Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 Year in Review

Well, it's that time again, time to review what happened in 2005. (Here's my summary of 2004).

Miles walked: 1,808.7
Time spend walking: 16 days, 17h 20m 57s. I spent about 4.6% of my year walking!
Average pace: 13:24/mile

Number of races: 10 (if you count Three Days of Syllamo as three races)
Shortest race: Three Days of Syllamo: Day 1 (20k)
Longest race: Ultracentric 24 Hour (100.24 miles)
Fastest pace: 10:13/mile (Lake Benbrook Half Marathon)
Slowest pace: 18:33/mile (Laurel Highlands 70.5 Mile Ultra)
DNFs: 0
DNSs: 1 (White Rock Half Marathon, day after Sunmart)
Pacing: 60 miles at Heartland 100

I walked fewer miles than last year (probably because I did too much racing late in the year and had to reduce my training mileage). I also did fewer races than last year (because for most of last year I was doing 5k, 15k and half marathons).

But I feel great about this year because I now feel like I am an ultramarathoner. Last year it was all new and scary and I was still trying to see what I was capable of accomplishing. There are still many things I want to accomplish, but I feel like 2005 was the year I proved to myself that I could be an ultramarathon walker. As I go forward into 2006 and beyond my goal will be to solidify my base and push myself toward new challenges. I'll describe those challenges in my 2006 Goals post.

Hope you all had a successful and fulfilling 2005! And Good Luck in 2006!!!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Am I back?

Ever since I started this spate of racing back in October my training has been very, very spotty. When I have trained it hasn't been very satisfactory--slow, achy, frustrating. I've trained several times after Sunmart and they've all been frustrating or disappointing--I even cut some short, which I almost never, ever do.

Well, maybe those days are behind me. I finally had a good training walk yesterday. I went out to the paved trails near my house (the other night my daughter and I saw a beaver here when we were walking our dog). I was determined to do some speed work so I did an Acceleration Tempo walk, my favorite form of speed work.

I did 6.26 miles and here were my splits:

9:50 (.26 miles)

Now for you speed demons out there this probably seems slow. And even for me these are slow (as a point of reference, my half marathon PR pace is 10:13 and my 8k PR pace is 9:49). But this is the first time I've gotten below 11:00 in a long time, so I feel like I'm finally recovering from my excessive race schedule.

My plan for the coming year will be less racing and better training.

Tomorrow I want to do 2 to 4 hours at a new trail, Arbor Hills. I'm going to shoot for four but if I start to have any pains or problems I'll scale back. I don't want to push too hard too soon.

Rocky Raccoon is only five weeks away!!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Almost Famout....From the Back

Remember in October when I paced my friends in the Heartland 100? Well we all made Ultrarunning magazine, sort of:

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At least Frances and Marla got a mention!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2005 Goals in Review

Ooops! I didn't do very well on my 2005 goals:

1. Complete the Heartland 100 Mile Endurance Run in October.
Nope. I successfully paced my friends in the Heartland 100, but I didn't feel I was ready so I never registered.

2. Get a bicycle and do some cross training.
Nope, but I got some money for Christmas and have already started shopping for a bike, so I will accomplish this one (a year late).

3. Stick with an exercise routine--primarily just situps and pushups, but I want to stick with it to improve my strength and reduce my gut.
Nope. It's hard to stick with my walking training, much less add in additional time and effort.

4. Lose about 10-15 more pounds (about 5 of those pounds were added this month!).
Nope. I've gained about 12-14 pounds compared to my lowest weight, so I really failed here.

Oh well, I had a great year in many other ways so I'm not too worried about this. Soon I'll post a recap of 2005 and goals for 2006.

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and is ready for an exciting 2006!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

New PR at Sunmart!

Yesterday I completed the Sunmart Texas Trails 50 Mile Endurance Run (walk). This was my second Sunmart, and it was a great day!
This race reminded me why I do ultras. Except for the pain, it was a great experience from beginning to end.

For some details on the race (map, logistics, etc.) see my report from last year. The race goodies were pretty much the same, same hotel, same course, etc. After picking up my packet we went to visit my new two month old cousin and have dinner, then drove to our hotel in Huntsville.

I slept well and the next morning my wife and daughter drove me to the race at around 6:15. I had them drop me off (they went back to the hotel and to sleep) and I wandered around getting pysched up for the race and visiting with friends. Joe Prusaitis of the Hill Country Trail Runners had offered to let NTTR members drop their bags in their tent so I looked for their tent and found a place to drop my bag. In the tent I ran into Jennifer who was running her first 50k that day and who had a great race.

I ran into my walking friends from the marathon walkers Yahoo! group that I had dinner with last year. They are a great bunch of friendly, hard walking women and it was great to see them again. They were all doing the 50k. I was chatting with them when I realized it was almost time to start so I headed over to the start area. After the National Anthem the race began and we were off. I quickly dropped to almost last place, but that never bothers me. I need time to warm up, plus I'm slower on the flat pavement at the start of the race than most runners. I usually catch people on the trails and the hills.

After about 1/4 mile I saw a familiar face on the side of the trail. My good friend Frances, who I met at last year's Sunmart, was looking for me and gave me a big hug and some encouragement. She was also doing the 50k and appears to have had a great day judging from the results.

After that it was into the woods. The Sunmart trail is great--very scenic and wooded, at times straight and easy, at times twisty and rooty. This year there were only two muddy patches and after the first or second loop someone had placed a temporary wooden sidewalk and hay over them so we could keep our feet relatively dry and clean.

There are three features that I like a lot about Sunmart:
1. It's a loop course. Normally I don't like loops, but it's nice to see people several times on the loops. You get to know your comrades in this effort.

2. There is a long out-and-back after about 1.2 miles that is 1.2 miles out and another 1.2 back. It's a little boring, but again you get to see people, make temporary friends, commiserate, encourage, etc.

3. There is a portion of the trail at the start/finish area that is shared by incoming runners and outbound runners, so again you get to see people ahead of you who have finished their loops and offer them words of encouragement.

During loop one I found all the hidden pains that hadn't fully recovered from Ultracentric. My left ankle started hurting but it wasn't sharp or severe, it didn't affect my pace or form and it didn't seem to be getting any worse. But my hips were really hurting, and it was getting worse. I kept pushing the pace and tried not to worry about it. When I'm having pain I try to "draw in" from the pain: I imagine myself as smaller than my physical body and not really attached; I'm just sort of floating around in there. So I tried to ignore the pain and keep the pace.

I ate and drank well at all the aid stations and periodically sipped on my bottle. I took an electrolyte caplet every hour but after two loops I noticed some swelling so I stopped. I tried to switch between sweet and salty foods so I wouldn't get sick to my stomach; I didn't have any nausea problems at all that day.

I finished loop 1 in 2:42, exactly the same as last year and a 12:57 pace. I was very happy with that. I stopped at my bag to drop off my gloves and then headed back out. I continued to keep moving at a pretty quick pace. The cutoff for loop 3 is 3:30, and I can't take that cutoff for granted. Although the overall race allows a pace of 14:24, I had to maintain a pace of 13:36 to make the cutoff. I knew I had to push myself hard for three loops and then, if necessary, I would have 3:30 or more to complete the last loop so I could take it easy.

My hips were really screaming at me during the second loop. I promised my body some Advil after the second loop if it got me where I needed to be. I gradually got to know my fellow racers (I started thinking of us as the "Flashlight Finishers" because the back-of-the-packers would finish in the dark). I finished the second loop in 2:48, giving me three hours to finish loop three. As long as I didn't have any crises I should be able to make it. My concern was my hips.

As I promised, I took two Advil as I left for loop three. After a while I started to feel markedly better. I was able to walk mostly pain free and started to really enjoy the race. This was probably one of my favorite times in ultrawalking. Again I got to chat with my fellow racers, aid station personnel, etc. We enjoyed sharing stories, talking about the cutoffs and the pace, and the camaraderie of doing something hard. I started saying "Good job" or "good work" or "looking strong" to everyone I saw. At one point I was getting ready to pass two slightly slower women. As I came up on the right I said, "I'm about to zip by you on the left; don't be alarmed." As I slowly crept by them one of them said, "What was that yellow blur?!" (I was wearing my yellow Ultracentric shirt) and the other said, "I have wind burn on my face!" It was a great day to be alive and out on the trails.

I exchanged places with several people and groups of people. Everyone was suffering but most were still able to joke and enjoy the experience. As I got close to the end of loop 3 I started to really push, and I ended up finishing in 2:49. Now I had 3:41 minutes to finish the last loop. I knew I could do that, even if it was death march.

As I left for loop four I gave myself the luxury of an easy walk (and two more Advil). I knew I would finish and started to think I would PR so I decided to give myself a little break. As I was walking back out I saw lots of people coming in, some finishing the race and some finishing loop three. Again there was lots of encouragement shouted around, especially to those of us heading back out for our final loop.

I chatted a little more with some of my fellow racers and again enjoyed a great loop. I can usually finish strong if I've paced myself, and I can also walk fast in the dark, so I felt I would pass some people on the last loop (like I did last year). I don't care about "beating people," but it is motivating to be able to pass people. So I was able to keep up a nice pace and pass quite a few people. I don't think anyone passed me on the last loop, but I probably passed at least ten people. At about 5:30 I had to turn on my lights. Not long after that I got to the last aid station. Only 2.8 miles to go! I shouted, "104 coming in, and I'm going home" and skipped the aid station. I took one more Advil so I could stay strong to the finish.

I started to realize I would finish ahead of plan. Unfortunately I had told my wife and daughter to be there at 6:30; I didn't think there was any way I would finish earlier than that. I was afraid they wouldn't be there when I finished and I really wanted to see them.

I picked up the pace as best as I could and started to take it home. It was really hard to see the trail in the dark since the trail and the surrounding land were almost indistinguishable. Luckily they had more glow sticks than last year so that helped. I had to slow down a little but I tried to push as hard as I could. I started to think I could beat last year's time (11:47) by 20 minutes. Finally I emerged from the woods onto the leaf-covered asphalt trail to the finish. Push, push, push. I came out of the woods and had trouble seeing the path to the finish line but found it with the help of a race volunteer. Finally I could see the race clock: 11:27 and counting, so I pushed hard and finished at 11:27:34 (chip time 11:27:04). I beat last year's time by a little over twenty minutes.

And best of all, my wife and daughter had arrived early and were cheering for me as I crossed the finish line. A volunteer clipped off my chip, I collected my medal (afghan to follow by mail) and we headed to the car and to Chili's for a big meal and a Shiner Bock. After that we made the long drive back to Dallas to a warm shower and straight into bed.

So I feel like I had a good race, and I wonder what I could have done if I hadn't just completed Ultracentric two weeks ago. Could I get to 11:00? I'm not sure if that's possible, but I might try to find out next year. I've definitely decided to take a break from racing and give my body time to recover. I've done three ultras in five weekends, and although it's been fun it's also been painful and it's totally wrecked my weekday training. I'm always tapering or recovering so my training has suffered. So I've decided to skip Bandera in January and focus on Rocky Raccoon 100 miler on February 4.

Here's an analysis of my splits compared to last year. I had the same slowest split and fastest split, but I was able to maintain a faster pace on the other two loops.

Loop 1: 2:42 (12:57 pace) Last Year: 2:42
Loop 2: 2:48 (13:26 pace) Last Year: 2:59
Loop 3: 2:49 (13:31 pace) Last Year: 3:06
Loop 4: 3:06 (14:53 pace) Last Year: 2:59

And here are this year's official results.

Ultracentric 24 Hour Race Report

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI was very excited about this race. I had my bags packed and my gear all picked out almost a week before the race. I felt like I was going to be successful and I was ready for the challenge. My family was out of town visiting relatives the two weeks before the race so that gave me plenty of opportunity to sleep late, relax and reserve my energy for the race.

The night before the race I slept well until about 1:30, then fitfully until about 4:30, then I went ahead and got up and read (Swimming to Antarctica, a fascinating book and a perfect choice before an ultra event). Since the race didn't start until 10:00 AM (unusual for races, especially ultras) I had the luxury of taking a shower, making a latte and eating a leisurely breakfast, then going by Starbucks for a second latte on the way to the race.

I got to the race area (Greenhill School, a private school in Addison just North of Dallas, Texas) about 9:00 and met some of my ultra friends and the other walker in the event, Ollie Nanyes. Ollie is very involved in the racewalking and ultrawalking scene. He approached the Ultracentric Race Director last year and this year about co-hosting the Centurion event, so it is largely because of Ollie that we even have Centurion events in the US right now (they are more popular in Europe and Australia). Ollie introduced me to Dave Gwyn, important figure in the Texas/Houston racewalking scene, and Scott Demaree, ultrawalker and ultrarunner who became US Centurion 60 at the 2004 Ultracentric. Dave and Scott would share judging duties.

For those of you not familiar with Centurion events, it is very simple. To be a Centurion, you must walk 100 miles in 24 hours at a judged event. Judges must establish rules in advance and must ensure that all entrants adhere to the rules. In standard racewalking there are two rules (no bent knees and no loss of contact). In ultrawalking the bent knee rule is usually not observed, and that was the case with Ultracentric. Basically, you couldn't run. You had to have one foot on the ground at all times and could not run at any time.

It was overcast and cool when I arrived at the race, and right before the time to start a light rain began to fall. I put on a long sleeve running shirt and jacket and was wearing shorts. After the race started I quickly changed into my short sleeve shirt and took off the jacket.

So the RD, Scott Eppelman, told us it was time to start and we headed out to the track. We all lined up, he yelled "Go!" and it was time to start walking.

One small thing that annoyed me was that the walkers were required to walk in lane 5. This worked well in many ways because I had solitude to focus and concentrate, which is how I like to train and race. But the problem was I had done all of my time and lap estimates based on lane 1. You might not think this was a big deal, but over the course of 100 miles it makes a big difference:

In lane 1, 100 miles is 402.336 laps
In lane 5, 100 miles is 377.062 laps

To maintain a 13:30 pace (my goal pace to allow time for breaks at the aid station, changes of clothes/gear, etc.) in lane 1, each loop needs to be 3:21.3; in lane five each loop needs to be 03:34.8.

So at first I was concerned, but once we got into the race I estimated how fast I needed to go and then stuck with my pace as much as possible.

In the early miles Ollie and I switched leads a few times, usually when one of us stopped for aid, port-a-potties, etc. After a little while I pulled ahead of Ollie and was ahead for the rest of the race.

So we went around. And around. And around. The main way I occupied myself was by calculating my splits and estimating my pace. Occasionally I would get a chance to talk to one of my friends, or one of the judges, but mostly I just walked alone in a circle. Every two hours we would change directions (they placed a little bobbing hula girl dashboard decoration on the track and you had to walk around her). Every loop I would wave at my lap counter and he/she would wave back (over the course of the 24 hours I think I had five lap counters--what a boring job! I appreciate their help). Once or twice the walking judge would ask me my laps and then go verify the official lap count, and once or twice it was wrong.

In general I felt pretty good most of the first half. I promised my body that we would have some Advil after six hours, so that was a milestone to aim for. After I hit six hours and had two Advil I felt almost like I was starting the race again. My legs felt stronger and fresh and I was able to do some nice splits. My goal was to maintain a very even pace, and I was mostly successful. I slowed down, naturally, but I wasn't all over the map in terms of lap time. In fact one of the volunteers started calling me "Metronome Marshall" because of my even pace.

I lapped Ollie a few times after about eight hours and I could tell he was struggling. His race report confirms this. Ultracentric was his goal race for the year so I could imagine his frustration and disappointment as his chance at the Centurion slipped away. But the whole time he kept at it, had encouraging words for me, and maintained the best possible attitude.

I decided to change to some more cushioned shoes at 50 miles. My feet were sore and I felt like I might have been getting a blister on the heel of one foot. So I stopped (the only time in the whole race that I sat down) and changed shoes and socks. It turned out that the blister was under the rough callouses on my heel, so there's not much you can do about that. I did go ahead and change shoes and socks, grabbed a bite to eat and then got back on the track. My 50 mile split was 11:21 (a PR for me) so I was in good shape. If I could keep up a decent pace I could make it!

I ate and drank regularly all day. I took one electrolyte cap per hour during the first 60% of the race; I ate Clif Shot Bloks (I highly recommend them) and at the aid station I ate peanut butter sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, cookies, hot potato soup, etc. It was great having an aid station every loop because I could stop by and ask if they had a grilled cheese, for example. If they didn't, they would start one and I would walk a loop and then pick up my order and eat it while walking.

Sometime after 12 hours Ollie pulled off the track and threw up. I thought that would be the end of his race but I was wrong. He did leave the track and go to the heated locker rooms to clean up and sleep. But he would be back.

During the evening and night time hours there were lots of friends and families on the track. Husbands would walk with wives (and vice versa), brothers, sisters and fathers would come out and support their runners. It was really a great atmosphere. Some people had pitched tents in the infield and would sleep there while coming out periodically to offer encouragement and support. Many of my friends struggled with this race. Although you would think a track ultra would be easier than a trail ultra, there are several things that make a track ultra very challenging:
--Mentally the track loops can be very stressful--you never make it anywhere, and every lap you can see your car, your gear, your escape

--Because there is no variation in the terrain, your body gets very fatigued of the repetitive motion. I ended up with blisters, which is somewhat unusual for me, simply because I did the exact same thing for 24 hours

--The track surface is soft but also very springy, and after a while that bounce takes its toll on your muscles

There were some awesome accomplishments. One person who had never run beyond a 50k completed 100 miles. Another good friend who had never run beyond a 50k toughed it out for 24 hours, in spite of a lot of pain and discomfort. A few people decided to do 50 miles and then call it a day (or night). As in every race there were some great accomplishments and some disappointments. But it was great to see friends and family out to support their runner. By this point I hadn't seen my wife or daughter in two weeks so I got very sad and a little lonely. I was ready to be with them again.

Back to the race. The night time was nice and cool. There were no lights on the track but there were lights on the adjacent soccer and football fields. That was nice because we had light but it wasn't bright and harsh. People came and went on the track. People took breaks, even naps, and then came back out. I'm too slow to stop so I kept moving. I know I slowed down but worked hard to maintain my racewalking form. Around and around and around I went.

Eventually the sun came up but it wasn't noticeable at first because it was grey and overcast. By this point I was very tired and I think I even took a couple of "micro-naps" on the track because I felt like I slept on my feet for brief moments.

Gradually the clouds cleared and the sun came up. Unfortunately, the wind that had been blowing all night got a lot stronger. I was really feeling tired and starting to doubt if I could keep up the pace. Turning into that wind every loop was really difficult. I had some new blisters, everything was sore and tired, and I knew I was slowing. I really wanted to finish because I knew if I didn't I would feel compelled to try again, and I really didn't want to try again. So I kept pushing as best as I could.

Then who shows up but Ollie! He was fresher and rested and ready to get in some more miles. He came up and offered me words of encouragement. I was honest with him and told him I didn't think I could make it. I'll never forget his words: "You won't have to do it alone." He got in front of me and set a great pace. I struggled to keep up with him, and that helped me keep an acceptable pace. When we turned the corner and headed into the wind Ollie would get directly in front of me and charge into the wind! It was one of the most moving moments I've experience in my racing--Ollie had no chance to become a Centurion this day but he wanted to help me make it. It was a perfect example of sportsmanship and real class.

Eventually Ollie moved on but his presence on the track was inspirational. I had slowed significantly since yesterday morning but I was still moving. Scott Demaree, one of the judges, was helping me calculate my laps and splits and I was still in good shape to get to 100. Eventually I had 15 laps left, then 10, then five, then one! I pushed as hard as I could (which I'm sure wasn't very fast) and did that last lap. During my last few laps lots of people in the tent were cheering and calling my name and encouraging me, and that really helped. I made the final lap and all I wanted to do was stop! I didn't feel much of anyting at this point, but I was proud. I pulled off to a corner of the track and Scott noted my time, 23:42. He then suggested I do another lap just in case there were any lap counting errors. So for the first time in 23 hours and 42 minutes I walked like a normal person. I happened to have my cell phone in my pack so I pulled it out and called my wife to tell her the good news. If you look at the pictures (below) you can see me on my "victory lap." After that last lap Scott noted my time and then I went and sat down. I probably should have done a few more laps in the time that was left but I was so tired I didn't see the point. So I walked to the tent and had a seat. Oh, it felt SOOOOOO good to sit down.

After a few more minutes the race was over! Some people lay down on the track, friends and family joined them, kids were running around, the sun was shining. It was a great moment. Gradually everyone made it to the tent for their gear, or to visit, or to rest. Here is a picture of Scott, Ollie and me after the race. There were no official finisher prizes for Ultracentric, but Ollie had purchased medals for the Centurions and had them engraved with "100 miles in 24 hours." He put it around my neck and congratulated me. It was a nice moment. After talking a little more, I packed up my gear and headed to the car. Ollie gave me a big hug, a race volunteer carried my stuff to the car and I headed home. I only live 15 minutes from the race but I fell asleep twice in the car, once hitting the median. I need to keep this in mind next time!

Official results haven't been published yet, but unofficially I finished 6th out of 23 starters, my best finish ever!

48 Hour
Mark Henderson TX 136.29
Paul Piplani AZ 116.71
Tim O'Rouke CA 31.10 (this guy wasn't here for the 48 hour race; his goal was to set a 50k record in his age group, and he was successful)

24 Hour
Mark Syring MN 121.01
Barbara Hitzfeld (f) TX 111.30
Fred Pollard CA 108.86
Letha Cruthirds (f) TX 101.36
Bill Rumbaugh TX 100.91
Marshall King TX 100.24 (walker)
Buddy Teaster TX 90.22
Sue Yates (f) TX 88.89
Marlin Howe MI 88.48
Shawna Brown (f) TX 80.77
Lisa Allen (f) CO 75.31
Ollie Nanyes IL 70.54 (walker)
Dave Emerson TX 69.09
Brett Mills TX 63.44
Davey Harrison TX 61.64
Tom Crull TX 57.91
Robert Jobe TX 56.42
Doug Ryan TX 50.20
Deborah Sexton (f) TX 50.20
Karen Riddle (f) TX 47.96
Michael Arredondo TX 42.50
Sam Livingston TX 40.01
Lorrie Dominguez TX 20.38

So that's my story. It lacks some of the drama of some of my trail ultras but I'm very pleased with the results. I don't have any plans to do another track ultra any time soon! I wouldn't mind to do a 12 hour some day and see what kind of mileage I could do. But I definitely prefer the trails to the track.

If you are interested in a track race I highly recommend this event. It was very well organized and very well supported. There was lots of encouragement and support and lots of great volunteers. In addition to the usual shirt and sample gels and electrolyte caps each racer received a pair of Injinji Tsocks, an "Ultracentric" glass, an "Ultracentric" pen, and a sample of a new Body Glide-type product.

Because it was a track race we passed the photographers many times, so for once there are actually some good pictures of me. I have my own page! Go here to see a bunch of pictures of me.

Go here to see some great pictures of the event. They really give you a sense of what the race was like.

Go here to see pictures of the other racers.

Monday, November 28, 2005

100 Miles in 23:42

I did it, just barely. After hitting 100 I did another lap just to add a cushion in case the lap counters made a mistake, so altogether my mileage was probably 100.4.

I hit 50 miles in 11:21 (a PR for me), so it took 12:21 for the second fifty.

I am now US Centurion 61. I'll post more later. It's hard to walk and I've got many blisters. My body hates me!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sunday Morning Coach

Here's my analysis of what went wrong yesterday. I had a LOT of time to think about it and I'm pretty sure I know what happened. I made some classic beginner's mistakes, and I'm not a beginner, so that was frustrating. But at least I finished, and that's important to me.

Here are the mistakes I made:

1. Unrealistic expectations: although I told people I wasn't going to try to PR, I still had that thought in the back of my head. The problem is that my PR was set back in April on a cool day on a much easier course that I always suspected was short. I should have known that setting a PR on this much tougher course was not realistic. I also should have realized that the higher temperatures (starting in the 60s, reaching the 80s) would also affect my goals. I've always believed in having three goals for every race:
A-Ideal time given good conditions, good training and smart racing
B-Fall back goal in the event that goal A is unrealistic
C-Just finish the damn thing

I should have dropped from A to B before the race even started. I might not have been much faster, but I could have finished strong and felt much better if I had.

2. Going Out Too Fast: I can't tell you how many times we warn our Team in Training group about maintaining pace in the beginning and not going out too fast. Unfortunately I failed to heed my own advice. My 50k PR pace is 12:25. Here were my splits for the first 6 miles: 11:45, 11:56, 11:25, 12:21, 11:50, 12:11. This was way toooooooooo fast, given the difficulty of the trail, the weather, etc. I charged the uphills instead of taking them slowly and I pushed hard. If this had been a 10k I would have been thrilled. But this was a 50k; basically, I burned up my energy in the first 6 miles and still had 25 to go!

3. Trying Something New on Race Day: Again, this is something we always warn against in Team in Training. You don't know how it will affect you, so don't try it! Here's what happened to me: I've been using a new energy gel, Honey Stinger. I really like it--it's sweet but doesn't taste bad like other gels. Well recently I've been trying to eat more naturally and trying to save money, so I decided instead of buying a bunch of Honey Stinger gel I would just go buy some honey. I filled two gel flasks with honey and hit the trails. The first time I ate some honey I started to feel queasy, and the feeling never went away. I was nauseous for about 5 1/2 hours. Normally during ultras I eat a lot, and I need that energy to keep up my pace and finish the race. Yesterday I hardly ate anything--1/4 PB&J, a few handfuls of chips, some coke, some water. I tried to throw up several times but never could. So not only did I use up a lot of energy in the early miles, but I couldn't replace it as the race went on. For the last ten miles my paces were between 13:00 and 18:00(!!!) minutes per mile.

So, I relearned some hard lessons yesterday. It's no fun making mistakes like this and having to pay the price, but I will definitely remember them in my upcoming races. It was definitely a tough day: there were 86 people registered for the 50k, only 70 finished. Unofficially I was 58th.

An interesting fact: Of the top ten 50k finishers, one was in her 20s, one was in his 30s, the rest were in their 40s and 50s (the winner was a 45 year old male). There were only 4 racers in their 20s. The oldest finishers were 67 and 68 (and they finished ahead of me!). Ultramarathons seem to be a sport for the mature and the patient.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Ugh. Worst 50k Ever

My slowest time ever: 7:24:10. It was not a good day for a 50k. Warm (it got over 80), windy, sunny. I'll post more later. The good thing is I learned a lot today. The bad thing is that I had already learned this stuff, but forgot it today and paid the price (Death March).

The two really good things are:

1. I finished. No DNF. "Pain is temporary. Quitting is forever."--Lance Armstrong.
2. I feel really good, all things considered. I'm super tired but have no aches or pains and am walking well. Two weeks until Ultracentric.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I don't believe in fate, but...

For the last year I've been interested in thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. I love the idea of being away from civilization for months (with occasional breaks to refuel), and I love the idea of pushing myself to do something I never, ever, ever, ever would have thought was possible for me. For the last couple of weeks I've been so seriously considering it that I've started downloading maps, reading guides and personal accounts, rereading a book about the trail and buying another one. I've started trying to figure out a budget. The hardest thing will not be the hike, but being away from my family for three to four months and figuring out how they will be able to make it without my income while I'm gone (save, save, save). My goal is April 2008 or 2009.

Then today I came home and found the latest issue of Ultrarunning in my mailbox. The cover story? A thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Strange, no?

In other news, I'm about to have either a very exciting or very foolish month. I'm going to complete four races in four weeks, three of them ultras. This Saturday I'll be racing in the Rockledge Rumble 50k. Two weeks later I will race in the Ultracentric 24 hour track race (with a goal of 100 miles so I can be officially recognized as a "Centurion" racewalker). Two weeks later I will race in the Sunmart 50 miler. And then the next day I will join my Team in Training mentor group for the White Rock Half Marathon. I've registered for all races except White Rock. My plan is to take it easy and enjoy Rockledge, then push hard for 100 miles at Ultracentric, then stay under the cutoffs at Sunmart and just cruise slowly with the Team at White Rock. If I'm having any weird aches or pains, I'll skip a race; I don't want to get an injury.

After that it will be Bandera 100k in January, then Rocky Raccoon 100 miler in February. Assuming all goes well......gulp......

Monday, October 17, 2005

New Energy Options

This weekend I did 27 miles at the North Shore Trail and I tried out two new energy food options: Clif Shot Bloks and Jelly Belly Sport Beans. This wasn't a scientific comparison but I'll give my thoughts below:

Clif Shot Bloks are intended to be a solid version of the Clif Shot Energy Gel. Right now they are offered in three flavors: Cran-Razz, Strawberry and Lemon-Lime (my choice). A single package contains six bloks; each serving is three bloks. The bloks are cubes a little bit bigger than a quarter. They have the consistency of gummy candy or candy fruit slices, not too sticky. The flavor is good without being too strong or sweet. A serving has 100 calories, 70 mg of sodium, 20 mg of potassium and 24 grams of carbs. For comparison, a package of Viva Vanilla Clif Shot gel has 100 calories, 40 mg of sodium, 25 mg of potassium and 25 grams of carbs. Bloks are also all natural and 100% organic.

I really liked the Bloks. They were easy to handle and weren't messy like gel. They were easy to chew and swallow and I didn't feel like I needed to chug a bunch of water to wash them down (I did drink sports drink afterwards). As far as I could tell my energy level increased after eating the blok (I also ate some Honey Stinger gel). The bloks are an easy way to take some calories with you and offer a not-too sweet alternative to energy gels.

The Jelly Belly Sport Beans have one serving per package, which contains about 14 beans. They have 100 calories, 60 mg of sodium, 60 mg of potassium and 25 grams of carbs. They come in two flavors: Lemon Lime and Orange (my choice). They had a pleasant flavor but were sweeter than the bloks. Also, since they are small and there were more in the package, it took longer to eat them and I almost dropped a few pouring them out of the package. A little while after eating them I felt a little queasy, and I didn't feel the same energy surge (I was still eating Honey Stinger gel). But to be fair this was the last 4.5 miles of a 27 mile training walk, so some of the queasiness and lack of energy could be due to this.

Both products seem like great additions to our endurance fueling options. I prefer the Clif Shot Bloks for the following reasons:

1. Good taste that is not too sweet.
2. Bloks are larger and easier to eat quickly.
3. There are two servings to a package so it easier to carry more calories.
4. They are all organic so they are good for you.

I don't think either of the other Blok flavors sound very good so I will stick with the Lemon-Lime. I'll post an update later after I've used them for a while.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

They did it!

Frances and Marla finished Heartland in 29:27 and 29:30 respectively. We ended up doing an extra two miles because we took a wrong turn during the night. I just drove all the way back from Kansas (seven hours) after 19 hours of walking and three hours of sleep. I'm beat! I'll post more details and some photos as soon as possible.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Off to see the Wizard!

In a few hours I'll be on the road north headed to Kansas and Heartland. If all goes well, I'll meet Frances around 5:00 PM on Saturday and race with her until she finishes, between 7:00 AM and 12:00 PM on Sunday.

I love preparing for an ultra; it's like preparing for a small adventure. I've got four bags:
1. My race day clothes: shirt, shorts, shoes, socks, hat, bandana, wristband, Garmin, watch, bandaids, duct tape, BodyGlide.

2. My extra supply bag: to be carried by Frances' boyfriend in his car. Extra shirt, shorts, socks, bandana, wristbands, tights, hat, gloves, jacket, blister care kit, sunscreen, more bandaids, etc.

3. My Camelbak M.U.L.E.: I'm carrying the larger MULE so I don't have to refill as frequently. Since my primary goal is to help Frances finish, I need to tend to her needs at the aid stations, not get distracted filling up bottles or my smaller Camelbak. In my MULE I've got small BodyGlide, lip balm, Advil, extra batteries, toilet paper and baggies, 1 1/2 flasks of my favorite gel (Honey Stinger), flashlight, headlamp, Succeed caps, camera and race plan (aid stations, mileage, splits, etc.).

4. Clothes bag for pre- and post-race.

It's a lot for a two and a half day trip, but you can't be too prepared. I'd rather have too much than not enough, especially since something I forgot could lead to a DNF (blister problems, fueling problems, hypothermia, nausea, excessive pain). My job as a pacer is to make sure Frances finishes; I have to be prepared so she can focus on the race.

I'm really excited--I haven't raced since June and even though this is not my race I'm looking forward to the challenge, the frustration, the people, the aid stations, the stars, and the pride of seeing Frances finish her first 100! I'll let you know how it goes on Monday and try to get some pictures up as soon as possible.

Lots of people are racing this weekend. Good luck!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Today's "Gravity's Rainbow" selection

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Dr. Porkyevitch stands on deck. Below, Octopus Grigori, having stuffed himself with crab meat, frisks happily in his special enclosure.
Page 189.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Crosstraining.......80's Style

My daughter recently joined the Brownies and last Saturday night there was a Girl Scouts roller skating party. Roller skating! I haven't roller skated in about 22 years! Man, did it bring back great memories! Some of my fondest memories of my youth occurred in a roller rink. Dark room, flashing lights, AC/DC on the speakers, video games, middle school girls.......those were the days. I even went roller skating the night my parents told me they were getting a divorce. Such escapism.

I had a great time skating! I skated the whole night, at first with my daughter because she'd never skated before. But after a while she became confident enough to tell me to "shoo shoo" so I just skated around goofing off with her and some of her friends. I can't believe how much fun I had. Lela said she wants to have her next birthday party at a roller rink and I think that's a great idea!

Last week and this week I'm tapering. I've only walked once and took it pretty easy. I'm going to do one or two easy walks this week, then Friday afternoon I'm leaving for Kansas and Heartland. I'm going to spend the night in Oklahoma City and try to get plenty of sleep because I'll be pacing Frances all night long (from about 5:00 pm until she finishes by noon on Sunday). I'm really excited about racing again, even though it's not my race. I'll be doing 57.5 miles with her and possibly one other friend, Marla.

So this week I'll be resting and reading and hanging out with the family. Then Saturday, it's show time!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Reading "Gravity's Rainbow"

I used to love to read, but over the last few years I have been very busy and gotten out of the habit. But this month's Harper's Magazine had something that inspired me to pick up an old favorite, Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.

Harper's has several selections from Zak Smith's Illustrations For Each Page of Gravity's Rainbow. If you're familiar with Gravity's Rainbow you know that this is a pretty monumental project, due both to the length of the novel (760 pages = 760 illustrations) and due to the subject matter. But from what I've seen so far Zak Smith really captures the mood, tone, and subjects extremely well.

Below is the illustration for Page 6: "Far to the east, down in the pink sky, something has just sparked, very brightly."

Far to the east, down in the pink sky, something has just sparked, very brightly.

It's interesting (given recent events) that the novel starts with an evacuation:
A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.

It is too late. The Evacuation still proceeds, but it's all theatre. There are no lights inside the cars. No light anywhere. Above him lift girders old as an iron queen, and glass somewhere far above that would let the light of day through. But it's night. He's afraid of the way the glass will fall--soon--it will be a spectacle: the fall of a crystal palace. But coming down in total blackout, without one glint of light, only great invisible crashing.
They have begun to move. They pass in line, out of the main station, out of downtown, and begin pushing into older and more desolate parts of the city. Is this the way out? Faces turn to the windows, but no one dares ask, not out loud. Rain comes down. No, this is not a disentanglement from, but a progressive knotting into...

Pynchon's gift for language, scene, paranioa, obscenity, disturbing's all here from the very beginning of this impressive and frustrating work. I've started reading at night after everyone has gone to bed (and in spare moments when I can find the time) and then, the next day, I page through the illustrations for the pages I just read. It's a wonderful new way to explore the novel and also to be reminded of the scenes and "plot." If you're a Pynchon fan I highly recommend it.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Great Quote for Trail Runners and Walkers

I stole this from the Runner's World Ultra Forum:

"The hills not only take men away from a complex mode of existence, but they teach them that to be happy it is only necessary to have food, warmth, and shelter. They bring them face to face with realities, and in doing so inculcate a valuable lesson in the association of simplicity and happiness.

For those reasons any development that tends to bring into close contact with the natural order of things is a value to mankind, inasmuch as it helps them to gain a sense of proportion. It is impossible for any thinking man to look down from a hill on to a crowded plain and not ponder over the relative importance of things. To take a simple view is to take a wider view. Whatever our beliefs, whatever our creeds from which we seek to extract happiness when we live on the plain, we find that things that have puzzled us are made clear when we stand on a hill. On a hill we are content to be content.

And so from hills we return refreshed in body, in mind and in spirit, to grapple anew with life's problems; for awhile we have lived simply, wisely and happily; we have made good friends; we have adventured well."

Frank Smythe, Mountaineer, 1930

Friday, September 23, 2005

Another Political Test

Tests that reveal your political leanings are popular on the web, so here's another one.

Here are my results:

You are a

Social Liberal
(73% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(23% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat

Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sad, touching story

Today on NPR I heard a commentary written by Darcy Wakefield, read by her sister, Betsy. Two years ago (at the age of 33) Darcy was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease. The commentary was very moving, sad, frightening, gentle. It reminded me so much of our fragility and the inevitable nothing we will all face. I don't know why I found it so special, but for me it was what NPR calls a "driveway moment": I sat in my car in the garage until the story was over. You can hear it for yourself here. Anyone who reads this blog can appreciate her previous commentary for NPR shortly after her diagnosis, ALS Ends Running Days. This part of her story almost brings me to tears:

Even though I no longer run, I still have a runner's soul. It's trapped in a runner's body that won't run....It doesn't yet understand what has happened to us.

Darcy has also written a memoir about her diagnosis and experience, I Remember Running.

Austin Resident Runs Across France

I posted previously about Russell Secker, the Austin resident who completed the Trans-Gaule run across France. Here's a great article about him in the Austin newspaper. At the end of the article there is mention of a stage race across Texas. That's us (it's not a race, more like an epic adventure)!

PS I found this link on someone's site, probably Zack or Jennifer, but I can't seem to find it again. Thanks to whoever posted it first!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Upcoming Plans

I was planning to do the Heartland 100 mile race, but recently decided that I wasn't ready. So instead I've decided to pace my good ultra buddy Frances as she completes here first 100 miler at Heartland. I'll meet her at the halfway point and walk with her the second 50 miles. I'm really excited, although I feel a little bit of pressure since I have to make sure I finish the race strong for Frances. It would be terrible for Frances (and embarrassing for me) if I couldn't pace her successfully.

One great thing about this arrangement is that I'll get most of the benefits of a 50 mile race without the costs! No race entry fee. No hotel (I'll drive up Saturday, meet her Saturday night and pace her to the finish, crash in her hotel room for a few hours of sleep and then drive home Sunday). I'll just have to pay for gas and food (and I'll get several meals at the aid stations). I'll get to revisit the place where I completed my first ultra, a place that is dear to my heart.

The race is less than one month away so I'm trying to keep a good level of training to make sure I'm ready. I did 27 miles at the rugged North Shore Trail this weekend in a couple of minutes over 6 hours. I crashed for the last mile but felt very strong for the other 26. I need to get some new trail shoes; I have over 420 miles on my current pair.

That's about it right now. I'm excited about my pacing duties and about my upcoming races, and I'm so happy to be back out on the trails.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Rash Decisions Soon Regretted

I recently posted a depressing post about some bad training, exhaustion and a retreat from ultras.

What was I thinking?!?!

Now, to be fair, much of that post is true. I am not ready for a 100 mile race and don't have the time to get ready and keep my health and sanity. It takes too much time for me to train properly and I would rather spend my time with my family and other involvements. So I'm not going to try for a 100 any time soon.

However, I love the trails and I love ultras. I was recently reading an article in Trail Runner Magazine and they had a picture of an aid station from an ultra; I immediately became nostalgic and sad. Any time someone mentions Kansas I think of my first ultra, the Heartland 50 mile Endurance Run. Any time I hear a radio story on NPR mention Big Bend National Park, I think about the new Big Bend 50 mile race I'd like to do. Whenever I see my dusty and dirty trail shoes in the garage I get feel twinges of regret and depression.

I think this break has been good for me, but having done some long miles on the paved trail at the lake I realize ultras and trails are in my blood and I can't give them up. I have a new resolution:

1. Stick to 50k and 50 mile races.
2. Stick with a reasonable training schedule. I'm not an elite and never will be so I don't need to kill myself on the weekends. I need to remember that it's supposed to be fun.
3. I can still help out with Team in Training. I'll have to do a fair amount of road walking but on the "On Your Own" training weekends or the weekends when I don't need to be at training, I'll be at Lake Grapevine.

So I will probably do the Rockledge Rumble 50k in November and then SunMart in December. I don't know what I'll do in January and February (maybe Bandera 100k?) and then I'd like to do Three Days of Syllamo in Arkansas in March. April and May I'll probably do the same as I did this year: Rocky Hill Ranch and Prickly Pear. If I can afford it, I'd like to tackle Laurel Highlands again.

So things are kind of back where I started except I acknowledge that 100 milers are not in my immediate future. I still want to complete one, but I have to be realistic about what I can fit in my schedule.

PS I'm still mad as hell about Katrina. The lies are flying fast and thick but I suspect that, as usual, Bush et al. will escape. If you are interested in following some of the disturbing details of this debacle, check out the following blogs:

Bitch Ph.D.
Crooks and Liars
Democratic Underground
The Light of Reason
Sadly, No!
Talking Points Memo

Admittedly, these are left-leaning blogs, but you can check out many conservative blogs for similar perspectives. Here are two:

Andrew Sullivan
Michelle Malkin

Friday, September 02, 2005


I am so appalled by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that I can hardly think of anything else. There is so much blame to go around that I don't know where to start, but I truly feel this shows a colossal failure of American government, both parties, many administrations, federal, state and local. Because we elected these idiots and scoundrels and failed to properly guide their governance, this is ultimately our failure as a society. American social indicators have been sliding for a long time and this is the fruit of our inattention to our environment, our cities, our poor, our vulnerable.

This is a national tragedy and a national scandal. We've been fiddling while Rome burns and now we are paying the price.

If a hurricane hit on New Orleans was one of the top three potential threats to "homeland" security, why was our preparation and funding almost non-existent and why has our response been so incredibly inadequate and, to be frank, also non-existent. How many times can Bush say, "Help is on the way"? That's what you say in the hours after a catastrophe, but here it is days 4 and 5 and his response is to repeat the mantra, "Help is on the way," and ask his dad and Pres. Clinton to pass around a cup begging for handouts??!! What is wrong with this country? Michael Chertoff should lose his job before the Labor Day holiday! Why do we even have a Homeland Security agency?

Why does the PTA have to buy a CD player for the music teacher at my daughter's school because the school can't afford it? Why do poorly paid elementary school teachers have to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on school supplies for their classes? Why did we cut taxes for the rich and corporations if we had identified potential catastrophic threats to American cities but didn't have the funding to prepare for them? Why did lawmakers authorize over $200 million to build a bridge to an uninhabited Alaskan island but cut the Army Corps of Engineers' funding for New Orleans levee improvements from the requested $100+ million to $42 million? When you consider the size of the US budget, $100 million is less than nothing--it is the blink of an eye, it is a mustard seed. There are individuals in this country who have 10 or 20 times that amount for themselves, but we can't spare that much money to save a city and protect the lives of millions of people?????

Throw the bums out. Throw the bums out. Throw the bums out. Throw the bums out.

Let's rebuild this country. Let's help all citizens. Let's show kindness to the poor and the sick. Let's show our children we care. Let's show the world we are truly compassionate, that we truly love other people, that we really care, that the sufferings of my neighbor are my sufferings, that a starving, suffering person thousands of miles away is MY brother, sister, mother, father, child, friend.

One of my favorite quotes is from an interview with Iris Chang, the author of "The Rape of Nanking" about a horrible war crime from World War II:

"Civilization is tissue thin."

We have to hold our civilization together, and we have to remember that our government is us; we set the agenda, we elect the leaders, we hold them accountable. This is our failure, and it is up to us to fix it. Throw the bums out. No more politics as usual.

NOTE: To make it clear, I think Bush has failed miserably. But this problem spans administrations and parties. Our congress is not working. Our government is not working. I'm in favor of bipartisan housecleaning. We have mismanaged our country, and we need to fix it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Catching up

Lots has happened over the last couple of days.

Sunday was the Team in Training Kickoff. I worked directions in the hotel lobby, attended the Kickoff rally and then met with the Dallas Walk Team and my mentor group afterwards. I met several of my group and they all seem very excited and motivated. Several of them have a deep "connection to the cause" that is very touching. I'm so lucky to have Angela with me and to be six years distant from most of her serious medical issues.

Sunday was my day off after my Saturday "long" walk (I only walked 10 miles compared to the usual 26-30, so it doesn't seem long!).

Monday I signed my daugther up for Marathon Kids. One of my biggest shames in life is that I signed her up last year and we never completed her miles! Here I am walking 50-70 miles per week and completing numerous ultramarathons, and I can't even walk/run 26.2 miles with my daughter over six months! Pathetic! This year will be different. Monday we took Lemon for a walk and walked to the park, played a while, then walked back (a full mile!). It rained on us all the way home which was kind of refreshing.

Monday I walked five easy miles in the morning.

Tuesday I did my first speed work in months! I couldn't do it at the track because of last night's rain; my neighborhood track is made up of dirt and crushed rock so it gets very messy after rain. Instead I did 1/4 mile intervals (with 1/4 mile rests) on the local paved walking/jogging trail. I did eight intervals and was pleased with the results, especially considering I haven't done any speedwork in ages. Here were my splits:

2:27 (9:50)
2:32 (10:08)
2:31 (10:05)
2:15 (9:03)
2:18 (9:15)
2:23 (9:32)
2:18 (9:12)
2:09 (8:38)

I really want to break 2:10 for my next Half Marathon (9:55 pace), and 4:30 for my next Marathon (10:17 pace) so I need to keep up the speedwork. My training plan is:

Sunday: rest
Monday: easy 5-6 miles
Tuesday: intervals, from 1/4 to 1 mile
Wednesday: easy 5-6 miles
Thursday: Tempo/Acceleration Tempo training
Friday: rest
Saturday: long mileage

Gotta run and take Lela and Lemon to the park again. Rack up the miles!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Back in the Saddle Again

I took the week off to recover from the all night walk last Friday and to catch up on sleep and personal stuff. This morning I went back to White Rock Lake to train on the asphalt and paved running surface around the lake (at 4:45 am it was already 85 degrees!). I'm officially back in training for marathons and half marathons and will return to ultras and trail walking at some future date.

Today I decided to push myself to see just how much speed I lost during my long distance training. I've done no speed work in months (maybe as long as a year) so I wanted to do an assessment and start building my training plan.

My first miles were slow--I guess I needed more warm up and needed to get my body adjusted for fast walking again. As the morning progressed I picked up the pace and felt pretty good. Here are my splits: 11:51, 11:37, 11:14, 10:27, 11:02, 10:56, 10:50, 10:35, 10:15, 10:27. For reference my marathon PR pace is 11:20; my half marathon PR pace is 10:13. So I was pretty pleased with these splits. I wish I had been faster in the beginning but given the fact that all of my recent walking has been at a much slower pace I felt this was pretty good.

I got new racewalking shoes! They are pretty cool looking:

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Unfortunately I got a blister on my left heel, something that never happens to me. It felt like the inside of the left shoe had a hard ridge that wasn't present in the right shoe so maybe the shoes are defective. I'm going to contact the company that sold them to me and try to replace them. Other than that I love the shoes--very flexible, very lightweight. They have a tapered or sloped heel that helps with the natural foot roll that occurs in racewalking. They seem to be well-designed.

Tomorrow is the Team in Training Kick-Off for the winter season. I already have 10 people on my mentor team and may get more tomorrow. We're going to have a big team, which is really cool. I can't wait to meet everyone and start the training.

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend and getting in some nice training or racing.

Distance: 10.4 miles
Time: 1:54:06
Pace: 10:58

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Disappointment, Frustration and Change of Plans

Friday night I drove to Waco to meet my ultra friends and complete a 100k all night training walk/run. It was miserable and none of the five of us got anywhere close to our goals (some people planned more than 100k, some less). We all had to quit early due to fatigue, heat, illness, etc. I was so sleepy (not physically tired but actually sleepy) that I stopped twice and slept in the car before finally calling it quits. It was a very frustrating evening.

That frustration got me thinking about my current plans and goals. I've decided that I'm not going to do Heartland. Friday night was discouraging, but that is not the main reason. The main reason is that I can't keep up this training schedule. Several times I've almost fallen asleep in the middle of the afternoon while driving because I'm so tired; I've had my daughter in the car so that is very scary. I'm spending between 10 and 16 hours training each weekend, and to do that I have two choices: sacrifice time with my family or get up at super early times and walk around like a zombie during the day. I don't like either of these choices. I've missed a lot of training during the week simply because I'm so tired, and I've almost fallen asleep at my desk at work.

I'm just burned out and although I love ultras I think I need to take a little break and get things back in balance. I'm going to spend some time training for half and full marathons and work on my speed. If you've read this blog long enough you know that I won the Mardi Gras Half Marathon racewalk division in 2004. I'd like to train for some marathons that have walking divisions (Little Rock, St. Louis, Mardi Gras, Portland, to name a few) and try to win them. So I'm going to go back to a more normal training plan. I'm not giving up ultras forever, but I really do need a break. I've been burning the candle at both ends, and with my wife's medical problems, my daughter's needs, a new puppy, being in the PTA, being a mentor for Team in Training, I can't keep up. Ultimately it's more important to be with my family and be involved in these other activities than to focus exclusively on ultras.

This was not an agonizing decision--it was pretty simple and I am already very excited about my future plans. I think I will do one or two half marathons, then do the White Rock Marathon in December as a training event. My big goal is a big PR and First Place in the Mardi Gras Marathon racewalk division.
Here's another reason to switch to road/track walking for a while: I get to buy a pair of these!! Cool!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Great Article

Here's an article on Russell Secker, the Texan running the Trans Gaule.

Thanks to Zack for the link!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Say Hello to the Newest Member of the Family

This is Lemon, our new Miniature Pinscher puppy! I picked her up Friday night and we've been adjusting to having a baby in the house all weekend. She and my daugther have really bonded--she's a very sweet and playful little thing.

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She's also tiny!

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Texas Runner in the Trans Gaule 2005

Watch this blog for updates on Russell Secker and the Trans Gaule 2005. Good luck!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Another member of North Texas Trail Runners is really excited about a Trans-Texas Ultra. We are very, very, very tentatively discussing March, 2007. The route shown (which was used in 1993) would be about 670 miles; that's about 40 miles a day for 16 to 17 days.

I am so excited!

Update: Looks like May, 2007, not March. A little warmer, but it works better with my partner's work schedule. Here is a different route that he suggests that looks great as long as we can avoid major highways.

Friday, August 05, 2005

First Team in Training Information Meeting

I signed up to be a mentor for the Dallas Team in Training Walk Team. I did the Virginia Beach Half Marathon with TnT in August, 2003, and that's what got me started with racewalking and endurance events. I've always wanted to support the team again but have never had time, but I decided to make the time and sign up to mentor.

I went to the first information meeting of the season and it was really great. We completely filled a small hotel conference room with people and 21 people signed up that night! I was asked to speak about my wife and my reasons for joining TnT. I knew it would be hard because I tear up at every video about TnT, and I even teared up during a promo video they played about the Arizona Rock N Roll Marathon, a race I have never done and never plan to do; but I remember the incredible feelings of accomplishment as I finished my first half and then full marathon, then ultra, and so on.

Anyway, I only spoke for a few seconds before I started tearing up. I talked about Angela's diagnosis and recovery, about wanting to do something to help but feeling helpless, and about how TnT gave me a powerful outlet that has really changed my life. I talked about the privilege of walking "In Honor of..." instead of "In Memory of..." and how inspiring and moving it is to see people who are racing "In Memory of Dad," "In Memory of my daughter," "In Memory of a dear friend." Even though it's been almost six years since her diagnosis I still can't talk about it without tears. Hopefully we can all make a difference!

This weekend will be busy. Tomorrow morning I plan to do about 25 miles at the track near my house, then I have to be at my daughter's school at 8:00 am to fill holes in the school yard (our lack of tax dollars at work!). Tomorrow afternoon we are going to an 80th birthday party for a distant relative and seeing my Dad, brother and step brother (and their families) who are all in town for the party. Sunday I hope to do 27 miles at North Shore Trail. That means I'll probably get up at 3:30 on Saturday morning and 1:45 on Sunday morning! I hope I can make it.

Hope everyone is having good training and great racing. Keep up the good work and walk/run hard!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Centurion 2005

In June of 2004 I announced my intention to walk in a Centurion race. A Centurion is a 24 hour judged racewalk, usually on a track or paved loop; anyone who completes 100 miles in 24 hours is designated a Centurion. There have only been 60 USA Centurions (not necessarily US citizens, but walkers who achieved Centurion status in a US event).

Well, there is going to be another Centurion event this year, and it is right in my back yard at the Ultracentric 24-hour and 48-hour race on the weekend after Thanksgiving (this was also the Centurion event last year; RD Scott Eppelman is a member of the North Texas Trail Runners and a really nice guy). So looks like I've got plans for after Thanksgiving; better watch what I eat!

Ollie Nanyes was last year's organizer and is also organizing this year's event. He's a great walker and is really dedicated to the sport of racewalking and ultras. Thanks to Ollie for organizing this again.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Outstanding Running Quote

This is one of my favorite quotes ever and is definitely going on the Ultra Quotes page:
Running is no longer about life and death. It is about finding how large and lovely the nothingness is on the other side of self-preoccupation. Just run. Find nothing.
--Thomas C. Williams
That's from the most recent letters section of Trail Runner Magazine. Perfectly put.

Take care of your feet!

Foot care impresario John Vohnof (who provides foot care and advice for many ultras and has several publications relating to caring for your feel during endurance events) now has a blog! Check it out for great advice on foot care and links to essential foot care products and reading.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Long Track Walk

Today I did my long walk at the track. I prefer the trails but because I need to be home early to take care of my wife and daughter while my wife recovers, I didn't want to waste time driving to the trail (the best trail is 40 minutes away). So I hit the track at 5:00 AM to avoid the heat and get in as much mileage as possible.

My goal was to stay below a 12:00 pace, and I ended up doing 11:43. Because of the Garmin I was able to stay very steady throughout the whole walk. Here are my splits:

13:08, 11:56, 11:49, 11:43, 12:30, 11:42, 11:44, 11:44, 11:44, 11:39, 11:48, 11:49, 11:49, 11:43, 11:48, 11:52, 12:11, 11:14, 10:33, 9:47!

Again I only carried water in my pack. I took two electrolyte caplets. I drank half a Big Red soda at each "aid station" break (two). I ate a Mojo Bar at the first break and some peanut butter filled pretzels and lemon drops at the second. As you can see in my splits, I was able to maintain pace the whole time and I was able to push hard in the last three miles. So maybe this approach to fueling and hydration is going to work out well for me.

This weekend provides a good contast between trails and tracks. Yesterday I did 22 miles at a 15:03 pace; today I did 21 miles at an 11:43 pace, a 3:20 per mile differential.

Good luck to everyone racing today: Jennifer, Dianna, and Annalisa.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

1:45 AM

That's what time the alarm went off this morning.  I dragged myself out of bed and was immediately glad I had prepared the coffee maker the night before.  I started the coffee, performed my daily ablution, dressed, ate a granola bar, loaded my gear in the car, prepared the coffee and was driving out my garage at 2:05.  Forty minutes later I was buying Big Red, water and ice.  Ten minutes later I'm standing at the North Shore Trail at Lake Grapevine with Deb and Brett.  I don headlamp, turn on flashlight, put on Camelbak and watch and hat.  At exactly 3:08:30 AM, we hit the trail.

Why so early?  Deb and I are training for the Heartland 100 and she is doing a 50 mile race in three weeks as a training race, so she wanted to start early to avoid the heat and get in 36 miles.  I joined her to also avoid the heat and to get in as much mileage as possible before heading home to take care of wife and daughter (yes, wife is finally home from the hospital!  More on that later).  Brett (training for his first 50k in November) also wanted to avoid the heat and enjoys running with Deb.  So we all three spent the morning together talking, running and walking, peeing, eating and drinking, and generally having a good time.

We had a good day on the trail.  It was relatively cool in the morning and didn't warm up too much by the time I left (9:10).  We saw some other members of North Texas Trail Runners and saw very few cyclists.  We saw an armadillo, an adolescent skunk, a jack rabbit.  We stayed together the whole time and didn't push too hard.  I had to leave by 9:10 in order to get home at the agreed upon time, so I only ended up doing 22 miles in 5:30, a 15 minute pace.  Brett's goal was to do 18, which he accomplished (he also did 18 last weekend).  Deb went on to do her 36 miles and is still out there as I write this.  It was a great way to start the weekend.

Angela finally got home Wednesday and is doing pretty well, all things considered.  She is getting home rehab and is as active as possible around the housel.  Her only problem is bending the knee--she can't bend it to the degree they would like.  She will keep working on it and there are some options if she can't get it done herself.  One option is that the surgeon would put her under and then force her leg to bend (OUCH!).  Hopefully it won't come to that.

That's all for now.  I hope to spend most of the day at home, working with my daughter on her reading and other skills so she'll be ready for school in two weeks.  Tomorrow I'll do about 20-22 miles at the track (I don't have time to drive to and from a trail two days in a row).

I forgot to update everyone on my nutrition and hydration experiments.   I have been avoiding Gels and energy drinks because, frankly, I am sick of them.  Today I carried water in my Camelbak.  I ate half a peanut butter sandwich, drank half a Big Red and ate a few pieces of candy orange slices at nine miles.  I ate the other half sandwich, drank the other half of the Big Red and ate a couple of peanut butter filled pretzels at 18.  I topped off my water both times.  I felt great for the whole walk.  I never felt a bonk or crash.  Also, I only took three Succeed caplets (in the past I would have taken between five and ten).

So far it seems that I can get enough energy and electrolytes from food and drink at "aid stations," supplemented with occasional electrolyte caplets.  I still keep Hammer Gel and Clip2 on hand in case it is needed, but so far it has not been.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Speaking of Goals, Here is Fat Man Walking

Speaking of walking across America, here is Steve Vaught, self dubbed "Fat Man Walking." Why is he walking across America?
I am going to walk across the United States from San Diego to NYC to lose weight and regain my life!

Normal people doing amazing things!

Saturday, July 23, 2005


I want to do something like this. One day.....
Run Willy Run
Run Across America 2004
Run Across America
Diabetes Run Across America
Run the USA
Running across America

Or a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail?
Or maybe a walk across Texas? I don't know if anyone's done that.

I'd like to have a big milestone goal out there staring me in the face, challenging me to push farther and harder. I'm going to pick something and work toward it....

Catching up

I haven't posted in a while because things have been so busy. Angela developed an infection in her knee and had to have a second surgery to clean it out. It was scary for a while watching her leg turn red and swell up, but now everything is back to normal and her leg looks good. The therapy is REALLY HARD and she's having to work extra hard to get back where she was before the infection. The bad news is that she is still in the hospital; the good news is that she should be home on Monday. She has already been in the hospital for 2 1/2 weeks! I'll be glad when she's home.

Since I'm temporarily a single dad I haven't been doing any training. That has been very frustrating, but I know it's temporary so I'm just trying to watch what I eat so I don't put on a bunch of weight. I feel like my past training was strong so I'm not too worried about the 100 miler in October.

One thing I'm very excited about: remember the all night training I did a few weeks ago with some friends who are also training for Heartland? Well, we are going to do a 100k training run/walk in mid-August. It will also be an overnight session (it's so much cooler at night and you don't have to deal with the sun beating on you for hours) on the same gravel roads we used for our all nighter. A few more people are going to join us for part or all of the night. So if you will be in Central Texas (Waco area) on Friday, August 19th, please come join us for some fun. We'll have plenty of snacks and drinks at our "aid station," so just bring your gear (don't forget a flashlight or headlamp). We'd love to have you!

Today, my daughter is going to a birthday party, I'm hoping to get a haircut, and I've got to clean up the house--my daughter is a horrible slob and things are a wreck. Hopefully I'll be back in training next week and next weekend will put in some good, long miles.

Happy training!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Google Maps the Moon???

Yes, you read that right. Google Maps on the Moon. Check this out. Very cool!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

URGENT - Your Bone Marrow Is Needed

I've just found out that Diem Tran, one of my customer's friends, has severe Aplastic Anemia and urgently needs a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately she does not have a matched sibling and there was no match in the Bone Marrow registry; she's Vietnamese, which dramatically reduces her chances of finding a match.

If you are Vietnamese I implore you to join the National Bone Marrow Registry. All it takes is a simple finger prick and a small amount of blood to register. Your simple act might save a life. If you have any Vietnamese friends, encourage them to join, too.

Here is a link with lots of good information on how to join the registry and what happens if you are found to be a match.

EVERYONE should register!!!! But if you are Vietnamese the need is URGENT! Please help!

Update on Angela's Surgery

Angela's surgery was a success. She spent three days in recovery and then moved to the rehabilitation hospital. She should get out by Friday, and may even get out by Wednesday. She initially had a lot of pain and it took some effort to get it under control. We have to be very careful because she has lung/breathing problems as a result of her bone marrow transplant, and three times in the past she has stopped or almost stopped breathing due to excessive sedation/narcotics. So for a couple of days it was stressful, but now they seem to have a good drug combination that makes her tired but not "drugged."

Lela has been with relatives for almost a week, and I really miss her! Sunday I brought her home and she spent the day and evening with me. We went out to eat (Pei Wei) and got ice cream (Marble Slab), then we watched "The Two Towers" and spent time together. I can't wait until she's home again with us.

Today I did my first training since last Monday, and it sucked! I don't know why, I just had one of those lousy days. Even though I was walking on super-flat concrete it felt like I was walking uphill, and I had a lot of discomfort in my feet and ankles. I made the wrong-headed decision to walk on a concrete trail near my house; I wanted to walk ten miles and I thought it would be too boring to do it at the track. In retrospect, I wish I had gone to the track. Oh well, not every training day can be perfect.

Distance: 10.22 miles
Time: 2:02:05
Pace: 11:56

Monday, July 04, 2005

Reunited (and it feels so good)

The family finally got back today from Corpus Christi. They were gone 11 days, way too long. Tomorrow is the day before Angela's surgery so we'll be busy getting things ready (packing a bag for Lela to stay with Mammy, packing a hospital bag for Angela, etc.). I'm working tomorrow and then I'm off the rest of the week. If all goes well she will be home by the weekend.

This morning I did a long walk at Rowlett Creek Preserve. RCP is the closest trail to my house; it is primarily a mountain biking trail maintained by the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association. Because of the holiday it was packed; I had to keep stepping off the trail to let bikes pass. I don't really like this trail much because: 1. Too many bikes; 2. Tons of trash, the creek smells sometimes, it can be depressing and it makes you realize that one day we will destroy the Earth; 3. It has lots of short, steep up- and downhills that are probably lots of fun on bikes but not that great when walking/running. I enjoy long, challenging uphills, but these are not very satisfying. So I don't train on this trail very often but today I didn't feel like making the 35 minute drive to North Shore or the 45 minute drive to Cedar Ridge Preserve. That is my only dissatisfaction with our house; there are no trails nearby.

I'm revolting against gu (revolting is the perfect word in this context). I'm just sick of it and I can hardly bring myself to eat any (I normally use Vanilla or Espresso Hammer Gel during long walks). I hardly used any at all during my recent all night 12 hour walk, and I only used one serving during today's 4.5 hour walk. I also hardly used any electrolyte caplets. I've been eating and drinking more during the walk (I try to plan frequent trips to my car). Today I drank a Yoo-hoo, and I ate a Mojo Bar and some candy orange slices (I carried water in my pack, not energy drink). Friday night I ate a peanut butter sandwich, a pimiento cheese sandwich, lots of pringles, some jelly beans and candy orange slices, and I drank some Big Red and Coke (I carried some energy drink in my pack but refilled it with water during the night). I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but I don't seem to notice a lack of energy. I don't feel that I ever "bonked" and both today and Friday night/Saturday morning I've done some of my fastest miles in the last 1/3 of the walk. So I'm going to keep experimenting, but I may stop using energy gels.

Tomorrow I'll be up at 5:00 AM for the usual 6-10 miles.

I hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend. If you were racing, I hope you accomplished your goals and had fun at the same time.

Distance: 20.0 miles
Time: 4:31:37
Pace: 13:34

Friday, July 01, 2005

In the black of the night till the red morning light*

Last night was the first of what I hope will become an annual event. We didn't have a name but we debated names during the run: The Swat and Squat, The Scratch 'N Sniff, The Eat and Run, and so on. So I will unofficially dub this the first annual Swat and Squat 12 hour Eat and Run.

I left work a little early on Friday so I could get down to Waco, Texas and meet my ultra friends Frances and Marla by 7:00 PM and start our all night training run. That's Frances on the left and Marla on the right at Three Days of Syllamo.

We had been planning this event for more than a month. The three of us, along with a few other people we know, are training for the Heartland 100 in October. We wanted to get in some really long runs/walks in preparation, and I suggested we do one at night to practice night running. Frances did some reconnaissance and found the perfect place to train. She found some dirt and gravel farm roads in Mart, a little town northeast of Waco. The old farm roads are just like Heartland, only a little less hilly: dirt, gravel, rocks the size of grapes to small potatoes. It was almost an exact duplicate of Heartland. Here's a map of the course:

As I pulled up to the farm road where Frances was waiting for me, I swerved to miss a turtle in the road. There was a truck behind me and fortunately he missed it, too. After I pulled up next to Frances I ran back and moved the turtle off the highway. I certainly didn't want the little guy to get run over, and I thought it might bring us a little good karma for our run (plus, I can really relate to turtles!).

Frances and I drove to a central point and set up our "aid station." The route is a large H and the plan was to park in the center of the H and do a series of out-and-backs, always returning to our aid station. I met Frances' boyfriend Jim, who was really nice, and then the three of us took off (Jim ran the first six miles with us; then he followed us on bike for a while before calling it a night). Marla was going to join us in about an hour.

We came back to the aid station after about four miles. We got some snacks, picked up our lights because it was getting dark, then headed back out. As the sun was going down I was reminded of these lyrics from Johnny Cash:
With the twilight colors falling
And the evening laying shadows
Hidden memories come stealing from my mind.
As I feel my own heart beating out
The simple joy of living
I wonder how I ever was that kind.

But the wild road I was ramblin'
Was always out there callin'
And they said a hundred times I should have died.
But now my present miracle
Is that you're here beside me,
So I believe it was the road I was meant to ride

Like a Soldier by Johnny Cash

After about an hour and 15 minutes Marla called to say she was almost here so we headed to the aid station to meet with her. We spent some time there saying hi and catching up (Marla's boyfriend Kenny came, too) and setting up our food. Our aid station was as well stocked as some of those at SunMart! We had all of the following:
Coke, Mountain Dew, Big Red, Gatorade, Water
Pringles, Cheetos, Pretzels, Peanut Butter-filled Pretzels
Jelly Beans, candy Orange Slices
Peanut Butter Sandwich, Pimiento cheese Sandwiches (without Pimientos!), Turkey Sandwiches
Gel, electrolyte caps, etc.

You can see why I wanted to call it the Eat and Run! We had more than enough food, and we all agreed to stop frequently to refuel. This was not a race--it was an effort to get "time on our feet" and to have fun. If you count our aid station pit stops, the time we spent catching up and getting our final gear together when Marla arrived, bathroom stops and the occasional stop on the course just to get a breather, we stopped a total of 2 hours 9 minutes.

By this time it was dark so we all made sure we had our lights, changed the batteries on Frances' small light, then hit the road. We picked various legs of the H and did out and backs, coming back to the aid station about every 4-5 miles. The longest we were ever away from our cars was about 2 hours, and Frances and Marla both ran out of water shortly before we arrived back at our aid station, so I'm glad it wasn't any longer.

On the way back to the aid station a couple of guys in a pickup stopped to make sure we were OK (we only passed two vehicles the entire night). After we told them we were fine they told us to be careful because there are "hundreds" of wild pigs in the fields. After they drove away both Marla and Frances said they were full of &%$#! Frances lives in Mart, near our course, and both of them have lived in Waco for years, and they figured the guys thought we were city slickers and just wanted to scare us. Then I learned something about Frances I never knew: she won second place in a hog calling contest! So she regaled us with her best hog calls, piercing the night with "Soooooowieeeeeeee. Here pig, here pig, here pig, sooooooooooowieeeee!!!!" So if there were any pigs in the fields we would see them soon!

It was a moonless night for most of the evening, and the stars were just incredible. Being a ciy boy, I always forget just how impressive the stars really are. It just blows my mind to think of everything that is out there that we know nothing about.

Frances went through a manic phase at this point and just had so much energy. She would bound ahead and then walk and wait for us to catch up. She sang camp songs and Vacation Bible School songs. She skipped, she danced. It was some sort of crazy sugar high! Next we all told corny jokes. Here's my contribution:
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot his whole life, which created an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him frail, and with his odd diet, he suffered from very bad breath. This made him a super-callused fragile mystic vexed with halitosis.

We had a lot of time, so we discussed a lot of stupid things. Marla wanted to know which "Wizard of Oz" character we would each be (I can't remember the consensus). Then Frances impressed us with her "Wicked Witch" voice which was dead on. Next we started talking about horror movies, especially "Children of the Corn" (we were surrounded by cornfields with plants taller than us), which of course spooked us all. Then Frances, who was a little ahead of us, started telling us the plot of the movie "From Dusk til Dawn" (appropriate, don't you think?). Marla told me to turn off my light and we hid on the side of the road. Frances turned around to look for us and saw nothing but pitch black! So the two of us had a good laugh at Frances' expense.

At about the halfway point we stopped at the aid station to doctor a blister on Frances' foot and then headed out again. More of the same--we all stayed together, usually with Marla or Frances in front and me bringing up the rear. Finally, around 3:00 AM, the moon came out, a little orange sliver behind a few wispy clouds. It was beautiful.

Marla is a vet and had to work on Saturday so we had to get back to our cars by 4:00. We got there a little before 4:00, said our goodbyes, then Frances and I started another leg. We were getting pretty tired but still had about 4 hours to go. Finally, around 5:15, the sky started to lighten almost imperceptibly. A little after 5:30 I could turn my light off. We made it to dawn, and that realization gave us a little extra energy!

I did a little math and determined that if we stayed at or below our current pace we could do 42 miles within our self-imposed 12 hour limit. Frances and I stopped to look at a water snake coiled around a tree in a pond. It didn't look poisonous (it was a long snake but had a small head that didn't have that distinctive viper shape) but it had diamonds like a diamondback rattler (but no rattle). I'm not sure what it was.

We got back to our cars with about 50 minutes to go until 12 hours. I convinced Frances to head out two more miles; after that the two final miles back would seem fast and easy because we would be eager to finish. So we headed out for the final four miles. I got that final burst of energy at the turnaround and made it back to my car and stopped my watch: 12:11:46 and 42 miles.

We kept a pretty decent pace throughout the night. If you divide the course into 6 seven mile segments, here were our average paces for each segment: 13:43, 13:24, 14:13, 14:31, 14:50, 14:06. If you add in all of our rest time our average pace was 17:25. If you subtracted the rest time our pace was 13:37. As a point of reference, my 50 mile PR pace is 14:09.

So it was a great evening! I am very tired but do not feel as sore or beat up as I would expect. Maybe my body is finally adjusting to the stresses of ultras.

We're talking about doing a 100k training night in August. We all like the idea of starting a little earlier, maybe 6:00 PM, and then going all night to avoid the heat and the sun. I'll post more details later, and if anyone reading this wants to join us (for a part of the run or for the whole thing) the more the merrier. We'll have more than enough food, and we might even manage to find some beer!

*Red Morning Light by The Kings of Leon.