Ice Fishing 2023

1 fish, 2 fish…

The third annual ice fishing trip is in the books! The crew consists of me and three work buddies – Lou was able to join Tom, Micah, and me for the first time this year, so we had four poles in four ice holes. Plus several tip-up style rigs, which is how we caught our only two fish.

Tom’s truck was loaded up and we climbed in to make the 5.5-hour drive north. l to r: Lou, Tom, me, and Micah.

We opted to head to northern Wisconsin in January instead of February hoping that it would be a little warmer for us and for the fish. Our first trip resulted in catching one fish. Our second trip was a bust – zero. This year we caught two! Both nice sized Northern Pikes. Although it wasn’t quite the amount we were hoping to catch, it was enough for a nice lunch of fried fish.

Tom showing off a rod to Lou.

Micah was once again our awesome breakfast chef and whipped up three great meals, in addition to helping Tom with frying up the fish.

Starting the day off right with a ham/cheese/egg bagel sandwich

Micah wondering why we haven’t caught any fish yet.

It wasn’t long before we caught our first Northern Pike!

A picture with me and Tom holding the fish because it’s my blog, dang it.

Our second fish was caught not long after the first one, with Lou doing the honors of reeling in this whopper.

I had made dinner reservations for Friday night in case we didn’t catch any fish, and the two fish we caught we decided to save for tomorrow’s lunch. The special dinner out this year was at Norwood Pines Supper Club and we enjoyed the all-you-can-eat fish fry. Everyone seemed to enjoy their meals.

The after-dinner photo at Norwood Pines Supper Club, Minocqua, Wisconsin.

We had a backup plan this year in case fishing wasn’t going our way. Tom had mentioned maybe renting snowmobiles and I had been thinking of buying one. I ended up buying two new Ski-Doo 2-up trail sleds to have at the house. Renting some additional ones fell through, but we took turns riding the awesome trails that exist in the snowmobile capital of the world, the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

While Tom & Micah fished, Lou and I hit the trails on the new sleds.

Saturday was our last full day and we started off fishing but the lack of action made Lou and I opt for hitting the trails. Lots of exploring before heading back for lunch.

Tom cleaned the two fish and he and Micah fried them up. Delicious! Made for a great lunch.

Tom and Micah hadn’t had a chance to do any snowmobiling yet, so after lunch, we all found a helmet that fit our heads and headed out for some sledding. Lou and I rode shotgun while Tom and Micah explored Dan’s Trail and many others.

The sun had come out and was providing some beautiful scenery to stop and enjoy.

We decided to head to a town called Sayner, where I thought we would just turn around and head back. Of course, we missed a turn and went way out of our way heading back home, now in complete darkness. It was a fun experience to ride by headlights at night. A little nerve-wracking too.

Since we didn’t catch any fish on Saturday, we opted for Bad Bones BBQ in Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin.

Evenings were spent playing poker and Lou won all three nights. Didn’t realize that he was a card shark.

High-stakes gambling going on.

Sunday always comes too soon. We cleaned and packed up and headed back home full of talk about the fishing and snowmobiling. We hope to be back again next year!

2022 Running Year in Review

2022 Running Year in Review

It’s time to wrap up another year of this crazy running journey that I have been on.  34 years and counting!  And what a year it was.  I decided to stick with ultra running as my focus and for the first time in the last several years the word “triathlon” does not appear in the title of this blog post.  I did very little biking this year, and any swimming I did was from a post-run, cool-down standpoint.  I miss cycling a little bit, but I had my hands full with training for another attempt at a 100-mile finish.  I came up a little short, but I’m getting closer!  Is next year the year I finish?  Hopefully, I will conquer that distance before age makes it too difficult.

The spring started off with a fun trail race called “Paleozoic Trail Runs – Carboniferous Spring II 25K” which was a very fun mud-fest.  First time racing a trail race, and I think I did pretty well with my 12th place overall and 2nd place age group finish.  Race report:  Paleozoic Trail Runs – Carboniferous Spring II – 25K Race Report

Got a little dirty running this very muddy trail run.  It was surprisingly fun.

The Big Hill Bonk became a favorite race for me after getting my first 50K distance run there in 2021, so naturally, I made a return to it in 2022.  It was moved from August to April this year, which meant less heat to deal with but now we dealt with some snow and cold.  In the end, it turned out to be a pretty good day.  I ended up running 10 yards, 41.6 miles, a new distance record for me.  Race report:  Big Hill Bonk 2022 – Wisconsin’s Backyard Ultra Race Report

At the top of the stairs and making my way down.

In the early part of May, I decided to try another backyard ultra in Wausau, Wisconsin called the “WausaUltra Backyard Ultra.”  I did this race without my race crew (my wife Kari) and when I fell on the fifth lap and banged up my arm and leg, I decided that I better call it a day.  This course was really technical and challenging, and that made for a fun time.  It kept me engaged, that is for sure.  I’d like to do this one again in 2023 if the calendar allows it.  Race report:  WausaUltra Backyard Ultra Race Report

Me and my one-man tent near the start/finish area.

At the end of May, I joined the local running club and did a marathon relay race called “Attack The Track.”  It was my first time doing an event like this for me and I really enjoyed it.  I ran the anchor leg, so my “mile” leg of it had an extra lap, but I huffed and puffed my way through it.  I wasn’t quite prepared to run a fast mile, but I had fun.  Race report:  Attack The Track! Race Report

Bringing up the rear of a 26.2-mile relay.

July and August were race free, but after a family wedding, and a vacation I was ready to race again in September.  I needed to do a 50-mile training run, and I found the perfect opportunity in Iowa at the “Broken Anvil Backyard Ultra.”  This backyard race was nowhere near as technical as Big Hill Bonk and WausaUltra, but challenging nonetheless.  The main issue here was thunderstorms and rain, but I was dialed in with help from Kari.  I managed 54.1 miles and could have run more if it wasn’t for the chafing I was experiencing.  I’ll be back at this one next year.  Race report:  Broken Anvil Backyard Ultra Race Report

Ringing the bell – making it official that I was done after 54.1 miles.

I was registered for and planned to run the Chicago Marathon, but I came home from my anniversary trip to Italy (Hiking in Cinque Terre Italy) with Covid-19.  That is not what I was hoping for, but I had a mild case thanks to being healthy and vaccinated.  Since being sick with Covid took away the Chicago Marathon for me, I decided to run a marathon on my own, seeing that my training plan for the hundred miler called for 24 miles anyway.  I took it very slow and got the miles in.  (My Covid Marathon)

November brought my “A” race:  Tunnel Hill 100.  This was my second attempt at the 100-mile distance, and I trained accordingly and gave it my best shot.  I really thought I had it in the bag after heading out for the second 50, but things turned on me coming in at 76 miles, and I just didn’t feel comfortable continuing on.  In retrospect, I wish I had but that is hindsight for you.  I’m still pretty proud of what I accomplished at Tunnel Hill, but I’m not going to quit on this yet.  That 100-mile finish will happen.  Race report:  2022 Tunnel Hill Race Report

What’s on tap for 2023?  I was planning to return to Ironman and do IM Couer d’Alene in Idaho, but that was assuming that I’d have finished the goal of running a 100-mile ultra.  So I think I will continue to focus on the 100-mile goal and maybe return to Ironman in 2024 unless my Gunner teammates do something to change my mind.  

I’ve already signed up for Broken Anvil and it will be my “A” race, with a goal of running 100 miles there.  I think there’s a good chance to accomplish that at a backyard ultra event.  I added the 25K trail race to the calendar again, as that was a lot of fun.  I just learned that the Big Hill Bonk has been canceled, which I had also signed up for, so that is a little disappointing.  WausaUltra is a big maybe because we’ll be spectating Ben & Emily at the Boston Marathon the Monday before, so we’ll see.  I don’t want to make my crew chief angry with me!  She’s a big part of my success!

Me and my crew chief.

The running stats below were a little surprising to me this year, as I somewhat had it in my mind that I would be closer to 2000 miles for the year.  In 2015, I ran a total of 2112 miles and I would have thought that I had easily done that much this year.  

1600+ miles is nothing to scoff at, though.  I’m pretty proud of that total.  The amazing part of training for ultras for me is that it is far less abusive to my muscles.  Other than the three times I fell down this year (I Be Trippin’), I didn’t have many (if any) running-related overuse injuries.  Running slow, and adding walking to the pace plan sure has made a difference in how I feel.  I might have discovered a secret to running in my old age.  

And although I may have been surprised at the yearly mile total being lower than expected, the lifetime miles run total was a nice surprise – I have officially gone over 30,000-lifetime miles!  I’m on my second virtual trip around the world!  

So, I tip my hat to another great year of running, being thankful for the great experiences it has given my life, and look forward to another year of my running journey.  

RUNNING STATS

  • JANUARY – 18 Runs / 79 Miles / 20 Miles per week
  • FEBRUARY – 17 Runs / 86 Miles / 22 Miles per week
  • MARCH – 17 Runs / 147 Miles / 37 Miles per week
  • APRIL – 13 Runs / 152 Miles / 38 Miles per week
  • MAY – 16 Runs / 90 Miles / 22 Miles per week
  • JUNE – 20 Runs / 149 Miles / 37 Miles per week
  • JULY – 18 Runs / 182 Miles / 45 Miles per week
  • AUGUST – 19 Runs / 206 Miles / 52 Miles per week
  • SEPTEMBER – 13 Runs / 170 Miles / 42 Miles per week
  • OCTOBER – 14 Runs / 137 Miles / 34 Miles per week
  • NOVEMBER – 16 Runs / 155 Miles / 39 Miles per week
  • DECEMBER –  16 Runs /  88 Miles /  22 Miles per week
  • 2022 TOTALS –  197 Runs /  1640 Miles /  32 Miles per week

 

LIFETIME RUNNING TOTAL

  • 30689 Total Lifetime Miles / 5387 Total Lifetime Runs / 34th Year of Running

BIKING STATS

  • 30 Total Rides / 493 Total Miles

SWIMMING STATS

  • 1 Total Swim / 1410 Total Yards 

2022 Tunnel Hill Race Report

Ask any runner if they check the weather report weeks ahead of the big race and  I would bet that most would say they do.  I’m no different.  We had really great fall temperatures the week before the race, but it was about to change – just in time for race day, naturally.  Instead of packing several pairs of short sleeve shirts and shorts, I packed for a day in the low-30s, with evening temps below freezing.  Kari told me later that the truck’s outside thermometer reading only reached a high of 34 degrees.

My super awesome sherpa/crew wife Kari and me heading to Vienna.

But as it turned out, the cold temperature for the day didn’t bother me at all.  They say that you hope for the best conditions and prepare for the worst, and if some freezing-type temps were the worst of it, then that’s no big deal.  I’ve run plenty of times in the cold.  I knew it was going to get cold, but the two inches of snow we woke up to was quite a surprise.  That’s the weather in the midwest for you.

Yes, two inches of freshly fallen snow greeted Kari and me as we went out to the truck for the trip to the starting line in Vienna.  This will be interesting, I thought.  We arrived, parked, and found our way to the start area to look for some familiar faces.  My son Ben and become friends with a guy named Sean, and they had done a lot of running together.  Sean was there to run the 50-mile race and I was glad to see him.  We greeted each other at the pre-race dinner the night before and again just before starting our journeys, wished each other luck, and he took his rightful place in the front of the starting group and I made my way to the back.  I found my local friends, Jim and Calvin, both doing the 50-miler, and we took some selfies.  Jodi, Jennifer, and Lara must have been avoiding us, but I would see two of the three later in the race.

Sean and me at the start. He’d finish 4th overall in the 50. Impressive!

I’m not sure if I was just not hearing the national anthem or if they didn’t sing or play it this year, but the race seemed to start before I was aware it was time to do so.  A trip around the parking lot led to the trail, and to the south, we all headed.  As we trampled through the now slightly muddy trail, we all were taking the least sloppy line.  But before too long, the trail firmed up, and only the edges of the trail and the numerous wooden bridges would show the icy reminders of the early morning snowfall.

Staying near the edge of the trail where it was less mushy.

I felt great as I pressed on, keeping on track with my plan to run for two minutes, followed by walking for two.  I did really well with this method in September at the Broken Anvil Backyard Ultra, and it was netting me about 4.5 miles every hour.  I met Kari at the second aid station located in Karnak, Illinois, and advised that all was good – and it really was.  I tend to sweat, no matter if it’s hot or cold, but I wasn’t sweating at all.  I must have picked the right amount/type of clothes for the day – two thin, long-sleeve undershirts, a pair of running shorts under a light pair of running pants, and my 2016 Ironman Lake Placid Finisher jacket, a jacket that is more like a windbreaker than what is typically offered by Ironman as a “finisher’s jacket” but was the perfect thickness for this day.  I topped my head with a visor covered with a running beanie and of course a pair of gloves to keep my hands warm.  I was shocked that I wasn’t sweating at all, and I attributed it to the run plan that I was following, keeping my heart rate down, and not heating myself up for too long.  Of course, the weather and my clothing were contributing as well to keeping me dry.

Ran with Calvin for a bit and stopped for a picture.

Since I wasn’t sweating, and I was doing my best to keep hydrated, I was developing a new issue – I was peeing a lot.  I estimate that I was drinking about 1/4 of a cup of water every couple of minutes.  Early in the race, I was peeing every 10-15 minutes or so.  By the later stages of the run, I was peeing about every five minutes.  At one point it seemed like I would take a drink and then stop to pee.  And since there was snow along the edge of the trail, I could clearly see that I was peeing very clear, not yellow at all.  It was like the water was running straight through me.  I took it as a good sign, but it was a little bit of a new experience for me and I thought about it a lot.  Too much info, I know, and I’m sorry.  It’s just a memory from this race that I don’t want to forget.

Chad Colson Photography – used with permission

There are another 3 miles from the first major aid station in Karnak to the turnaround and when I got back to Karnak again I decided to make an attempt at pooping.  Into the port-o-potty I went, and was glad to take care of business.  I walked back over to Kari to swap out my vest and I was approached by a woman who very delicately informed me that I had toilet paper trailing behind me from my pants.  I would normally be thoroughly embarrassed, but when you’ve been whipping out your wiener to urinate in front of everyone for the last 16 miles, it really didn’t faze me that much.  Kari got a kick out of it though.  Another bit of too much info, and another memory for posterity.

Run for two minutes.  Walk for two minutes.  Pee.  Eat a gel every half-hour.  Eat something solid every hour.  Repeat for hours.  And that’s how the first fifty miles went.  Very uneventful, and highly executed.  I was dialed in.  At a couple of points, I was pretty bored, so I pulled out my phone and called my super-fan Carl and chatted him up a little.  I also called my daughter Rebecca who seemed a little surprised that I was taking time out of the race to chew the fat with her.  Both conversations were big pick-me-ups.

Chad Colson Photography – used with permission

Upon reaching the 50-mile mark and being back at the start/finish again for the second time, I couldn’t help to think about how I was doing.  The prior year I had quit well before I crossed the mat.  This year that wasn’t happening.  Kudos to Kari for being wise with where she set up her chair and had our gear; it was roughly the same place as last year, and I had no trouble finding her.  Of course, she found me before I found her most of the time, but I wasn’t having to figure anything out.  I would take off my vest and she would either refill the bladder of the vest I preferred or swap it out with my secondary vest with a full complement of snacks and water.  Occasionally I would forget to swap my phone over, and once I realized that I didn’t have my gel flask with me.  But overall all, we were dialed in.

Finishing 50, ready to eat, and head back out.

Kari had dinner ready for me again, more Ramen noodles and broth, a sandwich, some potato chips, and my favorite drink Lipton Lemon Brisk tea.  I ate what I thought I needed and headed off for mile 51 and more.  It was just a few miles later that I felt so good that I called Kari to tell her so.  I was really feeling good, and that continued for most of the night trip on the south portion of the out-and-back course.

Upon getting back to Karnak for what was now the fourth time, things were getting a little weird for me.  The energy I had in the mid-50 miles was no longer there, and I was struggling to get through the two minutes of the run portion of my run/walk.  I was definitely running slower, and would occasionally skip a run turn.  Another thing I noticed was that I was drifting while walking, not staggering, but just having trouble walking straight.  I thought of an old childhood friend named Mike who did that type of walking normally, and it gave me a chuckle.  I think that it being so dark and that I was using a headlamp to light my way was causing me to get a little off.  It’s like when you are driving in a car and being okay when you stare off into the distance, but try focusing on the things speeding by right in front of you and it becomes hard to focus.  And I was staring at a gazillion rocks passing by my feet very quickly.

Heron Pond aid station is between Karnak and Vienna, and I tried to eat something there.  I had some more ramen and broth, and a portion of banana.  Kari walked with me for a while, and I mentioned that I felt like I was starting to get drained.

One weird sensation I was experiencing was uncontrollable yawning.  This happened a couple of times.  I was perplexed by it because my mind was pretty sharp, having consumed caffeinated gels every 30 minutes.  I think it was my body telling my brain that it was tired.  A very strange sensation.

From around mile 70 to back to Vienna I knew the writing was on the wall.  To continue on was going to be tough.  I told myself that I would try to eat some more food, maybe drink a 5-hour energy drink, and see how I felt.  Kari met me and walked me to the warming tent, and then scrambled to get me the things that might turn me around.

As I attempted to sit in a chair in the warming tent, I had already unofficially quit the race.  I stumbled a little trying to sit down, which wasn’t surprising to me.  I had difficulty walking in a straight line for the last six miles and felt a little wobbly for quite a while.  But I had been telling myself all day to keep giving it the “old college try.”  They say in ultras that if you feel crummy at some point, you may feel totally better a little later.  Kari had gotten me some of the creamy potato soup they were serving inside the tent, and I began eating what I could.  But it wasn’t long before I was covering my face with my hands attempting to hide my emotions, and through some sobs, I confessed I no longer had the ability, nor the desire, to continue.  Kari, without a doubt the best crew/sherpa ever, would have tried to push me on, but she didn’t try to convince me otherwise.  It was pretty clear that I was done and she could tell.

I scanned the faces in the warming tent and I could see some of them were making the same difficult choices.  Continue or quit?  Some had already quit and were at peace with it, others had that 76-mile stare like I had just before getting back to the tent.  Then in walked a guy around my age, who threw down a shiny new belt buckle on the table and declared “I’m done.”

“Did you drop, too?” I asked through some foggy mind haze.  “DROP?!  NO, I FINISHED!” he declared.  I sat there somewhat dumbfounded.  Finished?  Puzzled, I looked at his belt buckle again, this time a little closer – 100 Mile SUB 20.  It became crystal clear and I sank further into my hard metal folding chair.  This guy had just gone 100 miles in under twenty hours and looked like it was no big deal.  I picked my jaw up off the grassy floor of the tent, offered a small apology for making an erroneous assumption, and advised that I just misunderstood.  I told him that I was dropping and was very impressed with his accomplishment.  I think at that point he realized that I was not quite all there at the moment.  He offered some encouragement, but by now my body was going into recovery mode, and any further energy would be spent keeping myself from uncontrollable shivering and hobbling to the truck for the ride back to the hotel.

Last year I went into the scoring tent to notify them that I was dropping to the 50-mile finish, which resulted in them encouraging me to continue before handing me a 50-mile finisher buckle.  But this year the volunteer just asked for my bib number and offered me another 50-mile finisher buckle with some brief well done’s.  Kari had pulled the truck close, I stiff-legged to it and got in, and off to the hotel, we went.

Officially I am a Tunnel Hill 50-Mile finisher, with an official time of 11 hours and 50 minutes.  But my Garmin watch told the real story – 76.8 miles in 19 hours and 23 minutes.  Farthest I have ever run.  Last year it didn’t take long to regret dropping at 50 miles.  This year there is none of that.  I’m damn proud of those 76 miles.  

It took me three Ironman races to finally dial in my approach to that race distance, and I’m finding that it’s a learning process with the 100-mile ultras as well.  I’m not sure if I’ll make it back to Tunnel Hill for another shot at 100 next year, but I’m not giving up on this quest.  Hey – I made it a marathon further than last year!

Hiking in Cinque Terre Italy

My wife Kari and I celebrated our 30th anniversary with a trip to Italy and we had a great experience.  Our trip was booked through a company called Backroads, a company that specializes in hiking and biking adventure-style trips.  For our trip, we chose to hike in Cinque Terre, Italy, and it was magnificent.  A mixture of beautiful and colorful seaside villages, colorful vistas, and hiking trails that were a mix of easy walking and technical terrain.  We seemed like we were busy from the moment we got to Pisa, to the moment we left the group in Florence.  It was an incredible trip.  I’ve summarized the trip below, but my words and photos barely do the trip justice.  I hope you enjoy reading it.  Here’s a link to Backroads and our trip:  Backroads Cinque Terre Hiking Tour

GETTING TO PISA

Our flight to Pisa Italy included a stop in Frankfurt Germany, which helped break up the trip a little. We landed in Pisa in the morning and taxied to our hotel a little bit outside of Pisa. Upon checking in we taxied back into Pisa to explore the sights.

I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but it was an amazing tour. Thanks to Kari, we had tickets to go up inside it and see the views of the city. We walked along the top of what I considered the fortress walls and had a nice lunch in an open market-type setting. Lots of walking and discovering. We hopped the local train back a couple of stops to our hotel, which was within easy walking distance. After some time in the whirlpool there, we opted to have a nice dinner in the hotel. Jet lag was setting in and we opted for bed.

FIRST DAY OF HIKING TOURCAMPIGLIA to PORTOVENERE

We decided that the train was a great option, even with having to drag our bags to the station to go back to Pisa and meet up with the tour group.  But one thing we learned the day before, TrenItalia can be a little hit or miss with consistency.  The train was ten minutes late yesterday and on a different track than what it said it would be on.  Fortunately, most locals speak English and we were directed to the correct train.  The ride into Pisa was also an adventure.  We figured out where to be, but when the locals heard the announcement they all got up and left.  I asked a guy if he spoke English and could explain what was going on, and he said that the train had switched tracks.  We hustled back over to the other side and caught the train in time.

Meeting the group was next, and everyone was very friendly and excited to meet everyone.  The group was all from the US and I think Kari and I were just barely the youngest of the group.  It was exactly how I pictured the demographic of the group to be – retired, or almost retired.  From the east coast to midwesterners, to the west coast, we had it covered.

Soon our tour guides appeared and made their introductions.  David was a young man from Spain, Auguste was a young lady from Lithuania, both would serve as our main guides, and Lauren, a young lady from Great Britain I think, a tour guide who would provide support and move our luggage and stuff from point to point on this trip.  

We took a bus to our first stop and David and Auguste laid out some ground rules and provided info on how our trip would go.  We ended up at a small mom-and-pop restaurant at the top of a hill called Il Piccolo Blu in Campiglia, and the views of the Mediterranean Sea were impressive.  The lunch was samples of a variety of local kinds of pasta and sauces and it was delicious.  After lunch, we headed outside and prepared for our first hike.  David said that had it been wet he would not have taken us on the whole hike, as the rocky terrain could get slippery.  But we lucked out and were able to do the whole distance.  He and Auguste had warned us as to the difficulty of this hike and I was doubtful at first, but it wasn’t easy!  This was no stroll in the park.  

HIKING IN CINQUE TERRE – DAYS 2-3 – MANAROLA to CORNIGLIA to VERNAZZA to MONTEROSSO

We woke up and had a buffet-style breakfast at the Hotel Belvedere and then we met for the hike briefing for the day. A bus awaited to take us to Riomaggiore where we would begin the day’s hike. As we pulled into the very quaint town, my eyes were drawn to the hillside that seemed very steep, and I could see people climbing up it. It was at that point that I knew where we would also be going. It looked challenging! And it was beginning to rain lightly as well. The hiking was definitely a cardio buster. Lots of vertical climbing, but the views from up high were well worth it.

This day had options for hiking, and you could do extra as long as you were quick. Kari wasn’t quite feeling well, so we played it safe and skipped one of the extra hikes. We needed to catch a train to the next town to continue the hike and it would have been tight. I think only one or two of the group did the extra one. We passed through several very cool towns. At the end of the day, the group met up for a train ride back to Santa Margherita Ligure. Our hotel for the next two nights was the Hotel Continental. There was a mix-up with our bags, but it got figured out. Our room had a beautiful view.

On Day Three we met the group for breakfast and then hiked from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino, hiking up stone staircases, past villas, and churches, through olive groves, and ended up in the beautiful seaside town of Portofino.  We had a nice lunch and dipped our bare feet into the Ligurian Sea.  We chose to hike the coastline back to Santa Margherita Ligure, which provided stunning water views.

We were on our own for dinner, and even though we had reservations at a restaurant, it looked a little too fancy (i.e. fancy fish-type meals) for my tastes, so we called an audible and ate at one of the local places on the plaza.  

Day 4 Bus trip to Chianti in Tuscany – Rainy Hiking

For Giorno Quattro, we took a bus to Tuscany. Of course, the bus had a mechanical issue, but we all took it in stride. It was a rainy day, and when we got to Greve in Chianti, we enjoyed some local meats and cheeses for lunch. It was raining pretty hard and both David and Auguste were a little surprised to hear us all say that we would hike to the next stop instead of taking a shuttle. On this hike, we arrived in the Chianti Classico region and a town called Montefioralle, the birthplace of Amerigo Vespucci. The rain eventually stopped, and we slogged through some wet spots until we arrived at our next lodging place, the Villa Le Barone, a really fantastic villa with stunning views of the Tuscan Hills.

We cleaned up and then enjoyed a wine tasting with a local expert (with many of us nodding off!) before having a nice dinner with the group in the hotel.

Giorno Cinque – Radda in Chianti

Day Five began with a great breakfast at the hotel and then we did a short hike to Radda. There was a really cool cycling event going on called L’Eroica, with the participants riding bikes made in 1985 or earlier. They dressed the part as well. We attended a balsamic vinegar tasting at the shop of the wine expert from the previous night. It was clear he knew his wines and balsamic vinegar. We sampled some ice cream with balsamic vinegar on it and it was very good!

We were afforded a little time to do some shopping and I bought a cool retro bike jersey with the Chianti Black Rooster on it. It’s pretty cool.

Our hike took us to the 11th-century vineyard and wine cellar of Castelvecchi winery. Our snack samplings there were great, especially the focaccia bread! We attended another wine tasting and learned about the process of making wine. They were actually harvesting grapes there at the time, and I watched a machine remove the grapes from the vines.

Hiked to another town for lunch and enjoyed great conversations and watched some of the bikers go past. We needed a good lunch as the hike back to the hotel was about six miles on some gravel road. At one point there were some dogs guarding some sheep and barking at us, but the weird part was a guy laying in the grass yelling at the dogs. Very strange.

Upon getting back we enjoyed some beautiful sunset views and met the group for our last dinner together. We all enjoyed sharing what our favorite parts of the trip were, and many of us did not want it to end.

click on a photo to expand

Day Six – Our Final Day of Hiking

On Day Six we took a short hike to another local vineyard on a cool damp morning. After breakfast at the hotel, we packed our bags and walked to the bus for a trip to Florence and to say goodbye to the group. It really was a great tour group!

Florence seemed hectic and intimidating for me at first. Kari and I walked around and got the lay of the city. Kari purchased tickets for a local museum which was very cool. Lots of marble statues and beautiful art by some very well-known people – Michaelangelo and Donatello to name two of them. Our tickets also allowed us to climb a bell tower that gave stunning views of the city and the boisterous clanging of bells was quite deafening being right near them as they rang. We walked the one bridge with shops that somehow escaped the destruction of WWII, and then got lost looking for a spot offering views of the city. Made it back to a piazza for dinner and then walked back to the hotel exhausted from the day.

Day 7 – Florence to Rome via train

We hopped onto a high-speed train to get to Rome. We checked into the hotel and then set about seeing some of the best of Rome on our last full day in Italy. We wandered over to the Colosseum and realized that tickets were going to be needed to see the inside. There were plenty of pushy tour-selling agents standing around, but we happened to find one of them who explained to us the benefits of paying for a tour instead of trying to do it ourselves without being pushy about it. We did a lot of walking around on a sunny and warm day. The tour was great – we got to see and get informed about the Colosseum. The history there was amazing. We were getting exhausted and opted to return to the hotel for a shower and dinner at a nearby restaurant.

And that wraps it up!  I think the way we chose to experience Italy was fantastic.  A little bit of our own wandering coupled with a great hiking tour.  I highly recommend Backroads for tours.  They have tours all over the world, and I’m sure Kari and I will be doing another Backroads tour soon.  

My Covid Marathon

We started to hear about this Covid thing in 2019 and I figured I wouldn’t really have to worry about it. Previous viral events never became an issue for me, so why worry about this one. Well, it quickly became a pandemic and virtually shut down the world. I took it seriously from the beginning, wearing a mask, washing my hands more frequently, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and avoiding social gatherings. When the vaccine became available, I got the two doses and followed up with the two boosters. For two years we lived our lives around this thing. Eventually, the vaccine had an impact, the virus became weaker in its variants, and we all started to let our guard down and move on with our lives. My wife and I decided that we could actually travel for our 30th wedding anniversary, so off we flew to join a hiking tour of the amazing Cinque Terre area of Italy. Even Italy, which had somewhat strict Covid policies, would remove the requirement of wearing masks on public transportation while we were there. The trip was awesome, and I was starting to believe that I had some special anti-Covid avoidance ability. Three days after getting back home, I developed a tickle in my throat. “Oh, I must be getting a cold,” I thought. I was planning to pick up my packet for the Chicago Marathon on Friday, but I just wanted to rule out that I had Covid instead of just a simple cold. The rapid at-home test was very definitive – I had Covid.

DAMMIT!

I have to say I wasn’t surprised, but I was a little pissed off. I had managed to avoid it for so long, but it eventually got me. I wondered where I might have been exposed. No one in our tour group really seemed sick at all. On the flight back home, Kari said there was a guy sitting behind me coughing quite a bit. I hadn’t noticed as I wore headphones while watching a couple of movies and was also sleeping for a while. I guess maybe it could have been there, not sure but it doesn’t matter. I now had it and there was no way that I was going to go get my marathon race packet, nor was I going to run the Chicago Marathon.

Within an hour I made the decision to pack my things and go quarantine at our lake home in northern Wisconsin. If I had to be in solitary confinement, why not pick a beautiful place to do it.

Morning in Minocqua, Wisconsin

The drive up north was no big deal. Other than the slightly scratchy throat, I felt pretty good. But the next two days were the worst of it. I describe it as having a mild case of the flu, or a mild-moderate cold. I would get a mild fever, some congestion, a dry cough, and some chills, all of which were dealt with by taking some over-the-counter severe cold and flu medication. By day four, I felt okay. Did some yard work, finished winterizing the boat and wave runner, and even went for a five-mile, easy-paced jog. On day five, I decided to head home. According to the CDC, I was done with my quarantine and could head back to work as long as I followed some protocols. My job keeps me separated from my coworkers for the most part. As I left, my son Ben said that he was also Covid positive now, and was heading to the “safe house” as he put it.

A week after testing positive I must say that I felt pretty good. There was some lingering congestion, especially in the evening. I had done a couple little runs just to see how I felt, and they went fine. After missing out on training for ten days in Italy, and also during my quarantine, I was starting to get a little concerned about my conditioning for the Tunnel Hill 100, which is only three weeks away. I checked my training plan and it showed that I needed to run 24-26 miles. I kind of dreaded that proposal, but on Saturday morning I packed up my running vest with supplies and headed out the door on a cool but beautiful morning. I planned the route to the west on the trail, as eastbound was being repaved, and I needed to make sure I could refill my water. I ran my usual 4 min. run/2 min. walk pace strategy and it was going well. I turned around where the trail ended at 11.5 miles and started heading back. Somewhere along the way, I decided that since Covid stole the Chicago Marathon away from me, I might want to steal it back. Getting back home would net 23 miles, a distance that I could be happy with, but I figured that if I felt good enough, I would add an extra 3.2 miles at the end and that is just what I did.

click on a picture to expand

I ended up with a marathon in five hours and twenty-four minutes. Nice and slow ultra-pace. I joked with a friend that all five of my Ironman marathon splits were faster than that. But it did wear me out. My joints were pretty sore afterward, and even though I thought I managed the nutrition side well, I felt wiped out. My wife reminded me that I was sick, and I’m sure that is a contributing factor. But the run was not the confidence builder that the 54-mile run I had done in September was. I think I will have to adjust my pace plan and run a 2-minute run/2-minute walk for Tunnel Hill. It worked very well at the Broken Anvil event, and the goal of Tunnel Hill is to travel 100 miles, not do it in record time.

I’m going to be pretty cautious with the final three weeks of training. I’m relying heavily on Kari being healthy in order to assist me during the hundred miler, so I don’t want her to get sick. I’m glad to see that Covid was mild for me, it could have been worse. We don’t seem to be done with this pandemic yet.

When Running Clicks

I started running in the late 1980s and like most, I was just dabbling with it.  I was a recent college grad in a new job, living away from family and friends and pretty much bored.  I was also gaining weight and couldn’t afford to buy new pants, so running became my interest.  It was never easy at first.  A few trips around the apartment complex were all I could do initially.  But I stuck with it somehow.

One day I decided to attempt to go further than I had gone previously, and before I knew it I was at five miles before stopping.  But when I got to that mark I had a feeling that I could keep going.  It was at that moment that running seemed to click with me.  I could and would keep going.  Within a year or two of starting those laps around the apartment complex, I set a goal of running a marathon.

I started doing local races and marathons.  I was just winging it.  How complex could running be?  You just run, right?  There was no internet during this time for me.  It may have existed, but it was in its infancy, and I didn’t have a computer to even do any sort of research into how to train for a marathon.  The first couple of marathons went okay.  I ran 3:50 in the first one and followed it up with another 3:50 a year later.  I really thought that I would demolish that 3:50, but a lack of knowledge about fueling and hydration was my downfall.

It would be a couple of decades later that I would become a triathlete with the goal of completing an Ironman, and that is where my mindset changed.  I followed a plan for the first time and learned a ton about how to fuel for the race.  Successfully training for and completing that first Ironman was a big deal.  It taught me loads about how to train and I applied that to my running goals as well.  Although I feel that it took me three Ironman races before I finally dialed it in and set a personal best, it did finally click with me and I found personal success.

Not long after that, I applied what I had learned from the triathlon training to running and I found myself setting new personal bests in the marathon, and getting that once elusive Boston Marathon qualifier was now in reach.  I set new personal bests in the marathon distance, all in my 50s.  I have now achieved three BQs and run the race in 2018,  CLICK!

For the past few years, I have set my sights on becoming an ultra-distance runner.  Something that I hadn’t done in the previous thirty years of running, and I had to learn to apply what I knew from my triathlon and marathon running experiences to running stupid far.  I basically had to learn to run slower and pace myself.  It clicked for me when I started applying walk breaks into my runs.  I had more energy to run farther.  Even with four ultra-distance finishes completed, I still am adapting and learning about how I manage the run.  Last weekend I ran my fourth last-runner standing format ultra and went farther than I have ever run – 54 miles.  I was shooting for 50, but knowing one more 4.16-mile loop would benefit me mentally, I pushed on and it helped me understand that I could get past that 50-mile mark and keep going.  CLICK!

Yesterday, I ended my recovery week with a run that I was planning to last about ten miles.  But as I meandered my way around the community, I started thinking about doing more.  I felt really good.  I ended up playing it safe, finishing with twelve total miles.  When you find yourself thinking that ten miles are just okay and want to do more, then I think that the work that I have been doing to get me to the finish line of Tunnel Hill 100 in November might just be clicking with me.

CLICK!  CLICK!  CLICK!

When did running click with you?  What was your a-ha! moment?

Broken Anvil Backyard Ultra Race Report

BROKEN ANVIL BACKYARD ULTRA RACE REPORT

WHEN:  09/17/2022

WHERE:  WEST POINT, IOWA

RACE FORMAT:  BACKYARD ULTRA/LAST RUNNER STANDING

RESULTS:  2022 Broken Anvil Backyard Ultra Results

I had to juggle my 100-mile training plan for the Tunnel Hill 100 due to a planned 30th anniversary trip to Italy, and it was looking like I would have to sacrifice either the 50-kilometer run or the 50-mile run.  I decided that the 50-miler was probably more important to the training than the 50K, so I started looking around and found the Broken Anvil Backyard Ultra that would work perfectly for me.  Running an organized 50-mile race would be a lot easier than having to do it solo and provide my own support for twelve hours.  So I signed up, told the wife (hint – always tell the wife after you sign up), got a hotel for the weekend, and then started thinking about how to run the course. 

After doing some research into the event, it looked like a perfect opportunity to get in 50 miles without having to walk up really long hills, shimmy down rocky terrain, or duck under or climb over fallen trees (I’m looking at you Big Hill Bonk and WausaUltra!).  Seeing that there wouldn’t be any hills to force me to walk, I decided that a run/walk plan of 2 minutes of running followed by 2 minutes of walking would probably do it.  Just to make sure, I did a 4.2-mile run at home on Wednesday following that pace plan and finished right around 50 minutes.  Perfect.

Friday night my wife Kari and I jumped in the truck and headed west on I-80 for a little under four hour trip to our hotel in Fort Madison.  After arriving, we decided to drive the route to the event location to make sure there were no surprises Saturday morning.  Upon getting there we found the super-cool race director Nic still there and a few of the other participants milling around.  He allowed us to set up our tent so we didn’t have to worry about it on race day, and I grabbed my bib and the event sweatshirt.  

Kari and I awaiting the start

At 7am on Saturday, 30 of the 36 registrants (there were six no-shows) got into the corral and were sent off on our way.  The first loop, or yard as they are also called, went really well.  I quickly came to realize though, that I was the only one doing a dedicated run/walk thing, as the others just jogged until they came upon one of the few small hills or when they needed a break before doing any walking.  Most of the runners were finishing about five minutes or so ahead of me, and I was consistently finishing the 4.16-miles in 50 minutes.  I was really dialed in and super consistent with my pace plan.  Ten minutes after each loop is plenty of time to sit, rehydrate, refuel, make clothes changes, etc.  My super-sherpa race crew wife Kari was also dialed in.  All of my next lap drinks, food, electrolytes, and a cold washcloth/towel were ready for me without ever having to ask.  I would make some requests for certain things here and there, but she was anticipating my every need.

Some pictures of the course, a mixture of grass, crushed gravel, pavement, and a short pine needle-covered dirt trail.  

The loops went by quickly as usual.  A couple of women dropped after one lap, but I think they were just there to experience some fun and support other racers.  One guy was using the race to get his tempo miles in for an upcoming marathon and would quickly blast through the loop.  But for the most part, we would all start each loop together and I would bring up the end.  Seven runners dropped before the marathon distance of loop 7, which is a little surprising.  However, it was loop 7 when the Iowa skies decided to open up and pour on us.  

I wasn’t really worried about running in the rain.  I had an extra pair of shoes, plenty of extra running clothes, and also a rain jacket that I decided might be beneficial to help keep me warm in case the rain made me chilly.  The jacket actually just made me sweat more, and I didn’t wear it for more than a loop or two.  However, the rain caused a problem that I hadn’t quite planned for – chafing.  I had lubed up my inner thighs in the morning as is typical for me before a long run, but the rain and the running must have caused it to wear off.  When I noticed the chafing I started applying Vaseline like crazy, but I think it was too little too late.  I have never had chafing as bad as that.  I kept applying Vaseline every loop, hoping that I could continue on.

Screenshot of the rain heading our way

Races always provide some sort of distraction, and I was trying to remember all that I could.  There was a guy who was talking to his group ahead of me and said “Prince Charles is a DICK!”  Not sure what that conversation was about, but it gave me a chuckle.  Another runner was in the starting corral when he realized he didn’t have his watch, and after the loop starts you are not allowed to leave the course except for bathrooms, nor are you to receive any outside assistance.  Another guy spoke up and said “Spoiler alert!  It’ll take you an hour.”  That got a good laugh out of the group as the bell rang and we were off.  I think he got his watch just in time.  

The course took us through Pollmiller Park, which included a small lake and a campsite.  I joked with one camper and asked how he was enjoying “the dumbest parade ever.”  He chuckled and said “See you in an hour.”  He must have gotten used to our routine.  Another group of campers included some kids and one teenager asked me “What are you running from?”  I wasn’t sure what she meant and I replied that I wasn’t running from anything.  I asked the guy next to me how was I supposed to answer that?  He said that it was just a “smart ass kid being a smart ass.”  But it gave me something to mull over for the rest of the loop and the next.  She asked again on the next loop, and I said “I’m not running from anything, I’m running to something.”  A higher purpose, maybe?  I don’t know, I’m still searching.

I really didn’t have a problem with the course other than there was a steady stream of cars in and out of the park.  They were generally cognizant of us and gave us plenty of room, except for one car that came right in front of me and cut me off from the course and stopped.  I wasn’t sure really what she was doing, and I don’t think she knew that she was blocking the race route, but it wasn’t a place to park, and she was miffed that I raised my hands as if to say “what the hell are you doing?”  She backed up and I carried on to the finish.  

When I hit loop 8/50K I knew I had 50 miles in the bag.  Aside from the chafing, I felt really fresh.  My legs weren’t tired, I had plenty of energy, and I was really enjoying each loop.  When I was on the twelfth loop I was telling myself that I would do one more, possibly two after that.  I finished the 13th loop and decided that the goal of 50 miles was reached, plus one extra for a total of 54 was enough for the day.  It was the furthest I had ever run.  I lined up in the corral for loop fourteen, and when the loop was started, I walked over and rang the bell.  I was taping out.  Everyone was extremely happy for me and they were applauding my effort.  I told the race director “Let the record show that I started loop 14 but did not finish it.”  It doesn’t really matter, but it sounds better than stopping at 13 loops.

Ringing the bell – making it official that I was done.

It took a while for the results to get loaded up and when they were I was shocked to see what had happened.  The results showed that there were two runners that finished with 66.7 miles, the top male and the top female.  But in a backyard ultra, there can only be one finisher!  What this means is that there was NO finisher!  Everyone DNF’d this race!  Kari and I were discussing this and we weren’t sure if they just didn’t know the rules, or if the weather turned worse and they decided to quit, or if they were both happy with being the top finisher in their gender.  The other part of it for me was that I am sure that I could have run past 66.7 miles!  That’s only three more loops!  

In the end, I finished in 4th place, as there were two that did 66 miles, six that tied at 62 miles, and another runner did one more lap than me.  But really I was the 10th out of 30 starters, which really pleased me.

The results of the race weren’t the only thing that surprised me.  What really surprised me was how dialed in I was and how good I felt, minus the chafing of course.  I could barely walk when we returned to the hotel, and the shower was extremely painful when it hit my sore groin.  But overall, I had no tiredness or soreness in my legs or feet.  I could have kept going.  The hydration was spot on, as was the nutrition.  It’s making me rethink my 4-minute run / 2-minute walk pace plan for the 100 miler in November.  I might have to shorten that run time down to two minutes because it worked so well here at Broken Anvil.  

Overall, I loved this event.  It was super fun, and if I plan to do more backyarders in the future, this one will definitely remain on the list.

OUCH! My Running Serious Injury List

I was wrapping up Week 17 of my training for the 2022 Tunnel Hill 100 and was feeling pretty good until Saturday when things took an unexpected turn. In the midst of running my Saturday 18-mile long run, it came to an abrupt halt at a little after mile five. I was in need of a bathroom break and I knew that there would be a port-o-potty at the next street crossing, just up the road to the left. I slowed to a walk and was looking for it but it wasn’t there. Was I just missing it? Did they move it? Then BAM! I walked straight into one of those metal posts in the middle of the trail that are there to keep cars from driving down the trail. All at once, I was dealing with a low blow and the feeling of falling down without having any clue what the heck was going on! I quickly put my palm down on the trail to keep myself from falling, but I was still stunned as to what was happening. Then it hit me – after many years of successfully avoiding those dumb posts on the trail, I finally collided with one.

For the record, this isn’t me, but it’s exactly what happened.

As I dealt with the pain of walking into the dumb thing, I was no longer really worried about the bathroom break.  Obviously, my next reaction to this dumb move was to look around and see if anyone saw me because embarrassment would definitely make it much worse.  The trail had been pretty busy and I had been running with other runners, walkers, and cyclists, but fortunately, I was pretty much by myself.  There were a couple dog walkers coming but I’m not sure they saw me.  Regardless, I decided to keep moving.  What did all of my baseball coaches say when I was a kid?  Rub some dirt on it and walk it off.  I always thought that was dumb advice, but walking it off is what I chose to do.  I wasn’t about to rub dirt on my now bruised groin.  

As I trudged onward, next came the expletives, as that always seemed to be my response to dumb acts, and after a few minutes of that, I started to feel a little better.  Not smarter, just a little less in pain.  I guess the pain wouldn’t make me quit the run, and I continued on for the rest of the run.

Upon getting home I was able to see how messed up I had made myself.  Pulling up my shorts revealed a huge bump on my inner left thigh.  It was definitely sore and I marveled that I was actually able to keep running with that bump the rest of the way.  I also had a bump and a cut on my lower left shin.  I inspected my running shoe and I could see rust and paint transfer on it from striking the painted post.  That had to be a serious collision to do that!

 

I’ll spare you a photo of the bump on my groin.  

In the movie Rainman Charlie Babbit pulls Ray’s neck and Ray responds by whipping out his “serious injury list.”

Charlie:
What are you writing?… What the f*** is this? “Serious Injury List”? *Serious* injury list? Are you f***ing kidding me?

Raymond:
Number eighteen in 1988, Charlie Babbitt squeezed and pulled and hurt my neck in 1988.

Charlie:
Squeezed and pulled and hurt your neck in 1988?

I’m thinking of starting my own serious injury list.  I have three entries already this year!

  1. WausaUltra Backyard Ultra – fell on loop 5, skinned up my arm, leg and knee, causing me to quit the race
  2. Hickory Creek Preserve/LaPorte Road Access – went off the beaten path and tripped on a tree root, scrapped up my arm and knee
  3. Old Plank Trail – walked into a stupid post, causing bumps and scrapes to my groin.

I chose to skip the 1.5-hour run that the plan called for on Sunday and opted to do a hike with Kari instead.  I’m happy to report there were no injuries on the hike.  But I’m sure that I will be adding to the list sooner or later.  

Kari made sure that I wouldn’t injure myself.

Continue reading “OUCH! My Running Serious Injury List”

2022 Tunnel Hill 100 – Improving on 2021

I have been quietly putting in the running miles for Tunnel Hill 100 in November.  As I run, I have a lot of time to think about the enormity of running 100 miles – the training, the race, the external needs, etc.  I attempted the 100-mile run in 2021, but ultimately dropped at the 50-mile finish and was allowed to accept the 50-mile finisher award.  I was warned as a 100-mile registrant to resist the urge to quit at 50 by many different people but quit I did.  I’m not ashamed of it at all, as completing 50 miles is a pretty impressive accomplishment.  But as all of the people warning me indicated, I would regret it sooner or later.  For me, it was sooner.  By the time I had gotten to the hotel, cleaned up, and had some food, I was already regretting it.  I felt that I let myself down, my son and my daughter-in-law who had come to pace me, and my wife who was there for support and provide all the dumb things I needed to go 100 miles.  They were there and ready to do their jobs, I just didn’t do mine.

Continuing past the 50-mile mark while attempting to hit 100 should have been a no-brainer.  I often say that the hardest part of any run is taking the first step, as once you get started you often will finish the job.  But I just didn’t take that first step past the halfway point.  I spent miles 30 to 49 debating with myself as to whether to drop at 50 0r keep going.  I vacillated back and forth many times, but at the time I was worn out, tired and sore and felt that going on would have been rough on me.  I guess I was afraid of what was to come and getting the 50-mile finish was a pretty good consolation prize.  Until it wasn’t.

I have spent many a training mile thinking about the mistake or mistakes I made last time, but I am reluctant to call them mistakes.  I think that making improvements on what happened would be more productive, so I am focusing on the positive and trying to make improvements.  Here are some of the things I have been thinking about improving upon.

DO THE APPROPRIATE TRAINING – My first attempt at Tunnel Hill in 2021 became a secondary event to Ironman Chattanooga when Covid-19 messed up my plans and put the two races in the same calendar year.  Nothing I could do about it, but at the time I chose to make Chatty my priority, and focus my training on the Ironman and hope that it would be enough to get me through the ultramarathon.  I’m not totally convinced that the Ironman training I was doing wasn’t enough to get me through 100 miles, but it’s really hard to substitute swimming/biking/running for just long-running.  This time I decided to focus my training on just doing the ultra.  I haven’t even raced a sprint triathlon or 5K this year, I’m just doing long, slow distance running.

TRAIN THE BRAIN – Ironman can be emboldening, making you believe that “anything is possible” (a motto of theirs), so I thought that if I can finish an Ironman (or now five of them) I can easily get through an ultra.  Boy, I underestimated the ultra distance and what it took mentally to get through it.  Pushing on was something I wasn’t able to do.  How do you get over that mental hurdle?  I’m still trying to figure it out, but for now, I keep pushing myself out the door when I need to do so.  In marathon training, you typically build to one 20-mile training run before the race.  I’ve done several 18-milers and a couple of 20-mile runs so far, with many more to do.  I need to get those distances in not only for my legs but for my mind as well.  I’m guessing with the miles I run and the time I put into them, my mind will get used to being along for the ride.

Right now it’s summer and it’s been a hot and humid one too.   I have to resist the temptation to judge where I will be in November based on where I’m at now.  My brain sometimes tells me that I’m going to struggle with this, but it’s all because I’m currently struggling with heat and humidity.  Got to get through the plan and get close to race day, then I will know where I stand.

USE THE GADGETS – I acquired what I thought I might need to run long distances – shoes with more cushion, shoe gaiters, trekking poles, headlamps, portable watch and phone chargers, and other odds and ends, but I haven’t really used them much.  Last year I did use the lights from about mile 35 to 50, but I wasn’t used to running with them.  I did very little training running with lights, and they can be kind of weird.  Some runners say that the bouncing movement of the light from a headlamp can make them feel a little unbalanced.  I didn’t really have a problem with that, but I can see it having a strobe light-type effect.  I did practice with the watch charger in training last year, but having a new watch with better battery life might make them unnecessary.  I think the watch will last the full 100 miles.  But I should probably refresh myself on how to use them while running.

DO SOME NIGHTTIME RUNNING – My wife Kari “coaches” me often with thoughtful suggestions, and one of them that I could benefit from is doing some nighttime running.  Tunnel Hill starts at 7am in November and you had daylight until about 4:30pm, so not even 10 hours of sunlight.  The majority of the race will be run in the dark.  Last year it was so dark in southern Illinois that without the light I couldn’t see anything.  There were people coming back to finish 50 miles without lights and I had no idea how they were staying on the path!  Some practice running at night with lights would be a good idea.  But I think she is also suggesting that I run at night when it’s the time of day that I’m getting tired.  I don’t really remember feeling “sleepy” tired last year, thanks to caffeine, more of a fatigued muscles-type tired.  But it is a good suggestion.  I will suggest that she join me.

RE-EVALUATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS – Last year I had no idea what to expect and just going off of what my training leading up to the race was telling me, I foolishly thought that a sub-24-hour finish was probable.  Heck, I was averaging 5.5 miles every hour in training and thinking a sub-20-hour finish might happen!  Man, did that race teach me a lesson.  I did happen to finish the 50 in 11 hours and 32 minutes, but there was no way I was going to be able to do another 12-hour 50 miles.  The experience from last year has made me adjust my expectations a little.  I’m still going to shoot for around 24 hours, but the overall goal, and one I can’t overlook, IS TO FINISH THE DAMN DISTANCE!

WHAT THE PACE? – One of the crucial elements of running 100 miles is going at a pace that won’t kill you too soon, and I think I blew this part of it last year.  That’s a surprising statement seeing that my local friends all went out much faster than me for the first 25 miles of it.  It was quite a shock to be bringing up the rear when I was holding a sub-20 pace myself!  With the exception of Leah, who turned in and impressive 22:54, Jim ended up slowing and dropping out around the 70 mile mark, and Jodi seemed to run out of gas as well, but added another exceptional finish to her ultra running resume.  I think that they tend to run until they can’t any more, and then walk some to recover.  I try to build walk breaks into my miles by run/walking, essentially running four minutes and then walking for 2.  But am I doing enough walking?

As I mentioned above, I could hold 5.5 miles/hour fairly well, which gave me the expectations of easily going sub-24, but I tired and ended up slowing down in the last 15 miles pretty dramatically.  I settled on a 4-minute run/2-minute walk method in order to give me a break and keep me from overdoing it.  But I think it was still too fast.  Since I hit the 5-mile mark around 50 minutes, I have tinkered with walking the remaining 10-minutes of every hour.  This will give me an additional extended walking break, and still keep me on track.  I will see how this goes.

GET THE NUTRITION DIALED IN – In my five Ironman races I have been fortunate to have been pretty consistent with my in-race nutritional needs.  For some reason, I just struggle with it during training.  Lately I have been a little better, but on race days I tend to skip eating solid food when I shouldn’t.  Sometimes what the race is offering isn’t all that appetizing to me.  Sometimes I don’t eat enough.  My two Backyard Ultra races this year I struggled both times with getting enough food, even though I was trying to do better.  It’s tough to run on a full stomach, so I might have to experiment with eating more over a longer period of time, rather than just scarfing down a bunch of food in a 2-3 minute break.

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So there you have it, I’m sticking to the plan, trusting it, doing the work, and trying to avoid the mistakes.  I just hope I’m not overthinking it.  Future updates to follow, I’m sure.  Thanks for reading.

The Illusion of Speed

I got some new shoes the other day and immediately felt faster. I wasn’t actually faster, but I felt like I was. I could think of a couple of reasons that made me feel that way.

First, I have been running in black colored shoes. I used to avoid black shoes because they had the opposite effect on me – they made me feel slow for some reason. Black just seems clunky in my head. But black goes best with my winter running gear, and I guess I just carried black shoes over into the summer. My new shoes are a light grey and when I started the run I felt like an Olympian, running with speed and grace.

The second reason is a little more obvious, they were new, felt springy, and I was bouncing along with seemingly less effort. Feeling faster from a new pair of shoes should make it easier, I suppose.

After that initial fast-feeling run, I was surprised to see that I really wasn’t any faster than most of the recent runs I had been doing.

The faster Hoka Bondi 8 on the left and my old and slow Hoka Bondi 7 on the right. Basically the same shoe.

There are other times when I felt like a piece of gear made me “feel” faster. Going from a road bike to an aero bike surely made me feel faster, and when I stay in aero I should definitely be faster. I noticed once that I was riding on the trail with my friend John, sitting upright and having a chat and traveling at the same speed, but when I went down into aero without changing my cadence, I slowly started to edge ahead.

Sticking with the bike, I added a set of FLO aero wheels to it and immediately felt fast. Aero wheels make your bike look fast standing still. They just look cool – and fast! FLO makes good wheels and the price is among the least expensive in the aero wheel market, so buying a set made me definitely feel faster and part of the cool kids club. How much faster are they? My combo set of wheels will save you maybe 6-10 minutes in an Ironman, according to the FLO wheels website. https://blog.flocycling.com/carbon-wheels/how-much-time-will-flo-wheels-save-me/ Not exactly blazing speed, but you believe it makes a difference. Still worth it, even if looking cool makes you feel faster.

I also bought an aero helmet, which I had read once that can make one faster for a lot less than a set of aero wheels. I’m wearing the dumb thing in the picture at the top of this blog. I have to admit I don’t really feel faster wearing it. I feel rather silly, actually. I will toss it on for sprints, but I’m not sure the aero advantage of it outweighs the overall protection of a regular cycling helmet in the event of a crash. My aero helmet just seems less protective. The dumb things that are on my mind while just riding and racing a bike are sometimes pretty deep.

What else can make you feel faster? A new racing kit? For sure. A new pair of socks? Yes sir. But do they actually make you faster? Well, sometimes you just got to go with what makes you feel like you are.

I’d love to hear what makes you feel faster. Add some suggestions in the comments below.