Monday, September 16, 2019

SUPERIOR 100 - THE 'WHY' & THE TRAINING


More important to me than the RACE RECAP and getting to the finish line is how I got to the start line. In that race recap I wrote about the seeds that were planted as far back as 10 years ago. But what finally lead them to take root? What was my “WHY” for doing the race? What were the last 9 months of training like? What was my mindset along the way? How did it all come together? These are the questions that I attempt to answer here.

Journal entry 9/17/18 – note this is less than 2 weeks after last year’s race:

The Compete and Strong books talk a lot about goal setting, challenging yourself, not being afraid, etc. As I read from one of these books last week, it hit me, I want to run the Superior 100 next fall. I’ve always said that I don’t like being awake that long, let alone moving that whole time and that I don’t think my body would enjoy it. But deep down I’ve always wanted to see what it would be like – to see how far I could go and if I could battle the mental side of the sport. Of course, there was always the fear of failure, but I’ve been telling the cross-country kids that failure doesn’t exist – we try something, we learn something, and then apply those learnings going forward. Besides, if I “fail” I’ll be surrounded by like-minded people and, most likely, a crew of great friends who would support me.

While I like to coach runners, I admit when I’m out of my league – and training for 100M was definitely out of my league. Luckily, I bumped into Sherri Schummer at a happy hour in October and I was able to pick her brain. I first met Sherri in 2015 as I trained for my first 50M and she trained for her first 100M. That year she finished Superior with less than an hour to spare. Then last year, she ran 6 hours faster and was the 10th woman. Obviously, she was doing something right. That “something” was being directed by Coach Alicia Vargo.  

On October 29th, I reached out to Alicia;
I’m friends with Sherri Schummer and have been extremely impressed with her improvement over the last few years. I’d like to run the Superior 100 next year too and am looking for a coach. I’m wondering 1) if you have any openings and 2) how long you typically like to work with a runner leading up to a race? When it comes to #2, I imagine “the longer the better” but I was wondering if I started in January, would 8 months be long enough?

She replied the same day;
Thank you so much for getting in contact with me. Sherri is such a tough gal and it has been a pleasure to work with her!  I would love to see how I can best help you moving forward with your training and racing. Superior is such a unique and tedious (and beautiful!) 100 miler. It definitely necessitates a long, proper buildup. I think that 8 months would be prefect. I would probably structure your training, depending on where you are starting from, into two segments. A based building phase for 3.5 months, shorter break for 2 weeks and then 4 months of Superior specific training. January would work really well!  I do have openings and it would be a pleasure to work with you! Please let me know if you have any additional questions or if you would like information on what we would need to do to get started. 

Game on!

While Alicia handled the physical side of training, I knew it was also important to work on my mindset. As I tell the marathoners I coach, if we leave our thoughts to chance for 3 to 6 hours, it’s very likely that they’ll turn negative. I can only imagine the negative spiral that could take place during a 30+ hour race. To help get my head on straight I turned to sports psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais – well I didn’t turn to him personally, but through his terrific podcast, FINDING MASTERY, where he interviews “tip of the arrow” performers.

Journal entry 6/11/19
Being scared shitless is giving way to confidence and excitement… Feeling more confident because I’m able to get on the trails again, because of the two 50Ks I raced, because of some power hiking workouts, along with back-to-back longer runs.

One thing I’m working on is finding my ‘why’. I don’t want the Superior 100M to be about racing / competing / numbers. Instead, I want to focus on the process and let the outcome take care of itself.
Dr. Michael Gervais talks about the importance of clarity of purpose and finding your “why”;
“The more extreme the environment, the greater the benefit of clarity of purpose holds. When pain is greater than purpose, we give into the pain. When purpose is clear, we can override the discomfort to move to the expression of purpose.”
Right now, my purpose for running the 100M is a tribute to 40 years of running, sort of my Love Letter to Running, if I had to put a name on it. During hill repeats I’ve been thinking about everyone I’ve met through running, typically going through the different phases of my running life; my youth, high school, college, roads, trails, MDRA, youth running, and so on. I also think about all the races I’ve run, other events, and all running has given me. 


Journal entry 7/30/19
I like the idea of spending time on the trail thinking of everyone that I’ve met through running over the years. On the next few pages I’ve tried to make a list of everyone that I can remember. I’m sure I missed a bunch, but that’s not the point.


As someone who was concerned with sleep and being tired, I heard a few things along the way that gave me confidence.

On the drive to South Dakota for the Black Hills 50M, I heard a podcast where an ultra-athlete said that a 24-hour race isn’t really long enough to get sleep deprived.

Also, Steve Tapajna (who ran his first 100M last year at Superior) told me this summer that you don’t get sleepy when the sun goes down. That was really good for me to hear.

Not sleep-related but I also heard that if you stay hydrated and consume enough calories, you can do amazing things.

Dr. Gervais likes to say, “By doing the inner work, you earn the right to tell yourself ‘I can do difficult things.’” For me, inner work included defining my “why” as stated above, but also adding in a meditation practice. I use the Headspace app. Also, a gamechanger for me has been doing yoga twice per week. I used to have hip and back issues that seem to flare up 2-3 times per. Once the pain forced me to skip the Birkie ski race and just 2 years ago I DNF’d at TCM. Soon after TCM I added yoga to my practice and I haven’t had a flare up since.

As for the training itself, I don’t want to give away all of Alicia’s secrets, but let’s just say I was shocked when I look back at my weekly mileage. And, I mean, shocked because it was so low. From January 1st through August 31st, I average less than 42 MPW. Other than when I ran the BH50 and ran 66 miles, my largest week was 60 miles. And my largest month was 232 miles. I’ve had marathon build ups with way more mileage.

That’s not to say the training was easy. The numbers don’t show the back-to-back medium-long runs, or power hiking 15-20 hill repeats at Hyland when it was 90 degrees out, or the last three long runs of 24, 27 and 30 miles – the last one being a solo run on the SHT. There were definitely hard days, but there was also a lot of recovery. It was just surprising to me, because I think most people would associate 100M training with HUGE numbers in the log book.
   
As I mentioned above, I didn’t want this race to be about time or place. The only reason I put any time down on paper was so that my crew would have a better sense of when I’d arrive at aid stations. To help with this I used the information on Course Record times into each aid station and multiplied that by 50% to 67% in order to get a range. That seemed to work pretty well as I compared this range of time to actual results for friends I know from previous years. The problem with these previous results is that they were all over the board. The same friend would run 26 hours one year, but 33 hours the next.

After being set on my times for each aid station, Mallory Richard’s STATISTICAL ANALYSIS was posted. I reviewed my numbers with her method and tweaked a few things to determine the final numbers that I gave to my crew.

Another thing that really helped was reading Kevin Langton’s COURSE DESCRIPTION . Going into the race I’d only been on about half of the course, so this provided some great insight. Although I will admit that most of that goes out the window when on the course.

All of this combined to bring me to the starting line feeling incredibly calm. I wasn’t really sure why, however, the week after the race Dr. Gervais explained why.
“There’s a relationship between skills and challenge. If the challenge is hard enough and you believe you have the skills to match that challenge, that’s the sweet spot. If you don’t believe you have the skills to match that challenge, that’s where we get anxiety. You might actually have the skills, but if you don’t believe, if you don’t trust yourself, that’s where we get sideways.” – Michael Gervais
I definitely believed that this challenge was hard enough, but I also believed I had the skills to match the challenge.


Photo: Brian Beckman

Sunday, September 15, 2019

SUPERIOR 100 RACE RECAP






I get it, it’s hard to wrap your head around covering 100 miles on foot without stopping for a nap. I imagine every runner that has entered a 100 mile experience, as Race Director John Storkamp refers to it in his RACE RECAP, has had similar thoughts at one point or another. Eventually, seeds get planted, and then fertilized, over the years before finally taking root. Here are a few of my seeds;

You must go back 10 years to July of 2009, that’s the first time I ever stepped on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). I even BLOGGED about that first run, “I ventured onto the Superior Hiking Trail only to find it incredibly rocky and rooty (is that a word?). I wasn’t so much “running” as I was doing that high knee tire drill that football players do.” At the time, I was used to the trails at Lebanon Hills and Hyland Park. The thought of running 100 miles on the SHT wasn’t even a dream back then.

In 2014 I experienced race weekend for the first time, as a volunteer. I even wrote a REPORT about that entire weekend. In it I wrote; “I can’t help watching an event like this and think to myself; 1) could I finish, 2) would I enjoy it, and 3) would I be any good at it?  As Adam Lindahl said after finishing his first 100M this summer, "I have too many ultra-friends not to at least consider doing one."  With that said, I’m already signed up for the Wild Duluth 50K on October 18th and I'd like to try a 50-miler next year.  Is a 100 miler in my future?  It’s too early to tell, but I’ve been thinking about it more than ever before.

The following year I paced Brett Busacker for about 25 miles. Running on the SHT in the dark was one of the coolest things ever and it answered a lot of questions that I think needed to be addressed before seriously considering taking on such an event.

Finally, right after the 2017 race, my friend Stephanie Thiede declared that she was going to run the 100M in 2018. It wasn’t only that she followed through, but it was the way she did it that really stood out to me. I still remember her coming into Oberg (mile 96) smiling with this incredibly great attitude. As she left the aid station she said, “Let’s go get a sweatshirt.” (referring to her finisher’s hoodie).

After that race, with turning 50 years old on the horizon, I finally pulled the trigger and signed up for the 100-mile race. People would often say; “Oh, you picked an easy one for your first 100.” Of course, they were sarcastically referring to the Rugged, Relentless, Remote tagline of the race and it’s 42,000 feet of elevation change. Running my first 100 miler was never about just covering 100 miles. If that was the case, I would have found an easier race. Growing up on its south shore, Lake Superior has always held a special place in my heart. And I find its north shore even more special. I’ve never been anywhere else that opens my soul like the rocky north shore. My first 100 always had to be the Superior 100.

DISCLAIMER: During the race I remember thinking about how alert I felt as I soaked in the entire experience. However, now as I sit down to write a recap, everything seems to blend together. I remember having vivid conversations, but I don’t remember most of them. I remember getting rained on, but not where or when. I remember hearing positive comments from my crew and pacers, but I couldn’t tell you the specifics. What follows is my interpretation of what took place from 8:00 AM on Friday September 6, 2019 to 4:40 PM on Saturday September 7, 2019. Perhaps my crew, pacers, and the aid station workers would have a different perspective.

Leading up to the race I heard over and over how 100M is all about problem solving. From that standpoint, this was a very boring race. I really couldn’t have had a better experience. As lame as this sounds, if I had to change 1 thing from the race it would be not having my glasses fog up. That’s it!


Nutrition was never an issue. The worst was right after eating or drinking, but I’d burp and/or take a tums and I was fine. My plan was to drink Perpetuem at 20 and 40-minutes of the hour and then on the hour I’d eat something solid (energy bar, dried fruit, or trail mix) and wash it down with water. After 50 miles my crew had a 20-minute timer going so I didn’t have to try to remember to drink, drink, then eat, by myself. A few times I dreaded when the eat-timer went off, but I never skipped. On those occasions I just took a gel because it was the easiest/quickest form of calories.

My feet were great too. I had a tiny blister on each heal and one of my left pinky toe. I swapped socks somewhere between miles 51 and 72. Then I swapped shoes and socks at mile 78. As you may notice from the pictures, I changed shirts A LOT. I think I counted at least 7 different shirts – and I think I put 1 or 2 back on after they were dried for me. It just felt so good to put a dry shirt on. 

CAST OF CHARACTERS – in order of appearance

Me and Scott safe and sound
at Caribou Coffee the week
after the race. Photo: Scott LaFrenz
Scott LaFrenz – Former cross country and track teammates at UW-EC. We first met in 1992. “Arch rival” constantly pushing me to be a better runner, teammate, husband, father, and just a better person, in general. He drove from the Twin Cities, sat around waiting for me for 5 hours, and ran through the woods for a few hours, before jumping in his car and driving home. Note: he did take four 20-minute naps along the way, including stops in Two Harbors AND Duluth. Pacer from Finland to Sonju Lake Road to Crosby-Manitou. Apparent star gazer. 

I remember Scott saying that he calculated that we’ve run 5,000 miles together over the years. Math after 14 hours of constant movement is hard, so I didn’t even try to validate his number. Throw in biking and cross-country skiing mileage and he’s probably on the low side. Needless to say, he was a sight for sore eyes in the middle of the night – especially after 26 miles on the trails without much conversation. I also remember him being mesmerized by the stars and even trying to show me the big dipper “if that tree wasn’t in the way.” 

Jenna and I somewhere still out on the course,
perhaps Cramer Road. Photo: Pat Richard
Jenna Boren – A 2:40 marathoner who flew in from California to be part of this experience. I’m honored that she took time away from treating Stanford athletes, to spend it with me on the north shore. She took the logistical-bull by the horns and eliminate a lot of stress from my life in the weeks leading up to the race – particularly when it came to getting pacers to the right spot on time and making sure cars were available too.

She doesn’t even like buffed-out trails during the day, so I had her pace one of the longest sections, Crosby-Manitou to Sugarloaf, in the middle of the night. Luckily, she only fell once. I don’t think pacing turn Jenna into a trail runner, but that was never the point. California has softened her up bit, but a weekend on the north shore changed that – at least a little. The biggest thing I remember from this stretch is going to the bathroom about 15 times. That’s not even hyperbole.

Me and Derek focus on one of
the many slippery boardwalks.
Photo: Pat Richard
Derek Sciacca – He’s had some bad luck when it comes to ultras lately. He missed this race last year due to work obligations and dropped out of the Waldo 100K this year due to being attacked by wasps. In between, he ran a great 50K at Wild Duluth last fall finishing as the third Master. He climbs like a Billy goat and, I believe, he will crush this race someday. His blue eyes have been known to stop women, and men, dead in their tracks. Pacer from Sugarloaf to Cramer Road to Temperance.

Given that Waldo was 3 weeks before Superior, Derek and I were able to do a couple of long runs together this summer at Battle Creek. During the race I remember him asking how my feet were doing and making a plan to change shoes at Cramer Road. I remember seeing Storkamp at Cramer Road and telling him I was just looking forward to a hug at the finish.

One thing John mentioned at the pre-race meeting was picking up trash on the trail. Coming into Temperance I saw a plastic bag and picked it up. It happened to be used toilet paper that someone dropped. No big deal to me, but Derek said I shouldn’t have to carry it and he took it out of my hand. We then proceeded, with our best 6th grade humor, to figure out who we were going to give it to at Temperance, along with different scenarios regarding who’s it was and where it came from.

Pat and I are all smiles
at Sawbill (I think).
Photo: Heather Richard
Pat Richard – Two sport “star” athlete at the University of Minnesota in cross country and wrestling. In fact, I believe he takes credit for Garry Bjorklund becoming an Olympian. He’s a terrific storyteller, unfortunately, he likes to include embarrassing stories about me from time to time. Pat’s part of an “old guy” group (guys in their 60s and 70s) that I train with and get together monthly for a happy hour. While I used to look for training advice from these guys, now I look for advice on colonoscopies, hip replacements, and social security. He’s an aspiring amateur photographer who will literally give you the shirt off his back – as he did for me at Temperance. Pacer from Temperance to Sawbill.

The thing I remember most about running with Pat is feeling great as we climbed Carlton Peak. That was great for me, but Pat was trying to take photos of me climbing and he missed a few shots. I also remember looking for the vistas. I figured when we got near the top of Carlton Peak we’d have some nice views, which I kept calling vistas. That entertained Pat for awhile.


Nike sponsored pacer, Kevin "TK" Nelson
Photo: Pat Richard
Kevin “TK” Nelson – Travel companion and crew chief, along with his wife Nordica Stocker, at my first “real” ultra, the Squamish 50M in 2015. I basically invited myself on that trip, but TK and Nords never complained. He’s a keen observer of people, lover of all things metal – at least in terms of music, an apparent rule maker, and an excellent hugger. Final pacer from Sawbill to Oberg to the Finish.

Coming into Oberg (the last aid station) with TK was the best. I felt great and the cheering crowd was awesome. We’ve both worked this AS before and know more people here than any other aid station. Of course, there’s Kurt and the TCRC RV, along with Sonya Decker, Mike Bateman, Nick Graham, Doug Barton (who I somehow missed), Jay McDonald, Brian Beckman, etc. So much energy here that it’s easy to stay too long.

Leaving Oberg I just remember reading “don’t underestimate that last 7 miles.” While I felt great, I knew that Moose Mountain still loomed in the distance. I know it’s “short”, but it’s also steep and that’s the combination that usually does me in. As we climbed a hill, TK and I were trying to decide if we were on Oberg Mountain or Moose Mountain. I thought Oberg, TK thought Moose. Luckily, TK was right and before you knew it, we were at the top. This is when TK started making rules; 1) no running on boardwalks (because they’re wet and muddy, which can be treacherous), 2) no running downhill (because there are lots of roots and rocks, which can be treacherous), and, I believe, 3) pick your feet up (because falling can be disastrous at this point in the race). I was smelling the finish and he was just looking out for me.

Finally, we stopped at the Poplar River for some photo ops before hitting the road. Derek joined us for a little bit and took some funny videos – mostly of TK – as we ran 8:30 pace for the final mile. As we rounded Caribou Highlands and ran into the homestretch it was everything I imagined; hearing Craig Yotter call my name, raising my arms in the air, collecting my medal and belt buckle, hugging TK and John, before finding the rest of my crew and sharing the elation with each of them. I admit, I totally forgot about the wolf and having to kiss it. I guess that’s another thing that went “wrong” for me.

Instead of trying to recreate my memories from the finish, here are a few texts from afterwards;

“Can’t believe how good I felt, especially on the 2nd day.” – 1st text to my wife

“Texted and immediately fell asleep for 4 hours. Other than becoming a father that’s by far at the top of the list.” – 2nd text to wife

“Crushed it! Can’t believe how great I felt. Day 2 was even better. Can’t thank you enough.” – text to Coach Alicia

“Truly unbelievable. I have no words to describe how great I felt. A couple low energy spots but always at the end of a long section and the next aid station brought me right back.” – text to the Godfather of Trail, Kurt Decker

After the race I emailed Coach Alicia; “The last 18 miles I felt like I was actually attacking the course. My crew was joking about how good I looked on day #2 and I told them I was climbing better than the previous day. I have no idea how 1,500’ of climbing up a ski hill translates to 21,000’ of climbing during a 100-mile race. You’re the coach and will have to answer that. But somehow it worked.”

An experience like this requires many thank yous;

First and foremost, thanks to John and Cheri Storkamp for not only putting on this incredible experience, but for building an incredible trail running community. Thanks to each and every volunteer out on the course, in particular I remember, Travis and Stephanie Thiede at Sugarloaf, Becca Metzdorf at Temperance, the entire Oberg crew. Obviously, thanks to the pacers I mentioned above, but also to other crew members; Nordica Stocker and Heather Richard. Kim Anderson, Kevin Ryks, and Brittany Smith pulled double-duty helping me at times, along with Aaron Smith. Kurt Decker for all he’s done for me and every other budding ultra-runner. Thanks to Sherri Schummer for telling me her Superior 100 secret, which was to hire Coach Alicia Vargo. I can’t thank Alicia enough for her training plan, guidance, positive feedback, nutrition tips, and so much more. Finally, thanks to my incredible wife and kids for their amazing support not only of these events, but all of life. 


Here's a recap of the weekend in photos;

Badass pre-race photo: Ian Corless 
Me and Kurt looking at the course map.
Me and Kurt discussing the course map.
Photo: Pat Richard

The actual course profile.

Early miles. Photo: Kurt Decker
Somewhere near Split Rock. Photo: Tone Coughlin







Temperance River. Photo: Pat Richard

One of the few photos of Scott and me.
Photo: Scott LaFrenz



Me and Derek multi-tasking; changing shoes
and socks and trying to close a reservoir.
Photo: Pat Richard
Climbing Carlton Peak.
Photo: Pat Richard

Amy Clark showing me all the plant-based options.
Photo: Pat Richard
Split Rock.
Photo: John Stewart
Can you say "overpack"? This is the leftover food
that I DID NOT eat along the way. Thanks to my crew
for hauling this stuff from aid station to aid station.

Jenna alongside one of the two totes
my crew hauled around for 2 days.
Photo: Pat Richard
TK saying something clever to get me from Sawbill
to Oberg. If you look closely you can see Derek between
us and Heather and Pat off to the right.
Photo: Chad Richardson
All smiles with only 12.6 miles to go. TK starting
his pacing duties at Sawbill.
Photo: Chad Richardson


1:40 later, TK and I coming into Oberg!!!
What a great feeling!?
Photo: Pat Richard

Last minute instructions from Derek.
Photo: Brian Beckman

Two of the best around, Mike Bateman and Kurt Decker.
Photo: Pat Richard
Me and Jay McDonald go all the way back to
high school cross country.
Photo: Brian Beckman
Me, TK and Derek - the all grays.
Would have finished a lot sooner
without all these photo ops.
Photo: Pat Richard

All I needed to get me to the finish line, a high-five
from the Godfather of Trail!
Photo: Pat Richard
Let's go get that hoodie.


Rule #1: No running on boardwalks.
Photo: John Stewart
Rule #2: No running downhill.
Photo: Pat Richard

Poplar River #1
Photo: Nordica Stocker

Poplar River #2
Photo: Pat Richard


Yes! 103.2 miles! What a great feeling!
Photo: Tone Coughlin
Thanks to TK for bringing me to the finish
and to all my crew for making this moment
a reality. Photo: Tone Coughlin

Me and Nordica
Photo: Pat Richard

Most of my crew; Nordica, TK, Jenna, Pat and Kevin in back
Derek, me and Kim in front
Photo: Brittany Smith
The crew from earlier in the race. Apparently I'm too busy
to pose alongside Kim, Nordica, TK, Kevin and Heather.
Photo: Pat Richard 

The coveted hoodie in a coveted chair.
Photo: Pat Richard













Monday, January 07, 2019

HEALTH & WELLNESS NEWSLETTER

I doubt very many people are still monitoring this page, however, if you are I wanted to provide a quick update of my new adventure... 
With the New Year upon us – and a milestone birthday on my horizon – I’ve been spending some time pondering life and the things that are important to me. As I get older it’s probably no surprise that health and wellness have risen toward the top of the list. So much so that I spent 2018 taking online classes to become a certified health coach.
I know what you’re thinking, “What the heck is a health coach?” The easiest way for me to explain it is to think about your last visit to your doctor. There’s a good chance they spent 8 minutes with you, said “exercise more and eat better,” before sending you on your way. Afterwards, there’s a good chance that nothing changed. As a health coach, I see it as my duty to help people actually implement the “exercise more and eat better” part of the doctor’s advice.
Obviously, this certification doesn’t make me a doctor or a nutritionist. But it does mean that I’m passionate about health and wellness and I feel that I need to share what I’ve learned with others – especially given the current state of health care in the U.S. I definitely don’t have all the answers, as I’m just trying to figure things out like everyone else. However, I’m willing to start the conversation to help move us all forward.
All this is my way of saying that I’m creating a Health & Wellness Newsletter in 2019. My aim is to share information on healthier eating, recipes, tips for the kitchen, as well as ways to continue to grow, and so on. This email is my initial attempt at building my email list. I’m sure some of you will think this is the dumbest idea ever, and that’s fine. Simply unsubscribe and I won’t bother you going forward. For those of you that are interested, I will do my best to provide you with valuable information to help take your health and wellness to the next level. If you know someone else who would be helped by this, feel free to share the sign up link below or connect with me directly!
Here’s to a terrific 2019!
If you'd like to sign up for my newsletter, you can do so at https://www.missinglinkrunning.net/

Sunday, December 17, 2017

NEW ADVENTURE

It's been so long that I highly doubt anyone is following this blog (or any blog) these days. Hard to believe I started this one nearly 13 years ago. As you can imagine, a lot has changed in that amount of time. Personally, other than now having 2 teenage girls, I'm working towards becoming a health coach. I know you're probably thinking "What the heck is a health coach?" Think of it as any other kind of coach (running coach, life coach, personal trainer), but geared towards improving your health. Someone that can help educate you on living a more healthy lifestyle, help you set goals and keep you accountable.

Towards the end of this blog I began posting a lot more about following a Whole-Food Plant-Based diet and the changes I've seen. I really got into for health reasons and soon discovered all the environmental implications, along with the amount of animal suffering associated with our food choices. Not only that, but it became tremendously obvious that our current healthcare system is a complete mess. We're the most prosperous nation on the planet, yet we're one of the sickest. The system doesn't allow doctors enough time to do anything other than prescribe a pill to treat a symptom and then say "eat better and exercise more" as the patient heads out the door. There's a "missing link" in the system. Someone that can help educate the patient on how they can eat better and exercise more. All these things got me thinking, and looking for ways to become more involved and help spread this message through the platforms that are available to me.

I won't go into all the details here, but I just wanted to point anyone that happens to still be reading to my new blog Missing Link Health Coach. Of course, I realize that blogs are so 2000s and I don't even expect anyone to find it. However, blogs are what I have experience with and, if nothing else, it's an easy way for me to gather content in one place until I have a real website and/or hone my social media marketing skills into cohesive message.

Long may you run! 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

SUPERIOR 100M - VOLUNTEER REPORT

After blogging for what seemed like every day for about 5 years this blog started to slowly disappear in 2010.  Now it’s to the point where I haven’t updated it in nearly a year.  However, every once in a while a new goal or event comes along that needs to be captured in words – or else I’m afraid I’ll forget about its magnitude completely.  The latest such event for me is the Superior Fall Trail Races, which consists of the Moose Mountain Marathon, along with 50M and 100M ultras.  Each race takes place in the Sawtooth Mountains along the Superior Hiking Trail.  As the tagline states, these races are “Rugged / Relentless / Remote.”

Never has a race had a more accurate tagline.  Rugged explains the trail that is completely littered with rocks and roots.  Jon Howard’s blog has videos from various sections of the course if you’d like a better idea of the ruggedness.  Relentless explains the topographical profile that looks like a saw blade, hence the name of the mountain range.  While the race can’t boast of the same altitude of say a Western States or Leadville, the 42,000 feet of elevation change (21K gain / 21K loss) – all done between 600 and 1,830 feet – is more than either of those well-known events.  Finally, Remote describes the north shore, in general.  Travel north of the Twin Cities for a couple of hours and things get remote.  However, pass through the Silver Creek tunnel just north of Two Harbors and the remoteness is taken to a whole new level. 



Let me be clear up front, I was there solely in a volunteer capacity.  Race director John Storkamp posted a message on Facebook asking for more volunteers, so I raised my hand.  To be honest, John asked if I’d write an article on this event.  I’m embarrassed to say that was a couple of years ago and all I’ve managed to come up with so far is a recap of all the past race directors.  On one hand, I figured I should help out in another capacity since I’ve struggled so much with the article.  On the other hand, I thought seeing this event in person might actually spur my writing.  I think John was thinking the same thing too because he assigned me to a wide variety of tasks that would immerse me in the event.

First off was the start of the 100M race at Gooseberry Falls State Park.  Pulling into the parking lot I thought I might be in the wrong place.  Then I remember that it was still 90 minutes before the start of a 100 mile race that only had about 230 entrants.  Just after that I saw the TC Running Company RV and I knew I was in the right place.  Kurt Decker was there and he introduced me to Ian Corless.  Being new to the ultra scene, I had no idea who Ian was.  It turns out he’s like the Toni Reavis of the ultra world.  However, in addition to a blog, he also has a podcast and takes stunning pictures.  If you read no further in this post, do yourself a favor and check out Ian’s recap and photos Ian’s recap and photos of the race.

Back to the start of the race.  I can’t remember the last time when I was nervous for an event that I wasn’t even running.  But for some reason I was nervous for this group of people that were about to try to run 100 miles within the next 38 hours.  Perhaps I was nervous because it’s hard for me to fathom what these people were about to endure.  I mean I’ve spent the last 35 years trying to run fast.  You know, the kind of fast where I’d avoid races because there’s a slight up hill on the course or there are too many turns that might cost me a few seconds.  Along the way there have been a couple of endurance events, namely Ironman Wisconsin in 2003 and Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim in 2011.  But let’s face it, I probably walked two-thirds of the IM marathon and I never made it all the way to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  So yes, I was scared, excited, and nervous for the 204 runners that started the 100M race.
en·dureverb \in-ˈdu̇r, -ˈdyu̇r, en-\
: to continue to exist in the same state or condition
: to experience (pain or suffering) for a long time
: to deal with or accept (something unpleasant)

After the start we packed up the trucks and headed to the Silver Bay aid station at mile 9.7.  I know what you’re thinking; “Mile 9.7, not mile 10?”  That’s right.  One thing I learned during my research was that Don Clark and Bonnie Riley wheeled the entire course – over every root and rock – twice!  As a result, aid stations are listed to the nearest tenth of a mile – and we also know that the race is actually 103.3 miles long.

I didn’t hang out here too long because I was scheduled to work at the next aid station in Beaver Bay – mile 20.1.  There I met the aid station lead, Tom Burr, and his wife Nancy Griffith.  Tom assigned me to crossing guard.  That seemed easy enough until I figured out that spectators are as focused on their runners as runners are with the task at hand.  That means they’ll forget things like looking for cars when crossing the road.  I’d be waving cars through because there weren’t any runners coming and then all the sudden a spectator would dash out into the road.  Luckily, most of the traffic consisted of other spectators and they were very cognizant of driving through the aid station. 

One of the cool things I noticed was a number of people who’d be running the next day, but still came out to volunteer or cheer for the 100 milers.  My only other ultra experience was crewing for Dave Dehart at the 2002 Ed Fitz 100K.  I can remember seeing a lot of the same people throughout the day and getting to know more about them and their runner as the day went on.  The same was true at the Superior 100M.  It’s easy to start up a conversation with whoever is standing near you, simply by asking about who they’re waiting for.
 
After about 4 hours of traffic duty, things started to slow down and I realized how hungry I was.  I soon discovered Nancy’s famous cookies.  I can’t even tell you what kind they were but they had a great combination of sweet/salty.  I found out that she doesn’t give out the recipe, but she did suggest adding some kosher salt to the top of my next batch of cookies before baking.

My next stop was to the race finish at Caribou Highlands Lodge where I’d help with packet pickup for the marathon and 50M.  This turned out to be a lot of fun too because I recognized a bunch of people that’d be racing the next day.   The 4 hours or so flew by and it was finally time to sit down for a meal and a beer or two.

With only about 4-5 hours of sleep, Saturday was sure to be a long day, but it’s hard to complain when you think that the 100 milers didn’t even get that much sleep.  The 3 AM wakeup call allowed us to get to the start of the 50M in Finland.  There wasn’t a ton of set up for the start, but some people would be picking up their packets prior to the race.

It was in Finland that the “funniest” story of the weekend happened.  Apparently, one of the spectators rode the bus to the start with the runners.  She proceeded to get off the bus, assuming it was the responsibility of the race director to get her back to the finish.  In fact, she basically demanded a ride.  I believe she eventually found a ride, but it was from anyone involved with the race.

Next, we headed to the start of the marathon where I recognized the most people, including Tony Kocanda and his wife Laurie Kocanda, Brian Peterson, John Naslund, and Ben Kampf.  Ben would go on to run one of the most impressive performances of the weekend, 3:32:27 – just over a minute off the course record on a very muddy trail.

From there we made our way to the finish where we’d already missed the first 5 runners, including the winner, Adam Schwartz-Lowe who finished in just under 22 hours.  I was able to watch John Horns finish in 6th place and first Grand Master.  A month or so ago I met up with John for a training run in Lebanon Hills.  He told me his plan for the day was 5 hours.  I figured that meant he’d be going “slow” and I could hang for at least 2 hours.  Well, I managed to make it a little over an hour before peeling off.  The thought of running even 1 more hour at that pace didn’t seem possible.

The next 12 hours were a complete whirlwind; including cheering for runners from all 3 races, catching up with spectators I’d met the day before, sorting out drop bags from various aid stations, and working with the HAM radio operators to track runners still out on the course.  

Perhaps the coolest task of the weekend was handing out trophies at the award ceremony.  Well, first off, it’s the award ceremony itself.  John holds the ceremony right by the finish line at 8 PM or 2 hours before the race cutoff.  Whenever he sees a headlamp approaching he stops the ceremony and encourages everyone to cheer for the approaching runners.  Part way through the ceremony as John continues to sing the praises of the runners, their crew and friends and family and the volunteers, the crowd starts to chant Store-Kamp, Store-Kamp, Store-Kamp.  Of course, John would have none of that.  He’s well aware that this is a very special event and even though he’s the race director, the race is really about everyone that’s been involved with the event; runners, crew, pacers, spectators and volunteers.  He exudes passion and it carries over to everyone around him.

I can’t help watch an event like this and think to myself; 1) could I finish, 2) would I enjoy it, and 3) would I be any good at it?  As Adam Lindahl said after finishing his first 100M this summer, "I have too many ultra friends not to at least consider doing one."  With that said, I’m already signed up for the Wild Duluth 50K on October 18th and I'd like to try a 50 miler next year.  Is a 100 miler in my future?  It’s too early to tell, but I’ve been thinking about it more than ever before.
 
What is a certainty is that I’ll be heading back to volunteer for this event next year.  If you love running and/or the north shore I highly encourage to you check it out.  Whether that means running, crewing, spectating or volunteering is up to you.  You won’t be disappointed.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

RANDOM POST-RACE THOUGHTS

Now that I’ve had a few days to ponder my marathon, I’ve come up with a bunch of random thoughts.

Given that I ran fairly even splits and moved up nearly 200 places during the second half of the race, you’d think I’d be over-joyed. While I am pretty happy – especially given my last 2 year of running – I can’t help but think there’s more in the tank. If you think about it, I ran a half in June in 1:26:38. If you double that you get 2:53. For discussions sake I’ll say I ran 3:08 (my time without 2 pee stops). That means I needed 15 minutes – or more than 30 seconds per mile – to run the second half. That’s a lot.

The McMillan calculator says I should slow down 9 minutes, or finish in 3:02. Sure everyone is different, but I’ve never had a lot of speed and I tend to get better the longer the distance. Maybe my times actually behave as a bell shaped curve, where they’re below average at both ends of the spectrum – short races and long races – and above average in that 15K to 25K range. That just popped into my head, so I haven’t given it a lot of thought.

While I always try to run even splits, I wonder if it’d be worthwhile to go out harder and hang on. I mean when I look at other people’s splits, it seems like the majority of people are running the second half 5 minutes slower than the first half. Maybe if I went out in 1:31, I’d still come back in 1:36 and run 3:07. But honestly, that doesn’t sound appealing to me. I guess that’s why I try to be conservative during the first half.

I must say that my quads have never felt so good after a marathon. I have no idea if it’s due to the adidas boost that I was wearing or not. But maybe there’s something to their “energy-returning boost” midsole. In any case, I’m a believer right now. Even though my legs feel great, I still plan on taking at least a full week off from running. I think the recovery is the hardest part of a fall marathon. The weather is absolutely stunning and I’m forcing myself not to run.

While I still love everything about Grandma’s Marathon, I have to mention that TCM is pretty awesome in it’s our right. The course is terrific. I love starting down town, heading by the Walker then along the lakes, the parkway, and the river roads before hitting Summit and coming up on the Cathedral and the Capitol. And I had nearly forgotten how awesome the crowds are along the course – it’s all pretty hard to beat.

I’m sure I’ll have a lot more thoughts on this in the near future, but that’s it for now.

Monday, October 07, 2013

TCM 2013 - RACE REPORT

Looking back, here’s what I wrote the night before the marathon;

Tomorrow I'd like to go through the half between 1:33 - 1:34. That way if I'm feeling good I can negative split and run 3:05. If things are just okay, I can still hang on for a 3:10.

That’s basically what happened – I went through the half in 1:34:32 and after that, things were “just okay” and I hung on for a 3:09:38 finish. While the half as a little slower than I wanted, it’s because I had to stop to pee at mile 11 and that cost me 50 seconds. Without that stop, I’d have gone through the half in 1:33:42. So my pacing was exactly what I wanted – during the first half my fastest mile was 7:03 and my slowest was 7:15. Another stop to pee at mile 15 cost me 50 more seconds. Without those stops I’d have been just under 3:08. Unfortunately, the clock doesn’t stop when you pull off the course.
Looking back at what I wrote, I think it was a pipedream to think I could run 1:33 / 1:32 or 1:34 / 1:31. The second half of this course is a grid and in order to negative split, the first half would have to feel like a jog. While the first half did feel relatively easy, it wasn’t a jog. And, history has shown, increasing the effort on the second half usually still leads to a 1-minute positive split – at least for me. With that said, my fastest mile during the second half was 7-flat (twice) and my slowest was 7:26. My last 5 mile splits were 7:24, 7:26, 7:12, 7:18, 7:22. Although I slowed on the hills, I ended up moving from 603rd place at the half to 412th at the finish.

I also like to combine my splits into 2 or 3-mile buckets because it eliminates some of the terrain. Looking at 3-mile buckets, here are my splits (they don’t include my two 50-second pit stops);

21:20 – 3 miles
21:27 – 6 miles
21:32 – 9 miles
21:32 – 12 miles
21:17 - 15 miles
21:20 – 18 miles
21:19 – 21 miles
22:02 – 24 miles
14:40 – 26 miles

I kind of forgot about this, but my last 4 of my last 5 marathons have been very consistent;

3:09:43 – Grandma’s 2009
3:10:36 – Whistlestop 2009
3:09:42 – Grandma’s 2010
3:24:41 – Grandma’s 2011
3:09:38 – TCM 2013

I guess the good news is that even though that’s a 4 ½ year stretch, I’m still running just as fast. And now that I think about it, the last 4 have been as a Masters runner, so yesterday’s race is my Master’s PR.

I should mention the weather. It was 45 degrees at the start, the flags were hanging, and the sun was coming out. I don’t think we could’ve asked for better weather – at least for anyone that broke 3:15. After that it started to rain, but I timed it well.

One thing that stands out to me in this race was running with this guy I didn't know, from mile 15 all the way to the finish. We were constantly passing each other back and forth and we never said a word to one another. Heck, I didn’t even know if he knew I was keying off of him. Once we finished and were in the chute we started talking about how much we helped each other. It was really cool – one of those things you can’t plan - they just happen.


High-fives at mile 24.  Thanks to Terrance Lee for the photo.

I’ll end by saying that this whole training cycle has been a blast; changing my diet, shedding weight, mixing in cross training, cutting my mileage, feeling great for workouts, getting in some solid long runs, and just getting back on the marathon “horse” has been great. After the last 3 years of training, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run a decent marathon again. So, it’s nice to be back.