Friday, June 2, 2017

57 weeks out


No matter how much I try to get it out of my mind, it keeps drawing me in. Ever since the first visit in 2011 I've had visions of racing to a 17 hour finish and ignoring aid stations as I down a few beers for kicks at May Queen inbound.

Now after a good ramp up in all sorts of ways November through April, long-building tendonosis has crept up to the point where my mileage has dropped to zero, everything is stairclimber this, gain weight that,and I continue to limp around the office due to any kind of stretch to my outer heel just from getting uop and walking around. What is going on??

Friday, December 9, 2016

Back on the train

I've had a great month of consistent long runs and intensity thrown in with good measure, it's officially time to make my commitment to 2017! I've thrown in for the Leadville 100 run lottery, with Plain 100 as a backup. Both are so different in many ways. Leadville would be a competitve race, I'll try to destroy my old time, whereas Plain 100 would be just to finish without ultraslogging and, weell, not get lost :)

Monday, May 23, 2016

3 days at the Fair, 48 hour version

48 hours at the Fair

There’s nothing more mind-clearing than seeing the sun set and rise on the same stretch of land, watching the light fade from one side and arise hours on the opposite. The May moon is low, the air crisp, the night silent. At the NJ fairgrounds, the fog stretches across the grass and leaks onto the round airstrip used as a mile-long track. In May, the nights are short though, you can set a timer to the first wakening bird at 3:20AM, all while relieving your senses to pungent honeysuckle weeding from the interproperty forest.

137 times around the loop, the mind gathers more detail an experiences into the task at hand. Is it a task? What is really going on here? It’s not work, but it takes effort. The amount of calories burnt just being awake this long sends the metabolism into overdrive for weeks. It feels good to walk, another 10 minutes, the legs will be able to run faster than walking for another 20 minutes. Walking is time to zone out. Hear the incoming slap of running feet and try to do math on how many sections of 6 hours are left.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Green Monster 50k

The Green Monster 50k
My 3rd year into running long trail races, I have grown accustomed to always having something at least a couple of months away to get ready for. By now it has come to the point where I can just sign up for something a few weeks away and not worry at all about finishing. This opens up a lot of really cool and obscure races, especially ones on trail with difficult profiles.
I set yet again a goal to have a great finishing time in August 2014 at the always beautiful Leadville 100, I've finished 2 out of 3 attempts but both have been within 2 hours of the cutoff (28:08, 29:09 in 2013). Last year I developed plantar fasciitis in the left heel, an annoying overuse injury resulting from doing 4 races up to 100 miles in the 2 months after placing a headlamp too far ahead at Leadville and not finishing. Way to beat myself up for failing, with failure by means of improper recovery. 2013's training involved mainly trying to heal and catchup to old speeds and strength, both which went down despite completing some interesting and gnarly trail long runs. I felt that as long as my week included 1-2 tempo runs of 10 miles or more, and long runs every other week of 25 miles or more, the fitness would stay within just completing Leadville range.
Merely weeks before mid-August the injury and groin problems began to ease up enough to where longer than 50 mile distances would be bearable and running gait would be normal. I finished Leadville, and actually witnessed the cut-off gun at the finish with a fellow Nj'an after he killed his 25 hour goal. I was exhausted, but relieved that I didn't waste another grand for a tshirt and poster but no buckle. A few days later, I sat at work and wasn't sure if I wanted to take some time off. I decided to very very slowly work up in mileage to top off in January, and try again. Therefore, 50k's would be perfect until then to develop the base and get faster. I'd add in tempo runs soon and the speedwork which is a quick fix for vastly improving race times.
One 50k in at Mountain Madness (need to do this one just to get my fix of seeing the usual gaggle of maniacs in action), I did ok, but best was seeing a few folks off long-standing injuries back at it. Still off the endorphins, later that night I was browsing the ultra calender and was surprised to find an ultra near the black forest/poconos, so I signed up for the Green Monster 50k in Wellsboro PA, a tiny town in north Central PA with a cool downtown area that pops out of the woods. I was the sole NJ entrant in the inaugural 50k (there'd been a 25k the year before). I like PA, I grew up there, but not here! I guess I assumed the entire Appalacian Mountain range stopped at the Delaware Water Gap, dropped to great plains flat, and rose up immediately upon entering North Carolina. This area, dubbed the Grand Canyon of PA, had some respectible Catskill-ish mountains at around the 2k altitude. The start photo where I am seen performing my unintentional Jackson tribute shows the terrain for the day:

Pumpkins mark the start. 7:30AM start. Trolley in background. Shimona.

The start was moved due to the gov't shutdown, but they still managed to grant us a large hay field to park and sleep for the night, and the luxury of a 3-minute trolly ride to the start. As you can see in the picture above, during the short shorts shortoff (keeps me from shoplifting), a very brave guy was rocking the Tarahumara sandals for the whole technical 50k. kudos to that! it would be definitely worth developing the foot/ankle strength to do so comfortably. It was slightly chilly, and would remain so the entire time. Ideal running weather. I get inspired by wood and rocks, and add in the foliage and tiny rain droplets and a little caffeine, get out. It was an temperature where you sweat enough to know you are burning, but it evaporates right away. Yet not cold enough to get numb.

The group was 70 or less, and the front half spread out almost immediately down a flat carriage road leading into the woods at mile 0.75. I'd seen pretty gnarly race profiles for ultras, but 8000ft +/- for a 50k? I like pushing hard for distances less than 50 miles, usually keeping in my slightly below anerobic threshold for long periods, and my rule when feeling fit is I must run anything that doesn't make me slip underfoot due to steepness. This one would test that. I suspected I'd be hiking for a minute or two just to keep from going into V02 max zone (95% of max heart rate) on the first and last climbs shown below. A time for the race? I knew I wanted to push but would accept it as a training run if I blew up. So I gave myself 6-8 hours, beating 6 as the ultimate goal, but would focus on enjoying the awesome scenery as much as I could remember to do so.

50k race profile. The second half was more forgiving with long downhills.
The now single-track trail headed at a runnable but difficult grade up the first climb. At first it wasn't noticeable, but people began to see that although leaves were flying down all the time, the trail was completely clear. It grew obvious that someone had LEAF-BLOWN the ENTIRE trail. What! It would get Manitou's Revenge steep within a half-mile, where I would hike for 30 seconds. It was only one of 3 hiking breaks for the day and though wearing my legs out right away was a concern, adrenaline was high and I went for it. I knew there were long drops as well to relieve my hams and keeping up with bodyweight squats regularly along with weights has kept the quads in good form so I could switch up muscles constantly during the entire race. On this first section, the crowd dissipated immediately. During the short hiking session up this section, I was passed by 4-5 others. It's always been my weakness, trying to be at fast hiking pace. Plus, the right leg buckles a little as it gets super-steep, so I've always worked on running up steep sections and it feels more efficient, even though I know I'll sometimes be passed by fast hikers. From this point on passing would never be a problem, I was in the spread-out first 10 or so and could relax as I made way around the giant loop in the wilderness.

One of the techinical sections. Pink tape was the 25k section. Blue after ~14 miles (Photo:Aaron Singer)
 I have been working on the amount of stuff I carry on trail runs, and this race would be a breakthrough. Not only was it easier given that most aid stations were 4-5 miles apart at most, but it was cool enough to only need one 20oz bottle for each 5-mile interval. So I started with two full ones, and didn't need to stop at any aid station to fill up until mile 16! I had pushed it a little, getting thirsty, but food-wise I had only needed 3-4 gels and a couple granola bars for the whole journey.

The profile was all up and down until the 25k point, halfway, where you would head right back to the start for the 25k race or go into the unknown for the second half. There were speedy descents and long tough climbs and I'd try to not look at my watch to keep focused on the moment and feel the distance out as opposed to wondering how far until the next aid station. However I would do a modest amount of watch-glancing in the second half to make sure I had enough water. Right around 14 miles there was a descent referred to as Frankenstein. It was the steepest descent I had ever seen in the woods- similar to one of those gravel pit mounds. And the footing was terrible- pretty much small pieces of shale. Without the leaf-blown trail, I would have been on my hands and sliding down. I had been running with a talented younger runner who was gliding along effortlessly, but trying to not lose energy for the whole distance. I had my Virgil Crest shirt on, a race relatively close to this area of PA, so we had some conversations about that epic course. At one point I couldn't keep the sentences long enough to answer so I had to wait until we were hauling along the flat summit portion around the halfway point. Suddenly, the 85% downhill grade pops out and I lurch forward for the big fall of the day. This guy continues down at casual running gait, gaining a good 3 minutes on me in seconds.

The second half was more climbs, but there were long pleasant slight downhills along with some sinking mud (tiring at 23 miles) and basically running along high ridges with views of miles and miles of clear sky and crisp air. I ran everything- at this point passing some of the front crowd- and getting more and more excited for the final 2 big climbs and final long descent- a 2 mile pleasant descent among quiet sleepy-hollow type scenary. It all ended popping out of a small break in the woods onto a field, something you wouldn't even notice walking right by. 200 yards to go and 5:59:15 on the watch!! I must have yelled I GOT 30 SECONDS! to everyone sitting by the side cheering me on in the last straighaway (perfect ending) as we dropped into the same carriage road as the start for a bbq-style finish.

I was very happy with this race, and glad I dug deep to run the last two climbs *except 20 seconds of the final climb- goal for next year! And met up with familiar faces from before- exchanging viewpoints on the course and motivation for the final 6 miles.

One of a couple of mandatory foot cleansing stations. (Photo:Aaron Singer)

Along the way, 2 granola bars, 3 more powergels, and water for 6 hours and 32 miles of running did the trick. This was a beautiful course; I become so myopic during races that I forget there’s a red and yellow magical forest before me. It’s weird that it takes effort to look up and actually soak it in. Forcing this, it was like riveting sheetmetal and appreciating the alignment of the rows' holes. Outdoor appreciation took focus. The hills were so blatant, often up and down 1000 feet with only a short crest, roller coaster style. I felt strong after taking my time building up in running mileage after a long foot injury, and ran every hill except the stupid hard parts. Everyone I met lived relatively closer than my 3.5 drive from Jersey, and made me feel welcome to the great north PA canyons.

If you like tough 50’s this one is a 9 out of 10 on the tough scale- missing the 10 because I can imagine the heavy leaf-cover would have a mde it a lot more slippery. No complaints though. this allowed for some consistent straight-aways. The before and after gatherings were low-key and had a bbq and key-chain medal. I saw the Tarahumara sandals runner half-way and we exchanged cheesy motivational one-liners which is all you need in the mentally straining middle miles.

Finishing 22 seconds short of the 6 hour goal, I realized the course was more like 32 miles so I was very pleassed with the time. But the day was perfect otherwise so it definitely wasn't the highlight.
I'd recommend these trails for hiking running, I think biking is good to go at some parts. Especially if planning the Eastern States 100 miler because it’s definitely close by to this, and perhaps harder (well, for less than one third the distance).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


TAMMANY 10!. 38 miles, 10 hours, 10 loops, 12,000 ft gain/loss The TAMMANY 10! 40 MILER is 10 ascents of Mt. Tammany, the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap, and the longest continuous climb I have encountered in the state. It’s mostly at a grade that is only slightly runnable for an above average fitness, with some rock gardens that would require you to be at your wits to avoid twisting a foot.

This race had only about 20 people in it, natural for such a unique and slow going event. The day was cold, but only around freezing. The “gun” went off at 6:30 right as the sun was crawling out behind the landscape. It was perfectly clear. We all trotted off the park balcony across Rt. 80 from the bottom of the mountain, most in simple warm running clothes with only a few hydration packs or bottles. Because you had to ascend twice and come back to check-in at the start, you didn’t need to plan out carrying much in the way of gels or water. I brought two 20oz bottles but ditched one at the bottom as we crossed the road to the start of the trail. It was going to take a long time to do ten loops, I had done 2 loops before on my own in the heat of summer and it made me want to sleep for a week. This would have to take some strategy, it wasn’t even a hard trail run with rocks and hills, it was ten hard hill climbing workouts interrupted with tenacious focusing on running safely down steep rocky sections with slippery snow leftover from a couple late season storms. Personally I dreaded the downhills for the reason it aggravated my recovering plantar fasciitis, so it would have to be done slower than I wanted. But I love running downhill, it’s like going on a hunt and feels therapeutic on all the legs muscles.

But I wanted to learn to run entire uphills; my legs are shorter than most so it is more efficient than hiking while I am relatively fresh. My goal was also to do this in Leadville later in the summer so best to get on with it now. The top of the first loop, the first official climb, treated us to a clear sunrise, ahhh, almost better than coffee! The first three loops I ran all except a boulder middle section, albeit slowly. A very fast hiker could keep up with the pace. Checking in every second loop was a treat, I got to have replenish my gels and down some dates. The gels always hit me real good with their caffeine. When I get on that buzz, and into a good pace running uphill, I just yell out songs like Weezer’s “we are all on drugs” to fellow runners and talk to day hikers. The hikers were pretty cool; some even remembered the loop I was on! All were wondering what the hell was happening, and their comments of “holy s” and “go get ‘em buddy” were huge motivators. I do love my alone times on the trail, but never get tired of crowded trails during a race, people are really cool to runners and ussually always smile or motivate. A few years ago, I would have not imagined hiking more than one loop, and had no idea how fun it was.

The running uphill deteriorated a little around lap 5, where it was just too much effort to go 17 min/mile so I took to hiking some of the first rocky outcrop and all of the boulder field, and half/half past then. Surprisingly, my times didn’t lower that much. I was still on for an hour per loop giving me the 10 hour limit. Around lap 8 my friend Elizabeth hiked past me trying to run a steep section. I decided to hike a loop with her and chat a little to see what it was like to not force an uphill run, as habitual as it has become for me. It helped me move along faster and was a skill I should at least improve on. By this time a lot of the snow that covered much of the trail earlier on had turned to slippery slush, and the downhill section opened up- a whole new set of rocks!

I think lap 7 was the toughest. My heart rate soared and I felt like upheaving. I have never felt like this on a less than 10 hour effort. This run was going to catapult me out of my slump, being the first 25+ hard effort since December.

After that last lap, in which we were now intimately familiar with the 4 mile or so path, now able to run it blindfolded, we rounded back across the highway one last time to roll up the stairs and be greeted with a plaque made with one of the Delaware Gap rocks and a pie. Elizabeth, Courtney and I all finished within 5 minutes and Harry the first place was already shivering waiting for the rest of us. I hadn’t seen him the whole time, and the whole race was wondering when he would lap me. He probably came close, and finished another time zone and change ahead. Some had one of their most amazing days, including Marge, who finished strong as it was becoming dark again. Kick ass!

What a tough long run, with some decent fast hiking mixed in, and a perfect training day for hill ultras. Based on my past runs, a 100 miler like this would take 30+ hours!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Run log 10/29-11/4

With the hurricane and its aftermath found some free time to explore the area around me more. Hooked up for Sunday with a friend visitng to hit those unforgettable street climbs in Dover. Using all my weights at home now.

Oct. 29th
8.1 miles moderate hills around Randolph-Mine Hill

Oct. 30th
Front squats, lunges, calves, BW squats in the AM with dumbells

11.1 miles around Randolph 7:47 pace hitting some hills and flats 50/50. The exact day after the urricane Sandy hit and was staying on grass until I almost clipped a few powerlines, which were numerous. Mostly road after that.

Oct. 31st
7 total.
3 mile WU
4 x 1/4 mile hill sprints @8-10% grade, recov down: 7:32, 7:45, 7:33, 7:42
2 mile CD

Nov. 1st
13.4 miles around Randolph with 2 Hidden Valley Powerline loops (2 mi each). Lots of small downed sticks, a few large trees knocked over, as everywhere.

2X 57 BW squats

Nov. 2nd
No access to gas, and car was almost empty. Ran to work and back, 7 and 6 miles.

Nov. 3rd
Two Mt. Minsi loops as a previews for DWG 50k next week.

  • 13.1mi
  • 2,163ft
  • 09:47/mi

  • Nov. 4th
    Dover long run with friend. Never realized there were this many good hills nearby- have to readjust my local route now.

  • 27.0mi
  • 4,188ft
  • 08:47/mi
    2X 60 BW squats (Getting up there! making sure to maintain form throughout though. Can get tougher in the beginning when I'm not as loose.)

    Miles/Week: 90 miles

    Sunday, October 28, 2012

    Run log 10/22-10/28

    After a very easy comeback week after Oil Creek, I was on the verge of deciding how to deal with the next couple of months of training given that there was nothing huge on the horizon and Leadville still is 10 months away. Plenty of time to do something different. I checked out a nearby gym which had a boxing room with 4 different kinds of bags. It had been a while but I grabbed my 16oz gloves and started doing intervals. Replaced my long weekly mileage with this and lots of weights. It felt much different, and gave my legs some extra recovery time (still had a lot of fatigue and feet were still sore from all the mimimus the previous week). Had the day off Friday and got my longish run in. All week long I was weighing the options, is it time to do something new? If I drop my weekly mileage now, will it negatively affect going for areally really good time if I sign up for Leadville another year? Even writing this now on a Sunday night, before a massive hurricane swoops over, I still am on the fence. Keep up lots of volume, my training could grow stale. Drop it, and replace with shorter, high-intensity crossfit type stuff and stairclimbing or heavy bag, and I may lose my long-run legs but gain a lot of functional strength. But something bit me. Every time I do this I can’t help but miss the long stuff. Maybe after 2 years of consistently pushing towards higher volume, running long mileage has become almost a physical need or something. I know it would probably be beneficial to mix it up for a while and let smaller tendons heal and what not, but it’s become almost a competitive desire to see how far I can push my running while keeping up the weights and what not.

    Oct. 22nd
    5 miles easy lunch run

    5 miles treadmill

    Upper body weights, core and abs

    Oct. 23rd
    Lift AM lower body

    Heavy bag 15 min

    5 miles treadmill: half mile intervals 8-8:30. All 4%

    Oct. 24th
    Heavy bag 15 min.

    Weights upper body

    30 min stepclimber

    5 miles with three 800 meter intervals up a 200 ft gain hill (same as previous weeks but with the extra 400 meters).

    5 miles with hash group, EZ

    3x 50 BW squats

    Oct. 26th
    17 miles of eight 1.75 mile hill repeats at South Mountain Reservation with some flats at the end. A great consistent hill repeat section, a tad rocky on the steep downhill, but a go to Leadville training spot where I don’t need to carry a bladder for very long runs. 2:53 or so- good pace for this.

    Oct. 27th
    6.2 around my place.

    Oct. 28th
    12 miles (2 loops opposing directions) Jockey hollow. Some good climbs but not insane.
    2x 55 BW squats

    MILEAGE/WEEK: 60 miles