Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Javelina Jundred 2016

First and foremost, this was just an unbelievable and amazing experience.  I doubt that I can describe how great this truly was.  Despite the blazing heat, I really loved every minute of it.  Araivapa Running did an outstanding job organizing, marking, designing the course itself.  This was not just a race, it was an experience and an event that has changed my life for the better.  I will never be the same.

This being my first 100 miler, I really did my homework.  I am truly grateful for the sound advice I received from veteran ultrarunners, and from my coach Lisa Smith Batchen.  I used probably half the stuff I brought, but if you do not bring it, you would probably need it!  The gear I did bring was spot on and worked well.  I should have, and I knew it would because I made sure I used it all first.  Race day is obviously not the best time to try something for the first time.

We arrived to Arizona on Wednesday, three days prior to JJ100.  I figured I should probably get acclimated somewhat, because Boston was 35 degrees when we left.  Besides, who would not want to spend as MUCH time as possible in The Valley of the Sun?  We got settled in to our hotel Wednesday, and I got to organize my gear a bit.

102 day of JJ100

Speed up to Thursday....  Sebastian, Alejandra and your´s truly drove up to Sedona.  If you have not been here, you are missing one of the single most beautiful places on earth.  This is Red Rock Country.  It's very peaceful and serene, and people often go here specifically for spiritual healing. I personally have never ran here, ever.  I have been here close to 20 times but those visits were during   the period of my life I drank like a fish and had not even given running a single thought.  This would be my last run before JJ.  I left town, and found the Broken Arrow Trail. Scored big time!  This is trail porn to say the least.  Single track dope, the most beautiful trails surrounded by red friggin rock.


 I ran and took photos for an hour, went back to town and ate lunch, grabbed Sebastian, and drove back to Broken Arrow!  We certainly had a blast.  His favorite thing was the dirt!

Thursday night we went home and stained the shower with red dirt, I mean, took a shower at the hotel.  We went to a friend's house for stuffed shells, one of my favorites. It was very tasty and right up my alley.  Let the carb loading commence!  Thanks Sam!

Friday  afternoon, Sebastian and I did the expo and bib pickup thing. I met some new friends, and finally met in person some  friends, David Clark,  and Walter Bortman.  It was cool to hang out there and soak up the good vibes.  After that, I ate and went back to the hotel early to get as much rest as possible.  Alarm is set for 4:00 am, race starts at 6:00am.

Up and at em´, I depart by 4;20!  It took 40 minutes to get there, which was fine. It gave me enough time to drink my coffee, and digest my Generation UCAN bars.  I parked, and found where I was supposed to be, Jeadquarters!

Ace of Spades - I can powerwalk more than most humans!

Runwell teammate Walter
West´s Best, East´s Beast Teammate Sandra!

It is time to line up in starting corral.  6am and here we go, holy shit, we are off!  Well, we did not start off like a bat out of hell, in fact we started off by literally walking the first mile due to too many people on single track. I was definitely OK with this because it kept my pace in check.  Everyone I talked to, and everything I read about this RACE said not to start tooooo fast.   I was able to start passing people after the first mile or so, but consciously aware of my pace.  I was averaging about 9.5-10 minutes per mile, in fact that is what I did for 40+ miles.  I felt great, strong, hydrated.  Everything was working well, all systems go. Zero issues.  I used salt capsules and plenty of ice to cool my core, which was key to getting my to where I was in the race.

The trails are not too grueling and everything is runnable.  There are rocky technical areas that were tricky in the dark with tired eyes and tired feet.  All the hills were not too bad.  The terrain is desert dirt!  I ran in Nike Free 5.0s which are street shoes.  I feel like I was fine with these, something heavier would have slowed me down.  I had no plans for a pacer, or a crew.    I did send out a few messages to see if anyone wanted to stop by the race, and my buddy Cliff and his sister Carrie came by!  It was starting to get really hot, and this was a nice boost to see them. I really appreciated them coming, but right after I saw them, I started having awful stomach cramps.  And at the same time, the heat of the day started to get to me.  I had ice in a buff that I kept putting on my face, neck, and body, ice under my hat, and all my heat gear on.  My core just started to get too hot, and my stomach cramps were wearing me down.  I knew I couldn't run through it.  When I ran, it hurt more. Soooooo, I walked...

I  Walked 10 miles to Jackass Junction.  I just kept moving forward.  I was using less energy, and not as hot anymore.  I had to be smart and listen to my body, not my brain. Brain said run through it, body said walk you Jackass!  I had to improvise.  Plan A was not going to work anymore.  My Ace of Spades up my sleeve apparently was having the mental capacity and ability to power walk, and for a looooong time.  At this point, I had met up with Tonja. She is someone I actually interviewed with about a job, small world!  She said that I needed to work on my breathing, and work the acid out.  So that's exactly what I did, I ended up walking mostly from Jackass back to Jeadquartersworking on belly breathing.  Then around 5:00, the angry sun was going down behind the mountains, and it was time to run again!!! Thanks again Tonja!

Another thing a lot of veterans said was to make sure to eat.  I ate plenty of watermelon and used Tailwind as part of my nutrition.  I had to start putting something more solid into my system because I was getting low on energy.  They had a large variety of food and snacks at the aid stations, but nothing sounded appealing.  I had to eat, or I was screwed.  They had Ramen noodles in vegetable broth, so I figured it was safe.  It surely was, I ate the shit out of it for the remainder of the race! With the sun gone, I felt much better.  My stomach was fine. No muscle pain at all, truly amazing, as I had surpassed 60 miles (Now in uncharted waters, personal best for distance).  I ran on and off when I could, and started resting for a few minutes at the aid stations while I had my soup, which gave my feet a well deserved rest.  I started to have low energy again, so I tapped in to caffeinated Tailwind.  Nothing.  No lift. Life had to go on.  I didn't feel like running, but knew I needed to keep moving forward.  Soooooo, back to the Ace of spades, more power walking. I knew I would finish, but knew it would be taking me much longer than projected. I probably powerwalked  30 of the last 40 miles!  I could walk faster than run!  Problem was that it is a long time between aid stations.  They seem to never be getting closer.  Each time I arrived, it was a boost, more soup, and another milestone closer to finishing this thing.

Of the course of the race, I saw one runner black out while running, others unconscious at aid stations, and many with severe cramping. Temperature reaches 102 degrees in the day.  It was not Badwater, but it was no joke either.  250 100 mile runners did not finish.  Runners who did not protect themselves from the elements simply did not make it.  One idiot was boasting and bragging at the aid station that he had already drank 22 beers, and was planning on drinking 50 beers during the race,  He did not make.

I got to see the sunrise for the second time during the race on mile 92.  The end was near, but I was not there yet!

Hallucanation, I think not.

Add caption

At Jackass Junction aid station

There it was, I could hear the music too, Jeadquarters and the finish line!  25 hours, 17 minutes and 6 seconds later, my first hundred miler is in the books. I felt GREAT!  Mentally exhausted, physically fine, just some tired feet!  

I saw some spiders, a rattlesnake that I lost sight of, some little badger things that may have been cute Gremlins, and heard a lot of coyotes howling when the sun went down.  I only saw one, who was friendly and probably would make a great pet.  

I would not call it hallucinations like something you might see on shrooms or acid, but Holy shit , everything is so freaking trippy, especially at night.  Everything looks like Willy Wonka or Super Mario Brothers.  When my flashlight or headlight came across some of the cactus, bushes, and other things I stopped a bunch of times just to make sure what the hell I was actually looking at!  Two different times I heard runners mention the full moon.  There was no full moon, it was the globe domed lights as you were approaching Headquarters. It was funny to see some of the costumes at night; I was trying to figure what the F was coming towards me!  At least during the night it was hard to see men who obviously were trying to win The Best Ass contest.  I got stuck behind some G-string food for waaaaaay too long during the day.  Glad he didn't stop short.

So again, absolutely amazing experience, would do it again in a heartbeat.  100 miles is a long time to run, walk,nor just be in my own head.  194,850 steps were taken by me.  That's a lot of steps.  It literally is like running, walking from Waltham, MA to Dennis,MA, or Waltham, past Hartford, CT!  
People cannot understand why I or someone would want to do this.  I feel we all owe it to ourselves to see what our own bodies are capable of. Time is too short to sit back and not do crazy shit. 

What's next you might ask?  YMCA 5k on Saturday!  After that, I am plotting more madness, more than likely just some long ass fun runs!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Maine Marathon, qualifying for Boston - Happy Birthday to me!

We looooove to visit Portland.  The food is amazing, it is easy to get around, and has a great vibe to it. I noticed the Maine Marathon was going to be held on my actual birthday, and Alejandra and I decided that a weekend in Portland would be a nice place for my birthday weekend.

My training was more than adequate and my nutrition was as well leading up to this weekend. I have to admit, some of my nutritional choices while in Maine were not the greatest. For example, fried clams, french fries, fried pickles, whoopee pies and Holy Donuts just to name a few.  I did make sure these items were consumed before 2:00 Saturday, and ate plenty of pasta Saturday night for FUEL for Sunday's race.

We woke up and hit the road to the starting line.  No traffic, no problem parking. One of the things I liked about this race was that everything was low maintenance.  No stress.  It was around 45 degrees and started to mist out a bit.  I ran around a little to loosen up.  Ten minutes before the start I lined up in the corral.  It was really neat.  For the first time ever in a race, there were bagpipes!  Also, I looked up and saw drones.  Another first, they used John Deere gator quads as the official pace cars.

Holy Donuts

Fried Pickles from Gritty McDuff´s

The weirdest thing happened to me after the National Anthem was sung.  I was very foggy in the morning to begin with, and all of sudden it dawned on me that I needed to run 26.2 miles.  I had not really given this RACE much thought!  Not being arrogant, I honestly had not.  My Plan A was to run balls to the wall enjoy myself and run the entire race.  Plan B was to run hard , enjoy myself and do the best that I could, Plan C, just finish, and finish healthy.  Other than that, not much thought!  But there I was, about to run this thing.  I just decided to look at it as a long run, after all it was going to be used as a  training for Javelina Jundred anyways.  I had no pressure, nothing to lose, nothing.  As usual, I decided to just run how I feel, and just enjoy the run.  So that is what I did!

I started off with 800 marathoners, 3,000 half marathoners, and a bunch of others doing the marathon relay.  I fell in a nice groove from the get go, and never looked back. From miles 4-6.5  I had some guy who sounded like Darth friggin Vader right behind me.  I could not shake him.  I moved to the left, and he moved to the left.  I surge forward up, he surges forward.  WTF guy!  Heavy, obnoxious breathing.  I thought about slowing down and letting him pass, but did not want to disrupt my race and pace.  I also thought that mentally that if I let him pass it could ruin my groove and mojo. Finally, I reached the half marathon turn around point.  ALL I can say is that I am forever grateful that Darth Vader registered for the half!  I don't think he could sustain his pace anymore regardless, but I was glad I no longer had to listen to him!  

I still felt strong and wasn't even thinking about my time per say.  I just recognized that my splits were consistent, and between 7:15-7:35 mostly.  After mile 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 they were still in this range.  When I got to mile 20, I knew if I could sustain this pace, I could qualify for Boston Marathon!  I always kept in my mind that things could go to shit at anytime, and reminded myself just to keep running the mile I was on.  

There have been other marathons such as Wineglass, Arizona, and Erie that the plan WAS to qualify for Boston.  For each of these marathons, I felt my training was adequate, or more than adequate to qualify.  I put the time in, I was eating properly, I ran hills, I rested.  After a difficult time running 23 of 26 miles of the Erie Marathon in considerable pain, I decided to rethink my goals.  I hated this race.  I was a mental case the entire race as well.  I put too much pressure on myself, and was not having fun.  I always said from the beginning of this running journey that if I am not having fun, then what is the point.  I was physically injured for Erie Marathon whether I wanted to accept that or not, and tried to push through.  All I ended up doing was running injured, and overcompensated on the other side of my body, which caused both legs to implode in mile 3!  I felt like quitting.  I had to so listening to music, I was a mental mess.  I  pushed through to see if I could get used to the muscle pain and fatigue, which I am glad I was able to.  I suffered, but I recall telling myself that I suffered a lot more many times when I was boozing...  That helped keep me going.  I rehabbed my ankle, took the foot off the gas on my training runs, and focused on cross training.  Prior to Erie, I ALWAYS wanted ALL my runs, including long runs, to be under 8 minutes per mile.  I broke down.  I was not having fun.  That is when I decided to run slower so I can go longer, and injury free.  Intensity dictates duration.  Less intense = Run forever!  This was one of the best things I could have done.  I also set aside the qualify for Boston Marathon goals, and shifted to an ultra running mindset.  

I ran Baystate, Roxbury,CT, Hyannis, Pittsburgh, and Mexico marathons just for fun. Do not get me wrong, I ran hard and just did the best for these races.  But my expectations and goals were just to have fun, run hard, but finish healthy.  If it just felt right, and just so happen to be in a position to qualify for Boston, then great. If not, then so be it.  I also used these marathons as preparation for ultra marathons.

Well, the Maine Marathon it just felt right.  Everything just worked for me.  No internal issues, no muscle pain or fatigue, no tweaks, no heat, no wind.  After mile 20  I was passing people who had passed me earlier in the race.  One girl who I fondly remember was Holly.  Holly passed me around mile 4.  Holly had a friend on a bike pacing her the entire race.  This was kinda annoying.  The pacer would hand her a water bottle from her bike, and she would take a few swigs, then just chuck it.  WTF!  Every 1/2 this was happening.  She dressed the part of someone competing in American Ninja or Tough Mudder.  Bandana, straps on her arms, KT tape all over her body!  I don't mean to make fun of people but....... She and her silly pacer were ultra annoying.  The pacer friend kept telling her she looked strong, looking good, all the typical cliche saying spectators yell at marathon runners.  They will say this even as someone has obvious distress.  I saw someone yacking and someone still said looking good!  I got to mile 24, and was like, "Holy shit, it's Holly!  I knew at this point that unless I totally imploded, I was in line to qualify with a little cushion of time.  I passed Holly and her friend, which put a little more bounce in my step for sure.  I still felt great so I decided to run as fast as possible to see how much was left in my tank. Surprisingly, I was able to finish strong.  I qualified for Boston.  What an unreal feeling.  I was just planning on enjoying my birthday long run, what a bonus!!!

I think the key was just being loose, not putting any pressure on myself, and being healthy. For those that are trying to qualify, put the time in, and your day will come.

Marathon #15 in the books
Da best

No more chasing unicorns...

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Full Moon Waltham 50k Fat Ass, I mean Skinny Ass Run

So my friend, let's just call her Melissa(because Melissa is her name) is running her first 50 miler on October 22nd called Ghost Train.  This is an annual trail race in New Hampshire that takes place before Halloween.  I have friends that ran this last year and were raving about how much fun it.  People dress up in costumes, and apparently spectators do as well, and hide on the woods and attempt to scare the shit out of you. Seems perfect.  You can run any distance in 20 mile increments, and actually go up, or down during the race.  If you are done at 40, then that's it, you are done at 40.  If you want to keep going and run 80, or 100, then push forward!  I was planning on running this race, and making it my first 100 miler.  In January , I found out that I did not get in to Leadville 100 via the lottery, so I registered for race 1A, Javelina Jundred in Arizona.  This race is October 28th, and waaaaaay too close to Ghost Train, so the latter will have to wait until 2017.

Melissa is following a training plan to a tee.  Her plan called for a 50k run(31.1 miles) on Saturday October 17.  I was pretty bummed out because up until two days before, I had a commitment and would not be able to run with her.  She's been a great friend to me, someone who listens to me and offers sound advice, and whom I can confide in.  She is great to run with too!  Things changed as my schedule opened up, and I was able to run. So we started to plan out the logistics and route. Originally we were going to run along the Boston Marathon course in Newton, hit a few trails along the Charles, and log miles until we reached the 50k mark.  We decided to take to the trails, after all Ghost Train is a trail race!  We stayed local and planned on running The Western Greenway which is in Waltham and Belmont.  We chatted about logistics a bit more and agreed to meet at Rock meadow(one trailhead parking lot), and drive to The Paine Estate(trailhead parking lot) 5 miles down the road.  We would use both cars as aid stations, which had ample supplies of cold water, watermelon, Swedish Fish, steamed potatoes, saltines, and TAILWIND!

I set my alarm for 4:20.  This would give me more than enough time to shower, stretch, eat and drink coffee, and use the bathroom twenty times.  For the longest, 4:20 meant wake and bake, get coffee and go to the gym, work, or just to start the day.  It kind of makes me chuckle still that I used to start my day like that almost daily.  It is 5:25, so I drive a mile to meet Melissa at Rock Meadow.  We arrived at the same time and started this days journey off by admiring the full moon and taking a bunch of crappy cell phone pics.

Since it is 5:30 at the Paine Estate it's obviously DARK!  A lot of my long runs begin on the dark, including through here but I am well aware of the tricky tree roots and rocks that often trip me up here, so we start off at a conservative pace.  It felt really cold and was humid which is a drastic change from last weekend's 50 miler which was hazy, hot and humid.  It is 5 miles to my car at Rock Meadow.  Our first leg was done in the dark, then we went back and the swamps seemed even cooler, and a fog was rising.  Pretty eerie!

As we ran through the meadow, we noticed some freaky looking cobwebs that resembled a tennis racket without a head.  I walked up to take a closer look and they were awesome spider webs with Spidey himself just hanging out. There were dozens of them.  I have never seen anything like these before.

As we were about to leave my car, I noticed what appeared to be a Great Dane running down the road.  It was not a Great Dane, it was a deer, then two more right behind it.  They ran off in to the meadow.

As we got about halfway back to The Paine Estate, we noticed three more deers, or maybe the same ones.  I was unable to tag them the first time around, I will have to work on my speed.  I want to say that we reached the Paine Estate and started heading back and guess who we saw again? Our friends the deers that were now confirmed stalking us.

So back and forth we went, just enjoying the morning.  The fog had lifted, the sun came out and there was a nice breeze.  Optimum running conditions to say the least.  We ventured across the street to the trails behind McLean's hospital.  I noticed this welcome sign was not so welcoming.

On a side note, long training runs are great opportunities for practicing with new equipment, shoes, and also with introducing some new nutrition to one's body.  My cousin Jack is the CEO of TruEnergy.  I decided to try his innovative energy drink at the halfway point.  I shot it down and actually forgot about it until I remembered somewhere around mile 20.  I definitely noticed that I felt fresh, and had even more energy.  It is a small sample size, but I am looking forward to using TruEnergy again Tuesday on my next long run.  We ran through Waverley square, then through Beaver Brook, up to the duck pond and mill pond, and ran back to Rock Meadow.  We saw that there were a shit ton of cars and people.  There was a cross country meet there, so we RAN AWAY!  At this point, we are both moving well still.  Melissa's plan was to walk the hills, especially in the later miles.  I told her that I was onboard with whatever she wanted to do.  We took very few walk breaks and kept a pretty even pace throughout the entire run.  We chatted about how important it was to have fun while running.  Here are a few pix of our goofiness!

Shrine at METFERN Cemetery.

We both knew the end of this was inevitable.  It was the perfect day for running.  Also inevitable was at least one fall!  Here you can see me as I landed hard with only a few miles to go...

Thanks again for moving this out of my way.

The first ever Full Moon Waltham 50k Run is in the books.  It truly was a lot of fun.
MELISSA IS READY FOR HER FIRST 50 MILER, and I feel stronger and more confident about Javelina Jundred!
After 31.1 miles, don´t we look fresh!