Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolution Possibilities

1. I resolve to read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

2. I resolve to eat two bananas and a potato every day.

3. I'm gonna be more hip.

4. I resolve to finish a 100-miler.

5. I'm gonna eat a banana and a potato every day.

6. I resolve to treat my anxiety.

7. I'm gonna bitchslap the Heartland 100 in about 28 hours.

8. I resolve to be a better husband and father.

I'm leaning towards number seven.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Everybody!

I offer this greeting because, delivered correctly, Merry Christmas Everybody! carries less baggage than either Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas ending with a period, dropping the everybody. I say it with an inflection that offers no firm insight into my beliefs regarding the existence or non-existence of a triune god. I hope believers and non-believers alike will appreciate this greeting for what it is, my wish that everybody is able to enjoy the holiday as he or she wishes to enjoy it, in peace, with family, food, fun, and some reflection too. Merry Christmas Everybody!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Sister is a Total Badass

She runs half-marathons while intravenously administering high-powered antibiotics to herself.

Check out her fantastic race report.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

God Bless You Austin Elder

Friday, December 07, 2012

A Sad Farewell

And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid.
Your heating element burned out long before
Your non-stick coating ever did.

Descansi en pau, George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine.

Friday, November 30, 2012

12 Hours of J.B. Hunt Park

[The title, "12 Hours of J.B. Hunt Park," is already filled in. Beneath it is the white rectangle I stare at now. What is there to write about running 53 laps of nothing? What is interesting about that? I don't know, but I will try to find something.]

New Gear:
Running is the least expensive obsession I've ever had, but it still gives my inner gearhead some room to frolic and play. Today I was trying out some calf compression sleeves from Zensah, the lightweight running jacket I bought before the Heartland race, and a remarkable fuel belt from Salomon which will be the Cool Product Pick of the Week whenever I get around to it. I packed two Clif bars in the center pocket and mixed equal parts Plain and Strawberry Banana Gu in the two small bottles, which is delicious, by the way.

Layers:
It was slightly warmer than forecast, but still below freezing at six in the morning. I started with synthetic hiking pants over my running shorts, a long sleeve tech T-shirt, my bright green T-shirt from last year's Winslow race, my beloved Windwall fleece, gloves, and a knit hat. Walking one lap and jogging another got a nice sweat going, so I swapped the fleece for my new running jacket. Total comfort! Three hours into it, I made a long pit stop at the trunk of my car, which actually overhung the path by several inches. I ditched the pants and the jacket, which felt pretty good, so I also ditched the gloves and the Winslow shirt. Most importantly to me well-being, I lost the knit hat and dawned instead my iconic Tilley hat. Finally, I felt like myself. That would be my uniform until sundown and my last few laps when I grabbed my jacket again. Everything worked.

Running Perfectly:
As always, my first hour was pretty rough, especially not having had a serious run in nearly five weeks. A knee, an ankle, a shin, I went through one pain after another. This always happens, and the fix is always the same: Land gently on the forefoot, with the knees slightly bent, every single step. Arms swing on a plane parallel to the direction of travel with the hands low and relaxed. Jaw loose. Pelvis level and spine just so. Total efficiency. Nine hours later, that would still be the fix for every pain, every pain but one. More on that later.


The Wildlife Officer:
About eight o'clock, two hours into it, I gave the first of many thumbs up to a very large man walking clockwise on the same path (I went counter-clockwise the entire time on the rationale that the steeper uphill sections and longer, shallower downhill sections would allow me to run more and walk less). He wasn't exactly walking. He had spring, a lightness to his step--not enough to cause both feet to leave the ground, which would be running, but enough to say he was doing more than merely walking.

Around and around he went.

At ten o'clock, longer that I ever imagined he would last, I saw him sitting in the Wildlife Officer truck which had been parked at one of the ballfield parking lots. The door of the truck was open and he was cleaning the earpieces of the headphones he had been wearing. I veered off the path to wave and give him a "Great run!" which was very embarrassing because I would later discover that he was not in fact done running. I passed him again on my next lap, still in his tights and heavy fleece jacket. I was sweating in shorts and a T-shirt.

Around and around he went.

At noon, after six hours for me, four for him, I noticed the Wildlife Officer truck was gone. I don't know if he was on duty or not, but I hope he was. I could not think of a better way to spend my tax dollars. I've never seen a person that heavy work that hard for that long to improve his own health. He wasn't the most friendly or outgoing guy, but I believe that is because he was in real pain. I may have run three times as long and many times as far, but his effort was greater than mine. The man is a hero.

On Female Proportion:
As always occurs at parks in the more affluent neighborhoods, mid-morning brought out the ostensibly desirable women for whom restricting caloric intake is the most important tool they know to increase their sense of worth as human beings. They walked correspondingly skinny dogs and were good for one or two laps at the most. Frictionally speaking, I've never understood what difference a woman's body proportions would make, but what do I know? I've only been with one. Perhaps I don't know what I'm missing, but I digress. The lunch hour brought out several working women of more average proportion, some of them in scrubs who must have come from the occupational health clinic just down the road. They smiled more and seemed happier.

Blowing Up:
At hour nine, 43 laps into it, I was shocked to still be clicking off twelve-minute laps just as I had been half a day earlier. I'd settled into a perfect rhythm, running about three fifths of the track and walking the rest. Whenever I noticed some pain, I corrected my running form and the pain would subside. One pain would not subside, though.

I love my Brooks Cascadia 7 trail shoes, but for some reason, usually after five or six hours of running, I get a bad hot spot on the ball of my left foot. Not my right foot, only my left foot. Finally, I decided my hot spot had turned into a blister and needed to be dealt with. Removing my shoes and socks, I saw that it had not actually become a blister yet, but it was going to. I taped it up, put on fresh socks, and after some consideration, decided to switch shoes as well.

My Pearl Izumi trail shoes were a bit of an experiment. I bought them on clearance because the cushioning in the forefoot felt luxurious and wonderful. The upper did not feel luxurious or wonderful, but I thought I could get used to it. Let me tell you, you can't get used to uncomfortable shoes! Still, I ran my crazy 82 laps at Tontitown Park in them, some 29 miles, and have trail run in them several times, and they always felt okay. They did not feel okay after 34 miles at J.B. Hunt Park. They hurt like hell.

My blowup was mental, not physical. I could have switched back to my Brooks shoes. I could have smeared my foot with Vaseline. I could have done any number of things to keep running. My legs were tired but had been working just fine before I stopped to check the blister. Instead of forcing myself to run, though, I did the easy thing: I allowed myself to feel satisfied. I became happy with my effort. I decided it was enjoyable to just walk, so that's what I did. I walked the last three hours.

Challenge Myself:
I have four goals in mind when I plan these adventures: Challenge myself, learn something, don't get injured, have fun. Obviously this was a challenge.

Learn Something:
The lessons of hour nine are rich but will take some time to absorb. The most surprising revelation from the run is a technical one: Never, under any circumstances, embark on a long run without calf compression sleeves. They are wonderful!

Don't Get Injured:
Changing shoes was the right thing to do. I was going to get a bad blister if I did nothing, so I did something.

Have Fun:
I ran 42.3 miles, establishing a PR for twelve hours and tacking five miles onto my PR for longest run. What better way to spend an unpaid day off!

[I guess I filled the rectangle. Thanks for reading!]

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Updates Shown in Green!

[My little adventure at J.B. Hunt Park was not by any means my most aesthetic run, but I can't complain. I had fun, learned a lot, and didn't injury myself. Full report to follow in a few days. Now: Vitamin I(buprofen) and sleep are all I'm thinking about. By the way, the support I receive from you amazing readers, lurkers and commenters alike, makes a tangible difference, and it means the world to me. Seriously, I am able to run farther and run better because of your encouragement and good wishes. I am positive of this. ]

Personal Records (official):

Half marathon: 2:21:10
Marathon: 5:10:14
50k: 7:22:16

Training Records (unofficial):

Longest run: 42.3 miles.
6 mile out-and-back from North Shore: 56 min.
Three laps of Fayetteville Lake: 3 hrs, 37 min.
15 laps of the Don Tyson: 3hrs, 57 min.
Six Hours of the Don Tyson: Revised to 26.9 miles.
Six Hours of Tontitown Park: Revised to 28.9 miles.
Twelve Hours of J.B. Hunt Park: 42.3 miles.
Clifty Loop, one lap each direction: Umm, I forgot.

2012 Races:
Hogeye Marathon (5:10)
War Eagle 50k (7:22)
Winslow Half Marathon (2:23)
Heartland 50 (Did Not Show)
Rock the Block 5k: (Disqualified)

2011 Races:

Winslow Half Marathon (2:24)
Fayetteville Half Marathon (2:21)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Experiments in Unpreparedness

I don't know if my writing ever inspires anyone else, but it does occasionally inspire me. My recent Flatrock bit is a good example. I confess I've been back to read it at least a dozen times, and every time I do, I become even more captiviated with the idea of making challenging races even more challenging by purposely not preparing for them. What an original thought, if I do say so myself.

It enchants me to think that I could properly consider myself an "extreme runner" just because of the extreme mismatch between the training I do and the races I run. My running friends are all shocked to learn that I ran my first marathon and my first ultra having trained, on average, barely over one day a week. I ran closer to two days a week leading up to my 50-miler that never happened, but I could not have sustained that for much longer. One day a week is a nice number--extreme in its smallness, as distance runners go, but nice.

Still, I wonder where the limit is. Does one really need to train at all? Can any reasonably fit person, as I am, complete a long distance just by knowing it is possible and doing it? For the last five weeks, my training has consisted of taking calcium citrate and a multivitamin every day. I did run an unknown distance in an unknown time a while back, but other than that, I have done no training at all. It will be interesting to see how many laps of the ballpark loop at J. B. Hunt Park I can run in twelve hours this coming Wednesday. It's about eight-tenths of a mile. Any guesses?

 
Donald and I reconnoitered this loop tonight and confirmed that the structure just southeast of the easternmost parking lot is indeed a second playgound area. It has three levels. The top level is accessed by a ladder in the center and is completely caged in to prevent suicides. A really kick-ass tube slide takes you back to ground level in only a few seconds.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Probably Less than Six Hours of J.B. Hunt Park

I'm due for a finish, big time. Heartland was a bust, but I did get in a good run at the Inaugural Six Hours of Tontitown Park (which I've just revised to 28.89 miles based on an improved measurement of the course). I felt great after the run, tired but completely free of pain. Then I ran the Rock the Block 5k, a fund raiser for the elementary school where my friend David Dinan's kids go to kindergarten. It was to be the first and last 5k of my life. How poetic that I would be disqualified for doing a Killian and also injure my Achilles tendon. What a stupid stunt that was, running three sub-nine-minute miles on pavement. Only a madman would do such a thing!

That was three and a half weeks ago. After two days of ice, a week of Ibuprofen, and lots of rest, my Achilles had gone ten days without an inkling of a problem. Plus, after being balls-to-the-wall slammed at work for three straight weeks, they decided business was so slow that I needed to be laid off again. No matter, that gave me the perfect opportunity to run the Inaugural Up to Six but Probably Less than that Hours of J.B. Hunt Park. In the spirit of that event, I decided I would show up and run as much or as little as I felt like for not more than six hours.

Funny that I've been living in Springdale for a dozen years now and only discovered this park last week. Springdale has four quadrants, north and south of Sunset, east and west of Thompson. Circumstance has dropped me in such a life that I just do not have call to go into the northwest quadrant, certainly not north of Huntsville Avenue (for Martijn: Mama Tang is on Huntsville) or so. The upper northwest quadrant might as well be Tibet.

But a friend turned me on to the park so I went to check it out. Turns out, it is a beautiful park tucked in amongst Springdale's most affluent neighborhoods, a good reason to never go there. But as a runner, it has one very interesting and desirable feature: It has hills. There is also a measurable, paved path with closely cut grass on either side. It also has a restroom with running water and what this morning was a very cold stainless steel shitter, making it ideal for six-hours-of events. The first one took place this morning.

It was cold. I ran one lap, then two, then three. I ran a forth and a fifth. I ran a sixth, all clockwise. I drank water several times, removed my gloves, and scrunched my long sleeves up over my elbows. I left the loop to run the short distance north to Lake Springdale, which I circumambulated at a slow jog. I ran back to the loop. I ran around the loop some more, clockwise, not counting my laps. I walked a lap and then drove home. I do not know how long I ran or how far.

This concludes my race report.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I Feel Stupid and Vindicated at the Same Time

Stupid because I never thought to use Google Earth to measure my favorite stretch of the Don Tyson Parkway, vidicated because I came within three quarters of a percent of the correct distance using only a bicycle, a tape measure, and a short piece of duct tape.

My original measurement was 1.355 miles which I elected to round down to 1 1/3 miles mainly for simplicity of calculation but also because I didn't want to overstate my running distances. I got 3550 feet each direction, about 1.345 miles per lap, using Google Earth's path measuring tool. I'm going with that for my official distances but can still use the handy 1 1/3 mile distance for managing my runs.

It astonished me sometimes to see how completely stupid I am. If it wasn't for my moments of startling brilliance, I'd probably get really down about it. As it is, I think I bungle my way through life fairly well, all things considered.

What a bonehead!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Statement of Fact Regarding My Preparation For the Inaugural FlatRock 101k Ultra Trail Race

Given that 101k is twice the distance of my longest race and nearly twice the distance of my longest run,

Given the universally agreed upon bad-ass-ness of the trail as described in the many trip reports by runners of the Flatrock 50k which took place this September,

Given the setbacks and disruptions to my training that will definitely occur, because shit happens,

Given the balance I have chosen between running and everything else, and my body's demonstrated intolerance for high-volume training when I try to alter that balance,

Given that--let's face it!--this race is going to be a meat grinder no matter how hard I train,

It is a fact that, on April 27th of next year, I will not be adequately prepared to run the Inaugural FlatRock 101k Ultra Trail Race.

Conclusion: I will need to find something other than adequate preparation to get me across the finish line.

What will I find? Ask me on April 28th!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Recondite Quips and Hockey Fight Clips

"Cheerfulness is an exquisite type of cruelty."
--Martijn De Vries



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Six Hours of Tontitown Park

I don't know why the idea didn't strike me sooner, but the one-third mile walking path at Tontitown Park couldn't be much better for six- or twelve-hour running events. It's paved, dead flat, and there's a public bathroom with a sink where you can fill water bottles. These few weeks would be better spent on remote Ozark trails since the leaves are changing, but I wanted to be close to the car just in case Mrs. DMG needed me for some reason. She's still pretty gimped up. Other circumstances made today the day.

There's not much to say about the course itself. It is a gently curved path, a little over a meter wide, which surrounds some swings, playground areas, a bocce ball course, and a grove of trees, mostly large oaks. Along the path are newish park benches engraved with familiar names of rich Italians living in the community. The grass is mowed and trimmed with smooth transitions from pavement to grass, making it easy and safe to rest your feet on the soft loam when the pounding of the asphalt becomes too uncomfortable. It was nice.

More interesting was the people I saw. I got there around 8:15 after dropping Donald off at school. That was just in time to catch the last of the morning fitness people, mostly walkers. They cleared out by nine o'clock leaving only me till lunchtime.

The first to arrive was a middle-aged man in an expensive European sports sedan who stayed inside his car with the windows up and the engine running. It's an aberration, I thought, a strange individual. But then more and more showed up, people sitting in their cars at the park. (Nearly all killed their engines and cracked their windows open, but still!) Around and around I ran--about four minutes a lap if I didn't stop to fill my water bottle--and there they stayed, sitting in their cars only yards from a comfortable park bench, only yards from a walking path. I wondered what planet I was on.

Of course, there were several actual walkers on the path, and not all of them retirees. There were two super-hot babes, not super-hot in the Cristina Renfro sense but super-hot in the bony, rabbit-starved sense promoted in all the women's magazines, both wearing black tights which lifted the buttocks and deepened the separation between them. They were wearing competing perfumes and conspicuously turned away to avoid acknowledging me or any of the other trail users.

Another super-hot babe, super-hot in the Cristina Renfro sense except quite a bit more so, embarked on a walk just as I passed the lot where my car was parked. Several laps later, I was astonished not to have passed her yet. I looked across the park and spotted her actually running! I did overtake her shortly after that and she gave me a smile and a warm greeting. She did at least six laps, running much of it, and did it without being a bitch. She probably weighed nearly as much as the two prissy women put together and was ten times more attractive that either one of them.

It thinned out after lunch, the car-sitters went away, and I finished my laps having figured out how fast I had to go to beat my PR of 26 2/3 miles, set on my last Six Hours of Don Tyson Parkway event a few months ago. I hit 81 laps in 5:52. Earlier in the run, I'm sure I could have mustered two four-minute laps, but not after six hours, not without killing myself. I walked one more lap bringing me to 27 1/3 miles in 5:58. I was pretty happy.

Last night, before we went to bed, Mrs. DMG told me she would pick up Donald from school so I could keep running into the night. It was her idea. I didn't commit one way or the other but said I would call after six hours to let her know my plan. I did consider running twelve hours or even 50 miles depending on how I felt. It was tempting. As my six hours expired, though, I asked myself a question: Who is the bigger bad-ass, the runner who drops his kid off at school, runs 27 miles, and then walks another 18 miles or so; or the runner who drops his kid off at school, runs 27 miles, and then picks his kid up from school? It was a no-brainer. I actually had time to get home so we could pick Donald up together, which was really nice.

Not a bad day!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Heartland 50 Trip Report

It both baffles and thrills me to know that some of you, dear readers, have actually enjoyed tracking my training progress for this super fun race which took place yesterday, so I thought you deserved a trip report. I had basically stuck to my training plan for twelve weeks, which must have been a good plan because I felt supremely prepared to finish the distance and possibly even post a decent time.

I was scheduled to work Friday but ended up getting the day off because . . . umm . . . I got laid off. Nothing I could do about that, though, so I just used the extra time to rest and pack drop bags. I had all my stuff arranged by the door so as soon as Mrs. DMG got home from work in the morning, I could load everything up and take off for Kansas. About midnight, just as I had used and then packed the last item, my toothbrush, Cristina called to tell me she hurt her back and was being taken to the emergency room. And that was pretty much that.

There is no consolation prize. There is no other ultra I could go and sign up for in the next few weeks which would be a substitute for Heartland. Heartland is the race I dreamed of and prepared for. It is the one Autumn race, out of many great possibilities, that I most wanted to run. I have a little time now to decide what my next project will be.

It has not been a bad experience, the Heartland. I had great fun and learned a ton during my training. I also acquired some nice gear that will make my winter running more comfortable including a lightweight vest, a proper running jacket, and especially the really kick-ass headlamp Mrs. DMG gave me for our ten-year anniversary. My old headlamp, while great for reading Chekhov short stories inside a tent, was not quite adequate for running technical trails at night under a thick canopy. Now I'm fixed up physically and gear-wise for some serious winter fun!

I'm obviously disappointed that I wasn't able to race, but I don't feel bad about it. If anything, it actually feels good to be needed around the house, which I definitely am and will be for a while. The Heartland is just a race. I'll catch it next year.

This is as close to Cassoday, Kansas as I ever got. I have to say, distance running takes a fraction of the gear that kayaking does. The yellow duffel and the two drop bags on top contain all the running gear I own. The rest is camping stuff for a night at El Dorado State Park, which will have to wait till next year.

Editor's Note: I am actually on a "rolling layoff" meaning I will be required to work some weeks and denied the priveledge of working on other weeks. I won't go into it. I also can't go into Mrs. DMG's injury because it occured at her work, other than to say it appears to be serious but not catastrophic. She is doing much better now than she was 48 hours ago but will need help getting around for a while. For all those who claim to love life, I hope they get it good and hard. Me, I've had quite enough of it lately.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Note on the Winslow Half Marathon Course

The Winslow Half Marathon course is funny. It doesn't care that it was your first race ever last year and that you've done a ton of running since then. It doesn't care that you ran the Fayetteville Half with bronchitis and PR'd, or that you ran Hogeye. It doesn't care that you ran a 50k at Hobbs. It doesn't care that you're training for a 50-miler in October. It doesn't care. It's hills are real, and it knows it! It is in every way a friendly course. It appreciates that you came and wants you to do well. It just demands respect!

I ran a humbling 52 seconds faster than last year, but what fun!

The Dark Night Rises

The following information is provided for Cassoday, Butler County, Kansas (longitude W96.6, latitude N38.0):

Saturday 13 October 2012 Central Daylight Time

SUN

Begin civil twilight 7:07 a.m.
Sunrise 7:34 a.m.
Sun transit 1:13 p.m.
Sunset 6:51 p.m.
End civil twilight 7:17 p.m.

MOON

Moonset 5:00 p.m. on preceding day
Moonrise 5:27 a.m.
Moon transit 11:35 a.m.
Moonset 5:34 p.m.
Moonrise 6:36 a.m. on following day

Phase of the Moon on 13 October: waning crescent with 5% of the Moon's visible disk illuminated.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Yincycling

Yangcycling

An Informative Blog Entry

For about a month now, I've been exploring the concept of eating to the clock. I've sampled every flavor of GU and Roctane, including the energy drink mixes. I've also been trying to get a better handle on hydration and electrolyte replacement, skills I sometimes get right and sometimes get terribly wrong. For short runs of under five hours or so, I can screw everything up and still do okay. Screw up on a fifty-miler could end my race early, though, so I need to learn this stuff.

Mike and Drew recommend 250 calories per hour, not counting energy drinks. I know my stomach can't handle that much gel but I've tried one gel (100 calories) every 40 minutes and done well with it. I can get the rest of the calories from boiled potatoes and such at the aid stations.

I've sampled every flavor of GU and Roctane and settled on "Just Plain" GU which has caffeine and "Strawberry Banana" GU which does not. I didn't get along with the Roctane at all, which is handy because it costs twice as much and has a bunch of extra ingredients which I'm not sure about. When I'm hungry, I need maltodextrin and fructose; not maltodextrin, fructose, and orthanine alpha-ketoglutarate, whatever that is. I won't be able to test my nutrition plan for a whole twelve hours which is the goal I've set for the Heartland race, but I'm guessing that 360mg of caffeine (20mg x 18 gels) will be too much. I'm planning to carry four hours worth of the Strawberry Banana at the start and refill with Just Plain at the aid stations that allow drop bags.

I liked the GU Electrolyte Brew drink mix for one of my two water bottles. On my Tyson Parkway runs, I even practiced dumping the powder into an empty bottle before arriving at the "aid station" to save time. I practiced stowing the empty packets. In the end, though, I decided it was too much hassle. I can get the calories from gels and food and the electrolytes from pills and gels (which contain 50mg of sodium). Besides, I've discovered I really like the taste of plain water.

I'd been using Endurolytes which contain a fairly small amount of sodium but also have calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B-6, and manganese. Some people have great luck with Endurolytes but my results were hit-and-miss. Sometimes I'd eat them like candy and still get cramps. I attributed the cramping not to electrolyte imbalance but to the fact that I was pushing out really long runs for for a relatively new runner. After a while, though, that explanation just didn't work any more. Today I switched to S!Caps which have a crapload of sodium (341mg), some potassium, and nothing else. I took one per hour and demolished my PR for three laps of Fayetteville Lake without even an inkling of cramping. I felt much better.

The other advantage of using the S!Caps alone rather than suplementing with an energy drink is that I can adjust my water intake and sodium intake completely separately. I've had the best luck drinking to thirst rather than trying to drink a certain amount per hour. A few weeks ago when I was experimenting with the electrolyte drink mixes, I drank too much and jacked my system up for three days. I left work early one day and missed a Wednesday speed workout because of it. I will never do that again.

An Entertaining Blog Entry

It can be sad, confusing, even heartbreaking. Very often, no one or no thing did anything wrong. By logic, by gut, every part of you believed it would work, and you had good reason to think it would. You struggle and struggle, you fail and fail. Why does something which seems so right go so wrong, time after time, despite both of your sincere efforts. There is no explanation. Eventually, you realize it's time to move on.

It hurts, letting go, but you know what happens? Sometimes, as you are drowning in a sense of loss and failure, you suddenly find the thing that really does work for you. You find the thing you never would have found had you not mustered the courage to abandon the familiar and grasp the unknown.

Today I switched from Endurolytes to S!Caps.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Today was Pretty Fun

Life is a meat grinder. It is mindless repetition performed in the total absence of stimulation. It is an unsavory meal that you force down your gullet one 24-hour bite at a time because your stomach demands it. Life sucks.

Every now and then, though, a bite tastes pretty good. I took vacation today not because I had to, not because I necessarily wanted to, but because I didn't have any better use for it. Mrs. DMG and I dropped Donald off for his first day of first grade, and then went to a little dive we discovered in Bentonville where we killed fifty dollars worth of Korean barbecue just to watch it die. Then we went to Rush Running to try on the "crazy shoes" they had just gotten in. Might buy a pair someday. After that, we picked Donald up from school, dropped him off at therapy, and then had a little dessert date at Steak-n-Shake. After bringing Donald home, I went out again to Walmart for a six-pack of beer--Heineken--a treat that I only enjoy a few times a year anymore. We put our tired kid to bed and each enjoyed a cocktail as we watched a cable TV show about a couple who had to decide between remodeling their current extravagant home or buying a different extravagant home. I won't say what Mrs. DMG and I were doing between dropping Donald off at school and departing for the Korean barbecue place, but it was pretty fun, too.

After such a day, after such a delicious bite of life, you'd think I'd be able to sleep. I can't, though, because my being has a task to do. It is neither a physical task nor a mental task; it is simply something that must be done because my stomach demands it. That task is to pick something to occupy myself for the next several days--something to distract me from the long string of foul and unfulfilling bites I will have to eat until circumstance grants me another day like today.

I think I'll write a suicide note. Not for me, of course. My life is not that bad. It would be a purely hypothetical suicide note, an exercise in composition. I will imagine sentences like, "My memoirs are written on the sunken skin of my face, and there is no more room to write." I will repeat those sentences in my mind over and over again, changing a word here and there like a painter who is never quite satisfied with his work and keeps painting over it. It's not fun, thinking of suicide in the third person all day, but when the grind of your life requires no thought, the mind must do something. Thinking of suicide, abstractly, of course, has gotten me through many a day. So yes! I will write a suicide note. With that settled, with my task chosen and my stomach settled, perhaps now I can get to sleep.

Still, today was pretty fun.

Monday, August 20, 2012

August 20th, 2012:

The day I rediscovered kimchi.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

[entry deleted]

Because it sucked.

Heartland Training Update [reposted]

This will be a strictly factual blog entry. It will not contain humor, clever word usage, or insightful allegory. It will provide an account of my training progress for the Heartland 50 race coming up this October, and nothing more.

Things are going well. I am running comfortably and basically sticking to the plan. The only real change is that I'm going to do more of my long runs on the Don Tyson. Running close to home allows me to get the most miles in in the available time, plus I can stash water and supplies without having to worry about them. It more closely simulates periodic aid stations. I run mostly in grass and the hills roll more than I will experience in Kansas. I've really been enjoying the Don Tyson.

I've made all but one of Rush Running's Wednesday speed sessions and they are a blast! The U of A Agriculture Department Farm where they take place is covered with a maze of gravel roads and grass paths so I've been running a few hours extra every night. I can't get enough of it!

I had a wild hair last Sunday and ran 27 miles. I was also experimenting with eating to the clock. I bought every flavor of GU and Roctane and sampled one every 40 minutes. I also tried Roctane Energy Drink in one of my two bottles every time I filled them. It felt great while I was running, but I definitely noticed a pang in my stomach about five minutes after taking Roctane, I think because it has twice the caffeine of regular GU but it has a bunch of other stuff in it, too. The Roctane Energy Drink tasted great but was too sweet, even for my copper stomach. Still, I needed to complete the experiment so I drank it, lots of it, along with my plain water. That turned out to be a mistake.

I took over Donald duty right after I got back from the run so Mama could sleep (she had to work that night) so I didn't get to eat a proper meal. All I had that night was a few sandwiches. I went to bed feeling like crap and woke feeling even worse. By noon, I was so nauseated and had such a terrible headache that I left work early. I was baffled at first but eventually decided that I must have overhydrated during my run and become slightly hyponatremic. I had consumed nearly 30 ounces more water than I would have drinking to thirst as I usually do yet I dropped to the same weight, 162 pounds, that I always drop to after a long run. The two pounds of water just left me as if I had not drunk them at all, carrying precious electrolytes with it. The fix was to go with the Duchess to drop Donald at therapy and then go to Sbarro at the mall. I had a stromboli with a side of meatballs and marinara. Then we went home, cooked an extra salty batch of schmooey, and ate about two pounds of it. I started feeling like a human being after that but still had headaches the next two days. I actually skipped speedwork on Wednesday because of a headache.

Dehydration sucks but it's relatively easy to fix as long as it's not too severe. After my experience last week, I'd much rather by dehydrated than overhydrated and hyponatremic. I'm glad I just got a mild touch of it so I know what it feels like and can take corrective action before my kidneys start shutting down. Fuckers sometimes die from hyponatremia!

I did much better today. After sampling the GU flavors, I settled on the "Mandarin Orange" and "Just Plain" flavors. I also switched to GU Electrolyte Brew instead of the Roctane energy drink and did much better with it. It has less caffeine, less other agressively marketed chemical crap, and 100 calories instead of 240. It tastes better too! At lap 10, the half-marathon point, I still felt so great that I began to entertain the idea of running another marathon distance to honor my friend Mike Rush who was several hours* into the Leadville 100 at that time. The idea left me completely at lap 13 when I took a brief walk break. The second I stopped running, I could feel that my legs had not recovered nearly as well as I thought they had from last week's debacle. I never got them going again. I toughed it out for 15 laps, 20 miles, and called it quits. My plan says to "Run hard enough to be tired and sore, but not injured." Better to do a good 20 miles than a really shitty 27 miles.

*If you're interested, Mike is making Leadville his bitch. It's just past midnight Colorado time and he left the Half Pipe Aid Station, mile 70.9, about half an hour ago.

[08/20/12 update: Mike dropped at mile 80 with a bad stomach. His stomach acted up at mile 20 and never quit, leading to dehydration and difficulty keeping warm. An inspiring effort, nonetheless. Mike Rush is a competitor. He will be back!]

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I started running less than two years ago,

so London is the first Olympic Games since I've ever competed at anything. I appreciate the athletes and the effort they put into their chosen sports in a much different way now. I wanted to honor them and thank them for the inspiration they have given me, and the only way I could think to do it was to run 26.2 miles myself. I did it this morning in 5:44, nowhere close to my PR but the best I could muster today. I ran a little extra just to be sure of the distance. So great job Olympians and great job London! You showed us the best of humanity at a time when we all needed to see it. You competed with courage and grace, and by doing so you made the world a better, brighter, more peaceful place.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Depression

I sort of have it, but not really. While I doubt that DSM-IV criteria for clinical depression, when carefully applied, would warrant the diagnosis in my case, it is true that I do not always hear the world with a lush 80's reverb. If I had my levels of neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine checked by a lab, I doubt they would be sufficiently low to justify prescribing an SSRI to regulate them, but that doesn't negate the fact that I do not exactly see the world with that backlit, soft-focus glow like they put around Cybill Shepherd's hair in Moonlighting. I do not present a negative emotionality and all-encompassing low mood to a degree that would indicate therapy, but like the John Mayer song goes, my mellow is not so yellow.

An Interesting Experience

I went to the Fayetteville Farmers' Market this morning where ostensibly healthy white people go to listen to primative music and buy overpriced produce. I had a blast, carrying my empty Walmart reuseable shopping bag around!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day

I support the right of bigots, non-bigots, and any other lovers of chicken to celebrate Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day tomorrow. My traditional spouse and I (traditional in the sense that we are of opposite gender, non-traditional in the sense that we have dissimilar skin color, an issue which to my knowledge has never been publicly raised by Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy) will be trying Zaxby's for the first time. I hear it's delicious!

Zaxby's uses 100% hate-free chicken.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

DNF Numéro Deux: An Angel Watches Over My Dumb Ass

Why is it that I'm so much more likely to turn an ankle while walking than while running? It happened today as I was crossing from the watered and manicured Bermuda on the north side of the Tyson to the parched ragweed on the south. My planned 4-hour run was over before it started. I stood there a minute in the busted-ankle position (hunched, grimacing, one knee deeply bent, with toe lightly touching the ground) and then began the hobble back home. I nice lady stopped to offer me a ride. I thanked her but said I needed to walk it out. By thetime I got to the stop light at Cambridge, I knew nothing catastrophic had happened and that walking a bit might actually do my ankle some good.

I ended up walking twelve miles. Actually, that's not true. I ran the last one and a half. Here's what happened: I walked several laps in constant pain, meaning the pain did not get any better or any worse. It was tolerable, and as long as it got no worse, I could walk forever. It was nine o'clock with a forecast high of over 100 degrees, perfect walking weather! This was my chance to finally finish six hours on the Don Tyson. But then the phone rang.

I admit I started to get annoyed while I had Mrs. DMG on the phone, but I quickly realized the fault was all my own. I had not created conditions favorable to finishing six hours on the Don Tyson. I had announced that I was only going to run four hours. I also informed her that I was taking my phone and that she should call me if she needed anything. She called near the end of my scheduled run just to check on me and ask if--you guessed it--I could pick up some food from Manna when I got done running. "No Hurry!" she said, but when I asked about staying out an extra two hours, her words said yes but her voice said no. We compromised at one more lap, which I daintily ran. I wanted to finish nine laps but didn't want to inadverently finish the race by going over four hours. I wanted to earn the Belaga trail socks I was already wearing by finishing the full six hours, not by taking advantage of a generous rule that gives a finisher's award to anyone staying on the course for four hours. I dropped at 3:57.

By the time I walked home and cleaned up, I was greatful for that phone call. My ankle was not severely sprained but it was not merely twisted either. There will be serious recovery time involved. When I train, I don't want to simply get stronger; I want to experience adversity and work through it. I want to learn something. Today I learned that you can easily walk twelve miles on a sprained ankle. I also learned that it is probably not a very good idea to do so. But what's done is done, and I will gimp again tomorrow.

Cristina enjoyed her food!
A shot of the deadly terrain on the North side of the Don Tyson. That transition from concrete to grass will snap a complacent ankle like a twig!

[Wife Disclaimer: Mrs. DMG has from the beginning broken over backwards to accomodate my crazy running habit. She has countless times stayed up all day managing the Donald situation, after working the previous night, and working again the next night, just so I could go on a long training run. None of my running success would be possible without her love and support. None of it.]

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cool Product Pick of the Week

My race packets and goody bags for Hogeye and War Eagle both came in Walmart reusable shopping bags. I have used them to carry supplies to the Don Tyson. I've intended to use them when I run errands to Walmart, but I've never actually done it. I never remember to bring them with me. Anyway, I got to Walmart today and was disappointed to realize I had forgotten them again. They must be available to buy, though. I just needed to find them. I eventually spotted a stack of reusable shopping bags on the bottom shelf, an inch off the floor, next to a checkout line. Fifty cents a piece. I scanned the my handheld basket of goods and determined they would all fit in two bags, so I grabbed two and went to the self-serve registers.

The bags were easy to use, especially since I was buying them. I scanned them first so the scale was expecting their weight. I scanned the rest of my items and sorted them into the bags very easily, much handier than having to open the tiny plastic bags. The strap handles spread the load on your hands and are very comfortable. A given weight of groceries feels much lighter than the same weight in plastic bags. And their better for the environment.

Reusable bags: Get some!

Training Log: Speed Work!

Well, I finally made it to one of Rush Running's speed workouts at Agri Park and what fun! I had no idea what to expect other than a great running experience--great running experiences are the only kind Mike Rush and crew know how to put on. It was to take place at 5:30. I got there at 5:38 to see Mike talking to a small group of runners some hundred yards from where I was able to park. By the time I applied sunscreen and gathered my handhelds, Mike and group were disappearing over a hill in the University of Arkansas Agriculture Department's farm. By arriving late, my speed workout would have to start early!

I took off as fast as I have run in a year and soon regained view of some stragglers a few hundred yards down a gravel road. At least I would know which way to go! One by one, I picked them off. By the time we arrived at the mowed grass field containing scattered trees and a finish line arch for the U of A cross-country team, I was in the first half of the group. I was breathing much too hard for a speed workout that hadn't begun yet, but I was thankful for my hours on the Don Tyson. The mid-nineties heat was not a affecting me at all.

We would be doing 800-meter repeats this day. Mike had a cool chart where you could select your race goal, distance and time, and use that to determine your 800-meter target. I had to extrapolate to find my target as the chart did not extend to 50 miles or twelve hours, but I did so without saying a word. The resulting target was so ridiculously slow that I decided to just do my repeats as fast as I could. Experienced runners were to do six repeats and newer runners less than that. Novices could do 400-meter repeats instead. Mike showed us the loop, gave us some great coaching, took questions, and explained the drill:

After the first repeat, we were to immediately do twenty pushups, and then immediately begin our second repeat. After that one, we were to immediately do twenty pushups, but then we could take a break for thirty seconds and drink water before beginnning our third repeat. Third repeat: pushups, GO! Forth repeat: pushups, drink, GO! And so on.

I ran my first repeat much too fast, held my own on the second and third, slowed considerably on the fourth, went into full ultra mode on the fifth, and kicked it again for the sixth and last repeat. I didn't kill myself, but I was definitely tired. It's the fastest I have run in probably a year when I was still running shorter distances. After taking a few minutes to recover, I thanked the guys for a great run and headed back to the car.

Only a few of us finished the full six repeats so most of the group was already walking the mile back to Agri Park. I broke into a medium-slow ultra shuffle and passed the lot of them. Running back to the car made me think that I had perhaps not captured the essence of the speed workout. Should I have had that much energy left? But no, those 800-meter repeats smoked me. I think all my long slow runs have just enabled me to recover quickly. I could have run ten miles back to my car.

Anyway, I'll definitely be back next week. I think Rush Running speed sessions will become a mainstay of my training, no matter how slow my running objective is. I had an absolute blast!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Heartland 50 Training Plan

I wasn't supposed to start my training till August 4th, ten weeks before the race, but the ridiculous 10,000 Steps Challenge that my health insurance company thinks will make me more healthy starts today and runs for twelve weeks, so why not start now (I'm participating in the program because I'm a company man, and because I want the $30 gift card at the end, to buy a fancier pedometer. And some Twinkies). Today's training task is to create this training plan which, while vague and completely non-binding, will be better than any other training plan I've ever had.

Does anyone know how to write a training plan?

How about some training objectives:

A. Prepare adequately to run 50 miles in about 12 hours.
B. Run hard enough to be tired and sore, but not injured.
C. Make it fun and don't neglect the other fun stuff.

And a strategy for achieving those objectives:

A. Focus on long runs on gravel, grass, and easy trail.
B. Attend Rush Running's evening speed workouts.
C. Cut back on fast food and sodas.

Here are some great long run ideas:

1. Clifty Loop at Hobbs, one lap each direction.
2. Winslow to the Bobby Hopper Tunnel and back.
3. Volunteer at Winslow Half Marathon aid station.
4. Six hours on the Don Tyson Parkway.
5. Six hours on the Don Tyson Parkway at night.
6. Four laps of Fayetteville Lake.
7. Fall Creek to the horse camp at Devil's Den and back, at night (monster hill on dirt and rough gravel).
8. Twelve-hour night march on the gravel road from Campbell's Cemetary to Shores Lake, maybe 30 miles.

That's a good plan, isn't it?
Two items which will do absolutely nothing to help you finish a 50-mile race.

Recondite Quips and Hockey Fight Clips

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."

--Mary Anne Radmacher


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ten Races that Sound Like Fun

The most important thing I learned during my preparation for the War Eagle 50k is that I'm only good for about ten weeks of focused training. That means training for the Hearland 50 (on October 13th) won't officially start till August 4th. In the mean time, I'm free to run or not run, eat junk or not eat junk. As it is, I've been running quite a bit and not eating that much junk, but it's nice to have the option. It's also nice to think about races other than the one that's coming up. Here are a few I've been dreaming about:

Heartland 50: Half of the Heartland 100 course starting in Cassaday, Kansas, mostly on gravel roads. Tallgrass prairie with no shelter at all from whatever the weather is. The 100-milers start at 6:00 AM and the 50-milers at 6:00 PM, running west into the sunset. I'll check this dream off in October!

Rocky Racoon 50: Three 16 2/3-mile laps in Huntsville State Park, north of Houston. Mostly jeep trail and soft single-track with a 29-hour cutoff. I could walk it! It would be so much fun to have my mom and blog friends RDG and Soub at the finish. It would be especially fun to run with my sister on her first ultra just as she ran my first half marathon with me. (This would be a cakewalk for you, Jen. Seriously.)

Kettle Moraine Fun Run: 38-mile trail run near La Grange, Wisconsin, starting at 8:00 PM. It's actually the second section of the 100-mile course, the first section being the 100k race course which starts in the morning. I've never travelled in this part of the country and would love to see it!

Lean Horse 50: My old stomping grounds. This 50-miler takes place in the southern Black Hills on the Mickelson Trail, a rails-to-trails project with relatively shallow grade.

*Ouachita Trail 50: An Arkansas classic. A 50-mile out-and-back but if you're smoked at the 25k point, you can turn around and still get a time and a finisher's award for the 50k race. I'm told it can be damn tempting to do just that! From what I understand, they have an ambulance staged at the top of the hands-and-knees scramble up Pinnacle Mountain.

*Flat Rock 50K: Out-and-back on the Elk River Hiking Trail near Independence, Kansas. Everyone says this is super fun and a must-run for anyone with strong ankles. Their motto: If you look up, you go down!

*Virgil Crest 50: I would do some more shopping before travelling all the way to New York for a race, but from the reports I've read, I couldn't go wrong with this one. Lots of hills, I guess, and the pictures of the course are breathtaking!

!El Vaquero Loco 50k: A difficult course with 9000 feet of climbing at altitude near Afton, Wyoming. It's so remote all the aid stations have to be packed in. I'd love to get a taste the mountains away from the crowds at the Colorado races. The few photos I've seen are jawdropping!

!3 Days of Syllamo: Three-day stage race on the Syllamo Trail near Blanchard Springs in Northern Arkansas. Day one is 50k, day two is 50 miles, and day three is 20k, for a total of 96 miles with 26,000 feet of climbing and 26,000 feet of descending. Who wouldn't want to give that a try!

!Arkansas Traveller 100: Old-school 100 in the Ouachita National Forest consisting of a 17-mile loop on trails and an 83-mile out-and-back mostly on dirt roads, about 12,000 feet of climbing and 12,000 feet of descending. It's the only hundred I'm even thinking about, but I may attempt it as soon as 2013. A home-turf classic!

* Asterisk indicates a definite ass-kicker.

! Exclamation point is self-explanitory, I think.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Some Photos for Martijn!

Tyson World Headquarters.

Jim's Razorback Pizza World Headquarters.

The best food in Springdale at any price, but not between 2:00 PM and 4:30 PM.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Revising the Don Tyson

An interesting idea came to me during my little Independence Day ten-lapper: What if I were to revise my measurement of the Don Tyson from 1.355 miles down to 1 1/3 miles? What functional difference would it make in understanding the quality and value of my training?

My sister no doubt had this idea instantly, without having to run thirty or so laps of the road as I have done, but she kept her mouth shut. She knew my overly-cerebral nature and rock-star perseverativeness would eventually combine, enabling me to lift the fog of my own idiocy and see the obvious that she saw right away. She also knew I would learn the lesson better and grow as a mathematician more if I discovered the obvious myself rather than hearing it from her. She is a good educator that way.

The measured distance from the lightpole at Johnson Road to the used car lot at Kent Dobbs Hyundai, and back, is revised from 1.355 miles to 1 1/3 miles for all training and competition purposes. For obvious reasons.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

My First DNF!

It was a matter of time, I guess. I ran in the first ever Six Hours of Don Tyson Parkway, which had been postponed till about 11:15 this morning due to life obligations of the race director. I knew my goal of 15 laps, just over 20 miles, was very ambitious given the temperature and the utter lack of light-diffusing clouds in the sky, but I was going to try. I also wanted to try out my new Cool-Off Bandana (review to follow) which I got from ZombieRunner.com along with some Elastikon tape and some tincture of benzoin ampules.

I had run ten laps of the Tyson a week or so ago but it was in the evening so the temperature got cooler as I ran. It felt great and I finished five laps before taking my first walk break. Today, starting with temps in the low 90s and knowing they would go up from there, I went ultra early and walked the top portion of the hill to Kent Dobbs starting on the first lap. Later I added the steepest section of the hill back up to Cambridge. That scheme worked well through at least seven laps.

About lap four, I made the mistake of bushwhacking down the east side of the railroad bridge to take a pee. I then spent five minutes at the aid station picking all the hitchhikers off of my shirt and clearing the spikey grass seeds from my shoes. I will need to find an alternate comfort wall, perhaps the port-a-potties I noticed in the Tyson World Headquarters parking lot where contractors are doing some roof work. No big deal.

My fingers felt puffy about three laps into it but I waited till early in the third hour to start taking Endurolytes. I'm trying train my body to use salt efficiently by only taking salt pills in response to a symptom rather than taking them on a schedule. It seems to be working.

I refilled my pack and re-soaked my bandana on lap five. By lap seven, I was getting quite hot. I didn't necessarily feel bad and I was able to run without overheating--I was just gaining a more clear awareness of the increasing temperature and what it was going to do to me if I stayed out in it too long. Sensing that my fifteen laps were not going to happen this day, I chucked the Cool-Off Bandana so that I could compare running with it to running without it. The verdict is still out. I was hot with it and hot without it. Look for more in my upcoming review.

I walked more on laps eight and nine. At the end of ten, I would decide whether to continue walking another hour to complete four hours and therefore earn my finisher's award, a pair of running socks that I already own. As it happened, Mrs. DMG called me just as I was coming up to the aid station on lap ten, wondering if I was about done so I could run to Mama Tang's to pick up some food for her. It was 1:30 and Mama Tang takes a little siesta from 2:00 to 4:30. I was so greatful for the call! I collected my water and my Walmart reuseable shopping bag full of supplies and headed for the house, happy with my run.

Partial laps are not counted under the rules of the event so my DNF occured at the end of lap nine. I ran 12.195 miles in 2:41:38. More importantly, though, I ran what I ran with style. My philosophy is that running should be fun and it should not result in injury. Several hours after the event, I definitely feel the effects of my time in the sun, but I am not sick or sunburned from it. I now have an honest baseline for how my body performs in the heat. Best of all, I still have several months of hot weather left to improve. By the end of the summer, I'm confident I will be able to run six straight hours in ninety- or hundred-degree heat.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Meet the Don Tyson!

There aren't many pictures to take of the Don Tyson Parkway from Johnson Road to Kent Dobbs Hyundai, but I got a few just so you can see what will be my running home for the next few months. I'm in the middle of a five-day vacation that has already included a 7-year birthday party for Donald at Chuck E. Cheese and a hot night of camping at Devil's Den. We have more fun planned for Monday and Tuesday so I didn't want to overdo it today, just a quick four-lapper in 97-degree heat. There wasn't a cloud in the sky which meant perfect lighting conditions to capture the essence of summertime running on the Don Tyson. There's nowhere to hide!

Looking east from the starting line at Johnson Road.

Coming up on the aid station at the west side of the railroad bridge. You can just see the top of the retaining wall hiding my water and supplies.

Looking back at the aid station. I had a 1.5 liter pack today so I didn't even need my gallon of water. I needed it on my ten-lapper the other day, though!

Looking east towards Kent Dobbs from the top of the railroad bridge where Cambridge dead-ends into Don Tyson. Don't let the wide zoom fool you; the whole out-and-back distance is very close to 1.355 miles, which is not very far.

The turnaround point at Kent Dobbs Hyundai

Looking west from Kent Dobbs back to Cambridge and the railroad bridge.

The best scenery of the run, looking south from the railroad bridge.

The light at Cambridge.

Looking back toward Johnson Road from the end of the bridge where the aid station is.

The finish line at Johnson road. For longer runs, there will be a short length of duct tape on the light panel and a sharpie for recording laps.

I'm all ready, now bring the heat!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Measuring the Don Tyson

Donald is only simulating here for the photo. I took the actual measurements with 60 psi in the tires and my fat butt on the seat.

My tape was long enough to measure a full two turns of the front tire which came to 146 inches, which astonished me considering that my bike has what are called 24-inch wheels. Turns out the wheels themselves are nowhere near 24 inches in diameter. Who knew!

This is my starting line for the next few months, the expansion joint closest to the traffic light pole at the southeast corner of Don Tyson and Johnson Road.

This is my turn-around line, immediately before the entrance to the used car lot for Kent Dobbs Hyundai.

To make the counting more manageable, I measured from the starting line to the crosswalk at Cambridge several times and then measured from the crosswalk to the turn-around line at Kent Dobbs. From the starting line to the crosswalk, my counts were 200, 201, 191, and 201.6. I disregarded the third result as a counting error and settled on 201. My counts were 387 and 388 from the crosswalk to Kent Dobbs so I settled on 387, not wanting to overestimate the distance.

Crunching it out, I decided to call the whole out-and-back as 1.355 miles. My math professor sister is no doubt cringing that I would be so confident of my measuring system as to express the distance with four-significant-digit precision, but I don't care. That's what I'm going with. Conveniently, I measured from the crosswalk down Cambridge to the bottom of the steps to my apartment and found it was within a few feet of 201 turns, meaning that bathroom breaks will not require any special calculation or recordkeeping. How handy!

Also handy is the distance itself. However accurate my measurements are, I'm confident that 10 laps is longer than a half marathon and 20 laps is longer than a marathon. I'm also confident that 11.5 laps is closer to 25km and 23 laps closer to 50km than trail races of those nominal distances typically are. The accuracy of my measurement is adequate for my training purposes.

Visual Training Log


Sunday, June 17th.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Six Hours of Don Tyson Parkway

Welcome all runners!

June 22nd, 2012, 8:00 AM start time. Come join me for a great day of heatstroke, mental anguish, and shin-pounding boredom on the hard concrete sidewalks of the Don Tyson. It will be fun!

Course details:

The race course will be the sidewalk on the south side of Don Tyson Parkway between the Johnson Road intersection and the first entrance to Kent Dobbs Hyundai. The starting line will be the expansion joint nearest the traffic light pole at Johnson Road. The turn-around point will be expansion joint preceding the crosshatched sidewalk section at the entrance to the Kent Dobbs used car lot.

Timing and Scoring:

The race will start at 8:00 AM and end at 2:00 PM. There will be a piece of paper taped to the traffic light electrical panel on which each runner will enter her name and keep a tally of completed laps. No credit will be given for partial laps at the end of the 6-hour race period. The number of laps each runner completes will be multiplied by 1.355 to determine his total mileage. Anyone who continues on the course for at least four hours will receive a token prize.

Aid Station:

There will be a stash of water, Gatorade, PB&J sandwiches, Clif bars, Hammer Gel, Endurolytes, sunscreen, and basic foot care supplies at the west side of the railroad bridge.

Toilets:

Sensible people who I know and trust may use the bathroom in my home. Wait for me by the crosswalk at Cambridge and I will escort you. The distance from the crosswalk to my home is the same as the distance from the starting line to the crosswalk. To keep an accurate lap count, you will run from the start line to Kent Dobbs, run back as far as the crosswalk, run back and forth to the potty, run back to Kent Dobbs, and then run back to the starting line where you will tally two laps. Freaks and weirdos are welcome to participate in the race but will not be allowed to use the bathroom in my home. They should bring groovers or make other arrangements. Leave no trace!

Registration:

There is no entry fee and no need to register. Please do email me a few days ahead of time if you intend to run so I can cancel the whole thing if there is too much interest. I have no aspirations of ever putting on a legitimate running event. This is meant as a simple fun run for myself and maybe a few friends.

Release from Liability which May or May Not Hold Up in Court:

Ultra running is an intrinsically dangerous activity. Health risks include dehydration, sunburn, heat injury, hyponatremia, renal failure, and total mental or physical exhaustion. Runners are responsible for monitoring their own physical condition. By signing your name to the paper taped to the traffic light control panel, you release Dave and Dave Mows Grass Sports Productions from all liability. Blah, blah,blah.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Check it out!

I somehow had not discovered EnduranceBuzz.com until today. It's chock-full of news and information for trail runners in the Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico area. David Hanenburg did a nice write-up on the War Eagle race and even linked up to my humble trip report at the end. You can find it here. It's my new favorite site!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

My First Ultra!

Well, it's been a week and I still haven't had any genius inspiration for how to write up the incredible experience which was the 2012 War Eagle Trail Running Festival. I guess the sensible approach is to just go loop by loop, the same way I ran it, but not without an opening observation:

From the second I boarded the Rush Running cattle car to shuttle from the parking area at the War Eagle Mill to the starting line at the Hobbs State Park Visitor Center, I knew I was with my kind of people. I pointed out in my Hogeye write-up that I had never seen so many fit people jammed into such a small place. The combined energy of a thousand or so people all awaiting the start of a great challenge thrilled the air in a way I am hopeless to describe. It was electric! The energy at the start of the War Eagle race was similar, on a much smaller scale obviously, but there was a subtle difference which I fear I will be equally hopeless to describe. I will try.

At the risk of drifting into unfair generalities, people who run trails are different. Very slightly different. Certainly anyone I would be running with this day would be completely at home at a road marathon, indeed I had chatted with one of them, Edward from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, for several miles during the Hogeye race. But on whole, the people standing around me as Mike Rush explained the course during the pre-race meeting were a bit rougher around the edges than the "typical" road racer. Their garments were a little less pink and a little more functional, their faces a bit more chiseled. Their hair a bit more windblown. They were probably a bit older, on average. This is useless. Just know I felt very much at ease with these people. I liked every one of them instantly.

The first loop of the course was not a loop but a mile-and-a-half spur leading from the Visitor Center to the main trail, a spur with a very nasty hill. In what would prove to be the correct assessment of my running ability relative to that of my peers, I left the starting line near last, which put me in slow traffic for my first several descents. I couldn't bomb my way from crash tree to crash tree as I had had done in my training. No matter, though. The going was easy and I wasn't wasting energy too early.

The War Eagle Valley Loop is my favorite part of the whole trail system. It has several challenging hills and a half mile or so of creekside running which offers different vegitation and often a cool breeze. I settled in behind a line of five runners all following an older gentleman. I wondered if the other runners in the group stayed with the old man because they sensed, as I did, that he knew exactly how fast to run in the early hours of a long race. On the next big climb, though, I couldn't stand it any more. As they all bunched up on the hill, I gave a quick burst and passed the lot of them. He would pass me back at about mile 18 and go on to finish some 46 minutes ahead of me which makes me think he did know how fast to run in the beginning. I never got to properly meet him, but I learned from the results that he was Robert from Euless, Texas, and that he was 65 years old. I hope I look so good at that age!

From the War Eagle Loop we caught a short stretch of gravel road to the first Townsend Ridge aid station which I blew through and then jumped on the Little Clifty Creek Loop, the big loop, for several miles. The 25k runners continued on the Clifty Loop after the Piney Road aid station while we ran the bunny ears, the Bayshore Ridge Loop and the Dutton Hollow Loop which, together with the short spur leading to them total about seven miles. I could hear some runners ahead of me a few times, but I didn't see another soul save the volunteer at the intersection making sure everyone went the right direction. I recognised him from Hogeye where he was taking pictures and asked him if he ever got to run a race or if he just worked every one of them. He assured me that he did. He filmed me for a few seconds with his iPhone as I was on my way up from Dutton Hollow, very near the halfway point of the race.

After the bunny ears, I continued my first lap of the Little Clifty Loop for several more miles before finally being caught from behind by several runners as I dealt with a cramp on the loop's one big climb. There was an aid station where the trail crossed Townsend Ridge Road several miles north of the big aid station at the Townsend Ridge Trail Access which I had visited earlier. I grabbed half a banana and half a PBJ, a formula that worked very well for me the whole race. As I was filling my pack and yakking with the volunteers, a youthful but chronologically older lady with a lovely French accent ran up. Her name was Emm. We ran together after the aid station but I kept crowding to one side trying to wave her by. She insisted she liked my pace and that she was going to be doing lots of walking, but I still felt like I was in the way. She liked my pace for a few miles, I guess, but eventually slid by me and quietly pulled away. She disappeared into the woods just as I was rolling into the big Townsend Ridge Road aid station. I would not see her or any other runner until I reached the finish line.

The Townsend Ridge aid station marked the inflection point where I was certain that, as long as I could walk, I would be able to finish the race before the eight-hour cutoff. I had three hours to run the last nine miles. There's not much to say about the second lap of the Little Clifty Loop. It's mostly easy trail and only drops down to creek level twice. I was shocked to still be able run nearly all of it, if at a ponderously slow pace. Anything can happen, though, and at mile 28, with my legs already shredded by a long descent, I came into a nice clearing where a two-foot coopperhead was sunning herself on a patch of hot clay. It took me one step to see which way she was facing and then I reflexively made a very awkward leap the other direction. When I did, my right calf instantly cramped into a ball and I just shouted. It hurt so bad! Fortunately, my fanged friend slithered slowly away the other direction and left me to stand there in agony. Eventually I was able to begin hobbling forward as the trail wandered alongside Little Clifty Creek. I was back to a fast walk when I reached the climb out but the calf never fully recovered.

Continuing with what had been working well, I grabbed half a banana and half a PBJ at the small Townsend Ridge aid station, thanked everyone again, and embarked towards the short spur back to the Visitor Center. I had one hour to run a mile and a half or just a bit more. After the one nasty descent and climb, I experimented with running on a cramped calf. This would be a good skill to have in longer races, right? I finally settled into this sidewise shuffle which didn't require me to bend my right leg at all. I felt like I could do it forever! Fortunately, though, the cramp eased and I was able to run across the finish line in a more dignified posture.

The first person to greet me at the finsh line was Nicholas Norfolk, the volunteer who had been directing traffic at the bunny ears. He clipped the timing chip off my shoe and gave me my finisher's award, a very cool handmade clay carving of a running Indian. Emm was also bouncing towards me from a canopy where she had been resting in a chair. I reached to shake her hand but she threw a big hug on me instead. It's a French thing, I guess. She had finished about 18 minutes ahead of me and I would wait about that long for the next finisher to arrive.

There were actually four more runners left on the trail and I waited around to cheer all of them home. After that, I helped break down tents and empty all the trash and recycling bins. It seemed the least I could do after seeing how many volunteers worked the entire beautiful spring day just so we could go out and play. I thanked Race Director Jeff Genova for putting on such an awesome event and learned that he had to work at 5:30 that night, which blows my mind. Nicholas, who had driven up from Little Rock just to volunteer, got my email from me so he could send the video he shot. He also mentioned me in his this great article for Arkansas Outside. Some people are just awesome!



If you want to experience running fifty kilometers at Hobbs, just watch this short video two thousand times. Thanks for the footy, Nicholas!


Here I am just coming off the War Eagle Valley Loop. It was a cool morning and I hadn't even broken a sweat yet!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

September 2011 vs. June 2012

There are several ways not to walk in the prairie,

and one of them is with your eye on a far goal, because you then begin to believe you're not closing the distance any more than you would with a mirage. My woodland sense of scale and time didn't fit this country, and I started wondering whether I could reach the summit before dark. On the prairie, distance and the miles of air turn movement into stasis and openness to a wall, a thing as difficult to penetrate as dense forest. I was hiking in a chamber of absences where the near was the same as the far, and it seemed every time I raised a step the earth rotated under me so that my foot fell just where I had lifted it from. Limits and markers make travel possible for people: circumscribe our lines of sight and we can really get somewhere. Before me lay the Kansas of popular conception from Coronado on--that place you have to get through, that purgatory of mileage.

Hiking in the woods allows a traveller to imagine comforting enclosures, one leading to the next, and the walker can possess those little encompassed spaces, but the prairie and plains permit no such possession. Whatever else prairie is--grass, sky, wind--it is most of all a paradigm of infinity, a clearing full of many things except boundaries, and its power comes from its apparent limitlessness; there is no such thing as a small prairie any more than there is a little ocean, and the consequence of both is this challenge: try to take yourself seriously out here, you bipedal plodder, you complacent cartoon.

--William Least Heat-Moon, from his book Prairy Erth.