, by almost 3 hours. Hardrock is considered by many to be the hardest 100-miler in the U.S., with nearly 66,000 feet of climb and descent and an average elevation of about 11,000 feet. To break 24 hours on such a course is truly one for the ages and it's a real shame 99.999999999 percent of the population never even heard about it.


Over the weekend I had the opportunity to glance over Dean Karnazes' new book, 50/50, about his 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states stunt. My overall impression of Dean is that he's an OK guy even as he can come across as condescending and a shameless self promoter. I think at one time he was an excellent ultrarunner, collecting victories at the Vermont 100 and Badwater Ultramarathon, as well as several top-5 and top-10 finishes at the Western States 100. I greatly respect his philanthropic activities through his foundation. I admire his love of running and I think it's great that he's drawn so many people to the sport. I think many of the stories he tells in his first book, which I admit I read shortly after its release, are entertaining. His account of his first WS100 was especially good.

Now for the but!

My biggest problem with Dean is that he's exploited our society's ignorance of ultrarunning in basically branding himself as the best ultrarunner in the world. Just look at the back flap of his new book, where The New York Times claims that "running with Karnazes is like setting up one's easel next to Monet or Picaso" (just one of many over-the-top statements of praise). It is no wonder why the sport's "Monets" and "Picasos," such as Jurek and Yiannis Kouros, have rightly criticized Dean (and, in so doing, drawn the ire of Karnazes' disciples).

What Dean is doing would be the same as Spud Webb in the Age of Jordan going around telling the world he was the best basketball player alive. Webb was good, but at the end of the day he was a stuntman, just as Dean has become. Unfortunately, whereas everyone in the late 80s and throughout the 90s knew who the best basketball player was (Jordan), few today have ever even heard of Jurek, Kouros et al. Which makes Dean's efforts to brand himself as the best ultrarunner alive easy--so easy a caveman could do it!

Anyway, as a proud Greek-American and guy who has earned the hatred of the Emperor of Ultrarunning who is a native Greek (Kouros), it's kind of interesting that Dean has never stepped foot on the Spartathlon course, where Kouros became a legend and Jurek now dominates. I think if Dean really considers himself a truly great ultrarunner, he should travel to Greece one September and take on some of Kouros' Spartathlon records. Or is his carefully-concocted public image too sacred?

All that said, Dean's a good storyteller and people love good stories. Until Jurek and Kouros hire really good publicists (I can be reached by e-mail) and/or until the sport does a good job of reaching the masses, Dean will be regarded by the general public as The Man. Too bad, too sad. Nuff said.

Onward and upward!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Are you hardwired to run 100s?

I'm beginning to wonder if I have any readers anymore--no comments of late....

These past few weeks have been mentally and physically taxing, to say the least. My son, Noah, has been quite the germ factory. He’s had multiple colds and a nasty case of the flu that caused him to vomit multiple times a day for like 5 straight days. Along the way, he’s given Anne the flu (this past weekend) and now I’m fighting off—I think—my eighth cold since July. What ever happened to the good old days when I got one or two colds a year?

On Sunday morning, with Anne quite sick and in bed, I elected to forgo the group run in Solon and hang out with Noah while she rested. We had a nice day together, even spending an hour in the Chagrin Falls village to do some last-minute Christmas shopping and run a few errands. We visited Chagrin Falls Fine Jewelry to pick up my newly repaired watch. Then we went to Geiger’s Ski & Sport Haus to get a few Christmas gifts. The temperature was in the teens and I felt terrible about having Noah outside, but he was bundled up and seemed very happy.

Somehow, on Sunday I managed to get in 9 miles on the treadmill to end the week with a disappointing 65 miles--my third consecutive week of falling short of 70. If I can't even get in 70 miles per week, how the hell am I going to be clicking off 100-mile weeks come early March?

Unfortunately, the front roller in my treadmill is going bad, causing a loud noise when it first starts up, but then the noise dissipates. I bought my treadmill for a little over $3,000 back in November 2005, and overall it’s been a great investment. I remember telling the guy at G&G Fitness the day we bought my treadmill, “What’s most important is that it’s a workhorse and allows me to put in big miles.”

This year I’m going to put in just shy of 4,000 miles and I’d say between 10-20 percent of those miles were on the treadmill (mostly second runs of the day). I don’t even use my treadmill anywhere near as much now as I did in 2006 and 2007, when I was training for the Boston Marathon in the dead of winter in the snow belt. This is for two reasons. First, I found out the hard way at both Bostons that treadmill running doesn't condition the legs for the road, especially downhills. Second, after realizing how much my treadmill costs to work on, I decided I’d run on it only when the weather was so bad (i.e., super icy, massive downpour or winds in excess of 30 mph) that it would be risky to run outdoors. With another roller now bad and the bill likely to exceed $300 or $400, I’m beginning to wonder if my treadmill just isn’t up to the mileage I’m putting on it. Maybe my next treadmill needs to be commercial grade. If so, I'll need to be prepared to hand over at least $5,000.


A few days ago someone, after learning (from someone else) that I’d run two 100-mile races, said a marathon is probably easy to me. I answered that the marathon is not only not easy; it’s brutally hard. They didn’t understand how someone who ran 100 miles could think a marathon is hard. I then explained that the distance of 26.2 miles in and of itself isn’t that daunting. I could roll out of bed tomorrow and run 26.2 miles at 8:00 pace (unless we’re talking major elevations and altitude). But if I’m racing that distance at, say, 6:45 pace, the marathon becomes very hard--both the race itself and the 26.2-mile-specific training I put into it. It takes me a full 3-4 weeks to fully recover from racing a marathon.


That same person was absolutely incredulous that a person could run 100 miles. “How is that even possible?” they asked. “You just put one foot in front of the other, consume lots of calories and don’t stop,” I said. They couldn’t believe 100-mile races even existed. “Until about four years ago, neither did I, and I remember thinking then they sounded impossible,” I responded.

I remember the first time I really thought about running a 100-mile race. It was the spring of 2006 and I decided to begin the process of working my way up to 100 miles by completing 50 miles at Mohican, which I did, though, as a 55-mile-per-week runner at the time, I struggled mightily the last 10 miles.

A few months after Mohican, word of a new 100-mile race in Northeast Ohio—the Burning River—spread and I couldn’t shake the thought of giving this race a shot. So in April of 2007, just after my second Boston and as I was out of work (laid off but not for long, thank you University Hospitals) and had plenty of time on my hands, I set out to complete my first 100-miler--the inaugural Burning River 100. On the heels of several 100-mile training weeks, I finished in 21:08, placing 6th overall in a race that actually measured about 106 miles (the course has since been re-adjusted). The next year I returned to Mohican--this time to cover the 100 miles--and finished 4th overall with a time of 19:22.

Along the way, I realized that I’m hardwired to run 100s. It’s just something I really enjoy. I'm excited about returning to the Mohican 100 in June of 2009.

Few runners are hardwired to run 100s. Frankly, the distance and what you have to endure to get from the start to the finish just isn’t appealing to the vast majority of runners. You have to be willing to put it all on the line--from your training to the actual race itself. Many can fake their way through a marathon. No one can fake their way through a 100-miler. You have to put in your miles to survive it.

I have far to go in really understanding what 100s are all about, and even farther in reaching whatever potential I may have as a 100-mile runner. Maybe this will come when I finally line up at the Western States 100—hopefully in 2010. Just finishing Western States in under 24 hours would be a huge achievement. As a testament to Western States’ difficulty, especially for East Coasters, there are but two guys in the Southeast Running Club who have finished Western States in under 24 hours. And SERC is full of accomplished runners of all distances.

Even in my limited exposure to 100s, I’ve gleaned a few nuggets of wisdom I’m always happy to share with 100-mile aspirants, such as my friend Ted. First, the race itself is but one part of the entire 100-mile experience. Training constitutes the biggest part of the experience—the 5+ hour-long runs, the two-a-days, and all that is required. It is truly a night and day commitment. Second, understand that the 100 is going to change you forever—often in ways you may never fully grasp. Today, I look at world differently than I did before I ran my first 100. The 100 helped me find a better sense of inner peace and move beyond some issues that had held me back for years--maybe because I spent several hours late in the race probing the depths of my soul. Third, you have to be at peace with the fact that the 100 is going to hurt you badly. And so you have to be willing to suffer mightily, and then suffer some more. There is nothing like being 80 miles into a race, hurting badly and not wanting to take another step, and yet knowing you have 20 miles to go. Fourth, there is something quite primal about 100s. You eventually find yourself in survival mode, totally stripped down to your most basic emotions, instincts and desires. I think this is very appealing to a certain group of runners.

I've listened to this speech before each of my last two 100s--it contains many truths that apply to 100s...and at one time it really spoke to me and things going on in my life. You have to take 100s inch by inch and you have to be willing to fight and die for every inch if you're to make it to the finish.

Are you hardwired to run 100s? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments box.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hip to be square / Training week 12/8-12/14

This will probably be my briefest training week recap yet. I've fallen a little behind in my recaps, so I'm going to keep this post short.

AM: 6 miles at semi-easy pace on my treadmill
My right hip hurt a little--probably a case of bursitis. I had hip bursitis going into the 2006 Boston Marathon and it really cost me. I finished with a 3:24.

AM: 8.1 mile at 7:40 pace
My right hip was still hurting--kind of a dull ache but nothing that really slowed me down or made me want to quit.

AM: 8.1 miles at 7:30 pace
My hip felt the same as Tuesday. I iced it the night before. I began wondering on my run if I should shut down for a few days.

AM: 8.1 miles at 7:30 pace
Shutting down isn't what I do unless I physically can't run. Fortunately, my hip was feeling better.

AM: 9.16 miles 7:15 pace
My hip didn't quite feel as good as the day before, but it wasn't bad. It was 30 degrees and clear--a nice morning for a run.

AM: 15.05 miles in South Chagrin Reservation with the Southeast Running Club
I ran the first 8 miles with the group (Ted F., Tim C., Elizabeth H. Fast John et al) and then finished off by myself, as everyone left after we returned from the Polo Field. At 15 degrees, I was pretty cold toward the end and the trails were slick in spots, though they could have been much worse. Running 7 miles on the trails by yourself when you're freezing your ass off isn't always fun. Hip much better.

PM: 12.6 miles in the Chagrin Valley and in and around South Chagrin Reservation
Noah woke up at 3:30 a.m. throwing up and looking pretty under the weather. I chose to bag the Sunday morning club run in Solon and instead hang out at home, helping take care of Noah. At about 2:00 p.m., I managed to get out for about an hour and half and ran pretty hard in the Chagrin Valley (where I run almost every morning) and in and around South Chagrin Reservation (where I wish I could run more than on just Sundays). Even as it was raining and had warmed up quite a bit, causing lots of snow melt, the trails in the park were in pretty good shape. I didn't even get too muddy. My last mile I really hammered it and had to run a half-mile cool-down. No hip pain/discomfort.

Total miles for week: 67.21
Total miles for month: 130.81
Total miles for year: 3,765.44

On a whim, I requested entry into the 2009 Winter Buckeye Trail 50K, contrary to what I said in my previous post about not wanting to run another winter ultra for the foreseeable future. Anyway, even as I knew the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K was full, I figured I'd be let into the race because I finished first overall in the 50K at the 2008 race. Well, I was wrong. The RD denied me, saying the race was full I missed my opportunity! Her denial may have been a blessing in disguise. I need to take it easy in January, not run 50Ks.

I continue thinking about my 2009 schedule. I'm now considering running the Glass City Marathon in late April. Glass City is in Toledo and the weather for this race is very unpredictable. Right now all I know is that in March I'm running the Lt. JC Stone 50K in Pittsburgh, and in June the Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run--both key events.

Onward and upward!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

2008: a year of taking it to the "next level" / Training week 12/1-12/7

I’ve been thinking a lot about 2009 and what it will bring. In many ways, 2008 was a year in which I took my performance to the proverbial “next level,” setting PRs in the 5K, half marathon, marathon, 50K and 100-miler.

The year got off to a great start with a first overall finish at the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K. Although many of the region's top ultrarunners weren't there that day, I'm proud of how I ran that race and it was made all the sweeter by the fact that my parents and Anne, who was pregnant with Noah at the time, were at the finish line when I crossed. I went out hard and led the entire way, fighting off a very tough guy from South Africa who I thought was going to pass me at about mile 12. But I persevered through some agonizing blisters and hamstring cramps. The Winter Buckeye Trail 50K gave me valuable experience and it beat the hell out of me all at the same time. I think as far as winter ultras go, that may have been all she wrote at least for the next few years.

After the Winter Buckeye, my focused turned first to rest and recovery for about a month, and then to the upcoming racing season. In my tenth marathon, I finally broke 3 hours, clocking 2:58 at the Cleveland Marathon in May only 9 sleep-deprived days after the birth of Noah, whose days and nights were mixed up for the first few weeks of his life. Even though I got far more sleep that my poor wife, Anne, who was beyond exhaustion, God only knows what I'd have run at Cleveland if I'd gotten enough sleep going into the race--sub 2:50? To this day I've never been in better shape than I was right before Cleveland. I was running 105-110-mile weeks, 5:35 mile intervals, super-fast tempo runs, 25-30-mile training runs. I hope I can get back to that in 2009.

Five months after Cleveland, I again broke 3 hours at the Columbus Marathon, crossing the finish line in 2:59 on a bad hamstring that robbed me of at least a few minutes. But no complaints or excuses—I broke 3 in both 2008 marathons.

Also in 2008, I finished a strong 4th at the Mohican 100-Mile Trail Run with a 19:22. I led the race at 60 miles, but then tailed off a little and by mile 80 was hampered with a shot knee (that would force a 2-week shut-down after the race) and horrible GI problems that had me making pit-stops every 10-15 minutes with my pacers, Ted and Kenny, looking on in horror. Reflecting on the whole experience, I think I left at least 90 minutes on that course. Successful 100s, I’ve found, come down to four key factors: 1) Preparation (which I had), 2) patience (don’t go out too fast, as I did), 3) perseverance (which I think I have down) and 4) luck (which clearly I didn’t have at Mohican). Mohican was a tough blow. I was so focused on a big-time finish there and it was really crushing when things went bad the last 20 miles. A learning experience, to say the least....

I thought after Mohican my days of serious running were over. My knee was obliterated. I couldn't run a step for two weeks. I didn't know inflamed cartilage could be so painful. Finally, after I was able to start running again in July, I couldn't even go faster than 9-minute miles for a week or so. Not until August did I really start to feel pretty good again.

Two achievements in 2008 that I’m very proud of were my 1:22 at the Spring Classic Half Marathon and my 17:45 at the Aurora Labor Day 5K. I think these PRs are still breakable, but they won’t be easily breakable. I’m now 35 years-old and not getting younger.

I’m also proud of my contribution as a pacer to Tim Clement in his win at the Burning River 100. I ran the last 31 miles with Tim and, in the process, learned a great deal from a tried and true veteran with four national championships to his credit. Tim battled through a tough stretch on the Perkins loop, but still managed to regroup and break the tape first. This was a great learning experience for me.


I’m creating a 2009 race schedule that will allow me to keep improving and gain valuable experience in my bid for a 2010 Western States 100 appearance (should my name be selected in the lottery). I want to continue setting PRs and I’m still determined to compete at the 100-mile level. My first key event in 2009 will be the Lt. JC Stone 50K in Pittsburgh on March 21. This will be my first road ultra. With the Lt. JC Stone run on a fast paved course—the old GNC 100K National Championship course—I’ll be looking to set a new 50K PR with a sub-4-hour time—so long as the weather cooperates. To prepare for the Lt. JC Stone, I’m going to start quality workouts (intervals and tempos) in late January and will be logging 70-80-mile weeks by early February.

After the Lt. JC Stone 50K, I’ll scale back my mileage for two weeks, and then in early April start building up to 100-mile weeks, with weekly intervals and tempos, to prepare for the Mohican 100-Mile Trail Run on June 20-21. Assuming I’m able to get in the necessary training, I’m going to shoot for a sub-18-hour time at Mohican.

Since the Lt. JC Stone 50K and Mohican 100 are key events only 3 months apart, I’m not planning a hard spring marathon. However, I am planning to run in a spring marathon. I’m not sure which one—likely Cleveland but maybe the Cincinnati Flying Pig or Pittsburgh Marathon. Whatever marathon I run, I’ll probably go for a 3:10.

After Mohican, I’ll relax a bit for a month or so and then start training for my fall marathon—likely Columbus—where I’ll be going for a PR of sub-2:55.

Maybe around Labor Day or after my fall marathon I’ll go for a 10K PR in the neighborhood of 36 minutes or better. Of course, all of these plans hinge on my being healthy. Training for and running a 100-miler can really take a toll on the body. Who knows what Mohican will do to me….


I had a pretty mundane week of training, fighting a horrible cold and cough and some moderate discomfort in my right hip, which eventually went away. My leg turnover isn’t great right now. I’m avoiding fast running so my hamstring can heal. I haven’t felt any pain or discomfort in the muscle in some time, leading me to believe it’s completely healed. But I’m going to stay the conservative course through the end of January, when my next training cycle begins.

Here’s how the week went (short entries since the week was pretty uneventful):


AM: 8 miles easy
Roads very slick from the snow and ice

AM: 8.1 miles at moderate pace
Very cold and windy

AM: 8.2 miles at moderate pace
Temperature was a comfortable 37 degrees, allowing me to wear shorts. It's amazing how weighed-down running pants make me feel.

AM: 9.1 miles at moderate pace
Pretty cold—22 degrees and windy. I felt a little discomfort in my right hip, maybe from the cold. My last mile was at a somewhat brisk 6:53.

AM: 15.2 miles in South Chagrin Reservation with the Southeast Running Club
With the aid of my YakTrax, I ran with Jeff U., Tim C., and Fast John. The temperature was about 14 degrees and the trails weren't too good in areas, especially between the sledding hill and the Polo Field. Tim I ran the last 7 miles together. This was a very fun run. There’s something about trail running in the winter that I love. My hip was better but not great.

AM: 15 miles in Solon with the Southeast Running Club
There’s not much to say about this run, except that it SUCKED! First off, very few members were there, leaving only a few of us to fight some horribly slick roads from the snow and ice, a very cold 13 degrees and some killer winds to boot. The biggest mistake I made was not wearing my YakTrax. In just under 2 hours and 1 minute, I covered a measly 15 miles. Usually in that time I cover at least 16 and usually around 17 miles.

Total miles for week: 63.6
Total miles for month: 63.6
Total miles for year: 3,698.77

Obviously, I’m not going to achieve 4,000 miles for the year—probably falling short by 50 or so miles. While I’d love to end the year with 4,000 miles, it’s just a number.

My goal for the coming week is 70+ miles and to return to good health—no more cold or hip problem.

Onward and upward!

Monday, December 8, 2008

A real-life mountain goat

Just when you think you might be a hardcore runner, think again.

I stumbled across a feature article in the January issue of Runner's World ("Twilight of the Mountain God," by Steve Friedman) about the great Rick Trujillo (pictured above). Now 60 years old, Trujillo has run the Colorado Rocky Mountains for most of his life and is as old-school as they come. He founded the Imogene Pass Run, which goes from Ouray to Telluride, won the Hardrock 100 Mile Run (66,000 feet of ascent and descent with average elevation of 11,000 feet) in 1996 and is a 5-time champion of the Pikes Peak Marathon. The following quote from the RW feature will give you a good idea of what makes Trujillo tick:

"The mountains don't care! They'll wipe you out in an instant if you give them a chance. That's part of the appeal. There are times when I knew, if I didn't get down, it would kill me. And that's okay."

It's pretty clear from the article that personal relationships don't make him tick. In fact, he comes across as a total loner and doesn't hold back his contempt for Matt Carpenter, an elite mountain runner who owns many records and who, with his reported 90 VO2 max, Web site and PR machine, just doesn't get it, according to Trujillo. Trujillo says he doesn't even know his own resting heart rate, much less his VO2 max, and he couldn't care less about time, distance, records and other dumb stuff.

This man is so hardcore that even Dave Horton, who's run both the Appalachian Trail (in record time) and Pacific Crest Trail, is in awe.

My only beef with the article is that the author, Steve Friedman, doesn't mention Scott Jurek and Kyle Skaggs as elite mountain runners in the same league as Karl Meltzer and Carpenter. Jurek and Skaggs were pretty glaring omissions considering the fact that Jurek set the Hardrock record in 2007 only for Skaggs to set a new record in 2008 and in the process become the first person ever to break 24 hours on that horrifying difficult course--the ultrarunning performance of the year in my opinion.

Take a few minutes to read this well-written, inspiring and captivating feature of a true mountain running legend--Rick Trujillo.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Who is that fat guy? / Training week 11/24-11/31

Last week I wrote about my weight problem before Anne and I changed our diet in 2003 and I took up long-distance running in the spring of 2004. The photo below, taken in 2000 only a month after I wrapped up a 6-month tour of duty as communications director for a U.S. congressional campaign in Indiana, perfectly illustrates what a poor diet, lack of exercise, long commute and stressful job had done to me (unless you've worked on a campaign as a full-time staffer, you could never fully appreciate what that life and its 80+ hour weeks do to you):

In case you can’t find me, that’s yours truly in the back row to the far left--the fat guy holding the beer bottle. I’m now 52 pounds lighter--from a hefty 220 pound to 168 pounds (I weighed myself on Friday). Oddly, even at 220 I could still run pretty well--up to 5 miles without much of a problem. People who haven’t seen me since the weight loss don’t even recognize me. Sharing this photo is pretty embarrassing, actually.

While running has certainly helped shed the pounds, diet has played the biggest role. When I took up long-distance running in the spring of 2003, I had gotten down to about 185 pounds, having lost 35 pound through responsible, sustainable changes to our diet and moderate exercise. The remaining weight came off as I made even more changes to my diet while my mileage increased with every new challenge I took on (e.g., 100 milers).

I write this not to toot my own horn, but to show that losing weight and keeping it off are possible! There are so many people out there who are unhappy with their weight and yet don’t know how to lose the excess pounds and keep them off. They feel helpless. I know there’s a way to do it because I’ve done it. My good friend and trusted pacer, Kenny, has done it too. Many others have done it. It doesn’t take running 100 miles a week. It just takes diet changes and moderate exercise.

With that said, I’ll now get off my soapbox.


The name of the game this past week (11/24-11/31) was continuing to run conservatively while my hamstring heals. I wound up with 74.8 miles. Although I haven’t felt any pain in the muscle in a few weeks, I know from first-hand experience that hamstring injuries take time to heal. Before re-injuring my leg a few weeks ago, I thought I was in the clear, when in fact I wasn’t. I think the key to lifelong running is applying lessons learned and not making the same mistakes twice. That’s why I’m not going to stress my hamstring for the time being, save the occasional surge here or there to see how I’m feeling.

Here’s how the week went:


AM: 8 miles at 7:28 pace

AM: 8 miles at 7:32 pace

AM: 12 miles at 7:41 pace in and around Chagrin Falls
Jeff U. and I met at South Chagrin Reservation at 7:30 a.m. for a trail run. But the trails in South Chagrin weren’t the best and so we headed back to our cars and switched into road shoes. We then headed into Chagrin Falls and ran the Blossom Time course, heading back to South Chagrin for a total of 12 miles. I then went home, where we began cooking a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, complete with southern-style cornbread dressing (of the whole-wheat variety).
PM: 4.25 miles at 8:00 pace on my treadmill
Total miles for day: 16.25

AM: 9.1 miles at 7:30 pace
PM: 4.3 miles at 7:42 pace on my treadmill
Total miles for day: 13.4

AM: 13 miles with the Southeast Running Club in South Chagrin Reservation
I ran the first 7 miles with Tim C. and John K., and finished off with Tim. The trails were snowy but, unlike Thursday, very runnable.

AM: 16.05 miles in Solon with the Southeast Running Club
Fighting a nasty head cold, I struggled through these 16 miles and felt very achy the last 4 or 5 miles. Afterward, I joined the club at the bagel shop for breakfast and banter, and was on my way home by 10:45 feeling pretty bad. By the time I got home, I had the chills and a nasty stomach ache. I spent most of the rest of the day on the sofa, reading, watching TV and hanging out with Anne and Noah. When I wasn’t sprawled out on the sofa, I was expending what little energy I had left re-caulking our shower, painting a book shelf and finishing my laundry. No matter how bad I feel, I just can’t stay do nothing all day.

Total miles for week: 74.8
Total miles for month: 313.91
Total miles for year: 3,635.17

Short of a very high-mileage December, the odds of reaching 4,000 miles for the year are now pretty slim. With no race on my schedule until March of 2009, there’s just need to run 90-100 miles a week right now, and so 4,000 miles is going to have to wait for another year. That said, if a lot of time opens up toward the end of the month--like around the week of Christmas and New Year's--and if the weather is ideal, maybe I'll make a run at 4,000.

My goal for this week (12/1-12/8) is 70+ miles, and I may incorporate a short tempo run on Friday to see how the leg is feeeling.

Onward and upward!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thinking about the Western States 100

The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run has been on my mind lately. I'm not sure why. Maybe I've been thinking about it because, amid all the gloomy economic news of the past few months, my mind has needed to wander off to a place of retreat. And few places offer a better retreat than out West. I've only been out West a few times. I ran in the 1986 Junior Olympics in Los Angeles, and in October 2004 Anne and I visited the Tucson, Arizona area only a week after I completed my first marathon.

The West has long enraptured me. I think of the cowboys, pioneers, desert, mountains, canyons, forests, rivers and lakes. I think of the Pacific and of course I think of the trails. A big part of me wants to experience the after day. The Grand Canyon is the place I most want to visit. I can't wait to see it with Anne and Noah, and hopefully I can run it rim-to-rim-to-rim one day--but only after the Western States 100.

With a more than 30-year tradition, the Western States 100 is the biggest, baddest 100-miler in the world. This is how the course is described on the official Western States 100 Web site:

The Run is conducted along the Western States Trail starting at Squaw Valley, California, and ending in Auburn, California, a total of 100 miles. The trail ascends from the Squaw Valley floor (elevation 6,200 feet) to Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750 feet), a climb of 2,550 vertical feet in the first 4½ miles. From the pass, following the original trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850’s, runners travel west, climbing another 15,540 feet and descending 22,970 feet before reaching Auburn. Most of the trail passes through remote and rugged territory, accessible only to hikers, horses and helicopters.

I've heard that you run the first 50 miles of the Western States 100 with your legs, and the last 50 with your mind. The race will beat your mind and body to a pulp. Run on mountains, in canyons and through temperatures of well over 100 degrees and as low as the 30s and 40s, the course knows no mercy. You find yourself crossing mighty rivers and crawling on all fours while sucking air in the high altitude. To guys and gals who live out West, the altitude may be of little consequence. To easterners like this Ohioian, it's a different story altogether. An altitude chamber might be a good training tool.

The Western States 100 has been a goal race for over a year--since I finished my first 100 miler last year (Burning River, 2007). With a strong second 100 miler (19:22/4th overall, Mohican, 2008) now under my belt and plans for a third (Mohican, 2009) solidly in place, I am on my way to preparing myself mentally and physically for the extraordinary challenges of the Western States 100. I respect the Western States 100 entirely too much to enter without having fully prepared myself for what it will invariably dish out. A finish in under 24 hours would be a huge accomplishment. Some of the toughest runners I know have struggled to finish in under 24 hours.

So my plan is now to apply for entrance into the Western States 100 starting with the 2010 race. The 2009 race is out of the question since the entrants from last year's canceled race have priority and so few slots will be open. I've already marked my calendar for the application deadline in the fall of 2009 and will have all the required materials submitted within the timeframe. I will then cross my fingers and hope for my name to be drawn in the lottery, which will take place in December of 2009. If accepted, training for the June race would immediately begin. If my name isn't drawn in the lottery, I'll find another 100 miler (Vermont maybe?) and apply for the 2011 Western States and won't stop until I'm given my chance.

Until then, my focus as a runner is now largely on preparing myself to run in the greatest 100-mile race in the world.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

100-mile race winners

Below are lists of 100-mile outright winners, Grand Slam winners and the winners of other big races, such as Spartathlon and Badwater (italics=Grand Slam race):

100-Mile Race Winners - 2008
  • HURT (1/19): Paul Hopwood / 27:17
  • Rocky Raccoon (2/2): Jorge Pacheco / 14:12
  • Yukon Arctic (2/9): Will Laughlin / 31:31 (results)
  • Susitna (2/18): Chet Fehrmann / 20:00
  • Iron Horse (3/1): Amy Costa / 17:46
  • Coyote Two Moon (3/21): Karl Meltzer / 17:24
  • Moab (3/26) Davy Crockett / 23:23
  • Umstead (4/5): Serge Arbona / 15:53
  • McNaughton (4/11): Karl Meltzer / 17:40
  • Keys (5/16): Alisa Springman / 23:02
  • Masanutten (5/17): Todd Walker / 20:58
  • Sulphur Springs (5/24) Jim Cook / 18:43
  • Old Dominion (6/6): Jason Lantz / 19:49
  • Kettle Moraine (6/7): Joel Eckberg / 18:10
  • San Diego (6/7): Tom Nielsen / 19:26
  • Big Horn (6/21): Jeff Browning / 18:56
  • Mohican (6/21): Jay Smithberger / 17:55
  • Laramie (6/28): Elad Benjamin / 25:20
  • Western States (6/28): Canceled (wildfires)
  • Hardrock (7/11): Kyle Skaggs / 23:23 (results)
  • Tahoe Rim Trail (7/19): Erik Skaden & Mike Wolfe / 18:59:10 (results)
  • Vermont (7/19): Andy Jones-Wilkins / 16:07 (results)
  • Burning River (8/2): Tim Clement / 17:40 (results)
  • Headlands (8/9): Matt Aro / 20:23
  • Stormy (8/9): Gary Robbins / 17:39 (results)
  • Viaduct (8/9): Dave Bursler / 20:45 (results)
  • Leadville (8/16): Duncan Callahan / 18:02 (results)
  • Cascade Crest (8/23): Tom Ederer / 20:49 (results)
  • Lean Horse (8/23): Jon Olsen / 15:40 (results)
  • Grand Teton (8/30): John Brimhall / 19:59 (results)
  • Superior (9/5): Chris Gardner / 21:57 (results)
  • Haliburton Forest (9/6): Not yet available
  • Wasatch (9/6): Geoff Roes / 20:01 (results)
  • Lost Soul (9/12): Canceled (rain, mud, etc.)
  • Plain (9/13): Allen Belshaw / 25:22:30 (results)
  • Delaware (9/20) – Jessi Kennedy / 21:32 (results)
  • Iroquois Trail (9/20) – Diboun Yassine / 21:35 (results)
  • Bear (9/26)– Ty Draney / 19:59 (results)
  • Rio Del Lago (9/27) – Results not yet available
  • Angeles Crest (9/28): Hal Koerner / 18:29 (results)
  • Grindstone (10/3): Harland Peelle / 20:38 (results)
  • Arkansas Traveler (10/4): Tom Brennan / 17:44 (results)
  • Heartland (10/11): Wynn Davis / 16:20 (results)
  • Boulder (10/18): Nick Pedatella / 18:41 (results)
  • Cactus Rose (11/1) David Johnston / 22:54 (results)
  • Mother Road (11/8) Tim Neckar 17:13 (results)
  • New England (11/8): ?
  • Pinhoti (11/8): John Teeples / 20:51 (results)
  • Javelina Jundred (11/15): Jeff Riley / 16:48 (results)

100-Mile Grand Slam Race Winners - 2008

  • Western States (6/28): Canceled (wildfires)
  • Vermont (7/19): Andy Jones-Wilkins / 16:07
  • Leadville (8/16): Duncan Callahan / 18:02
  • Wasatch (9/6): Geoff Rose / 20:01
  • Arkansas Traveller (10/4): Tom Brennan / 17:44

Winners of Big 100+ Mile Races

  • Badwater 135 (7/14): Jorge Pacheco / 23:20 (results)
  • Spartathlon / 152 Miles (9/26): Scott Jurek / 23:12 (results)

Please let me know if there are any errors in the above lists.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A much improved hamstring / Training week 11/17-11/23

According to my Web counter, readership of this blog is really starting to take off. This inspires me to keep going and I just hope that what I write makes even a little bit of a positive difference. Thanks to all who read my blog.


In racing news, congratulations to Connie Gardner on leading all women at the 46th annual JFK 50-Mile Race with a time of 7:15--a full 17 minutes ahead of the next woman. The race was held Nov. 22 and more than 900 finished, making it yet again the largest ultra in North America. Connie lives in Medina and many of us have the pleasuring of running with her on Saturdays in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (though I don't get to the Valley much anymore). Connie is as tough as they come.

This week there was a lot of trash-talking among a few Southeast Running Club members about the Richmond Marathon results. Yes, I engaged in some of the banter because that's SERC for you. Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t run Richmond because it sounds like the weather in the River City was pretty rough – 75 degrees, sunny, humid and double-digit windy. Those are not PR conditions and it’s no wonder most every SERC member who ran Richmond came back bitterly disappointed. Many trained hard for Richmond and it’s unfortunate that Mother Nature plotted adverse weather.

It’s easy for those who didn’t run Richmond (myself included) to claim that such conditions wouldn’t have slowed them down. I ran a 100-mile race in 90-degree heat, which is manageable because you’re going slower and you have shade. But 75 degrees for a marathon is a bit on the hot side as you’re running at a faster pace. In such weather, all you can do is your best – and that’s exactly what the SERC members at Richmond did.

If you run races long enough, sooner or later you’re going to get slammed with bad weather and it’s going to be a tough pill to swallow. Case in point: There are super-tough guys in SERC who usually easily break 3 hours in a marathon and yet went over 3 hours at the 2004 Boston, where the temperature reached 80 degrees.

Congratulations to all SERC members who finished the Richmond Marathon.


A lot of people ask me how I eat. I’ll save the details for a later post but for now here’s a quick run-down of the do’s and don’ts of my diet, with the understanding that like almost anyone I have the occasional slip-up:

  • 3 meals per day with nutritious/semi-nutritious snacks as needed
  • Apple every day
  • Yes to whole grains (brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread, etc.) – no to refined starches
  • Yes to sweet potatoes - no to white potatoes (though on Sunday mornings I allow myself hash browns after my long run, along with a danish)
  • No sugary juices or sodas – only diet juices and sodas are allowed
  • Lots of spinach for the iron
  • Yes to olive and canola oils - no to other oils
  • Daily dose of broccoli
  • No pork ever – that means no ham, sausage, bacon, etc. “The other white meat” is just a marketing slogan.
  • Red meat maybe once a month
  • Turkey, chicken and fish allowed
  • Lots of egg whites
  • Lots of garlic and veges, such as bell peppers, celery, carrots, etc., in almost everything we eat. Onions, too, but I'm not sure if they have any health benefits.
  • Splenda allowed in iced tea and coffee - little to no pure sugar
  • A graham cracker with peanut butter and honey is my usual dessert
  • Total cereal topped with granola, Smart Start, or something else tasty. Total is loaded with almost everything I need and is a great source of nutrients for runners.
  • Real oat meal, a whole-wheat bagel, whole-wheat pancakes, or eggs on the mornings I don't eat cereal
  • Very limited intake of creamy products
  • Pizza only with whole-wheat crust
  • No restaurant Mexican food - only homemade Mexican with whole-wheat burritos
  • No fried foods
  • No MSG
  • Supplements – daily: L-carnitine and vegetarian glucosamine & MSM; after races – glutamine for muscle repair and fresh pineapple for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Anne adheres to pretty much the same diet. In fact, our emphasis on whole grains originated with her. I think the year was 2002 and I weighed about 220 lbs., wore size 38 pants and size 48 suits, ate fast food for lunch almost every day (Burger King, KFC and Wendy's were the big culprits), and had too much iron in my blood due to over-consumption of red meat. Anne felt some diet changes were in order and we made the transition from refined starches to whole grains, along with implementing a whole bunch of other modifications such as cutting back consumption of red meat and other high-fat, high-sugar foods. By the end of 2003 I was down to about 185 lbs. and poised to begin my long-distance running "career." Today I'm anywhere from 168-173 lbs.--about 50 lbs. lighter than my all-time high--and I wear size 34 pants and a size 42 suit. I've also gone from wearing XL to large and, in some cases, medium.

I still have far to go with my diet. I continually struggle with not drinking enough water and consuming too much coffee. I eat too much cheese. I also need to quit drinking diet sodas and I need to stay away from the sweets that can be found around the office almost every day. My biggest vice is chips. I cannot control myself around chips, which is why I don’t buy them. I allow myself to eat chips only during ultras and immediately after races. I continue to explore the possibility of a vegetarian lifestyle, or at the minimum a mostly vegetarian lfestyle with allowances for fish as often as I like and turkey on Thanksgiving :).


My hamstring is remarkably better. But I know from experience that even though it feels good it is not, in fact, healed. I am avoiding doing anything that could re-aggravate the muscle, and this includes intervals and super-fast tempo runs. My strategy is to stay at 70 miles per week until year-end, and then scale back to under 50 miles per week for the first 5-6 weeks of 2009, before beginning my Mohican 100 and spring marathon training. Hopefully my well-rested legs will be ready for weeks of 90-110 miles.

Here’s how the week shook out:


AM: 8.2 miles on my treadmill
I woke up with unexpected flu-like symptoms and almost didn’t run. But I forced myself out of bed and onto my treadmill, because I wasn’t inclined to brave in this conditions, and eked out 8.2 miles, feeling much better by the end. Unfortunately, Anne and Noah were victims of this bug.

AM: 8.1 miles at 7:25 pace
I felt much better than the previous morning. Weather: 26 degrees and clear.
PM: 5.3 miles on my treadmill
Total miles for day: 13.4

AM: 8.1 miles
I felt pretty tired and sluggish. Weather: 33 degrees and fairly windy.

AM: 8.8-mile tempo run on my treadmill
When I woke up, we had about 8 inches of snow and it was still coming down. So I headed downstairs and ran on my treadmill, managing a somewhat relaxed tempo run and not feeling any pain or discomfort in my hamstring. I averaged about 6:35 pace from miles 2-8.

AM: 10.5 miles on my treadmill
My original plan was to go to South Chagrin Reservation for a 2-hour trail run with Tim C. et al. But when I woke up at 5:30 our driveway was covered by about 6 inches of snow and our plow guy hadn’t come yet. Plus, the thought of running super snowy trails and risking re-aggravating my hamstring just didn’t have a whole lot of appeal. So I went downstairs and hammered out 10.5 miles on my treadmill.

AM: 17 miles in Solon with the Southeast Running Club
I wore my UnderArmour Cold Gear base layer pants and shirt, my Brooks running pants, a long-sleeve technical tee, a ski mask, heavy gloves, and my North Face jacket to weather the single-digit temperature. Fortunately, there was no wind. I ran about 3 miles by myself and then hooked up with the group at 8:00 a.m., running most of the 12-mile loop with Paul and then adding on a few miles in the end to get to 17 for the morning. Maybe it was the extreme cold, but I was starving when I entered the bagel shop and wolfed down my breakfast like I hadn’t eaten in days.
PM: 5 miles on the treadmill while watching Rocky II
Sometimes I think Rocky and I are the same person.
Total miles for day: 22

Total miles for week: 71.0
Total miles for month: 239.11
Total miles for year: 3,560.37

I am now beginning to doubt that I’m getting to 4,000 miles for the year. I would need to up my weekly mileage to about 80-90 to get to 4,000 for the year, and I’m just not inclined to do that just for a number. So it’s now looking like I’m going to finish 2008 with about 3,900 miles. Oh well…..


My 2009 schedule continues to shape up as I’ve made two decisions. First, I have registered for the Lt. J.C. Stone 50K in Pittsburgh on March 21 – my first “road” race over 26.2 miles. Actually, the course is a paved path and consists of six 5-mile loops around North Park Lake. This is the same course as the former GNC 50K/50-mile/100K race, which a few years hosted the national championship for at least the 50K. I am excited about the J.C. Stone and if I’m feeling good will try to break 4 hours.

Second, I have decided not to run the 2009 Boston Marathon as of now. Without going into the specifics, there is simply too much economic uncertainty for me to commit to forking over a few thousand for Boston. When it comes to finances, I always play if safe. So, at least for now, I’ve had to make the very tough decision of forgoing the 2009 Boston and will hopefully be back in Beantown for the 2010 race. My suspicion is that I’m not the only one skipping the 2009 race due to the economic uncertainty. If the economy rebounds, Boston may be back on. For now, it's off.

I now need to decide which spring marathon I’m running – the Flying Pig in Cincinnati, Cleveland, or some other race. My concern about Cleveland is that it’s so close to the Mohican 100 – about 4 weeks. I still have plenty of time to decide. The priority is being ready for Mohican.

Onward and upward!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Trophies for everyone!

It occurs to me that in this era of “self-esteem”-building, there are no winners and losers. No score is taken. Everyone plays and gets a trophy in the end. No one feels pain. No one is held accountable for their own lot in life. Everyone lives in a state of perpetual pleasure because all we want to be is "comfortable."

Kid: Look, Mom! I got a participation trophy for being on the team!
Mom: Oh, Johnny, that's wonderful. I'm so proud of you!
Kid: Yeah, and it didn't matter that we lost all our games. We still got trophies.
Mom: Well, dear, no one was keeping score so you didn't really lose. You're all winners and doesn't that feel good?!?!?!?!

I’m reminded of a pivotal moment in my life that happened nearly 20 years ago. The year was 1989 and I was a sophomore runt on the Wheeling Park High School football team, a team of more than 80 guys. We were a good football team and it was early in the season when we lost to a very bad Beaver Local squad. Realizing that we’d slacked off against a team we should have annihilated, our coach called an early-morning Saturday practice—to be held less than 10 hours after the game. I remember him saying to us as we huddled up in the locker room after the game, "If you have plans tomorrow morning, cancel them. We're going to pratice."

Well, at this practice we got pummeled. After hours of Oklahoma drills, wind sprints that had guys sucking wind and puking, and full-contact scrimmaging that left us bruised, bloodied and beaten-down, we all felt the pain of defeat and ashamed of how we’d played the night before.

But we also learned a valuable lesson that translated to success not only on the field, but also in life. We realized that losing sucks and winning felt good (so long as you won fair and square). We realized that it wasn’t OK to half-ass it in competition. It wasn’t OK to make excuses for a defeat, a half-effort and mediocrity. We went on to make the state semi-finals that year and in the next year, and got to the state championship game my senior year. In that 3-year span, our combined record was 30-8.

I'm not advocating winning at all costs--far from it. Winning counts only when it's fair and square. Anything less is tainted. And there is such as thing as losing honorably. Many have lost and still been champions at heart. But the true champions are those who win honorably and nobly.

Today, our society is averse to real winning because we want to avoid pain at all costs. A coach would probably never be allowed to call an emergency Saturday-morning practice with the express purpose of punishing his players, because it would be too harsh, "inconvenience" parents and damage the kids’ self-esteem, to say nothing of liability issues. Rather than instill accountability and responsibility in kids, we let them eat what they want, play in leagues that don’t keep score and give trophies to everyone, watch 6 hours of TV a day and play mindless games, and go to schools that worry more about their self-esteem than about teaching them reading, writing, math, science, history, civics, hysical education and other disciplines that are actually relevant to their future health, well-being and success.

It’s not the kids’ faults. It’s our fault as adults. We’re the real slackers, and our kids just follow our lead. We consume fast food, shovel pills into our mouths, don’t exercise, balloon up and then get our stomach stapled because exercising and eating responsibly are too hard. We’re depressed so we take a pill when physical activity might be the best treatment. We avoid pain at all costs because it hurts and we’d rather live in comfort. Hey doc, there’s a pill for that, right? Can I take it with my Starbucks?

In actuality, pain and suffering are central to success and happiness. Pain and suffering can be a good thing and should be embraced. Without knowing pain or suffering, how can you ever really know pleasure? Unless you've seen and experienced real darkness, how can you ever really appreciate light? In a marathon, if you run the 26.2 miles hard, you feel remarkable pain and discomfort especially during the last 10K, but then when you cross the finish line you experience the highest of highs. You’ve endured pain to achieve the pleasure of finishing. That is hard-earned, well-deserved pleasure. And it doesn't have to come through running. Any pleasure that comes from hard work and sacrifice is well-deserved.

Life isn’t easy, and it’s not supposed to be. So long as we focus all our energies on avoiding pain at all costs, we’ll never achieve real happiness or success. Trophies aren’t for everyone. They’re only for those who won or at least gave their all, and they’re motivation for the losers to work harder in achieving victory.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Return of the hamstring injury / Training week 11/10-11/16

I’ve heard through unconfirmed "reports" that Scott Jurek, the #1 100-plus-mile ultra runner in the world, was unsuccessful in setting a new 24-hour American record at Ultracentric, which took place in Texas this past weekend. Considering the fact that Jurek has been wildly successful in just about every ultra running endeavor he's taken on (Western States, Badwater, Hardrock, Spartathlon, etc.), there has to be a good reason behind his dropping out at Ultracentric. After all, Ultracentric has quite the notorious reputation....

(Also, the fact that these reports are unconfirmed is a joke because it shouldn't be hard to find the results of a 24-hour race. Yet, at the time of this writing, the results from Ultracentric have either not been posted on the event Web site or are hidden somewhere on the Internet. How is ultrarunning to move forward as a sport when we do such a poor job of timely reporting?)

The 24-hour American record is 162.4 miles, set by Mark Godale at the 1999 24-hour national championship in Sylvania, Ohio. The event was the now-defunct Olander Park USA 24-Hour Championship (which really needs to come back...). Yiannis Kouros, holder of the 24-hour world record of 180 miles, was there that day and won, with Mark placing second behind the Greek Great One.

I cannot fathom running 162.4 miles, let along 180 miles, in 24 hours. That is 8-plus-minute pace. If that sounds easy, you must not be an ultra runner. Averaging 8-plus-minute pace for 24 hours, with aid station and bathroom stops factored in, along with the agonizing pain of running on a hard surface for that long, is an extraordinary feat.

I think the 24-hour American and world records will stand for a long time not only because of the sheer difficulty of covering those distances in 24 hours, but also because it strikes me that if you’re willing to go for one or both of these records, you also have to be willing to sacrifice your health. You have to understand that you will suffer unimaginably--mentally and physically--and may spend a few nights in the hospital afterward--a price few would be willing to pay. Best case scenario: You'll need multiple IVs when you’re done and can actually go home afterward. Most likely scenario if you set a record: You’re going to the hospital in an ambulance with kidney failure, extreme dehydration and a host of other problems that will leave you barely functional.

This brings to mind something Kouros once said: One of the tragedies of ultra running is that when someone achieves a great feat they are physically and mentally unable to celebrate in the moment due to the after-effects of the event. I've seen footage of Kouros trembling uncontrollably and totally out of it after running for long periods of time.


This week I went slow and took it easy so my right hamstring, which I re-injured pretty badly on Tuesday during a lunchtime run, can begin to heal. When I started the week, I felt great and was flying high after a solid Sunday run. But then on Tuesday I slipped on some wet leaves while on the trail and my right hamstring blew up. I barely made it back to the office. With stretching and ice therapy, the muscle got better as the week progressed and fortunately I didn’t miss any runs. I wound up with a fairly average 72.5 miles for the week.

A regular poster to this blog, Yanfei, along with my trusted 100-mile pacer, Kenny, has suggested that I take 4-6 weeks off to fully recover from my hamstring injury. While I know Yanfei and Kenny are probably correct, I also know that taking time off from running is very difficult for me. I take time off only when I literally cannot run, e.g., after injuring my knee at the Mohican 100. Running helps bring balance and peace to my life. If it’s taken away, I’m out of balance.

That said, I’ve decided that on January 1 I’m going to try to cut back my mileage for 4-6 weeks, incorporating some cross-training such as walking and hopefully swimming, and then will begin my Mohican training in mid-February on what will hopefully be fresh legs ready for 100-plus-mile weeks. At least that’s the plan. Why January 1? I want to keep the mileage up through the holidays to help keep the Thanksgiving and Christmas pounds at bay, and also to make a run at 4,000 miles for the year. We’ll see if I can psychologically handle the reduced mileage for 4-6 weeks.


AM: 8.4 miles at 7:28 pace
I felt very fresh and light on my feet.
PM: 5 miles during lunch in Shaker Park
My hamstring unexpectedly blew up when I slipped on some wet leaves on the trail. One second I felt great; the next second I slipped and my hamstring was burning like it was on fire. For a while there I feared a tear, but then the inflammation got better and I was able to slowly run back to the office…quite dejected.
Total miles for the day: 13.4

AM: 7.3 miles at 8:00 pace
This run was agonizing as my hamstring was extremely painful. Not even two miles into the jaunt I realized that I’d made a mistake and should have taken the day off. But I hung in there and ran the loop.

AM: 8.3 miles easy on the treadmill
It was cold and raining cats and dogs, making for a perfect morning for a treadmill run. Plus, the treadmill was good for my hamstring – no hills to tackle and I could step off any time I wanted without having to worry about getting back home. The muscle pain was moderate but not as bad as the previous day. I felt a few spasms here and there but managed to hold a relaxed pace with no searing pains.

AM: 9.25 miles at 7:35 pace
My hamstring felt much better and I was able to run a semi-challenging loop without much of a problem. Fortunately, the temperature was over 50 degrees, allowing me to warm-up more quickly.

AM: 14.2 miles in South Chagrin Reservation with the Southeast Running Club
Feeling only slight discomfort in my hamstring, I ran 14.2 miles on the flattest parts of the course with Jeff U., Tim C. and John L. Tim and I ran the last 4 miles together.

AM: 16 miles in Solon with the Southeast Running Club
Very cold, snowy and windy. I got to Solon for 3 warm-up miles and ran into a few nasty headwinds. My original plan was 17.5 miles but I headed into the bagel shop after only 16 because I was quite cold. I ran most of the way with Jeff U. and Tim H. Tim had a great idea about Nike sponsoring a marathon for masters runners who have qualified for the event with a sub-3-hour time. But you know what they say about "great ideas?"...they're not great unless someone's willing to pay for them.
PM: 4 miles easy on the treadmill
Total miles for day: 20

Total miles for week: 72.5
Total miles for month: 168.11
Total miles for year: 3,489.37

My goal this week is 70-plus easy miles—no speedwork, no temp running, nothing fast. I’ve learned that hamstring injuries take a long time to heal and even when you think you’re back to 100 percent, you aren’t.

Onward and upward!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A major set-back

Yesterday afternoon during my second run I reinjured my right hamstring in a big way. The pain was so bad that I thought I might have torn the muscle, but then it got better and I was able to run slowly back to the office. I was in Shaker Park and slipped on a root or rock covered by wet leaves. It wasn't a major slip, but it was just enough of a slip to totally screw up my hamstring. And just when I was feeling really good again.

Now I'm back to square one and very frustrated. I'd say my chances of running the Fall Classic 1/2 Marathon in less than two weeks are slim to none.

I have to get my hamstring back to 100 percent in time for aggressive Mohican 100 training starting in February. That may seem like a long way off, but hamstring injuries can take a long time to heal, and obviously I'm confronted with a nagging injury that just won't go away.

I'm going to keep running, but I'm going to run at a more relaxed pace to prevent any re-aggravations, and I'm going to stretch every night before bedtime. Ice will do some good, as well.

This really sucks.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Delayed recovery week / Training week 11/3-11/9

The name of the game this week was getting back to 100 percent. Mission accomplished. I started the week off feeling pretty awful--trashed legs, sluggish and a little burned out. But then as the week progressed I got better, especially after a day off on Wednesday. I finished with a strong long run on Sunday to get to a somewhat pedestrian 71.4 miles for the week, and now I feel close to 100 percent and am ready to take on the world.

Here's how the week went:

AM: 8.05 miles at 7:40 pace
My calves and right hamstring and IT band felt absolutely trashed! Usually Monday is an optional easy day/day off but I knew I'd stay up late on Tuesday watching the election returns and wouldn't be keen on an early-morning Wednesday run. So I decided to use Wednesday as my optional easy day/day off.

AM: 8.45 miles at 7:29 pace
Once again, my calves, hamstring and IT band felt pretty trashed.
PM: 5.65 miles during lunch in and around Shaker Park, Cleveland Heights, Little Italy and University Circle. Stayed up late watching the election results....
Total miles for day: 14.1


AM: 8.43 miles at 7:30 pace
Maybe it was the day off, but my legs felt much better. The wonders of recovery....

AM: 8.11 miles at 7:35 pace
I took it easy and felt pretty strong. I ran the last full mile at 6:55 to test my legs and they checked out OK.

AM: 13.4 miles with the Southeast Running Club in South Chagrin Reservation
Due to lots of rain, the trails were very muddy. It was cold, too--38 degrees with light rain that tapered off. I ran with Jeff U., Tim C., John S., John L., John K. et al. After 7 miles most everyone took off, leaving Tim and me to run the last 6.5 miles. I felt strong--far better than I had the last two weeks.

AM: 15.35 miles in Solon with SERC
I got to Solon about 20 minutes early for an easy 2-mile warm-up and returned to the bagel shop to meet up with the club for our 8 a.m. start. Feeling nearly 100 percent, I ran hard--really hard, actually--with Mark G. to the water stop. Except for the first mile, my splits for the 6 miles to the water stop were aggressive: 1) 7:46, 2) 6:16, 3) 6:06, 4) 5:57, 5) 5:52 and 6) 6:01. We fought a head wind in a few areas. I was pretty winded during that third mile because I had to run hard to catch up to Mark, but then I caught my breath and sailed into the water stop pretty tired but very functional. I then ran at about 7:45 pace for the rest of the way, adding on 2 miles in end. I ate chili the night before and later regretted it....
PM: 4 miles easy on my treadmill
Total miles for day: 19.35

Total miles for week: 71.44
Total miles for month: 95.61
Total miles for year: 3,416.87

My goals for this weeks are:
  • 70+ miles
  • Wednesday: 3 one-mile repeats at 5:50 pace on the track or, if the weather is uncooperative, on the my treadmill
  • Friday: 4-mile tempo run at 6:30 pace

Even though the off-season is here (though I still may run the Fall Classic 1/2 Marathon in a few weeks), I still want to get in some quality training. I think some scaled-back quality training, such as what I've written above, will be enough to keep my leg turnover pretty good during the winter and allow for a strong foundation to build on in February, when I start training for my spring marathon and the Mohican 100.


I've been thinking about my 2009 race schedule. I still don't know the specifics, but I do know I'm going back to the Mohican 100 to seek revenge. Through 70 miles at the 2008 race, I was on pace for a sub-17-hour time and top-2 finish, and then my knee blew up, along with my stomach at mile 80. I finished in 19:22 for 4th overall. I will be looking for a strong time at the 2009 Mohican and will again start training hard for it in February. It's never too early to start thinking about your next 100.

I'm still not sure which spring marathon I will run. My hesitation with running the Cleveland Marathon hard is that it's so close to Mohican (about a month). I may instead run the Cincy Flying Pig, which is in early May, as my spring marathon. There is always a chance I'll be at Boston, though it's pretty slim at this point. I still plan to run the Lt. JC Stone 50K in Pittsburgh in March. I heard the 100K national championship won't be at the Mad City 100K. I can't find out where it's been moved--no mention of it online.

Onward and upward!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Shot legs / Training week 10/27-11/2

I just finished up Bart Yasso's new book, My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom and Insights of a Road Racing Icon. This was a good book and an easy read full of excellent intentional comedy. Right now, with a baby, I don't have extended periods of time to read, so I need easy stuff like the Yasso book. He delivered in a big way and My Life on the Run will go down as one of the better running books ever written.

Yasso's book is somewhat biographical but mostly a compilation of stories divided into chapters--and good stories they are. He has traveled the world, running in races as far away as India. One story was about running in a nude race, another about running with a burro, and yet another about biking across the country. He also writes about his running the Badwater 146, where he placed in the top 3, and his ongoing battle with Lyme Disease, which essentially cost him his long-distance legs. And, of course, he writes extensively about the famed Yasso 800s. I think he came across as a little too full of himself in writing about Yasso 800s.

I didn't realize Yasso, who has worked for Runner's World magazine for a number of years and is considered the "Mayor of Running," was so good in his prime. He has some impressive accomplishments, such as winning a marathon and several solid finishes well under 2:50. He's the longtime race director of the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon in Allentown, Penn.

The best part of his book was in the end when he talked about how runners are very accepting and encourage each other. He wrote eloquently about the camaraderie of the sport and about how you won't find snobbery among runners. Well said, and words to live by.

I highly recommend Bart Yasso's My Life on the Run.

The best running book I've read to date: To the Edge: A Man, Death Valley and the Mystery of Endurance by Kirk Johnson, a New York Times reporter.

The second-best running book I've read to date: The Death Valley 300: Near Death and Resurrection on the World's Toughest Endurance Course, by Richard Benyo.


Will I ever learn?

After my knee injury at the Mohican 100--which was an over-training injury due to a crazy race schedule leading up to the 100--I wrote here that I would train smarter and place a greater emphasis on post-race recovery.

Yet the week after a hard effort at the Columbus Marathon, where I struggled with hamstring problems, I logged close to 60 miles, with two double-digit mileage runs. And the week after that (10/27-11-2) got to 80 mile with multiple two-a-day runs. It is no wonder that my legs now don't feel right. I should have gone easier that week after the marathon--maybe 30 miles with only one double-digit run.

My legs are trashed. My calves are extremely sore and basically shot. My right IT band and hamstring are uncomfortable. Something has gone awry in my right leg.

I think a few weeks of dialed-back mileage with minimal speedwork and tempo-running will help.

This week was really goofy as I chose to run lots of miles during the week because we were traveling on the weekend and I'd miss my long runs on Saturday and Sunday. Turns out I was able to get in a long run on Saturday morning before we hit the road.

The common theme for the week was, "damn, my legs feel trashed." Here's how the week went:

AM: 7 miles easy during lunch
I ran down MLK and back, fighting a very tight right hamstring. To top it off, I forgot my base layer and nearly froze my ass off as some nasty gusts came in off the lake. I might have gotten hypothermia had the rain picked up.

AM: 8.2 miles at 7:19 pace
I ran miles 5 and 6 at 6:48 pace. My right hamstring felt pretty tight. Finishing the run, I decided that I’d redouble my efforts to stretch it every night before bed.
PM: 6.85 miles at 7:41 pace during lunch
I ran in Shaker Park. Once again, my right hamstring was tight—almost like a drum.
Total miles for day: 15

AM: 8 miles at 7:39 pace
Snowing, sleeting, raining and very cold, making for awful weather. On the good side, my right hamstring was feeling better from last night's stretching.PM: 5 miles at 7:24 pace during lunch
Running late for a meeting, I hammered the last mile at 6:29.
Total miles for day: 13

AM: 8.4 miles at 7:15 pace
Very cold—29 degrees. But my hamstring felt pretty good.PM: 5 miles at 7:24 pace
Felt like crap—sore, run-down and just trashed. It was at this point that I realized I had come back too fast from the marathon.
Total miles for day: 13.4

AM: 7 miles at 7:41 pace
As a result of my overdoing it, my calves were pretty well shot and my right hamstring tight as a drum (yet again). I forgot to stretch the night before—big mistake.

AM: 14.5-mile long run
This very early-morning run (started at 5:25 a.m.) was on remote country roads near home. About halfway into the run, I stopped at the Shell gas station for a Gatorade and then headed home. I was pretty achy from the previous day’s flu shot, but this was a really fun, enjoyable and relaxing run through a very peaceful area of town.

PM: 9.67-mile tempo run
I had only an hour and 10 minutes to work with and decided to get in as many miles as possible. So I hammered it hard along the Chagrin River and back up into Chagrin Falls. Despite some nasty climbs and a long stretch on the Bridal Trail, I logged some decent mile splits: 1) 7:58, 2) 7:15, 3) 6:38, 4) 6:46, 5) 6:45, 6) 6:24, 7) 6:55, 8) 7:26, 9) 7:12 and 9.67) 5:00.

Total miles for week: 80.6
Total miles for month: 285.7

Total miles for year: 3,345.18

I seriously doubt I'm getting to 4,000 miles for the year. I don't even know what my next race will be. It was to be the Fall Classic 1/2 Marathon, but it's hard imagining myself racing right now with shot legs. We'll see.

My goal for this week is to relax my mileage and avoid intense paces. Then next week hopefully I'll be feeling better.

Onward and upward!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Recreational Runner? / Recovery week 10/20-10-26

I really hate recovery weeks. I just want to run the way I want and not have to worry about going easy for recovery's sake. But recovery is a fact of life in distance running, and so I chose to go a little easy this week to give my hamstring some time to heal.

Jimmy Carter, recreational are, according to Glenn A., Mike Wardian, Yiannis Kouros, Scott Jurek and others since, like the former prez, they don't run for a living.

Post-Columbus Marathon rest and recovery

AM: 6 miles at 8:06 pace
I felt surprisingly good—fairly sore in the legs, but still strong. My hamstring was super tight.

AM: 6.5 miles at 7:49 pace
I was much less sore than the previous day, but was still nursing a hamstring that felt tight as a drum.

AM: 7 miles at 7:35 pace
Getting stronger and feeling better, but not in the hamstring…

AM: 7.6 miles at 7:27 pace
Feeling recharged and geared up for a weekend of running, but still struggling with the hamstring.

AM: 12 miles in Cuyahoga Valley National Park with the Southeast Running Club
This was my first time in Peninsula in a few months and man was it just what the doctor ordered. When I’m reeling from a stressful week (the stress mainly stemmed from the insurance company’s denial of Noah’s helmet, which means we’re going to have to fork over $5,000 out-of-pocket), a trail run through Cuyahoga Valley National Park is just what I need. About 9 miles into the run, which was going very well, I hit a root and went down like a sack of potatoes—no chance to brace myself for the fall. Mark G., who was running behind me, then tripped on me and went down, accidentally stepping on my leg. Everyone laughed, including me. Undeterred, Mark and I got up immediately and resumed running. I was a little scraped up, especially around my ankle, but I felt OK. Well, needless to say, the full effects of the fall didn’t arrive until the next morning…. My hip was badly bruised, my calf moderately strained and my ankle scraped up like someone took sandpaper to it. I guess that’s what happens when you’re getting old and take a fall.

AM: 15 miles in Solon with the Southeast Running Club
I told Jeff U. during the run that it was scary how good I felt (sans hamstring) only a week removed from the Columbus Marathon. Usually the following Sunday I’m feeling like a bag of garbage, but not today. I averaged about 7:35 pace, getting in 2 miles beforehand, then completing the 12-mile loop with an extra one mile to make it 15 for the day.

Afterwards, we had breakfast in the bagel shop, where the trash talk went to new levels. I took some ribbing for my 2:59 at the Columbus Marathon. Apparently, I’m a sub-2:50 guy because I have "lots of talent." I don’t know if any of that’s true, but I do know I can get faster. Paul R., a former 4:18 miler, also took some ribbing as he gears up for a strong Richmond Marathon, where he looks to break the 3-hour barrier for the first time on what some guys say is a "short course." Nonsense! If Richmond were short, it wouldn't be a Boston qualifier.

Anyway, most of the bagel shop ribbing came from Mr. 24-hour American record holder Mark G., who said—and I quote—“breaking 3 hours in a marathon is a joke.” Really? According to a report of, 1.7 percent of all marathon finishes in 2007 were under 3 hours. That means 98.3 percent of marathon finishes were above 3 hours. And breaking 3 is a joke? Try telling that to the hundreds of thousands of folks who came in above 3 hours. And while we’re at it, qualifying for Boston is a great accomplishment. About 15 percent of marathon finishes are BQs. I've known runners who've tried to qualify for Boston for years and they continue to fall short. For most, Boston is the crowning achievement for a marathoner. In SERC, Boston is expected and to not qualify is to underachieve.

But Sunday breakfast brought even more controversy. For his part, Glenn (a former 2:30something marathoner) claimed that anyone who doesn’t run professionally is a “recreational runner.” Needless to say, a few guys took issue with Glenn’s claim. It occurs to me that under Glenn’s definition the following individuals are recreational runners:
  • Yiannis Kouros, holder of just about every ultrarunning record, including 24 and 48 hours

  • Scott Jurek, 7-time winner of the Western States 100, 3-time winner of Spartathlon, and winner of the Hardrock 100 (record), Badwater 135 (record) and a host of other races

  • Michael Wardian, 50K, 50-mile and 100K national champion in 2008

  • Karl Meltzer, winner of a record six 100-mile races in 2006

I guess Kyle Skaggs, Valmir Nunes, Hal Koerner, Anton Krupicka and others are "recreational runners," as well, since they don't do it professionally.

Total miles for week: 54.1
Total miles for month: 229.3
Total miles for year: 3,264.58

I have 9 1/2 weeks to get to my goal of 4,000 miles for the year. That comes out to about 77 miles per week--very doable as long as I stay motivated and my hamstring improves. But why run 77 miles per week at a time of year when I may want to reduce mileage and recover for a strong 2009? We'll see how the 77 miles/week plays out. I may get to 4,000; I may not.

My goal for this week is to complete my recovery from Columbus, and then get back on the track to prepare for the Fall Classic Half Marathon. I’m going to use the Fall Classic as a measure of what my time at Columbus should have been. I ran a 1:22 at the Spring Classic last April and will be looking to best that time at the Fall Classic.

Onward and upward!