If we really want to get rid of suffering, completely and totally, then clinging has to go. The spiritual path is never one of achievement; it is always one of letting go. The more we let go, the more there is empty and open space for us to see reality. Because what we let go of is no longer there, there is the possibility of just moving without clinging to the results of the movement. As long as we cling to the results of what we do, as long as we cling to the results of what we think, we are bound, we are hemmed in. Meditating on No-Self: A Dhamma Talk (Edited for Bodhi Leaves), by Sister Khema(1994)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A tour of the battlefield

Ran 21km today.  Started about 9 a.m.  Getting hot here, that is for sure, managed to get some water and GU while running.  No watch still.  Just running.

The goal today was to take a tour of the Kyiv Marathon course.  I did this two weeks ago also. This time I ran the entire thing correctly however.  Spent a lot of time on Kyiv pedestrian walks, that is to say concrete and bricks; but not the cobblestones.

We do this loop three times.  As i see it there are two significant lengthy hills.  I still think I want to run it hard but not real hard.  I went 3:48 at Conemmara as I began to fall apart.  I really think a smart hard run should come in about 3:35 or 3:40 which would be fine. 

However, I've developed this crazy tightness behind my knee.  Stretching and trying to self diagnose as I am often want to do.  Probably ITB "stretching" is needed and plantaris, which also requires stretching so, that means stretching. 

In general, while running it loosens it up so I just don't know.  Today's run was nice, hot but nice, no watch, just running.  All that arises ceases though, remember.

Should be an interesting run on the 6th.

Not as tough a battlefield as Conemmara.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

No time for time

No watch again today.  It is Saturday and we have begun 9 days off with no work.  For some reason there are a lot of holidays in this semester at our school.  Not really for some reason, more like Ukraine has a lot of holidays.  This week Tuesday and Wednesday are actual national holidays for Easter I think, so the school is closed all week.  The week after the 9th is Ukraine and Russia's version of Victory Day from WW II.  A day later than the left hand side of the globe.

A nice 15km again today.  Much hotter than yesterday though.  Started thinking about what the trail gave me early on, that is to say, running to the shade.  Acclimation to the heat is always fun but necessary.  Had a basically okay week of running, but a real solid week of thinking about running. 

Now for something more important.  Here is today's picture out the window.  Note the total explosion.

Note that everything has leaves now.  Even the photo from early in the week didn't show color down low near the white car in this picture.  Nor in the trees in the back ground.  these white colors should be cherry trees but I also don't think the white will last long, its lucky I got them.  If you remember the last picture to the left of the farthest cherry tree that was white five days ago, and now it is completely green.

Anyway, no watch, no time, nature on works with what it is given.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Is it really just the little things?

No run yesterday.  I developed some sort of tightness two days ago over the course of the day.  I think part of the problem was I ran, which was a bit of hard work, and then didn't get enough water and then had to sit in a taxi for 45 minutes trying to get across Kyiv to our other school to meet with the teachers over there.  When I got out of the taxi I could barely get around and that is when I noticed the tightness.

The area was behind the knee from mid calf to mid hamstring.  I worked a lot of stretching in to my day and finally got it worked out but didn't run yesterday which was kind of disappointing.  I went through some very interesting feelings yesterday and earlier before today's run.  It is the same feeling I had last week.  Like I was pressuring myself to run.  I was working on this most of yesterday and before I rose this morning.  Really going on with some strange feelings about this.  But then,...

I had a cup of coffee and headed out the door to run today, I really wasn't really feeling it, felt like I was trying to find an excuse.  I reached for my watch to start it, and it wasn't there... I decided not to go back up to the elevator, go upstairs track it down and then go back down and start the ritual all over again, I just started to run.

And then there was a release... I've thought about every since I finished the run, no watch, no worries.  Just running.  A great feeling, not worrying about beings stopped by traffic, not worrying about adjusting stride for the trail, not worrying at all.

How is it that such a little thing like time can relieve all that pressure?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

three runs 24 hours

A nice 15k today around 5:00 p.m.  making it 3 runs in 24 hours or 40km in 24 hours.  If I were to run tomorrow at 8 or 9 that would be 55 km in about 36 hours, in the evening another 10km that would be 65 k in 48 hours. 

Wow, nothing like getting way ahead of yourself.

Dead legs, but running easy and light and just moving along.  But certainly not quick that is for sure.We had a very hard rain here today, it turned that tree really green, I'll get a picture of it up tomorrow I hope.

I've cut out the massive daily infusion of coffee and only had 1/2 a cup today.  I've switched to green tea for the time being.  How could 2 billion Chinese people be wrong?

Today is done.  Return, try not to crave, stay in the moment?  Now is the best teacher?

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Strange Phenomena

You might recall my "imaginary life" posting.  After five days of loss of everything I got back at it today.  I ran twice!  15km in the morning and 10km in the evening after work.  I went easy light both times and it was just enjoyable as hell.  Just running, ran with the watch but never looked at it and didn't turn it off when i was stopped by traffic a couple of times.  Just running.

Interesting feeling about craving the easy light feeling.  I lost it and so want to recapture it that I believe that there is an ability to do it every day, just craving it unfortunately.  Days like today you think it returns if you can just do that same thinking day after day.  Those are just not realistic thoughts, but the mind is of course a strange little thing.

 Perhaps it is interesting that I've written on this several times now so clearly I have identified this phenomena.

This is hilarious below:  this is a picture of the self serve ticket purchase for our underground here in Kyiv in preparation of Euro 2012.  Apparently they decided that they didn't really need to pay for someone to take a look at the English.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A to a screeching halt goes that good feeling

All that arises ceases.  Haven't run since Tuesday.  Wednesday, work, Thursday, work, Friday, work, Saturday and Sunday conference related to work.  Don't get me wrong, there were opportunities to get in miles, there were opportunities to do the usual mileage, not just junk miles.  I just couldn't get it generated, the feeling that I discussed some 10 days ago that lasted about 11 days came a screeching halt.

Interestingly, it seems to be returning again, I really feel like getting a nice week of running just for me and not really sweating the work.  Post conference blues, I'm sure.  On a lighter note my Plenary Session on International House World Organization branding practices went quite well and was well received by some people whose opinions I respect, mainly my co workers. 

And, then there  is a weather update, below is a picture outside the window taken yesterday, and lets have a review shall we?

As we can see, our foreground tree has picked up some more green, the ash on the right and in the background is slow to get started.  The great news is the on the far left you will see white blossoms against the second floor of the building on the left.  This tree will be the first of the highly colorful spring we will be having.

Looking forward to Monday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Witness my real life

I ran a nice 10km yesterday.  Today I worked 13 hours today, starting at about 7:00 a.m., getting home at about 8:15 p.m.  I was supposed to do intervals today.  I couldn't get near my shoes today.  My real life.

All I can do is try again tomorrow.  Remember, if easy is all you have, that isn't so bad.

Monday, April 16, 2012

My Imaginary Life

Today is a holiday in Ukraine, Orthodox Easter day off from yesterday.  So I thought I would dedicate today to my imaginary life.  And,...

Woke early, got in a quick 12km of relaxing miles.  Came back in and reloaded on nuts, fruits, cereal and protein.  Relaxed, did some writing, took a short nap.  About 13:00 went out for a tempo run at marathon pace for about 10km.  Very nice, with some excellent ascent and descent involved.  Heart rate and Blood sugar very good.  Came back in, relaxed, whole wheat bread, nuts, fruits (apples, pears, oranges) protein shake.  Napped for about two hours. 

Woke up, read some blogs, read the news on the internet, mainly comparisons of economic conditions in USA v. Europe and why each is better than the other.

Around 19:00 went for another 10km utilizing easy and light, probably around 9 min a mile.  Very easy, very light.  Nothing spectacular. 

Total of 32km for day various types, two good naps, good nutrition, plan to do 40 km tomorrow at about 9:00 a mile.

And now back to reality:  I ran 12k today, nice very relaxed after yesterday felt very good.  Of course I have to work tomorrow.  No sponsors, no shoe deal, no GU deal, I work, I run because I want to, I work because I have to.  I guess I don't have to, but I probably don't have the courage to live out of my car.

Still the run was nice today.  15km tomorrow.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

First look at Kyiv Marathon course.

Interesting repetition of things that happen all the time (sorry Yogi Berra).  I scheduled myself to run one lap of the Kyiv Marathon route.  In fact I almost did, but I turned around in the wrong place and what would have been 20km ended up being 18km. 

The Blood Sugar was good.  I am also taking a new multi vitamin from Schiff.  I got them at a GNC that is sort of a kiosk in Dreamtown mall in Kyiv.  I real find actually.

I really enjoyed the run I have to say.  A nice misty rain coming down for the whole thing.  Though I didn't particularly enjoy some of the people along the way.  Unfortunately, this race will be partly on cobble stones, ugh and then there were cars out there today, even though it is Orthodox Easter here.

Three interesting things on the run though.  The first was outside the Volodyrmyrski Cathedral where there was a really long line of people waiting have their baskets of eggs and bread blessed with holy water.  It looked like little red riding hood out there.  Number two was something I've never had happen here.  I was running through Khryschatyk where you can walk on the street on the weekends and there was a very old man on a bicycle wearing among other things a hat that said "Canada" on it.  He spoke to me in Russian for about 5 minutes and I nodded and said one or two word responses back to him.  The gist of his talk was that nobody gets exercise in this country anymore and you only see runners rarely.

Number three is an all time great classic.  As I was running just before the old man started talking to me I saw one of those bands from old Soviet days, or it looked like from old Soviet days, uniforms like that, big hats like that and a lot of very old people standing around waiting for them to play.  Tow things came to mind, one, this must be a fight against Easter by the former communists, and two, they look just like the people who I saw on TV today for N. Korean celebration, same outfits, everything.

Well on the way back on the loop I saw the band, only this time they were playing the music in the street in formation and they were dancing like they were trying out for the Florida A&M Marching Rattlers, it was great, just great, and now it wasn't old people looking at them it was a huge crowd of young people.

Another interesting day in Kyiv.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Nice Week, Nice Weather

Spring has finally sprung here in Kyiv.  Today it is +20 C, and was +12 C as early as 8 a.m.  When I ran it was +18 C, limited wind.

The trees are starting to get some leaves.  There is a very nice willow tree across the street from my flat that I look forward to watching progress through the year.  I like watching trees progress here.  Maybe because it is a city and a big one at that, so you don't get to see it unless you look.  Across the street is an elementary/primary school with some trees so pictures.  I like to take pictures of the trees outside my flats as they progress out of winter into fall.  It is a long process, but part of the fun of city living I guess.  Here is the opening shot as of 14.04.12.

Willow is in the foreground, I look forward to seeing what the ash on the right and the trees in the back ground are going to look like over time.  This willow just sprung to life only two days ago.

As to the run today, really enjoyable.  Good Blood Sugar and nice easy light approach.  Trying to focus on that.  The stone bruise is still there but I am really pleased with this last week.  I've run 8 days in a row and enjoyed every day of it.  That is so nice.

Nice week, nice weather.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Your mind is evil

I ran 15k on Thursday and 12k today.  The Thursday run was interesting for what it was.  It started out fairly dead just working on easy and light.  I had pretty much decided that it would just be a get around junk mile day because I really needed to find out how much damaged had been done from the intervals.

Based on the training I've been doing over the past three years I really felt that running that hard on Wednesday would surely lead to some type of pain that I wouldn't be able to tolerate and would need to take a day off.  Why you ask?  Because I've spend that last 5 years thinking I'm a diabetic and ex seriously injured person and I've had injury after injury after injury from various things.

And,.... nothing, I actually ran beautifully, easy  and light and pretty relaxed.  No pain, some dead legs to start but just an all in all very good run.  What's changed?  Well I think Conemarra has changed everything.  The training for that showed me that I was really giving it excuses that really weren't there.

But the speed work, shouldn't there have been pain the next day?  Why should there have been, because there was in the past, or because the pain you associate with the past should realize that day?  But hasn't my mind been telling me all this time, you can't do it, the diabetes gets in the way, you've got this horrible foot injury from 1994 you can't do it.

Obviously I can run 64 km without pain, recover from it nicely in 6 days and get right back at it. 

Secondly, speed work is good for you and it makes your body remember things that it could do in the past and all these excuses are just that, excuses.

Your mind is evil

By the way, todays morning run was wonderful.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mind and Muscle Memory

One of the things I learned from Conemarra is that I need to do something about leg turnover and pacing.  Also, I think that I've been reading some good articles on iRunFar that shed some light on different ways to do things.  One thing is, every body seems to have an idea and the almost no one has it down.  What works for one may not work for another.

With that in mind, I woke up this morning really tired.  I didn't run, but since I got off earlier today, I decided to do run in the evening. I also decided I need some speed work.  I chose to run over to the track and do real live speed work. 

Now, I haven't done speed work for real since 1994.  So I had no idea, and of course my expectations were trying to be kept in check.  I chose to do 400's.  I ended up doing 8 x 400. 

Interestingly, I was also trying to do, easy light smooth.  It doesn't work in speed work.  The first 400 was 1:58.  1:58!  are you kidding me?  I've run a 14:49 5k in my life.  Oh by the way, my body had no clue what was going on, curves - straights?  what the hell is all of this.  Next one 1:55!  Uh, are you that old that you will never run fast again in your life?  Still nothing in response, but I was certainly lose.  I was taking 200m jogs between each.  1:50 for the third one, still nothing, and really my brain couldn't figure out the cadence, how to work the curves, nothing.

I decided to lose the easy light thing and just go for it.  Next one was 1:38 and wasn't as bad as I thought but clearly my muscles and mind had forgotten how to do this speed work.  I did it again, 1:40, started to remember how to work a curve and a last straight away.  Next one 1:39, at least consistent, beginning to feel better with each one.  Pushed some more, 1:37.  Start to breath heavy, this I remember, but also starting to see the track like your supposed to in speed work, where you want to be on the track at certain times, when you should push etc.

Ran the last one not all out but going hard.  1:32.  Now that is progress, muscles now remembering what speed feels like.  Remembering why speed work is good. 

Slow warm down and think about it. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Watching, learning, reading, running

I ran 10k and 15k Monday and Tuesday.  Both runs were focused on easy and light.  Yesterday's weather was early morning crap and today was still a bit chilly.  +2 for both days.  Rain yesterday, wind today.  All in all, I really would like to get into some short sleeves and run a bit.  It will happen.  Patience.

The thing about easy, light, smooth, fast, is the light part.  Easy I can do, I, like just about everyone can be naturally relaxed under no pressure.  For me it is trying not to see past the next step.  Today and yesterday I got to points in the run where I began to think about how far I had to go.  This of course defeats the point of Light (run like you don't care how far it is or how high the hill is).

All in all, getting back at it is very enjoyable.  I'd like (grasping) to get in some nice 100km weeks or 100+ weeks over the next few weeks.  We will see how that goes.  I have a data set of four days and of course think it will last forever.  (all that arises ceases).

I read Anton Krupicka's blog today and his continuing struggles with his shin which I only know about from reading about it.  But he, like all of us I guess, has his own inner fight with not trying to over do it.  Even someone in that kind of fantastic shape has that problem, that was interesting to read about. 

I'm still pondering Conemarra on a regular basis.  I did my first set of core exercises yesterday in what seems like 9 or 10 months.  Trying to get back to that every other day if possible and eat right and stay hydrated. 

Watching, learning, reading, running.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A post script to Conemarra and Caballo Blanco

I am now one full week post the ultra.  I ran Saturday, 12km and today 15km with an eye toward what is in the last paragraph of my write up on Conemarra.  I still have some residual soreness in the left adductor but other than that everything seems very nice and I had two very nice easy runs yesterday and today.  Blood Sugar is good, feet are good, shoes are good.

If you don't know who Caballo Blanco is, adopted name of Micah True, he is a central character of a book called "Born to Run".  My sister-in-law gave me this book as a gift some two years ago.    I devoured the book, but re read the sections on Christopher McDougall's visits with True several times.  I have some favorite quotes which I have used here, such as:  "why take two steps when you can take three?"

Two days before Conemarra ultraRunningonline.com posted that True was missing after going for a run.  On the day of the race it was confirmed that he had been found dead.  At the time I was saddened by this news as I felt a connection with some of the words he has said but also that many of us probably would love to take the approach he has taken over time, however, can't/don't/won't for various reasons and that we admired greatly what he was doing.

I've had one week to reflect on Conemarra and during that time McDougall had a very nice article on BBC Online, my main source of news, which held yet another of the great True quotes.  I've had time to come to terms with my experience, what I would like to see happen from that experience, but at the same time not grasping for what I want to do as a result.  Simultaneously, my favorite quote has somehow centered me with not grasping and not over exceeding expectations.

From "Born to Run", by Christopher McDougall,

"Don't fight the trail. Take what it gives you," he began. "Lesson two - think easy, light, smooth and fast. You start with easy, because if that's all you get, that's not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don't [care] how high the hill is or how far you've got to go.

"When you've practised that so long that you forget you're practising, you work on making it smooooooth. You won't have to worry about the last one - you get those three, and you'll be fast."
  (Micah True, aka Caballo Blanco)

My last two runs endeavored to work on easy and light.  I think it will be some time before I get to smooth and fast.  I am really enjoying easy and light. 

Thank you Mr. True.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Conemmara Ultra Write Up - or; Great Expectations are merely expectations

October, 1992, I ran 2:45:05 at the Dublin Marathon, I finished 94th out of 3000 + runners.  I crashed and burned because I did good training but didn’t respect pace or show patience.  After that I ran a very good marathon the next year by adding some training in places and respecting the early part of the race and the pace of the race.

Twenty years later 1 April 2012 and a great deal of water under the bridge.
0600, woke up easily.  Didn’t sleep very well, but I knew that would be the case.  I did sleep a lot on Saturday as I travelled for some 19 hours just to get to Clifden, IE from Kyiv, UA.  The race schedule called for a 7:20 bus to the briefing which would be 0815, then bus one mile up the road to the start.  I started the day with a hot shower, had two cups of coffee and then headed downstairs to wait for 7:20.  There were a lot of people doing the Ultra who were staying at the hotel so there were quite a few in the lobby.  The bus we took ended up full.  My number was 390174 (cute the 39 stood for the ultra as we were going 39.3 miles)  This entire race was in miles of course, not kilometers.  

I didn’t know the route really at all.  I had been down about 10 miles of it without knowing I had been when I took the trip from Galway to Clifden.  It was significant rolling hills and we drove back up that road to the briefing area which was Peackock’s Hotel at Maam Cross. It looked like there were about 225 of us in total at the briefing.  Turns out that is about right.  We heard from the director, got our directions, turn right, turn right, turn right turn right, run down hill and then met the current 100 km world champion from Italy, really nice guy and about to run really fast. 

I didn’t prepare any dropbags as I packed 12 GU’s, strawberry banana and tri berry, plus insulin, test strips, meter and the thing that pricks your finger that I can never remember the name of in a fanny pack.  Having already practiced with this in the 40kms and 50kms runs I was comfortable with the fanny pack.  I wore an Adidas Clima Cool shirt, number front and back, compression shorts and running shorts along with socks and Adidas CC Ride shoes that had about 60 kms on them at the start.  I didn’t wear the wrap on my leg as it felt very good.  In fact, it feels good as I write this, which is full evidence that I should never ever buy a pair of shoes that does not fit/is too big again in my life!

 Early days with the group referenced below

I took off my t shirt that I brought because it felt cold, put it in my end of race drop bag, along with an apple, my water bottle and put it where it was supposed to go. I kind of felt like I was in a fog, my focused kept wavering from what was happening to sort of following the line of people and what they were doing.  I occasionally would listen to conversations, but what I learned was we were all kind of doing the same thing, only close friends were really speaking, we seemed to be following each other like lemmings to the cliff.
 I kept my gloves on, race time temperature was about 6 C.  I wore the gloves for the first 6 miles probably.  We took the bus to the start at 0840 where we had the first hilarious moment of the day.  It looked like every man in the field decided to go from the bus to the nearest field and acid fertilize (urinate) the man’s property.  I’m glad I waited, as more than one person stepped immediately in to a peat bog and got to run 40 miles with one clean shoe and one mud covered shoe.  But eventually I did make my personal contribution to the property line.  We slowly got ready and they called two minutes, I was about 15 rows back I think.

I had a plan which I spoke about previously.  Start slow and work my way into things and run somewhere between 8:15 and 8:30 miles, which is to say that I had expectations of my fitness level and what I had done leading up to this run.  In the final analysis I learned you can have expectations but if you don’t respect the course your ass is grass, end of story.

The first mile was downhill and probably the mile marker was  in the wrong place as we went through in about 9:30.  Mile two, however, seemed a little more correct and that was 16:44 (8:22’s).  By this time we began to have a nice group of people, some people moving quickly up, others staying together, others showing restraint and falling back.  I perceived myself as someone showing restraint as there were people around me.  Next time I will know that that feeling isn’t restraint, it is the early part of the race when we are all still together for a bit.  I was around a pack of French people from a club in Toulouse and ran with them for about 1.5 miles.  At the front of this pack was a Belgian women who had a bike rider accompanying her.  I ran with her for about 2 miles.  I didn’t look at the watch again until about mile 5.  

The scenery was just gorgeous, the sun was shining brightly and at this point we had the wind at our back and the rolling hills were not really any sort of problem.  By far this was the most spectacular part of the run, the weather was beautiful, the wind at our back, I felt extremely good and the beginning os a series of rolling hills went barely unnoticed by me as I seemed to be maintaining my pace.  

My pace was very good and I seemed to be turning 8:25’s or there abouts.  Unfortunately, at 5 miles I realized I was all alone.  I would stay that way for about 5 hours with the occasional conversation with someone I passed or someone who passed me.  I in fact had failed to maintain concentration about the concept of the length of the race.  It felt great so I continued on, not knowing there would be so many hills (I knew, I chose to ignore them for concentrating on the final hill) and therefore I just ran and didn’t think to consider that maybe I should stay with the group for a long time.  Just didn’t think about it.  Can you tell I am now?

And then there was pissing boy.  In Brussels of course they have the statute called “The Pissing Boy”.  There was a guy who went by me at about mile 2 who built up quite a quick distance on me.  But at mile 3, 5, 7, 9 he stopped to urinate and each time he started up again about 20meters ahead of me and rebuilt the lead.   I really felt that this guy was strong and this was my first strange feeling at mile 9, as in, how does he keep doing that, is he running that much faster than me, is he in that much better shape than I am?

I went through 6 miles in about 50+ minutes and seemed very comfortable.  I didn’t see the watch again until 10 miles.  Miles 7-9 were a series of very rolling hills and I ran this with three guys between 100meters and 50 meters in front of me, I could hear the French behind me and could not believe that they were just jabbering away.  My mental conversation was completely incorrect.  I was thinking about how long I should take to overcome both of the two guys in front of me.  I was not thinking about the rolling hills that just kept coming.  I was very comfortable physically.  But I was not, thinking about it now, considering the down range problems that I just didn’t have the experience to think about before the race and have learned from this race.

The conversations I had so far were merely about the weather and how beautiful it was.  I still thought this place was gorgeous, and I was very comfortable.  At 10 miles I was about 84 minutes and we made a write turn toward the Kilgore Monastery.  

This was a beautiful part of the run.  Lakes and bogs with sun shining surrounded by very large hills covered in rock and gorse.  We basically took a lake road for 3 miles until we reached the first ½ marathon point which is also where the companion marathon started.  Up to this point I had taken water at 5 and 10 miles.  I took GU 15 minutes before the race and took my second one at 5 miles as I ran and drank, this was pretty comfortable, it wouldn’t be later.  The water was in 250ml bottles. 

At the 10 mile turn we turned into a wind, which would accompany me for the next 25 miles.  Another factor that I had not considered, or factor into mental consideration for this amount of time on my feet.  This lack of experience is of course a recurring theme from this experience.  But that really is the point isn’t it?  Learn, use the information for next time, adapt, change, learn from the next one.  

At 10 we had what I considered our first serious ½ mile long hill and I found myself having to work very hard here and that I had caught the two guys in front of me and went by them; but another caught me and went by me like I was standing still and I never saw him again.

The 13 mile water stop was early and I took one bottle of water which I sipped on through the ½ marathon point, which was also the first time we went across a timing mat.  I went through here in just under 1:49, almost exactly what I thought I should be doing.  I also tested my blood sugar here and it was 206, so I took 2 units of humulog and on GU and off I went again.  Another interesting experience, I have been out of competitive running for so long that I didn’t know how timing mats felt I think I stumbled over this one in fact.

My first truly serious error occurred shortly thereafter.  I picked up the pace through a very hilly section of the course.  I worked this for about 5 miles.  I went through 15.1 miles at 2:06, write about 8:30’s, this should have been a hint that the hills required more respect.  My water stop at 16 miles was fine, just water, but then I started to really feel like crap around 18 miles, and there were hills coming and going and rolling along and feeling like there were good downhills with them.  There was going to be water at 19 miles, about half way.  I was surprised that I felt so bad, this area had a lot of hills in it and I was trying to pull experience from my training to work through it because I couldn’t figure it out. What seemed to be the problem.
A thought occurred to me, why not test your sugar! 

an attempt at pushing it with sets of hills in the background

I did, I’d had a bonk and the type 1 diabetes had made its entrance into the experience, blood sugar down to 60 from the 206 from those 2 units of humulog, I took two GU’s and two bottles of water at 19 miles.  I was at 2:43 here, which meant I’d gone about 4 miles in about 37 minutes (I didn’t figure this out then, this is analysis afterward) .  I immediately felt better, but then we took a right turn again and went straight uphill for a mile.  This really did a number on me, but I didn’t know it yet.  At this point I was still on a good pace for something about 5:35.  Or so I assumed that all we be the fine now that I had found and solved the problem.  Again, lack of experience.

On review, this part of the course was really very difficult, it was mostly uphill with the type of hills where you reach the pinnacle only to find you get 100meters of downhill and go straight up very quickly again.  Also, with the exception of passing two guys and being passed by one guy who really looked amazing, I was jealous of his relaxed demeanor; I was running alone for a very very long time.  I think this being alone is why I like running.  However, it is very unique to this type of racing as the distances are so long and at some point you spend a lot of time by yourself and again, experienced learned.

Once we had climbed these hills we were sent down hill for about a mile then uphill and I got water at 22 miles and I took two bottles, one I stopped a drank immediately the other I carried for about ½ a mile until I finished it.  I still thought I was okay here, we were coming toward the marathon and I was making the critical mistake of getting too far ahead in the race, I began to think about the last ½ marathon of the race instead of focusing on my body and doing an inventory of what was happening.

And slowly I began to unravel.  I started to feel my quads hurting at about 20 miles, now they hurt a great deal and suddenly I had stabbing pain in both quads, above the knee (vastus medialis).  I had to stop and kneed out the cramping.  It seemed very early to have cramping, potassium?  Carbs?  Water?  I had no idea but I knew I was in serious trouble if it was like this this early.  Water at 22 seemed to solve the problem.  From here on out the experience would be aid station, water, fine, one mile from next aid station, all hell breaking lose in my legs from cramping.  By now the temperature was 15 C about 72 F.  I had a fleeting thought of running a 50km training run in Kyiv when it was -20C.  Hmmm, some things you can’t control I guess.

Getting to the marathon point was a gentle downhill which brought me to a stop because of the quad problem.  I went through the marathon in 3:48.  It had taken me 2 hours to do the second ½ marathon.  I was doing quick calculations in my head and knew it would be tight if I hung on.  That actually was an absolutely ridiculous expectation.  We turned right and went straight uphill.  My first thought was the ½ marathon starts on an uphill?  My second thought was pure mental unhappiness, “this just isn’t fair, how can they make us go uphill again?”  Again, complaining about something that I chose to do and not respecting the type of terrain that an ultra marathon requires, it can’t be flat unless it is in another country, not this area of the country.  On introspection I even knew this would be a hard hill I had looked at the elevation map dozens of times.  I just didn’t respect what it meant.  Another great experience.

This was really a very down moment for me, this thing went a very long way uphill, at least a mile.  I spent all my pre race visualization on the last hill of the race that I clearly had not mentally prepared for the whole point of an Ultra, the long winding road that is doing this type of race, its not a road race that is flat and fast, or marathons that are flat and fast, it is a race of patience, and I seemed to have run out.  Fortunately for me I was starting to catch the back part of the Marathon group so at least there was human contact.
Uphill at this point was far easier than downhill.  A rea lesson here is doing more down hills in training.  By now my form is a mess, I’m half bent over just following my shadow around and time is just going quietly by.  At 28 miles I tested again, still I was at 72, I took two more GU’s and two bottles of water, but I was walking in order to get it all in.  Every time I walked it took a good amount of mental preparation to start to run again. Hips, quads, feet were all feeling it.  It took almost 21 minutes to run that two miles.  Things were not good.  Making it even better, at 28 miles a guy stopped in front of me, in the Ultra race and muttered, “I’m done”.    For a short time I wondered “am I?”  I’m also starting to get passed by more than a few ultra runners who have showed a bit more patience, training, knowledge, whatever and they looked very fresh.  Really tough on me again.

I genuinely considered stopping right here.  But it only lasted for about 30 seconds.  I passed a point here regarding expectations.  I came to a decision, and I have no idea how, probably mental protection regarding failure; but I did decide to just enjoy it and pick my head up and look around some more and see what was on the course.  This was very useful for about 2 miles until I started cramping again.  I was really looking forward to the 31 mile/50km stop in order to see my time as compared to my 50km training run.  I hobbled in to this stop in 4:40 (I ran 4:43 in the training run).  I had 8.3 miles to go, 10 minute miles would get it done. 

No chance.  And uphill we went again.  Every uphill reduced me to a 12 minute pace at least, each downhill brought on the stabbing pain in my groin and my quads and my feet.  I began to break down the run into 1 mile sections.  Not looking at the watch, and was analyzing how the pain was coming.  My running form had turned in to something that felt like I was duck walking, I kept looking at my feet and I wasn’t doing that but my mind kept thinking I was running with my feet splayed out like I was doing cross country skiing uphill.  About mile 33 I gave up on sub 6.  I just tried to learn from everything happening around me.  My mind was everywhere, first focused on running, then focused on trying not to feel disappointed then trying to put one foot after the other.  At this point I was channeling Bryan Powell and “Relentless Forward Progress.”
A very funny moment was soon to come.  We made a right turn and came into about 35 + miles and crossed over a bridge and were about to do the “Hell of the West” the two miles uphill I have written about and mentally done in my head many times.  I come up on this water stop and here is a man with a box screaming “Fig Bars, Fig Bars”, I take two waters, drink one immediately, and turn to him and say rather loudly “I don’t have any money.”  He politely tells me, “well done, they’re free for everyone lad.”  I look at him a little wild eyed and say “Free?”  I take six and cram them in my mouth and then have some water.  Instant cookie dough in my mouth, not the smartest thing but it sure was something to pull out of my teeth for the next four miles eat.

 do i look like a duck to you?

At this point the hill is there and I am walking and have been walking for 1 minute, I don’t know what the time is and I don’t want to know, I begin to talk to myself and slowly start to run, I begin to pick up what I would call pace, maybe 10 minutes a mile and run this hill for all my life.  This thing just keeps going and going and going, I pass about 10 people, none of them ultra runners, and finally reach the top to be met by an ambulance that is stationed there permanently after the death of a runner who ascended and had a heart attack in 2007.  This is 37.1 miles, I refuse the water and start downhill.

What a nightmare, you can see the finish building for 2.2 miles and it never gets closer and it wasn’t all down hill it still had one more little rolling hill in it.  I’m going down hill and my quads are just death warmed over, I seem to be leaning predominantly to one side and I still feel like I am duck walking but I’m not.  To add insult to injury we get over that rolling hill go down a bit then go up about two meters and then start toward the finish shoot and I finally get it done in 6:17:34.  Good for 94 I find out later, barely in the top half of the race.


Physically I felt destroyed, I had no elation at all at finishing.  And I had to get on a bus to go back to the hotel.  I could barely put one foot in front of the other.  I couldn’t lift my legs for the next four hours.  I got home, showered, took a nap for two hours and woke up in excruciating pain.  I slowly tried to ambulate and was able to move forward a bit but my feet were just killing me.  I put them in ice cold water and then went and had dinner.  

After dinner I got back to the hotel room and started to begin to try and stretch.  This process went on through the night as I woke up every two hours to go to the bathroom.  As early morning came on I started to feel a bit better.  

Now on Wednesday pain is gone in all areas and I will try to run a leisurely bit tomorrow.  Don’t even know how far.

As you can see from the write up, I learned a great deal in this my first true competitive ultra.
My training was clearly not appropriate, too much taper, not enough long runs, not enough prep time.  I spent 12 weeks on this but didn’t get enough in the bank clearly and took too many days off.  Some people do this with several days off but all of their runs are longer runs.  My diet is probably wrong as well.

Finally, it is time to decrease expectations.  Enjoy these runs, and the workouts and the ability to just put one foot after another because you can.  Stop trying to beat the clock and work on different expectations that involve the experience itself, because in an ultra each course is different, each distance is different it is so different from racing shorter distances and the mind work is different and the joys are different.  But if you show some patience and relaxation you can accomplish some realistic goals instead of unrealistic goals.
Finally, it is enjoyable, really. 

We’ll see where it goes from here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Really amazing

Did not reach my goal, but I did finish in the top half.  I'll write more tomorrow, but I ran 6:17:34.  1:49 first half, 2:00 second half, 2:25 last half, a real crash and burn.  Learned a great deal.  A beautiful course, just beautiful..

More to follow.