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.