Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “Across the Years”

2014 in Review: Reflecting & Giving Thanks

It’s a bit hard to believe that 2015 is already upon us. It’s been an incredible year of running for me, and has left me even more excited for what is to come this year! The new year is typically a time of reflection, resolutions, and giving thanks for those things in your life that you are…well…thankful for. I’m not much for resolutions, as I think you should be able to begin something new or change something for the better in your life at any point during the year. In truth, I hear and read more about people breaking “resolutions” that they began on January 1st, whereas I read countless stories about people who decided to change their lives at other points during the year and are ultimately more successful. You need look no further than the change in gym attendance between January 1st and March 1st (see, 2 months…that’s about as much optimism as you’ll get from me 🙂 ) to understand broken New Years resolutions! While I may not be one for resolutions, I certainly understand the value of reflection and giving thanks.

I began this year riding a bit of a running high after just completing the Across the Years 24 Hour Run and hitting the 100-mile mark for the first time. This fed my running enthusiasm, and I was eager to begin planning my race calendar for the upcoming year. In the process, I set two larger goals for myself, and decided to let the rest fill itself in as the year unfolded. I wanted to complete my first 100K race, which was a distance I had still yet to race, and I wanted to tackle a true trail 100 mile race. My first 100K attempt taught me a lot, including how to endure my first DNF, and I bounced back to summit the distance a month later. This accomplishment left me feeling great heading into the summer months, and ready to take on my Mark Twain 100 adventure. My training over the summer months went splendidly as the miles added up, and I traveled down to the Mark Twain National forest feeling ready and eager to hit the trails. The experience proved to be more challenging than I could have imagined, and I learned quite a bit about my running and myself along the way. I ultimately completed the race with the help of an incredible partner & crew chief, and some amazing friends. That belt buckle was certainly the highlight of my running year, and has left me excited for future 100-mile (and beyond!) adventures. Along the way, I tossed in some wonderful relays with friends, as well as several marathons, and some unexpected PRs.

Adam- 2014

For as many races as I ran, there were and are always others that I’ve yet to run. The beautiful epicurean will attest to the fact that I’m constantly talking about exciting race destinations, and there is a part of me that would probably travel every weekend if I could. However, this year has given me pause to appreciate the daily miles, the early morning runs with friends, the solo lunchtime runs, and the opportunity to explore my daily existence in a new way. In total, I covered more than 3,100 miles this year, a number I could hardly fathom just a few years ago. I didn’t set out to break the 3,000 mile mark, but I did find new value in consistency. I finished up that consistency with the #RWRUNSTREAK with a group of friends this year, and ran at least once every day from Thanksgiving until New Years Day. In all, I tallied 313 miles during that period, but also grew to love the consistency of regular running even more. Today is my first potential day off, and head is telling me to rest so I can be ready for a long run tomorrow morning, but my heart is itching to get out there for a few miles. We’ll see which one wins out!

More than the races, miles, and accomplishments, I find myself thankful for quite a few things this year. Running is so much more than exercise. It truly is a way of life, however cliché that may sound, and I feel more alive, more energized, and more passionate every day because of it. It is a constant reminder of so many things, as well as an opportunity to clear my head. The beauty is, of course, that it’s also the best time to fill my head back up with crazy running plans, philosophical monologues, and stories yet to be written. The opportunity to run with so many amazing people on a regular basis leaves me incredibly thankful for such a generous, caring, energetic, sarcastic, and sincere community. Running with someone allows you to be yourself in a way that few other activities do, and I’m constantly amazed and grateful for that. On the whole, we spend far too little time truly being ourselves, and we should all be so eager to slip on a pair of running shoes and let the thoughts, emotions, and opinions flow. In particular, I’ve met some of the most amazing friends I’ve ever had through my running adventures, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Everyone brings something just a little bit different to the table, shares something unique with me, trusts me and allows me the opportunity to open up to them. I’ll always be convinced that true friendships are forged through lived experiences, adventures, and miles traveled. I am constantly honored to share those miles with the such an amazing group of friends.

Ending the year with a fantastic Holiday party!

Ending the year with a fantastic Holiday party!

This year of running has also left me that much more aware of what an amazing, loving, and supportive partner I get to spend my life with and share in adventures. There seem to be plenty of articles out there about “how to live with a runner”, “how to live with a ultrarunner”, or “how to make sure running doesn’t take over your marriage”. There are just as many stories out there by frustrated runners with partners that aren’t as supportive as they would like, tell them they are crazy for what they love, or view running as an impediment to a strong relationship. I would venture to guess that if you are blaming running for problems in your relationship, then you may just have some other concerns to address. I have no doubt that running makes our relationship stronger each and every day. I see that in the excitement in her eyes when I share my running thoughts, the intentional inquiries about how my runs went, and the detailed support at races and the daily adjustments she makes so running continues to be a part of OUR lives.

So, as I cross the starting line that is 2015, I know that as long as I have a pair of running shoes, I have everything. Not just health and fitness, but community, friends, thoughtful contemplation, and a life partner. What more could I ask for?

Race Report: Across the Years, Part 2

It really is amazing how the idea of a moment yet to pass can consume you in small but impactful ways. I had a very busy semester, so I didn’t have the luxury of letting my brain compulsively obsess over the thought of running for 24 straight hours. However, it certainly crept into my sub-conscious a fair amount, and I spent far more time planning and training for this event than any previous event. However, when the gun went off and I began making relentless forward progress, it still took a few laps for the enormity of what lay ahead of me to sink in.

Settling in for a long winter's night...

Settling in for a long winter’s night…

I very quickly began chatting with other runners. Runners in general, and ultra-runners especially, are a very eager bunch when it comes to conversing during races. I’m guessing it has something to do with the knowledge that you are free to talk about all things running to your heart’s content, and those around you won’t start rolling their eyes after a few minutes. We geeked out over recent ultra-running world records, shared race stories, and discussed life. When you have nothing else to do except circle a one-mile loop for 24 hours, you are free to discuss a whole host of topics. The result of this instant discussion was a pace that was perhaps a bit ambitious for such a long trial. I’m sure you are all completely surprised by this, eh?

10, 20, and 35 miles...staying consistent.

10, 20, and 35 miles…staying consistent.

Luckily, the beautiful epicurean, being the amazing support team that she is, was quick to remind me to “slow the f*** down!” I let the words ring in my ears on repeated occasions, and finally settled into a reasonable pace after about 5 miles. I was able to find runner after runner eager to chat, and meeting so many committed people who understood what this event meant was a welcome and uplifting experience. Not the least of which, I found myself in the presence of true greatness as Yiannis Kouros had traveled to Arizona to attempt to break the 6-day world record. To say that this man is a living legend is a bit of an understatement. He holds pretty much every ultra-distance world record from 12 hours (which just fell) to 1000 miles. The opportunity to share the course with him was an amazing reminder of just how small and connected the ultra-running community truly is, and how much I enjoy it. Everyone supports everyone else, and simply wants to see each other succeed in whatever endeavor they are after.

The miles continued to tick by as I rounded each corner and continued to cross the timing mat. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect (low 70s, cloudy) and I was feeling really good. I continually found inspiration in the stories of others, as well as the inspirational running quotes the epicurean had printed on signs she would randomly hold up as I passed by. Those signs were a big hit with many of the runners! I tackled the first 25 miles, stopping along the way for water and snacks, and my legs were still feeling fresh as could be. I was happy to know that my little trek of Camelback Mountain a few days prior had not been too much of a strain.

I saw this sign MANY times!

I saw this sign MANY times!

Right before the race began, I heard a woman, very clearly a veteran of such events, talking with a few other 24- hour runners. She encouraged them to aim for reaching the first 50 miles in 10 hours, which would mean 14 hours to run the next 50 miles. I hadn’t given much thought to mileage goals at that point, but after quickly doing the pacing math in my head, it seems like pretty solid advice so I figured I’d see if it worked for me. Although it is a timed race, meaning you simply run as far as you can or want in the allotted time, most 24-hour runners I met were hoping to hit 100 miles. Up to this point, my longest run at been 53 miles, and although I had conservatively aimed to hit at least 100K, I was not so secretly gunning for my first 100-miler as well. I was cautiously optimistic but still made a point of asking the race staff if it would be possible to keep running past 24 hours if I ended up close to 100 miles. They, of course, were most gracious and indicated that there would be no problem in doing so, and I wasn’t the first person to ask! All that being said, I hit the 50-mile mark in about 9 hours 30 minutes, and I was feeling confident in my chances of reaching 100.

Views like this helped the miles fly by...

Views like this helped the miles fly by…

Running all day, although long and relatively tiring, still seemed normal. I logged a majority of my training miles between dawn and dust. I knew that the true challenge, physically and mentally, would come when the sun went down. It may have been beautiful in Arizona, but Phoenix tilts on the same axis as Ames, which meant the sun set relatively early, as it had done over the same desert landscape for thousands of years. The aid station was full-service, and they offered meals at various times, so I managed to take a walk-break over the dinner hour. It felt nice to eat real food, as opposed to snacks and other nutrition supplements. The temperature dropped slowly but consistently, and by the time I hit the 12-hour mark, darkness had taken hold and the cold was creeping in. However, my Minnesota blood kept me warm, and the knowledge that every mile I ran from there on out was the longest I had ever run kept me energized and motivated.

The epicurean departed with the setting sun, but our rest “site” remained. The lounge chair we brought became a more and more tempting symbol of relief as the miles passed, but I resisted. I had no intention of stopping to rest or nap throughout the 24-hours, as I knew I was capable of staying awake. My overnight training run ended up being an even better predictor of my body’s fatigue than I imagined, and I was met with no surprises throughout the night. If anything, I felt less tired during the race than I had on my overnight training run!

As the hours dragged on, now slowly counting down from 12, I was able to embrace the darkness. In all reality, the course was very well-lit, both by the permanent lighting of Camelback Ranch, and the temporary lighting set up by Aravaipa Running, who organized the race. It was a welcome relief not to need a headlamp during the night, although I would have been ready with my Petzl if it was needed. We switched directions on the course every 4 hours to prevent repetition injuries, and it was amazing how detailed my memory of every aspect of the course became. I broke up the night was mini-goals for myself, whether it was looking ahead to my next stop at the aid station, or simply getting to a particular segment of the course before taking a walk break. I had memorized the course so well that I knew exactly how far I had to go and how long it was going to take me. At various points, I was even able to get a bit of shut-eye while running. I knew exactly when to open my eyes before approaching a turn.

As previously mentioned, I was looking forward to testing the endurance of my Garmin 910xt as well. Once I hit 75 miles, I began to keep a closer eye on my watch as the battery continued to drain. I received the “low battery” indicator around mile 80, and it finally died around mile 89. I had gotten almost 20 hours out of it, and would have probably been able to squeeze a few more miles out of it with some tweaks. I had initially planned on a 25 minute run/ 5 minute walk routine, and had set the watch up to give me those alerts. I ended up following more of a 1 mile run/ 1 minute walk routine, which worked much better for me, but I didn’t turn off the alert until at least half-way into the race. I fired up Strava on my iPhone 5 to track the remainder of the race, and I continued on my way.

Once I hit mile 90, I allowed myself to breathe a small sigh of relief and I gained some much-needed confidence that I could indeed reach 100 miles. The final 10 miles were the purest test of endurance I’ve ever experienced, as I continually pushed and motivated myself via different mind tricks and mini-goals, a quarter-mile at a time. I had pulled out my iPod and listened to a few Sherlock Holmes stories earlier in the evening to help pass the time, but by the time I reached the final 10 miles, this seemed like an unnecessary distraction. I received amazing amounts of encouragement from fellow-runners at various points in their own quests. After mile 95, I found myself rather giddy I was slowly pushed onward. My legs were tired, nothing tasted all that good, and the pings of sleep deprivation had crept in, but I was close!

I remember parts of the final lap, but more so the excitement and relief that came with crossing the timing mat and knowing I had reached 100 miles. I crossed with a fellow Maniac I had met on the course, and he echoed my joy and excitement at having reached such a milestone. He would reach his own 100-mile milestone in a few short laps. I hit the 100-mile mark at 22 hours 16 minutes, and kept going for a few more laps, mainly because I could.

This was such a beautiful sight after 22-plus hours!

This was such a beautiful sight after 22-plus hours!

In total, I finished with 103.93 miles per the timing system, and 105.2 miles per my Garmin stats. After turning in my timing chip, I picked up my finisher’s glass pint mug and 100-mile belt buckle, and hobbled back to our site to pack things up. There was no ceremony, no crowd, and no fanfare attached to the completion. I like it that way. There is a humbleness and down-to-earth attitude about ultra-running that sets it apart from other sports. Everyone is out there doing what they love, and the reward comes with the sense of accomplishment and experience of pushing yourself further than you thought possible. I did that, and I felt accomplished. My legs may have been sore to a degree I hadn’t felt in quite some time, but I had a huge grin on my face!

All smiles...especially when not moving anymore :)

All smiles…especially when not moving anymore 🙂

Many runners were still out on the course, including they intrepid 6-day runners. I still can’t wrap my head around running for 6-days, but I fear it’s not as far off in the distance I once thought it to be. Honestly, I never thought 100 miles was a distance I would reach, but I suppose I can say the same thing about my previous milestones as well. It was an experience I will never forget, and like a drug, it was a feeling I will continue to crave in the future. I’m in the process of finalizing my 2014 schedule now, so that “fix” isn’t far off. The “trial of miles” continues.

Note #1: Yiannis Kouros battled Joe Fejes for the 6-day title. They were within miles of each other for the entire race, which was amazing in itself. Ultimately, Fejes bested Kouros, tallying a bit over 555 miles for a new American record. Kouros was only 5 miles behind. INCREDIBLE!

Note #2: You didn’t think I’d leave without showing you my first belt buckle, did you?

ATY 11

“Going the Distance” Into the New Year

I think I’ve probably mentioned before that the past 4 months have been rather busy! Between my training, teaching, writing, and everyday living, I’ve been left with little time for much else. In the next two weeks, much of that will be coming to a conclusion as I transition into a new stage in my life. On Saturday, I’ll be walking across the stage for the third time, and graduating with my doctorate. This will be followed by multiple family holiday celebrations. From there, we’ll be flying to Phoenix for more holiday fun (in much warmer weather, mind you), and it will in many ways culminate with my 24-hour running adventure on December 28-29. It is going to be a busy end to the year, as this time of year tends to be for many people. There will no doubt be plenty of celebrating, reflecting, and goal-setting for the upcoming year.

Quote3

Each of these pieces of the puzzle has been a part of chasing 42, and I am looking forward to continuing the chase into the new year and towards new goals and accomplishments. You can expect a complete and detailed review of Across the Years once I return to Iowa and a consistent internet connection. In the meantime, I may pop in with some quick updates. I’ll be returning to our regularly scheduled program in 2014 as the adventures continue. Same Bat time, same Bat channel! No matter where the next few weeks take you, I hope they are enjoyable and spent doing what you love…and hopefully logging those miles as well 🙂

The Law of Exponential Taper Gremlin Growth

At any given time, the last 20 weeks or so either feel like they have blown by quicker than I could blink or crawled by at a pace that would make a 3-toed sloth laugh. This weekend, I tackled a sub-zero marathon on Saturday, and then slogged through a snow-covered follow-up run on Sunday. Each had their highs and lows, but they were good training runs and I’m feeling strong. More importantly, this weekend marked my last long back-to-back weekend, which means I now have the long-awaited joy of tapering! Did I say joy? Maybe I meant disdain. You see, the psychological and physical aches and pains that tapering, combined with a long and intense training season, bring, seem to have grown to proportions I haven’t experienced before. This obviously led me to wonder if there might be more to my extended tapering pains. The result is a theory that will no doubt win me accolades the world over, so I guess y’all should feel honored that I’m sharing it with you first!

Perfect weather for a marathon, eh?

Perfect weather for a marathon, eh?

Aside from the vehicle-induced aches and pains I recently incurred, I’ve noticed that the phantom wandering pains that typically arrive during my taper period came much earlier this time around. I probably started feeling various issues about 5 weeks ago, and they’ve been flowing through my body ever since. My right Achilles was acting up, and then it was my left forefoot, along with both of my knees at various points, and my groin before that. I’ve monitored all of these issues, and they’ve gradually dissipated and then disappeared altogether. However, they seemed to begin around the time I really started to look forward to my upcoming trip to Arizona and Across the Years. I’ve written before about battling the injury gremlin, and this most recent ongoing battle led me to wonder if the fact that everything was happening earlier had anything to do with the increased distance I was running. I mean, I will be attempting to run longer than I’ve ever run before, and the entire race experience will be brand new. I’ll be stepping into uncharted territory, much like all of my other running firsts. Perhaps my body knows this, and it began making me hyper-aware of every ache and pain that much earlier as a result.

I think winter is finally here.

I think winter is finally here.

Over the last two years, I’ve pushed myself harder and further than ever before, and my endurance has certainly increased. My recovery time has also decreased, which has been a welcome development, especially considering my consistent back-to-back long runs on the weekends. As a result, my outlook on various distances has changed along with my goals, which is to be expected, I suppose. This has led me to contemplate the recent exponential growth of my tapering conundrum. It would seem as if the more I increase my race distance, the earlier my taper gremlin emerges to start whispering sweet nothings in my ear. In general, you can think about this Law of Exponential Taper Gremlin Growth like this:

Taper Graph 2.1

Now I should be clear that my sample (methodology) is one of convenience (me) and these results may be limited to my own well-being (limitations). However, it seems fairly clear at this point that the longer the race, the longer the tapering aches and pains. This wouldn’t be horrible, except for that fact that I’m still only tapering for the next three weeks, which means I have been left to deal with the drawbacks of a taper, while still logging long distances. This hardly seems fair! If a graphical representation hasn’t made this new, highly scientific discussion clear, I will also include a more detailed explanation (discussion). Ultimately, I think I can work through the following race distance stages.

Stage 1 (Half-Marathon): I’m ready and feeling good- let’s go!

Stage 2 (Marathon): I could sure use a massage, but let’s knock this out!

Stage 3 (50K): I think my knees could definitely use the rest.

Stage 4 (50 miles): My back, knees, and shins are definitely feeling the training, but I’m ready.

Stage 5 (100K): Thoughts of seeing a PT or podiatrist creep in a few times a week.

Stage 6 (100 miles/ 24 hours): Those thoughts are happening daily. Can I just taper in the hospital to be safe?

After what can definitely be called an exhausting training period and academic semester, I’m definitely ready for my taper, as well as a bit of rest before January hits. Ultimately, I know the various aches and pains come with the territory, and I’ve put my body through a lot lately, so it has earned a more relaxed schedule. My endurance is up, and I’m as ready as I’m gong to be for this race, so focusing on the planning, organization, and nutrition will gladly fill my thoughts for the next three weeks. In my free time, perhaps I can shop this “law” around to various scientific journals. This publication showing up on my vita would definitely turn some heads!

Gear Review: It’s all in…or on your head!

The last month seems like a whirlwind of races and high mileage weeks! This is clear from the topics of my most recent posts. For the new few months, my schedule calls for my peak mileage weeks, some very long training runs, and then the uncomfortable taper leading up to December 28th and Across the Years. Now that I’m back into a routine of sorts, I can return to sharing some new information and thoughts that have been collecting in my mind. Over the past few months, I’ve added a variety of running-gear items to my training arsenal, and they have proven quite useful in various ways. Two such items find their home on my head, and have proven useful in a variety of circumstances.

Petzl Nao Headlamp

The first, and perhaps most significant running-related acquisition was that of a new headlamp. My running distances and durations have continued to increase, which inevitably means running in the dark. Additionally, I have aspirations of running a number of longer trail races that require quality lighting in order to navigate the technical terrain. Thus, I was rather focused on finding a quality headlamp I could rely on. After a great deal of research, and the utilization of several gift cards I was hold onto, I purchased the Petzl Nao headlamp. This torch is billed as the first “smart headlamp” and it truly lives up to its billing. The “reactive lighting” technology built into the torch adjust brightness according to where it is being focused. Thus, when I am looking straight ahead, it projects into the distance, and when I am looking down at my hands, the becomes dimmer to give me the light I need. The result is increased battery life, which is much appreciated.

You can see the sensor at the top and the LED lamps below.

You can see the sensor at the top and the LED lamps below.

The battery itself is actually rechargeable via USB, which is quite handy. When I opened the Nao after receiving it in the mail, I was skeptical of the size and weight of the battery itself. At first glance, it looks to be quite heavy and uncomfortable. However, the elastic band, coupled with the flexible upper portion which stretches over the top of your head, makes for a rather snug and secure fit. It can be a bit tricky to get the Nao fitted correctly to your head, but once you do, it isn’t going anywhere. The headlamp has stayed secure through a bevy of terrains, and I have not noticed any distinguishable movement that would cause irritation or rubbing. I did begin to notice the compression of the Nao after about 6 hours of continuous wear. However, I was able to take it off for a bit and return it to my head later. Although there was some minor discomfort, I don’t consider it significant enough to warrant a negative assessment. The cord that runs from the battery to the lamp may seem a bit cumbersome as well, but I didn’t notice any significant movement. There is an optional belt clip for the battery as well if you’d rather wear it around your waist to distribute the weight differently or keep the lithium-ion battery warm during the winter months.

The battery seems a bit big at first glance...give it a shot.

The battery seems a bit big at first glance…give it a shot.

The adjustment knob on the side allows you to shift between varying levels of reactive lighting and consistent lighting depending on your surrounding. The lamp portion itself is adjustable so you can position it more towards the ground for better night vision. The only downside to the reactive lighting technology emerged when I was behind another running with reflective clothing. The sensor in the Nao picks up on the reflection from the light hitting the garment, and dims as a result. In essence, the reflective patches on the vest of the runner in front of me was fooling the lamp into thinking I was closer than I was, and thus didn’t need as much light. In reality, this scenario is going to be pretty rare for most runners. Additionally, simply switching to constant lighting would have solved this problem. I just didn’t think about it in the middle of a race in the dark through a city I wasn’t familiar with and a route I didn’t quite know!

The Zephyr headband creates a secure fit.

The Zephyr headband creates a secure fit.

On top of everything else, the Petzl Nao also interacts with the Petzl OS, which allows you to set up customized lighting profiles for the headlamp and save them to the lamp itself. This can increase battery life, or accommodate various unique circumstances that you might anticipate while using the Nao. In reality, the OS might be a bit over the top for a headlamp, but it is a unique feature that some may enjoy for a bit of added control. Overall, I have been very pleased with the performance of the Nao and am looking forward to it being my go-to headlamp for longer nighttime runs and hikes in the future. The price tag may be a bit steep for some, but it is certainly worth the investment!

Halo Headband

I now move on to a much more simple piece of head-mounted running gear after discussing a rather technical and complicated item. I must first be very clear that I’m fairly certain I sweat more than most people. It seems to emerge from my body like an invading Cylon battle fleet descending on an unsuspecting Earth. I wear a hat, visor, or winter cap consistently while running in order to mitigate some of this moisture. My sunglasses help as well. However, especially in the summer months, I still find myself stopping to wipe the sweat from my eyes and mitigate the burning that eventually ensues. As a result of these circumstances, I was excited to give the Halo headband a try. The product seemed simple enough, with a unique sweatband built into the headband itself to direct sweat away from the eyes. I was skeptical of its effectiveness but willing to give it a try. I’m quite happy that I did! This headband just plain works. I’ve worn it under a beanie and under a running hat, and it has performed admirable. It fits very snugly to my head, and is fitted enough that I can fit my other hats over it without issue. I purchased this headband late in the season, as the temperatures were beginning to cool off. Despite this, I am confident that it will be my go-to piece of headgear for the blazing summer months, as well as a trusted accessory during the impending winter months.

Simple and effective.

Simple and effective.

My only critique, like the Nao, was that it seemed a bit overly snug after several hours of wear. Perhaps I just have a big head?! Either way, I would certainly suggest you give both of these products a look!

It’s Really Quiet at 3AM: 50 Miles of Overnight Training

I’ve had many amazing running experiences already, and, so long as I stay healthy, I hope to have many more. Amidst the chaos of this fall, my focus continues to be on preparing for the 24-hour Across the Years run on December 28th. In addition to being the longest I’ve ever run, this event promises to challenge me mentally and physically in ways I don’t yet even understand. Therefore, I’m not only training my body, but attempting to train my mind throughout the fall. Ideally, I’ll have as much of a sense of what the run will feel like as possible, despite the myriad of wildcards!

One such wildcard is the overnight factor. I’ve hit the 50 mile mark twice before, but have always run mainly during the day. On a more general level, I’ve noticed more and more that I don’t have the magical ability to stay up late or pull all-nighters that I once had. I may not need quite as much sleep as some folks, but I still need a full night to feel fully rested. This realization made it all the more important to me that I find out how my body would react to running in the wee hours of the morning, when it knows I should be asleep. So, I decided to plan a midnight run at a local park, and invite anyone else crazy enough to come out and run with me.

In addition to the time, running in the park allowed me to run short, repetitive routes. This had the benefit of both simulating the race, and allowing me to leave my nutrition and other running supplies in my car where they would be frequently and easily accessible. As the day loomed closer, I started to doubt my ability to even stay up easily until midnight to then start running. I made the choice to head to the park “early” and start running at 11PM, knowing that others might join me at midnight. I loaded my car with plenty of nutrition, dry clothing, and other first aid supplies I might need, and I drove the 1/2 mile to the park. Although I knew having my car ensured plenty of storage for supplies, it still felt strange driving in the first place!

11PM...time to start running!

11PM…time to start running!

After laying out my supplies in the car, I turned on my headlamp and slowly started running into the darkness. It only took me 30 seconds to jump a little as I stumbled across a couple, sitting in the dark, “talking” to each other. This run also provided me with an opportunity to get a feel for a much slower pace, which I know I’ll need to maintain, in order for my legs to hold up for 24 hours. I began with the goal of maintaining a 10 to 11 minute per mile pace throughout the night. The first 5 miles went by pretty easily as I started to get a feel for my intended pace and for the path I’d be running up and down. I made sure to remove as much debris from the path as possible, and keep an eye out for any obstacles I might encounter. These tasks helped keep my mind off the fact that I was running through a pitch-black park by myself. I realized very quickly how much I (and many others, I’m sure) take for granted the ambient light that surrounds us living in a populated area. The silence left me free to hear each of my footfalls, along with the random animals, birds, and insects that call the wooded park home.

At midnight, two intrepid friends joined me for some miles, of which I was grateful. Over the next 8 miles or so, we made are way along the trails, invented new routes, and otherwise kept ourselves occupied. Around 1:30AM, one of my friends headed home for the comfort of her bed, and that left two of us. At this point, the Salomon trail shoes I started off wearing, in part because it was forecasted to rain, started to irritate my feet so we ran the 1/2 mile to my house to trade them out. Over the next two hours, we became very familiar with the trails in the park, as well as surrounding roads. Despite the monotony of the running, having a friend to chat with (and ward off the ghosts) was wonderful and I was incredibly thankful for the 3.5 hours he ran with me.

Crazy friends running with me at midnight!

Crazy friends running with me at midnight!

After he left, the park suddenly seemed much more creepy. Of course,  I’m sure that had nothing to do with the fact that it was now 3:30AM or the random guy sitting on a park bench, upright, without moving. At that point, I made the executive decision to head up to a nearby main road that was lit, and run up and down the sidewalk until I met up with another friend who agreed to bike next to me. The street was still quiet, but even a little bit of light made he night seem not as intimidating. By this point, my body was definitely aware of the time, and I began to feel a bit nauseous, mainly due to the time of night. I had been taking water, electrolytes, and nutrition regularly and seemed to be consuming enough calories, so I can only assume that the mild nausea will emerge no matter what I decide on as my final nutrition plan.

Seeing my friend ride up to meet me was definitely a welcome break from the silence. She is normally awake at 4:30AM, so getting up to ride with me wasn’t nearly as difficult as it would have been if our roles had been reversed! I ran back and forth on the lit street with her for about 45 minutes, and then headed back to the car to refuel and re-hydrate. At this point, I decided to run to the starting location for the 6AM group run with my running group. We made our way to the meeting point, a few miles away, and the darkness was still quite intense but having someone pedaling along beside me certainly helped. My legs were beginning to feel some fatigue at this point, but I had been running for 7 hours at that point, so I suppose it was to be expected. We arrived at the group meeting spot, and then I headed back out with more friends. Have I mentioned how grateful I am to be a part of such an amazing running community?

I ran and chatted for the next 8 miles, still maintaining a 10:30 min/mile pace, for which I was quite pleased. The organized route actually went through the same park I had been running in all night, so I decided to stop at the car and refuel and then run back to the house quick to let out the dogs and give them their breakfast. At this point, I had been running for 9 hours, and had covered 42 miles. The sun finally emerged from its slumber, and it was a welcome sight to see the world once again illuminated by our favorite star.

Feeling good after 9 hours!

Feeling good after 9 hours!

The final two hours and 8 miles seemed to go by rather quickly, despite my legs feeling incredibly heavy. Although I had no mileage or time goals aside from getting through the darkness, I did secretly want to see 50 miles displayed on my Garmin. I arrived back at my car with a half mile to go, and figured it was somehow fitting to run small laps around the parking lot itself to reach 50 miles. Just as the clock struck 10AM, my Garmin struck 50 miles, and I walked back to my car with a giant, exhausted grin on my face. I slid into the car, drove the 1/2 mile home, took a quick shower, ate a bowl of cereal, and promptly collapsed in bed for 4 hours. My legs were sore and I had a bit of a headache, but moving from vertical to horizontal certainly felt nice! I’ll no doubt need to slow my pace a bit more (I finished with a 10:16 pace) to keep going for 24 hours, but now I know.

Done deal! Time for bed.

Done deal! Time for bed.

Late night. Early morning. Amazing friends. Important calories. Creepy parks. Now I know. 🙂

My 6-Month Reflection

It’s a bit hard to believe it’s July 1st already. The past 6 months seem to have flown by, and yet I find myself still wishing I had more time to get more things crossed off my ever-evolving to-do list. Regardless, this is as good a time as any to stop and reflect on the first half of the year as I look forward to the second half. I’ve had quite a busy winter and spring, and I’ve commented before on my period of goal-less activity. That being said, I’ve still accomplished quite a bit, and I’m really looking forward to the challenges that await me over the next 6 months!

It has already been a crazy 23, uh, I mean 2013!

It has already been a crazy 23, uh, I mean 2013!

31 in 31: I wanted to start the year off right by running every day in January, and it was certainly a successful start to the year! I also pledged to run 2013 miles in 2013 and I’m well on my way to that goal as well.

Marathon PR: My only major race during the spring was the Little Rock Marathon. When I initially registered, I was looking for an early marathon in the spring so that I could plan for multiple spring races. Although I didn’t get a chance to register for any additional marathons during the spring months, I was pretty darn happy about PR’ing in Little Rock! It was a great race and it left me hungry for more speed.

Speed Increase: Although I haven’t been as intentional about my speed work as I had hoped, I’ve still made some great strides has my speed and endurance have both increased. My average paces are continuing to drop, and I’m seeing times that I didn’t think possible even a year ago.

Nutritional Awareness: It can be easy to look to races when talking about goals, but I’ve been really pleased with the work I’ve put into my nutrition research as well. With the beautiful epicurean’s help, I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different foods, and exploring some great endurance nutrition substitutes as I work to remove the GUs and gels from my training.

Marathon Ready: My schedule was incredibly busy the first 6 months as I worked on finishing up my dissertation, and that meant not being able to travel to as many races as I had hoped. However, I pledged to keep my endurance up so I could run a marathon on any given weekend. I’m happy to say I’ve kept my training up, and have run an additional 5 unorganized marathon distances this year.

I’m A Maniac: I’ve talked about wanting to join the Marathon Maniacs since last year, and I hit my race goals to do so. However, I just recently took the plunge, paid my dues, and entered the InSane AsyLum. I couldn’t be happier! I can already tell that this group is a perfect fit for my brand of crazy, and I’m going to thoroughly enjoy meeting other maniacs throughout the country!

The 24-Hour Plunge: I may not have run this race yet, and in fact have many months of training left to go, but I’m pretty darn excited about simply registering! I’m going to voluntarily run for 24 straight hours around a 1 mile track. Brilliant!

Piling up the mileage in 2013!

Piling up the mileage in 2013!

As I look back on just the last 6 months, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have the support of family and friends, and the opportunity to lace up my shoes every day and see where the road or trail takes me. I hope your first 6 months have been full of memorable experiences and learning opportunities. Let’s make the next 6 even better!

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