Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hit The Trail

On Sunday I completed my first planned trail run. I have spent my entire life as an avid backpacker / hiker, but this was my first effort at running on the trail. This is a very important aspect of my training. The whole Ultra I am training for is on a trail similar to the one I ran this weekend. I ran a loop that took me to the top of Signal Knob, located just outside of Front Royal Virginia, in the George Washington National Forest. This mountain was used by civil war troops as a lookout and a place to signal from, hence the name. The trail climbs hard from the trail head and I covered over 2680 vertical feet of gain and loss on this run. The trail was approximately 11 miles in length and extremely rocky at times. I had to walk up most of the first four miles due to the rocks and grade. My biggest concern was spraining an ankle, because I have a half marathon to run this weekend. I wore my normal street running shoes and they worked well, but the trail was dry. I like to listen to music during my normal runs, but for this run I left the headphones in the car. As mentioned above I love being outside and I wanted to take it all in. At no point during the run did I miss my music.

The first part of the run left my moral low and put doubts in my mind. I made it to the first peak of the trail in just under 1:15, a very fast time for hiking, but I had to walk almost the entire way to the top. Where I live and train there are no hills or trails that match this type of terrain. This is a major concern of mine that must be addressed. I was not prepared for the beating that my legs would take. The climb left them tired and fatigued, not a good state to be in prior to running down steep rugged terrain. It did feel great to finally be on top of this mountain I have driven by so many times.

The downhill left me feeling like the best trail runner on the mountain. My moral peaked as I piloted my body down the hills and through the valley. This is where I will make up time I thought to myself. Running down the trail felt like reckless abandon. The kinetic energy that was flowing through my body was unmeasurable. This is why I choose to participate in this crazy sport. Now that I have a taste of it I must have more. Then I hit another long steep climb. This was not just an elevation roller coaster. My moral was inversely proportionate to the elevation profile. This climb was the low point of the run. At one point I slowed to a stop to rest and catch my breath. At the time I did not realize it, but looking back, as I climbed I was just loading up my potential energy for the fun downhill to come. I powered over the top and off I went running down the mountain. I passed two men backpacking up the hill and there jaws dropped as I came running past them. "Keep it up man", the one man commented. My moral shot back up and off I went.

I reached the trail head in 2:40 and was happy with my effort. I averaged around a 14 minute mile pace. As I drove off the mountain my lower legs hurt and my quads were shot. I realized that I must spend some time in the weight room strengthening my legs to take the downhill beating they will endure. I also realized that the run / walk strategy may be the best way for me to complete an ultra on the trail.

This run taught me a lot about myself. I learned that I can do this and I can succeed. The human body is capable of amazing feats, as long as the mind stays motivated and keeps all doubts out. I now know that I can do it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Week Running

So far this week I have only run on 7 miles Tuesday and 5 miles on Thursday. I am in a sort of taper mode for the Rock and Roll Half Marathon next weekend, but not exactly. I have planned a 10.5 trail run this weekend. I am really looking forward to break out of my "in town" running and hit the trail. I grew up loving the outdoors and backpacking and still do. My love for the outdoors and God's beautiful creation drives me. This is one of the reasons I am doing this.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Weekend Of Training

On Saturday morning I woke up at 6:30 and was running by 7:00. I had planned on running 12 miles, hopefully the second 6 faster than the first. I set off with my dog Bailey for the first 4 miles. Running with Bays is an adventure in itself. He is a little crazy for the first mile, then calm for the next few miles, then he starts to tire out. The big guy will run forever if you do not stop him, he will not give up, no matter how far or how hot. This is not always a good thing. After dropping him off I completed the my run. I did finish the last six miles stronger than the first and was happy to complete the 12 mile course without really slowing down much of walking.

Saturday afternoon I went camping with friends at False Cape State Park. This is a secluded place on a narrow stretch of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Back Bay. The only way to access the park is by hiking, biking, or boat. This trip we decided to bike in. It was around a 10 mile bike ride to our campsite. The site was right on the beach and by 6:00 pm we has the beach all to ourselves. We swam, rode some waves, cooked dinner, and passed out under a blanket of stars. The next morning we woke up, packed up, and headed for home.

I was tired on Sunday from all this activity, but it felt good to get on the bike and put in some miles. It also gave me legs a break from running.

My weekend totals: 12 mile run and 2 - 10+ mile bike sessions

Friday, August 17, 2007


I have to ask myself why. Why do I want to do this? What drives me from within? I do not know the answers to these questions. All I know that when one is driven to do something they do it only as long as the drive stays alive. Keeping the drive alive is the hardest part. I ran a 35 minute hard tempo run yesterday. This run did not stick out as an exceptionally good or bad run. It was hot and humid and I did not keep my tempo the entire time, but I did complete the run. The drive was there, but the drive was not burning hot like the coals of a fire. How do we stoke the drive and keep it hot and burning? By answering this question correctly one sets themselves up for success. This blog is just a tool to keep the drive alive and to be an account of my journey.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Dream

I am now just a few short weeks away from the Rock and Roll half marathon and my training has taken on a new type of focus, a drive from my inner being to accomplish the unthinkable. I have crazy ideas in my head. Ideas that were planted by the book “Ultra Marathon Man”. I want to run 30 miles on my birthday, January 13, 2008. This is the day that I will turn 30 years old and I cannot think of a better way to deal with this milestone age than this. I do not like the idea of turning 30, in fact I hate it, but as occupants of this earth we can do nothing to stop aging and eventually death. These things only answer to God. Hopefully we can just slow it down and believe in the idea that you are only as old as you feel.

The crazy ideas do not stop at running 30 miles on my birthday, but that is just the beginning. Some people aspire to run the Boston Marathon, and I too would love the experience, but my heart yearns for adventure and a pure test of the human spirit. I believe that this lies in the Ultra Marathon. An Ultra is defined as any distance over 26.2 miles. This distance not achievable without precise training and planning. This is the ultimate test of the human spirit and will.

I have a goal to complete the Laurel Highlands ultra marathon. This even occurs on June 14, 2008 and is held on the Laurel Highlands Hiking trial. The trail is 70 miles long and has many harsh ascents and descents. As a youth in Boy Scouts I hiked almost all the trail in pieces, and last year I completed all but a 3 mile section, so I am familiar with the trail and terrain. With 11 months to train I believe that I can accomplish my goal in a timely manner. Where there is a will there is a way.

My number one challenge will be staying motivated, motivated to rise before the sun to train, to push on when it hurts, and to make time for all this running. I cannot lose track of my roots and strength train and lift, as it is very important to me to not lose muscle mass in the process. I think I have finally found something athletic that I may be able to accelerate in. Only time will tell. I take much comfort in knowing that most elite ultra endurance athletes are in there 30’s and 40’s. Some have not even started training until there 30’s. I know that I still have time to do it.