Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rockledge Rumble 50k

Getting ready to go. One last smile!
Where to start, where to start?????

I guess the best place to start is...
This would be my first Ultramarathon. This would be my longest run ever.
Graham making sure I had all my stuff ready.
I started running at the end of April this year. Had to stop for 6 weeks with a foot injury (from stupidity). I had to start all over again, from close to scratch, in September. So a little over 2 months of training, going from 0 miles to a 50 k, seems fairly reasonable....

My training consisted of getting as many miles in as safely possible. My longest run, prior to the race, was just over 20 miles on the same trails that the race would be held on. The goal from the beginning of the race was to finish, period. I was looking forward to testing my limits physically and mentally. I have read countless horror stories of "the wall", smacking people dead in their tracks at mile 20 or so of a marathon. Quitting, I told myself, was not going to be an option for me. Hopefully, I would survive.

Exactly one week before the race, it felt like I got punched in the chest. "Reality" was starting to sink in. What in the world was I thinking! This kind of distance, based on my training, was NUTS! The rest of the week was full of semi panic, worry, anticipation and uncertainty. Funny, the closer it actually came to race day, the calmer I became. I was almost worried.

You see, I tend to think I can do more than I actually can. This trait has been with me from the beginning. I would see a professional surfer on TV..."I can do that". My mom, as kindly as she could, would say "No you can't". Before you start thinking bad thoughts about my discouraging mother, let me paint a better picture of who she was talking to, this "I can do that" person was a 7 year old extremely chubby kid. Whose athletic ability consisted of...
-getting winded putting on rollerblades
-making 1 goal in basketball, during 4 years
-voting for "freeze" tag at school, because it involved less running
I somehow got the impression that my fantastic ability to play sport games on my Nintendo through the dexterity of my thumbs somehow carried over into the real world. I was very full of ambition, unfortunately I was also very "full of IT".

My wife/photographer/support crew/motivation...and love of my life!

Lizzi and myself pre-race.

Over the years I have learned to keep "7 year old chubby and overly ambitious Tyler" in check. My ambition is still there, but it is strongly coupled with optimism, reality and my physical ability. I started to make my game plan for the race. I evaluated  previous runs I had done on the trails and started making time estimates. I knew I had the ability to finish, but even with my conservative time estimates, this was going to be a huge task for me. I wanted to keep the possible problems that could occur to a minimum. I started calculating all the gels, electrolytes and water I would need to have to keep my body going. I made a time and mileage sheet, based off of the aid stations, to help me track my progress over the day. My estimated time for finish...just under 7 hours. I would find out, about 5 miles into the race, that I had taken into account aid station stops but not my walk breaks. I also made myself a few notes about when to stop, what I would need and how I should run the race. Knowing that several hours into the race, I might not be thinking too clearly.

Time sheet. Estimated time to finish 6h58m.

Back of time sheet. The game plan.

So now to race day.

My wife and 2 kids where going to be apart of this special occasion and I was very excited. We all got up at the crack of dawn and started the journey. When we arrived at Jackson Pavilion, sunrise and excitement were stirring. The packet pickup process went flawlessly, it is so nice when this occurs! There was a fantastic "opening ceremony" of sorts honoring the veterans that have served our country. After this, the 50k race would start. I knew trail races had casual and very informal starts, but while standing in a crowd with a few friends, the word "GO" sounded and that was it. I'm kinda glad it happened this way. Standing around for several minutes and waiting would have allowed me time to think about what I was about to do. It was too late now, I was running!
Right before the start with some last minute advice from Rick.

Against my better judgement, or maybe not, I started the race running the pace of friends Steve and Jay. The pace was a little faster than I had planned, but nice and comfortable. It finally dawned on me around mile 2, "Hey moron, you have 29-30 more miles to go! If you keep going like this too early, you will be screwed!". The company and conversation was very enticing, what to do? Fortunately, my friend Jay announced he needed to walk some, and thus my exit from this pace had arrived. Another half mile down the trail and I wished Steve all the best and decided to implement my game plan now.

My kids coming to check on their Dad!

My game plan consisted of taking walk breaks early in the race, a 45 second walk break every 0.5-1 mile. The first 10 miles would be getting into the groove. I would start to pick up the pace some for the 2nd 10 miles. The last 10+ miles, depending on how I was feeling, would be "go for broke" mode. I would also consume 1 gel every 30 minutes and take 2 Hammer Endurolyte pills every hour for 20 miles. I would up the gels to 1 every 20 minutes for the last 10+ miles, assuming that my body would have completely exhausted whatever resources I had in me. I wore my Nathan Endurance Hydration pack. It held 70oz of water and had several pockets to hold my plethora of goodies. For shoes, I decided to wear my New Balance MT101's along with Injinji toe socks . I also wore my Zensah compression calf sleeves, I figured they would be needing a nice 'snug hug' at some point during the run. Finally, I had my Garmin 405 CX GPS watch and heart rate monitor. It felt like I was supplied and stocked up well beyond what I needed, but better safe than sorry for the first ultra. This would be a learning experience, and hopefully it would get me to the end in one piece.

Graham doing his best impression of me running. Much better than me of course!

Jordyn and Graham encouraging me.
After the separation from my starting trio, a fun little "cat and mouse" game occurred between myself and Jay. Our breaks were timed differently, he would catch up to me, then I to him. This lasted until about 12 or 13 miles into the race, when I passed him for good. Should I be taking this as a confidence boost, absolutely NOT! Jay had recently taken a nasty spill on the trails and had several cracked ribs. And he still showed up to race!!! Passing him at this point kinda had me worried, if I can't run better than a guy with cracked ribs, I might not be doing that well!

Since my hydration pack held 70oz of water, I was able to skip several of the aid stations. Thinking this would save me time, in actuality it may not have. The pack is fantastic when time is not of the essence, I have gotten the process down where I can refill the water fairly the right circumstances. On my first refill stop, a volunteer offered to refill it for me. Being in a 'running zone stupor', I said OK. It ended up taking several minutes because if you don't open and close the bladder just right, it doesn't work. I ended up thanking the very kind volunteer, but doing it myself.

Off I go, around 20+ miles.

Having my family at the race, we strategized a way so they could see me in action. The best place we figured was somewhat in between where the start/finish was and the trailhead. I carried my phone on me and gave her a 5-10 minute heads up via text message. It was an awesome feeling to come around the corner and see my wife, 2 kids and a dear friend Lizzy cheering me on! My spirits were already good, but this took them to another level. In a moment of confusion, I almost stopped to talk to everyone. Then I remembered that I was in a long race, the more I stopped the greater the chance of my muscles getting tight on me. So I continued on, back to the starting spot and the "stairs".

I had been told about the stairs. I even checked them out pre-race. But they look different 20 miles into the race. I figured this was not the time to be the hero, walk up them. I then proceeded over to my drop bag to refill water and gels. This process went vary smoothly, partially because I had written down exactly what I needed to do on my race "cheat sheet". I saw another trail running friend Robin while refilling my goodies and was able to chit-chat briefly while taking care of my necessities. Back to the trail, back for more fun.

The "stairs". The picture speaks for itself.

On the way back out to the trailhead, I ran past my family and friend again. This time my kids came out to run with Dad. This was the highlight of the whole race for me! They ran up and down a grassy hill with me, it was an amazing experience. After the family "high" was over, it was back to business. It was time to assess my gas tank for the 3rd leg of my journey. Surprisingly, my energy levels where very high. My legs were in some pain and my feet and I were not on speaking terms.

The best association I can use to describe what was going on with my body is this...
Remember back to being a child. You are in some public place with your parents. You do something wrong and your parents witness it, yet they are not in the position to adequately convey their anger at what you just did. They give you the look. The look that sends chills down your spine. The look that says "I know what you did and you are not going to like what happens when we get back to the car". My mind was the child, doing something I know was wrong. My legs were the parent, scornfully looking upwards. Every rock I stepped on, every hill I climbed and every downhill I took fast... the message was sent from my legs and feet to my head...just you wait, you are not going to like what I have to say when you get back to the car. But just like a child, I smiled right back at my lower half anyways, enjoying my last remaining moments until I had to deal with the consequences of my actions.

Thumbs up, everything is great.
This was my "go for broke" time. I had this written down on my cheat sheet. But being the overly ambitious guy that I already spoke about, I wasn't 100% sure this would even be an option. Well here I was, just recently surpassing my longest run ever and I COULD pick up the pace. It was a good feeling. I started taking my breaks less frequently. I started implementing my 1 gel every 20 minutes. At this point I am thinking, if I have to eat tree bark to keep this up, I will. I made a specific effort to look at my Garmin GPS watch to see the number 26.2 officially click. It's amazing I didn't trip and fall trying to do this. I must have looked at my watch 50 times from mile 26.11 until the 26.2 happened. I took a second to reflect that I had officially run my first marathon distance. That was neat and all, but I still had at least 5 more miles to go.

About half way to the final turnaround, I started to realize that I might be able to crack 6hr30min. These are just numbers, it's nowhere near the prestigious 24hr/100mile number, but it was something. Remember I was thinking a 7 hour finish was the most likely scenario, but again, I had not factored in my walk breaks. A 6:30 was my absolute best case scenario. I spent a few minutes wondering if I might be getting delirious. How did this happen? Was I off in my calculations? I knew I was ahead of my planned schedule, but only by about 10 minutes. And here I am, it is really within my grasp.

I was able to pass about 15 people on this final loop. Not just an "excuse me" while I inch just slightly ahead of you. This was a "watch out, I am about to run you over!" type of excuse me. I would pass someone, run for 10-15 seconds, check the rear view mirror....out of sight. Now THIS was grounds for confidence boosting. All that was left after a super quick aid station stop, was another heads up text message in about 30 minutes to my wife to be expecting me at the finish.

When I reached the very last section of trail, which runs along the shore of Lake Grapevine, I was met with gusts of winds that had me feeling like I was running backwards. I could finally start to see where the trail met the road, signaling the last half mile. While my mind was focusing on staying strong to the finish, something occurred. The fact that I had almost ACTUALLY completed this race hit me. I'm not an emotional guy by any means, but I won't lie. I had a few tears of joy. Not really sure why, I knew I could do this. But I think my "ambitious Tyler" and my "realistic Tyler" had a pretty good stalemate on me, each "Tyler" yielding just enough space to not let me fully grasp what I was getting into. I relished the moment, but "my parent/child leg battle" reminded me that I needed to focus on the task at hand.

Off the trail and onto the road. I took a brief walk break near the restrooms to catch my breath and get ready for the true "go for broke" moment. I was going to give 100% of what I had left. I began to pick up the pace even more and after running 30+ miles, this would be the equivalent of a sprint. I had decided that I would attack the "stairs" in full force. As the stairs came into my view, I saw my wife and 2 kids....and an older man standing VERY close to my wife, TOO close! I am instantly confused. I am gone for 6 hours, running my heart out and this is what I come back to find!! Just a little bit further and my confusion/semi-suspicion turns into honor and pride. It was my wife's Dad! He had called her literally 30 minutes earlier just to see how she was doing. My wife told him what was going on, then a few minutes later he was there! He was in the area and the timing could not have been better.

Graham, Jordyn and my wife's Dad Raymond seeing me finish my first ultra.

The final push, hitting it hard.

So the thought that is going through my head...."attack the stairs hard!". Then "realistic Tyler" speaks up..."What if your legs cramp up and you fall flat on your face? Everyone is watching you, you will look like an ass!" Well, so be it. I will give everyone a good laugh if need be. The last bit of adrenaline, that was hidden somewhere in a love handle possibly for a rainy day, surged through my body. I was able to fly up the stairs, just like I hoped and deep down inside knew I could. THE FINISH!!!! It is over!!! I am greeted by the race director with a handshake, a finishers medallion and a special beer made just for this race. Talk about the icing on the cake!

A happy finisher!

I stopped my watch, glanced at the time...... 6h20m46s.... WOW! This information is still processing in my head today. A 7hr realistic goal. 6h30m best case scenario. 6h20m actual. It's not just the fact that I beat my best case scenario, it's the fact that I ran for over 6 hours! I remember vividly talking with an old friend from high school who had just run the Big D marathon. I said that I had no desire whatsoever to run that far and especially that long. This was about 6 months ago and here I am doing further and longer. Don't ever say you won't do something, keep the possibilities open.

My legs did eventually forgive me for the pain I caused them, they understood. This whole experience has been so amazing. I would say that I can't put it into words, but apparently there are several words/sentences/paragraphs above that would say otherwise. I am already plotting and planning my next adventure to come.

The time finally came to answer to my legs. Well worth it.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Weekly Summary Oct 24 - 30

10/24/2011 Off/Rest

10/25/2011 Recovery Run    
Distance: 8  Time: 1:26
Calories Burned: 968    HR: avg 144 max 164
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: Street
Ran to the park where my daughter was practicing soccer at. Met Stephanie and Graham to do some family running. Pushing a stroller up hills is hard work!

10/26/2011 Neighborhood semi-speed run 
Distance: 5.43  Time: 0:55
Calories Burned: 705    HR: avg 150 max 170
Shoes: New Balance MT10  Terrain: street
One last speed workout before Saturday's race. Also wanted to wear my New Balance shoes again, I hadn't worn them in awhile. Had some good paces during the run, nothing to crazy though.

10/27/2011 Easy Run 
Distance: 4.36  Time: 0:47
Calories Burned: 519    HR: avg 141 max 161
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: Street
Light run and testing out a windbreaker vest for Saturday. It kept my core warm, problem area...hands. First chilly weather and my body is confused.

10/28/2011 Rest

10/29/2011 Race - The Original Mud Run 
Distance: 6.25 Time: 1:10
Calories Burned: 1011    HR: not accurate
Shoes: New Balance MT10  Terrain: trail/obstacle
See post for details!

10/30/2011 Rowlett Creek Preserve - Easy
Distance: 8.8 Time: 1:58
Calories Burned: 1192   HR: avg 135 max 148
Shoes: New Balance MT101  Terrain: trail
I was thinking about getting a long and slow trail run in, at a very easy pace. The first 4-5 miles were good, then I started to get a tweak in my hip flexor/ upper quad area. I took a break to refill water with anticipation of running 4-6 more miles. The pain got worse and worse and after 1.5 miles, I decided to stop. The pain has since left altogether, just lingering effects of a hard race the day before.

Distance: 32.84 Time: 6:16
Calories Burned:  4,395

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Original Mud Run DFW

I have to start off saying this is one of my favorite "mud runs".
It might be a favorite for nostalgic reasons (it was my first)....
or maybe because the course is virtually identical each time...
or that it is a flat 10k course, which allows for me to push the pace without concern for terrain changes...
or that is has an all around good mix of challenges and obstacles....

Myself with some of DFW Mudcrew's finest! We are all braving the cold! There is a fine line between brave and crazy!

When I ran this race back in April of this year, I really had no idea what to expect. I was fairly certain that I could handle the distance part of the course. The same goes with the obstacles. But combine the two challenges, that was were it became a grey area for me. My whole game plan the first go around was to pace myself and complete the race in one piece. A friend and I ran the whole thing together. We had so much fun together and we ran at a nice "jogging" pace. We completed the course in 1hr 38m. Pleased with the time for a first timer, I knew I could do better. Again, as the title of my blog suggests, I usually don't like to settle for things...I prefer to better and outdo myself whenever possible. Looking at other previous results, my goal was to have a time in the 1h20m range, about 10-12 minutes faster than last time. I have had this October race in the back of my mind ever since completing the first one. There have been tons of other great events that I have participated in the mean time, but I couldn't wait for the "rematch" of this particular course.

Throughout all my normal training and preparation for every aspect of an event of this nature, one thing that I had really failed to consider....coldness. In Texas especially, we all can't wait for the cool days of fall and winter while being tested with consistent 100 degree days. Conversely in the winter, we anxiously await the warm days of spring and summer to get out of the house. Each somewhat extreme or opposite climate has their pro's/con's, each seem more ideal than whatever current state we are in. The first cool weather came Thursday before the race. It was a huge shock to my system and my gameplan. Now mind you, the temperature didn't drop down into the teen's or something extreme in that nature. But it did go from being 80's-90's down to the 40's and 50's. That's a pretty big swing for my body to get adjusted to with a days notice. Sweating profusely while running.... to numb and chilled limbs that are forgetting how to function. Semi-panic mode sets in for me! I need gloves, jackets, layers, ear muffs, tights, and anything else "arctic proof" NOW!! Well not quite that dramatic, but close. It wasn't just the temperature I was concerned with, it was the fact that we were going to be wet...not a maybe...a definite. That turns cool weather into very cold weather quickly.
Get down, get muddy and crawl!

So after much debating about what to wear and what not to wear I came to a decision.
-Normal running shorts, shirt, shoes (New Balance MT10) and socks
-Windbreaker vest
-Running gloves with a mitten or finger option (Brooks Adapt)
-Compression arm sleeves (Zensah)

Now to the race. Frustration I guess should be expected at all of these events, I don't really know why, but that seems to be the norm. Their timing chip system was not working properly during early packet pickup. So they had to be picked up at the race. The problem was nobody was there to hand them out when we got there. Fortunately we got them with a few minutes to spare before the race and were ready to go. Well...almost. I did not get to warm up like I intended to and mother nature decided to say 'hello' to me during the National Anthem about 2 minutes before start time. I figured I could have an hour plus stalemate with mother nature...heck, it might even make me run faster.

The race begins. The temperature is about 45 degrees, time to find out if my clothing plan will work. I had intentions of pushing the pace hard, at what I thought my body could handle for a 10k. I was looking at keeping my heart rate somewhere in the upper 160's to lower 170's, very doable. I wore my Garmin 405cx GPS watch with the heart rate monitor strap. It will tell me my current running pace, distance and HR. All of this information is only worthwhile if it can be seen. A good portion of the time the watch is covered in mud. I started off running at MY pace and focusing on a quick cadence and fast foot turnover. The HR and legs felt really good, especially without my intended warmup. About a half mile or more into the race, I realized I was only 6-7 people back from the leader. Something felt wrong, this wasn't what I was thinking would happen. I double checked my pace on my Garmin... 7 -7:30....I was doing what I was supposed to do. I kept waiting through the first few obstacles and miles for people to start passing me. Or, the people in front to take off and leave me in the dust. Neither scenario unfolded, this was how the race was going to be. After 2 miles I came to my first opportunity to pass someone. It was two guys running side by side, while passing them I decided to kick the pace back into 7min range to discourage any back and forth action that might occur. After enough distance, I kept the pace hard (for me) and eased back in the 7:30-8 range.

Under & Over. This little hole is about as deep as your shoulders. Another obstacle to refresh your memory about being wet and muddy, in case your clothes started to dry.

Now to the temperature and the real test of this race. After passing the 2 aforementioned gentlemen, I thought..."I was 6th place, I passed 2 people, now I am in ______place?" I couldn't do simple math to save my life! My brain was cold shocked. I had to break it down in terms of 'passed one guy = 5th place, passed second guy = 4th place'. This process of deduction entertained me for several minutes while running. Being in 4th place of this wave truly felt unreal...not possible. Again, this was not in the game plan. But hey, since we are here, why not shoot for Top 3?? Next target was about 50 yards ahead of me and I was at mile 3. Plenty of time to make a move, not just yet though. I followed his bright orange shirt through most every obstacle.

The obstacles at this race are just all around good and fun! They aren't really a test of personal character or feets of human strength. It's some good old fashioned muddy, cut, bruised, wet and nasty stuff. There were a few obstacles that required some nerve to do...
-A cargo net about 15-20 feet tall with numb hands, not the smartest idea in the world.
-Swimming/wading in a swamp (for lack of better words) with who knows what kind of dead and rotting things in it
-Jumping off a platform into mysterious depths of water
-My personal climbing a dirt mound...while it was being constructed!
....there was literally a bulldozer dumping dirt within 2 feet of me. Needless to say I got the hell out of there as fast as possible!!

These are tall. They are even taller when you get to the top and try to swing over. Luckily they had some crash pads to give your leg a pillow to lay on after it is broken from the fall.

The toughest challenge for me, cold wet feet. The indoctrination to this 'fun' came in the form of a swim across a river at around a mile into the race. The water temperature wasn't that bad actually, but this gave little comfort to my feet down the road. We would get another opportunity to swim at the 3.5 mile mark. And just in case my feet, clothes, hands and mind had a chance to start drying out and unthaw...there were at least half a dozen various pools of water throughout the course to resoak everything. I can't quite pinpoint when or where it occurred, but somewhere around mile 3, my feet became numb. Around mile 5, it felt like running on feet that were "asleep". I was running on instinct and habit of repetitive motion, hoping my feet would land where they were supposed to.

Do you ever wonder where your toilets flush to? I'll give you a hint...

Now to my hands. I wore my gloves with the intention of leaving them on during the running stretches and taking them off for necessary obstacles. The first obstacle that I removed them for some how coerced me to leave them in my zipper pocket for the rest of the race. My hands felt fine and didn't seem to be too affected by the cold. I think what actually happened is I forgot that I have hands. When I "remembered" that I possess hands, it was time to do the Gorilla Ropes. It's a version of monkey bars, except it is with rope instead of bars. They swing back and forth and have some give to them. This was an obstacle that I aced last time and figured today would be no different. I took pride in the fact that, according to the organizations website, very few people complete this obstacle. Well I was going to go 2 for 2 on this obstacle. So, in an attempt to recreate the previous success, I grab the first rope. Funny, I don't really feel the rope, but I see that my hand is attached to it. Swing to the next rung. Hmmmm? Signals in my brain don't seem to be translating and processing the fact that I need to grab this rope and hold on for dear life. I get some kind remarks from a race volunteer..."Wow man you are almost there! You will be the only one to make it today!" This did give me a slight boost in confidence, unfortunately being the 4th person to attempt an obstacle doesn't really say much for being the "only one so far to complete it". I continue this "drunken hand" gorilla rope traversing to about 3/4 of the way through. The next grab feels like I am trying to lasso the rope with a wet noodle (the noodle being my useless hand), this would be the end of this obstacle. Gorilla ropes and I would have to settle for a draw, I struck first, it won the 2nd time. I briefly debated thawing out my hands and giving it another try... then I remembered my current 4th place status. Let's stick with speed!

Gorilla Ropes. Traverse them carefully. Shouts of "bend your knees when you fall so you don't hit your feet at the bottom" hooraayyy!! Numb hands do not like to complete this obstacle!

At one obstacle, can't quite remember which, a race volunteer cheer's me on "You're doing great! You're in 3rd place!". I said "Really? I'm pretty sure I'm in 4th." Response "Nope, you are definitely 3rd. There is just the guy in the orange shirt. And some dude WAY up there". Now THIS is what I want to hear! Shockingly I AM in Top 3. Of course, Top 3 is great....2nd place would be EVEN better!! Now to decide when to make my move to pass "Mr. Orange".

Having previously run this course, I had a descent idea of what to expect. After a lovely mud pit and mud slide there was a good running stretch where I decided "this was it". I approached "Mr. Orange" and exchanged pleasantries with him, he was a great guy and was all smiles just like me! I kicked my pace up a few notches to create a comfortable distance between the two of us. Home free to a 2nd place finish in my heat....almost. Since I was fairly confident that the distance I had established between the two of us would suffice in 2nd place, I didn't really think I needed to make it any bigger. No sense in possibly overdoing it or going too hard this close to the end. No sooner than I had established my "personal space", what do I see in my rear view mirror...a NEW runner! He was closing the gap to me very quickly! Who was this guy? Where did he come from? Was he some sort of a "ringer"...playing it conservative until now and then switching to overdrive??  So this "new guy" was about 20ft behind me as we get to the last half mile or so. Not taking this scenario into consideration, I keep my pace and wait to see if he has more in his gas tank after getting this close to me.

Climb this carefully! It is slippery and wet. Oh, and you probably cannot feel your hands.

My race strategy had always been about a personal competition. Me vs the clock. I never even thought about dealing with other competitors, it was just about me doing my best. One of my plans from the beginning...get water at every water station. I knew it would be better to stop, or at least slow down, to get water even if it added seconds to my time. Dehydration would slow me down more than skipping water stations. So I am now in a close race with "new guy" for possible 2nd/3rd place and what shows up with probably a half to quarter mile left in the race?? A water station. I subconsciously go to the station and slow down, grab a cup, start to take a sip of water....then it dawns on me..."Hey moron, you are in the home stretch! A sip of water isn't really going to change anything at this point! You have a dude right on your tail!" Well, the next thing that happens really still has me speechless. "New guy" slows down also, waives at me and says "Come on man! Drop that water, we are almost there!"  WOW! I have to say that again....WOW! I know these types of events are for fun, but they do have a competitive element to them. Everyone, I hope, strives to do their best, at whatever level they are. So I join up with "new guy" and we keep pace to the next obstacle. He informs me that he had to skip a water crossing because he was not a good swimmer and got scared, especially because of the cold, but he tried it anyways. He had to run around the obstacle and estimated it was at least a half mile of extra running! So "new guy" was actually in front of me for a good portion of the race. This explains the discrepancy with the volunteer telling me I was in 3rd place, when I was fairly certain I was 4th place. "New guy" had to back track, catch all the way back up, and now here he was with me on the home stretch. This put me in a semi-awkward position. Could I have pushed the pace and left him...maybe. Could I have lived with myself if I did this, after he waited for me?? I don't think so.

Grab rope, hold rope, swing across mud pit.

"New guy" and I hit the last 3-4 obstacles together. We both ran hard, there was almost a subconscious understanding that when the time was right, a move could be made. This was probably one of the highlights of the race for me. He and I talked about how cold our feet where. About how much fun this CRAZY stuff was. Even though this was a competition, we respected each other for the hard work that had been put in to get us to this point. As if a bell rang in the air...the time came for the "mutual move" to occur. The final obstacle and push to the finish to fairly determine "who gets it?" "New guy" had a couple of steps on me coming out of the final crawl through mud. As I stood up, I took 2-3 deep breaths and 2-3 walking steps. Why did I walk? Was I sandbagging it? I was probably 200 yards from the finish, was I conceding the race to "new guy?" No way! I knew my heart rate was sky high at this point, I didn't even need to look at the monitor I was wearing to know this. I needed this few second pause to allow me to push hard all the way to the end.

Me crossing the mud pit with "new guy" (orange shoes) closing in on me!

Breath, calm, relax... now it's time to go for broke...100% effort. We both run hard. I know it, he knows it...this is the time. I remember thinking in this final stretch of speed..."I really cannot feel my feet at all." I push as hard as I can go, or I should say as hard as I can go without the true use of my feet. He is right there... I could grab his shirt he is so close. We cross the finish line... "new guy" 1hr10m06.3s 1hr10m06.9s.  Honestly, that was how it should have finished. This guy was a true class act. I can't say I would have done what he did, I would like to though. He earned his 2nd and I earned my 3rd.

After everything was tallied up, I came in "officially" as 4th male/5th overall. But, as I and others suspect, there appears to be a suspiciously fast female time. Not that a lady couldn't win this event, but to be 9 minutes faster than a guy who I know has a 5k PR of 16:05...stranger things have happened, doubtful. So I have taken the liberty of claiming an "official-unofficial" ranking of 4th male/ 4th overall. Does this kinda, to me! I am ecstatic to be OFFICIALLY Top 5. I honestly didn't know if my 9am heat time would hold up over the course of the day.

   We survived! This is about as still as we could get. Shivering was an understatement.                     Go DFW Mudcrew!!

After the race was finished, I ran to the car to get my camera to catch my wife in action. Silly me, I'm thinking I have 20-30 minutes at least until she gets done. I am trotting back to the course to find a good spot to wait for her and what do I see??? Her finishing up the LAST obstacle and heading to the finish!!! WOW, I knew she would be quick...but this fast?? It was when I hurriedly tried to take a picture of my Mud Queen, that I started to think my body was functioning worse than I thought. I couldn't push a button on the camera to save my life. Hugs and congratulations where exchanged, then it happened.... 5-10 minutes after the race...BOOM! Shivering uncontrollably. My jaw was chattering so hard, you could have hired me as a 'human tree shredder'. I piled on my warm pants and jacket as fast as possible and did some jumping jacks but it still took a good hour until my body stopped convulsing.

I always get so much out of these events. I meet new people. I get to revisit with old friends. I get some good pictures and better memories. I learn things about myself. I get cut, bruised, muddy and bloody. But guess who has 2 numb thumbs and can't wait for the next race.... THIS GUY!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Weekly Summary: Oct 17 - 23

10/17/2011 Off/Rest

10/18/2011 Recovery Run    
Distance: 3.36  Time: 0:44 
Calories Burned: 453    HR: avg 133 max 150
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: Street
Shakeout run after high volume weekend. Ran with Stephanie and Graham, pushing him in the stroller.

10/18/2011 Tabatta Intervals 
Distance: 0  Time: 0:51
Calories Burned: 458    HR: avg 135 max 189
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: none
Did a series a whole series of exercises, targeting almost every body part. 20 seconds of exercising with 10 second breaks for 4 minutes on each exercise.

10/19/2011 Faster Pace Run    
Distance: 8.01  Time: 1:16
Calories Burned: 969    HR: avg 152 max 169
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: Street
2.5 mile warmup. 3.5 miles at faster pace and heart rate. The rest was a cool down jog. Running at a faster pace helped with my cadence and gait. It really started to "click" for me on this run. Really felt like a 'runner' today.

10/20/2011 Harry Moss Trail Run
Distance: 3.28 Time: 0:42
Calories Burned: 550    HR: avg 147 max 158
Shoes: New Balance MT101  Terrain: Trail
A new trail in Dallas that I had yet to try. It had some fun elements to it. Not the longest of runs, but good nonetheless.

10/21/2011 Evening Run
Distance: 7.14 Time: 1:09
Calories Burned: 911    HR: avg 149 max 161
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: street
Wore my headlamp and hit the streets at night. I love these kinda runs, just all around good fun!

10/22/2011 Medium Long Run 
Distance: 12.0 Time: 2:11
Calories Burned: 1,599    HR: avg 149 max 170
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: street
Ran about 5 miles with my wife. We worked on some speed stuff with her and had fun running together, as always. We split ways and I continued on. After the faster work with her, I had a hard time re-finding my groove, HR kept getting too high. I finally found my groove around mile 8 or 9. I got back to the 'quick cadence' style that I currently am using and love.

10/23/2011  Tough Mudder Training Day - Running
Distance: 7.77 Time: 1:24
Calories Burned: 941    HR: avg 146 max 165
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: street
This was actually two combined runs. One "pre-training" and then the actual group run

10/23/2011  Tough Mudder Training Day - Exercises 
Distance: 0   Time: 1:42
Calories Burned: 558    HR: avg 115 max 157 
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: street
Did the "circuit" off of Tough Mudders website. Each exercise was for 1 minute straight. Every 3 exercises we would jump into the pool and do some sprint work. Probably the highlight of the week. Great group of people with very similar goals and outlooks, so much fun.

Distance: 41.56 Time: 10:03
Calories Burned: 6,439

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Week Summary: Oct 10 - 16

10/10/2011 Recovery Run    
Distance: 5.5  Time: 1:03    
Calories Burned: 713    HR: avg 139 max 155 
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: Street
Kept a nice easy pace with my Hear Rate below 145 bpm. Hard to run this slow but my body needed it.

10/11/2011 Normal Run    
Distance: 7.18  Time: 1:14 
Calories Burned: 920    HR: avg 149 max 164 
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: Street
Still feeling the effects of Tough Mudder. Playing around with my running form and stride.

10/12/2011 Off/Rest

10/13/2011 Yoga X 
Distance: 0 Time: 1:16 
Calories Burned: 287    HR: avg 97 max 128 
Shoes: none  Terrain: none
Needed a good loosening up of the muscles. I forgot how important this stuff is!

10/14/2011 Base line route 
Distance: 4.58 Time: 0:46 
Calories Burned: 628    HR: avg 150 max 170 
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: street
This is my run that I use to test my progress. Everything is run exactly the same. My breaks, HR and route are the same.  A 3 minute improvement since the last time I did this, 1 month ago.

10/15/2011 Medium Long Run 
Distance: 12.77 Time: 2:14 
Calories Burned: 1,630    HR: avg 148 max 164 
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: street
A not too far, not too short run... medium. Relaxed pace and calm HR.

10/16/2011  Long Run 
Distance: 16.6 Time: 2:57 
Calories Burned: 2,008    HR: avg 147 max 163 
Shoes: Brooks Green Silence  Terrain: street
Not the longest or long runs, but after the previous days run, it was long enough. Felt great to get the good time on my feet.

Distance: 46.64 Time: 9:32 
Calories Burned: 6,186

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Double Tough Mudder

I have contemplated making a blog. Is it for me? Would anybody care what I have to say? None of this really matters I suppose. But, if I am going to start a blog (obviously I am), why not have the first entry as my Back to Back Tough Mudder experience.

Gettin' dirty, but always time for a smile!
So here it goes....

I have done several "adventure/mud run" races before. Some have been good, others not, and most just ok. They are fun, you get dirty, climb a ladder, everyone has a good time. I have had my expectations let down in the past, was Tough Mudder going to do the same? It seemed like I was training for WWIII in preparation for this event. Countless miles run on trails, pull ups, push ups and so much more. I registered months in advance and thought the day would never come.

So finally the day arrived! My friend Mike and I were registered for the first wave at 9AM. Registration opened at 7AM and we had heard nightmare stories about parking. We got there just a little after 7 and there was already a nice size crowd and definitely some "magic in the air". Registration went extremely smooth, top notch. So back to the car for my pre-race breakfast, timing it so I would have had at least an hour to settle before the race. To my horror, the container in the ice chest that held my breakfast was full of water. My beautiful 'bagel, egg, bacon and cheese sandwich' was soaking wet and too disgusting to even touch. It's always nice when plans go wrong, before a race. I had some Cliff Bars to eat and some Wheat Thins so I was good.

Godwin and myself at the start of Round 1
Ice being added to the pit
Now to the race. It is billed as "Probably the toughest event on the planet" why not do it 2 times in a row? The plan was to run it at 9AM and then again with a friend and fellow beast Godwin at 1PM (he ran 2 times as well!). So pacing the first loop was the name of the game. I won't go into detail about all of the obstacles, just the fun ones and not so fun ones.
Cold cold cold!

One of the first lovely obstacles was called Chernobyl Jacuzzi. It consists of a waist deep pit filled with water and ice. Midway through the pit, you must submerge yourself to get under a wooden barricade. So I get in the pit, waist deep, so far not too bad. Then comes the submerging...WOW!! I went from cool and calm to almost panic in about 1 second. The bar was raised, Tough Mudder is legit.

Made it out alive
Taking the leap of faith
Walking the Plank. I'm not the biggest fan of heights. Add to this, standing on a muddy and slippery platform at least 15 feet in the air with a pool of muddy water below, whose depth is unknown, does not help. Suck it up and jump.

Berlin Walls. Walls that were claimed to be 12 feet tall. First set of walls are probably 8-9 feet. Ego and confidence... sky high. Next Berlin Wall, much much taller. Ego and confidence... starting to waiver. Doable for sure, but it takes a little bit of strength, coordination and some lack of fear. I'd like to say I have 2 out of 3, its probably more like 1.5 out of 3. By the time the last set of walls come around I'm not sure how tall they are but they might as well have been 20 feet. This last set occurs at around mile 9 or so. I witnessed a group of guys in front of me have a domino effect of calf cramps at this obstacle. First guy cramps (everybody laughs) then the 2nd guy (a few chuckle) 3rd guy (crickets chirping) and then the 4th (only sound is me laughing).

Never hurts to have a helping hand
Everest. A quarter pipe to be run up. This one got me. My first try was a shock, as one moment I am running and the next I am sliding down on my belly. Regroup and try again...and again....and again. I could not get the timing of this down at all. I kept trying to run too high on the wall. I never actually got to jump and reach for the top. It always helps in a frustrating situation to have an audience. Nothing boosts your confidence like ooohhs and aaaahhhs from strangers sitting in camping chairs like they were at a NASCAR race. I was fortunate to have my friends Mike and Godwin make it up this gauntlet and start assisting others with a helpful hand. I needed it.

Funky Monkey. Monkey bars up and then down. I trained the most and was worried the most about this obstacle. My real number 1 goal of Tough Mudder was to complete this obstacle. It really was the obstacle that required the most strength. It is intimidating for sure when you approach, it is huge. Add the fact that the bars spin and are slippery, now we have a challenge. Arms flexed at close to 90 degrees and an "every other bar" approach was the game plan. My friend Mike went first and flew through them, can I get a little more pressure please. One hand at a time, with a steady pace and sure grip... I got through! Funky Monkey Part 1 accomplished.

Electroshock Therapy. Run through live electric wires. I have seen the videos and heard the stories. My friend Mike was concerned about this, I was not. I was anticipating a bad pinch or a burn like feeling. I was not able to see the person in front of me pass through this obstacle to give me a heads up as to a good approach. Again, the stage was set with a huge audience to cheer and laugh us through. My plan was to run through with my hands up by my face, like a boxer, for protection. Here goes nothing. About 4-5 feet into the labyrinth of wires the first bolt comes. I will try to explain what I mean by bolt, words will not do it justice. The best description I can think of is when the power goes out in your house during a storm. The sound of the surge of power, the overloading of circuits...this was the sound I felt in my body. It stopped my body from functioning for a split second and sent me to the ground. If I had my head on straight, I might have panicked. Luckily my body kept going because my mind was in la-la land. It is a scary feeling to have your bodily functions taken away from you. So after a total of 3 donkey kicks to the chest, I was through round 1.

Total time 2hrs 41min
About to start the 2nd round of fun

Round 2

It's funny how a thought or idea becomes a reality. As for deciding to do 2 Tough Mudders in a row, it was really a snowball effect. It started off as a semi-joke for me to join my friend Godwin on his 1PM wave. Godwin decides he will then join me for my 9AM wave, as long as I promise to join him for his later wave. Uh-oh, this is starting to get serious. My "outs" for not doing a 2nd lap are becoming fewer and fewer. I had never even done one Tough Mudder, let alone two. There are so many unknowns to a race like this that several times before even starting I questioned my sanity. The furthest distance I had run so far was 20 miles, without obstacles and mud. As per the title of my blog, "Going for more", is what this challenge was going to be. I embraced it and knew this was going to be truly epic. So Godwin and I made a pact of sorts, double Tough Mudder was our challenge.

This was all about grinding through whatever discomfort there was. The first few steps were the hardest. I was starting to think this was a bad idea. I had committed to this and was going to see it through. The obstacles had changed later on in the day. Some were easier, some were harder. Troughs had been carved into what was once a difficult to navigate muddy slope or pit. Hay bales that were once 15-20 ft tall had been smashed to merely little bumps in the road. Berlin Walls that were challenging turned into slippery, mud covered giants. Mix some butter, oil, and some gravy onto a pull up bar. Now do a pull up, turn it into a tricep extension, swing your leg over and lower yourself down. Do it again 2 more times in a row. Then a few more times in a few miles, then yet again.

Truckin' along
The running aspect of Tough Mudder was the best for me. On round 2, I set myself on auto-pilot and just cruised. This was enough for me to be passing most everyone that was around me. I laughed (on the inside) when countless people had leg cramps at mile 3 onwards. I would hear their friends praise their efforts and speak of how much of a warrior said cramped person was. I'm on miles 14, 15, 16.... I have been running for 3 hrs, 4 hrs, 5hrs....

The further I got into round 2, the larger the lines at the obstacles were, Six Flags style. It's not fun to sit and wait to crawl on bruised and bloody knees. Nor is it fun to wait in a group of several hundred people to do a balance beam that you know you are likely to fall off of in the first few steps. Waiting your turn for the less challenging obstacles is not a challenge. I finally approached Funky Monkey again. I was tired and the bars were more slippery. Now here is a challenge that I like, and I accepted.... passed with "flying" colors. Proudest achievement bar none at Tough Mudder, double Funky Monkey!

After Funky Monkey #2, I saw my friend Mike...saw the gi-normous lines at the last 2-3 so so obstacles and made the decision to call it a day there. I had already decided that Electroshock Therapy was not really an obstacle, but more like some frat boys playing with a taser. It's funny and neat, as long as you are not on the receiving end.  Best friend in the world to hang out for another 3 hrs, after completing Tough Mudder himself, and wait for me to prove something to myself (?) I accomplished what I set out to do. Push the limits on an event that for some, completing it once would be a huge undertaking.

One way to attempt the Ball Shrinker
So my day consisted of....
Round 1   11.05 miles 2 hrs 41 minutes
Round 2     9.16 miles 3 hrs 4 minutes
Total        20.21 miles 5 hrs 45 minutes

I wore my new Inov8 X Talon 212's. These shoes are amazing! They hold the ground so well in places where it shouldn't be possible. Very lightweight and responsive, you can be as nimble as you need to be in them. Add in some wonderful Injinji toes socks and you have some happy feet at the end of all this wetness, mud and miles.

On the second round, I slipped on my new Zensah compression calf sleeves. I was a little hesitant about this. I read wonderful reviews on this product. I bought these the day before the race and had yet to even run in them, let alone put them through hell. I don't like to test something out like that but knew my calves were going to be taking a thrashing and could use some "tight love" on them. They were excellent! The squeezing effect of the sleeves really kept my calves as happy as they could be considering the circumstances. I was also worried that they would not make it out alive as I had plans for using them in future distance running. Well they survived!

I carried a Camelbak Hydrobak which held 50oz of water and a few gel packs. I had it more for backup, just in case a water station was out of water. On round 2, there was one station that was bone dry, not cool at all. I drank probably 2/3 of it each time and indulged at each water station.

I took about 5 gels total throughout the race. 2 gels the first round and 3 on the 2nd round. In between rounds, which was about 1 hr, I wolfed down a PB&Honey sandwich, some wheat thins and some GuBrew electrolyte drink. I also popped 3 Hammer Endurolyte  pills to keep the body in check.

Jumping Hay Bales

Bruised, cut and battered. The best souvenir in the world
Only minor fatigue post race. Slightly sore muscles. I expected to be completely spent, but was not. My knees were banged up pretty good and I still have a little 'catch' in my wrist. I'm happy my feet, ankles, knees and other vital running muscles were unscathed.

Tough Mudder, especially my double, was a wonderful experience. So many fun, and not so fun challenges. Less than a week has passed since it occurred and I am already planning my next Tough Mudder event. Probably the Texas Coast and for sure the Dallas location. Always Going for more!!!!!

Alive and well at the end!