Monthly Archives: May 2011

Vermont 50…I’m comin’ for you.

Almost omen-like, following on the footsteps of my last post regarding running both fast and far, an opportunity made its way into my life. A facebook friend who lives out East casually mentioned a race they thought my wife and I should do, seeing as how it offered both a trail running category and a mountain bike category. One for me, one for her. I immediately dismissed it, thinking the life logistics of finding someone to take care of our kid, dog and cat would prove to be overwhelming. Well, my wife thought otherwise and although I secretly wanted to do this race really bad, I never verbalized it….but then she did.

She quickly made the connection between the race’s September start date and our 1 year anniversary that also falls within the same month, successfully drawing a logical connection between the two. And within a day we had made the plans to celebrate our 1 year anniversary by….what else….subjecting ourselves to an excruciating test of endurance! Our plans for the Vermont 50 had been hatched.

Now all we have to do is train.

Well, that and sign up. Fortunately, for me, the run portion doesn’t sell out (capped at 550 runners) until sometime in August, maybe even September, but unfortunately, for Michelle, the bike portion sells out in hours. Sheeeit. Somehow, in the next WEEK we need to carve out $100+ dollars in our budget and reserve it for the registration fee, and then sit in front of the computer ready to submit our information and secure her a spot in the race. Once we pull that off, we’ll be good to go.

Well, then we have to get back to training. From that standpoint, we have the fortune of our 5 year old going off to live with his dad in Colorado for 5 weeks starting the 25th, although that will be quite an emotional blow to Michelle. From a training standpoint, which I’m sure she’ll drown her sorrows in, we’ll have ample opportunity to get our flatland butts down to Southern Indiana for some serious trail running and riding.

For now though, I’ve ramped it back up and am getting in solid speed training, even knocking out serious intervals on the track once again. And it feels good. My mileage has been bouncing around the 80’s to 100’s for awhile now, but I’ve now got the strength and confidence to start throwing in the fast stuff, even with the 30 miles I’m pulling off on the weekends. And I’m LOVING it.

My eyes, and more importantly, my mind are set on Vermont and although I’m sufficiently scared of the task ahead, I also know I have 4 months to prepare as best I can and see what happens. I won’t lie…I want to run the 50 miles, filling the “far” quota, but I also want to see what I can do with the “fast” portion of the equation. Looking at the past years results, I think I can make a go for A, if not THE, top spot, but don’t think I’m jumping into this arrogantly. This is a whole ‘nother beast and I’ll be doing my best not to bite off more than I can chew, but instead prepare accordingly.

No matter what comes, the trip is going to be awesome. Vermont. Friends. Trails. Racing. Our one year anniversary. We can’t lose!!

Now….point me toward the hills!!!

Fast > Far

I have a new appreciation for speed.

If you have been following one of my other projects then you know I just completed an endurance run to raise money for the cross country team I am helping coach next season. I came up with the ridiculous idea to run as far as I could on a treadmill, racking up the dollars that kids gathered through pledges-per-mile and by the time the effort was over I was running for $16.66 per mile, no small bucket of change mind you. In all I ran 45 miles…on a treadmill. I’m still trying to let that sink in and get a feeling of amazed accomplishment, but so far I haven’t really been that blown away by it, mainly because…get this…it wasn’t that hard.

Going into this run I had logged some big long run mileage, hitting 30 miles a couple Saturday’s, one time even running 6:30 minute miles for the distance without even trying to put in effort. Needless to say, that was a very encouraging run that had me thinking I might run much further than I had originally thought. And what I thought I might run was around 30 – 40 miles, but without ever getting into that sort of distance I had no idea how my body would respond, so I didn’t make any definitive distance goals. I was just going to be pleased with anything over 30 miles.

Now, in order to raise enough money for the team I decided to scale back my pace per mile to something a little more manageable and decided I could handle running at 7:30 pace for awhile. I didn’t want to go too hard and really compromise the money we might raise, but I also didn’t want to run super slow and barely call it running at all. I figured 7:30 was a good happy medium…and in the end I think I was right.

Still, it was really easy.

I was having conversations through the entire run, all the way to the end when my body finally said, “Ok, your ass is done.” I half joked that I would run until my body broke down, but ultimately that is what happened. Somewhere around 32 miles things started to drag on, but nothing excruciating. Then somewhere around 38 miles I noticed that deep pain that engulfs ones legs towards the final miles of a marathon. Then at around 42 I had to start concentrating. Then when I was considering making a push to 50 miles, my hip flexor let me know, quite pointedly, that it had other plans and sent a stabbing pain into my hip. I managed to limp out another 800 to 45 miles, but then that was it. Anything further would have caused long-term damage. So yes, I ran until my body broke down, which I suppose warranted some degree of effort due to the difficulty of running through the pain, but it was nothing like I’ve experienced during FAST races, and in that I developed a new appreciation for speed.

2 days after the run my legs were pretty much back to normal. Today, three days later, I ran 15 miles, most of them fast. I’m completely recovered. What 45 mile run? That recovery in itself also underscores my point, that speed takes a greater effort, both physical and mental, than distance. Speed requires very intense and very focused work to achieve, creating small bursts of pain that ultimately lead to one final race consumed with effort and pain. Conversely, distance requires simply long, epic, enjoyable runs that slowly build the capacity to continue running further. Sure, it can be an effort sometimes and, sure, it can hurt sometimes, but it’s just not the same as what creates speed.

So after 45 miles at 7:30 pace, a ridiculous total for me, I was almost able to run the next day due to the slowed effort and conserved pounding on the body, but after 26.2 miles at 5:34 pace in the Chicago Marathon I was nearly crippled for a few months, holding on to walls at work for the next week because I had stressed my systems to their breaking point….and then kept stressing them, pounding them over and over again.

Distance is like getting lightly punched in the arm 100 times. Speed is like getting just ONE spin kick from Bruce Lee in the same place. Guess which one will have the lasting effect.

But then there is something else….distance at speed. The marathon, for all purposes, is this, but the distance is so common to be neglected. The next plateau is an ultramarathon at speed. I can’t imagine what that must feel like….but I also can’t deny that I’d like to know. To be honest, because I’m riding on this high of new running frontiers by accomplishing this distance, with relative ease, I would have liked to have run the Dances With Dirt ultramarathon coming up, alas, I have previous plans. I’m not planning anything right now as my running is always a bi-weekly consideration at this point, but I’m also not ruling out having a go at a long distance, but with some speed. I’m curious what that kind of pain must feel like. I’m also curious what that sort of accomplishment must feel like even more.

Time will tell.