Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Going back to Cali

Note: This post is the first of four that I wrote this weekend while attending the Western States Training Camp. I will post parts 2, 3 and 4 over the next three consecutive days.

Friday May 27. 2011

I'm on a plane heading out to Sacramento California to attend the Western States 100 training camp.   Last year I went to the training camp for the Leadville 100 and even though I severely sprained my ankle on the second day I found that getting to see the course ahead of time was invaluable.

I have mixed feelings about going.  On one hand it will be great seeing a bunch of the course and meeting other runners who are as nutty or nuttier than me.  Western states is known to be hard on the quads because it is an overall downhill course and it tears them up if you are under trained.  I am interested to see if what I see lives up to the hype.

On the other hand, we are not going to be able to run the canyons.  The canyons are the most challenging part of the race.  They are steep, long and extremely hot.  Like over 100 degrees hot.  My friend John has bet me $20 that I will throw up from the conditions.  They are brutal.  The snowfall in the area is at an all time record high so for the training camp we have to run a modified course.

I also am not excited about leaving Amy and the kids for the holiday weekend.  For the last several years the entire family has been my crew for the Pineland Farms Ultra Festival in Maine.  It's one of the only local races that the crews can see their runners multiple times.  The also put on a great weekend celebration with a great BBQ and lots of beer!  I have set a PR there the last two years and it has been so great having my family there cheering me on. 

I am continually thinking about what a selfish sport this is and how fortunate I am to have a family that constantly puts my desires before theirs.  It's embarrassing, humbling and inspiring all at the same time.  It makes me feel obligated to do the best I can do out of respect to them and their faith in me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I admit it, I'm tired.

I guess I have to admit it.  I'm tired.  I didn't have the energy to write last night!  What a busy week last week was.  I followed up my 100 mile week with a 92 mile week.  I really felt the training last week.  I was very tired.  I didn't miss any runs, but I was not able to find the time to do my strength training workout.  My running streak is still alive.  I'm at 147 days in a row now and have put on a total of 1642.4 miles in those days.  That means that I have averaged a little over 11 miles per day for the last 4 months.  No wonder I'm tired.

Max, before the race

Some really cool things happened last week.  On Thursday, after doing a 10 mile run, I attended the Rock N' Race 5k in Concord.  I didn't race it, but ran it with my son Max.  This is the second year I have done it with him and I was so proud of him.  Max is more of a gamer and computer fanatic than a sports person, but every year he trains and gets ready with his classmates for this event.  And this year we had a great time spending the night together, running together and celebrating his beating last years time by 2 minutes.  These are the moments that I will never forget.

Max, sprinting across the finish line.

I also attended my friend "Sherpa" John Lacroix's graduation/moving party to say goodbye as he and his wife Sarah packed up and moved to Denver.  It was a great night.  I rode a Street Glide from the shop and it was my first ride this year.  I forgot how much I love riding motorcycles.  It was awesome.  While I was there I was talking to some mutual friends ours.  Josh, Leah and Loni are friends that Sherpa introduced me to years ago.  They have been instrumental in John completing the Run Across New Hampshire.  While we were chatting I mentioned to Loni that I had decided to give it another shot.  She told me that they had been reading my blog and they were already planning on helping.  I really didn't know what to say.  I am so psyched that they want to do that for me.  It feels strange asking people to give up a perfectly good weekend to stay awake all night, drive 6 miles ahead, wait for a cranky jerk to show up, make him eat, give him encouragement, send him on his way, then drive another 6 miles and do it all over again.  These guys are better people than me.  I couldn't do it, its really hard!  It is overwhelming to me that I have people in my life that are this supportive.  I have no idea how to show my appreciation.

I was also perplexed at how I gained weight last week.  Well, I guess perplexed is the wrong word.  Since I was running so much I really ate everything in sight.  I also drank too much.  It seems when I work my body hard I end up craving sweets, (which I did a decent, but not perfect, job of avoiding) and alcohol.  I struggle a bit with eating right and watching my drinking.  One of these days I'll dive more into that topic, but it is a very emotional one and I'm not ready to write about it yet.  Maybe I'll save it for the book.

This will be another 100 mile training week if everything goes well.  I'm headed out to California for the weekend to do the Western States Training Camp.  I will be covering 70 miles of the course in three days.  I should be even more tired after that! 

Last weeks training recap:

Monday 5/16
8 Miles (1:08:48) Easy roads
Shoes - Modified Nike Free's
Easy slow recovery run. Worked on my form with my modified Nike frees. As close to running barefoot as I can get.

Tuesday 5/17
15.2 Miles (2:02:14) Hill Intervals
Shoes - Hoka Bondi B
2.6 miles of warmup, then 3 sets of 1 mile hill intervals. Each up was very close to 9min up and the downs were in the low 6's. I didn't have my Garmin as my battery died. I thought I was running very easy pace, surprised to see that it came out to 8:03 pace for the entire run.

Wednesday 5/18
10 Miles (1:35:00) Easy snowmobile trails
Shoes - Altra Instincts
Ran with Sherpa.  Had a fun soupy muddy run.

Thursday 5/19
12 Miles (1:40:38) Powerlines Hill Intervals
Shoes - Saucony Peregrine
Did 3 miles of warmup on the powerlines then 5 1/2mile up and downs with a minute rest between. My legs are tired, but I still felt light on them. Kind of hard to explain.

5k (33:15)
Shoes - Vibram Bakila Five Fingers
Rock N' Race with Max

Friday 5/20
8 Miles (1:06:03) Easy roads
Shoes - Hoka Bondi B
Easy run in the clown shoes. Legs are tight, but I'm still ok once I warm up for a few miles.

Saturday 5/21
12 Miles (1:53:09) Powerlines
Shoes - Saucony Peregrine
Hamstrings are really tight and I'm tired.

Sunday 5/22
24 Miles (3:19:42) Very Hilly roads with Tempo run in middle
Shoes - Hoka Bondi B
Very hilly road route. 7.5 miles in 1:09 then 5 miles at tempo pace (didn't record the time but I would estimate the overal pace below 7:30). Then finished the run at a moderate pace. 8:20 pace overall on this route is pretty good for me, especially on tired legs.

92.3 Miles (13:19:01)
No strength training

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

First 100 mile week of the year

I didn't write on Sunday this week because I was beat!  Last week was my first time this year that I ran 100 miles in a week.  Actually I ran 100.4 miles in 6 days.  Sort of.  My training log for the week is below but let me explain.  On Saturday I got up early and ran 20 miles on my favorite training area, the power lines.  I like the run because it is the hardest run I can do without traveling.  Here are some pictures from my run that morning.


The run that morning took me 3 hours and 15 minutes.  Last year when I was feeling good I was doing the same run in 2:55 and feeling like I was running easy.  Obviously I'm tired.  After the run I went to work and in the afternoon I went to a nephews bar mitzvah reception where I saw a lot of family.  After we had a few people over the house where I gorged on Chinese take-out and had a few drinks.  Then at 9:22pm I headed out in the rain and ran another 24 miles.  My friend Ron joined me for about 1/2 the miles (I met him at his house a little past 11).  I actually got pretty irritated for much of the time I was running with him.  I was exhausted and it was obvious that it was difficult for him to run that slowly.  I felt like I was running an ultra, I was cranky!  I ran the last three miles alone after Ron left.  I put on my tunes, zoned out and realized that I actually felt pretty good.  When I stopped worrying about my pace and just concentrated on finishing the miles everything got OK again.   I finished at 1:45 in the morning (see, I did do a run on Sunday...).  I set the alarm for 7 so I could get up and go to my first autocross!

Evo power!
I was soo tired that morning but I had an absolute blast running through the cones.   My biggest problem was remembering where the course went.  My Mitsubishi Evo was incredible and everybody at the event was super nice.  I can't wait to go again.

It is getting harder and harder to get my runs in.  This is the part in training that is so critical to success in running 100 mile races, but it is also hard mentally.  I just keep thinking that if I don't do the work, I wont achieve the results that I'm hoping for.  So I keep doing the work.  

One nice thing happened today.  I got an email from an Ultra runner whom I met at a New Balance focus group.  He is training for his first 100, the Vermont 100.  He told me that I need to keep writing my blog because it helps him run when he doesn't want to.   It is so nice getting emails like that because I don't know who is reading my blog.   I hope anybody reading this blog realizes that I need your stories of inspiration to help me too! 

Last weeks training log:

Monday 5/9
8 Miles (1:05:27) Easy roads
Shoes - Altra Instincts
Was pretty stiff at first, but loosened up ok. Ran at a very easy pace. Now running in the afternoon when it is warmer.

Tuesday 5/10
15 Miles (2:07:22) Fartlek Run, snowmobile trails
Shoes - Altra Instincts
Fartlek run. Did 8 miles warmup, then 5 miles of fartleks. 1 min hard then 4 min easy. Felt pretty good today, but started to get tired the last couple miles.

Wednesday 5/11
10.25 Miles (1:25:42) Easy trail run
Shoes - Merrell Trail Gloves
Great run, felt light and fast on my feet

Thursday 5/12
15.1 Miles (2:07:44) Hill Workout - roads and trails
Shoes - Altra Instincts
Ug, so tired tonight. I almost didn't do my hill workout, but saw it through. Did 4.5 miles of warm up then did .5 mile hill intervals (up and down) at St. Pauls on a steep hill.

Friday 5/13
Elliptical - 10 minutes, warmup for workout
Strength training - 45 minutes.  full workout.  Had hard time finishing last set of sit ups.  Need to get back to consistently doing these strength workouts
8 Miles (1:04:43) Roads - easy
Shoes - Hoka Bondi B's
Nice easy run.  75 degrees and sunny.  Felt good.

Saturday 5/14
am. 20 miles (3:15:55) Power lines
Shoes - Altra Instincts
Tough run.  Had no energy, but was able to keep going like the energizer bunny.

Saturday/Sunday 5/15
24.1 Miles (3:46:55) Roads
Shoes - Hoka Bondi B's
Decided to go out at 9:22pm.  Two long runs in one day makes Nate a sleepy boy.  Saw a bear on the dark bike path about three miles into the run.  I had my music on and didn't hear him.  Was about three feet away from him when we both realized each other was there.  He ran up a tree and I almost shit my pants.

100.4 miles
45 min strength
10 min elliptical

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Failing with my mission

I really feel like I'm failing with what I intended this blog to be.  When I decided to commit to trying to run a 100 mile race a month for 5 months, rather than just train for one like I have for the past three years, I really got excited about documenting the process of getting ready.  I was hoping that through my blog, and eventually a book, I might be able to inspire somebody to try to take on that big challenge they may have been contemplating. 

I think that it is human nature to be impressed when we hear of somebody doing something big or successful.  We tend to put those people on a pedestal.  What I am hoping to do is illustrate that behind every big accomplishment is a lot of focus, hard work, dedication and belief that the task can be accomplished. 

We listen to beautiful music, but don't see the hours and hours of practice.  We don't hear the endless retakes in the studio until it is just right.   We watch movies with incredible performances, and are unaware of the huge amount of work it takes to make the scene work.  We watch seemingly super human feats of daredevils on snowboards, motocross bikes, etc but don't think about the painful crashes that it takes over and over before they get it right.

Last night I was thinking about how long it has been since I just slept in on a Sunday and rolled out of bed to casually have a cup of coffee and read the paper.  I'm getting more and more tired as the intensity and distance of my workouts increase.  It is these days that I want everybody to see after I have achieved this big goal.   I want everybody to see that when I get up the first few steps are stiff.  My ankle is sore, my knee aches and my hamstrings feel like somebody shortened them by 2 inches as I slept. 

This morning I got up at 5am and was out the door by 6 to run 30 miles of roads.  The thought of failing the run across NH for the third time overcame my weary body.  So I got up and did the work.   And you know what?  There were times today that it hurt. Actually, it hurts all the time, but I work hard on overcoming it because I want that end goal.  When I'm all done with this experiment this summer I don't want anybody to think that I have some special gift for running.  I want them to realize that they can have more out of their life. I want them to realize that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

This weeks training recap:

Monday 5/2
30 minutes strength training
8 miles (1:05:27) Easy
Shoes - Altra Instincts
Colorado - Nicer run this morning outside on the paths and trails. Saw tons of deer

Tuesday 5/3
14 miles (1:53:09) Hill Workout
Shoes - Altra Instincts
A little over 3 miles of warmup on the power lines, then 1 mile hill intervals. Did 3 ups and three downs, felt good today. Lots of hunters on the trails.

Wednesday 5/4
8 miles (1:02:45) Easy
Shoes - Altra Instincts
Nice and easy run to try to recover a bit from yesterdays hill workout. Felt excellent, although a little tight in the hammys.

Thursday 5/5
15.25 miles (2:10:49) Hill Workout
Shoes - Altra Instincts
Hard workout. Did a couple of miles of warmup then 1/2 mile hill intervals. Fairly steep powerlines hill with a couple of mudholes in the middle. Did 5 ups and 5 downs (sprinted down at about a 6mm flat pace). All trails today were souply and muddy. Feet were soaked the entire run, which is great training. Felt pretty tired the last couple miles.

Friday 5/6
8 miles (1:11:07) Easy
Shoes - Altra Instincts
Took it nice and easy on the snowmobile trails.

Saturday 5/7
10 miles (1:24:31) Fartlek Speedwork
Shoes - Merrell Trail Glove
Ran on the snowmobile trails. 4 miles at a fairly easy pace then 5 miles of 1min hard then 4 min easy. I felt really good this morning. Light on my feet and strong.

Sunday 5/8
30.1 miles (4:23:12) Easy paved roads
Shoes - Hoka One One
To help get mentally ready and to test shoes on pavement, I ran part of the Run Across NH route. Wanted to try the Hokas for a long run to see how they fit. Not that difficult of a run. Blister on my pinky toe was the only thing that bothered me.  Felt very good the rest of the day.  Doesn't feel like I ran 30 miles.

93.3 miles
30 minutes of strength training

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Lesson in Pride and Heritage

This last week Amy and I traveled to Denver Colorado for a Real Estate Investing program that we are participating in. We always have a great time when we travel together, but we missed the kids a lot. On Sunday night, our last night in town, we decided to try something different for dinner. I hopped onto Yelp and tried to locate a great restaurant. There are tons and tons of high rated Pho and Thai places, but one place caught my eye. There were some great reviews on a place simply called "African Grill and Bar".

This is the entrance to the African Gill & Bar in Aurora, Colorado

Amy and I had actually decided to go to the Thai place because we both wanted something spicy. As we pulled into the parking lot we realized that the African place was right next door so we decided to check out the menu on the door. As we were looking and trying to figure out what all these unique dishes were the owner opened the door and tried to hand us some take out menus. He had a huge smile on his face. We told him that we didn't need the menu, we were coming in to eat. He seemed positively delighted.

As we walked in the very small space we immediately noticed that every person who was eating looked like they were from Africa. They were speaking an unfamiliar language and eating unfamiliar food. We took that as a good sign! If you want good Asian food, find the place where all the Asians eat. If you want good Mexican food, find the place where all the Mexicans eat. It looked like we were in the right place.

The owner was excited when we told him that we wanted him to pick out our dinner. The menu was huge and we had no clue what most of the things were. We told him that we wanted spicy. He clarified what level of spicy we liked then recommended the Fufu. Fufu is a ball of mashed plantains in a very pungent chili sauce that comes with different types of meat. We chose Goat on his recommendation. You eat fufu with your hands so they brought out a bowl to wash our hands in first.

Goat Fufu

It was one of the most satisfying things I've ever eaten. The goat was very tender, especially for goat, and the plantain mash mixed with chili was incredible. We watched the locals checking us out to see if we were going to run for cover and they were pretty amused when we didn't.

I asked him what type of beer they had and he went down the usual list of brands. I asked him what would be the appropriate drink for the area and his huge smile returned. He went into the kitchen and returned with a plastic bottle of Popov vodka that was full of stuff. The vodka had a brown hue and he asked me if I could identify what was in the bottle. It looked like mushroom stems. He told me that it was cloves, roots, ginger and brought out a bag of it so I could see what it looked like dry. When he poured it into a glass there were bits of wood in it. I laughed and enjoyed the experience. It was actually very good and had a nice subtle quality to it. It matched the food perfectly.

For the next course we had fried fish with jollaf rice and fried plantains. We had the option to get the fish boneless or bone in. He was very happy when we told him to bring it bone-in. Again, it was excellent. During dinner a little girl, I believe to be the owners daughter, came up to me and handed me a Styrofoam cup. She was adorable and just looked at me. I thanked her for the cup then handed it back. Amy called me a dummy and told me that she wanted some of my water. I filled her glass and she took a sip and left. She played this game with me the entire night. She was hilarious.

As we were finishing dinner the owners wife brought us out each a little donut and asked us if we could identify what it was made of. It had a spicy aroma and a nice crispy texture. I couldn't figure out what it was and she said that it was made with beans.

As we were paying for our check we talked more with the owner and also with a man who had been having dinner at the same time with us. He said "you must have been to Ghana before." When we told him that we hadn't he was surprised. He said that most people who had not been there aren't as adventurous as we were and he was sure that we were not going to know what to do with the food when it came out. I think we were the evenings amusement for many folks.

The bill for the evening came to a whopping $37. I have paid more for a single entree before.

Amy and I left with an overwhelming feeling that we had just experienced what food is supposed to be about. The sense of community and pride in their heritage was all expressed with the food. We felt like somebody welcomed us into their home and was delighted with the opportunity to tell us about their county, bite by bite.

While the trip was originally about discovering business opportunities, we were fortunate enough to have a evening that we will never forget.