Thursday, August 25, 2016


After two very bad race experiences in just two weeks, a marathon and an ultra, it's time to rest and recover. And apparently my body agrees. I came down with a nasty cold just a couple of days after the Howl at the Moon ultra. I've now logged many zero days as I try to stop a runny nose and congested cough. Your body will eventually force you to rest. If you don't balance work and play or running and recovery, then your body will do it for you. And it won't be fun. I've been dragging for more than 10 days now.

Once I get over this illness, I'll slowly get back to regular running. My next race is Tunnel Hill 50 miler in mid-November. Just less than 80 days to go. Plenty of time to recover, get healthy, and become fit. I'll be fine. I need to remember to balance my running. Lots of easy MAF style runs each week with one harder effort seems to be the right balance. Maybe I'll even start setting heart rate zones and alarms. If I don't take control and enforce the easy running, my body may revolt again. I don't want another cold, or the flu, or pneumonia. Time to take charge and run with balance.

Interesting information...
Here is example heart rate data before and after being sick:
Healthy morning resting heart rate: 48 (lower is generally good)
Healthy heart rate variability reading: 65 (higher is generally good)
Sick morning resting heart rate: 62
Sick heart rate variability reading: 45

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Ultra/marathon 103 Was Not to Be

Yesterday was my 15th Howl at the Moon 8-hour ultra in Danville, IL. And it was supposed to be ultra/marathon #103. Unfortunately, it was not my day, and I stopped at 4 hours, 40 minutes at 23.03 miles. Not even a marathon...and certainly no ultra. Number 103 will have to wait...probably until Tunnel Hill 50 miler in November.

The day started off extremely humid with a thick layer of clouds. At times, we even had a mist in the air. Temperatures remained warm, but not oppressive. After about 3 hours, the sun started to poke out and it started to really feel warm. OK, hot. Before the sun made it's ugly appearance, my legs started to die. Felt a little like my last marathon...just 13 days earlier. In the marathon, I believe the hills caused the dead legs. At the Howl ultra, I believe the recent marathon caused my problems. Anyway, after walking a considerable amount of time, and still feeling dead, I called it a day. With the temps rising, and the sun starting to beat up the runners, I was done. It wasn't fun and I had no intention of "hanging in there" or "sticking it out" for another 3+ hours. It actually felt right to stop before hitting the marathon mark. I didn't deserve another ultra/marathon finish. Not today.

After I called it quits, I tried to pack up my gear, but my car had a completely dead battery--the trunk release wouldn't even open! After a kind jump start from a race volunteer, I packed up and drove home. Not my day.

Today I feel fine, but I know I need more recovery and less pressure to race. I need time to rest and relax. No more races in August or September. Just easy training. Maybe a fun short race in October, then the next ultra in November. Hopefully cooler temperatures will coincide with renewed training and racing.

Ultra/marathon 103 was not to be. But I'll be back. Ninety days to Tunnel Hill 50 miler.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My 15th Howl at the Moon 8-Hour Ultra

This Saturday will be my 15th Howl at the Moon 8-Hour ultra. Me and about 350 other ultra runners circling a 3.29-mile loop for 8 hours in the central Illinois heat and humidity. Good stuff! Last year was my worst effort ever (29.61 miles after 6 hours, then a drop). I will not have a great race this weekend, but it will be better than last year. I'm thinking around 35 miles. I'd be surprised if I reach 40 miles in the 8 hours. My best performance has been 47 miles (twice). The weather on Saturday looks "not ideal." Low around 72F, high in the mid-80s, humid, chance of rain and/or thunderstorms.

Here are my lifetime statistics for the Howl race (14 finishes):

Total miles: 580.92
Average miles: 41.49
Best miles: 47.06 (2006, 2008)
Worst miles: 29.61 (2015)
Best placing: 12th (208 finishers, 2005)
Worst placing: 187th (306 finishers, 2015)

I hope this 15th Howl finish is a good one. If nothing else, I should break 600 total Howl miles after this event. I'm still recovering from my marathon on July 31 (10 days ago). So now I recover and taper for Howl. 3 days to go! Coach Jeff says I should do a 5-minute run/5-minute walk strategy from start to finish. I'm not picky. Sounds good to me.

Big thank you to the Kennekuk Runners for putting on a fantastic event every year. This is the 26th annual race. Of the 102 ultra/marathons I've completed, Howl is my favorite. I expect this one to be another wonderful celebration of running.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What Happened at My Last Marathon?

I ran the Jack and Jill Downhill trail marathon this past weekend in North Bend, WA. I was trying to qualify for Boston. I needed a sub-3:30 finish, but finished with a time of 4:00:56 (200th out of 572 finishers). What the hell happened?

My half-marathon split time was 1:42. Faster than I needed and I felt good. The wheels came off around 16-17 miles. My legs were dead. I was still mentally fine, but had no leg power. That's when my pace really slowed and I was jog/walking. It was bad and it never got better (until one mile to go and I tried to break 4:00 barrier). Anyway, it was a terrible marathon finish (one of my slowest)--what the hell happened?

Here are my thoughts on what happened and why I slowed down so much. They are in order of importance, but I think they all played a role:

1. The continuous downhill course beat the hell out of my legs. Central Illinois doesn't have many hills, so my training was on flat or slightly rolling trails and roads. I'm not acclimated to downhill running and my legs gave out around 16-17 miles.

2. I went out too fast for the first 13 miles. My first half-split time was an average pace of 7:48. Too many 7:30-7:45 miles at the beginning. Maybe this beat up my legs...and burned through my glucose. Too much carb-burning rather than fat-burning.

3. I got dehydrated. There were too few aid stations and I didn't drink enough at each one. I think this caused me to fall behind on my hydration...and likely calories too. The one time I peed, around mile 18, it was very dark urine (and very little volume).

4. I hit the wall. My fast pace, combined with too few fluids and calories, caused me to burn through carbs too quickly and I hit the wall. Without carbs, my legs were running on slow-burning fat reserves.

5. Too much activity the day before the race. I arrived on Saturday afternoon (central Illinois to Seattle) and my brother immediately took me to a late lunch. Then out to race packet pick-up and a look at the course at four spots (start, finish, 16 mile, 21 mile) along the point to point course. Then late dinner and finally back to his home to unpack and get to sleep around 11pm. I was tired. Sunday morning was an early wake-up call and longish drive to the start.

By mile 18-19, I felt like I had run 100 miles. I almost dropped at 21 miles. This is where the course becomes flat for the last 5 miles. I thought things would get better so I kept going. Nope, same tired and dead legs. Even slower pace.

Overall, it was still a good experience. I'd run this race again. The downhill course makes it fast...if you train correctly. I'd need more long runs on hilly trails. And strength training for the legs. I'd take in more calories (maybe even carry a small water bottle). I would start at goal pace, not faster, and try to maintain it to mile 21, then push harder on the 5-mile flat section to the finish. And...I'd fly in earlier and relax before race day.

No time to get depressed about the failed Boston attempt...I have an 8-hour ultra in 10 days. It's Howl at the Moon time.

Special thank you to my brother and his wife--they were a great support crew for the marathon!