Friday, April 22, 2011

Fight For Air Climb 2011

You know....because climbing steep hills during an ultramarathon just isn't enough...

Holly & I have decided to join the Fight For Air and support the American Lung Association by participating in a 64 floor climb at the Equitable Building in downtown Atlanta on May 14th.

These events take place all over the US and it's a great way to raise awareness of lung diesases. Both of our families have been affected by lung disease in one form or another - be it cancer, asthma, or COPD. Lung cancer is the 2nd most commonly diagnosed form of cancer, however, it is still the most common cause of cancer death.

As taken directly from the American Lung Association webpage:

Your donation to the National Headquarters of the American Lung Association supports research, development of programs, directing public policy, and sharing up-to-date information on respiratory illnesses; their treatment and management.

Why support the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association supports basic and clinical research through training and "seed" grants for researchers who are at the early stage of their careers. Throughout its history, the American Lung Association has funded talented scientists who have furthered their careers in academia and lung research and have made significant contributions to the fight against lung disease.

The American Lung Association provides in-depth and timely information on lung issues including asthma, tobacco control, and environmental health. Your donation supports programs such as: Open Airways for Schools, Freedom from Smoking, Better Breathers Clubs, Not On Tobacco, and Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative.

The American Lung Association has served as the hub of a nationwide Legislative Network that enables state and local Lung Association volunteers to participate in grassroots advocacy on a variety of lung health-related public policy initiatives. Your support will enable the Lung Association to update reports such as: State of Tobacco, Big Tobacco on Campus and State of the Air.

If you can find it in your budget to donate $5 to Team Snail you can donate to either Holly or myself...and/or perhaps a little bloggy lurve and give us a repost or shout out, that would be awesome - every bit counts!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Time for a Change?

The rumblings have been growing louder.

At first it was just an occational, "You need to change your blog name." Then I lost a few pounds, got a little faster and pushed the PR bar a little lower.

A few more posts appeared in the comment section. "Pretty soon, we won't be able to call you Teh' Snail."

I still didn't feel comfortable about dropping the name.

For one thing, I've aquired all of these cool snail pics - what will I do with them if I change the blog name?

I was on trail Saturday and two different runners mentioned to me that I was no longer a trail snail...

So, I am taking it to the blogosphere!

What do you think?

Change the blog name or no?

Any name suggestions?

Monday, April 18, 2011

SweetH20 - A Score to Settle

Last year, I ran the SweetH20 50k, it was my first ultra and it was an eye opening experience. While I openly admit it kicked my A$$, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience & a new love of running was found. This year's race had the makings of a great story. I've had a great winter of training, everything was coming together nicely.

There was a lot of email banter in the week leading up to the race - folk's penning down desired finish times. From the beginning, I have not been shy about admitting my goal - 6:45, almost an hour & a half faster than last year. Whoa, that is still a bit bite buddy....

Friday night, just hours before race time, the Atlanta Metro area was pounded with severe thunderstorms, including reported tornado activity in Douglasville, just outside of the park. Luckily, the rain lifted before the race - but the damage was done. The creek was raging & the water was high. The current was so strong in fact that the RD had to make a last minute judgemnt call and change the course, removing the famed creek crossing.

we were all curious to find out the conditions of the course, luckily we didn't have to wait long. After a few instructions from Johnny Buice, the RD, we were off!
(Me and my buddy Tom, just before the start)

The race starts down a paved road, leading out of the park for a mile and a half, this gives the runners a chance to thin out before hitting the trailhead & the spillway. Tom & I went out a little faster than planned, running about 8:45 on the 1st mile, while I didn't intend on going out that quick, I didn't want to get stuck behind a large number of timid rock dancers once we hit the single track.

We quickly hit the spillway and there was already a little backlog waiting for the ropes.(Jason Rogers working up the wall)

The weather was awesome the entire day! Clear skies & temps in the low 60's at the start, warming up into the 70's by the afternoon. These temps made the early miles feel effortless, I was clipping along at a comfortable 10 minute pace, enjoying the first 6 miles of the course. We ran along the creek early on and saw the ropes where the creek crossing was located. As the day progressed, the creek continued to rise and the crossing surely would have been unsafe.

Before long, I was running through the 2nd aid station, topping off my bottle with Gatorade - wanting to stay on top of my electrolytes. My fueling plan was simple, a gel every 45 minutes & grab anything off of the table that looked inviting. With aid stations every 4-5 miles, I ran with one hand-held bottle and intended on emptying it between stations. I was making perfect time, staying right on schedule as we left the comfort of the gentle, tree covered trails and began our trek over to the gas & powerlines. After a short climb up a gravel jeep road, we quickly turned left and were greeted with an all too familiar sight of what seems like endless roller coaster gas lines.

The first few climbs are not entirely taxing - It's the mental game of not knowing when they will end that gets you. Last year my biggest mistake was bombing down the hills and stressing my quads early on. This year, I was more cautious, knowing I would need to save my legs for the 2nd loop.

We dropped down to creek level at one point and had to go up the ravine, this is a killer climb, especially the 2nd time through.

Rolling through gas lines, Sarah Tynes is waiting for us at the top of the final climb, a good 200 ft jaunt straight up! As only the truely wicked can be, she can be found yelling at us that we need to be running!

There is a short little run out to the Top of the World, a 360 panoramic view of the surrounding area - no photo truely does justice of this view.

We had a mile out & back to the 3rd aid station, this is a great chance to recover and do a quick "systems check" before hitting the powerlines. I was feeling good, keeping my HR in the low 140's, maintaining 10 minute miles on the flats and didn't have any noticable pain. Rolling into the aid station, I am all smiles knowing the hardest part of this loop is behind me. Or is it?

I think this out & back section of the course is my favorite part of this race - probably my most favorite part of trail running. It is here that you get to see the other runners either in front of you or behind you, depending on which way you are running. (Most) everyone is cheerful and offers words of encouragement. "Good job" "Nice work" etc. You also get to see your friends and whoop it up a little bit. Seldom do I ever experience this in road racing and that is really too bad. I always get motivated & run a little easier when I am able to offer encouragement & receieve the same. You should try it, running with a smile on your face does wonders to improve the way you feel.

Having my spirits lifted was surely needed as I entered the next section - the dreaded powerlines. This open section contains some serious elevation change & is usually exposed to the midday sun. The footing is usually very loose making even the decents difficult, this day was no exception. However, the cooler temps did make the trip through a little easier.

Not long after going through the powerlines, I am heading up Jack's Hill and completing my 1st loop. I spent a lot of time in this section with Todd Henderson, the RD of the Pinhoti 100 miler. Last Fall I crewed for Psyche & Charles at Pinhoti and plan on making this race my 1st 100 miler. It was really cool to run with Todd and get to know him a little better-not that knowing him will my make my hundy attempt any easier!

(me & Todd cresting Jack's Hill)

So, just under 3 hours, I finish my first loop and begin to head out on the 2nd. Grabbed my lucky Moon Pie Jersey out of my drop bag and headed out. All systems are a go and one by one, I am picking off the runners who went out too fast. Careful not to become one of those victims myself, I stay within my plan and try not to let my mind wander forward to a faster than predicted finish time. Of course, without the creek crossing, I know my time will be better than planned so I allow myself to think about how much time will be shaved off. The distance will still be the same with the added mileage, but not havign to tackle that monster hill on the yellow loop will probably give me back about 15 minutes.

I'm cruising along the creek around mile 21 without a care in the world when I feel this sting in my left calf. it was almost like someone reached out and grabbed it! Crap, cramps?!?!? I stopped and stretched it and tried to move forward, this was not a good section to have calf cramps as there are a lot of rocks to hop & steps to climb. I was a couple miles away from the next aid station, I knew it would be a minute before I could get some electrolytes. I worked through the pain for several miles, every time I thought I worked out the cramp, it would come right back.

The aid station didn't have any S-caps, so I had them pour some salt into a cup and I mixed it with some water and drank it like a shot. Horrible taste but better than the alternative. I continued to work through the issue and repeated the salt intake at the next aid station. I also had them fill my bottle with Gatorade instead of water at these stations. In hindsight, I don't really know where the cramp came from, I was fueling properly & alternating water and gatorade at each aid station leading up to the cramping issue. Nothing a dose of HTFU can't cure I guess.

I was hoping to get the cramps behind me before I enterd the gas/powerlines, otherwise it would be a long day. It was here last year that I "quit" running forever several times and decided that I would "stick to running flat 5k's in Savannah." - A very low point in the day. There were no drastic lows like that this year. The course was hard, it kicked my ass, but mentally I was sharp and stayed engaged. I worked through these sections and before I knew it I was motoring back up Jack's Hill, in hot pursuit of Todd, who had passed me while I was working on my cramps.

Seeing Cindy & her Gnome at the last aid station is bittersweet - you know the finish is near, which means the joy of this day is almost over.

Only a few miles of gentle trail seperated me from the finish, glancing at my watch, my goal was within reach. it was time to put my head down and do a little more work. A few miles later, I rounded the corner of the last hill(Really Johnny? That hill after the day you put in front of us?) and climbed four steps to the finish line - greeted by a collection of finishers, volunteers, GUTS & Rogue runners - and my best cheerleader, my Sweetest Boo!

Final Results: 6:42:23
68th out of 235 starters
9/37 AG
1.5 hours faster than last year.

THANK YOU to all of the volunteers & to Johnny, the RD.

I had a blast, I smiled the entire time and sitting here right now, I wish I was still out there. Well, except for the part where it hurts to climb the 4 flights of stairs to my office.

Thank you fellow bloggers for all of the support & encouragement. We run because we can, never take it for granted.

**Photo's taken by: N. Kumar, S. Donnelly, C. Strickland Ralston & R. Hines.**

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Must focus....

I can’t frickin take it anymore! I’m sitting here at my desk working on a stupid “Owner’s PPT” and all I can think about is the Sirens’ song that is Sweetwater… I do about 10 minutes worth of work, finish off a slide and then I sneak back over to the elevation profile from last year’s course and examine all of the ups and downs – trying to figure out which one will break my heart…

Then I try to get back on task and bust out another slide-

Oops, here comes another email from C$, this one was written as if he was in my own head. “ the start (first 3-6 miles) is waaay tame and chatty.” This course lulls you to sleep, it starts so gentle. Last year, early on, I remember thinking I had found the new love of my life – little did I know this temptress had two sides….

Crap! I really need to get this PPT done – but I don’t wanna

Just look at her, she’s so pretty. Look at those purty white caps running down the river, stones jutting out of the shoal. Mmm, running effortlessly along the shore, listening to the waterfalls in the distance. How can this ever turn for the worse?

Damn – another email from the Director asking for a Q1 comparison of lead booking window for 2010-2011

Screw them, the Owner’s meeting isn’t until the 20th. Back to SweetH20 – I can see myself barreling down the decents, trying to hold back a little as to not blow up too soon…Whoa!?!?! What about those scrumptious rice krispy treats that were at the river crossing aid station last year? I hope that they will have those again!

Okay, I need to get another slide done – only 6 more to go…

Careful, don’t forget how hard that 2nd pass was through the gas/powerlines last year. How many times did you “quit running forever”? “Maybe ultras aren’t for me, I’m going to stick to running flat, 5k’s in Savannah – this is stupid” shhh, don’t listen to them. Embrace the pain, you know it will be coming this year, manage the course better – this is your choice.

How am I going to get ANY work done this week?????

Is it Saturday yet?

(only 5 more slides to go)

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Hay is in the Barn...

All of the training over the last 4 months has been in preparation for this race; my 1st "A" race of the year.

SweetH20 50K!

The time to beat is 8:12:25 - Last year's result.

In prep, I've run about 350 training miles, lost 20 pounds & spent a great deal more time on trail this year. I have great expectations!

While out running this weekend, my mind wandered over to the idea of my goals for this race. I established a time goal early on in the training process and looking over the numbers, I believe this goal is most certainly within reach. I've run with a lot of runners this year who have previously run Sweetwater and come in with times similar to my goals. My level of fitness is far greater now than a year ago. Last year, this was my first trail race & first 50k. I am certainly not saying I am no longer a trail/ultra noob - but I am very familiar with the course and have a better idea of the mentality required to tackle such a monster. With about 3000+ ft of gain (and loss)over the entire route, it is not "too much" but relentless none the less. The gas/powerline cuts are brutal and unyielding. It's the 2nd loop that really takes it's toll.

Knowing all of this - I have a few goals that are not time related.

*Stay in the moment - This course breaks up into several manageable sections. I am going to work each section with a strategy in mind.

* Enjoy the company - Music is typically reserved for long, solo runs. No need for music here, Top of the World will be singing to us. The race having sold out, there will be 250 registered runners stretched out over the 15 mile loop - Many whom I have had the pleasure of running with previously. this is going to be a giant party and I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones!

* Keep the R.I.S.C. at bay.(Running is Stupid Committee)
There will be several low moments during this race, I intend to work through them and veto any legislation passed.

* Not get "Schicked"
Richard Schick, 61, is a local running stalwart and he "schick's" A LOT of people....he ran a 6:33 last year and finished 32 out of 155...chances are, I will get "Schicked".

In the interest of full disclosure - I do have a time goal in mind. I thought about setting an A, B, & C goal -sort of give myself an out. Nope. We are aiming for the stars!


Almost an hour and a half faster than last year. This will put me in the top 20-25% of finishers I think. This is an achievable goal and I look forward to seeing how it plays out. The weather forecast is decent, high of 63, with a 20% chance of showers. I can handle the rain & I love the temp range!

So - send some good running karma our way and I will let you know how it went!

I've come a long way in a few short years...

Friday, April 1, 2011

March, March, March...

Quick post. March running stats. 133.41 miles, including 1 Half Marathon PR. This will go down on record as the most miles recorded in a month. To add onto that, there were also another 15-20 miles not recorded. I noticed the work paying off yesterday during a 40 minute easy run - HR under 145. I was running high 8's(8:50-8:55) and my HR was sitting in the low 140's. Usually my zone 1 runs sit around a 9:10 pace. I am really happy with my fitness right now and this is a great mental victory going into the 50k. Relentless forward progress!

The Barkley Marathons start sometime tomorrow. Rumor on the B list & the interwebs is that the "bad thing" this year might be a night time start, that would be a game changer...I understand it is hard enough to navigate your first loop(or any loop for that matter), having to do your 1st loop at night is unthinkable. There were a few emails going around on the B list about a meth ad that reminded someone of their time "Out There" at FHSP.

To be successful at Barkley, you need to come in with the mindset that you are going to finish. Just that simple - I will not quit. Everybody quits.

This quote is posted over on Marmot Trailhead's page, MT is a Barkley Virgin:

"When your body starts to betray you and you feel totally defeated mentally, remember this: You are not this body. You are not these thoughts. You are a beautiful and perfect soul deeply connected to a much larger universe. And running five loops at Barkley is but a drop in the ocean of all of the Self's potential achievements. So. You will keep going.

Try, as best you can, not to identify with the body or with the thoughts. Get connected to something much, much bigger than the small self. Let the mind empty of everything else."

I think Marmot has it in him to go deep, at least finish the Fun Run (3 loops). I'd really like to hear of him going strong on the 3rd day.

I mean come have 60 hours to travel 100(130?) miles. It's only 5 loops-2 clockwise, 2 counter clockwise, & 1 runner's choice. You can even run with someone, until you get to the last loop. Laz GIVES you the course map the day before the run!

Why is it only 9 people have ever finished?