Tuesday, April 26, 2011

EricG's Running Tips #17 Listen to Your Kids - Dream Big

Ever since I ran my first ultra, a 50k at Bear Mountain in NY I have not stopped thinking about what else is possible.  How far can I go?  What am I capable of physically and mentally? How incredible can my life be?  It has opened my eyes to so much more.  There are moments when I feel like a kid again, capable of big dreams with no limits.  Every time I start thinking of what's next, I always bounce the ideas off my children.  They always seem to look at me with a unaffected stare when I ask for their opinion.  I think what they say with their eyes is something like "Duhhhh" but what they always tell me is "Of course you can do it Dad, you can do anything".  They have even said things like "Maybe one day you will run around the world".  They actually get me thinking about that and I love it.  They place absolutely no limits. So why should we!

I recently read a post on Marshall Ulrich's blog about a 17 year old young man, Mart, who is dreaming about running across America.  Not some day, but some day soon, like when he is 18.  I love his pure, unblemished and matter of fact thoughts.   Don't get me wrong, I think he needs to give this a lot of thought with his family and friends who will be helping him with the endeavor and train very very hard.  This is a huge physical, financial and time commitment.  I personally hope he gets lots of support, works hard and goes for it.  Prove the doubters wrong Mart.

I guess the point of this tip is sometimes its good to think like a kid no matter how old you are. I don't care if its a mile, a hundred miles or a trip around the world.  I am certain we are all capable of much more than we realize. "Dream Big, Live Big, Accomplish Great Things". You never know until you try. Peace

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

EricG's Running Tips #16 Drinking Until You Puke

Remember back in high school, or college, or even last Saturday when you drank so much you threw up?  Your body was saying stop, and most people would at that point.

Ever been on a run and your body starts pushing back?  First, just a little twinge.  You notice it, but no big deal.  You have after all trained yourself to fight through all pain.  Nothing can stop you. Then after a couple more miles the twinge has turned to pain.  But its only pain, and as Patrick Swayze said in every one's favorite movie, "Pain don't hurt".  So onward it is.  As you continue to push through the pain you start thinking about all the other little things that have been bothering you; tired legs, sore ankle, tight calf's, shoulder irritation and toe pain. By the time you get through the list in your mind your body has had enough. The pain spreads as your body begins to fight back.  It screams "No more shots please!".  Now forced to walk as our body is puking from all you put it through you come to the realization it may simply be time to rest.

I, like most of us will run until I can't run anymore.  I certainly don't let pain or small "injuries" stop me.  In fact, I would say I embrace the pain with each sensation being a trophy proving what I have done and somehow making the next adventure all the more pleasurable. After Umstead just over 2 weeks ago, I felt my recovery was going well.  Soreness was all but gone within a few days.  As I began to work runs back in to my routine I was feeling incredibly strong mentally and from a cardio standpoint. With the Bear Mountain 50 miler less than 3 weeks away the confidence boost was exciting.  Unfortunately my mind and lungs are feeling much stronger than the rest of my body as the list above is not hypothetical.  Those are all areas of current discomfort. Then yesterday I experienced an increased pain on the right side of my lower back that eventually spread through my entire butt cheek. Reaching a pain level that I grew concerned about I cut my run short and walked back to my car.

I think my body is begging for a rest, and I am going to listen to it. The emptiness of not running will certainly be more painful than the physical pains of running. However, I am hopeful my body will reward this decision with a fun and relatively pain free Bear Mountain.

Remember, no one know your body better than you.  If you feel nauseous, it may be time to stop drinking:)  Peace

Monday, April 11, 2011

EricG's Running Tips #15 Train Race Specific

There are a million training guides out there for running.  I have read many of them but in the end I always come back to what works for me.  That is usually some combination of the strategies of others along with my own version of certain ideas.  The overall concept for me when I train for a race, I tailor my training and conditioning to the specific event and the goal I have set for it. Every race is different and I don’t believe there should be one set method of training for a race just because it’s a certain distance. Is every marathon course the same? Is every hundred miler the same, aside from the suffering they bring? Absolutely not. Surfaces, elevation, aid stations, average temperatures and goals vary at each event. My strategy is to train for each race and all that it entails, not just the distance.
  1. If I want to run 8 minute miles or 10 minute miles on race day, then I run them during my long training runs. This is contrary to what the experts say in the reading I have done, often suggesting long runs should be at certain percentages of goal pace. This has never made sense to me. If I don’t do it in training, how am I supposed to do it on race day? This also gives me confidence, knowing I have achieved goal pace during training.
  2. If the race is hilly, I run lots of hills to prepare. Once a week I do hill repeats and I make sure my long runs take the route that is full of climbs and descents.
  3. If a course is flat, perhaps focus on speed work and tempo, although I do believe hills make you faster regardless (check out the results on this previous post Do Hills Make You Faster?).
  4. One of the most important aspects for me is to eat and drink the way I plan in my race race. I am fairly religious about this and even take water on short runs. I also pack a cooler and use my car as an aid station on long runs. Your body needs to get use to processing liquids and calories while running.  I am confident my focus on this has paid off as I have yet to experience any nutrition rejection druing a race (never puked that is, knock on wood).  I am also very comfortable carrying my bottles at this point, and even include exercises geared towards building arm strength/endurance so the 20oz bottles don’t feel like 20lb dumbbells after 20 hrs of running.  Lastly by doing during training you will save time at aid stations by knowing exactly what you are going to have.  Sometimes there are so many choices you can get overwhelmed and waste time deciding.  Not to mention if you try something new on race day your stomach may fight back.
  5. Train in your race day gear. This is one tip I that certainly goes for all races in my book.  Do not choose to break in a brand new pair of shoes or a special new outfit on race day. That is a recipe for a blister and chaffing nightmare. Race in your favorites.
  6. If it’s 10 degrees and snowing, 40 degrees and raining or 90 degrees with no relief, train outside. You need to be ready for the typical conditions at your event but come race day, you never know what you're going to get. It’s good to know what it’s like under any possible condition.
  7. Study the course you are running and if its local run some of it (if not try to find similar local terrain to train on). Know when the steep climbs are so you can prepare. Plan when you will speed up or slow down, run or walk. Determine how long it will take you reach each aid station and what will be available when you get there. Decide what you need to carry with you and what you need to pick up at each station.  Are drop bags permitted? I know things can change during the course of a race but having a plan is important.
I am certain there are others I am missing so please share your thoughts. Oh an don’t forget to have fun when you are training:) Peace

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Umstead 100 2011:A Crew Member/Pacer's Perspective


Greetings...I'm Iman, guest blogger, and I have the pleasure of telling you about my experience at the Umstead 100...both from a first time experience as well as from a crew/pacer's perspective...and let me tell you, it was quite an experience!

I write a blog called "Fit At Fifty", inspired by Eric Gelber...the idea was to help me become accountable for a small goal, to be more fit at fifty in June of 2011...That was the pinnacle. The zenith. The ultimate goal? Perhaps, be able to drop a couple of pounds, run 3-4 miles, do a few sit ups, eat some yogurt, less meat and drink light beer. A simple click will lead you to the rest of THAT story....

Well, about a year ago, after Eric noticed I could run over a mile without heaving, he asked me to pace him in his final lap at the 2011 Umstead 100. Yeah, sure, he's crazy enough to run 100 miles...but 12.5 for me? That might as well be twelve HUNDRED miles....but always intrigued by challenges, I accepted.

I trained hard, learned and studied the sport of ultra running, checked out gear, worked on nutrition and even registered for the Marine Corp Marathon.

But even then, I was simply preparing for something I didn't know if I'd like or not. But during the second week of March, my family and I went down to New York to visit for Eric's birthday and surprise my visiting parents. I was also scheduled to run my longest run to date - 9 miles. That weekend, we ran at Rockefeller Park Preserve, where I met Tony Portera for the first time...and where I got hooked on trail running.

Well, three weeks later, travel day, April 1 rolls around. In typical Maine fashion, we experience a Nor'easter, dumping heavy, wet snow at a blizzard's pace...at 3 AM...and me having to drive over 40 miles to the airport.

But to make the long story short, we took off 1.5 hours later and barely caught the connecting flight (after a bit of "insistence" on my part)...I got to Raleigh basically on time, and ready to meet up with my good pal Dave Johnson. The Gelber's trip...a lot more eventful than mine. Dave and I got North Carolina BBQ...and boy was it ever good! Eventually, we connected with the Gelbers, as well as other runners and crew, had a few beers, and eventually got to bed around midnight.

Race morning, April 2. I was told to be the parking garage by 4:50 AM. I hate being late, so I made sure I was on P1 at 4:47 AM.

Meanwhile, at the very same time, Eric was having some potentially disappointing thoughts about me, as I wasn't at the car when I was supposed to be. Turns out, the car was on P2...DOH. No harm, no foul...we got to the park right when it opened, and even got a "primo" parking spot, as well as identifying a great crewing spot. I was lucky, I got to crew and hang out with Tony's wife Ginette...she was awesome...easy going, funny, and mellow about the whole process. We had to spend a lot of time together, so I'm glad we seemed to get along...she even made sure I had my "stuff" together so I was taking care of Eric right.

With a about 30 minutes before race time, we met up with a bunch of folks that Tony and Eric knew, and by extension, whom I met over social media. Great folks from Georgia...they even made up a t-shirt for me!



At 6 AM, fireworks flew, and the race begins...Eric posted some key facts in his preliminary re-cap, so I won't repeat it here. Essentially, to reach 100 miles, runners had to complete eight 12.5 mile loops, and they had to be done by or before 12 Noon on Sunday, April 3 - basically 30 hours.

And that's where the crewing comes in. The crew is in charge of making the runner's life during the race as comfortable as possible. You want to make sure that they're getting properly nourished, dressed right, good health, and perhaps most importantly, in good spirits. Because of how well-run and well-organized the Umstead 100 is, the crew's work is made far easier, as they provide 2 well-equipped and supplied aid stations on the course, and the start/finish turnaround is essentially the HQ and 3rd aid station. Ginette and I worked well together, figuring out when we should start putting our runner's nutrition packs together and making sure they were dressed right...not too hot, not too cold. That 5 minute spurt of action was tempered with over 2 hours of waiting, and as the day progressed the waiting periods grew even longer. We got a bit cold, and even bored sometimes, but that was a great time to walk around, chat up other crews, and relax a bit. Maybe, read a book even...

The coolest thing I noticed was that the runners at Umstead were all of varying shapes, sizes and colors. There wasn't a "typical" looking person you could identify with as an "ultra runner". I know the hard work these folks put in to train for something like this. They spend lots of time running, cross-training, checking out gear, planning nutrition and often, being away from family. Its a huge investment, but you can see it in their eyes and the smiles on their faces at the race...they love it!

Still, as the day progressed, and the runners completed one lap after the other, the feeling went from festive to focused. Everybody seemed to get into more of a survival mode, understandably so. Soon, it would be my turn to check out the course, time to help Eric finish the race and hopefully, help him finish strong enough to reach a personal record. He was on pace to do it, and I wasn't going to let him miss it. The week prior, my last long run before the race was scheduled for 10 miles, but I pushed it to 12 because I wanted to make sure I could actually cover the distance. I did, and it gave me a level of confidence I didn't have before. I knew that if my runner was on mile 87, I shouldn't have an complaint's about starting my mile 1 at 1 AM. Sure it was a long day, but certainly, not as long as all these runners' day!

Never having paced an ultrarunner before, I just wanted to make sure that Eric was safe, coherent, and strong enough to finish. If he wanted to walk, we'd walk. If he wanted to push, we'd push. Sometimes, we even pushed when I wanted to push, and he responded. At around mile 10 or so of the final loop, I mistakenly told Eric we were at a below 20 hour pace, and he bolted off like a mad man, for about a mile, I was chasing him hard...but almost at the same time, we realized I was wrong...I had pressed the "stop" button my watch and stopped it...that did take a lot of energy, and the twelfth mile took us 17:40...Here's the splits to Lap 8 the way I saw it "LAP 8".

There were a few other surges I can remember. Running to reach a reflector before we could walk again happened a lot. My favorite surge was when we noticed a light ahead that looked catchable. We pushed hard to catch up, greet the light source, and with a big push, pass them.

I recall the last 100 yards being some of the most challenging steps I took on the course. Early Sunday morning around 3 AM and very dark, we had to run up a narrow timbered stair case, where delirious crew members carried gear and taking up room on a "runner's only" path. I guess that's just part of the challenge...

At the finish, I just wanted to get Eric up to the timer's tent to yell his number out and have them stop his clock...if it was under 23, it would already be a personal record for him. He yelled his number and I gave him a huge hug...you know, the bro kind...Though he did sing the lyrics to "Tiny Dancer" on the trail. I hope he wasn't talking to me...

You'd think the story ends here. But it doesn't. Jason crushed the course in only his second 100 miler. Chuck got his "one day" buckle in his first outing. The post-race McDonald's run, the great stories shared with other crews, hanging with Ginette, and then hanging with Tony on Sunday, drinking beer, checking out iPhone and Macbook Aps...Dorkfest 2011...

Lots of people lots of stories. I've got a ton more, so stay tuned...I have a bunch of Umstead thoughts, but I really wanted to finish at least one post in under 1000 words. I mean, I'm not writng "Umstead Shrugged", right?

My sister Tani did tell me she thought I'd love the whole scene. As usual, she was right.

By the way, about Eric's time? Yeah, he finally finished the race in 20:18:03...I'll let you do the math.

I hope to see you on the trails. Cheers.

Preliminary Umstead 100 Recap

This post race recap will be very short as Iman who was my crew and paced my last lap this year at the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance run will be writing the story from his perspective (hopefully that will be posted here later this week).  I am really looking forward to reading it but I did want to share just a couple of quick thoughts and facts.

The Course:
A 12.5 mile loop which must be completed 8 times, with approximately 8,000 feet of total elevation gain/loss.  The terrain is smoothly groomed and not technical at all.

The Race Staff and Volunteers:
Simply an amazing race put on by the North Carolina Ultra Runners Association.  The aid stations were once again the best I have ever seen, stocked with candy, fruit, soups, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, sodas etc.  It was painful to pass the 2 main stations 8 times each and never take anything more than a potato or cup of broth.  Big thanks go out the all the volunteers for doing such a great job with genuine enthusiasm.

Time:
I ran the first 50 miles in about 9:07 with Tony Portera.  This is faster than any 50 mile race I have ever done and I still managed to hang on during the 2nd half for a time of 20:18:30 and a 29th place overall finish.   A PR by 3 hours and 3:30 faster than my first hundred at Umstead just 1 year ago.

Nutrition:
8 servings of Hammer Perpetuem (1 per loop)
30 Hammer Gels (primarily mixed in my water or Perpetuem mix)
7 cups of chicken broth (3 with chicken noodle)
A few orange, potato and cantaloupe slices.
Approx. 750 oz of water (including mixes)
1 cup ginger ale

Thanks to:
Tony for pushing me the first 50.  I still question if he was trying to help me or kill me.
Drymax Socks for once again keeping my feet blister free (just one tiny little hot spot on my big toe).
Iman for doing a kick ass job as my crew and pacer.  You made my life much easier out there.
Everyone who donated to MMRF. Your support keeps me going.
And of course my family with whom I would not want to do this without.

Congrats to all the other runners for their efforts. 

Give your all out there and remember, "Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever" (Umstead 100 course sign).

Peace

Monday, April 4, 2011

EricG's Running Tips #14 Pushing Through The Pain

Every time I run a race there are moments when I feel like I can't or don't want to go on.  During these moments, which at events like this weekend's Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run, the moments can last for hours and hours, with seemingly no relief or end in sight.  At some point, at least for me, the physical deterioration becomes so intense that a battered desire and beaten self confidence become my greatest enemy.  Trying to zone out, put music on and little things like that will work for brief moments.  But as the intensity of the ever spreading pain builds, the music soon fades.  Everything goes quiet, except for my mind where the volume rises to unbearable levels of negativity, detrimanetal to my goal which is simply "Finish".

At these moments when self doubt becomes so great, I often look far outside the run for the energy and will to keep moving forward. This weekend I recall thinking of many things and I would like to share them with you:
  1. There was a sign on the course that said "Pain Is Temporary.  Pride Is Forever." I reminded myself of this over and over again through many of those late night and early morning hours as the pain continued to grow.
  2. All those battling Multiple Myeloma and other fatal illnesses.  Some of them are very dear to me (you know who you are).  These friends are stronger than I ever imagined one could be.  Their courage most certainly gives me strength when I need it most.
  3. This year I had a little extra in the tank for my brother in law.  He spent the last 3 years getting fit and losing 60 pounds, initially just to run with me.  He was in Raleigh to run my last loop so how could I let him down.
  4. And of course my family who's faces I would picture (Tani, Jared, Kyle and Isla) with big smiles of pride because I finished.  And they deserve the finish because they are supportive and sacrifice for my running.
So my belief is dig deep, look inside and find whatever that something is for you to be inspired and motivated to keep moving forward and push through the pain.

Peace
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