Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My take on the Burning River 100

Today I was looking over the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run roster of entrants (as of July 29) and noticed a number of very good runners in this year's race. Every one will have fun. The BR100 is a well-organized, point-to-point race through many beautiful areas of Northeast Ohio, making it an excellent experience for runners, pacers, crew members and volunteers alike.

Random photo: Yours truly at the Mohican 100. The red lettering on my arm proudly read NOAH. I didn't take many good photos at the BR100.

While the BR100 is a rewarding, accessible 100-miler for local runners because we spend so much time on the course and know it well (it was my first 100), it's by no means easy. Far from it. The August heat and humidity are factors. Based on my experience with last year's inaugural race, here are a few personal observations on the BR100:

1) It's important to run the first 9 miles, which are all on road, patiently and at a relaxed pace. Going too fast on the road will beat up your legs. When you enter the Polo Field from the road section, you have 92 more miles in front of you.

2) Try to get out of the very rocky, hilly, overall nasty Perkins Trail loop (81.6-85.7) before night fall (about 9 p.m.). The next several miles, except for a brief stretch in O'Neill Woods, are either flat road or towpath. If you enter the Perkins Trail loop in the dark, you're going to spend twice as much time on it as you would if it were light. (This same rule applies to the Mohican--get out of the red loop, which ends at mile 90/Rock Point, as quickly as possible because the rest is road. Granted, it's hilly road....)

3) The BR100 gives you flat, runnable sections when you most need them--namely from mile 86 to the finish--with a few exceptions such as O'Neill Woods, a brick road going up from Memorial Parkway, a few nasty sets of stairs late in the race and the technical Glens Trail along the gorge in Cuyahoga Falls that demands your careful attention when you may be struggling mentally.

4) The final stretch of the BR100 is awesome. From the very dark, somewhat technical Glens Trail, you come up on Front Street in downtown Cuyahoga Falls (via a spur) and the finish is about a mile in front of you. Running down Front Street with the finish line in sight, I took in the experience for all it was worth (whereas at Mohican I was half-dead when I crossed. Do you think I'm kidding? :) ).

One of the big pluses of the BR100, which you won't find at the Mohican 100, are civilized, running-water bathrooms. The BR100 course offers many bathrooms--both park and commercial facilities. Hell, there's a McDonald's about 20 feet from the towpath toward the end of the race. If you don't need the bathroom, maybe you need a Big Mac? Just kidding.

While I am sure I missed a few big names--and if so, I apologize--here are the names of which I took note, separated by men and women:

Biggest names:
Mark Godale (SERC member; 1st overall last year with a 16:07; American record holder for 24 hours at 162.4 miles)
Tim Clement (SERC member; 3rd overall last year; previous 100K and 100M national champion; in top shape right now)

Other names:
Rich Wisneski (fast; first 100)
Bob Pokorny (SERC member; very strong and experienced)
Randy Miller (1st overall at the Laurel-Highlands 70)
Chris Petit (2nd overall at the Laurel-Highlands 70)

Biggest name:
Connie Gardner (SERC member; has not yet registered; first woman at 2008 Mohican; potential outright-win contender; incredibly tough)

Other names:
Dawn Malone (SERC member; strong 2008 Mohican 100; last year's BR100 women's winner)
Kim Martin (experienced and tough)

Let me know if I overlooked any names.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Training week 7/21-7/27

My goal this week was to get in as many miles as possible, including quality interval and tempo workouts in preparation for the fall racing season. Anne had an all-weekend horse show, where she won the blue ribbon for champion of her class(!), so I wasn't able to participate in any of the Southeast Running Club group runs and instead spent quite a bit of time on my treadmill with Noah next to me. Fortunately, I was able to cobble together some decent mileage this weekend and end the week with 73 miles.

I waffled all week as on whether or not to run the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run (Aug. 2). I just couldn't picture myself not out there. But then Reason kicked in and I decided once and for all to sit this one out. My knee, while greatly improved, just isn't ready for 100 miles. It needs more time. I have started taking vegetarian Glucosamine & MSM (I'm allergic to shellfish) to improve the health of my cartilage. Hopefully, my knee will be 100% in a few weeks.

In lieu of running the BR100, I am pacing fellow Southeast Running Club member Tim Clement, who finished a strong third at last year's race and is in excellent shape, for the last 30 miles. Tim won the 2003 100-mile National Championship (14:01) and the 2004 100K National Championship (7:39) and has extraordinary natural endurance and ability. I look forward to pacing him and will surely learn a great deal in the process.

I'm looking at a 50-mile, night mountain race in West Virginia--not far from where I went to college--on August 22. This will likely be a key event for me. I wasn't anticipating a 50-miler in August but this race looks very appealing. It starts at 9 p.m. on a Friday night. I still don't know which fall marathon I'm running, though I feel pretty confident it'll be Columbus--my fifth time there.

Here's how the week went:

PM: 4.5 miles on the treadmill

AM: 8.12 miles at 7:20 pace
Some lingering soreness from the 22 miles on Saturday. This morning marked the first time Noah had slept through the night! (But the luck wouldn't last....)

AM: 8.12-mile track workout (the track had reopened after resurfacing)
It was great getting back on the track after six weeks away. This workout marked the beginning of my fall marathon training. Judging by the disparity of my interval times, I was definitely rusty and lacked control, but there is plenty of time to get clicking again before the fall. I ran two easy miles and four striders, followed by 3x1600s at 5:34, 5:46 and 5:50 with 800-meter recoveries. My goal was three 5:45s. My first repeat was obviously way too fast and my third a little too slow (and my second just right--sorry, couldn't resist). Next week I'm shooting for 5:43s. After my track workout, I ran home.

AM: 8.11 miles at 7:20 pace

AM: 8.75-mile tempo run
Included 6:25 pace for 35 straight minutes (5:00-40:00). I wanted to hold my tempo pace 10 minutes longer but the wheels almost came off and so I slowed after 40:00 to about 6:50 pace and held it the rest of the way.
PM: 4.25 miles on the treadmill
Total miles for day: 13

AM: 10 miles at 7:35 pace on the treadmill with Noah next to me
PM: 7 miles at South Chagrin Reservation
Some abdominal muscle discomfort. Maybe I strained a muscle somehow.
Total miles for day: 17

AM: 8.2 miles at 7:20 pace on the treadmill with Noah next to me
PM: 6 miles at easy pace on the Bell/Washington Street grass cross country trail
Still some abdominal muscle discomfort. Got better with time.
Total miles for day: 14.2

Total miles for week: 73.43

Next week I should be able to approach or surpass 80 miles, including track and tempo workouts and the Saturday long run of 30 miles as I pace Tim.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

We were born to run

People don't become runners. They're born runners.

Running has been a part of my life for 25 years--as a cross-country kid, to stay in shape for football during high school, to (try to) lose some beer pounds in college, to (try to) shed some post-college weight (which was more the result of a poor diet than lack of exercise), and now to test my limits, provide enjoyment, build friendships and strengthen my faith.

Yiannis Kouros (above) was born to run. He's made a life of going long...and setting almost every ultrarunning record there is.

As far back as 17 or 18 years of age, I felt the urge to "go long." I pondered running the 20K Elby's Big Boy Classic (now known as the Ogden Newspapers 20K Classic) in my then-hometown of Wheeling, WV. I also pondered running a marathon. I just didn't know how to do it, or even if I could do it.

But then in 2003 I met a friend in Indiana who introduced me to the world of distance running. I finished the Ogden 20K (1:32) in the spring of 2004 and then joined the Wabash River Runner's Club. A few months later, I completed my first marathon, a 3:22 at the 2004 Columbus, and a race later qualified for Boston. These events, which unalterably changed the course of my life, confirmed my natural identity as a distance runner.

The weight I'd struggled to lose began to melt away as my mileage increased, my diet dramatically improved and my happiness sored. Today, I'm 47 lbs. lighter, so much happier, stronger in my faith, and many friends richer than I was before finally tapping into my love of distance running. Running has been good to me.

Those who weren't born with the innate desire to run don't understand why people would choose to spend inordinate amounts of time engaging in an activity many associate with punishment. In high school, my football coach made us run as punishment. This never deterred me. It was the running I most liked--including punishment running. I ran the third or fourth fastest mile on a team of more than 70.

For runners, running is far from punishment; it's fun and fulfilling. It's just what we do. The health benefits are merely happy byproducts of our passion. If running were unhealthy, we'd probably still do it.

Go to any race in the country and you'll quickly realize that runners possess many of the same qualities and find community amongst one another. Strangers quickly become friends because we're all runners. We talk the same language and we value many of the same things. You can say "BQ," "PR," "Boston," "fartleks," "bonk," etc. and the runners around you will know what you mean.

While runners share many of the same qualities, there are some unique groups of runners, namely ultrarunners. Ultrarunners tend to be more into the metaphysical experience of going super long--the suffering and and self-transcendence of it all. Having run two 100s, I have experienced the separation of the physical and mental states--which Yiannis Kouros (pictured above) has eloquently explained. This is when your mind and soul separate from your body, which is suffering badly, and you find the strength within the deepest realms of yourself to keep going. If you can't find these realms yourself--realms few would dare venture--the physical suffering will become too much to handle and finishing a 100 will be next to impossible. To those who have no desire to separate their mental and physical states, ultrarunning is nothing more than insane, extreme and a freak show of sorts.

I've often found that people want to know why a runner would go 50, 100 or more miles at a time. They think a runner who will go that long must have some demons/issues they're dealing with--as if we're the Unabomber in trail shoes. We all have demons but, honestly, I like to go long because it's challenging, transcendent, fulfilling and a great way to create and strengthen friendships. I've also found redemption in running; I've lived with a lot of regret for quitting my high school cross-country team in 1987 (the theme of my just-out Marathon & Beyond story).

To the runner, a life without running is a life out of balance. This is why runners experience so much distress during an injury. Their life is out of balance.

Finally, just because many runners go long on Sunday mornings doesn't mean they lack religion. Far from it. Many runners I know are deeply spiritual. This is apparent in their words, deeds and running. For me, I couldn't run 100 miles unless I believed deeply in God, possessed strong faith and knew in my heart there is an afterlife. During a race and at other times when I'm experiencing a challenge, I have too often felt the presence of something far greater than myself for me not to be convinced there is a God. If running allows me to be close to God and do good works, it has to be healthy.

For the runner, running isn't a choice. It's the life they were meant to live. To each, his or her own.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Training week 7/14-7/20

This was a pretty solid training week, in stark contrast to the prior week when I was struggling and fighting off something nasty (which, unfortunately, Anne and Noah now have....). I was able to get in some halfway decent mileage (73.0), a quality workout on Wednesday and a long run on Saturday. My knee is much, much better, though still not 100%, and I think I'm definitely on the up and up.

Until Noah is able to sleep through the night, or at least consistently give us 6-7 hours of uninterrupted sleep, 70-75 miles is going to be on the high end of my weekly mileage. Honestly, it's hard to imagine running more mileage with his sleeping being the way it is right now. It requires a tag-team effort among Anne and me, and this certainly takes a toll on you as far as sleep-deprivation. Right now, many days start at 4 a.m. with wake-ups around 1 or 2 in the morning. But we're having the time of our lives!

I still feel kind of aimless in my training. What's my next race? My gut instinct says to focus on my fall marathon and go for a sub-3 there, which will be very challenging given my current life circumstances. If my fall marathon is indeed my next key event, maybe then I should run some 5Ks and 10Ks coming up, and the Perfect 10 Miler in a few weeks, as preparation. I really need to set a new 5K PR (my current 5K PR was "set" in the spring of 2005 and is pretty soft)--maybe now's the opportunity.

All of that said, I'm still considering the Youngstown 50K in September and the Hellgate 100K in December. I want and need to do another ultra this year.

Here's how the week went:

PM: 4.25 miles
I felt very strong and fresh, and my knee was pain-free, which was encouraging given that I'd tested it the day before by going 12 miles in Solon.

AM: 8.25 miles at 7:25 pace
I logged sub-7:00 miles for miles 5 and 6 and again felt fresh and strong, especially compared to how I felt this time last week. No knee pain.

AM: 8.05 miles--street intervals
I went to the track to do my first interval workout in many weeks, only to find that it was closed for resurfacing. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Rather than throw in the towel, I decided to do an interval session on the streets, which I knew would be difficult because there are so many hills in Chagrin Falls. I was originally aiming for three mile repeats on the track of sub-5:50 each. The following times were logged on hilly stretches: 6:10, 6:05 and 6:42 (going up a big-ass hill in Bentleyville). I look forward to the track re-opening....

AM: 7.25 miles at 6:55 pace
I was not expecting to feel so strong and light on my feel. Took advantage of it and ran at an up-tempo pace.

PM: 9 miles in South Chagrin Reservation
I had decided to take the day off to spend time with my mom, who was visiting us. The day ended up sucking badly. I wasn't able to run in the morning because Noah was sick, I was tired from 4 terrible hours of sleep the night before, and I was either on the phone with the doctor or going to the drug store to get his medicine.

When finally I was able to go for a run, which was at 3:30 in the afternoon, the temperature was 91 degrees. I took a water bottle, went shirtless held a steady pace. Despite being really tired, this was a solid run. The heat didn't affect me much at all.

AM: 22 miles in Brecksville Reservation and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, sites of the Buckeye Trail 50K
In lieu of racing the Buckeye Trail 50K and risking a set-back with my knee, I decided to pace my friend, Ted, who was going for his first ultra and paced me at both the Burning River 100 and Mohican 100. I can't fun-run an event, so I knew with my less-than-100% knee I should cancel my participation in the BT50K.

I showed up at Oak Grove (start/finish) at 8:15--an hour and 15 minutes after the gun went off--and began making my way to Boston Store, stopping briefly to talk with Lloyd, the folks at the Snowville Road aid station, and Paul R., who unfortunately had to drop due to his hamstring/glute injury.

I saw Ted coming down from the Pine Lane section and then ran behind him from Boston Store to Snowville (wasn't pacing him yet because pacing was to start at Snowville), and then I officially started pacing him at Snowville, with about 6 miles to go. Ted held up great, battled through the heat and humidity, and finished in 5:53--a very solid time. He showed a lot of strength and I'm amazed at how well he held up given that he had just one marathon under his belt going into Saturday. His family was there cheering him on at each aid station--great motivation.

I have to say--pacing Ted to his first ultra finish was one of the most rewarding experiences of my running life. It was great being out there for someone else--to use my experience to help another person achieve their goal. From Snowville on, the goal was to finish in under 6 hours. Along the way, we passed, I think, seven runners. With his first 50K now history, Ted's looking at BQ'ing this fall, running Boston next April and then completing his first 50 miler next summer. We all celebrated at his house later that night.

I had many SERC friends who did very well at the Buckeye 50K, including Kam who won outright (again!) with a time of 4:10. Kam would once again have broken 4 hours were it not for the crazy humidity. Jeff U. also did exceptionally well, placing 4th overall with a time of 4:41 and setting a new masters record.

Saturday marked my longest run since Mohican. I felt a little achiness in my knee the last 5 miles with Ted, but overall this run was very encouraging.

AM: 10 miles at easy pace
I wasn't able to go to Solon as Anne was sick and I had to do Noah's feedings. I was able to get these 10 miles in between his feedings. Man, it was so humid. I can't imagine much worse humidity. When I got back home I was literally dripping wet. No knee pain.
PM: 4.2 miles at easy pace
I wanted to get in some respectable mileage for the day so I got on the treadmill in the afternoon.
Total miles for day: 14.2

Total miles for week: 73

My goal next week is anything over 50. Anne has a weekend horse show--her first since she became pregnant with Noah--and I'll be spending a lot of time there and at home watching Noah. If I can get in more than 50 miles, I'll be happy.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Inch by inch....

There's a great speech in the movie "Any Given Sunday" (starring the legendary Al Pacino) that gets me fired up every time I hear it (listen to it by clicking here or on the imbed below, or, if you want to cut to the chase, speed up to 1:35 of the clip). Sometimes I listen to the speech before a race. One part of what Pacino's character says really goes to the heart of how I--as a guy who may not have much running talent but who works his ass off and tries to put it on the line at my races--view running, racing and life.

It goes like this:

"You know, when you get old in life things get taken from you. I mean that's...part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff. You find out life’s this game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small -- I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it.

"The inches we need are everywhere around us.

"They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second.

"On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch, because we know when we add up all those inches that’s gonna make the f*ckin' difference between winning and losing! Between livin' and dyin'!

"I’ll tell you this: In any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die who’s gonna win that inch. And I know if I’m gonna have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willin' to fight and die for that inch. Because that’s what livin' is! The six inches in front of your face!!!"

For me, that says it all about how I try to run and live and about how I want to be a father to Noah. I view things like races as life's ultimate challenge, as a choice between victory and defeat, between courage and cowardice, between happiness and misery, between living and dying (even if it's for 4th place in a 100-miler, as with Mohican). It's also how a lot of the guys and gals I run with approach the sport and their own lives. Maybe that's why I'm out there every Saturday and Sunday for our group runs, why I often take life too seriously...and why I over-raced this past spring and probably take on more than I can handle sometimes. I want to fight for every inch in front of me...because not fighting isn't living.

If I had to teach Noah one thing beyond how to love, it would be to work hard for everything...inch by inch...and never, ever give up.

Even if living and running like how Pacino describes sometimes brings injury and disappointment, just as it brings growth and development, is there another way to live?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Training week 7/7-7/13

Last week my goal was to run 50 as pain-free miles as possible in coming back from my knee injury. Bottom line: I wound up with 58.5 miles, running all seven days. My knee felt pretty good all through the week, but then on Saturday and Sunday during my long runs I felt a few twinges. I don't think the twinges were anything really bad or serious--maybe just reminders that my knee still isn't 100% and that I need to come back slowly.

Also, I was really, really tired and kind of achy through Friday and I thought my fatigue was mostly due to the double-whammy of not getting enough sleep and a post-Mohican hang-over. I also struggled aerobically early in the week, which is unusual for me since my aerobic capacity is pretty strong. In actuality, I think I was fighting off some kind of bug. By Saturday, I was feeling much better and my strength had improved dramatically.

If I had to put it all into numbers, I'd say my knee is still at about 75% and my body post-Mohican is about 75% as well.

Here's how the week went:

PM: 6.2 miles easy
I struggled in the heat and humidity and was a little out of breath likely from losing conditioning during the injury. This was my first pain/discomfort-free run in over two weeks. I was very encouraged.

AM: 7.2 miles easy
My legs were very achy--maybe from post-Mohican soreness. My knee didn't hurt, but I could definitely "feel" it a bit. I didn't wear my knee brace for the first time--probably a mistake--and will wear it on my next run.

AM: 7.1 miles easy
I felt very tired and achy, but fortunately my knee was holding up well.

AM: 7.1 easy
Same as Wednesday.

AM: 8 miles easy
I felt awful--tired, achy and worn down. I thought it was post-Mohican fatigue but it was actually a bug of some kind. I remember thinking mid-way through my run: When will it get easier?

AM: 11 miles with the crew in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
I didn't know I'd be joining the CVNP crew until that morning, when Anne was able to take Noah with her to work. It was great running with the guys in the Valley. Even with really humid conditions, I felt much better and, despite feeling some minor discomfort in my knee, was able to climb the hills very well. I remember feeling surprisingly strong climbing the hill from the towpath near Boston Store en route to Pine Lane. I felt good when we finished and took Advil and iced my knee as a precaution.

AM: 12 miles with the Southeast Running Club in Solon
Rained cats and dogs. Ran mostly with Paul R., Jeff U. and Steve H. My knee ached a little and I questioned whether I should run 12 miles, but it held up and I achieved my goal for the day and exceeded my goal for the week. I maintained a conservative pace of about 7:40 miles.

Total miles for week: 58.5

For this week, my goal is 60-65 miles, including about 15 miles on Saturday as I run with Ted F. from either the Boston Store or Snowville aid stations to the finish of the Buckeye Trail 50K, his first-ever race of over 26.2 miles. Later in the week I'd also like to get on the track for some up-tempo repeats of 6:00 or better. I will let my knee be the decider of whether that happens or not.

I am really bummed about not being able to run the BT50K. This was to be my fourth BT50K and I think a 4:30 or better time would have been possible. I was aiming for a 4:15 but would have been happy with 4:30 or better. I guess there is always next year....

I still haven't ruled out the Burning River 100, though realistically it's pretty doubtful as my knee continues to heal. Right now, my focus has to be on returning to 100% for a strong fall Columbus Marathon, not completing another 100 so soon after Mohican. Still, I just can't get the BR100 out of my head....

Connie G. suggested that I consider running the Umstead 100 in April to build some experience in pacing myself for 100s. Umstead is eight laps of a 12.5-mile course. I used to live in Raleigh and still have a lot of friends there who I could stay with and hopefully tap as crew, making Umstead pretty appealing from those standpoints. But Umstead would require some serious training during the winter, which would suck with all the snow we get. I will consider Umstead, but I better consider it fast because it fills up quickly and registration opens around Labor Day. I'm on the Umstead e-mail list and will watch for the registration notice.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Recovering from Mohican

Having now run seven days in a row, including three consecutive pain-free days, I can confidently say my left knee is better than 75%. The last time I felt discomfort was on Sunday, when I ran with the Cleveland Southeast Running Club in Solon, and it was just some minor aches. I completed 7 miles, most of it with Kam, who was very encouraging, and rode my bike to and from Solon for added benefit. I'm still wearing my knee brace as a precaution.

I wish I could say my body is doing just as well as my knee, but the fact is that I'm no where near 100 percent in the aftermath of the Mohican 100. Nearly three weeks have passed since the 100 and I'm still pretty tired. Coming back from 100s takes time, especially when you ran the 100 hard as I did. I imagine I'd be feeling better right now if my knee were healthy all along. I believe active recovery speeds recovery.

I have a friend who's attempting his second Burning River 100 on Aug. 2. He dropped at last year's race (mile 75) due to a lower leg injury. In addition to completing the BR100, he plans to qualify for the Boston Marathon at the Steamtown Marathon on Oct. 12. He's come oh so close to the magical 3:10:59 on a few occasions.

I keep telling him that, while I never tell people they can't do something, it's fairly unrealistic that he's going to recover from the BR100 in time for a successful, all-out effort at Steamtown. Keep in mind that to run a 3:10 he's going to need many quality workouts going into Steamtown. How is he going to do the requisite track intervals and tempo runs when his body is shot from the BR100? Maybe my recovery from 100s is slow and my analysis of his situation is incorrect. I know that right now I would have a tough time running mile repeats under 6:00--this from a guy who runs 5:35 repeats and is pretty durable. My body just isn't ready. Maybe it's the lack of sleep from caring for our newborn, but I think it's really because 100s hurt you badly and require lots of recovery.

As I recently told my dad, the difference between a 100-miler and a marathon is far more than 74 miles. The damage done to the body during a 100, while temporary (in most cases), is significantly greater than the damage done during a marathon. Hundred-milers squeeze every ounce of energy from your body, deplete your muscles of their strength (especially your lower-body muscles), rob you of your speed and leg turnover, and inflict havoc on your joints--far more than marathons, and marathons kick my butt every time.

I think it takes upwards of 8-10 weeks to really come back from a 100, whereas it takes me about 3 weeks to come back from 26.2. I know that at last year's Columbus Marathon I was still feeling the after-effects of the BR100. I couldn't do quality track workouts during August and for most of September. Yes, I was on the track in September, but I wasn't able to hit the times I needed to go sub-3 at Columbus. It wasn't until I was really able to focus on a marathon and put forth the quality efforts that I finally broke 3 (at this year's Cleveland Marathon).

On to other things....

As much as I want to run this year's Buckeye Trail 50K, where I was going to aim for a very ambitious time of 4:15, I've decided to forgo my fourth BT50K and instead pace my friend, Ted, who paced me the last 40 at Mohican and is doing his first race of over 26.2 miles. I'm going to join Ted at the Snowville Road aid station (or maybe even Boston Store if I can get there in time) and run him to the finish. It would be foolish of me to race 31 miles on a knee and body that are not yet 100%. If I had the discipline to just fun-run the BT50K, I'd do it, but I know once the "gun" goes off I'd race it hard, which would be stupid given the current circumstances. I can't fun-run an event; I race because it's what I'm programmed to do.

That said--and I realize this is counter to what I just wrote--I have still not yet ruled out running the Burning River 100 because, well, I just can't fathom not being there. I feel I could complete the distance, but I realize that doing so will mean no sub-3 time at the 2008 Columbus Marathon. If I do line up for the BR100, my goal will be 24 hours or better. I don't think it would be a good idea to race two 100s within six weeks of each other. Maybe I'll pace my friend, who I mention above, for the whole race. That would give me a purpose and keep me in check. We'll see. The $225 I'd have to pay to register at this late date is kind of stiff, but I'll pay it if I have to.

It looks like I'm going to achieve my goal of 50+ miles this week. My goal next week is 60+. Unfortunately, Noah is far from sleeping through the night, which means Anne and I are taking turns doing the middle-of-the-night feedings. Those feedings kick your ass when you're waking up at 5 a.m. for an hour-long run and then have to go to work for the whole day. As much as I hate to scale back my running, the reality is that my mileage and the quality of my runs are going to suffer badly until Noah's giving us 7-8 hours of non-stop sleep on a consistent basis. Until then, I'm in survival mode and will be grateful for every mile I can get in.

Onward and upward!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Another run today

I did another run today. As planned, I started at the South Chagrin Reservation Polo Field (where they are now mobilizing for the upcoming Hunter/Jumper Classic that my wife and her horse will unfortunately miss this year since they're still rusty from the time off from her pregnancy) and went 2.25 miles down the trail and turned around, coming back to the truck for a total of 4.5 miles. I averaged a little over 9-minute miles. Yes, that's slow as Christmas for me and, yes, 4.5 miles is very few miles, but it's something.

My left knee was painful at first and I began to have serious doubts as to whether I should be running. I even stopped and walked about 50 feet...before running again.

Fortunately, as my run progressed, the discomfort/pain in my knee diminished. At no time did my knee feel great, but the pain definitely got better and eventually my knee felt decent. The biggest challenge was navigating the muddy trails with a bum leg.

Afterwards, I felt no pain. As I type this post, my knee feels just fine. It would appear that so long as I run conservatively and don't come back too quickly, I should be able to keep running as I heal.

Tomorrow's goal is 5 miles in the same place and in the same fashion--out and back and slow.

My first physical therapy appointment is on Monday. I'm looking forward to it.

Onward and upward!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

On the comeback trail?

At last, the Mohican 100 results have been posted, as have the 50-mile results. It took nearly weeks, but who's counting? On the Mohican 100 e-mail list I b*tched pretty badly about the delay in posting the results and probably ticked a few people off, but oh well. The results should have been posted 10 days ago.


A few hours ago I did something I haven't been able to do for nearly two weeks--run. I got on my treadmill, with my knee brace on, and started walking briskly, thinking I'd walk for about 40 minutes to burn those friggin' M&Ms I wolfed down at work today. But then something came over me and I began jogging at about 12-minute pace. Then my 12-minute pace turned into 10-minute pace and on and on. Before I knew it, I was trucking along at 9-minute pace, pain-free and en route to 4 miles in about 42 minutes.

OK, OK...so 9-minute pace (which I ran the last 3.5 miles) is super-slow. I know that. Usually I'm at 7 or faster. But 9-minute pace and four miles is a start, right?

I'm still pain-free and feeling good, but very much cautiously optimistic.

My goal tomorrow is about 4 miles at super-easy pace on the trail in South Chagrin Reservation. I'm planning to start at the Polo Field, work my way down a few miles and then turn around and head back. I can always add a little by running around the Polo Field.

If I'm still pain-free tomorrow morning and after tomorrow's run, and if I'm able to run 50 good miles next week, I may start thinking about putting the Buckeye Trail 50K back on my race schedule.

But only if....

One final thought: I'm thinking about taking Chondroitin for the sake of my cartilage. I'm skeptical as to whether it works or not, but at this point I'm willing to try it. By order of my sister-in-law, who's a pharmacist, I can't take Glucosamine because I'm allergic to shellfish, but she said Chondroitin would be OK. Problem is, finding just Chondroitin is proving quite difficult. All I'm finding is Glucosamine-Chondroitin. If you know of any places where I can buy just Chondroitin, please chime in or drop me an e-mail.

Here's to a day of encouragement and hope.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Left knee news...I guess there ARE limits after all!

I went to the doctor yesterday--a sports medicine specialist--and the news wasn't great but, then again, it wasn't awful either. No tears, at least not that could be seen by X-ray. I have a condition called petello-femoral pain syndrome. This means the cartilage under my kneecap has been damaged, likely from overuse/overload. I need to rest right now and not run. I go for a re-check in three weeks and will also do some physical therapy at my workplace--University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

I went to Solon on Sunday, wearing a knee brace, and went out with the group hoping to get in 6 miles. I lasted only 200 yards before my knee became painful again and I had to walk back to my car. I then drove home feeling sorry for myself, as I'm still doing now. This is quite a fall for a guy who was logging 100-mile weeks, felt like a badass and was on track to break 18 hours at Mohican before my knee gave out on me.

It all makes sense now why this has happened. I was going at a breakneck pace all winter and into the spring. I about killed myself in December and January training for the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K, with a goal of winning it (which I did) while most runners had reduced their mileage and were enjoying downtime as they prepared for the upcoming spring racing season.

In February, I pulled back a bit to prepare for the March ramp-up for Mohican--a good thing. Then in March, April, May and early June, I was putting in 100-mile weeks, all while running PRs/all-out at the Spring Classic Half Marathon in April, the Cleveland Marathon on May 18, Blossom Time a week after Cleveland (I did the Blossom course three times that day, including once all-out), and then the Mohican 100 less than a month later. I never allowed myself any adequate recovery between those races, while at the same time not getting enough sleep after we had Noah. I was tired and so my joints took a beating as I continued to log 100-mile weeks with compromised strength.

It was arrogance. I thought I was immune from a breakdown because I considered myself indestructible. I mean, look at the title of this blog and that says it all..."no limits ever." I guess there are limits.

Now I'm paying the price for overdoing it--a bad knee. It's every runner's nightmare.

I am praying that rest and ice therapy will clear up the problem, allowing me to return to running and eventually racing of the marathon and ultramarathon variety. When I do return, I will do so gradually, spending a lot of time on softer surfaces and slowly building my mileage back up. If this means 20-30 miles a week for a few weeks as I restart, with some cross-training mixed in (especially cycling with my new Marin hybrid bike), I can live with that. That's better than the zero miles a week I'm currently logging. I'm going to try not to exceed 70 miles per week for the rest of 2008 and into early 2009 and will avoid speedwork until I'm back to 100 percent.

The Buckeye Trail 50K and certainly the Burning River 100 are now crossed off my 2008 race schedule. I am hoping to do the Columbus Marathon in October, but I seriously doubt a PR or even a sub-3-hour time there will be possible. I will likely pass on the JFK 50, too, and forget about the trans-Ohio run in November. My next ultra (not including 50Ks, which I don't consider ultras; they're just races over 26.2 miles) may be the Burning River 100 next August.

This sucks. I'm depressed and full of anxiety and worry. I'm mad at myself for overdoing it. I'm questioning whether my running days--at least my days of training at a high level--are over. Maybe I'm just a guy who had a decent run in 2007-2008 and then flamed out, only to be relegated to some has-been 5K runner.