Todd’s Weblog

A place to collect and share my random thoughts about running and other stuff

City of Lakes

Posted by toddruns on September 7, 2008

Since I signed up for TCM about 2 weeks ago (prompting me to say: “You know you’re an ultra runner when it’s no big deal to sign up for a marathon with only 6 weeks to train”), I was a little bit unsure how to run this. Originally when I signed up for City of Lakes, I was not planning on running TCM and I was looking forward to seeing how I could do for the 25k distance on the road. I had signed up twice before for this race but never made it to the starting line due to injuries. 

Now I could either run it as a marathon pace run or just race it and see what happens. I decided to use it as a test of my current level of fitness and race it. Of course, in the back of my mind I am still harboring delusions of qualifying for Boston, even though the beauty of signing up for TCM with so little time to train was the implied goal of just enjoying it and not setting any expectations.

After looking at the  calculator over at McMillan Running I determined that if I ran a 2:02 or thereabouts that would be mean an equivalent marathon performance of 3:34.

The short story is – I did it. I ran a 2:02:19 by my watch, for a 7:52 avg pace. I had targeted a goal pace of between 7:52 and 7:55. I had some faster miles in there – mostly due to getting caught up with other runners and not running my own race – something I will have to get better at. The fastest were miles 4 and 9 – both about 7:40, and my worst were miles 13 and 14, at 8:05 and 8:09 respectively. The rest of the time I managed to run pretty even in the 7:50 to 7:54 range, which I was pretty pleased with. I also managed to run the last mile and a half in 7:54 and 4:04 (7:45 pace) which was also satisfying. It was cool, cloudy and a little humid, I’d say very decent conditions overall.

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Speed work

Posted by toddruns on August 26, 2008

This looks boring, doesn’t it? I only made 5×800, plus 1×400, and warm up and cool down. It always feels satisfying to finish running intervals. Will I make it to 10×800 in 3 weeks?

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Ice Age 50 Race Report

Posted by toddruns on May 12, 2008

Getting \'er done - finally

After typing for an hour or so I realized my race report was spiraling into a tedious description of an essentially tedious and boring activity unless you are the one actually doing it. So, in pared down fashion, here are the highlights of my little adventure at the Ice Age Trail 50 Mile Race.

I rode and stayed with Matt Patten and Steve Quick. The trip went fast and it was sure nice to have the company for the long drive. We didn’t make it in time to get our packets ahead of time so we just ate and hung out and stole some brownies from Karen Gall. Bryan joined us sometime in the middle of a long and less than restful night for me. Nerves I think.This was my first attempt at 50 miles. I remember the comments and advice that many on the list gave me when I was asking about doing my first 50 miler back in the fall of 2007. One of the phrases that really stuck with me was what Scott Wagner wrote: “50 miles is 50 miles, so don’t underestimate it”. It is a big jump, at least it seems to me, from 50k to 50 miles. A factor of 1.609344, actually.

I was very unsure of what would happen in that mysterious zone between mile 31 and the finish. I had studied the maps of the course, I had packed 2 drop bags full of whatever I thought I might need times 2. I had trained, I had run lots of miles in the snow, including 31 fun filled miles at Wynn’s race, and I figured I was as ready as I could be, considering how it hard it is to know the unknowable.

The first 9.5 miles on the Nordic loop seemed too fast, and I kept trying to keep myself in check. But it was so hard to do that here – the footing is good, the hills are not too steep, the paths are wide, the energy was high, and bombing the downhills is always so inviting. While I did my best to throttle it back, I think I was only partially successful. Of course, how would I know? I think my split there was about 1:34 or so. Yup, a little fast.

After I passed through the second aid station I was headed out towards “Confusion Corner”. I probably would have got lost there without the outstretched hand of the volunteer saying “that way”. Once I made the turn onto the Ice Age Trail, it was like a different race. I climbed a small hill and looked ahead of me to see a single file of runners strung out ahead, the sun streaming through the tall pines and the pine needles underfoot muffling the passage of our feet. I had a rush of emotion right then, a bit of running nirvana where I was so grateful to be able to run in that place at that moment. I love single track trails, and I was happy to be in this race that I had been thinking about since last October, and I was doing something I truly love. I’m a lucky guy.

There was a blur of miles, trading places with some young gal, grooving on the technical sections, enjoying the sun and the warmth, and then later getting sick of the sun and the warmth. I can be so fickle. I hit aid station 4 and then it was off through a nice flat area and then some more technical sections. I don’t remember much about aid station 4 on the out bound trip, but it was between there and aid station 5 that I started seeing some of the leaders coming back at me. A couple of really focused looking runners, Kim Holak was the first female I saw (I was sorry to hear she had to drop), and then a few others. I looked for Matt and Steve and saw Matt first, he was looking happy and we exchanged a high five. Steve appeared after him, and I had a hard time reading him – he had the same focus as he did when he was kicking butt at Trail Mix. It was later that I figured out he wasn’t having a great day. But I was again reminded why out and backs are fun – getting to see and hear the runners ahead of and behind you.

A bunch of other miles were run, clothes changed, bottles filled, hills climbed, and fun experienced. I made it to the Rice Lake turnaround in one piece and headed back. I fell twice right before mile 26. I was getting tired but failed to acknowledge it. Fortunately, I biffed right in front of Lisa Bliss, MD in case I needed medical attention. She and Mary Gorski were running together and gave me some style points for my graceful fall. I got up and ran another minute or 2 and fell again. I figured I’d better get my head back into my running. I only fell once after that, ironically while mentally reliving the first fall. Kind of dumb, huh?

I ended up getting sick of the Succeed, and tried to get by on water and Coke and some Heed that I had brought. Food lost it’s appeal too. I was relentless in taking my S-Caps though. I also kept drinking even though I really didn’t much enjoy it.

There were some mental gymnastics needed at times to keep myself from going nuts through this stretch. It was through here that I realized that my run could be described thusly: after a while, I started to hurt and then it got worse, and then it kept getting worse until the pain was just below unbearable, and then it stayed that way for another 3 hours. In reality, there were waves of feeling crappy interspersed with waves of feeling OK or at least sort of OK. And if anyone asked me, I was having fun. I was determined not to whine. And not to take myself too seriously. And I realized that it was the hardest thing I’d done ever, and at the same time, I knew it was only a matter of time until I finished. And I would finish.

As to those tough miles between 33 and 40.5 – in a way, they were the toughest. But they were also miles in which I saw all the people ahead of me on their way back again, and the energy I got from the encouraging words from the leaders and contenders was invaluable. It was after about the first 10 or 15 runners going by that I realized yet again how lucky I was to be able to be out on the course that day. What a great sport this is. Again, I was grateful.

It was fun to see Pam and Kami – Pam was running her first 50 mile too. They were having a ball.

There were 9.5 additional tough miles after the last turn around, including some cheers from some mountain bikers, some really nice aid station folks, a couple of mud puddles to jump through or around, one really long climb that was probably not that bad but I was so tired I wanted to stop walking and sit down to catch my breath. Oh, and a fragrant patch of honeysuckle that made going slow seem like the thing to do. It was really tough to run the last few miles. Not only did everything hurt, but I was winded rather quickly anytime I tried to push the pace. With 1.5 miles to go, I had 8 minutes to break 10 hours. I knew that wasn’t going to happen as I was averaging more like 12 or maybe 14 minutes per mile at that point. So I just did my best to maintain forward motion. The last steep hill before the finish almost got me sick, and then I stopped for some reason about 10 feet in front of the finish line because I thought I was done having already run over a timing mat. Oops. Run until I pass the sign that says FINISH. So at 10:11:34 I finally quit running. And it felt good.

Scott was right – 50 miles is 50 miles. It was a long way to run. It was a long day in the woods. I’m glad I got to be there and experience it. I don’t know about anyone else, but there is a certain intensity to the experience of these events that makes the tedium of putting one foot in front of the other for hours on end seem so much more than that.

I bet you wondered how long the long version was, huh?

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Pre Ice Age Ramblings

Posted by toddruns on May 8, 2008

Taper time can be such a creative and inspiring time of the year. It can bring out some of my best stream of consciousness thoughts and ramblings. Or it can be a weird in a relativistic way – like time is slowed down. Work and life dragging on, as if waiting for the dang Easter Bunny. It becomes an excruciating waiting period fraught with worry and distraction and wondering the million what ifs: Did I run enough? Did I run too much? Is this ankle sore or am I just imagining it? Do I wear the Mudroc or Roclite shoes? Grey gloves or black ones? What should I put in my drop bags? Does Hillary have any chance of catching Barack? Will there be any TV worth watching when Scrubs is gone? And of course, my mind wanders. Did you notice?

This time around, the taper just feels different. Maybe because, unlike past Grandma’s tapers, there is no Chesney’s visit to look forward to, no frantic trip to the greater Knife River Metro area for good times and lobsta boat restoration updates, no frantic dashes to find more Toyota water bottles outside the DECC. That used to be my Mecca – Grandmas, and perhaps the whole party atmosphere is what’s missing.

Oh well. At least up until now, I’ve managed to keep my obsession in check. Maybe at least a little bit. I have mostly been looking and checking the weather forecasts (40 at the start, 63 for the high with low dewpoints). And I do so knowing that the only thing I can do about the weather is adapt my clothing to meet the needs of the day. So I also make lists of things to stuff in my drop bags in the hopes that I’ll need none of it. And I speculate about what time of day it will be when I am running the through the uncharted waters from mile 33 to mile 43.5 (I know that I’d better hit mile 43.5 before 4:26 pm or my race is over). And I wonder what magic elixir is available that will give me instant zip when my butt starts really dragging. In case you were wondering, all of my research leads me to believe that my best option is Placebo. So I have stocked up on lots of that.
So there it is, staring me in the face, Fifty Miles. 80.5 kilometers. It breaks down like this: 9.5 miles of wide cushy (dare I say pillowy?) ski trails followed by 40.5 miles of rolling single track trail with rocks and roots and grass and dirt and I think maybe a bog or swamp, you know – all that good stuff we evolved to run across and through as we chased the antelope for supper. Only all I get is a burger and a belt buckle if I make it to the finish line before they pull the plug on the timer. And I pay them for the pleasure(?). It is a relative bargain though, at 1.30 per mile. Much cheaper per footstep than the 1 mile race that happens tonight for Kicks.

In a way that I’ve never experienced before in my all too brief running career – I am staring at something that seems so far beyond what I’ve ever attempted before either in training or in a race. In my first marathon I was woefully undertrained, and yet I had at least covered 70% of the distance in training. Here, I feel pretty clueless about what is going to happen after 31 miles. In fact, I have wondered a few times what the heck inspired me to want to tackle this endeavor. And then I remember – it was after my 50k race down in Kansas, and I was wondering if 50 miles would be 1.609344 times the fun of a 50k. And of course, there was only one way to find out. There was also the weird and maybe sick thought of wondering I had it in me to cover that kind of distance in a single shot.

So, I asked around, “what is a good race to try for running one’s first 50 miler?” Ice Age was definitely near the top of many people’s lists. There was even one suggestion that I can’t seem to forget – do Ice Age, then the Voyageur 50 miler in July, then the Superior Trail 50 mile in September, after which I would be primed and ready to do the ultimate 50 miler – the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim. (I’m definitely thinking about the last one).

So I watched and bided my time and waited for the registration for Ice Age to open up. It finally did on January 25th. This I noticed one morning as I did my daily ritual that included logging on to check the weather, seeing what the shirt du jour was over at shirtwoot.com and checking on registration. Funny thing that, I seem to need to be signed up for a race in order to make training for it seem more real. It seems that my persistence paid off in a small way, as I was listed as the first person to sign up. Hey – I got to be first at something! I am secretly hoping I’ll get bib number 1. Not that I have any chance of living up to that billing. But it would be cool to be thought of as a top seed, at least until the gun goes off and I am left standing in the line to the port-a-potties while everyone else takes off.

This week I started reading Maurice Herzog’s “Annapurna”. I like these adventure stories because they inspire me. I am also reminded of what the late sir Edmund Hillary said once: “I

believe that if you set out on an adventure and you’re absolutely convinced you are going to be successful, why bother starting?” Indeed – that is the edgy appeal that an ultra has for me. It’s not so much I want to do it because I can, rather I want to do it because I’m not certain about the outcome. There is a great mysterious territory out there beyond 50 kilometers which I’ve never seen. To be fair, I also haven’t explored that mysterious territory of 26.2 miles run really well either. So I do have some unfinished business there, I suspect. But first things first. For this adventure, I know that most if not all of the battle will be fought within myself, within my head, against my own demons.

Now all that’s left to do is through a few more things in the bag and hit the road. And try and decide for the last and final time which shoes I want to wear (to start). I’ve already picked out my socks, shorts and hat.

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Chippewa Moraine 50k (Inaugural) Race Report

Posted by toddruns on April 17, 2008

Well, another race is history – the Inaugural Chippewa Moraine 50k. This one was quite the adventure. Who would have thought that April 12th would arrive with 6 to 8 inches of fresh snow?

Photo courtesy of Zach Pierce

The trail had plenty of the white stuff the morning of the race. There was also an abundance of slush, mud, melted snow and ice water, mud, slush, corn snow, mud and slush. Oh, and more than a few board walks and bridges – covered in snow and ice, of course (only one person slipped and fell in the lake). In other words, just about perfect trail running conditions. It was 28 degrees at the start, 32 at the finish. It was windy but there weren’t many open sections where that was a problem.

Photo from Wynn Davis

I ran the 50k course in 6:10:20, good enough for 25th place overall out of 119 finishers. The course was anywhere from 30 to 31 miles depending on whose GPS was talking, it may have even been longer given the twisty nature of several sections. Some of the folks there swore that it ran more like a 50 miler. That seemed like a bit of hyperbole, but with the conditions, it was definitely a tough course. Everyone I talked to at the finish was happy to have finished and didn’t seem to care much about their time. Philip Smith ran the whole thing in snow shoes, and he won the coveted DL (dead last) award. He was almost 2 hours behind finisher 118. I mention this differential because I thought about bringing mine. OK, I did bring mine but they stayed in the trunk. I know that I cannot go very fast in them and it is twice the effort for me to run in them. I seriously doubted that I would be able to go 50k in less than 11 hours. So Kudos to Philip for going the distance.

I was thankful for the 24 brave souls who ran ahead of me, breaking and packing the trail, at least a little bit. On the way to the turnaround, I was waiting for the leaders to be heading back towards me. I heard voices and sure enough, off to my right I saw a group of runners headed towards me. The thing is, the race course actually headed to my left. I took a few steps in their direction since that was where my attention was focused, but they steered me back on course right away. Then, as we all headed in the correct direction I was passed by Helen from work who would go on to take first place female. It took a little while for the group I was in to re-sort itself out, with the second wave of speedsters trying to get past slower runners on a single track that was really little more than one set of footprints in the deeper snow. I was passed here by Matt who was looking strong and seemed to be having a good time. None of the runners who went off trail seemed the least bit upset or concerned about the error either.

After a while I found myself running behind Meghan who would end up placeing 3rd female. She was really strong and steady on the up hill climb to the turnaround, and it was nice to have someone to sort of pull me in their wake. I also noticed her slipping more than I was and I was grateful for the traction of my shoes (Inov-8 Mudrocs). Some of these hills were a real grind with the snow pretty deep and old and very granular.

About a mile or so from the turn around I saw Adam Harmer coming my way – leading the race. That was exciting to see, and then the rest of the lead pack followed him – I recognized John Storkamp but not too many others. A few minutes later I saw Helen and realized that she was the first female and shouted out that she was leading. She said thanks but she didn’t think it would be for long and then promptly fell down. I asked her of she was ok and she bounced right up. Lesson learned: don’t look back, keep your eyes on the trail.

The out and back format of the race was cool, getting to see the other runners coming back or heading into the turn around, but it did make for tricky passing when there was only a single foot print wide path. It seemed most everyone on the way in moved over for the outbound runners, probably because it was downhill for the outbound runners and they tended to be going pretty fast. The other thing I noticed was how jazzed I got seeing and greeting all of the inbound folks. I was definitely running harder through this stretch than I had the previous 15 miles (helped of course by the downhill).

After a while a woman passed me named Karla. We traded places leading a few times but she was like a machine (or the Energizer Bunny) on the uphills and flats. I only seemed to catch her on the downhills since I seemed to be going quite a bit faster on them than she was. She eventually pulled ahead of me for good somewhere before the last aid station, I think she finished about 7 minutes ahead of me.

That’s Karla below in the photo, leading the way for me on the way back (this photo was blatantly borrowed from Jim Nelson’s Piccasa photo site).

Photo courtesy of Jim Nelson

It was almost like a totally different course on the way back, especially after the 20 mile aid station, where there was once a single set of foot prints in 8 inches of snow to hop through like a football player doing high step tire drills, the trail had suddenly morphed into a 2 foot wide slush and mud path. I guess that all the people behind me helped out too, as well as the speedsters up front.

There were numerous low areas that required some effort to run around if keeping your feet dry was your goal, with the chance of success somewhat less than 50%. Or you could run right through the middle and get it over with, trusting that your feet might eventually warm up after a few minutes. I eventually adopted the later strategy, especially late in the race when I noticed that sprinting up to a puddle and leaping over it left me breathless and wishing I had just kept my steady pace going.

Zach Pierce again

I fell once about 27 miles into my journey. I don’t think I hurt anything in particular, but when I finally got up, everything that was sore from running now really hurt – both knees, my back, and my left calf. It was like the fall woke my body up to the accumulated abuse I’d been dishing out over the previous 5 hours. I got over it, but it took a while before I felt like running again. I also managed to kick myself in the ankle really hard about 4 times as my foot slipped on one of the numerous uphills on the way out. Dang, that smarted.

After my fall I started to get both tired and ready to get it done. As a consequence, every little noise I heard sounded like the next aid station, but of course, it took a while to appear. I knew it wasn’t far from the last aid station to the finish so I was straining to see and or hear it. When I finally got there I was sort of shocked at how different it looked. All the snow was melted and the parking area was all mud. I took my time drinking a few cups of coke and munching down some M&Ms. I hadn’t been drinking a whole lot of sport drink any more because it was losing it’s appeal, but the Coke tasted mighty fine. I joked around a bit with the aid station folks and a man who was standing by the trail entrance came over and asked me my name and where I was from. I though he was checking me in or out of the aid station (he had legal pad and a pen and was writing stuff down). He started to ask me a few more questions and I must have looked at him funny and he told me he was from the local paper. I told him my name again and said that if he wanted to keep talking he was going to have to run with me because I needed to get going. He said he’d catch me at the finish line.

The finish line was one of the crueler things about the course. With about 2 miles or a little less to go, the course goes right by the start / finish line at the Ice Age Interpretive Center ( you can see the backs of the porta-potties in the parking lot, they were almost close enough to touch), and then you drop down into a deep basin from which you get to climb back out on the way to the finish. It was about here that I was trying to remember what Matt had told me about running a 50 miler. Something to the effect of not feeling the same at mile 30 of a 50 miler as you do at mile 30 of a 50k. The thing is, at that moment, all I knew was that running 20 more miles was definitely out of the question. I’m hoping I have more energy at the 30 mile mark at Ice Age when I try my first effort at 50 miles. I guess I’ll find out May 10.

There are lots of other pictures posted at the race website if you are curious. www.chippewa50.com

I must also add that Wynn Davis did an amazing job at his debut as a race director. The aid stations were awesome, the volunteers were super, and the course was great. The post race food was yummy, all homemade and it was hard to leave the celebration behind and head home. You also have to love it that he had next year’s race entry in this year’s goodie bag.

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Why do you do it?

Posted by toddruns on April 1, 2008

From the Ultralist:
“Why would you want to do something like that???” I’ve been asked that about many of my adventures, both running and otherwise. I dunno. Sometimes people really do want to know WHY we do what we do. I’d challenge you to see if you can put it into words.
Marcia Rasmussen

So, why do I run, and why do I run long distances?

Oh, to put it all into words. Not easy, because the feelings are ephemeral. The reason I had thought of this evening may not apply tomorrow morning.

But I sure know that it has gotten into my blood, it is so much a part of who I am.

There is the intensity of the experience of running. How the memories of a single day get etched so vividly into my mind that I am recalling small details days and weeks later, in technicolor and smellivision and with surround sound. It is during the challenge of a race especially, and sometimes even a long training run that I experience life at a deeper and richer level, a level I don’t encounter in the mundaneness of everyday life. It’s like having my Marshall amps turned up to 11 when I am running.

Nothing can compare to the experience of challenging one’s limits and finding that they aren’t what I thought they were. I find out that I can do this stuff and not only survive, but come out the other side with a better understanding of who I am.

And I connect with something else, something deep inside of me – my inner animal, that beast that thrives on the chase. The hunt. The long journey. My ancestors before me call to me on a genetic level, because I was not only born to run, but as a species – we humans evolved to run. In the same way that a golden retreiver knows to chase the ball, I know to run. That memory of running was already installed when I was born. By running, I bring myself joy and pleasure and I honor the beast within, and I connect with my forefathers and those before me. I know that I can pace myself and wear out the antelope should I need to. I run because it is in my genes.

As an athletic pursuit – it is without a doubt the essence of simplicity and elegance. Get from here to there as fast as you can, or maybe just as fast as you care to for that matter. No implements required. None. You might argue that shoes and clothes are necessary, but you could be proved wrong.

And, as an added bonus – I get this amazing time to reorganize my thoughts, to resolve conflicts, to solve problems, to generate new ideas, to relieve stress.

I get to see eagles and finches and cardinals and deer. I get to smell fresh air and new flowers and listen to the loons and the turkeys and hear the squirrels scampering away underfoot. I get to connect with the earth, I end up wearing some home anyway, and I touch it and am humbled and reminded just how lucky I am to be here.

All this – this is what I get out of running for and by myself. It can be a solo journey, a vision quest, a test of who I am, and a chance to spend some quality time with me. Selfish, I know. But I am a better person to be around when I can run.

But get this – I can do this with friends too. Go figure. Running as social interaction – bonding me in the moment or forever to others who are on the same hunt. We strive together to get better, to get to the finish line or the coffee shop and we are richer for the experience. We download and upload and support and whine and bitch and laugh and we learn to share and learn to shut up and listen. No phones, no interruptions (usually), and the background noise is turned way down. Quality time with others. Old friends or new – it doesn’t matter. The bond of being a fellow adventurer is there almost from the beginning.

In so many ways, I am a better and happier and more balanced person because I can run. And it makes me healthier too. I have had exactly zero colds this past winter while scores around me have been sick and sniffly and coughing and hacking. Anecdotal evidence to be sure, but I believe in the power of exercise and fresh air. Maybe running is my placebo, and if so, I’d sure hate to skip a dose.

Now when I list this all out, the alternative (not running) seems bleeker than ever.

So there you have it. I run because the benefits so far outweigh the costs, that I simply cannot afford not to.

Please note – tomorrow’s response to this question might be similar, yet it may also be different. I might think of something else. My reasons evolve and change all the time. But the end result is I will run sometime in the near future (in case tomorrow is a rest day), and the funny thing is – I won’t even give it a moments pause. I’ll just do it. Because I run.

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Run Like a Dog

Posted by toddruns on March 22, 2008

On my run this morning I was mulling a recent conversation I’d had with someone I had just met – one of those conversations where I was trying to convey my love for the sport of running. I had tried to describe for this person the primal nature of running. The feeling I get from time to time that I am connected to something deeply ingrained in me, something that brings to mind ancestors who may have needed this basic skill to survive. For me, it’s a connection with the animal within. After all, we humans are so much more than just large brains and opposable thumbs. I believe we evolved to run, it’s a theory that works for me both intellectually and on an instinctual level.

Back to the run – I saw this beautiful golden retriever chasing after a decoy that the human who was accompanying him had tossed. The dog seemed to exude pure joy. I thought a bit about how those retriever traits had been nurtured in the breed over the years, how not just the ability to “fetch”, but also the pure pleasure it give to the dog. Would the golden still fetch if it wasn’t fun or pleasurable for the dog? I don’t know how that could be determined, but I kind of think not. I’ve seen more than my share of dogs who would chase after a thrown stick until my arm falls off, and yet they return the stick, perhaps a little slimy – but always with the tail wagging.

Would I still run if it weren’t fun, if I found no pleasure in it? Probably not unless it was to escape from a predator. Or the IRS. Same difference. But really, as much pain and soreness and discomfort as there can be associated with running, it is still at it’s basic core all about fun. And the connection to something deeper inside of me.

So I run like a dog, not in an imitation of a dog’s gait or anything, but for the pure pleasure of loping along the trail with the memories encoded in my genes in the way a dog runs for the joy of it. Bringing pleasure and the quickness of breath and that I’m alive feeling that I don’t usually get while lounging on the couch.

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Screwed Shoes

Posted by toddruns on December 8, 2007

With winter upon us, its time to get out the cordless drill and screw some shoes for running on icy and snow-packed trails and sidewalks. Sure, you buy some Yaktrax for 29.95, but screwing is both cheaper and more fun. Plus, it is hard to make a double entendre with Yaktrax.

First, if you’ve never seen a screwed shoe before, I am sure you are thinking How do you screw them from the inside?, and Don’t they hurt your feet? Right about here is where a picture explains more than words can (click on image for larger view):

Screwed Shoes
I put a lot on the fore and mid-foot area, and 4 or 5 on the heel area. I use #6 x 3/8″ long Hex-Head sheet metal screws, I paid about $3.50 for a box of 100 at my local hardware store. I’ve never had a problem with this length falling out, not have they ever gone all the way through the outsoles of my shoe and caused me pain.

I use a cordless drill, and the holder for my screw driver bits is sized right to drive in the hex-head. You can always get the proper sized attachment for the drill.

That’s about it. Happy screwing!

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Rock Creek 50k Race Report

Posted by toddruns on November 2, 2007

On Saturday, the 27th of October, 2007, my friend Kara and I ran the first ever Rock Creek Trail Series 50k near Perry Lake Kansas, just outside of Lawrence. Or as Kara called it – The Rock Root 50k. She did remember seeing a creek, but apparently that didn’t stand out so much as the roots.

This was uncharted territory for me in a few ways. It was but my second ultra-distance race, and I was running it just 2 weeks after running a marathon – after which I usually try to do little but easy recovery for a few weeks to a month. I was traveling to another state to run a race on a course I knew nothing about and wouldn’t see until the sun came up on race morning. The best I could tell from the course map and descriptions was that it would be mostly single track (my favorite), not as much climbing and down hill as Afton (my only other ultra), and the weather promised to be spectacular. Rocks and roots were also on the menu. I figured it to be fairly rugged as it appeared to have been designed for mountain biking.

The idea for running this particular event came from Kara. She ran the Chicago marathon and her race was cut short when she stayed by a friend’s side who ended up having problems related to the heat. Kara still had her training for Chicago waiting to be used. We talked the night before I ran Whistlestop, and she started her sales pitch while I was digesting my pre-marathon pasta. While I was intrigued with the idea of running Rock Creek, it was hard for me to say yes for sure since I had no idea how I would feel after the marathon I had yet to run. I think I gave her a provisional yes, with the caveat that I needed to see how my legs were doing after the marathon, and hey, I could always run the 25k, right?

While my marathon was a bit of a bust, I wasn’t feeling too beat up afterwards, and I had pretty much decided on going to Kansas. I mean, what better to way to redeem myself from a mediocre performance? It didn’t take long until I was pretty excited about the prospect of the trip. As the time got closer I found myself really looking forward to the race, and oddly enough, I was lacking all that pre-race anxiety I usually feel before a marathon. I think the low key nature of the trail race, along with the minimal expectations of a particular finish time were big differences from the pre-marathon jitters. Or maybe since I barely had time to recover, my usual taper zaniness never kicked in. The thing is, I had really wanted to run another trail race this fall (ever since the taste of ultras I got from Afton), but wasn’t able to find one that worked for me for a number of reasons, mostly related to me being signed up to run the Twin Cities marathon in early October.

Kara was excited for this race too, and I was a bit worried about her lack of trail specific training. I had no doubt at all that she could handle the distance, but she hadn’t run much on trails. I mean, pretty much not at all, and I was a little nervous how she might like it, or rather not like it. We both commented after the race that had either of us known about just how technical much of the course was, she probably wouldn’t have wanted to do it, and I probably would have tried to talk her out of it. More about that later…

We arrived at Kara’s sister’s house, our version of the host hotel, in Lawrence early Friday evening. We went for a stroll around the University of Kansas campus and tried to decide where to eat We settled on an awesome Mexican restaurant and chowed heartily. I sometimes feel obligated to prove that a pre-race pasta feed is not a requirement to a good run.

I woke up way before the alarm was set to do it’s deed by a cat that was talking a language I didn’t understand. I had a hard time falling back asleep and didn’t do so until just before the time I was supposed to get up. Of course, that meant I slept through my alarm and I was finally roused by Kara’s knock on the door and a welcome cup of coffee. Oh well, we weren’t too rushed and made it out the door within 5 minutes of targeted time. We drove to the park, and managed to find it without too much difficulty. The sun was just making it’s way up when we stumbled to the tent for check-in.

Once we checked in and had our goodies and pre-race potty stop it was pretty close to race start time. The temperature was 43 at the start and not much wind in the woods where we were. We both were trying to stay warm, and noticed our feet felt cold. After a pre-race briefing and a photo-op, the horn sounded and we were off. Kara and I hadn’t discussed running together, and she wanted to start near the back and run very conservatively. I kind of defaulted to the understood and implicit credo of training partners that we stick together in training, and on race day we all must run our own race. The start line was about 75 meters down the road from the trail head. We ran up a hill on the road, through a ditch and then were off down the single track trail. I looked back and saw Kara for the last time in several hours as we all snaked along the first half mile or so. We crossed a little bridge across a creek and then headed down towards our first glimpse of the lake. In the early hours of the day there was a trace of fog over the top and it was really serene and peaceful. I listened to the few voices of people around me talking, the sounds of the breathing and the clunk of the rocks under our feet. The RD (Willie Lambert of Great Plains Running Company in Topeka, KS) had cleared the trail of fallen leaves, so we could see what we were tripping over (his words not mine). There was no shortage of rocks and roots. The rocks were mostly rugged chunks of limestone rubble, and I lost count of the number of roots that were exposed enough to warrant their own loop of pink ribbon (which was used in abundance to mark the trail). It was the first but not the last time that I would worry a bit how Kara was going to adapt to these surprises.

I found myself thinking about how much I liked running on a technical trail like this. There were long stretches where I needed to be alert and engaged in the running. It got to be mentally taxing at the end, but I liked the challenge. It might explain the appeal to me of doing this kind of distance over running a road marathon or ultra or a 24 hour event on pavement or a track. This kind of running demands my attention and I can’t just go on autopilot.

There were lots of twists and turns in sections, and several switchbacks as we climbed the banks of the lake. I eventually found myself wondering when there was going to be one of those big hills that you get to walk up, but the course seemed to be full of smaller ups and downs. I decided to move ahead of the pack I was in and I ran by 3 people, after which I caught up to the next group ahead. Before long we arrived at the first aid station at mile 4.5. My bottle was still pretty full and I didn’t need anything at the time so I just blew through it, although I resolved to make sure my bottle was empty by the next aid station. At mile five, I noted to myself that I just had a mere marathon left to run. I was feeling good and had become the 4th runner of a human centipede that was formed of about 8 or 9 runners. The guy in front of me was taking photos (on the run), and he said the motion compensation worked pretty good except it wouldn’t watch the trail for him. After a bit he stepped off to the side for a special shot (I guess) and I became the third person in the centipede. It was kind of cool as we all played follow the leader, power walking the steeper uphill sections and then resuming running on the downhill and occasional flat sections. It was fun to be part of this mostly silent group of like-minded people moving in unison down this twisty narrow path. I even flashed on the Borg from Star Trek, only we were a collective running being made of separate parts.

Eventually we hit the second aid station, and the orderly line was all scrambled up as people did their own thing. I filled my bottle, downed a quick cup of drink and headed out with 2 squares of PBJ in hand. I sure like these while running a race like this. It seems like PBJ has magical properties for running. The next short loop (less than 2 miles) brings us back to the same aid station, and it was remarkable for its stretches of pretty runnable dirt (sans rocks and roots) as well as a few big circles of limestone rock and one little limestone shelter with a vaulted roof that looked like it belonged to a Hobbit or a bootlegger. Oh, and it also marked the turn around at the northern most section of the course, where we headed back south to the start / finish line.

Leaving the 2nd / 3rd aid station again, the centipede was down to 4 or 5 of us. I stuck with the 2 folks in front of me, listening (eavesdropping?) to their conversation about the Heartland 100 race earlier this fall. I decided it was wise to hang behind them, allowing their savvy experience keep my rookie enthusiasm in check. I learned a bit about the windiness of Kansas in general, and of the Heartland 100 race in particular. It was nice to have the company, and it wasn’t long before we were leaving the last aid station and heading for the start / finish so we could eat and repeat. Once at the half-way point I dropped off my long sleeved shirt that I had removed earlier and went with singlet and shorts for the rest of the way. It was very pleasant out, maybe low 50s. I grabbed some drink and a few more PBJ squares and left before the others. I was on my own now, and pretty much would be the rest of the way. There were a few spots where I worried about seeing another ribbon that marked the trail, but sooner or later one would appear and I could relax again. I was feeling better here from 16 to mile 22 than I had around mile 12 or 13. That was different. It usually just gets harder. I also realized at some point that even if I hit a rough patch, there would always be another good patch just up ahead. That attitude worked well for me the rest of the way.

The first aid station after the mid-point (now at mile 19) was staffed by just one person when I was there. It was very relaxing chatting with her, we talked about TCM, (she had been up there to run it this year) and they even had some of the blue Medtronic Pennants that people marked to cheer on friends. It was almost too easy to drink more coke and eat more trail mix and stand around and chat, but suddenly I remembered, OOPS, I am running a race here, no time to dawdle.

After that aid station I pushed on, and came up on anther runner. As I passed him, he complimented me on how well I was running, and he started to sell me on his race in February at nearby Wyandotte County Park, called the Psyco Wyco Run Toto Run. I knew of the race and had already thought it might be fun to do someday (he promised that it was a lot hillier than this one). I asked if his name was Ben, and he affirmed that he was Ben, Ben Holmes. I explained how I knew about the race and that I had met the winner of his summer version of that race at Afton. All of that “its a small world stuff”. We also discussed how supportive the ultra community is, like how the elites in this sport show up to volunteer at aid stations and will wait at the finish line to cheer in the rest of the runners after they finish. He eventually sent me on my way because it was kind of hard to talk too much. After another mile or so I realized that this is really my thing, this trail running. Maybe it was a little of getting a big head from Ben’s compliment, but I was running well. I was keeping myself upright and moving forward and staying hydrated and fueled and I was having an awful lot of fun. I even allowed as how I might not be too bad at this. At any rate, I sure do like it a lot.

I ran to the next aid station (the one that was 2 / 3 on the first loop and was now 6/7). Shortly before I got there I came up on another runner. He was waving his arms a bit, and I assumed that he was listening to headphones, but he wasn’t. Apparently, he was just in a zone somewhere and my “How’s it going?” startled him out of his reverie and he nearly jumped a foot off the ground. I felt kind of bad, but took it as a compliment when he said I was light on my feet and he didn’t hear me coming at all. I passed him and headed to the aid station.

At the aid station I had my first sad moment as the bread on the PBJ was getting a little dry and it lost its appeal on me. Yeah, I k now, wah wah wah. I had to toss it after one bite. Oh well, I switched over to gels and had one of those raspberry Hammer Gels. It was like sucking down a tube of raspberry jelly, not in a bad way though. I ran this loop as fast as I dared, as now I was starting to feel a little tired and sore. I also had my first big stumble, but I caught myself before I smacked the ground. But it scared me a little into paying attention. A bit later I felt a sharp pain in my right knee. Oh great, I thought. And then, it was gone as quickly as it had arrived. Weird.

I hit the 6/7 aid station again, and grabbed some more gels while they filled my water bottle with sport drink. I also stocked up on M&Ms and some trail mix. Eating and running is fun. I left there right behind a young gal named Megan that the guys at the aid station obviously knew. They were giving her all kinds of kudos and encouragement while I was filling up. She was limping a little bit and holding her right hip as she left there. She was finished as the second place female and winner of the trail series race of which this was the final race. She had never run longer than 25k before this race. She seemed pretty determined, and when I asked her if she was ok, she was positive and said yeah, thanks for asking. In my generous way, I shared the new knowledge I had that there were some good patches up ahead. Mentally, the trip from here to the final aid station was the toughest. There were quite a few ups and downs and more rocks. There was a guy who passed Megan a little after I had and I could see him when we were running up some of the switchbacks. I decided to do my best to stay ahead of them and push myself a little as I had only about 4 miles to go now. Physically though, I didn’t feel like I’d already finished a marathon.

When I got to the last aid station I debated whether to even stop as I wasn’t that low on fluids, but they filled me up anyway and I left just as the 2 runners behind me entered. That pushed me a little more and I ran and listened patiently for the sounds of the finish line. It seemed to take forever, like it was just around the next bend and then the next one, or maybe the one after that. I did like the last stretch of trail though. It is really pretty in there, narrow and twisty but with long views of the woods around me and occasional glimpses of the lake off to my left. I could finally hear sounds from the finish area. As I turned a corner the music from the band came into focus for me – “Ghost Riders In The Sky”. I love that song. I’m sure they were playing it for me. Then I heard someone yell “runner coming in” accompanied by cheers and clapping and bells. I got a little verklempt. It feels so great to finish. I had a huge smile as I passed the clock at 5:50:07.

I received some water and a medal and a cool mug (my sweatshirt I got before the race) and a handshake from the RD. I got a cookie and changed into a dry shirt and walked around a bit. I had some chocolate milk, and then some more chocolate milk – probably three or four cups worth (its the ultimate recovery drink, you know). Then I had a Coke and went to the car. I cleaned some of the trail dust off my legs and changed shoes and socks and listened to the guys next to me talk about their race. I then strolled down the trail a bit, wondering how Kara was doing. I walked out for about 20 minutes, cheering 2 runners on their way in. They both wanted to know how much farther it was. I started to worry that I somehow missed her finish while I was changing or something. So I headed back to the finish and waited there and watched the awards ceremony. They announced that there were still some runners out on the course, 6 or 7 of them. The RD gave away the awards for the race and the trail series, then he started drawing numbers from the hat for freebies (you had to be present to win, so I couldn’t leave then). Willie called Kara’s number and I told them she was still running, so they saved her the hat and sport wash she won. Then I heard the call from the kids watching the trail that there was a runner coming in. Everyone stopped what they were doing and stood to cheer. That is so cool how they did that for all of runners. I love that about these races. It was Kara, with a big smile on her face and a turkey feather sticking out of her hat. The first thing she told me was that she had so much fun. I was relieved to hear that, as I selfishly want to have someone else around crazy enough to drive 500 miles to run for 6 or 7 hours.

She had the best line I heard all weekend: “I started to feel sad at mile 30 because I knew it was going to be over soon”. She ran really smart, walked through some of the technical sections and treated it as a long day in the woods. I should have known better than to worry, she’s a smart runner who knows how to take care of herself. Only now she’s a smart Ultra-runner.

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Hyland Pics

Posted by toddruns on October 22, 2007


I ran out at Hyland on the 20th and 21 of Oct. They were both spectacular days, Saturday was the sunnier day, so of course I had my camera on Sunday. Oh well. I like this park, here are some photos I took.

The first(top) is the single track that runs from behind the ski jump, the second one (below) is the single track trail that goes up to the top of Mount Gilboa.

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