Monday, August 31, 2009

Great Lakes Endurance Run

I had been searching for a 50-mile or 100-kilometer race for this approximate time period, and the Great Lakes Endurance Run 50k/100k in Fayetteville, near Syracuse, NY fit the bill. The 100k race would be 8 12.5k loops on mostly dirt trails, around lakes, through forests and fields. Yes, there were some steep hills, they said, but nothing technical. From the time I signed up, I was mostly concerned about the weather. If it was to be a scorcher, I didn’t see how I’d be able to get through it. As it turned out, it wasn’t hot at all, but that would be getting ahead of ourselves.

Since daughter Veronica and son-in-law Barry also live in an easterly type direction, we decided to combine our trip to Syracuse with a trip to Connecticut in order to pay a visit. Now Syracuse and Fairfield/Norwalk are a good five hours apart, but they are still both in that same direction from Cleveland.

After an early morning run, we drove through some substantial rain for a good bit of the long haul to Norwalk. Veronica and Barry are in the midst of a two-stage move – they’re in an apartment in between the selling of their condo and the buying of their house in Fairfield. We stayed in the now empty condo, sans cats as well as Barry and Veronica. Then we spent the next day (another rainy one due to the remnants of storm Danny) with Veronica as she took Friday off. Saturday morning we were able to see the place they’re buying, as the beginning of their inspection. It’s a very nice multi-level house with lots of room to grow. It does need some work, but it’s in move-in condition. Debbie is delighted.

The drive to Syracuse was also a wet one. But after we arrived, the skies really opened up. Yes, it was a gully-washer of biblical proportions. There was flooding everywhere as we went to dinner, to pick up my number and to check out the park. I had thoughts about switching to the 50k or not running at all if the downpour continued. It didn’t, so I was still stuck in the 100k. We did a fair amount of driving as I was showing Debbie the way from the hotel to the park (since she’d be going back and forth), and then becoming lost myself. Now regarding the weather, I was no longer concerned with heat, but mud and standing water. The rain did subside in the evening, but it was forecasted again for Sunday.

We arrived early enough to set up my box of supplies at the start/finish/main aid station area. It seemed that whilst I had only my Nike Pegasus road running shoes, shorts and a singlet, all or most of the other runners were adorned with full trail running regalia, including headlamps, excess water bottles or camelbacks, heavy-duty trail shoes with gators (gaiters?), etc. I felt extremely inadequate, but luckily the race got started soon enough so that I didn’t have much time to think about it.

It was still dark at 6am, but as we started running, it got light so soon that I hardly used my tiny handheld flashlight. The weather was very nice – clear and cool, probably in the low 60s. Right away, seven or so runners took off ahead of me, and everyone else sauntered slowly behind. There were about 32 starters. I talked with a couple folks during that first of the eight loops.

The park is called Green Lakes State Park due to the color of the water in the two lakes. It’s actually a very pretty turquoise color due to silt left over from the glaciers during the ice age. The course took us half-way around the first lake and then half-way around the second lake for a total of a mile and a half or so, all on soft, shaded trails. This was followed by a short, but very steep uphill section through old-growth forest until the Serengeti. The Serengeti is about four miles of single-track trail through rolling, grassy hills. Some of the higher areas afforded beautiful vistas of the surrounding hills, valleys and towns. There were two aid stations in the Serengeti (someone please tell me why runners need to carry water bottles when there are these aid stations never more than 3 miles apart). After the Serengeti the course takes the runners back down the wooded trails, back down the steep hills, and back around the opposite sides of the two lakes. The entire course was quite beautiful.

Even after walking the steep uphill sections, dodging the muddy areas and traversing the downhill ones very carefully, I finished the first loop in a good time: one hour, eleven minutes for a 9:11 minute per mile pace. This was much faster than anticipated; would I pay for it later? Time would tell. I ran mostly alone, and hardly ever saw other runners. The 120 or so 50k runners had started 45 minutes after us, but it would be a while before I encountered any of them.

Laps two and three were similar to the first one. Each was only a few seconds slower than the previous one, and this was due mostly to how much time I spent at the main aid station. Each time through I took some electrolyte tablets and tried to get some calories and fluids from the volunteers. Sometimes I lathered more anti-chafing cream or put some sun lotion on. I took mostly fluids from the two aid stations in the Serengeti. By about the third loop I began passing the slower 50k runners. During the third and forth loops I also ran several miles off and on with Randy Miller from New Jersey. Randy had run Burning River and knows Connie Gardner, but then who in the ultra-world doesn’t? Randy had also won this race in 2007. He told me things would get more interesting during laps 5, 6 and 7. I didn’t doubt him.

Debbie was back to greet me as I came in for the end of the 4th lap. I’d done 50k in 4:54. That’s pretty good; I probably would have placed fairly well for the50k. Too bad I still had another 50k to go. Debbie told me that I was 7th or 8th. My mantra, however, was, “Don’t worry about time. Don’t worry about place. Worry about finishing the race.” Having repeated this to myself several times, I couldn’t help but remember my only other 100k race. The one where I absolutely had to finish within a certain timeframe because I’d had a flight to catch. I’d done that one in 10:26, and that included an extra 3 miles of being lost. On the other hand, that was on roads, making for faster running. And this is not to mention that although there were some challenging hills for that race, they were nothing compared to these steep ones that kept on coming each time I repeated a lap. One thing I knew for sure about today’s race: the second 50k would be slower than the first. I was most definitely getting tired as the hills were taking their toll - especially the down-hill ones.

The clouds began to gather during the 5th and 6th laps, and by the end of the 6th it had begun to rain. The rain was cool and felt great. But as predicted, each lap continued to be a little slower the previous one: 1:24 for lap 5 and 1:29 for lap 6. That’s 10:54 and 11:32 minutes per mile, respectively. I was still running mostly alone, but still passing some 50k runners. There were a lot fewer of them by the time I was on my seventh loop.

Time for some more math. I know about the mantra – I was still repeating it. But on the other hand, it sure would be nice to finish in under 11 hours. To be able to say I did my 100k in ten-something just sounds better than eleven-something. I realize that this is arbitrary – I would be saying the same thing about 10 or 12 hours, had those been where I was at. But the fact that I’d done that last one in ten-something made ten-something something to shoot for once again, despite my mantra. But to break 11 hours I’d have to average 1:35 for each of the final two laps. These are slow times, but with my slowing trend, my ability to run even this fast was highly questionable. More math: a lady at a checkpoint near the end of loop 7 told me that I was in 4th place. How could that happen? I had recently passed one 100k runner that I knew of. Perhaps some of the others that I’d thought were 50k’ers were actually 100k’ers. Or perhaps some runners had dropped out. Most likely, it seemed to me, was that she was just plain wrong.

When I came in at the end of lap 7 it was raining hard. The rain had stopped for a while, but now it was back. The trails had now become much more pervasively muddy. Poor Debbie was freezing cold, but I felt great. Except, that is, for my extremely sore muscles and feet. I got some soup but tried not to linger too long; I had an hour thirty-eight minutes if I still wanted to break 11 hours. I still wasn’t sure about my place, but Debbie did tell me I was doing “great”.

Lap 8 was even more painful than 7 had been, and I was now walking even the gentle uphill sections as well as the steep downhill ones. Those downhills were killers – I almost had to stop and think about them as I was about to head down. I was still running the flats, however. The half-way point went by in about 52 minutes, which would indicate a 1:44 or so lap, which would indicate something slower than eleven hours. By now I knew I’d be able to finish no matter what – even if I had to walk the rest of the way – so I took satisfaction in that. Somewhere about half-way a runner named Mark from Florida caught and passed me. I eventually caught him again, and we ran together for a while. This was his first ultra, so I complimented him on doing so well. We agreed about how the downhills were killing us. “Let’s just get through this thing” he said, and I couldn’t have agreed more. Together we picked up the pace. As the steepest downhill approached, he let me get ahead of him, and this surprised me because I thought I’d be the one having the roughest time there. This somehow got my competitive juices flowing, and I picked up the pace even more as I started the final miles around the lakes. I was actually running fast again!

As I approached the finish I didn’t think I’d run fast enough to break 11 hours. Moreover, I wasn’t so sure I’d even able to continue to stay ahead of Mark. But I did, and I did. I finished in 10:59, or as I like to say, “ten-something”. Better yet, I finished in 4th place overall. Among the three runners ahead of me were Matt Chaffin, whom I knew by name because he is on the national 24-hour team and will be running in the NorthCoast 24-hour run, and Randy Miller, who had run a much more steady pace than I, with nearly even splits. How did he do that? Randy also took the top prize for runners 50 and older, so I was out of the money, other than a consolation prize of a padded sit-upon stadium seat.

That was really tough. I can understand why this race sees so much attrition. I’m not sure how many of the 32 starters actually finished, but quite a few, including some that had been ahead of me did not. Ultrarunners like to say that because of the generally softer surfaces as well as slower paces, ultras are much easier than marathons. After Green Lakes, I’m not so sure I still agree. Did I mention that it was tough? But the course is very pretty and the race organization was really great. Not sure whether I’ll be back, but I’d surely recommend this one to anyone.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


By the title, Pause, I mean that this upcoming race *gives me pause*. The upcoming race, the Green Lakes Endurance Run of 100k ought to give anyone pause. But after those two 30-mile training runs, I guess I'm as ready as I'll ever be. The race is this coming Sunday.

I ran the Wooster Heart and Sole half marathon with the Medina gang on Saturday and had a blast. Not one of my greatest (excuses include 7 hours in the car the previous night and catching a cold - both related to a visit to Michigan), but I was still happy with it. I ran with Rachel and Ladd for much of the race, but they pulled away in the final miles. Even so, I ran very negative splits including the final 5k in under 21 minutes, and this made it all fun. Finished in 95:59 according to my watch.

After taking Sunday off, I ran 3 times Monday and twice on Tuesday including a decent but not great speedwork session. Today I did the familiar old 11-mile course.

My cold is mostly better and my weight is back down. Best news of all is that it looks like it may be cool for Sunday's race.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Long and Hot

After deciding to do another very long run, the question was, when? I showed up for speedwork last night figuring that that meant Wednesday would be out for the long one, since I'd need more time to recover. But the track was out of commission, and I only did 3 miles of hills in Reagan park. So when I woke up *very* early, it was out the door for a long one.

Yes, I started at 3:30am. I beat most of the sun, but not the heat - it was in the 70s, and humid already. I did the 11-mile loop, then the 7-mile Sleepy Hollow route to the track. Most of this was just a bit slower than 8 1/2 minutes per mile. Once at the track I thought I'd pick it up, but I barely maintained that pace for the 9 miles I did there. The last 3 miles home were pretty durn awful - 9 1/2 minutes per mile. I was hurting.

But I got my 30 in, and the time, 4:23, although slower than last time, wasn't all that terrible.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Perfect Race

It's called the Perfect 10-Miler, and I've done every one of them since the inaugural one 5 or 6 years ago. For some reason, it's often my best run of the year, all distances considered. Connie and I surmised that this may be because it's short, but Ladd's GPS confirmed that the distance was correct today.

And today once again I did run my best race of the year. It's been a long time since I ran a race that I was proud of. Got one today. My final time was 68:40. Still slow compared to other years, but I'll take it. I'll also take the first place in my geezer age group.

It was great fun to have so many Medina area folks driving up to Lyndhurst for the race.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Another Short Post About a Long Run

The alarm went off at 2:55am. I was in the car by 3:30, and at the Station Road Bridge parking lot before 4:00. Yes, this it was time for another long run, this time longer than most. I had to begin training for my Green Lakes 100k run that's 2 1/2 weeks away.

Taking off on the dark towpath, I went north for 4 1/4 miles, returned to the car for refreshments, and then did it again. The second time was a little faster. Now it was 6:30: time to meet Dave.

With 17 under my belt, I told Dave that I had to get 13 more in, and that I had to do it in well under 2 hours. So we headed south and turned around just before Peninsula. I got back just in time.

I'm very happy to have this one in - not sure if I'll do another before the event. I'm lucky the weather cooperated - it was humid but cool. Best of all is that I kept the pace to a very steady 8 1/2 minutes per mile.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


With all my travels this year, it's been tough to plan for any races. The best option, I recon, is to plan for something in the near future when I'm fairly sure that I'll be in town. So I did some research and came up with the Green Lakes Endurance Run 100k, in Fayettville (near Syracuse) NY. The event is August 30.

Holy cow. Did I say, 100k? That's a long way. And did I say August 30? That's 2 1/2 weeks away! I'd better start training.

I'm going to have to get a 30-mile training run in sometime this week. Looks like the best day will be Thursday. Stay tuned.

Yesterday I ran 6 on our subdivision trails in the morning and then had a very good track workout with the gang. I averaged 3:05 for my 800s, and even did two of them under 3 minutes. That's way better than what I've been doing. Been losing some weight, so maybe that's helping. Or maybe it's just that all the hard work is finally paying off.

Today I ran an easy 4 miles to loosen up. Tomorrow is the big test.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Running is Consuming my Life

Last weekend was bad; this one was just as bad.

This one started Thursday with a solid 12 that included a 3-mile tempo run around the H.S. (4 laps)

Saturday morning: run 17+ with Dave and Amy. A lot of this was on the very difficult but enjoyable Buckeye Trail. The last part was back on the towpath. Of course the trails slowed us down, but this was a decent run.

Saturday afternoon: Work at the running store as usual.

Saturday night: out to Thyme Restaurant in Medina (yummy), back for a nap, and then over to Edgewater for the NC24 training run. I didn't actually run - Debbie and I walked after we talked with the other runners - but we didn't leave until 1:30am.

Sunday morning: I started with Ladd from his house, we met Chuck at Root Middle School, then ran the rest of the five miles to Panera. Once at Panera we picked up Charles, Marsha and a few others. Then it was 16 miles on the concrete streets of Medina. I don't like concrete, but it was otherwise a nice route.

Ultimately, it was the heat that got to me. I did manage to get 25 in, but those last couple with Ladd and Chuck were pretty difficult. Happy to have this under my belt. So yeah, I'm consumed.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

When Coffee Doesn't Work

Better to start off with, "*Why* coffee doesn't work." That's easy: it's because one still isn't getting enough rest. As to the "when", that's easy too: one takes as long as two hours after getting out of bed before getting out the door, and even then running the first few miles excruciatingly slow.

That was the case today, and also on Monday after the decent amount of sleep Sunday night but the sleepless Saturday night. Monday I only did a few in the morning and then a few more at lunch. The lunchtime run was better.

Yesterday I showed up at our track workout still dragging. I did 8 x 800 with Chuck, Dan and Jack, starting slowly and then doing the last three really fast (for me). It turned out to be a pretty good workout.

Today, after not enough rest after the speedwork, the coffee didn't kick in until I hit North Park, 4 miles into my run. Until then I'd run at 9 minute pace or slower, but the 4 around the park were better at 34 minutes, and the final 4 coming home were better still at 31 1/2 minutes.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


That describes my whole, entire day for the last two in a row. Friday I awoke early to a steady rain. Having planned to run long, and knowing full well that such a thing is competely impossible in the rain, I hit the mill. I watched an old movie on TCM as well as some other stuff, and did 24 miles in 3:05. Not bad, but I know I cannot do so well outside. Wish I could.

The long day continued at the store and in the evening when Linda and Bob and Iris and Mike came over for a bbq and then to later watch South Pacific on our new blu-ray player/theater (it had just been re-released). A late night, but nothing I couldn't handle.

Saturday would be a tougher one to handle. Here's the play-by-play:

5:00am wake-up, get ready and drive to Station Rd.
6:30am run with Dave and Amy. It's very nice of them to start up early in order to run with me. We ran an easy hour plus on the towpath like old times. Except a shorter run. I figure I got seven in before having to take off.
8:00am arrive at the Alexander Road aid station to help at the Burning River 100 Mile Run. It was kind've fun helping set up and then watching for the top runners to come by. Ran a couple miles into the course to place signs before Mark Godale came in. This was at mile 31.8, so the top runners weren't too very spread out yet. But even this is relative: they were often 15 minutes or so apart. My job was to direct traffic as the runners crossed the road. I could only stay until the first 15 or so came in; had to get to the store.
11:00am after stopping at Panera I arrive at the store wearing my BR100 volunteer t-shirt. As expected for a Saturday, it's pretty busy. I only work for a little over 3 hours.
3:00pm arrive at the Happy Days visitor center for BR100 volunteer assignment number 2. This is at mile 70.5 or something like that. All the volunteers are dressed in tie-tyed volunteer shirts and there are peace symbols everywhere. After once-again running into the woods to place signs, I settle in and kibitz with everyone. Lots of comings and goings. Once again, I only see the top 10-15 runners come through before I have to take off. At least I helped a little.
5:45pm arrive home and eat a quick dinner with Debbie. I tell her what a wonderful event the BR100 is. I tell her how much I truly enjoy being a part of it. She already knows this. I take a power nap before flying back out of the house.
8:30pm arrive at Boston Store, mile 60 point something. I am to perform a "runner sweep", which means I follow the last runner to make sure they make it on the dark trails. I wait for the last runners to come through. I find it interesting that so many hours ago I was at mile 70 watching for the top runners, and now I'm at mile 60, watching for the slowest runners. Some of them are fine, whilst others are beat. Some drop out. I wait some more.
9:55pm I take off with the last two runners, a husband and wife from Frederickm MD, who are running together. We do a fast walk on the trails of which I'm a little familiar - it's on the Buckeye Trail 50k course. I say running. It was really just a fast walk. And some of it, over the rough trail portions, wasn't all that fast.
11:55pm We arrive at the Pine Lane aid station at about mile 65. We had just come up on a couple other runners, but all of them, including my couple, dropped out at the station. We were still under the cut-off time, but they were sure they wouldn't make the next one. So now I have no one to sweep. I take off running to try to catch the next last runner.
12:15am I catch up to Kim Love from Newcomerstown, the new last runner. She is very upbeat, and is actually walking at a pretty good pace and occasionally jogging.
1:00am Kim and I catch and pass Sheryl, who is now the last runner. I stay with Sheryl, who is moving noticably slower. The conversation is slower as well.
1:50am arrive at Happy Days aid station with Sheryl. It is a beacon in the darkness. She is under the cut-off and although she had been getting prgressively slower, decides to push on to the next aid station.
3:45am Sheryl and I arrive at Pine Hollow, 30 minutes past the cut-off. Only a couple guys stayed to wave us in, and they had removed all the food! Oh well. This stretch from Happy Days to Pine Hollow had been comically difficult. Instead of going around the ledges, we were often routed through, over, beneath and between them, crawling in a couple places. We both supposed that this may have been fun during daylight hours, but was genuinely silly in the dark. It had rained for the last hour or so. As we hung it up, Sheryl thanked me profusely. She had tried, unsuccessfully to finish other 100's, and this is the furthest she'd got.
4:00am I am back at the Boston Store and getting into my car. A guy had given me a ride back here. I'd done my job: 15+ miles of mostly walking on the extremely dark trails, making sure no one was left behind or lost. Now the ride home would be a tired one. It had been one heck of a 24+ hour day for me.

Now I feel like *I* ran 100 miles, even though I most assuredly did not.

And yes, I know. The length of the post also goes along with that title.

North Canton YMCA 4th of July 5-mile

Since I have participated in the Ohio Challenge Series many years, I've done this race many times, albeit many moons ago. It's a fun...