This is how it works-
I love to run but there are times when I would rather not. This is when the voices start. Chants, name calling, guilt and reverse psychology is how they get me up and out the door. I don't really mind the voices and have actually started looking forward to their daily calls. Together we have formed a running club that supports, encourages and competes with each other. I love these peeps. They are much more experienced, talented and tougher than I am. Pushing me out the door, through the hard miles and up the monster hills when I am feeling lazy or want to give up. Some people have "real" training partners, coaches and support crews. My team is ALWAYS with me and helps me to keep my eye on the prize and not veer off the track. Sounds crazy- Yeah, probably is.........

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Raccoon Hunting We Will Go.....

Man, these FREAKS in my head are hard to please. THEY are never satisfied. An 18 minute 5k followed by a 4:26 50k, in a pink tutu, the next day? Nope not enough. Okay, how about a marathon PR a week later? Nope. One more marathon PR less than 2 weeks after that? Sure.... that got me about 4 days. Now THEY are ready to move on. So WE shall.

I have been fascinated by the ultra scene for a while. It amazes me that people can go so far- and actually enjoy doing it. The great mystery of endurance is intriguing and I have often wondered just how far I can go. The first quest was the 50k. Then 50 miles. Still the VOICES refuse to acknowledge me as an "ultra-marathoner" until I complete the next step.

I have been toying with the idea of running a 100 miler for a while but every one that I looked at seemed to fall at the wrong time of year. This last Monday, a friend from the dailymile suggested the Rocky Raccoon 100 in February. After looking at the website, I realized that this might be the one. My search for the "perfect" opportunity is over and the CLUB is going on a Raccoon Hunt.

Convincing myself was easy. Convincing my wife? A tad more difficult. She is way smarter and much more careful than I am. Not to mention that she thinks it is crazy to run such absurd distances. But she also knows how bad I want it and her support is amazing. She is on-board and will be part of the crew, along with a couple of awesome dudes (and full fledged members of the Idiot's Running Club) that will come along and pace me through the hard miles. Of course I had to make some concessions- the main one being a bump up in life insurance.... guess that's fair.

This afternoon I signed up for The Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Race in Huntsville, Texas on February 5th. No backing out now- and I feel the time is right. I am coming off my best year of running. I've hit and exceeded EVERY goal for the year and now it is time to move on to the next quest. It is time to find out exactly what I can do, not only physically but also mentally. I will probably continue to train as I have and not really add many more miles. There is only so much time that I can commit- especially through the holiday's- but I'll figure it out. Maybe even catch a training plan from one of those famous running publications.......NOT.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Sometimes the VOICES say some ree-donk-u-lus things. Like when they decided we should run the Dogwood Canyon 50k in a pink tutu. Or when they suggested that WE run it hard and try to compete. Naturally, I listened to their advice and away we went. The pink tutu brought in over $400 for the ACS and I finished the race strong, maintaining an 8:35 pace for 31 miles on some pretty rough terrain. Then THEY got really silly. HOW ABOUT A SUB 3 HOUR MARATHON?

Seemed like a reasonable suggestion. Except the marathon THEY had in mind was exactly one week after the 50k. Guess the VOICES haven't read Runner's World lately and forgot about the whole "recovery period" following a long distance event. But I'm not any smarter because there I was, a week later, lining up at the Bass Pro Marathon with the hope of breaking 3 hours. I struggled with a minor hamstring injury but pulled it off with a 2:58:52. Sweet- but only for a few days.

These FREAKS in my head started questioning everything. Was it a fluke? Could I do it again or was that just a lucky day? Was I REALLY a sub 3 marathoner? I had my doubts because my previous PR of 3:13:23 had held for 3 years and my best time last year was 3:15. So, being an IDIOT, I decided to find out at the White River Marathon in Cotter, AR. Great plan. With a new course that is flat and fast, this would be the perfect place to find out..... except for the fact that it was only 13 days after Bass Pro. Ree-donk-u-lus.

The goal was set and I was nervous. Training was tough because of the hamstring so I had to be easy for a week. But by last Thursday, I had strung together 3 consecutive days of 5 mile runs at a 6:30 pace and really felt confident that it would be okay. All I had to do now was maintain a less than 6:50 pace for 26.2 miles and it I could shut the VOICES up. Still seemed like a ree-donk-u-lus idea- but I was willing to give it a shot.

Standing at the starting line on Saturday morning, all the doubts were gone. I was focused on exactly what was necessary and I was ready to roll. The start was a little messed up because the horn malfunctioned and a quick yell of GO began the race- who knows when the clock started- and we were off. Within the first 100 yards, some genius pulled sideways into the road. WHAT?? They were trying to park. Why they were even allowed in this area is beyond me but he backed up in a hurry and everybody made it around him.

This is a small race with about 400 people total between 3 events. The 5k, 1/2 marathon and full marathon participants all start together with no organization to where everyone lines up. This always leads to the same scenario. The 50 yard dashers get up front and within a very short distance they are worn out and slowing down becoming obstacles for everyone else. Fortunately, I have ran plenty of these kinds of races and know what to expect. Be ready to dodge the adults and jump over the kids. Fun.

The first couple of miles went WAY too fast and we were rolling along at about a 6:20 pace. I backed off quite a bit but, as it turned out, not enough. The course was an out and back. Twice. This was different but kind of nice because most points on the course offered the motivation from other runners. I love throwing the WOOOOO!!! to people as they are pushing towards their goals. Motivates and inspires me to see someone who is struggling but still SMILING. This emphasizes how awesome it is to set a goal and go after it.

The first half went great but FAST. At the turn around point I was in 3rd place but the pace was too fast. My Garmin had me running a 1:27:30 for the the first 13.1 and this was faster than I had planned. Probably faster than I have ever ran that distance- not sure. This had me on pace for a 2:55 finish. I knew then that I would not have negative splits but I tried to maintain and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

My pace did fall back some in the second half but not too bad. With a two-time out and back course, there were plenty of people on the course until about mile 18. Then it got LONELY. Once in a while I could catch a glimpse of a runner in front and as I neared the turn around at about mile 20 I could see the leaders as they started down the final 6 mile stretch. Mentally it was hard to maintain, knowing that I was in a solid 3rd but I kept plugging. After the final turn-around and around mile 21 it was nice to start seeing some other runners again. This really does help boost the motivation to finish strong.

As I watched the leaders at the turn-around I knew that my friend and training partner, Charley, would win. He has won this race the two previous years and was in fantastic marathon shape coming into this year. He was in second place at the time but I counted the distance between him and the leader. 20 seconds. I know Charley well enough to know that he would push with everything he had to get in front. This perked up my spirits knowing that he would win again and probably PR. He did- with a 2:49. Smokin' fast.

As I approached the final mile, a friend that had ran the 5k was on the course. He gave me some high fives and lots of motviation to finish hard. I hit the last mile at a 6:40 pace and finished in just under 2:58. Of course I won't know the "official time" until the race director posts them online but I know it was at least 2:58. This was another PR and I was beyond happy. Ran right through the volunteers handing out medals and found an open spot to roll a cart-wheel. I'm sure it sucked but so what? Better than torturing everyone with a non-coordinated happy dance.

Some of my friends have asked what I thought my time could be IF there wasn't a 50k and 2 Marathons within 3 weeks. My answer is this..... who cares?? Ree-donk-u-lus to even think about that. I broke 3 hours twice and have a new PR. It just doesn't matter because the past 20 days have been a blast and I wouldn't trade any of it for a minute or two off a PR. A sub 4:30 50k and two sub 3 hour marathons?? If I EVER complain about that please come punch me in the mouth. Please.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

13 Days

Here WE go again.....The VOICES have spoken and it's time to roll. It was less than 3 weeks ago that I ran the Dogwood Canyon 50k. Seems like longer but that's what it was. I pushed it pretty hard that day and finished in 4:26:10. A decent time considering the pink tutu. One week later it was on to the Bass Pro Marathon where I managed to pull off a PR despite a hamstring problem. Obviously, it was not the smartest plan to run my first sub 3 hour marathon a week after a 50k. My hamstring "injury" became noticeably worse in the following days. I had to scale WAY back on my training since but I think it is time to get back on track.

Last Friday, I forced myself to run a 12 miler and there was some pain but when it was over, I knew that things would be okay. A few days of rest and then three solid runs at a faster pace this week has left me feeling confident that the upcoming marathon on Saturday will be another good one. I am hoping for another sub 3 and shooting for a new PR. It is the White River Marathon (formerly Mtn. Home Marathon for Kenya) in Cotter, Arkansas. The course is supposed to be flat and fast- (aren't they all advertised that way?) and if things go right, it should be a good day.

I have ran this marathon the last 2 years but the course has been changed. It was a pretty tough and hilly course that left me for dead both times. The first year, I should have stayed home. I had a bad cold with a lot of chest congestion AND it was raining with freezing monster winds. My wife warned me not to run and even said that she wasn't coming to visit me in the hospital when I ended up with pneumonia. I think she probably would have.... probably. I struggled that day- and ended up coming in at 3:23.

Last year was a mess too. Worse even. The weather was perfect but I was not. This was another one that I should have skipped but didn't. I had a slight calf strain going in and by mile one it was much more than slight. It HURT. BAD. I actually stopped and debated dropping out. Probably should have. My over-inflated ego wouldn't hear it and I hobbled and limped the next 25 miles. I finished that day just over 3:30 in pain and disgusted with myself. Both of these finishing times are decent but not what I had hoped for and that eats at me.

I'm a little disappointed about the course change because I would like to redeem myself on the hills. I have legitimate reasons for the bad races but they still seem like pathetic excuses in my head. At the same time, I am excited at the prospect of another sub 3 if the day goes as planned. The hamstring is almost 100% and I rubbed some dirt on it.... should be fine.

The VOICES have been telling me that 13 days is long enough. I agree. 13 days is long enough to hold on to that PR- time for a new one.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chasing a PR....and a Dog?

It's funny how things work out. When I started running back in 2006, it was all about losing a little weight. As things progressed it turned into a desire to compete in a few 5k's. I read EVERYTHING that I could get my hands on and listened to every podcast out there. I wanted so bad to learn the secrets and pick up tips from the pro's. I followed training plans as best I could and tried speed work outs at the track. Pearl Izumi, Saucony, Brooks and Asics replaced my Nikes and a Garmin Forerunner took away the necessity of measuring my route beforehand with my truck.

This worked pretty good for a while but it seemed like I got stuck in a rut last year. My 5 and 10k times had leveled off and the marathon times were always between 3:15 and 3:30. Late in the year, I was guilty of taking on more than my training would allow. After a 50k in September, a 25k in October and 2 marathons in November- I was done. A calf strain during the 1st mile of the Mtn. Home Marathon left me limping for the next 25 miles and then sitting on the couch for a week or two. Genius stuff. This is when I decided that something had to change.

I thought about what I wanted to do and HOW I would get there. What I came up with was simple, put in more miles, more long runs with less speed and incorporate some strength training. By the end of January of this year, I was hitting 50 mile weeks consistently and had my first 200 mile month. In February, the weight training and core exercises started. I went back to my Nike Pegasus, scrapped the iPod, forgot the training plans and canceled the subscription to Runners World. In April, Charley and I ran the Ouachita 50 miler and I started really seeing the benefits. In June, the 54 miles during the Relay for Life didn't kill me and I was running again after 2 days off. Things were falling into place.

PR's in the 5 and 10k and some faster paced long runs left me confident that the plan was working. There has been zero track work outs, just some faster paced 6 and 10 mile runs- nothing mind blowing but faster than average- a couple of times per week. A few tweaks in my diet helped shed a few extra pounds and provided stored energy for the long hauls. All of this was leading to a potential PR in the marathon.

Last week, I managed to have a great 50k trail race with negative splits. With the exception of the 50 miler, which was my "perfect day", I have ALWAYS bonked on the second half of any long distance race. Finishing in just under 4 1/2 hours was a huge boost to my confidence coming into the Bass Pro Marathon on Sunday. I knew that if I recovered in time- there would be a PR. I might have even stated that publicly a few times.

Last Friday, as I finished an easy 6 miler, it felt like somebody punched me HARD in the my hamstring. I limped and hobbled home, unable to run and was scared to death that I had royally screwed up. I could feel a little nagging pain all day on Saturday and by that night I was on edge but I went ahead with my pre-marathon rituals. Lots of food and a few beers to chill. Must have worked because Sunday morning, I felt nothing. No pain, no hint of anything. Was it just wishful thinking?

My race day breakfast is ALWAYS 2 sausage biscuits from McDonalds. Why? Because 1 isn't enough and oatmeal sucks. Of course a large coffee to wash it down is necessary too. My wife and I arrived early and met some friends for pre-race photos and well wishes and then it was time to line up.

The weather was perfect- about 40 degrees at the start- and the event is pretty small so there wasn't a huge pile up at the line. After the first 1/2 mile the packed thinned and the running lanes opened up. I started out at a 6:45 pace and within just a few steps the hamstring was talking. Not a BAD pain but enough to notice. This freaked me out and I convinced myself just to maintain my pace and not speed up. Just maintain and see what happens.

By mile 5 I had enough of the stupid hamstring issue so I decided to forget about it. There was NOTHING I could do about it and if it decided to cramp, knot, pull or whatever it is they do- there would be NOTHING I could do anyway- so I might as well set it aside and just run. I just went with the plan- maintain the pace, don't speed up, don't slow down- just stick to the plan.

I always carry a water bottle and this was no exception. It was filled with Gatorade so I made sure to get water at every aid station. Each station was 2 miles apart and I walked through each one because I am not coordinated enough to run and drink out of those cups- no matter how I fold the top. It ALWAYS ends up on my face or chest, so I just like to take a few seconds to walk. Of course, every time I did this, other runners would pass me. Not really a problem- because I generally passed them again within a short distance.

I hit the half at 1:30:10. This was actually a PR for the 1/2 by about 30 seconds(I have not ran a 1/2 since 2008)but I was a little discouraged because my Garmin had the distance at 13.4 miles. This meant my pacing was off and I could not rely on my time. I stepped it up, just a little, and waited for the hamstring to start whining. It did but not too bad. I settled into my new pace and started passing some of those speedsters that flew by me early on in the race.

I was NOT concerned with passing people- I had decided that the only race I was in was with the clock. I had dreams of a sub 3 hour marathon since my first one in 2007 but it had always been a distant dream and not very realistic. 2007 was the year of my PR, a 3:13 and 2008 and 2009 were 3:15's. That is a lot of time to make up- but I was on pace to come close. I knew that I COULD squeeze in IF the hamstring held up AND I didn't hit the wall as I always have in the past.

At mile 17, I passed one of those speedsters from earlier. He was puking on the side of the road and for some reason this made me smile. Sure, that's not nice but I couldn't help it. I had to smile because there he was, puking and done, and I was feeling better with each mile. Sorry dude....

At mile 21, where I typically hit the WALL, something cool happened. I crossed the 2,000 miles for the year mark and felt energized and rejuvenated. I thought this was a good time to make a move and blow through the last 5 miles. WRONG!! My hamstring SCREAMED at me, so I backed off and maintained. That was the plan and I was sticking to it.

Coming down the last few miles, a big black dog started running with me. It was weird because there were so many runners on this part of the course. The 1/2 marathoners shared these last few miles and it was crowded. The dog chose ME to run with, sometimes cutting right in front, causing me to hit him with my legs. I yelled and even barked at it. Nothing. Finally I just laughed and realized what was happening. Bob and Joe. They were looking down and getting one final laugh as I acted like a fool with this dog. I thought about my two friends that had lost their battles with cancer within the last week and how much they had impacted my life. Bob and Joe were with me as I pushed through the final two miles toward the finish line. I KNOW they were because it was almost effortless and I was able to push the pace a little more.

At the mile 26 marker, my watch had 26.2 and I knew the time would be close. I became a little distracted as I was trying to do the math in my head and the next thing I knew there was a crowd of people in my way. What is going on? Get out of the way dummy's! WHY are you blocking my way?? Then a friend in the crowd ran over to me and told me to get back on the road. What? The road? Oh, I get it.... I had been so wrapped up in trying to figure out the time and pace that I had ended up on the sidewalk where the crowd had gathered. My bad.

I popped out just in front of my family and my wife was taken by surprise. She got an excellent picture of the road after I passed. Turning into the final stretch, I could see the clock and knew for sure that I had made it. Turning on the jets- I sprinted across the finish line in 2:58:52. Good for 7th overall, 1st in the 35-39 age group AND negative splits. The dog finished about a minute behind me.

The hamstring turned out fine and I think it was just a minor scare. A few days off and I'll get back to it. I've got a new PR to beat and a perfect opportunity to do it at the White River Marathon on November 20. Yep. I'm begging for trouble. That's how WE roll....

Friday, November 5, 2010

Running With a Heavy Heart

The VOICES are chattering and everyone is excited. This has been the best year of training in club history. That's not saying a whole lot considering the WE have only been running since 2006 but still, it's been a good year. More miles, consistent paces and awesome long runs have translated into PR's at EVERY distance that I have raced in this year. The 50k last week was not a PR for the distance but it was a PR for a trail 50k. Mile 21 of Sunday's marathon will be the 2,000 mile mark for the year, 500 more than last years total miles. All of this has the VOICES rambling on about PR's and chasing down the elusive sub 3 hour marathon. I'm not sure about the sub 3 but feel confident that a PR is realistic.

My first marathon was Bass Pro back in 2007 and the 3:13:something still stands as my PR. There have been some really close times but this has been my best. I think, if everything goes right, on Sunday- there will be a new PR at that same marathon. Muhammad Ali and Babe Ruth are battling in my head. Ali predicts a KO on the 3 hour mark and the Babe is pointing to the fence signaling a home run on the PR. These two dudes know that confidence makes a difference. Confidence comes through training and WE feel like the dues have been paid and it is time to put it to the test.

A slight scare at the end of today's run has me a little worried but I think it will be okay. As I was finishing up, my hamstring felt like it was knotted up and I had to walk it off and stretch it out. Hopefully this will not be an issue on race day and things will go as planned. I have the “pie in the sky” hope of sub 3 but will be pleased with 3:10. That's a huge difference, I know, but that's my approach. If it feels good early on then I will hammer down and see what happens. If not, I'll ease up and try again in 2 weeks at the White River Marathon.

Last week, I ran in PINK and honored all those touched by cancer and in support of breast cancer awareness. The $423 raised for that event, combined with the money from the Honor Scroll and the Relay run brings the total to almost $4,000 this year. Pretty awesome support. This week, there will be no “gimmicks” and the pink tutu will stay in the closet. Of course, the FIGHT continues and donations are ALWAYS welcome but the begging will cease for a while. Thanks for all your help.

Even though this is not a fund-raising event, it will have a significant impact, for me, as I re-new my efforts in this FIGHT. I will run, as always, in Honor of all who have battled the beast. My mom and dad, as always, will be in my heart BUT they will have to share the space with some very special people. Two of my favorite people in the world have both lost their battles with cancer this week. Two men that have had a lot of impact and influence on my life have been stolen by this monster. To say that I have know both of these men for my entire life would not be a stretch. I am 38 and they were both a part of my life for over 30 of those years.

Two different people but they both shared a common trait. They both believed in me and were always quick to let me know that fact. Joe was a former Marine that served in Vietnam. He carried himself in that way that Marines do, and lived his life with pride and integrity. He had the confidence to try anything and made people around believe they could too. He was a major influence in my decision to join the Marine Corps when I was 19. He did not suggest that I join, he did not tell me that I should, in fact he never even talked to me about it until after I went through boot camp. His influence came through his actions and the pride in which he lived his life.

Bob was a great friend to me, even when I was a kid and he was a few years older than my dad. He always treated me like I was special, even though I was just like the rest of the crowd. He always welcomed us to his house for a hunting trip, canoeing on the creek or just to lay around on a lazy Sunday and watch football. As an adult, we often worked together and I enjoyed learning “tricks of the trade” from him- he also taught me that it was OKAY to fish in the rain as long as the fish were biting and there was enough cold beer.

I will miss both of these great men. On Sunday, I will be running with a heavy heart and I fully expect to shed a few tears as they bring me through the hard miles. I know they will be watching and patting me on the back with pride. This will keep me running when I want to quit. This will keep me involved in the FIGHT when I want to quit. I loved these two men and I HATE cancer.