Post No. 101: Ultra Marathon


After much consideration and on the tails of finishing the San Francisco Marathon five days ago, I've registered for my first Ultra Marathon.

It is a 50k (30.7 mi.) run through the trails of Redwood Regional Park. This is a "no joke" course. It is hosted by Pacific Coast Trail Runs and has an elevation gain of 4,500 feet:

Here is a short description on the Pacific Coast Trail Runs website: The course travels through beautiful Redwood Regional Park. Enjoy spectacular views along the East Ridge and West Ridge trails and wind through tall redwoods on the popular Stream and French trails.

It takes place Sept. 5, Labor day weekend and the timing for this seemed perfect. Two, possibly three, fellow runners that follow a similar training program as I do are also running it and have encouraged me to participate. (If they have faith in me, who am I not to have faith in myself?) I also just completed 26.2 miles which means I will be running 28.5 in a couple weeks, then the race 2 weeks later. It works perfectly into my schedule: 

Long distance (26.2), two week taper, longer distance (28.5), two week taper, RACE!

I am not taking this choice lightly; It is a trail run which I have zero experience for and is a distance I have never ran. Goal: Do not get injured and finish. That's it. I'm not going to break any world records, so I plan on taking this experience head on with those two goals: no injuries and to just finish. It has a 9 hour finish time and rest stops every 10k. I'll be working in alot of trail runs over the next month and invest in some reading in preparation, so any words of advice are much appreciated.

The posts for the next month will most likely catalog my journey... but don't worry, I am a Pavement Runner with what looks like trail runner aspirations.


The San Francisco Marathon

At peace; That's how I feel about last Sunday's San Francisco Marathon. I was able to shave 7 minutes off my PR in three months and on a far from fast and easy course. San Francisco is full of hills and is a challenging course, even if it is in my backyard.

My goal was 4:30, which I knew was an ambitious goal, but one within reach. But I ran the race absolutely perfect for that given day on that given course. My strategy was to clock 10:20 miles for the first 13-16 miles putting me on pace for a 4:30 finish — then evaluate the second-half and maintain my pace or increase it 10-15 seconds. Unfortunately, I didn't have the resources to do either. My second-half pace turned into 11 min miles and that's how I finished.

However, this race brought out a couple feelings that I had yet to experience in my brief running career. For the first time I got (what I believe) was a runner's high. Around mile 18, I felt my whole body tingle from head to toe in waves for several minutes, my mind felt like it entered a surreal state and poorly stated "I just felt different." It lasted for what felt like 10 mins., but it could have been shorter/longer. Very interesting experience. It didn't really give me an energy boost physically. Sure, mentally, I felt good but it didn't cause me to increase my pace. I'd have to say I enjoyed it though.

Secondly, I've never understood the saying "I left it all out there." Sure I've finished tired and exhausted, but this weekend "I left it all out there." I've never had the feeling where wanted to stop or felt that I couldn't run the last mile -until Sunday. I was within a half mile of the finish line and I had to stop and walk for a few seconds. I looked at my watch and it read 4:40. I thought to myself "I could walk this in and still PR by a few minutes." That is tough to know that inside you have reached a point where giving up is an option. I had absolutely nothing left in the tank with the finish line in sight. Somehow I told myself that I couldn't walk it in and got my feet moving. Typically you can expect the last mile or two to be faster, but my pace was level from mile 20 on. 11:00 min/miles give or take 10 seconds across the board. I was on autopilot and finished at 4:45:24.

And that puts me at peace with my time. Sure I'm a little disappointed I didn't break into 4:30, but knowing that I gave it everything I had and finished with nothing left is all I can ask for; it was a good race for me.

From our running group we had 18 people running (half or full) and 7 PRs which is a nod to our training, the support we provide for each other and excellent coaching. We couldn't be successful without one another.

I'd like to thank my friends and family that came out to support along with the FB community that threw tons of cheers and congrads my way on Sunday. You are all amazing.

I had a special give-away planned for the 100th post, but I think I'm going to hold off for a couple posts. I may have a big announcement this week. We'll see... oh, what a teaser. Haha.



Three months ago (almost to the day) I was getting ready for my fourth Full Marathon - and now I am getting ready for what has proven to be a difficult course for me (The San Francisco Full). The first time I ran it in 2007, I was recovering from a severely sprained ankle and just managed to finish the 26.2. In 2008, I was dealing with IT band issues and managed to run the course well enough, but obviously not within reach of my personal goals.

This year, I am 100% healthy and it is an interesting situation: I am running faster than I ever have before and feel like I am at a point in running fitness that I have not previously reached. I am definitely not at my peak, but my best form to date. I know this course front-wards and backwards, it's in my backyard and I have zero excuses not to PR.

So, let's do it: My current PR is 4:52:56 and my goal is to shoot for 4:30. Yes, that is a drastic improvement, but that's what we do: we challenge ourselves. We go out and see what we can accomplish. It's a realistic goal that given the right circumstances I could finish well under 4:30. But at the same time, I can finish well over it. Only time will tell.

This is post No. 99 — which means post No. 100 will be the race results. I'll have to come up with something special for such an occasion. Until then, cheers.


Hopefully, Dreams Don't Come True

I was 2 miles into my race when I realized that I was wearing the wrong shoes. For some reason I was in my Asics GTs (that I wear for less than 5 mi.) rather than my Asics Kayano (which I wear for everything else). Then I felt a sharp pain on the ball of right foot. When I looked at the bottom of the shoe, there was a hole. I had over-trained in that pair and the bottom of the shoe had worn thin.

I thought I would be able to run through it, but with every foot plant a shooting pain went through my foot. I would try to convince myself to get through the pain and start to move again, but it wouldn't last long, even after several attempts. I wouldn't be able to finish the race this way with over 24 miles to go... then I woke up.

I have a marathon in 6 days - one that I have high hopes for. However, this dream does have some roots in validity. For the past 3 months I have been training in my Asics Kayanos (my preferred shoe of choice) and at my last training run (the 23 miler) I could feel that my shoes
were close to their end. Usually my shoes will last 3 months safely, but I have been logging more (and faster) miles than normal. This pair has one last run (hopefully) before they are "done" and that run will be in 6 days at the SF full.

I have another brand new pair of Kayanos in the box ready to be broken in, but I'm not foolish enough to wear a brand new pair on race day. Perhaps with my recent training I may have to break in two long distance pairs at a time. I have faith in the shoes I plan to wear this weekend, we've been on the road, across dirt, over hills, up at 4am, and out after work. All I ask is that we run just 26.2 miles more together.


Disappearing Weeks

Funny the way it is that weeks can disappear. That's right, a whole week just disappeared from the calendar, have you seen it? Luckily my Marvel Comics calendar is on the case and I think they have decided that the missing week is due to user error.

No matter how many times I look at the calendar or answer the question "When is your next race?" I managed to misplace an entire week. Sure enough I thought I had another week before the San Francisco Marathon. Maybe because the last couple years it has been the first weekend in August, my internal runner clock expects another week.

Oh well, one week to go until my fifth full marathon and second this year. 2009 has been kind thus far.

As a special give away for disappearing weeks, the first 5 people to leave a comment on the blog about funny things that happen while running will get a Free MP3 song courtesy of Starbucks. (The first 3 will receive Dave Matthews Band "Write a Song").


A Tough 23

Having a bad long-distance run is bound to happen occasionally, but knowing what went wrong is essential to avoid having history repeat itself more than one would like.

Running 23 miles doesn't start with the first mile, it begins days in advance. (FYI: Knowing this doesn't prevent you from making mistakes, it just helps reduce them). The week prior to my final long-distance training run before the RunSF Marathon was full of mental mistakes. Lack of sleep, poor eating habits and preferred clothing would all pose problems Saturday morning, but Friday night would be the essential key in creating my tough 23 miles.

Knowing better, I went out with some friends to a Mexican Restaurant Friday night and enjoyed a couple adult beverages, chips and salsa and something called a "Giant Burrito." Honestly, it wasn't that huge, but if it has "Giant" in the title... maybe avoid it when you have a 4 hour run planned the following morning.

After hanging out post-dinner I made it home by 10:30 p.m. or so which isn't too bad with a 4:30 wake up call. But after getting my stuff ready for the morning and realizing my running shorts were dirty, it led to washing them in the sink with laundry detergent. And of course, the sink would give me issues: the sink plug jammed closed and wouldn't release the water. So there I am with soapy shorts and a sink full of soapy water. It's a little after 11 and common sense would say go to another sink, rinse and fix the broken one tomorrow. NOPE. Stay up till after midnight and fix the one you broke. Friday night mistake #2.

After waking up an hour late I made my way into the city for my 23 mile run and didn't have high expectations for a successful run. Little sleep, a full stomach from dinner and no breakfast is not key to a good run.

The 23 mile run included a never ending hill, a couple more hills to mix it up and some dense misty fog that was pulled out of the late and great Michael Jackson's Thriller video. Oh ya, I didn't have time to go to the store before the run to pick up some Gatorade so in my water bottle was water and a packet of Cytomax grape powder. About 20 minutes in I go to enjoy some and it taste like poo (yep, I said poo). I think the powder may have gone bad (if that's possible). I grab so many free samples at expos and events that this could have been an old packet, so I dumped the entire bottle. No sense in carrying water I wasn't going to drink. I then proceeded to run the first 10 miles without water. Luckily I was able to score some at our first water stop (provided by some fellow running friends). Energy level shot up, but still poor planning on my part.

The remaining 13 miles went well  in minutes per mile, but were just mentally exhausting. My legs felt heavy and I just wanted to do was stop. But thankfully, I was running with a great and supportive group and just kept plotting along.

If I had been running alone, I most likely would have stopped around 15, but the final long run is in the bag and the pre-marathon taper has begun. Hopefully my mistakes will be food for thought for your future, although being able to get through that run mentally may be great preparation for things that could arise race day. Silver lining in the clouds?

Have you had any bad running experiences due to mental mistakes before hand? Feel free to share.


3 Day Results

I would have to say that my 3 day challenge was a success simply by committing to it and accomplishing it. But after looking at the timed results, it would appear it was a success on that platform as well. Here is the mile by mile breakdown over a 3-day period:

Plan: Run 10 miles three days in-a-row
Route: A 5 mile out and back the same for all three days

Day 1
Legs felt sluggish from the start, but the goal was to finish with a 9 min. per mile pace (mission accomplished) and not burn myself out on day 1. It was also my first time running the route, so there were a few moments of: "OK, let's turn here."

Drink during run: Orange Gatorade
Food at 5 mi. mark: Strawberry Banana Gu

Day 2
Legs felt great from the start. Goal was to beat previous day's time, but keep in mind there is a day 3 (mission accomplished).

Drink before run: Red Bull
Drink during run: Orange Gatorade
Food at 5 mi. mark: Chocolate Gu (my favorite)

Day 3
Legs felt as sluggish as day 1, bottoms of my feet were sore and energy level was low. Goal was to simply finish the 10 mi without injury, somewhere between the finishing times of Day 1 & 2 (mission surpassed with exact time as day 2).

Note: As you can see the last 3 miles of Day 3 there was a gradual increase in mile time because I realized that if I picked up my pace, I could meet (or beat) Day 2's time.

Extra special Note: The final mile of all three days produced the fastest min. per mile pace.

Drink before run: Red Bull
Drink during run: Orange Gatorade (ok, there was a sale, so I bought a case of the orange; sheesh)
Food at 5 mi. mark: Espresso Gu (not my favorite, but it has a 2x caffeine)

The first thing that stands out are the negative splits across the board. (Negative Splits mean running the second half faster than the first.) These are ideal in all conditions and something we runners strive for (not all, but I'd be comfortable in saying most).

The second thing that struck me was that the third day had almost identical times as day two. Sure, day three was more consistent, but the 5 mile mark and 10 mile mark look very similar. With the way I was feeling on Day 3, these were unexpected results

The third thing would be the interesting number of calories burned per run. Apparently there is no equivalent in calories burned and how fast your finish time is. Maybe it lies in the pace per mile? More research is needed.

Well, there it is. My 3 day challenge is complete. Did the pre-run Red Bull produce faster times? Not sure about that one, but it is an interesting occurrence. Also, with my legs feeling the best on Day 2, it didn't create the best overall run... that I believe goes to Day 3 with each mile being run at a more consistent pace and the final 3 miles (arguably last 7 miles), run at an increasingly faster pace. Gotta love my Garmin — it has improved my running tremendously, by allowing me to see results.

Thanks for following along and adding comments on facebook. It added some motivation to get out there on day 3.


4th of July Weekend Plans

With it being a short week and my not having logged any miles this week, how about we plan an interesting challenge this weekend: 3 days, 3 runs, 30 miles, 1 lake. It'll be 10 miles a day, three days in a row around a gorgeous lake at sunrise.

I'll be at Clear Lake in Lake County, CA for the weekend starting Thursday night. The plan is Friday morning I'll rise just before the sun with my Garman and put in 10 miles. Then do it again Saturday and Sunday. Three days in a row is a lot for me since I usually run 3 times a week and rarely two days in a row.  

I'll be sure to share with you how it went when I return. Safe travels to those traveling and enjoy the weekend.

This post is going to be short, but I'd love to hear you plans for the 4th of July weekend. There are plenty of 5k and 10ks out there to be conquered...