Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Running Life

So I've been running pretty much since high school (track & cross country) with a 4 year break during college. During high school I ran 100M and 200M hurdles (hard to believe since I'm not that tall). I joined the cross country team when it was started during my junior year to stay in shape for track season. While in HS I never thought of myself as a long distance runner. Getting up to 6 miles while training for CC hurt and I invariably developed  what I now know is iliotibial band issues. I started back to running in grad school to get in shape for a spring break ski trip to Jackson Hole WY (awesome skiing!). I continued to run & joined a fun running group (Hash House Harriers) with some members who ran longer distances so I started running longer. And on my second attempt, I completed a 10 mile race! The first attempt was a struggle - and many people had trouble that day - it was in the upper 70s F the first weekend of April in Madison WI. No one was ready for those temps!

After grad school I moved to Philadelphia and continued to run and run longer. Finishing my first half marathon was definitely an emotional experience. After moving to Washington DC I decided to run a marathon and completed my first one in 1996 in 4hr 20 min (still a PR). I continued running, racing, and having fun doing it and have run 7 marathons. Then a fractured cheek bone and life got in the way. From 2004 till this year, I continued to run but no where at the levels I was running before.

Last year my friend Rick and his wife Jennifer became race directors and have been putting on trail races in NJ. Check them out at This has been a great thing for NJ and for me. Despite all the state and county parks in NJ there aren't many trail races and the few that are here are at the ultra distance (anything longer than a marathon (26.2 miles) is considered an ultra-marathon). So to support their endeavors, plus I love running in the woods, I started running their races. What's nice about many of the NJ Trail Series races is that they are doable for almost anyone since they often have races of a variety of distances - from 5 km to 100 miles and races that are for a certain lenght of time (3 hrs up to 48 hrs!). So I've been racing more - and sometimes training more - and this year I finally have run the most I've run since probably 2004.

This year I volunteered for the Maylon Mayhen which had races of 25km, 50km, 75Km, and 100Km. Rick let me run the 25Km (15.5 miles) race for helping out. The course (near Sparta NJ) is great - hills, rocks, some flats, all in the woods. And definitely wild life. Several of us had to wait several minutes for a momma black bear to reunite with one of her cubs before we could continue on the trail. This was my longest distance run since 2004 and I finished it in about 4 hours. Not too bad for pretty much no training (a few weeks before I did run/walk 18 miles between 2 days of running). It definitely hurt but I enjoyed it and had fun hanging out afterwards, helping out where needed, and meeting some interesting people who run ultras. My friend Jessi (ultra-woman  extraordinaire) ended up running 75 km, and Dave was just one 12.5km loop shy of running 100 km! 87.5 miles in 12 hrs is a great accomplishment

When I was running marathons, I toyed with the idea of trying an ultra-marathon. But at the time, running marathons hurt (don't they always?). And I was loosing my motivation for training - though I was still running and racing. My training for my last marathon included weekly running with the Hash House Harriers, track work with the Northern Virginia Track Club, some other running (as well as weights & biking) and racing. A few weeks before my last marathon in 2003 I decided that I better get some training done if I'm going to run the distance! So on a Thursday night I ran about 9 miles and a week later I ran what would be my sole long run. I set out planning on running the Mt vernon Trail to Alexandria, or perhaps the W&OD trail west. But since the Marine corps Marathon was that day I figured I'd run near the marathon and cheer on my fellow runners and friends. I ran into Jeff Reed on the sidelines of the marathon and told him what I was doing. A few years before, Jeff told me that training was over-rated. This is coming from a man who runs 50 mile races in the mountains of Virginia! But I kind of knew what he was talking about - if you are running and racing all the time you don't necessarily need to train, ie. have a schedule of training runs and dedicated speed work, etc., since you are already running all the time. And this is what I was doing for my last marathon. I figured if I could go out and run for 2.5 hrs I'd be able to complete the marathon. And I did! At the start I ran into Duane who commented that he hardly trained - only running a couple of 18 milers. I chuckled under my breath considering my training! The marathon went well. I hung with Duane for the first 20 miles - with a medical tent stop at mile 6 to get a blister taken care of. At mile 20, Duane started to struggle so I continued on. I was surprised how well I felt. I ended up finishing in 5hr 3 min - not my worst time!

So what does that little side story have anything to do with my current running? Well after running 15.5 miles for the first time in 7 years, I decided at the last minute to participate in a 12hr race at the Parsippany Hills High School track; it was held just 2 weeks after the Maylon Mahem and my 25 Km run. The forcast was 95 F and sunny (the forecast was spot on making for a hot day). I had 2 goals that day: first was to run 16 miles since this would then be my longest run this year and the second was to run 27 miles and finally complete and ultra race. Though I should put run in quotes for that 27 miler. I was able to accomplish both goals. I ran almost all of the first 16 miles (goal 1 accomplished!) and continued running/walking for the next several miles. At about mile 20 I took a long break - about an hour. This is the beauty of these time races is that you can run as long and as often as you want. And if you aren't going to come close to winning you are really competing against yourself and your goals. So since I surpassed my first goal and still had plenty of hours to complete another 7 miles, a long break was ok and definitely necessary. For most of the last 7 miles I pretty much walked. I was in pain and it was hot and I knew that I had plenty of time to complete 7 miles. And I did it! I finally accomplished one of my running goals of running an ultra-marathon. It took me 11 hrs (this is including that 1hr break) but I still did it!

But.... I'd really like to be able to run most of an ultra-marathon. So now I'm thinking of running a 50Km race in March - again sponsored by the NJ Trail Series. I hear it's pretty flat so it shouldn't be as difficult. And because it's in the woods and there will be a lot of people it won't be anywhere as monotonous as running on a 400m track for 11 hrs!  

So I better get some running in! Hope to see you on the trails!