Showing posts with label running. Show all posts
Showing posts with label running. Show all posts

Monday, March 21, 2016

Weekly Training Thoughts - Feelin' Great!

March 14th-20th - Due to some unexpected planning I must get done, this post will be a bit abbreviated. No in-depth thoughts on each sport, just some high level thoughts on my training week in general. The big take-away...I'm feeling great with my training!

Running has really been clicking for me. It seems the month away from running was just what the body called for. I just feel stronger, faster and more efficient than prior to the break. In fact, the running has gone so well since I resumed in March, that I completed my second fastest half-marathon ever on my long run Saturday. The only time I ran faster, I was 23 years old. And I felt very comfortable the entire time and, in a race situation, would have been quite a bit faster. Perhaps 10-15 minutes faster. (An important interjection here. My "faster" is still very, very slow relative to fast people.) After so much time running slow and preparing for ultra-marathons, I'm learning I sort of enjoy running a bit less slow.

I did have just a touch of IT band pain Sunday on my recovery run. It was a small relapse on what has been an otherwise smooth recovery from the pain that stopped me at Skydive Ultra. I'm hoping it's just a matter of a little too much, too quickly; and that a small pull back will put me back on the path to full recovery.

Swimming was also a success this week. I reached the longest single swim I plan to complete as I prepare for Swim Miami at 8,000 yards on Sunday. I'm not fast. I'm not super-efficient. But I can keep things moving along for an extended period of time now. I could have swam another 2,000 yards relatively comfortably. I was also able to test my nutrition plan: Tailwind to drink and a tablespoon of almond butter at ~2 miles and ~4 miles. That seemed to work well. I plan to swim two more 8,000 yard sets before race day.

On top of being able to swim the distance, I also felt really good swimming this week in general. So much so that at one point during the week, I actually posted the following on Facebook:

That comment is a huge deal for me. I have never, ever felt like I belonged in the water before. I still don't swim well, but something's changed just a bit. I can feel the catch (sometimes.) I can feel the pull (occasionally.) I can feel good body positions (from time to time.) Until the past week, these concepts were just words without any real understanding. But this week, I felt them on several occasions. I could play with them a little. I can pull a bit harder or let water flow past my arm instead. I can feel my feet sink or pull them up above the water. Not all the time. Not even most of the time. But sometimes.

As for the bike, I've decided to give up for now. At least until after Swim Miami. Six days of swimming and six days of running just aren't leaving me with time to get on the bike. Plus I wonder if the lack of bike training is at least partially involved in the improved running?

That's it for the week. Next week's training thoughts might be a bit light, also. I expect to have less time for either running or swimming this week. Perhaps I'll change things up and consider it a recovery week.

Whatever you training looks like, keep moving!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Weekly Training Thoughts - The Long Swim Gets LOOONG

March 7th-13th... Another week of completely unimportant and mostly irrelevant training is in the books, and I have more thoughts to put to paper...or whatever you want to call this medium. I ran across a thought this week about training and racing and why I do all this work and spend all this time training when I'm just some schlub who's never going to be fast and never going to gain anything material out of it all.

My profession, my work feeds my stomach. But training and racing feeds my soul. After family, nothing is more rewarding and more fulfilling than hitting the trail or going for a swim. It drains me and it fills me at the same time. Heck, I don't even need the racing. The training is enough to fill the soul. The racing just offers some delicious icing, and motivation for training to be a bit more focused.

Training feeds my soul.

On to the week. There are two big observations on training this week, one running and one swimming, and one bit of exciting least for me.

Running...Six Days A Week

My new running plan has me running six days per week. This is more regularly than I've ever run before, which generally included running four (sometimes five) days per week. Six days means lower volume, but more frequently. And I seem to be responding well to this. My three recovery runs per week really seem to help keep things loose and not too sore allowing me to push harder on the two high intensity days and one long day per week. So far, I'm a fan even while contemplating skipping today's recovery run due to a sore knee.

Speaking of that knee, it's not 100% yet. The long run seems to be the issue. I had no problems with the knee during my two speed workouts. And the knee was fine on my recovery runs. But after my long run Saturday morning, the knee became uncomfortable again. A couple minutes of pigeon stretch, and it felt good as new. But still, not 100%.

My workouts went great. The best example of this is my long run Saturday. I'm still keeping this long run relatively short (1 hour 35 minutes this time), but decided to really try running with more pace than I have before. While not fast, the run was fast for me. I never felt like I was working too hard, but completed 11.3 miles at an average pace of 8:23 minutes per mile and targeted two extra bridge crossings along the way. I could have held that pace for quite a bit longer and was overall very pleased. And that was indicative of pretty much the entire week.


What's there to report here other than it was a total failure on the bike. I got on the trainer for 1 hour on Monday, then never touched the bike again. I thought about riding Thursday, but didn't feel like it. I considered riding Sunday, but didn't want to battle the daylight savings switch. I just didn't ride. Not good...not good.


I felt off all week on my swimming...slow, lethargic, sinky. Just not a good week in the pool. That said, I met all my goals for the week. Right around 20,000 yards (18,575 officially on Garmin Connect, but that doesn't include kick sets nor about 500 yards I lost while trying to figure out my new watch...more on that below!) And, most importantly, I finished my 7,000 yard pull endurance set on Sunday and found a pair of googles comfortable enough to wear for the length of a 10K swim! I was slow on the 7,000 yard swim, but really focused on staying long and efficient, and didn't worry about pace much.

The googles, Aqua Sphere Vista's, are so damn comfortable relative to other goggles. They feel silly large on the face. Fortunately, I have no problem with looking silly. They did, however, slowly leak a little water in. I think this only occurs when pushing off the wall and not during swimming, and is so slow I only had to clear the goggles every 1,500 yards or so. But still a minor annoyance in what would otherwise be a perfect long-distance swimming goggle for me. I think they'll do the trick for Swim Miami 10K, especially if the leak does only occur when pushing off. There'll be none of that in Miami!

Overall, I'm satisfied with the week of swimming. Finishing the 7,000 yards comfortably means I'm right on track for the race. I still think the low energy and lethargy have to do with higher swim volume plus the reintroduction of fairly intense running. I'll just keep pushing through.

Something Fun!

I'm extremely judicious about spending money on fitness equipment...a tough task in the triathlon world. Almost everything I own is used or heavily discounted. But I decided to splurge for my birthday and bought myself a new fitness GPS watch, a Garmin epix. It was, of course, heavily discounted at REI. And I've been having lots of problems with my Garmin 910XT lately including bad elevation readings, odd yardage on open water swims and battery charging difficulties. Nothing dramatic,  but annoyances. The 910XT will become my permanent bike computer, and the Garmin epix my full-time watch as a daily wear watch, an activity tracker and fitness device.

So far, I'm loving it. I haven't had occasion to head out to the Everglades and run using the built-in navigation. But soon. In addition to real navigation, the watch has excellent battery life...hopefully enough to get me through my next 100 mile ultramarathon. It feels more rugged than the 910XT, and has a variety of other upgrades. Of course, it's a total splurge and I could have been totally fine without it. But what the heck!

That's another week of training. Overall, things look to be on track both for Swim Miami and Daytona 100. Swim Miami is going to be a huge challenge for me. The distance still sounds daunting. The amount of time spent laying face first in the water is overwhelming. Even finding someone to toss me a water bottle every lap is going to be a challenge. But I think it will all come together.

Whatever you're training looks like, keep moving!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Weekly Training Thoughts - A Ragged Return to Running

It's time to write my first weekly training thoughts post. I'm wondering how to approach this. Matter-of-factly, with statistics and hard numbers on my training? A stream-of-conscience bit just rambling on with musing about last week's training? Perhaps something humorous, having a good laugh at how seriously I take my training while being a mediocre performer. I think that works...self-deprecation and all. I may suck at humor, but at least it'll be fun to write!

March 1st-6th... The past week of training really had one focus, reintroducing running. Since my spectacularly failed attempt to run 100 miles at Skydive Ultra, I hadn't really run at all. Just a few short test walks and runs in February to see if my knee was going to laugh in my face or was feeling a bit better. February had been a month to rest the running spirit. March is to bring running back, and this was the first week of doing so.

A Ragged Return to Running

I ran five days during this first week of March. Two really, really super silly easy recovery runs of 30 minutes. There's really not much to say about those runs other than I ran 'em when scheduled. Two runs with intensity. One long (and I use that word with a chuckle) run.

The two intensity runs were kind of a new thing for me, speed work. The first run was a 45 minute fartlek run on Tuesday. No structure, just faster and slower as it felt right. I was even able to push myself on a final sprint to that territory where the day's lunch becomes a bit unsettled in the stomach...a highlight of any intense workout! I really had fun with this run! I might hate it this week when I do it at 4:30AM instead of in the afternoon. The second intensity run was 45 minutes of tempo build on Thursday morning. Now, I'm not fast. When I say tempo, this is a lot of people's long run or even recovery pace. But it's fast for me. And it was the third day of running after a month legs weren't super happy. Overall though, the intensity runs were a fun new addition. I may even enjoy them in a few months.

The long run...well, an hour and a half isn't really long, is it? But it's my long run at this point as I rebuild as if from scratch. I did, however, run faster than I was running long runs in the past. As I get closer to Daytona 100, and these runs become much longer, I'll become more specific and slow it down. For now, shorter and faster rules.

There were two additional items of note this week for my running. First, new shoes. My beloved Asics Gel Hyperspeed 6 have been discontinued (a runner's worst nightmare), so I'm on the hunt for new shoes. For now, I'm running in a pair of Nike Zoom Streak LT2's and will be adding a maximalist shoe soon for long stuff. I'm not sold on the Streaks. The biggest issue, the platform seems REALLY narrow and I often felt like I might just tip over to the side. They're light and well-cushioned, but that narrowness is a bit disconcerting. Evidently,  I really like a wide sole...this shoe is not that! I'll probably order a pair of Asics Gel Hyperspeed 7's soon to see how the update feels. The shoe hunt is on.

The second item is the status of my left knee, the killer of my Skydive Ultra 100, the occasional bane of my running existence. The knee wasn't perfect this week, but it wasn't bad. I'm quite sure the issue is IT band syndrome and nothing more (nor less) severe. It felt good for my first couple runs. The Thursday intensity run, I actually cut a few minutes short as I passed home due to a touch of discomfort in the knee. And the final half hour of my Saturday long run also included some discomfort. However, nothing that is concerning at this point. My final Sunday recovery run actually seemed to resolve a bunch of the discomfort in the knee. Fingers crossed that I'm on the road to knee nirvana. If I keep my knee happy, I should arrive at Daytona 100 ready to crush a solid middle of the pack finish!

I'm running again, and that's the big take away! Not much mileage (24 miles on the week), but almost exactly the amount of time I had planned. I'm running by time in 2016, not mileage.

And finally, on the running front, I'm officially registered for Daytona 100. This thing is real now!


As was the case in February, swimming remains a big focus in March as I prepare for the 10K swim at Swim Miami. But for this week, I was taking a bit of a swimming rest after more than doubling my biggest swimming month in February.

Swimming didn't go great this past week. Every workout felt flat and slow. Lots of leg cramps. Overall, just not a good week of swimming. I suspect the addition of running and some intense running is the culprit. I'll adjust, eventually.

Overall, about 11,000 yards of swimming. Still a good week for me, but not my new 20,000 per week target.

Oh, and I seem to have a raging and recurring case of swimmer's ear. Ear plugs may be in my future. I wonder how I'll hear the Master's swim coach call out the swim sets and paces?


I didn't touch the bike last week. Not once...well, once to move my bike out of the way in the apartment. I can't figure it out, but biking is just the sport I enjoy the least and by quite a margin. Maybe it's all the equipment. Maybe it's the time necessary. Maybe it's feeling vulnerable to cars out on the road. Probably it's lack of comfort in the saddle, which is a symptom of not enough riding. to resolve that. I'm not comfortable, so I don't ride. But I need to ride more to get comfortable.

I was fine not riding this week. With running back in the mix, I was prepared to let other stuff wane for a week. But, it's time to get back to biking, even if it's just short stints on the training.

So that's the week. Not really all that much to report other than the running bit. I'm so happy to be running again. Fast or not, it's really my zen place. Whether the run is at 4AM or late in the evening, it's so easy for me to just relax into the rhythm of the steps and figure out solutions to all the world's problems. Only trouble is, I never remember those solutions at the end of the run!

Whatever you're training looks like, keep moving!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Anatomy of a DNF

When you're out to push your limits, eventually those limits will smack you in the face.

This weekend I participated in the Skydive Ultra 100 mile ultramarathon. I didn't finish. I didn't even get close. It was pretty much a disaster. And I should have seen it coming.

Since I completed my first 100 mile ultramarathon at Ancient Oaks six weeks ago, I had done very little training. This was intentional. I had gotten pretty beat up at Ancient Oaks and tried to take lots of time to recover. Very little running. Not much intensity. But lots of time swimming and some biking to keep up fitness.

Race Preparation

I had been running some, however. My biggest difficulty at Ancient Oaks was blisters on the balls of my feet. As I prepared for Skydive Ultra, I focused on figuring out that blister issue. I read Fixing Your Feet and spoke with blister experts. On several of my training runs, I tested taping techniques, ENGO patches and different socks. I felt good about the blister situation. I felt like I had a handle on it.

I also put in just a couple hard runs to see how recovery was going, to see how my body was feeling. These runs included some intensity, but were kept short...under seven miles. I completed a couple long-ish runs, but without intensity. While I felt some creaking joints and discomfort on some of those runs, I always came away thinking I was recovering well and ready for Skydive Ultra.


I always knew there was a chance things wouldn't go well at Skydive. Right after Ancient Oaks, I thought about dropping out of the race. I had gotten pretty beat up during that first hundred. During the first couple weeks of recovery, I thought about moving to the 50 mile race. But eventually, I felt like I was in a place to take a shot at 100 miles and didn't seriously consider that I'd DNF.

The race began great. Skydive Ultra had a new course this year, a 7.25 mile loop. I was committed to not making the mistake I made at Ancient Oaks, going out way too fast. The first loop felt great. My pace was perfect, I felt strong, I was running right at the pace I wanted and it felt absolutely effortless. My feet felt great and taping technique seemed like it would really do well. I had zero inclination of what was about to come.

Lap two started like the first, strong and feeling great. However, about 1 mile in, my left knee began to hurt...a lot! And the pain was increasing rapidly. Within another mile, the pain was so significant that I couldn't run any longer. But I could walk. And I could walk fast, 12 to 13 minute miles. Walking was completely pain-free and, in fact, the faster and harder I walked, the better my knee felt. I began considering my options: drop out of the race since I couldn't run or keep walking and see if I can finish the race that way. I kept walking. I finished my second lap, then my third, then my fourth and the pace kept up. The knee was getting sore even when walking, but I could keep moving well.

That all ended on the fifth lap. My pace slowed and the knee became very painful even when walking very casually. A 16 minute mile, then an 18 minute mile, then a 21 minute mile; all at intensity and pain levels similar to the 13 minute miles in the previous laps. The writing was on the wall. I could keep moving, and it was fast enough to finish under the race cut-off. But it was utter misery. I took a break at the mid-loop aid station and considered dropping out there, then decided that I'd at least finish my lap. I could barely move as I began walking again until my knee loosened up. Then more 18 to 20 minute miles. I eventually arrived at the end of the loop and decided to take 30 minutes before dropping out to really consider that decision.

30 minutes later and only 36 miles into my race and I dropped. My first DNF.

And I should have seen it coming.

"Sore Left Knee..."

In retrospect, it was so plainly obvious I wasn't ready for this race. I simply didn't listen to my body. This is exemplified by one training run and my Strava entry for that run. 16 days before the race, I went out for a higher intensity run to see how I was feeling.

The title for my run says it all:

There it is, plain as day. My "are you broken test" reveals a sore left knee, yet I wrote it off as nothing. That sore knee should have been the big blinking red light telling me to reconsider racing. I missed it. I probably would have missed it had it hit me in the face.

The DNF was predictable if only I had been paying attention.

What's Next

So, I've been taught an important lesson (well, actually several, but I'll save those for another day.) That lesson, listen to my body! If I go for a test run and something doesn't feel right, listen to that signal. That's the first "next" for me. I'm going to become much better at paying attention.

But what else? This DNF is going to be fire. My next 100 mile race, I'm going to really prepare instead of winging it. I've got blisters figured out. I feel good about nutrition. Next I'm going to pick a race and follow a serious periodized training plan. And I'm going to nail the darn thing. I'm thinking Daytona 100 in December might be perfect.

But first, I plan to take a couple months off running to really allow my body to heal and to learn how to swim well, finishing with a 5K or 10K swim at Swim Miami. Then it will be time to focus on nailing a 100 miler.

Until then, you'll find this sticker on the back of my car. A little reminder to keep that fire lit.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ancient Oaks 100 Ultramarathon - Lessons and Such

2015 ended with a bang for me on the fitness front. The Tuesday of race week, I received an invitation to Ancient Oaks 100 Mile Ultramarathon. Mental and physically unprepared, deep in training and untapered, no crew or pacers lined up and without equipment and nutrition nailed down, of course I accepted the invitation for my first attempt at the 100 mile distance. A completely irrational and possibly irresponsible decision.

I had heard so much about this race, about how special it was, I simply couldn't pass up the chance to run it. Plus, while I wasn't specifically trained to run 100 miles, I did still have ironman fitness and was four weeks into a 100 mile race training block. I wasn't completely unprepared.
That's a forced smile...I hurt

As I did early in the year with the DTR Endurance Challenge 50K, I'm going to write about the lessons from this race instead of a formal race report. But first, I have to send out a special thank you to a person who I credit almost 100% with my finishing. I arrived at the race with no crew and no pacer. Becky La Baron simply adopted me at around mile 48 and paced me nearly the entire way to the finish.

  1. 100 miles is serious business, fitness alone won't cut it. - I'm fit. Probably as fit as I've ever been in my life. I thought that would be enough to carry me through 100 miles. And the reality is, my fitness was strong enough for the distance. I ran well for the first 50 miles, and then fell apart due to a variety of other reasons not fitness related. Poor nutritional choices, blisters (my god, the blisters!), bad pacing and no game plan, mental unpreparedness all came back to haunt me in the race. My preparation was basically to throw everything I could think of in the back of my car, every pair of running shoes and socks and clothes and food, and just keep trying stuff throughout the race. Kinda the kitchen sink approach...not a great plan. If I ever decide to run 100 miles again, I'll focus at least as much on the non-fitness things as I will on the fitness. 100 miles is serious business. Lackadaisical attitude isn't going to cut it.
  2. Racing on a whim ain't the smartest idea - So, I said above I'm fit. Sure, it's true. But I wasn't 100 mile run fit. I had raced the Great Floridian Triathlon less then two months ago, and carried that fitness with me. I was just four weeks into building for my first 100 mile attempt at Skydive Ultra at the end of January. I didn't have ultramarathon-specific fitness despite being pretty fit. Second, since I only received my invitation four days in advance of the race, I hadn't tapered. In fact, the Friday/Saturday/Sunday before the race, I had put in serious run mileage as a part of my Skydive Ultra training. So, not only not tapered, but I was actually pretty heavily fatigued going into the race. At shorter distances, general fitness might be sufficient and not being tapered might be manageable. At 100 miles, those things just accumulated to conspire against me.
  3. Going out too fast really can destroy a race. - I went to Ancient Oaks with no expectations. I didn't expect to finish, but kinda hoped I could. I didn't have any expectations for pace or finishing time. I decided to go so late that I simply arrived free of expectations. And when I began running, I found the trail to be so much fun that I hammered the pace for about three laps (~10 miles.) It was just too beautiful and fun and without expectations I could do whatever I wanted. I knew it would come back to haunt me later in the race, but didn't really know if I'd ever make it to later in the expectations. Well, that 10 mile block took me about 1 hour and 40 minutes to finish. I completed the first 33 miles of the race in 7 hours. And then proceeded to slow down dramatically, requiring another almost 23 hours to finish the next 67 miles. I went from running sub 9 minute miles to crawling along at 19 minute miles. So that whole "don't go out to fast" thing...yeah, that's really a thing. Lesson learned.
  4. Motivation to continue comes from weird places - I didn't arrive at Ancient Oaks with a steely-eyed resolve to finish. I was prepared to DNF and simply view the race as a training run for Skydive Ultra. But I finished. And motivation to continue despite a strong desire to quit came from some very unlikely places. One motivation was the continued nudges from Becky. She wasn't letting me quit. Plus, by mile 80 or so, after Becky had herself put in 30+ miles pacing me to a finish, I began to feel guilty even considering quitting. She had sacrificed tremendously to help get me that far. I owed it to her to finish. Another place I drew motivation from was the race itself. Ancient Oaks is a bit unusual. The race is held on an ancient nature sanctuary and the people who run the sanctuary are very protective of it. So, the race stays small and cannot be a commercial venture. The race has no entry fee and only about 60 people get to race each year. I felt that, having accepted my invitation, I owed it to race director Mike Melton and to anyone who didn't get to participate because I accepted the invitation to finish. There were lots of other little moments of motivation (e.g. I hated the idea of quitting, finishing 2015 with a hundo would be cool, etc...) along the way, but these were the two unexpected biggies. I never expected to feel like I owed others the finish, but that sense of owing became the ultimate motivator.
  5. Fixing my feet - I have a huge problem to figure out before I ever consider race a 100 miles again, my feet. I knew going in my feet would hurt tremendously. I knew my toes would eventually be miserable, they hurt even during longish training runs, and I'd likely lose several toe nails. I did not expect to have dramatic problems with blistering. Blisters are simply never an issue for me. The race was a completely different story. My feet hurt as expected, but I never had toe issues. I won't be losing toe nails and don't even have a black toe. But the blisters...oh the blisters. The sole of my right foot had a blister about the size of a tennis ball. My left foot had a matching, albeit slightly smaller, blister. And there were another dozen or so smaller blisters covering my feet. I'm frankly stunned that I was able to finish the race with these blisters. There were points late in the race I knew there was an issue, but I decided to simply continue and not remove my shoes for a look. Had I looked, that might have been the end of my race. If I ever hope to have a better 100 mile race, I need to figure this issue out. Was it a one-off due to lack of preparation? Perhaps. It's time to go to work on it.
There were tons of smaller lessons along the way, but these were the five biggies. #1 is perhaps the least and most surprising. I expected 100 miles to be difficult, but I really had no concept of what a different beast it is compared to any other race distance. There is simply no comparison.

A Few Word on The Enchanted Forest

Me, on a tree, feeling crappy
I can't end this sort of race report without a few words on the really spectacular setting for the race. The Ancient Oaks 100 is held in The Enchanted Forest Sanctuary in Brevard County. The trail was a roughly 3.5 mile long mix of sand, single track trail and wooden path. And it was spectacular. The oak trees were stunningly large and old (likely the reason for the race name.) One section ran through a tunnel of 15 foot tall saw palmettos. At night, hogs could be heard rooting and snorting in the bush. It was like stepping back in time. It was truly magical at times. 

Despite what was a tremendously difficult race, I'm so glad to have gone. The race was spectacular, the people involved were incredible (thank goodness for the wonderful volunteers...heroes!), the huge contingent of spectators who came just to hang out with us were constantly motivating, and the sanctuary was stunning. Finishing the 100 miles may be the least exciting part of all the positive at this race.

I'll finish with one final lesson. It's a lesson learned at this race again, but really throughout 2015. Impossible is an excuse. 18 months ago, I would have told you with absolute certainty that it would be impossible for me to finish a 50 mile ultramarathon or an ironman-distance triathlon or a 100 mile ultramarathon. Within 11 months, I've completed all three. Yes, of course, there are genuinely impossible things. I can't turn into a shark or jump to the moon. But by and large, impossible is an excuse to not try the epic.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Daytona 100 "Race" Report

Well, this is a report about a race. But I didn't race in it. Instead, I jumped to the other side of the aid station and volunteered at the inaugural Dayton 100 ultramarathon. And I learned so much. And I left so afraid. And I'm completely in awe of the spirit, resilience, strength and determination shown by so many of the people who raced. These are my thoughts about all those things, and about where I might go with this blog in the future.


43 Hours Later
I learned volunteering at an ultramarathon is really, REALLY hard. My role at the race was as on-course support rolling along with the middle of the pack on their 100 mile journey, offering assistance where need, making sure unmanned coolers had ice and water, providing assistance to aid stations that needed it, keeping an eye on runners. Doesn't sound too difficult until you realize these duties needed to be provided from 8AM Saturday until race close at noon on Sunday, at times covering 50 miles. It ain't no easy task

I had the good fortune of being involved in a very organized race. The race director, Dave Krupski, is a very experienced ultramarathoner and brought that experience to the race. Aid station extraordinaire, Susan Anger, organized all of us volunteers and kept the train rolling down the track from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach. I had the good fortune of having my brother-in-law, Kris Kramer, agree to join me and help. He was a godsend and I would have jumped ship had he not been along.

Sleep deprivation was a constant battle. I made the unwise decision to sleep in my car the night before the race (we arrived to Altantic Beach very late and a hotel room just didn't seem to make sense for three hours of sleep, at best) and there was very little sleep to an unseasonable hot night...a theme for later in the race. So, Friday night I slept perhaps an hour, my brother-in-law maybe an hour longer. Then the race began and there weren't many moments to rest. We got to hop in a bed in Dayton for two hours Sunday morning, and both of us grabbed some short naps along the way. But all in all, we slept perhaps five hours over a 48 hour period. Sleep deprivation is an interesting thing. Everything became hysterical from the mundane observation that a bathroom was clean to the absurd like the litany of drunks wandering around and fighting in Daytona at midnight.

And it wasn't just Kris and me who suffered and scarified. There were dozens of other volunteers who put in equal or more effort than we did to keep runners going, to keep people safe and to make the event great.

Suffice it to say that I learned how much effort sacrifice volunteers put in at races. I learned that I will more resolutely go out of my way to thank each volunteer, to shake their hands and to make sure they know they're appreciated and their sacrifice is recognized.


I'm signed up for my first shot at a 100 mile ultramarathon at Skydive Ultra in January. Frankly, I'm pretty convinced I won't finish. I'm afraid of what it takes to finish having watched so many runners suffer and continue for hours and hours at Daytona.  I'm afraid of the pain. I'm a baby. I've never had to suffer severely during any previous race. Heck, I've barely dealt with pain in those races! I cannot imagine enduring hours upon hours of misery. I'm afraid. We'll see how it goes in January, but I'm afraid

Spirit, Resilience, Strength, Determination

This was the biggie. I was blown away by the spirit of the racers, the spirit of volunteers and the spirit of crews. This was simply humans being human without the bullshit; wanting to help one another to reach a silly and yet important goal. Whether it was a foot rub for a runner who was suffering from sore feet, or a bottle of water being shared from one runner's crew to another, or just a hug when a runner felt low; the humanity and connection among all of us was so clearly on display.  And, yes, there were moments when that spirit was broken when a runner couldn't continue and had to bow out. But in those moments, others came to pick them up and make sure they were ok and get them out of the sun to a safe place. It was so encouraging in a world where we're bombarded with all the terrible humans do.

The resilience and strength and determination of runners to continue in the face of dramatic pain, of harsh conditions (near record highs, no relief from the sun, horrible humidity), of blistered toes and upset stomachs, of hallucinations, of sheer exhaustion was absolutely incredible. As I said above, I don't have these things. I'm certain I'll fail at my 100 mile attempt. I've been able to rely on modest genetic gifts and not had to suffer in this way. And I am absolutely in awe of those who can suffer in so, and who choose that suffering in order to be reward with the gifts on the other side. I want to know what makes these people function, how they make the decision to continue when every instinct and every indicator says stop. How do they continue when the mere act of standing brings tears to their eyes...and there were many tears shed at Daytona 100. I don't understand it, and it's fascinating to me.

In fact, I'd love to speak with these people and write here about what drives them. I'm a supremely quiet person and not one to reach out to someone to speak, but I may just try doing so just to scratch this curiosity about these people. I'd love to learn about and share their motivation, share what they think about at that moment they want to quit, learn what drives them to give it a shot in the first place.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Charting a Path to Ultraman Florida 2018

A bit over nine months ago, I had a crazy thought. I wanted to participate in the Ultraman Florida race by the time I turn 40 years old. It was a pipe dream, a fantasy. I had just learned about Ultraman and it sounded like a bit of craziness that might be something to put out there as a totally unachievable stretch goal. Sure, I had completed a really easy half ironman race and had even completed a 50 mile ultra marathon, but those are child's play compared to Ultraman. It was a stretch to even consider.

Perhaps it's not such a stretch, after all. 

In the past nine month, the idea of participating in Ultraman has become much more realistic. In those nine months, 100 mile bike rides have become standard fare. I swam in a 5K ocean race. And, finally, I completed the Great Floridian 140.6 triathlon comfortably, if not quickly. Ultraman seems so much more achievable today than 9 months ago.

The training plan necessary to reach Ultraman by 2018 has also become very clear.


Next year will be the year of the ultramarathon for me. First, I'm going back to Skydive in January and taking my first shot at a 100 mile ultramarathon. I'm trying to squeeze training in really tight between the Great Floridian and Skydive, and know I'm taking considerable risk that I don't make it to 100 miles.

I plan to take another shot (whether I make it or not at Skydive) at 100 miles at the Daytona 100. I'll be volunteering at the inaugural Daytona 100 this year, then hope to participate in it next year. I also have thoughts of participating in the Keys 100 race, but three 100 mile races in one year is perhaps a bit much.

I also don't want to fall completely off the swimming and biking training. I'll need both for Ultraman. My swim training has been going well, so I plan to continue with the Masters group I've been swimming with. We swim Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. However, I'll allow myself to miss a session here or there, something I very rarely did while training for the Great Floridian. And I think I'll participate in an open water race like Swim Miami or the Swim for Alligator Lighthouse in 2016

Finally, to make sure I keep on track in all three sports, I plan to participate in a spring and a fall half iron triathlon. Just small, local races; but something to keep me focused on triathlon despite a heavy run focus.


A year later, I'll flip the script. The focus will be heavily on triathlon with two 140.6 mile races. Tentatively, I plan to participate in the HITS Naples Full triathlon in January 2017 and maybe Ironman Wisconsin in September 2017.

Frankly, (and as the name of this blog implies) I have a very hard time with the idea of paying for a branded Ironman race. $750 seems like an absolutely inordinate amount of money for a 13 hour activity of any type. Yes, I understand Ironman races have considerable hoopla and pomp and extremely high production value around them relative to other iron distances races. But $750!

However, if there's one Ironman race I do want to do, it's Wisconsin. As a UW-Madison alumni, completing an Ironman in Madison, finishing on Capital Square, running through sounds absolutely spectacular. This, above all other items, is a massive question mark. It's so expensive, and so expensive only a few months before the even more expensive Ultraman I would hope to participate in.

Toss one or two 50 mile ultramarathons and an open water swim into 2017, and the training plan is pretty well formed.


2018 would be the big year, the year for Ultraman Florida. And, almost as if delivered by providence, assuming the Ultraman race organizer follows previous scheduling, the race would take place during my 40th birthday!

Having written it out, it all seems pretty damn daunting. There's not much rest and down time in there, and 2017 would be a massive year with two full ironman training builds. Very honestly, I don't think I've ever tried planning something over two years out. And this is something to almost certainly have bumps along the way in the form of injuries and fatigue and other life priorities, races getting cancelled or dates moved, the entire endeavor becoming too expensive and soon and so forth.

Yet, despite all that, it seems far more likely and reasonable than it did 9 months ago. It seems almost doable instead of pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

Ultraman, plan for me to be there February 2018.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hoka One One Clifton First Impression

At the Skydive Ultra, my biggest difficulty was pain in the soles of me feet. I think this is to be expected to some degree, particularly for a larger and heavier runner. But running the first 29 miles in fairly minimalist Merrell Bare Access Ultra's certainly didn't help. And, while the Altra Olympus shoes I switched to were much better in terms of cushioning, I'm just not totally in love with them. They're a bit heavy at 11 ounces and don't quite feel right on my feet no matter how much I adjust them. That's led me to search for a new, highly cushioned shoe for long runs.

Hoka One One's have been getting tremendous press and I've read innumerable positive reviews about this brand from so many knowledgeable sources. Two models in particular seem to draw the most accolades, the Bondi (except for the Bondi 3) and the Clifton. In my reading, I felt the Clifton was the most likely to work well for me, although I was willing to accept recommendations from the local running store, Delray Beach Running Company. After lots of testing and trying, I did end up with the Clifton despite liking the Hoka One One Conquest quite a bit.

First Run Impressions

This morning I was able to get out for my first run in the Cliftons, a 14 miler on easy and non-technical trail along an Everglades levee. It's also only my second long run (and first comfortable long run) since the Skydive Ultra, so my impressions may be somewhat colored by lack of training.

Overall, this shoe feels wonderful to put on. It's exactly as soft and cushioned as described, and so wonderfully light. At 7.7 ounces per shoe, they feel almost weightless on foot. Odd that a difference of just over 3 ounces compared to my Altras can feel so different, but it does. The feel on foot is just great.

The cushioning while running is everything I expected and read about. Tons of cushioning, but it never felt like the thick sole would cause me to twist an ankle or tip over. I felt nicely connected to the ground and was able to move along easily despite them being an entirely new shoe for me.

I do have one gripe, and it's the same one you'll read in many reviews. The toe box is really cramped. I didn't notice it for several miles, but by mile 10 my small toes were definitely developing hot spots from being squeezed between neighboring toes and the edge of the shoe. No blisters developed over today's 14 miles. I'm not sure that would remain the case over 50 miles, however. I'm going to try running in the Clifton wearing Injinji socks to see if that relieves some of the rubbing. My Clifton's also come with a second insole which I understand is a bit thinner and softer. I'm going to try those in the shoes to see if they offer a touch more space in the toe box.

But I'm worried about the toe box issue. I want to wear these shoes for really long runs given how great they feel otherwise. That won't be possible if the small toe issue continues.

The Other Big Gripe

I have one other issue with the Hoka One One Clifton's. They're expensive. They retail for US$130 which was far more than I've ever paid for a pair of running shoes. That's not a price really out of line with other running shoes, but it's just more than I'm comfortable spending. I generally watch for previous year models of shoes to go on sale, then buy them on the cheap. That wasn't possible with the Cliftons. And I would not have bought them had I not gotten a little money for my birthday last week. But I am willing to spend a bit more now that my running distances are really increasing, if the shoes help with pain and injury prevention. I was also happy to discover my membership with the Boca Raton Triathletes got me a nice discount.

Given the cost, I'm concerned about durability. The shoes are super light, the soles made of fairly soft materials. I'm a heavier guy. I'm not sure I'll be able to run in a pair for 400 miles, or even if they'll make it to 300 miles. Combine that with their high cost, and they may simply not be a realistic shoe for me.

Would I Buy Them Again?

I think the big question on any piece of gear is, would I buy it again? Even if I love something, but cost would prevent me from buying it again, it doesn't feel like a good value. However, if I just like something, but cost allows me to buy it again, that's value. Or I might love something so much that cost becomes less relevant; then again, that's value.

It's too early for me to say that I'd buy the Clifton's again. I wish one run would have been enough to make that decision. I do really love the feel and ride of the shoes. But the toe box is concerning. The cost is tough for me to swallow, particularly if durability is below par. These shoes are so close to perfect, but just not there. We'll see.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Ouch! That run sucked.

15 days after the Skydive Ultra, and I finally decided to get out for a moderately long run again. 12 miles, not a big deal. I've run dozens of 12 mile or longer runs over the past several months.  At least that's what I thought. And, boy, was I wrong.

I thought I had recovered well. Week one after Skydive, I did very little exercise. Swam a few hundred yards, ran a mile very slowly with my kids, took a short bike ride. Nothing intense and nothing long and tried to stay away from impact on the legs as much as possible. Week two I did add more exercise by returning to my regular swimming plan - about 5000 yards during the week - plus a few CrossFit WODs at low weight and controlled intensity and one nice and easy five mile trail run.

Saturday, two weeks after Skydive, I added added a little more intensity. A spirited bike ride to the gym, a CrossFIT WOD, and then a gentle ride home from the gym. It was hard work, but everything felt good, nothing broken. I thought I was mostly recovered.

12 Miles, But Really Only 11

So I decided it was time to go test out the running legs on Sunday. I've been itching to get out for a good run, and had been excited about it all week. But even the night before the run, things weren't right. Generally, I prepare the night before a long run to get out the door early. Clothes laid out, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich waiting in the fridge, running pack set up with water and any other needs I might have for the run. I prepared none of this, just didn't feel compelled to because, hey, it was just a 12 mile run. (Maybe completing my first ultra has left me a bit cocky about my running prowess?)

I wasn't inspired, but I got myself out the door in the morning. I expected some soreness still and was hoping that soreness would work itself loose over the miles. Well, the soreness was there, but it never let up. In fact, it only got worse throughout the run. The legs were dead - perhaps an effect of the bike-WOD-bike the day before - and the soreness was uncomfortable and then the pain began. Two spots, my left ankle and right knee. The ankle has been a recurring thing for a long time. Never really significant, but always present and uncomfortable after half a dozen miles or so. The knee discomfort had been coming off an on for some time, and wasn't a total surprise either. But both were intense on this day.

And then the glute pain kicked in...literally a pain in the butt. This pain had come on a few times in training for Skydive and about 30 miles into the race. It felt a lot like the soreness following a day of heavy squats. Pain from the outside of the hip joint along the outer buttock. Again, not horrible, but very uncomfortable.

And I struggled through the dead legs, the soreness and the pain until I got home 11 miles later having skipped out on a one mile extension for the run. I was much slower than expected and in far more pain, but it was done.

Not Recovered?

Now I sit here with a very sore bum and a knee that's unhappy when I walk. The run left me with a very nasty taste in my mouth. And I wonder if I came back too fast. Or perhaps the other exercises I've been doing, while low impact on the legs, were too intense too soon? Maybe I wasn't as recovered as I thought I was. Or possibly it was just a bad day and a bad run.

It could be any of those things, or some combination of them. And now I'm left wondering if I need to take more time off of running or do I push through and hope it was mostly just a bad day?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Skydive Ultra: New Experiences Everywhere

January 31st, 2015, I took on my biggest fitness challenge to date: The Skydive Ultra. The Skydive Ultra is an ultramarathon, with a huge twist: prior to starting your run, you have the option and are encouraged to jump out of an airplane at 13,500 feet! I had never been skydiving before, and I had never run an ultramarathon before. This was going to be a day of firsts.

Skydive Ultra offers a variety of distances to run, from the more conventional -- 10K, half marathon and marathon -- to ultra distances -- 50K, 50 miles and 100 miles. I had signed up for the 50 mile distances. This was the first athletic endeavor where I thought there was a real chance I might not be able to finish. Even the half iron distance triathlon last year, I knew if I got through the swim, finishing the race wasn't going to be an issue. Slow perhaps, but not an issue. A 50 mile run, that was an entirely different beast. I hadn't trained enough having only started in mid-November after completing the MiamiMan Half Iron Triathlon. My training in January had been upended a bit by work travel and a cold that sidelined me a few days. And worst, I had gone for a too long training run of 36 miles that turned into a real disaster in early January. I didn't know how this day would go.

The Ultra Community - Something Special

I drove to the skydive and race location the morning of the race. That meant walking out the door of my apartment no later than 515AM to hit the road. Sure, I could have gone the night before and stayed in a hotel, but this is the Cheaply Seeking Fitness blog. I try to do things on the cheap in all my fitness pursuits. This was already a sort of expensive race since entry fee included the skydive. I had to save some money somewhere.

Sunrise at arrival
I arrived at the race location around 7AM and headed to check in. At check-in, it was clear this was different than the few other running and triathlon races I had completed in the past. Eric Friedman, the race director, checked me in and then grabbed a course map and walked me through the race. Then he introduced me to another 50 mile runner, who's name I unfortunately do not recall. However, this other runner was parked a couple cars away from me.

The runner and his wife asked me a few questions about my running experience. They were surprised to learn I was running my first ultra, had never run a marathon and was alone without crew at this event. The wife basically offered to adopt me for the day, and asked me to let her know if I needed anything at any point. And throughout the day and night, she checked in on me practically every time I ran through the start/finish area. It was a wonderful gesture and, as I learned throughout the day, really how the entire ultra community behaved. Help was offered to all runners by everyone. Spectators and runner's crews were always ready to lend any runner a helping hand, a bottle of water, a place to sit for a few minutes. This was like no other race or competition I had ever participated in. A competition, sure; but a competition where everyone wanted to see everyone else succeed.

And it wasn't just the spectators and crew members. Out on the course, runners were just as willing to help a struggling runner out. And everyone (save for those runners in a deep, dark pit of despair) was ready to strike up a conversation for a mile or two and make sure every runner got closer to whatever their personal goal was.

The ultra community is something special. I had a sense of this from participating in the FUR - Florida Ultra Runners Facebook group, but to experience it in person was remarkable.

Skydiving - A New Hobby?

I had elected to skydive before I began my 50 mile run. It was not a requirement of race participation, But if you're going to participate in the Skydive Ultra, I figured I better do the skydive as well as the ultra.

I had never skydived before, and really only had what I'd seen on television or movies to form any expectations from. Well, those expectations were entirely wrong. I met my tandem instructor, Patrick, and went through the instructions for jumping. This took all of about two minutes. Ten minutes later, we were boarding an old propeller powered plane, and heading into the sky on a beautiful sunny morning.

Another ten minutes to reach jumping altitude, a quick refresher on jump instructions from Patrick and a huge roller door was opened in the airplane. Just like that, the people in front of us started tumbling out of the airplane. No preamble, no waiting at the door thinking about it. Just out and gone. And then we were at the door and just as quickly falling through the sky. Yes, falling. No sensation of floating or flying. But incredible falling at awesome, thundering speed. It was exhilarating. Patrick got us leveled out, then put is into a couple spinning dives.

A few second later, the canopy opened. And now we were floating through the sky. It was magnificently quiet. No electrical hum. No sound of cars. Not even animal noises. Just silence. The free fall had been exhilarating, and this flying was supremely relaxing.

After a couple minutes we landed softly, and that was the end of the skydive. A new hobby may have been born. I can't wait to jump again, and have already made plans to get my wife out for her first jump. Who knows, maybe we'll even want to go through training to be able to jump alone.

Edit: No skydive photos or videos for me. Again, the Cheaply Seeking Fitness blog here. Those videos were darn expensive!

The Race

With the skydive done, it was time to change into running gear and get ready to run 50 miles. This race was a bit unusual since all racers didn't start at the same time. As skydivers landed, they simply got ready and could start whenever they they felt ready. Your time started when you crossed the starting mat.

I was ready and crossed the mat at 9:14AM. My heart rate was still high from the skydive, a theme throughout the day. I really never got the heart rate down to where I would have expected it to be for the pace I was running. From this point, my race experience can be broken up into three distinct phases: miles 1-24 "Comfort", miles 24-34 "Deep, Dark, Despair", miles 34-50 "The Other Side".

Miles 1-24 went very well. The first 18 miles, I felt great. Two weeks of hard tapering left my legs feeling super fresh and ready to go. I was running perfectly according to game plan: 25 minutes running at approximately 9 minutes per mile, then 5 minutes of walking to average 11 minutes per miles. This is the plan I used to train and what I hoped to carry me through the entire 50 miles. And for 18 miles it felt like that would be no problem. I was able to breeze around the the double loop 8 mile course, stopping only briefly to refill a bottle with Tailwind or add water to my Salomon pack bladder. Around mile 18, I felt the first twinges of fatigue. Nothing significant and nothing that slowed me down much, but more of an annoyance at the consistent, moderate wind out of a north northeasterly direction. But basically until mile 24, all felt great and the wind was helpful for half of each lap.

After completing my third lap and 24 miles, I headed back out on the first loop. The first turn out of the start/finish area was a right turn directly into the wind. That turn into the wind was the beginning of a dark 10 miles of running. I maintained a run for a few minutes, but eventually found myself walking into the wind despite being in a 25 minute run period. I was convinced that with only a few minutes of walking, and I'd be ready to run. And after a few minutes, I did try running again only to find myself falling into deeper despair at the grinding wind. And I was walking again. This became a common theme over these next ten miles. Walking into the wind feeling defeated and deflated, and running as much as possible with the wind.

If I were running the 50K, I'd be done.
During this ten mile period, my greatest concern struck: sore feet. During my 36 mile training run, among many other problems, I had experienced feet that became so exceptionally sore that I had created fear that I wouldn't be able to run farther than 36 miles. And around 24 miles into the race, the soreness was building. I began the race running in Merrell Bare Access Ultra shoes, my primary training shoes, which I find tremendously comfortable and had mostly held up well in training. However, they skew on the minimalist side with little cushioning. At around 195 pounds, I'm no running lightweight so the lack of cushioning begins to add up over the miles. By mile 28, my feet were killing me. I decided that at my next run through the start/finish area I would switch to a pair of highly cushioned Altra Olympus shoes I had bought a few weeks prior to the race and only spent a little time in. So at mile 32 the change was made along with a fresh pair of socks, switching to Injiinji's. This was the start of a turn around in my mood.

Also around mile 32, I was encouraged in an aid station to have some Coca Cola. I had a cup of it, and started eating Sour Patch kids (I read that it can be helpful to bring a favorite candy as an easy sugar treat during dark periods.) And this brought me out to the other side. I was comfortable having given up on my 11 minute per mile goal pace and decided that I would walk into the wind and be comfortable with it. The coke and candy definitely provided an energy boost, and the race seemed infinitely more finishable.

Sunset on the course
Miles 34-50 definitely weren't easy, but I never had any doubt I would finish. I experiences some of the most excruciating discomfort, and even pain, I can recall ever feeling. But it was simply the pain of sore feet and sore joints, not something indicative of an injury or muscle fatigue or even a dangerous blister. As the sun set and darkness arrived, the race shifted once again, now into a somber and quiet endeavor. I only got to spend about an hour in total darkness, but the solitude and quiet of it have led me to want to run a 100 mile race through the night.

I finished my final lap and had a simple 2 mile out and back to finish the race. Along the way, I spent a few minutes with another 50 mile runner. We talked about the race a bit and I found out that he was still 13 miles from the finish, which shocked me. I figured I was near the back of the pack, having not seen any 50 milers for hours. He and I walked to my turnaround together, then he headed on into his next loop while I turned back. I dug deep and ran the final mile into the finish line.

Finishing time: 10:43:07.2. As I crossed the line and turned in my timing chip, I was told I was currently in third place! But with a lot of runners on the course, some who started after me, it wasn't certain I would remain there.

I walked over to the aid station where Eric Friedman offered me bacon, wonderful bacon. I could think of no better food after 50 miles of running than bacon. Then I headed over to order a finisher shirt and got to have a quote screen printed on it. The quote: damn that sucked.

And the race did suck. It hurt terribly. Miles 24-34 were downright miserable and for most of that period I told myself that I would never do this again. But the other side felt so much better, and finishing was awesome. The race was awesome. It sucked, but it was awesome. I can't wait for it to suck again.

I spent a couple hours relaxing and resting, then started the drive home. And that was my first 50 mile ultramarathon experience.

*Man, this is long. And yet it still feels too short. So many incredible experiences on this day and so much I've left out, like the beaver who watched me and a runner early in the race. I promise to try to be more concise in the future.*

Gear List

  • Shoes: Merrell Bare Access Ultra, Altra Olympus
  • Socks: Icebreaker Hike+ Lite mini, Injinji (not sure which styles)
  • Shorts: Pearl Izumi Infinity Shorts
  • Shirt: MiamiMan finisher tee
  • Arm warmers: Pearl Izumi Select Thermal Lite arm warmer
  • Hydration: Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5, Ultimate Direction Fastdraw Plus bottle
  • Nutrition: Tailwind, Trader Joe's Fig Bars, Sour Patch Kids, Endurolyte Extreme
  • Headwear: Buff - UV, Boca Tri headsweats visor
  • Technology: Garmin 910XT with HRM and cadence sensor, MEElectronics Sport M6 Headphones, Nexus 5, cheap Chinese-manufactured CREE LED headlamp
  • Miscellaneous: Body Glide, BandID