Saturday, December 29, 2007

Knocking Some Rust Off

Today I officially ended my break from running and over the next couple of weeks, will get geared back up for the early races in 2008. While the break has been very good both mentally and physically, I was psyched to get back out there. I did my best to stay in shape by riding the bike, training on the elliptical machine and doing slow easy runs. However, I definitely lost a good bit of speed (not that there was that much to begin with) and some overall fitness but overall felt okay today.

Mike and I ran in the trails at Kings Mountain State Park which is about 45 minutes from Charlotte on the NC/SC border. It is adjacent to Crowders Mountain State Park, where I did a good bit of training for MMT this year. I have been to the park before but never to run. I really liked the trails and found it an ideal place for both tempo runs or easy recovery pace runs. While there are no big climbs, there are several rolling sections (especially on the back side) that give you a nice break from flat terrain. There are a couple of spots that would be good for mini hill repeats as well. I had limited time this morning so I only did one loop plus an add on section up to Brown Mountain. It is listed as about 17 miles but I think there was at least one extra mile tucked in there somewhere.

I really noticed some fatigue in my legs (especially hips and quads) after about 2 hours. That is not surprising to me since I have not been running lately and did give a decent effort early on. I also bonked somewhat after about 2.5 hours, likely due to being a bit behind on calories. The weather was surprisingly humid which made the 50 degree temps feel much warmer - 30 minutes into the run and I was already drenched. I managed to roll my left ankle a couple of times which felt wonderful. :-) Towards the end of the season this year I had overcome my seemingly chronic ankle-rolling ways but a month away from the trails provided a window for them to creep back in. I iced it for a bit this afternoon and it feels okay now.

I would be lying if I said the loss of speed and some fitness didn't bother me but a wise man once said that the first run after a meaningful break should be difficult, otherwise you didn't take a long enough break. Mike made a good point in that my endurance seemed fine and the fitness will come back before I know it. I hope to run on these trails much more this year and could even envision putting on a race there someday. 2008 is a year that I have big expectations of myself (preview to follow soon) and am excited about taking the first steps today. Hope everyone has a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

New River Trail 50K

I wanted to post some information about a new 50K trail race planned for 2008 - the New River Trail 50K. The inaugural event will take place on October 11, 2008 in Fries, VA, which is about 13 miles from Galax, VA near the NC/VA border. This region has some fantastic trails and natural areas and will no doubt make a great locale for a trail race. The race is being organized by ultra runner extraordinaire Annette Bednosky. Annette needs no introduction but for those whose head has been underground for the last few years, she is an accomplished ultra running veteran with wins at several races including Western States, Rattlesnake and most recently, Hellgate. If her RD ability is half of her running prowess, we are all in for one heck of treat come October.

Proceeds from the race will go to The National Committee for the New River (NCNR) an organization that protects, restores and educates about one of the oldest rivers in the world. The New River's watershed includes North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia and the NCNR does work in all three states. Entrants will also have the opportunity to make a contribution to NCNR's Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program. This option will be included on the registration form at (link included on the race website).

Annette is striving to have this be a "green" race, using local, recyclable items and products from companies with "green" practices as much as possible. In the spirit of being green, minimal disposable materials will be used and those that must be disposable will be recyclable. Finally, she is striving to have 75% of the goods used for aid station supplies and runner giveaways come from local manufacturers and/or growers. Way to go Annette! This is a great way to support the local economy and help out Mama Earth at the same time! This is something we should all do more of. I know what my plans for October 11th are and encourage readers to visit the race website to learn more and sign up through the online registration link. You can also contact Annette through the website with any questions that you have.

Best of luck to Annette with the New River Trail 50K. This is sure to be the first year of a great event. Be sure to check out the website and learn more about the race and the causes it supports.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Random Blabble

This time of year is one of my favorites, a time that I look forward to throughout the year. It is ironic, given how much I enjoy running, that I get so much enjoyment from a time when I do hardly any running at all. Perhaps it is the joy that the little boy in me gets from the Christmas season. I think a big part is that I don't have a schedule to follow - training or otherwise, which provides a much need mental break for me.

At the same time, I am anxious about the coming year and the goals I am already setting for myself in my mind. January is going to be a painful month with lots of track and tempo runs as I get ready for the Myrtle Beach Marathon. I haven't tried to race a marathon since I started ultras (not that my previous performances were races per se) and am curious as to what kind of time I can put up. I am hoping for something in the 3:30 range. While this is very slow for many of my blog readers, it would be a huge improvement for me and would be a terrific way to start off the year. I am not going to obsess about the time in training (yeah right) and will be satisfied as long as I give my best effort (and don't wimp out).

One thing I have learned from running ultras and the people I have met is that success can measured differently in each race. Those that can adapt as conditions change (including just having a bad day) are stronger both mentally and physically since they can "find the other gear" or be smart enough to even shut it down. As I look ahead to 2008, I want to continue to develop as a runner and improve my "running IQ" by continuing to run smart races that are within myself and maybe a couple that are on the fray.

The BIG goal for year will once again involve the 100 mile distance. I am going back to Massanutten to try and improve on the 35:02 I posted this year. It was my first 100 and that is a TOUGH course, but I still left a lot out there. I learned some very valuable lessons during the race that I have applied to shorter races but am anxious to see how I can improve. I also plan to adjust my training some to better prepare me. I am also going to try another 100 miler this summer - hopefully Cascade Crest in August. I want to try the longer distance multiple times in a year and also want to experience a race "out west" and Cascade Crest allows for both of these.

Stay tuned for a 2008 preview of sorts where I will provide more details about my goals for 2008. For now, I plan to enjoy a little time off from running so I will go into 2008 with a renewed focus and lots of energy for the miles that lay ahead.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Madness - MMT fills in 45 minutes!

Yesterday, entry opened for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 (MMT) mile race. I ran it this year as my first 100 and really hoped to run again in 2008 to try and improve on my performance. This past weekend the Western States 100 (the most popular 100 miler in the US) lottery was held and had a record number of entrants. How quick would MMT fill this year? Last year it filled in two weeks but only offered a print and mail application. This year entry was online only.

Enter a big wrinkle - I had to travel for work on Tuesday and would have no computer access when entry opened. I knew a buddy of mine would be fully engaged when entry opened so I asked him to enter for me. Good thing too as the race filled in about 45 minutes! Fortunately the race maintains a waiting list so many folks will likely get in through this avenue. I am amazed at how quickly ultra running is growing and how quickly races are filling up. I think it is a phase that will abate in a couple of years but who knows.

A lot of people were upset by the entry procedures and many didn't get in for a variety of reasons. Many want a fairer entry process. I submit that the current procedure (first come, first served) is the fairest. Although I was out-of-pocket all day, I improvised to ensure that I got in the race. I just don't agre with the notion that certain people had an advantage for getting in the race. Afterall, I was on a plane at 33,000 feet when the race filled.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about special consideration for top runners at races. I agree that a certain amount of spots should be reserved for top runners so that the competition level is maximized. Remember all the excitement this summer surrounding Jurek vs. Meltzer at Hardrock? How great would it be to see a battle between Meltzer, Krupicka and Skaggs (to name a few) on a tough course? It is not aboout catering to elite runners but 100% about maximizing the top competition at races. Perhaps even creating prize money for the top finishers. Some may argue that this will make the races more "high maintenance" and require corporate sponsorship, etc. Well folks, if the sport continues to grow the way it has the last several years then these will become realities eventually. Mind you I am a mid pack (at best) runner so I don't have a dog in the top competition/prize money fight.