Monday, October 28, 2013

My First Ultra...

...was a training run.

Seriously!  This past Saturday, I had 5 hours on my schedule.  I had to be on my feet "running" (aka, run/walk/hiking) for 5 hours.

I started the day off at 8:30am with the group that I am training for the Disney Marathon Weekend.  The group was small this week and it happened to be a drop-down week, so we ran 3.2 miles on the rails to trails.  We ran at a leisurely 10+ min. pace.

This section of the trail has some amazing murals!
Then I drove to a local reservoir trail and met a couple friends for their last long run before the NYC Marathon.  We ran 10.2 miles at sub-8 pace.  I had expected to feel out of my range there, but surprisingly, I felt good!  Awesome!!

That's 13.4 miles done in under 2 hours!

Then they headed off and I had just over three hours to go.  I grabbed my Nathan pack and headed up to the trails.

There is a connection on the reservoir trail (above) to the Metacomet Trail (blue in the map below).  From the map, it looked like I could easily catch the trail and head north up to one of the other parks I'm used to.  Awesome!

So I headed in that direction.  I quickly found out that there are PLENTY of blazed trails out there!  And since none of the others are mapped out, it was difficult to know which was the Metacomet Trail.

In the end, I ran out a bit and then took a right at some point.  I ran 45 minutes in that direction and then turned around.  That trail took me along the telephone/electrical wire path.

Once I turned around, I started slowing down.  I could feel my energy dropping, so I pulled out my last Clif bar.  By the time I got back to the split, I was ready to go!!  This time I headed left on the split, which turned out to be the Metacomet trail.  

I ran down this trail (again, ignoring a lot of trail turn offs), unknowingly going off and back onto the Metacomet Trail at least once if not twice (they do not have this well marked the whole way through!).  Eventually I got to a point where the trail opened up into a MUCH wider path with multiple directions to go...

The view coming out of my trail.

The view looking back (I came from the right).

With no markings to go by, I stood there for maybe a minute before I decided that yes, I would like to go on for another 30 minutes, but I doubt I have enough water in my pack to last me.  So I turned around and headed back.  Back at the original split, I took out and ate half of a pbj sandwich, which about 15 minutes later pumped me right back up!  At this point I was loving real food versus the gels!

Once off the trail, I finished the lap of the reservoir loop and headed back to the car.

Fortunately or unfortunately, that didn't take as long as I thought it would.  I had 23 minutes left to hit 5 hours, so after downing a good amount of water at the car, I headed back out for one more loop of the reservoir.  When I got back, I had 5:00:12 on the watch.  I was finished!!

I had run 20.2 miles in total on mappable pavement.  The trail, however, isn't as easy to map out.  I was out there for 2.5 hours.  Based on my run from last Monday, I felt I probably got somewhere between 8 and 10 miles in.

I called it an unofficial 29 miles for the day.

Having run around 8:00/mile pace in the final 4 miles, I was pumped at how awesome I felt despite the mileage I had on my feet at that point.  However, the day was not all fist pumps and high fives.

Ankle Injury?
At the point when I started the trails, I did something to my left ankle.  There's a small pain on the inside that is painful to the touch, but after a bit of walking was fine to run on.  I ran through it for 3 hours and honestly felt fine, but I can tell that it's a bit swollen.  Yeah, yeah, yeah...

Not the smartest idea
to go run 3 hours by yourself 
in the woods 
on a possibly injured ankle.  
Do what I say, not what I do.

Anyways, after some ice and rest, it feels fine today to run on, but is still swollen and tender to touch.  We'll see how that goes later. 

As I mentioned, I went with "normal" real food today instead of gels and it worked amazingly well.  In fact, I also took in far less calories than I normally would have.  Here's my breakdown of breakfast and my between run munchies...

6:30a Breakfast
4 eggs, banana w/ pb 
920 Calories

(** 3.2 mile run ** )

10:15a 2nd Run munch
3 scoops of pb, honey
355 Calories 

(** 10.2 mile run **)

12:30p 3rd Run munch
1 pbj, 2 swigs of Gatorade
410 Calories

(** 2.5 hour run **)

During my Trail Run
Clif, 1/2 pb
390 Calories

Total = 2075 Calories

I was very surprised to see that I really only took in about 1150 during the whole run and only 800 during my final 3 hours.  I think I found my race fuel!!

Running Partner
Lastly, I've completely fallen in love with this band. Sleeping with Sirens.  They may be a bit screamo at times, but they are a great running partner!!

Ok, I'm off to go run/hike for another 2 hours!


1.  What is the longest time you've been out running?
5 hours is the longest for me!  The JFK50 I'm sure will break that pretty easily though.

2.  Do you run with groups or on your own?
I run 95% of the time on my own, but I'm looking forward to joining this new running group (the NYC marathon guys) for more weekend runs in the future.

3.  What do you use for running fuel??  Anything non-sports nutrition related?
The pbj was awesome!!


Friday, October 25, 2013

Why I Never Went To Med School

This has nothing to do with triathlon, athletics, nutrition, or fitness.
In all honestly, you may dislike me for this.
Read ahead if you can keep an open mind.

What follows is a dive into one of the reasons I veered away from medical school and opted for a Ph.D. program. 

How do I do this?  I'm not exactly sure how to go about this subject.  To be honest, I've only ever had this discussion with four people; a good friend of mine in college, my best friend, his girlfriend (also a good friend of mine) and my mother.  The first three loved the intellectual puzzle that it presented but continue to cordially disagree with me while the last, in not so many words, refuses to reproach the subject.  

I suspect that some of you will feel differently about me after reading this and I can't blame you.  I don't think my opinion is a popular one by any means, but I feel it's a viewpoint that has to be taken seriously at some point.  Despite that fact, I would implore you to simply be open to the idea even if you wholeheartedly disagree.  Think of this as a philosophical discussion meant to simply probe your thoughts and initiate a discussion.  

The idea I'm about to present has been on my mind ever since college and was borne out of mixing my science major and philosophy minor.  As the blog title states, it was one large factor as to why I never followed through with being pre-med and why I veered towards research instead.

I'm not sure how to state this, but here goes...

I feel that the field of medicine,
that being the act of attempting to save lives, cure diseases, and extend one's lifespan,
is, in part, in contrast to the best interest of the human species as a collective whole. 

Now, before you jump to conclusions on what that means, let me (attempt to) explain.  I apologize for the fact that I've found this hard to articulate in the past.  I will do my best to be brief and concise. 

I went to Boston University and earned a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology with a minor in Philosophy.  While I was there, my scientific studies spanned many subjects including evolution, many diseases; their causes and supposed "cures."  As a philosophy minor, I fondly recall countless debates that might have lasted for days if not restricted by class time.  These debates brought our very basic human beliefs, thoughts, and instincts to the surface and questioned them; an act I feel many people shy away from possibly because they fear finding that their beliefs are unfounded and unsupported. 

Throughout my time in Boston, I questioned many things.  Evolution for one.

Suffice it to say, I believe in Darwinian evolution.  I believe we came from monkeys, fish, and ultimately single-celled organisms at the bottom of the ocean.  I believe that given changes in our surroundings, many various species have come to 'life' and prospered, altering who they are very slowly on an atomic and microscopic level.  Given the principal of 'survival of the fittest' and 'natural selection' some of these changes have allowed species to flourish and continue to exist while others die off.  It's a very objective series of events.  Either change or don't.  If your status fits the environment, you pass on to the next round.  If not, goodbye!  And repeat!  There is no mulligan or handicap. 

Humans, or homo sapiens, arrived after a few million years (I lost count in there somewhere) and we've thus far continued to survive against the pressures of our environment; cold, heat, predators, weather, etc.  We even beat the Neanderthals.  Here we are, a conscious, sentient species evolved all the way from bits of atomic matter.  

During that time in Boston, I also learned to appreciate a lot of similarities between various subjects.  Disease, as many will agree, was simply a portion of evolution that was and continues to be on center stage.  Why?  Because our species has become intellectual enough to not only understand how the world works, but manipulate it.  To paraphrase a comparison I heard recently, 'Genetic engineering ourselves is no different than the cave man striking up a fire; it's our manipulation of the environment for our betterment.'  This is what I would term 'Modern Evolution' in order to differentiate between our conscious and knowing alterations of our environment and those changes that occur without our intervention (weather patterns, a predator, etc). 

I began to question our field of medicine in light of my knowledge of the evolutionary process.

As a species propagates itself in the wild over many generations, small changes occur providing that species with a range of characteristics in order to better fit possible changes in the environment.  A plant, after these changes, may find itself better suited than it's neighbor for drought conditions.  If a drought never comes, then it doesn't matter; they both survive as well as their species.  However, if a drought happens to come, then the neighbor dies off and guess who's grandbaby plants take over the field?, those who survived the drought.  This can also work in the opposite direction.  Instead of being more hardy in drought conditions, the same plant could find itself with less of an ability to battle a disease, an insect, or some other environmental factor.  Evolutionary changes don't necessarily confer beneficial traits.

Bringing this up a few levels on the evolutionary scale, how does this fit with humans?  Back in caveman times, what happened if someone got sick?  They may have eventually gotten better, but more often, they probably died.  That was the way in which nature "decided" how our species would survive.  If you were viable enough to make it to maturity, you had the opportunity to mate and propagate your DNA.  If you were born with a hindrance, your chance at survival was minimal.

Jumping even further ahead, medicine has now vastly improved the odds of those that may have died before.  We've provided many with the possibility of fruitful lives given preventative care, early detection, and/or the correct treatment.  However, stated in another way, we've alluded the clutches of what I call "natural" evolution, allowing a variety of traits that are non-beneficial to our species to propagate themselves.  We've actually thrown a wrench into the system that is supposed to better our species.

This is where I find myself questioning the benefits of medicine.  If members of our species are detrimentally susceptible to an environmental factor, what is the benefit to allowing that trait to continue existing?  Wouldn't it be more beneficial to wipe the trait out or let it die out rather than let it propagate and simply manage symptoms in each successive generation?

The purpose of life from a basic biological viewpoint is to reproduce and propagate the species.  That's why we have the natural urge to mate.  In the caveman days, if a member of the group was sick, injured, or deformed, it hindered the efficiency of the group.  The group either slowed down or the illness could spread and kill them all.  In those days, that person was gone and the group was improved, able to move on efficiently.  Today, we have such a large population that it's hard to see the similarities.  If a person is born with let's broadly say a genetic, long-term illness that thanks to medicine allows them to live to reach maturity, then we are allowing this anomaly to propagate in our species.  In effect, we're bringing down the efficiency of our collective group.  In STRICTLY an evolutionary viewpoint, I see an oddity in this.  We've altered the course of natural evolution and created modern evolution (the difference only pointed out here to indicate a change in the means, not the ends). 

Because of all of this bouncing around in my head, as I think you can understand now, I was unsure how I felt about pursuing a career that I felt I did not fully support.

Therefore, I never went to Medical school.

I did, however, go into research.  While yes, research pursues, in part, cures to the diseases I held in question, it allowed me to work on things strictly from a "Hey, this is cool" standpoint as opposed to that of "I want to cure the world."  I could work in research just because I think science is cool and offers so many astounding facts and revelations (like a kid staring at his first fireworks show or a magic trick) without having to care about the world and it's diseases.  I know that may sound cold, but if you've ever had a pure interest in something like puzzles, you'll understand where that comes from. 

And now I'll address the question I'm sure you've already formed...

Why bring this up now?

I recently read Inferno by Dan Brown and in the book, they bring up a similar idea.  The book focuses on the fact that due to our exponential population growth, humans have overgrown our ecosystem's balance and that our continued prosperity as a species will also be our extinction.  The book literally talks about how there are currently over 6 billion people on Earth and that the ecosystem can only handle 4 billion.

I am not saying that these numbers are correct - I haven't even tried to draw up my own numbers - but I admit that the basic premise is correct.  Our population continues to rise and if you talk to any populations biologist or ecologist, there is always a maximum at which a species out grows the current surroundings.

Going back to my long-stated point above, how many of the 6+ billion would not exist if we allowed diseases to run their course and wipe out populations?  If medicine did not interfere with natural selection, how much smaller would the overall population be?  I don't have an answer, but it's a puzzling question.  And the book itself proposes a few pieces of food for thought, ultimately deciding on the final outcome which I admit surprised me!  I won't ruin the book at all for you, but it brought quite a few of my pre-med thoughts and internal questions back to mind.

Are we doomed as a species
because of our pure desire to live?  

Are we too intellectually smart and not ethically sound enough to make a decision that would be very widely disapproved?  Are we willing to send our species off the cliff in order to avoid being the "bad guy"?  And I don't mean a comic book villan, a serial killer, or even Hitler.  This may mean telling the world that we need to make cut backs, not to salaries or jobs, but to life.  I don't know if there are people willing to do that.  But it's interesting to consider. 

Now let me touch briefly on a few side points that you might have thought of already...

1.  Medicine is not bad.
I am not saying that the field of medicine is useless.  What I've outlined above is a very focused point on one thing that medicine does.  I am not saying that doctors are bad in what they do, simply that this was one reason I did not look to becoming one myself; the same as to why I never looked into becoming a Nascar driver.  I just don't see the point.

2.  What is Modern Evolution?
 I must admit that the way in which evolution was taught to me (not that long ago), begs to be added to in that it does not even address modern evolution and the question of whether medicine or the like are considered evolutionary pressures or our own manipulation of the process.  This was left completely up to myself and my fellow classmates to question and ponder ourselves.  In the above write up, I have split medicine into "Modern Evolution" which is separate from "Natural Evolution" for convenience sake though there may be a separation in the literature that I am not aware of. 

3.  I am not unaffected by the theoretical outcome of these thoughts
Keep in mind, I do not write this as someone separated from the experiences of death, illness, and medicine.  I have a very close family member who spends more time than I'd like in the hospital and another who was born with SMA, lived a life we knew would be short, and died at a very young age.  I can't say I've been able to completely mesh the above views with my personal life, but as Immanuel Kant, one of the better known philosophers of ethics, once said (articulated to me by one of my philosophy professors)...

It's always different when it's your own mother.

And that it is.  If you showed me a button that when pressed would randomly kill off half of the world's population, without doubt curing the world of population pressures and saving our species as a whole, I would not be able to press it. 

Final Words
Please, don't hate me for what I've said or what I believe.  It's tough to think about and even harder (as you might have grasped) to write out in a succinct way.  I hope the above statements and descriptions make sense; not that they align with your beliefs, but that they allow for you to question yourself, me, and others in order to discover and explore your own belief. 

If anyone would like to discuss this or any related topic in more depth, I am MORE than willing to do so.  I miss philosophical debates and in depth conversations.  I also would love to explore this topic more, but a discussion with yourself only leads so far.


1.  Do you have any thoughts?

2.  Did you ever take a philosophy class?  Did you ever have similar debates?
My modern philosophy class was 90% in class discussions lead by the professor that were absolutely thrilling for me.  I wish I had recorded them or better yet, could go back and rejoin the class.

3.  Is anyone an ecologist or populations biologist?
If so, I would love to chat about any information or ideas you might have to address the status of the view I've stated here.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

I am a Boy. Here is my newest Toy.

The Nathan Vapor Wrap

After much debate over the Nathan Vapor Wrap, Camel Back Ultra LR Vest, and the Ultimate Direction SJ Ulra Vest, I made my decision on the Nathan pack. 

I ordered it Sunday and like a little kid on Christmas, I kept checking the tracking info to see where it was.  It arrived last night and I opened it up last night after work.  EXCITED!!!

However, I already know there are a few things I need to do. 

  • The 22oz. bottles I have do not fit, so I will have to order some 20oz or 16oz bottles for the front pockets.
  • The removable pocket is attached with velcro.  I'm skeptical how well that will hold while running.
Overall though, I am glad I went with the larger size (L/XL = chest 37-43"; S/M = chest 33-39").  I am a 38" chest and this will work perfectly, even if I put on a few layers in the colder months to come.

Saturday will be my first test!!!  So excited!


1.  Do you use a hydration pack?  Which one?
I've used a pack from Target the last couple of years, but I doubt it'll work for an ultra.

2.  How much water do you go through on a Loooooong run?
I did 15 miles yesterday and drank maybe 10oz.  Then there are some runs where I feel I drink 20oz. per mile.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Where the H*&# Am I?!"

After Sunday's adventure spectating the Bimbler's Bluff 50k, I was inspired to get back to the trails.  Actually, it was much needed since about 12 miles of my upcoming ultra is on trails, but this was the inspiration I needed to start.  Fortunately, I had a decent first run minus a few bumps along the way.

Running at Sunrise = You're on your own buddy!
I drove to Penwood State Park.  I've been there a couple times before and I feel comfortable with the general layout and elevation profile of the trails.  What I didn't expect was to be essentially the only person out there that early.  Haha.

I started at about 7:15am (sunrise was at 7:10a) and simply hoped that I didn't end up falling down a ravine or running into a waking bear.

Beautiful Views
One thing I do love about the trails is the view.  Sure, you're packed in with trees, sunlight shining through the trees, and squirrels that scamper off every so often, but when you hit the cliffs, you get an amazing view of the surrounding area.

"Where the H*&# Am I?!"
As I said, I've been to Penwood a couple times and I felt comfortable with the few paths I've been on.  However, I apparently don't remember them that well.  It took me 20 minutes to find my way over to the yellow trail.  After it merged back to the Nature Trail, I thought I remembered a lake where I simply turned back to the Metacomet Trail.  That's not what I saw that morning.  I didn't find the lake, so I veered away from the blue Metacomet Trail thinking I hadn't hit that section yet.  All of a sudden I'm on an Orange Trail.  "I don't remember an Orange Trail!"

Orange?!  Where the heck is that?!
At that point, I assumed I had left Penwood and ventured into whatever is further north.  Since I knew my way back and I still had time, I kept going knowing that I could always turn around.  About 20 minutes later, my Where Am I thought got even more confusing...

"A road?!  Entering Simsbury?!  I thought I WAS in Simsbury.  Where the H*&# am I NOW?!"

"Oh.  Ok.  I'm at or in Wilcox Park.  That helps.  But where the H*&# is Wilcox Park?!"

Of course, this didn't phase me.  I stopped to take a picture (obviously) so I would remember to look it up later, took note of where I was (at some road I didn't recognize) and which trail I came in on and left on (there were 3-4 entrances at the road end) and kept on running.  I was shooting for a total of 2 hours, so I headed past the Wilcox sign for another 15 minutes or so and then turned around and came back.  Thankfully, I'm pretty good at backtracking, so I made it back without much of a problem.

Turns out, the Orange Trail is the northern part of Penwood and Wilcox Park where I did finally leave Penwood.  Trial by error I guess!!  Haha.

Those Roots and Rocks Come Up and GRAB You!
I swear they do!  At Sunday's 50k, there were a lot of people coming out of the woods with dirt on their knees, some dried blood, and talking of the falls they had.  While completely understandable, I somewhat brushed it off as missteps they had taken and such.  If I underestimated their ability to maneuver the trails in any way, I take it back!!

I found myself in the dirt 4-5 times and nearly there another 10-12.  The leaves are beautiful, but they hide quite a bit of what is underfoot.  And having been a road runner for so long, I'm not used to picking my feet up as high as is needed.  Ugh!!  I am hoping this comes with time.

Ummmm... Where'd the trail go?!
On my way back, instead of heading off the Yellow Trail and back onto the Nature Trail, I opted to continue down the Yellow which meets back up at the parking lot.  Well, about 5 minutes later, I run around a fallen tree and slow down thinking "Where is the trail?"  I look back and see the yellow square on a tree a ways back.  "Ok, so I'm not completely lost."   I looked ahead in all directions and couldn't find another marker.  And the ground was so covered in leaves that I couldn't see the worn path.  I eventually found some red markings, but nothing yellow.  After another few minutes, I decided I just had to back track and finish up on the Nature Trail.

As a mental note, I'm going to have to come back here and figure out where this trail actually goes!  The Nature Trail is paved and I'd prefer to stay off of it. 

Time Passes Faster In The Woods
Before I knew it, I was back at the car an hour and fifty minutes after having left it.  I figure I ran a total of somewhere around 7-8 miles, but it felt like more and less all at the same time.  On the road, it's easier to judge how far you've gone.  On the trail, I'm so busy just making sure I'm not stepping wrong on the rock or root that I lose track of how long I've been at it.  It is actually quite nice to sort of 'lose yourself' in the woods (not actually getting lost). 

I figure I'll be in the woods twice a week for my JFK50 training.  And to be honest, I'm super excited.  And I hadn't even started drinking yet!  I ate a Mojo's bar when I arrived and a Clif bar on my way back.  The slower pace (average 14:22/mile pace) and cooler temperatures will help me be able to be out there longer without needing to head home.  Yay!!  Who wants to go home?!!


1.  Do you run on trails at all?
What do you think of road versus trail running?  I've done some trails before, but nothing much.  I always love the experience and I feel it's very different than road runs.  On the road, I am all about pace because there is little to distract me.  On the trail, I'm more concerned with making sure I don't fall off the cliff and getting a cool picture than about where I'm at at what time.

2.  How early do you get out to run?
I've done 6:30am runs before, but that's during the summer when the sun is already up.  I will need to look into getting a headlamp before I head out much earlier than 7:15am now.

3.  Do you have a favorite trail picture?
Feel free to share!!  If I get a bunch, I'll make a separate post with them for us to peruse through!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

SPECTATOR REPORT: Bimbler's Bluff 50k

Unless you live under a rock, in the woods far away from civilization, or are an endurance junky, you acknowledge that life comes in rough weekly cycles.  Somewhere around Monday morning to Monday afternoon is the low point in the week.  Most people are semi-depressed, low on energy, and have low motivation to do much.  Somewhere around Wednesday this starts to wane and by Friday, anti-depressants are swapped out for ecstasy which rides out the majority of the weekend before the cycle starts again.

On a side note...
I wonder if there is a trend
of which days have the greatest anti-depressant purchases and/or dosages.
The graphs are already forming in my head.  

Anyways...  Over the last few months, I've come to realize that my weeks never seem to end; it's a constantly moving list of things going on and I rarely ever feel like I've hit the end of a week.  If I'm not at work, I'm with a running group.  If I'm not with a running group, I'm running by myself.  If I'm not running by myself, I'm watching someone else run.  It's a lot of running and this weekend was no different.

As you read HERE, I wasn't able to make it in for the Bimbler's Bluff 50k this past Sunday.  However, that certainly didn't keep me from heading down to Guilford to spend the day spectating (and wishing I could run). 

At 5:00am, I woke up and realized that whether I race or spectate, I'm still up at the same time.  Wishing I could run - and of course packing my bag with all my needed running gear JUUUUUUUST in case, I got breakfast, packed the car and was out the door by 6:00am for the 45 minute drive to Guilford, CT.  I even beat my friends who were racing there!

The race itself started and finished at a local high school.  As most ultras go (from what I hear), it was pretty low key.  There were about 150 runners who came out for the 6th race and they had just about anything you could think of as far as gear.  Some looked like they were ready for a 5k.  Others looked like they were going on a multi-day hike.  If you think a marathon shows the range of personal running choices, check out an ultra!! 

As my friends Jenn & Christine got ready (above left), they made some quick announcements including the fact that a resident along the course had torn down the signage last year.  So as a warning, they told them to expect that section of the course to not be marked and simply follow the trail markings.  When you're covering such a long distance, you have to assume that they can't keep watch on the ENTIRE course! 

Then the runners amassed for the national anthem.  It was quickly apparent that the iPod was not going to play through the loudspeaker, so the local Choral teachers came out to sing (top right)!  This was impromptu and a very cool touch.  Kudos to them. 

And then with very little pizazz, the race was off!  Most people in an ultra have been to the big to-do races, they've seen the big start display and the fancy finish lines.  When you show up for an ultra, you're there for the mileage, not the swag. 

A 50k is roughly 31 miles.  This race was more around 32 and had no loops, so once everyone was off, all the spectators stood around saying "Ok.... What now?"  Haha. 

Thankfully, the race had five spots that were easy access to the course.  These spots were aid stations for the runners as well as great places for friends and family to come by with cheers, signs, cowbells, or the needed gear (new socks, drinks, food, etc.). Christine's husband Adam, Jenn's friend Mike, and I drove around to catch the girls as they went by.  And I have to admit, it was quite fun.

The first "stop" was about 2.5 miles in and had no aid station.  It was just a road crossing where we parked and watched them go by.  It was quick, but fun to watch the runners.  Mike puts it pretty well in the above video; "Woohoo!  See you in... a couple hours." 

The next stop was their first aid station at roughly mile 10. 

The top left is the double table full of water, HEED, Gatorade, peanut butter and jelly, oranges, bananas, M&Ms, boiled potatoes, and some other interesting items.  The top right is the section of the trail just after the aid station.  It was quite a big hill to climb!  Those are runners #1 and 2 at this point in the day. 

Another great point about ultras - WALK!!  You've got plenty of miles to go, so walk when you hit a nasty uphill.  As Mike sums it up well again... "You've only got a marathon left!"  Haha.  Isn't that what we all want to hear!!

We watched a lot of runners come up the hill and most did walk, which was very smart.  Even the leaders did a good amount of walking.  Then it was off to the next stop where wouldn't you know, they had GRILLED CHEESE!!

Aid station #3 was at the 16 mile point.  And while waiting, we got to see a lot of fun things while continuously ringing our cowbells...

There must have been a cycling race because a LOT of cyclists went by.  Then there was the guy who ran the entire 50k in what looked like a flannel type shirt; AMAZING!  Then the fun VW van that went by twice (once ominously followed by a cop) and the group that ran in matching "party hard" shirts.  They were pretty out of it by the end of the race, but they did well. 

So while at this station, all of our ears perked up when we heard someone say "Anyone want a grilled cheese?"  That's not exactly food you'd think to have on a run.  But remember, at an ultra, it's a no holds bar!!  The grilled cheese was quite a hit. 

Aside from the popular grilled cheese (which I did get a piece of thanks to the awesome volunteers), there was a nice variety of food shown above.  And it was all thanks to the crazy and awesome volunteers on the right.  They were a ball of energy and much appreciated I'm sure.  They were ready with plastic bags to fill with whatever a runner needed!  Awesome job!!

The ladies filled their packs, Jenn got a grilled cheese, they packed their ziploc bags and were off! 

Unfortunately, Mike had to head off at this point and Adam needed to pick up some friends at the local train station, so I headed off to Aid Station #4 at mile 22 to cheer on the ladies.  This is also where I got my favorite picture of the day...

Yup, they're officially delirious!  Haha.  Nah, they were doing great!  The day, however, was starting to take a toll.  After a few falls, Jenn had a bloody knee, they had some dirt patches on their legs/clothes, and they were happier and happier every time they heard the cowbells.  Actually, most people were; it meant the aid station was very close! 

We refilled the packs, got some much needed food, and a few minutes later, they headed back off. 

I met back up with Adam as well as Jared and Stacey at the final aid station. 

And pretty much right on cue, they came running around the corner...

"We're starving!!"  I can't even blame them.  At this point, they were about 29 miles in and had been on their own for the last 8 miles.  We spent a good amount of time at the next station munching on potato chips, potatoes and the super popular homemade gingerbread cookies!  Seriously, they kept going back for more of those.  Haha.

Yum!!!  COOKIES!!

Once satiated (at least somewhat), they headed back off and ran the final 2.5 miles to the finish line.

Immediately afterwards, the ladies got their finisher's beer glass, Adam fired up the portable grill, Christine got her specially requested beer, and we had a little cookout right in the school parking lot!  It was quite a day!

Overall, I was super proud of them both.  Christine battled some dehydration early on and Jenn battled some ankle rolls, but they made it to the finish and looked good doing it!!  As expected, I was super jealous the entire race, but on the bright side, I believe I have another race for next year; the 2014 Bimbler's Bluff 50k!


1.  Have you ever run an ultra?
If so, how different was it from the typical road race you've done.  I know this was trails which can be VERY different than road, but simply based on distance, what did you notice was different?

2.  Have you ever run a trail race?
I never have, but 12 or so of the first 18 at the JFK50 is on trails. 

3.  What is your preferred distance for racing?
Are you a 5k person, a marathoner, or do you not do anything less than 50 miles?!

4.  What day is your typical LOW of the week?
I think Tuesday might be my low.  I've come off the high of the weekend by then and have started planning for the next.  


Saturday, October 19, 2013

To Be Disappointed or Thankful...

A couple friends of mine are running their very first ultra tomorrow, the Bimbler's Bluff 50k.  Awhile back, they asked me if I would join them.  As tempting as it was to be able to run my first ultra with friends, my inner coach easily won this battle due to the proximity of the race to my double this past weekend.  I hoped that I'd feel awesome after the double and be able to run, but wasn't about to take the chance of being injured and push myself through something that wouldn't exactly be a smart decision.

Then this past Thursday came and I had an AWESOME track workout.  We did 6x 800m repeats, one repeat ever 4:45.  I went out just to loosen up and run by feel.  Turns out my body felt like running sub-6:00 pace.  There were a few kinks still to be worked out, but I had bounced back very well.

Yesterday evening, the thought creeped back into my head...

"Maybe I can run this 50k.
I wonder if they're still taking registration."

All I remembered was that there was no race day registration.  As I pulled up the website, I was secretly hoping I could slip into the race last minute though I had no idea what I'd bring since I hadn't purchased a hydration pack yet and wasn't training on trails at all this year.  But who cares!  If I can do a double, I can do a 50k!

Thankfully, someone up there saved me.  Registration closed on October 5th.  So... no ultra for me tomorrow.  My inner athlete has been disappointed all morning, but I know it's the smarter decision.  Ah-well.

But on the brighter side, I had an AWESOME run today!  I ran with a couple of my half-marathoners this morning.  They got 5 and 6 miles in respectively, and we had a great chat; where to go in Beijing, preferences on smooth vs. crunchy peanut butter, what to do on a 13 hour flight, and our breakfast experimentations.

It's hard to beat the trails in the fall!

And then once they were done, I headed back out to finish up my goal of getting 2 hours on my feet for the day...

Happy to be feeling good 1 week post-double!
I got in 12 miles today and am pumped to be scheduling in some time on the real trails over the next 5 weeks leading up to the JFK 50

Ok.  I'm done writing.  I need to shower so I can get to cooking some pancakes (yes... shirtless J)!!  I think I'm going with plain almond today.


1.  What is the latest you've ever signed up for a race?
I once ran a race without signing up.  Does that count?  We thought there was race day registration, but there wasn't.  Since we were already there, we ran anyways.  Haha.  Other than that, my Sprint Tris are always race day registration, and I signed up for Newport just a month beforehand.

2.  How long do you take off after a race before racing again?
I know this year has been a bit packed (that's an understatement!), but as far as endurance and simply finishing, I truly believe I can run a 50k tomorrow.  I just don't know where my "peak" is.

3.  What did you have for breakfast today?!
I need some more ideas!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 4 Post-Double

...and I'm feeling pretty good!

Monday was tough.  My calves were not happy.  My body was achey.  I went for a long walk which helped loosen me up, but it all tightened right back up later on.

Tuesday was a bit better.  I could walk easier.  I did a lot of myofascial work and stretched. 

Wednesday was surprisingly good.  I woke up relatively loose (relative for having done my first double).  I did some exercises at the gym and got a massage.  Other than my nagging calf pain, I was feeling good.

Today I feel great.  I'm not back 100% by any means, but my legs feel good albeit a little sore when pushed.  Oh, and my 2nd toenails are a little touchy.  Other than that though, it's time to loosen them up with a run.  Off to the track!!  We've got 800m repeats tonight.  I'm just hoping to get in the full 4-6 repeats without a pain or too much of an energy drag.  But we'll see.  If I do, I can't really complain.  I dug my own hole this time.

Next up:  JFK 50


1.  How long after a big race do you get back to exercising/training?
It all depends on the race.  It could be the next day or a week.

2.  What's the next race on your schedule?
JFK 50 is in my sights.  If I can do a double, I can handle 50.  Seriously!  I have no reservations about this one.  

3.  What does your "off-season" look like?  
I haven't had one in a year.  I'm not sure I'd recognize it if it came up and bit me.


Monday, October 14, 2013

RACE REPORT: Newport Marathon

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Back in January, I ran the Goofy Challenge as a coach.  In February, I ran my own version of the challenge (Colchester Half & Hyannis Full).  Since then, I have debated the idea of doing two full marathons.  Choosing the races I would do was easy.  After this weekend, the execution of the races was... well, not so easy.

After my less than stellar performance at the Hartford Marathon on Saturday, I found myself with very tight calves, what felt like bursas in each hip from my ITB movements which hindered my movement, and stiff knees.  I did my best to recover Saturday evening by taking a rather lengthy ice bath, kept my feet elevated as much as possible, and stretched/rolled/massaged my muscles as much as I could stand the pain.  I would be amiss to admit, however, that it did not cross my mind to bail out on Sunday's race.

As a coach, my first inclination would be to suggest NOT completing the double out of fear of causing an injury.  However, despite my possibly better judgement, I woke up on Sunday at 3:45am, had my breakfast (4 eggs, 1 bowl of steel cut oatmeal, 1 banana with pb, and 2 pieces of toast). and headed to Newport.

Given that Hartford was my BQ attempt, Newport has always been planned as simply a finish.  In order to help me stick to that goal, I carried my camera with me the entire race.  From this point on, I would like to let the pictures do the majority of the story telling for me.

Up at 3:45a and off to Newport by 4:45a.  It was roughly a two hour drive.  

 I arrived on site by 6:45a, parking at Sachuest Beast. 

The parking was off-site, so we had shuttles (aka. school buses) that took us to the race site about 1.5 miles away. 

Once we arrived, I headed straight to registration.

While in line, I met someone who was doing the double half.  They were astonished that someone would do a double full.  At this point in the day, I was wondering about that myself.  

If you love the beach, this is the race for you!!  I'm not a beach person myself, but it was hard not to appreciate the awesome views.  

Here I am, pre-race ready (aka. sore hips, tight calves, cold, and weary about the 26.2 miles to come).

Everyone in line for bathrooms, baggage check, and walking to the start line. 

The start line with all the fast runners doing striders to keep loose. 

Once in line, they announced that we would have to wait another 10 minutes because buses were still bringing people to the race.  While waiting, I met my 2nd doubler, a marathon maniac.  And there were a LOT of doublers out on course!  Some you could spot with the Hartford shirt.  Others I'd start chatting with and they'd just mention it - "Hey, me too!"  We're a crazy breed!

The start line looking back.

The start line looking ahead.  The American flag was carried by a runner the entire race.  We'll see him again later. 

And we're off!!  I immediately realized I was shuffling.  I had a LOOONG day ahead of me!  My hips were already not too happy. 

This angle comes thanks to Lisa, a friend of mine who came to spectate. 

Lots of sailboats!

And more boats.  At about this point (maybe 1.5 miles in), I noticed that my hips had loosened up and no longer hurt.  Hooray!!  My biggest fear turned out to simply need a little run to ease itself out.  I was very happy!

Such a cool stone wall. 

Beautiful scenery!

Plenty of big houses.

At first I was amazed by the roof tiles on this building.  But then as we ran by, the lady in the car hopped out and asked "Is there any chance of us getting out?"  We all laughed and about 6 of us simultaneously said "Nope!"  There were at least 2-3 cars behind her too.  I felt bad for them, but they were stuck for at least another 1.5 hours unless there came a break in the stream of runners. 

Me running down Ocean Drive.

Ocean Drive is a very windy road that snakes right along the edge of the water for quite a ways. 

I've never seen so many castle-looking houses with gates.  They felt like gated communities of one. 

Rounding the last corner.

Headed back down the first hill we came up.  The half marathoners are almost done!

Running down the boardwalk. 

Hello and Goodbye finish line!  We shall meet again in another 13.1 miles. 

13.1 miles
1:55:21 (8:48 pace)

So many houses! 

This is me running towards Lisa at roughly mile 15. 

This is me headed away from Lisa yelling back "I will never do another double!"  I wasn't exactly a fan at this point. 

The sand certainly kept creeping up onto the road.

Now THIS was a really cool shot!  Just at the end of the first out & back, the beach became rocks.  Very scenic!

At the end of the first out & back (roughly mile 16.5). 

These shots reminded me of the beaches in Wilmington!

Ok.  The short (and flat) out & back was done.  Now time for the long (and hilly) out & back. 

And the wind started picking up at times!

One of the first hills. 

I told you he'd be back!  He was at roughly mile 23 at this point.  Looking strong!

I have no idea what this is. 

What a COOL front door!!  I could spend a lot of time looking at all the architecture. 

Yay!!  I finally made it to the end of the long out & back.  I seriously thought it would never end. 

However, this was their idea of a turn around.  No timing system to be sure you didn't cheat.  No volunteer to make sure you make it around the very end.  An interesting choice by the race crew.

Kristen, a fellow HEAT member caught up to me around mile 21.  She was having some trouble with her foot, but wasn't letting it stop her.  She was such a trooper!!

As much as I hated climbing up the hills, I was looking forward even less to going back down!  My right calf was really bothering me on the downhills. 

And then I see this guy at his mile 19 wearing sandals!!  Impressive!

More cool houses!

Back to the water!!

The never ending out & back finally has ended.

Time to walk up the final hill!  Thanks Lisa for catching this moment of weakness.  While yes, I was tired, it was actually chafing that stopped me.  This was probably one of my worst chafing races.  Ugh!! 

And thanks to Phil, a fellow doubler and multiple ultra runner, I picked up the pace and made it the final 1.2 miles at the pace I ran the first half at.  Crazy!!

The glorious finish line!  The Newport Marathon and my double marathon is finished!!

Wouldn't you know, they collected the throw away clothes from the start line and set them out for people to reclaim.  How cool!!

Time for food!!  Nothing great, but plenty of pizza, water, Gatorade, and soup. 

Me post-race!!  I'm a triathlete, a marathoner, an Ironman, and now a double-marathoner.  I can't wait to be an ultra runner!!  Seriously.  The double kinda sucked, but I think putting it all on one day will be much better!

Time to do some quick recovery!  The sand felt AWESOME on my feet.  I was surprised!

And the water felt even better!

I walked up and down the coast for about 15 minutes cooling my legs off. 

The official times!  I finished in 4:27:35, a speedy 10:13 pace.  Haha. 

26.2 miles
4:27:35 (10:13 pace)

Headed back to the parking lot!  When we got back to the lot, the bus driver stopped and announced "Hey guys.  I just want to say a big "Congratulations" to each and every one of you.  What you did today was inspirational.  Thank you.!"  I won't lie, it brought tears to my eyes.  But we all quickly said "No.  Thank YOU!"  I added "Thank you for not making today an extra 1.5 miles long!"  Haha.  What amazing volunteers!!

Time to head back home! 

About an hour into the two hour drive, I stopped to get some ginger ale and wake myself back up.  I was starting to get pretty tired. 

And it turns out Mystic is halfway between home and Newport.  So I walked around for an hour. 

Today's swag!! 

And another piece of bling to add to my collection!!

I hope you enjoyed my pictoral review of the Newport Marathon.  This was my first trip to Newport and therefore my own 26.2 mile tour of the famed city.  I wouldn't exactly recommend this tour group for those who aren't running lovers.  But for those who are, and especially those who love the beach, this was great!! 

As far as nutrition, I carried my handheld the entire time filled with strawberry HEED and didn't start taking water on course until mile 14 or so.  At that point, the HEED was not quenching my thirst enough and I was getting very thirsty.  I did take three gels throughout the race, but noticed that it would be half a mile before my stomach settled again.  I don't seem to be a fan of gels while running.  However, my stomach doesn't handle large volumes of liquid thus far either.  I'm a finicky runner I guess.  Also, I have some serious work to do on avoiding chafing.  I don't know what it is about this year, but it seems to get me at EVERY race! 

  • Great time of year.
  • You have a half marathon and full marathon to choose from.  
  • Plenty of parking.
  • Amazing volunteers!  From the bus drivers, to the high school teams at the aid stations, to the registration table, and baggage check.  Every single volunteer looked happy to be there and speedy in getting things done. 
  • Plenty of bathrooms along the course and at the start (I've never seen so many!)
  • If you're a beach person, you will LOVE the views!
  • If you're an architecture lover, you will LOVE the houses you run by.
  • LOTS of runners, so unless you're off the front, you'll never find yourself alone.
  • You have the beach at the finish for a natural ice bath.
  • Great looking swag shirts!
  • Separate half and full marathon medals.  Some races give the same medal and I find that odd.

  • If you hate the beach, this is going to be torturous.  But then why would you do Newport?!
  • You do run by the finish line at the half way point (for the marathon).  Mental games!
  • The second out & back is hilly and never seems to end (roughly miles 17.5-24.5).
  • The hills are at the end of the course; very challenging mentally and physically.  
  • No timing mats at the end of the out-and-back.  I've almost come to think of them as requirements.  Maybe that's just me. 
  • The gathering area at the finish is outdoors and at the beach.  You need to make sure you have warm clothes to change into.


1.  Have you ever run a double marathon weekend?
If so, which ones and where?

2.  What is your favorite marathon?
I heard a lot of great things about the Big Sur marathon yesterday.  

3.  Have you ever gone against your better self-preservation judgement?  How did it turn out?
Thankfully, I was not injured or harmed in Newport despite my expectations.  The run actually helped loosen aches from Hartford and I feel much better today for having gone.  Thank you whoever is looking out for me up there!