Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hours vs Miles

I took this shot in 2008, the year I started running, the year I did my first half. The shot wasn't taken on a run, I think I was heading out for a morning hunt, but I've seen a similar view a number of times on the trail or an early morning run, hike, or hunt. 

What separates miles and hours while running?

It seems that the answer to this is where you run.  If you're a road runner, you likely track your runs by distance covered.  If you're a trail runner, trying to get across a concept to people who understand road running you tell them how far you went in miles.  Maybe if you're running "shorter" distances on the trail, you do the same, but then, at some point, when you're training for the big show, whether it be a long race, a long hike, a long backpacking trip or a long hunt, you start thinking in hours. 

It goes something like this:

Well, I am going to be out there for multiple hours / days / weeks and I need the power to keep moving. It becomes less and less about speed, and more and more about the ability, strength and mental power to keep moving. Whether it be running, hiking, backpacking or hunting, you're going to be pushing your limits. 

People can be amazed by the long runs. 

Why? Because they understand them as something they see, or can do, or have done - running. And, they realize that these guys are pushing the envelope the whole time they're out there, no matter how big or deep that envelope is. The guy who finishes 100 miles in 18 hours is just as impressed by the guy who took 30 to complete the same distance, because in their own way, they're both damned hard core, and they both put their all into it, and suffered miserably. But the guy out there for 30 hours suffered for 12 more hours. 

But, those guys who pack back in the big country to disappear for a while, carrying everything they need to survive on their backs are also damned impressive, yet less likely to get the same level of ooohhhs and aaahhhhs, however, that's not what they're doing it for. It's strange if you think about it. They're actually working hard for a longer period of time, and carrying more weight, but the big difference is, they're appreciating it all, for themselves! They're out there to soak it in. Not to roll over a goal. They're watching the sunrise, they're looking at the views, they're taking the time to pause and see how that one ray of sunlight is poking through the treetops to light up that single flower. 

Runners don't typically take that time. They're soaking it all in at warp speed. They don't take that extra 30 seconds to stop and appreciate that view. They have a schedule to meet, and places to be, and a clock to beat. I know, I can be one of them at times. Sometimes you're so beat from the run that you're hardly seeing anything off the trail. Sometimes you're not even focusing that well on that trail in front of your feet! It's survival mode, and because it's clocked, you don't stop, and sit down and take the pack off and catch your breath. That gets done when you cross the finish line. 

I'm a runner, I'm a hunter, I'm a backpacker and I'm a hiker. I love each one in it's own way. They're all sweet, and they're all hard. They all offer a level of accomplishment, they just have their differences.  

Running is fast - depending on the distance, severity and your speed it can typically be done in a few hours (10-15 miles), a half day (20-30 miles) during daylight (50-70 miles) or over a weekend (100 miles). You're going to cover the most ground, but not likely going to really "see" as much.

Running can also be done in theory without a huge disruption to your schedule or family life. I can get up at 4AM, and head out for a run, without waking anyone, be home and showered, and have breakfast with my family before heading out for work. However, I would be lying if I didn't say that includes being in bed by 9. (so maybe a little time away from the family at night) I eat healthier because it affects how well I perform the job. I feel more energetic because I am healthier whether from the running or diet who knows. I often meet up with a group of like minded others at the end of a race and socialize.  It's awesome and I love it, and it's good conditioning for the other three! 

Over my next 14 weeks however, I will probably be mixing in more hiking and backpacking to build my strength. Plus, it's something I can do with my family and my dog. I need to build my base core strength, and there isn't a more enjoyable way to accomplish that. 

So my training schedule - even on Strava - has switched from running 35 miles per week to "running" 5 hours a week as of June 1st. I likely won't cover that same amount of ground, but it'll be just as valuable, and it'll likely be with family and friends who I have negelected during my spring training. Mix that with some swimming and cross training, and hopefully I'll be a more solid athlete at the end of it.

Oh - and why 14 weeks?  That's when I head for Colorado to help a friend filming his Mule Deer hunt. For nearly two weeks we will live above 12,000 feet. With 70 lb packs, camera equipment and everything we need to survive. At the end of those two weeks I hope to run one of my bucket listers. The Imogene Pass Run that finishes in Telluride. Registration opens June 1st. Two years ago registration filled in 150 minutes, last year it was 58 minutes.  I hope I can get in. 

PS - I have an addition to my bucket list -  Hardrock 100 course hike-through end to end. Shooting for 4 days or less.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sehgahunda 2015 - My first marathon...

This one is damned interesting.  Saturday May 23, I ran one of my bucket listers.  It was a race I saw in my quest for cool trail races, and thought, hell yeah! I want to do that some day!
SO - this year, after the Hyner Challenge, after some push from a friend who mentioned she had heard some extra spots were opening up, I got on the waitlist. 
A few weeks later, and I was in! I had been told this was easier than the Hyner 25K, and it was.  I was told I wouldn't feel the aches I felt the day after the Hyner and I don't. SO, why, after completing my first marathon, do I feel a lack of accomplishment?  
I don't know if it's the fact that I didn't post that much about this race on social media, so I didn't have many folks giving me the token pat on the back. Something I have found is a great morale booster, but when contemplated, is a pat, that's it. You're asking for that pat when you post, and you will get one, guaranteed!  Even if it's from mom. 
Is the pat important? Hell yes! Extremely important to some. It was and will likely be in the future to me also, but not this time, not this run.  This one was for me.  It took me too long, though my time fell between my intitially planned A race and my newly planned A race a that was changed a week prior. My initial goal was a 6:30, and my newer goal a 6 hour race, I finished in 6:11:15. I was 117 out of 199 finishers. There were also 30 DNF's.  Weather conditions were the reason for the new goal, with the fact that the course would be dry and the weather would be cool - around 40 at the start! This day was to be a training run for me. And it was. But, like a training run, I don't typically look for outside acknowledgement from my training. 
So, what does it all mean? 
I think it means, that afterwards I felt that maybe I am not built for the long stuff. Maybe, my last couple of months of listening to Trail Runner Nation podcasts about Ultrarunning went to my head, and for a moment I forgot about getting to a point with my ultracycling where I decided it was just too much. On my last long ride I was at a point where I wasn't having fun, and why the hell was I doing it, 8 hours into an 11+ hour ride I called Kris to pick me up at the next stop, I'd had enough of riding alone.
Maybe it's because I listened to one of the podcasts where the guest was Ashley Walsh, who writes a blog called AshRuns100s, and happened to be speaking in the latest podcast I listened to about possibly giving up the 100's. About how she was in first place in a 100 at mile 80, and decided that she didn't need to finish. She didn't need the acknowledgement of others. Do yourself a favor if you understand running for long distances and read this one, it doesn't bash long distance. It talks about it as medicine. About she needed that medicine to get her through a tough time in her life, and at that race, at that point in time, she no longer felt that need, and in fact felt that maybe she was abusing the medicine.
Don't get me wrong about running, I need the run, I love the run, I'll continue to run. I have a bunch of races scheduled in the near future and I'll run them. Heck, they're around the right distance where I'll probably push my limits and see what I can do in them. Those races are going to be fun. Those races I will enjoy. But, maybe I won't be looking for as many pats. 
Where do I go from here? I continue to train. Heck, I'm planning on running between 6 and 11 tomorrow depending on the condition of the trail. 
In the near future anyways, if I want to run over 20 miles, it will likely be on a trail with a few friends not that far from home.  At least for now, I have to be honest with myself. Right now I'm not a big distance guy. I'm not giving what I consider a fair effort. I haven't figured my nutrition out enough where I can push myself. I have to go slow enough to maintain a heart rate low enough to consume my nutrition without issue. And, for me, that's pretty damned slow. Then I also need to get my mileage up.
Maybe I just need to wrap my head around it. From what I listen to, most people who aren't elite and doing the Ultra stuff, do it like I did. They go slow. They do what they need to for their body to maintain for hours, up to 30 hours, sometimes more. My issue is, this wasn't ultra distance. With proper training I shouldn't have needed to worry so much about heart rate and nutrition in a race of this distance. It was a race that a friend of mine won! He ran it over two hours faster than me. I'm crazy happy for him. I also don't think I gave this a fair chance coming into it. I need to train a hell of alot more for a race like this. I have to consider that after writing it all down, maybe it's just that. I signed up for an event that I had no right in running, I treated this like a fun run, and that's ok. I just need to wrap my head around it, and I really did learn alot. AND - I guess I had to start somewhere. 

So - what about the Sehgahunda? 
It really is a nice race. Really.  It's very well staffed, and well run. It's like most other trail races that I have competed in, but not like the best of them. Not like the races I have done with the MedVed folks, the TrailsRoc guys, the RoadsArePoison guys, and the Fantons, those all felt like family events. It's a trail race that finishes like a road race. It's a here's your medal, there's your burger, have a nice day after the finish line. Up till then, it's a trail race as I know them, with the very little experience that I have. But-  giving a fair shake, I might have missed the camaraderie coming in as late as I did. 
Funny thing about trail races and what attracted me. It's a tight knit group. It's the Cheer's of running - where everyone knows your name. You finish, and sit down and there is some awesome food, folks come up and chat and see how you did, and how everything is going. Everyone cheers every last runner across the line, and because there are more folks for the later runners, the cheering is louder. It's social and it's awesome, and it's something you're hesitant to share, because it's an amazing secret. But, don't worry, Sehgahunda will not divulge that secret. At least not shouting it from the rooftops. It's there, but you have to find it, or you have to bring it yourself. For me, this was a race that I felt somewhat guilty about running. A race that I left my family for the day to do something selfish. I'm sure that has an impact on my impression. 

Back to the race, it's a tough race.

Mile 0 is the dam on the Mt Morris end of letchworth park. Here's a shot I took race morning 20 minutes before the start. 

Mile 1-15 are fairly friendly, with 1-6 being the nicest. Somewhere around mile 3 I had to stop and take this picture of the gorge. 

After mile 6, you'll find more slow rollers, and could be potentially quick, but you need to run it slow, keeping in mind what's coming after the 3rd aid station, after mile 15. After 15 through about 22-23 there are some serious climbs. A couple of real doozies. It's also starting to get a little warmer out. After mile 23 it's pretty flat except a very short climb to the finish. 

People are great, aid station workers are great, fans are great. During the race you get passed by Relay runners who started 1/2 hour after you if you're a man, or 45 minutes after if you're a woman, but it's not a big deal, unless you're elite, you should be racing yourself and your personal capabilities. Success will be judged by yourself primarily. Know your goals going in, and run accordingly. Know the conditions of the course also, as they can have a huge effect on your race from what I have heard. And - if you can run the pre-runs with the Fleet Feet folks I would highly recommend it. As many as possible. A familiar course can be your friend.

What do you get?  Decent swag for sure. Marathon Runners get a bib with their name on it (I was a wait lister, so no name), a hoodie, and all finishers get an awesome finishers arrowhead. 

Will I do it again? Yup! But, hopefully with the active support of my family, and because I now have a PR to beat, or if I can convince my family, I will run the relay with them all, which would be absolutely awesome. Will I wear the hoodie proudly? Yep, there was blood, mud and sweat that paid for that sweatshirt. Not only did I fall once, but twice in this race, my first ever fall in a race, and I did a full roll the second time! I had plenty of opportunity to twist an ankle also, but got lucky (and was taped up), and got through mostly unscathed. 

I'm thankful for this race though, as a training run it was tops. It gave me a bump up to some longer runs. I completed 26 miles without injury or major injury. It gave me an idea of what kind of pace to expect during climbs and how to climb them. I'm far from knowledgeable about the long stuff, and as can be seen from the whole first half of this post, this race left me very dissatisfied about competing in an event of this distance. It's alot like my first half marathon in Sedona Arizona in 2008. It was fairly slow, and I felt out of my league. Next time I plan to be more prepared. 

Final assessment - why did I feel a lack of accomplishing anything special? I was alone - not alone alone - I had great friends there, but my family wasn't there. They will be next time.