Day at the Office

Day at the Office
All Terrain Vehicle
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. - Phillppians 3:14

Thursday, June 26, 2008


The Western States 100 mile race WAS this coming weekend. I found out this morning that it has been cancelled due to the forest fires in Northern California.

I can not tell you how I feel for the runners and their disappointment.

This is a difficult race to get to run in and with this cancellation, it puts a new twist in the lottery system for next year. If you do not get drawn from the lottery to run in it for 2 years in a row, you automatically get to run it the 3rd year. Rick Gaston, my "Ultramarathon" mentor was counting on running it next year. It would be his 2nd time to run this brutal race. That now may be up in the air.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Dichotomy of Paradox

People will occasionally ask me if I listen to music through ear phones when I run. The answer: sometimes. If I am grinding out speed work on the track or a hammering a quick paced tempo run, a little “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N Roses or “Rock You Like a Hurricane’” by the Scorpions helps me push to the redline. But if I am running a long wooded trail run, the IPOD stays in the gym bag.

I usually start running the trail before 0500 in the morning. The quietness of the morning is a place of comfort and the solitude, a refuge. The wildlife seems to yet wake from the night’s slumber. The only sounds are of my Brooks Cascadia 3 shoes falling rhythmically upon the dirt trail. My breathing is controlled keeping time to the patter of the feet. After a couple of miles into the run, my body feels incredibly alive and my legs completely refreshed. I am thankful for the peacefulness, the ability to run, the wonderful wooded world that surrounds me. I reflect back to the words of King David of Psalms 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

The sun begins to break the horizon and the birds begin to sound revelry. The sunrise is my favorite time of day; a new beginning, the purging of the old, the refreshing start of things to come. The sweat begins to wash away my shortcomings. I will be running 26 miles today, purified through the exertion. God has made the human body an incredible machine. The long run, at this point, does not seem long enough. The Creator has developed my body to run forever. I have been made perfect in his eyes. The euphoria of running in His creation has come to fruition and for the next 3 hours this will only grow stronger.

At some point in the long run there comes a point when determination and perseverance are the primary traits required to finish what I have started. The euphoria has succumbed to pain and suffering. That is the point, right?... to cause one to grow and growth through pain. One does not improve as quickly through comfort and solace. Doubt encroaches the edges of my mind and finishing the distance is now in question. The legs scream for relief and relief only comes by stopping. Stopping is not an option; who is going to come get me? Only three hours before I was feeling unstoppable, infallible. I was perfectly and wonderfully made. Now my body is beginning to show imperfection, I am not that wonderful.

Running clarifies this conflict. God has made me perfect in His eyes. Yet, this perfection is a far cry from my depiction of perfection. In a short four hours I transform from an individual feeling the pleasure of my Maker to one that is questioning my ability, my limitations. Is that not what God has called me to do? In my weakness, realize that my human frailty calls for dependence on my Creator. Thus the paradox: I am strong when I am weak. I AM fearfully and wonderfully made!...and on, I run.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Got Me Some Help!

This blog thing is working out for me. Let me explain. I occasionally peruse other ultramarathoner's blogs and read about their training and race reports. I glean what ever information I can to implement into my training for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler. It had come quite apparent that the details and logistics are a bit more complex in completing an Ultramarathon than they are for running 26.2 miles. A gel pack and Gatorade weren't cutting it anymore, especially on the trail runs where a runner will expend more energy than he would on the road.

So I came across this guy in California who runs 50 mile races like some run 5K's and 100 mile races like some run 10K's. He finished the Kettle 100 miler in about 21 hours (coming in 3rd place) and this weekend he is pacing for the Western States 100. He ran the entire thing in 2006. The Western States 100 is run in the Sierra think there are any elevation changes?! Anyway, I digress. I start reading his blog Rick and realized I have more to learn than I can teach myself by September about Ultras. So I emailed him. I learn his name is Rick Gaston and I tell him my situation and ask him to read my latest race report Road of suffering. He must have had pity on me because he emailed me back with lots of information and encouragement. He talked about nutrition, hydration, electrolyte balances, training mileage, heat training, blister get the point.

So this brings me to this past weekend of training runs. I had planned to run the Erwin Park Mountain bike trail again. Let's review. The trail is an 8 mile loop. It is not really that technical but there are a lot of tree roots that can cause a face plant if you don't pick up your feet. There are several ups and downs and maybe about 1 1/2 miles of undulating meadows. I am going to run the loop 3 times and I intended to begin implementing Rick's suggestions of nutrition and fueling by placing supplies at the trail head. I begin the run at 0500 with a headlamp which means I am clearing out the spiderwebs across the wooded trail way. After my first loop, I eat 1/2 a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, a gel pack and reload the two 20 ounce water bottles and head out on loop two.

This is the whole reason for writing this blog entry is to tell this story. About 2 miles into loop 2 I pass a couple of mountain bikers through some of the technical stuff. About 30 minutes later they catch up to me and say they had been trying to catch me the last 20 minutes or so. I tell them to go on ahead as they will be much faster than me. Ten minutes later, I pass them again never to see them again. Upon our second meeting they ask me how far I was running. I mention that this was my second time around and I plan on going 3. The look on their faces was worth the 0400 wake up call. Honestly, I am not that fast and I believe they were just beginning to learn some technical mountain bike techniques. They were nice guys out exercising and learning new stuff. My hats off to them. May they continue to push themselves. (still made me feel pretty good.)

The third time around the loop was a bit more brutal as the Texas sun was rising in the sky and the temperature were edging past 90 degrees. The afternoon temps encroached the century mark as it was a hot and humid day. I chuckled to myself during this last loop reflecting back on Rick's email inquiring, "If I was doing any heat training." I am running in the Texas Summer. If it is only 90 degrees, a cool front has moved in....yeah I'm feeling the heat. Let's hope that this heat training pays off in Virgina in September. In conclusion, I ran 24 miles on the Erwin trail successfully following Rick's suggestions. On Sunday I woke up and hammered out another 8 miles before church.

Good luck to the runners in the Western States 100 this next weekend. Good luck to Rick Gaston and his runner he is to be pacing after mile 80. Keep these guys and gals in your prayers as their suffering will know no bounds.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bad News...No, Good News!

When I got back from Austin Texas after running the 30K Loop, I was ready to sign up for the El Scorcho 50K (31 miles) in Fort Worth Texas. It takes place on July 20 and begins at 12:00 midnight. That's right, you run 31 miles basically all night long. So I go to the web site to find out that the race is booked up. I cannot sign up. Man that's bad news! I immediately email the race director and ask him to put my name on the waiting list.

Well, yesterday I received an email that I was going to get a chance to sign up for the El Scorcho 50K because of some cancellations. That's Good News! I can't wait to run 31 miles all night long. I have done neither as of yet so I am fired up about the challenge and plan to use this as a training run for TNF 50 miler in September.

So here is the plan. Run the El Scorcho in under 6 hours. Drive home to Plano Texas. Take a shower. Go eat a good breakfast....and do this all in time to go to the 9:30 AM church service on Sunday morning. Sounds like a full day...I mean night. Way Cool!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

How Hard Was It?

That question is in reference to last week's race (refer to previous blog). Here it is put into perspective: This morning I went on a long easy road run of 20 miles. There were some decent hills between miles 5 and 12. It took me 3 hours and 35 minutes. I was going at and easy pace. I went 1.4 miles further than last Sunday's race and it took an hour less time...I have a long ways to go!...both physically and mentally.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Road of Suffering

Ok, it's not a road, it's a trail...and the trail is a 6.2 mile loop....and you have to run it three times. This is known as "THE LOOP 30K" in Emma Long Park. It is the second race in a three race series called the Rogue Race Series and takes place in the hill country of Austin, Texas. The trail is very technical and it would not be an exaggeration to say that it consist of about 80%-85% limestone. The pictures below (minus the biker) are of the Emma Long Trail and are indicative of about that 85% of torture...I mean trail.

So let's commence with the race report for "The LOOP - June 1, 2008":

The whole family had made the pilgrimage to Austin Texas and on Saturday had spent an wonderful afternoon at our friends Tim and Tracey's incredible abode in Bee Cave. The kids played in their pool while my wife, her brother Marshall, and myself took it easy.

On Sunday morning Marshall and I got up and made our way out to Emma Long Park and I readied myself for my first trail race. Start time was at 0700 and we arrived in plenty of time not to be rushed. I ate a Cliff bar and continued with electrolyte drink until about 30 minutes before start. Looking around should have been a hint to the difficulty of the race as some of the runners had tattoos depicting their latest 100 mile run endeavor. I have no such tattoo or endeavor. My plan was to start out slow and get the know the course as I had never run it. Marshall had run the course on two different occasions and his plan was to hold back the first 6.2 miles and stay with me the first loop; and then to turn on the jets for the last 12.4 miles. The weather could be described as Central Texas Balmy at 80 F and about 75% relative humidity at the start (I checked the weather report.)

The race starts and we all begin to shuffle down the trail. The first 1/2 mile to mile was quite congested. Things began to open up a little about a mile into the race and the terrain began to become quite apparent. The nickname of "Bonecrusher" was applicable as the limestone begin the initial pounding on the body and let it be known that there would be no relenting. At about mile 2 I rolled my left ankle a bit. Marshall was running behind me and described it as a violent but not complete roll. Everyone around asked if I was alright and I nodded my head and knew that if I kept running that the throbbing would subside within a quarter mile. My goal was to power walk the steep inclines, run the down hills and jog undulating terrain. I did not want to go anaerobic this first loop. Marshall was chomping at the bit to unleash on the trail but used all his military bearing to withhold the first 6.2 miles. At times I would wave him on but he would refrain and later thank me for staying the course. We pulled into the aid station with the Garmin GPS saying 3.3 miles. Marshall was hungry and began stuffing OREO cookies in his mouth and grabbed some water. I carried a 20 oz. water bottle and had drank about 15 oz. the first 3 miles. I had a volunteer top it off, I grabbed some pretzels for salt, and we moved on down the trail. (Note about the volunteers: They were outstanding and could not have been better. All them are trail runners and most of them are Ultramarathoners. They knew exactly what you needed and anticipated it.) The sun began to rise higher in the Texas sky and the heat assault was on. At some point on the back side of the loop I lost my footing on some limestone step ups and cratered to the ground. I escaped any serious injury and the faulty footwork resulted in only a contusion and abrasion to the quad and elbow. The "LOOP" was out for blood and it just got it. That would be sore in the morning. We cruised into the aid station at the end of the first loop without much incident at 1 hour 15 minutes. The air was getting warmer and I could tell this was going to be brutal with 2 loops to go.

At the aid station I had a volunteer top of the bottle as it was now completely empty. I grabbed more pretzels and slammed them down the hatch followed by two cups of Gatorade. I then slammed an Accelerade gel pack for energy, chased it with another cup of water, and was on my way. Marshall had now gone on and I knew that the next time I would see him would be at the finish line. He is a really good runner and can burn the downhills. In fact one runner referred to him as "The Demon of the Downhill" because of his astute footing and incredible speed down the most treacherous terrain. Loop number 2 began and I continued on as before. I was now sweating profusely, the temperature was approaching the 90 degree mark and humidity hung in the air. The limestone continued the pounding and now the legs and body began to notice. "Just somewhat flat ground with no limestone rock"...that's was all my body was asking for. The 20 oz water bottle was now being emptied quicker than the last time and the heart rate was climbing higher than I wanted. I pulled into the aid station at the 9.5 mile mark and thought to myself, "this Godforsaken race is only 1/2 over." Began the same "top off water bottle routine," grabbed more pretzels and some Gatorade and moved on. (This race became a real education in fueling for the trail race as I will detail later.) With only about 3 miles left on loop 2, the trail continued to pound and I attempted to become even more cognizant about my footing, especial as I would run the downhills. On the back side of trail, a runner had severely injured his ankle (thought to be broken) and there was a group of runners and support crew around. I asked if they needed help. I knew that I was not in much condition to do much of anything. The support crew told me they had it covered and to keep going. I pulled into the end of loop 2 aid station at 2 hours 47 minutes.

At this point the volunteers had ice ready as the heat was becoming a factor. I remember something about him mentioning that "even the skinny girls were sweating heavy....not to mention the burly guys." I slammed another gel pack...more pretzels....more Gatorade....more water. At this point I began to actually monitor the sweat production and became mildly concerned with electrolyte balance. My back was beginning to ache and didn't know if was the pounding of the trail or if my kidneys were retaliating because of a sodium imbalance. I pressed on in a dark state of mind. I was suffering and I still had a 6.2 miles to go on a trail that was showing no mercy. My heart rate was through the roof and my ankle now was back to throbbing. I mumbled something about quitting. A fellow runner overheard me and was suffering like the rest of us. Her comment burned into my mind..."You can't quit...You have over 3 hours left before they shut the can walk 6.2 miles in 3 hours." I said thanks and moved on. Picking out a tree and running to it...looking at the next tree and running to it...then a bush....then a rock...and before I knew it I was at the aid station. Here is where my education on fueling took root. The volunteers asked how I was doing...and I replied "I am do I look?" "You always feel worse than you look in these things," one volunteer replied. I mentioned about the pain in my back and wondered if it was my kidneys. After determining where the pain was, they determined it was not my kidneys and then asked, "have you eaten anything?" "Some pretzels and 2 gel packs," was my reply. "You've got to eat!"

I looked at the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ripening in the to the bananas. It was enough that I wanted to puke. "I can't," I said..."just looking at that stuff makes me want to puke." On volunteer said, "get him a salt cap...not wanting to eat is a sign that you need sodium in the system." I popped 2 salt caps and slammed them with water. I then forced myself to eat a banana. I readied myself to move on and to get this suffering over with. At this point one volunteer said, "your going to love this when your done....then your going to start to look for the next one...then a fifty really are going to love it." I said, "yeah, thanks" ...and off I went for the last 2.9 miles. The little food and salt caps must have done the trick. I had more energy and was running in longer jaunts and at a faster pace. My heart rate was still higher than I wanted it but I was nearly done with this thing. With about a mile to go I came upon a runner barely shuffling along. I asked him if he was alright. He mumbled about taking a fall. "Did he need help?" I asked..."No'" he mumbled. Come to find out he probably broke his collarbone in the fall. These trail runners are tough...can I measure up? I turned the corner to the finish. There was my wonderful wife Bren and my three gorgeous kids, Luke, Macy and Hope cheering me on. There was also my brother-in-law and friend who had run a great race at 3 hours 34 minutes. Luke immediately started getting me Gatorade and food. He is a great crew and I can't wait till we can do this together.

I finished in 4 hours 29 minutes 39 seconds. Frankly I am a bit disappointed and embarrassed by my time. In retrospect, I am thankful that I finished as about 25% of the field DNF'ed (did not finish). One runner had passed out due to heat and dehydration. Marshall mentioned that the volunteer crew prohibited one runner from continuing because of blurry vision. I had survived my first trail race. Six hours later, on the trip back to Dallas, I reflected on how I enjoyed the challenge, how I loved pushing myself. The volunteer was right. I loved it. I started the think about the next race....maybe the El Scorcho...a 50K (31 mile)....that begins at midnight. Stay Tuned.