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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I realize that I will be mocked by my Northern brethren and sistahs by me writing a post about inclement weather running. But there is a reason I live in Texas. A good example of this is that when there is an 1/8 of an inch of ice on the road, two things happen: a.) the place will shut down, and b.) those that don't stay put in their homes immediately show there inadequate ice driving techniques...which probably leads to part a.
Temperatures continued to drop on Monday and Tuesday and by Tuesday evening the rain transitioned into freezing rain...sleet. By 2100 hours on Tuesday, there was already a good layer of ice starting to form on the sidewalks and roadways. My daughter, Macy, was celebrating her birthday with her family with a party for her friends to follow this Saturday. Soooooo...a little after 9:00pm I take of for a short 5 mile run.
For 5 miles, I slipped and slid all over the place. When there was grass available I ran on it. Either way, it was tougher than normal. Temperatures were in the 20's (cue the heckles from the Northern peeps) The ice began to collect and freeze on my jacket and hat. My thoughts turned to stories from the Beast Ultra Marathon Series where it was so cold that some of the runners cornea's froze....I didn't run with my IPOD so that I could enjoy the sounds, the wind, the popping of transformers exploding. ( I jest...kinda) I have to say I enjoyed it. Being one of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children (USMC), they rewire the brain housing group to embrace such maladies...I am still not giving up my typical Texas year round warm weather.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Climbing Party

I have been out of pocket for a week or so but rest assured I have continued to stay really busy (and I have been running.) Last Saturday was the birthday of my son, Luke. He loves to climb, has some ability and thus wanted to have a climbing party. So after his 11:00 AM basketball game, we rented out a place so he and his buddies could climb. Pictures to follow including his sister and his dad climbing as well. I really enjoy climbing but lack any really good technique. I close the photo with my 2 year old needs no caption!

Monday, January 12, 2009


In the mid 1980’s a Texas teenager grew up with the Cold War looming large in the minds of Americans. Across the Iron Curtin, a Ukrainian boy, named Dmitry was dealing with the Cold War within the Soviet Union. Little did they know that the 49 plus year ordeal would soon be coming to an end as it was scary times for all. Twenty plus years later there would be a friendship forged between the two on the trails of Bandera Texas, but I get ahead of myself.

In the predawn morning of January 10, 2009 the Bandera State Park was coming to life. The temperature was in the low 50’s and the wind gusty up to 25 to 30 MPH. In a short 4 days, I would be turning 39 years old and was wrapping up the year with the Bandera 50K trail race. It was to be a celebration of my new found love of running trails and my encroaching into the Ultramarathon world for the first time just 6 months prior. As previously posted here, I had been sick for the past 3 ½ weeks and this trail race was known as a tough trail course; beautiful, rugged and tough…much like the Great State of Texas. Not knowing what the course truly beheld to the racers, I had no idea on a goal time. After reviewing previous years results, I felt that running the race in 7 ½ hours would be a stellar performance for myself. Despite recovering from my previous illness, I could tell that there was a trace of asthma in my breathing. It was too late to be concerned abut this now, in a few minutes the gun would go off and it would be time to run like an animal.

Early morning start - up climb number 1

Stage 1 (miles 1 thru 10)

Typical running surface for the about 80% of the course

more rocks...

Stage one is the toughest part of the race. That’s the good news. The bad news? It will beat you up for the rest of the race if you’re not careful. I have to admit that climbs are not bad. Just put your head down and go, you will soon be at the top. Technically, it is fairly difficult. One has to always be cognizant of one’s footing. There are rocks on top of rocks…small rocks, big rocks…rocks on top of rocks. Did I say there were a lot of rocks? I learned something about myself. I love extreme technical downhills. Descending down precarious downhills is not only exhilarating, but an opportunity to make up some time. The downside, (no pun intended), is that it totally hammers the quadriceps, a fact that I would lament later in the race, particular in stage 3. For the first 10 miles a group of five of us hung together. John, Joe, Nancy, and Ross were the four horseman of the Apocalypse from Austin Texas with a great sense of humor. We kept laughing heartily and at on point Ross’s footing was in question. I mentioned to him to be careful. I would hate to have to publicize that an Aggie had to carry a T-Sip down the hill. We were all having a great time and the first 10 miles flew by. I had determined to try to hang with them. Upon leaving the aid station after mile 10 the course leveled out a bit and the four horseman of the apocalypse picked up their pace. I realized that there was no way to keep up with them and finish the race in one piece. In hindsight, I was maybe too aggressive during this first 10 miles.

The four Horseman from Austin - John, Joe, Nancy and Ross

You get the idea...

Stage 2 (miles 11 thru 21)

At mile 11, I was struggling to find a tempo. There was a guy with a funny jester’s hat that ran upon me and I fell in behind him. I liked his pace, his tempo of handling the terrain and I latched on. Of course I start talking to him. His name is Dmitry Rozinsky. He ran five 100 mile races last year. He currently lives in Austin but is originally from the Ukraine. He grew up in the Soviet Union. He married a 4th generation Texan. (That was an indication of how bright he is.) He had run this course many times and completed the 100K race. Additionally, everybody seemed to know him on the trail...a heck of a guy. I inquired what he was anticipating for a finish time. Dmitry’s reply, “some time under 7 hours.” He was running the 50K as a training run to start his training season for the coming year. Dmitry has at least two 100 mile races on the calendar for 2009, one of which is the Western States Race. We talked and the miles flew by. He was coaching me along the way. How to handle the terrain, why we walk this part, when not to go all out… all these things I know but find it hard to do when racing. Four hours into the race and I realized I had yet to urinate. Knowing this is not good, I began to hammer fluids down me. Because of the cool temperatures and high winds, I had not been hydrating like I should have earlier in the race, a mistake that I knew better than to make. At about the 18 mile marker I commented to Dmitry to go on if I was holding him back. His response, “I am not crossing the finish line without you with me.” Dmitry took it on himself to pace me and began to make sure I was staying on top my electrolytes, hydration, and calories. The hydration issues took care of themselves after the Crossroads aid station at mile 21. This part of the trail is the easiest by far. There are a few climbs and more rocks, but you also encounter some undulating soft trails in grassy meadows. We made good time through this part and my legs and body felt good. That would change by the time we would swing back through the Crossroads aid station at mile 26…or so.
Follow the guy in the funny hat - he'll get you there

Notice the runner in the center of the picture

Stage 3 (miles 22 thru 31)

The first time you go through the Crossroad aid station you are beginning to enter that last 3rd of the race. Child’s play of the previous 10 miles is done and the course will fire it’s last shot at you. The terrain begins to get more technical and the climbs begin….again. At mile 23, Three Sisters begins to determine if you were too aggressive at the start of the race. The piper is about to begin collecting for any over aggressiveness on the first 10 miles. Dmitry kept my pace and he maintained a good tempo. At this point I was laboring to keep up and the quadriceps began to show signs of wear….the burn became evermore intense. I mentioned that I think I went out too hard. Dmitry’s comment was, “That’s behind us, we can’t worry about that.” Ascending the 3 sisters was one thing but descending on hammered legs is another. After climbing trail #6 we cruise into the Crossroads aid station for the last time. A volunteer hands me a quesadilla and I believe I swallowed that thing whole….chased it with a cup of chicken noodle soup. That hit the spot. We had 4.25 miles left…and one last short climb...Lucky peak! We leave Crossroads aid station with a volunteer reminding us, dryly, that there are hills and rocks on the course….Really? I hadn’t freaking noticed! Dmitry keeps a hard pace for me and warns he is going to push and ask for me to give more. I nodded. I was really hurting and keeping up was becoming a Herculean task. Dmitry realizes this and now we are running a 100 steps and walking a 100….we are making progress to the foot of Godforsaken Lucky peak. We began the ascension and my quads refused to fire. I mention this and Dmitry responds, “That is called a dead quad…we don’t have time for that, lets pick it up.” I push harder. The descending down the backside of Lucky Peak sent the quads into more anguish. After Lucky Peak, the rest of the course is down hill for about 3 miles. I was on vapors and I was also starving. I would have eaten the back end of a dead armadillo if there were one on the trail. I realized that if this was a longer run I would have had to get some calories in me…but since we were almost done...finish up on vapors…leaving everything on the trails. True to his word, Dmitry finished up with me with us crossing the finish line together….7 hours, 6 minutes, 12 seconds. My tank was empty, but my cup was full.

Literally 2 minutes after finishing

That time was 24 minutes better than my goal time that would have been considered a great accomplishment for me. After nearly 6250 feet of ascending/descending, I finished up the racing season leaving everything I had on the trails. Bandera is beautiful and now has part of my heart. As for Dmitry, a friendship was forged that day. Twenty years ago, either one of us would have ever guessed that our worlds would come together. It is obvious that I would not have done near as well without Dmitry pacing me.

I have so much to learn and so far to go, but for this race, lessons learned:
*Never underestimate the value of a good pacer.
*Soloman XP Wings are fabulous for me in this terrain
*Remember to eat early and often...especially in longer races.
*I need to strengthen the quads for longer more brutal races like the 100K.
*Regardless of the weather, stay on top of hydration.
*Guys in funny hats aren't all bad.
*Keep moving will eventually be over! (we already know this...but somehow trail races keep reminding us don't they?

Now what? I have wrapped up my first year of trail running and ultramarathons. I have been in a training cycle since last February and need to recharge my batteries. So I will be taking a brief break to put the wheels back on the wagon, repaint it, and maybe go look for a little more horsepower.

Dmitry and me after a bit of recovery. He went back out to man an aid station for the 100K racers till 2:00AM!!!!

Brother in law and myself...he had a heck of a race on the 25K

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Spoonfuls of Suffering...and Lots of It.

Bandera 50K Profile (look at those 1st 3 hills!!!)

Bandera is a week away. It has been over 3 weeks from the Dallas Whiterock Marathon and the sickness that ensued. I am now at about 85%-90% percent. Last Sunday I pounded out a brutal and painful 18 mile run in 33 F weather...hacking, coughing, and blowing snot out my nose. Yesterday I did an easy 9 mile trail run...and today I did an hour of spin followed by a 2 mile run. I have run on several other occasions since the marathon...usually 5 to 6 miles, whatever my ailing body would allow. With all that said, I am not as prepared as I want to be for this race. Upon review of my training log, I have been in a training cycle since last February/March 08. Mentally, I am spent. Physically I feel fine but believe I need back off a bit after Bandera.

After Bandera 50K I am clearing the racing schedule and beginning the off season. I contemplated Rocky Raccoon 50 miler in February but just don't have the desire as I feel I am on the edge of overtraining. My resting heart rate of 55 is higher than normal and feel that this is a sign that I need some recovery, mentally if not anything else.

Despite the above prose, I am excited about Bandera. Joe Prusaitis is the race director. He was the race director of my first trail race know as the Loop, the 2nd of 3 in the Rogue Race Series. In the email sent to the runners for Bandera, Joe let it be known that his priority is for the runners to successfully finish the race safely. He also stated...and I quote, " The course is rugged, rocky, and difficult as it was intended to be. I made this course as difficult as I could, while using the parks trail system." Joe used this course to train for the Hardrock 100 mile race in the Colorado Rockies. I know I was cussing Joe about half way through that first 30K (18.6 mile) trail race...then, when it was over...I thought he was a great guy. Joe puts on first class events and this year's Bandera 25K, 50K, 100K races will be no exceptions.

So where does that leave me? I plan on racing the race as well as I can, listening to my body with the priority of finishing. I would like to race it strong, but lets see what happens. Everyone I have talked to that has raced it says..."Man, Bandera is tough." They usually throw in a few expletives for emphasises. I have posted a few pictures of the course for your viewing enjoyment. (I don't know any of the I pulled these pics from the Bandera race site.)

Postscript: My Brother-in-law will be running the 25K as a training run for the Austin Marathon. Something tells me that the Austin Marathon is going to be easier than what I talked him into doing...the Bandera 25K. ;-)