Lately my time has been taken up with school-related issues and therefore has slightly removed me from the running scene. This was back in April, by the way (well, March, too). Now that May is here, my thesis is still hovering above my head, but I fell more organized about it and also feel like there’s a better direction, so I’m not so overwhelmed.

I mention this because April was a rough month for me with school and trying to stay in shape for the two races I took part in. In a way, this was a good thing because if it were not for the races and the need to feel like I needed to get out there and train, I think I would’ve slipped off the wagon for several weeks. It’s unfortunate but I think it’s true.

After the first race, Rockin’ K, I told myself that after Free State, I will take it easy from the racing scene simply because I felt like there was too much stress/pressure to train. I’m not against training, but when my time is consumed by school-related things, it’s hard for me to make time (I have a very hard time dividing my focus when doing something; I either do it the absolute best I can or I lose interest in it after some time—I’d like to think I’m getting better, though). Now that I feel more relaxed and the fog has lifted, I have this urge to compete again. Running and training just to the heck of training and running is great, don’t get me wrong. But there’s something more to it when you involved a level of competition. I feel that’s when we push ourselves the most and truly find out what we’re about. When times are easy, you can’t know who you are or what your limits are. I see it like wartime vs. peacetime. A platoon can train as if in wartime, but mentally they’re not in that moment of stress and therefore it’s hard to truly say what they will do. Now, I’m a firm believer that a platoon or team can train as if in wartime and get incredible results from it. However, the true test is actual wartime. How well was your training in order for you to combat the conditions of war? If the answer is great training, then your results will most likely be in order with your expectations of winning and surviving to tell the story. If the answer is below average, there is a serious issue and one needs to reconsider his intentions or the penalties are dire.

I don’t mean to stray off point, but I see that thought as parallel to casual training and training for something which eventually turns into a race. So needless to say, I’m starting to consider my next race. As of yet, I have no idea what it’ll be, but my guess is that it’ll be something in July (50k at WyCo or something around the range of 50M). Strangely, it’s something I’m craving.

If anyone has any thoughts on summer races, please feel free to drop me a line. I’d be happy to hear about them.

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The body truly is an amazing machine. I like to think of it like a car; it runs smoothly for some time and then out of nowhere it needs some maintenance. But with that logic, it’s totally normal, right? You bet.

Since the race, the side of my right foot has been on-and-off painful (the pain comes from extended–and by extended I mean like 5 minutes–walking). Strangely, it’s on the side. Now, when I get these walking pains it does seem to extend into the bottom portion of my foot, but it’s hard to tell if this is indeed the route it’s following. Nevertheless, I don’t foresee any running this week. No doubt about it.

I was talking with someone earlier this week about a perfect run. I had mentioned that there always seems to be something in the way that stops us from having a perfect run. It’s either your foot, your shin, your calf, your knee, your toe, your hamstring, et cetera. Something is always a pain in the ass. And, usually, if it were not for that one thing, you’d run the perfect race (or the perfect training run, whatever).

I used to play backgammon quite seriously many years back, and for those not familiar with the game, it’s a game heavily based on probability (this is an elusive term) since it’s a game utilizing a pair of dice. Even in backgammon, I would have amazing games, but many times they would start amazingly and then the related something would veer its ugly head, namely luck. And if it were not for that luck, I’d have a few hundred bucks in my pocket. The point is that even having compendious knowledge of probability, or even game theory, is not enough to have a perfect game. I see this closely related to not having the perfect run, except I would substitute luck with human maintenance and biology.

It’ll all be OK. I just need to give it time to heal. The problem is I’m not patient enough for waiting around for a foot to heal. But I know it’s the right thing to do.

Stay strong.

I’m sorry for the delay in posting my Free State race report, but there were several factors involved in this and one was definitely school. But there’s a little more order now, and I’ve got a few minutes to spare so I’ve decided to type it up.

This race was amazing. Amazingly marked; amazingly organized; amazing volunteers at aid stations; and amazing people participating in the race. Definitely off the scales if I had to rate it. I never went into the race thinking it will be boring, but some of us know the course so well that I thought it’d get a bit tedious out there. That totally was not the case.

We started at a turn-around point for 15 or so miles when we run it on Saturdays. This was cool because it’s a small, narrow gravel road that takes you down to the lake and it’s on an incline (up or down, depending on where your point-of-reference is; if at the start, down. If on the trail, up). The nifty thing is that because it’s on an incline from the trail, I could never see over the top so I’ve always wondered where the gravel road leads. SoI was a bit excited when we started the race and I discovered that it was our 15-mile turn-around point. It was nice to know where I was, that’s for sure.

So we actually started where I prefer to run: the back half of the course. There’s just something more relaxing and more “trail-like” (whatever that means) and therefore I always prefer to run that portion if given the choice. So the first several miles were awesome, to say the least. Initially hung out with the group consisting of Coleen, Nick, Jonathon (the guy I’ve met a few times running on the trail–great guy, btw), Danny, Pat, and Debbie (I think both Debs). We were shootin’ the breeze for well over a mile and finally Nick said to step it up a notch and so we took off. For a few miles, it felt as if we were alone and everyone had taken off like a bat out of hell. But a few more miles into it, when we got the red trail which is very technical and full of large rocks near the lake, we caught damn near everyone, I believe. We are slightly experienced with the red trail, so we figured people would be going pretty slow in this area. Nick and I weren’t truckin’ it, but we ran it comfortably until we could no longer run because there were so many people walking up an incline near the first aid station at Land’s End. Those people took care of me, no doubt. Rick Mayo, an incredible ultrarunner, was my man for the day. That dude really made sure I got what I needed and saw to it that I felt great the entire race. So that first aid station I didn’t need a thing, so I ate some oranges (those things were the best thing since the invention of the MacBook Pro) and Nick and I were off. I don’t like spending time at aid stations; 2-3 minutes and I’m out.

Made it to the second aid station which is where we normally start our Saturday runs–the Army Corp of Engineers parking lot. This was also where my drop-box was located. When we got there, who do I see? Phil and Stacy Sheridan! These are the RDs for my recent Rockin’ K race. I can’t express in words how awesome and friendly they are. It’s almost ridiculous how awesome they are (in a good way, of course). So I shot the breeze with Stacy for a second while Mark and refilled my Nathan bladder (thanks again, Mark. You’re the man). To be honest, I had forgotten that my drop-box was located there, so I ate some oranges (let me again express how awesome they were) and then Nick and I were off again. It was no issue since I didn’t need anything from the box.

Heading back to the Land’s End aid station, there was nothing to report. Things were smooth and we had a nice pace. Once we got the the aid station, which was about 16.5 miles into the race, I ate, yep, you guessed it, some oranges (!!) and my boy Rick asked what I needed. He refilled my bladder with some cold water and said I had goose-bumps so I was low on electrolytes. I popped a few that I had on me and then he asked if I wanted some Coke. I agreed to the half-cup of caffeine and sugar. Moments later, Nick and I were off again. Three-and-a-half miles left to the start/finish (one loop; 20 miles).

The run there was, again, nothing out of the ordinary. We pulled in at a time of 3:30:00. So I was quite happy with our pace for the first loop. I thought for sure we’d get a sub-8 finish if we even slow down a bit on the second lap. When we brought it in I again had a few slices of oranges, dreamt a bit about the beer brats I’ll be tasting in a few hours (the ones Sophia had actually offered me while I was there! Tempting, but too early in the race for such solids. I told her the beer brats will be my prize for finishing, so please hold off on that idea ;-)), and we were off again.

The start of the second lap was going well until we were getting close to the Land’s End aid station again (26 miles into it). I started getting that hamstring/muscle-behind-the-knee pain again. Damn, I thought. “What the hell is this going on?!?!” Rick said to stretch it out while he refilled my bladder and I ate some oranges. I did and Nick and I were off again. I felt relatively good, although the pain was a pain in my a**. But I pushed through it and we made it to the CoE aid station again. This time Stacy had refilled my bladder and my handheld bottle while I was grabbing some Hammer gels from my box and also was trying to stretch out my hamstrings. By the time we were ready to roll out (this was mile 30), I knew I took too long at the aid station because when we started running again, my legs were stiff as a board, especially my problematic hamstring area and behind my left knee. Climbing at this point was the killer for me. Nick and I ran a few miles and I told him to take off because I was only holding him back with this pain of mine and my need to walk it off. So he did and I had time to dig deep and find out what I’m about. I’ll be honest, from that point I walked quite a bit, perhaps a good 5 miles because running was not happening for me. I was passed by several of the people that we had passed some time ago, so this wasn’t making me feel good. I kept thinking “time, time, time…” Then I finally said, “Dude, to hell with time. Just finish this thing.” I obviously had to walk the uphills, but every chance I got on the flat areas I ran, even if for 50 or 100 feet. I would tell myself, “Let’s make it to that tree there and then walk it off.” This happened until Land’s End. There, I came across Brett and Caleb. Brett is an incredibly great guy and he gave me the moral boost I needed since I only had 3.5 miles to go. He had mentioned when I was about to leave that I looked more energized on my way out than I did on the way in. I was broke down on the way in. And Caleb is another amazingly fast ultrarunner. He had helped me stretch out the pain in my hamstrings, I ate some orange pieces, and then Caleb said he’ll start out the run with me for a bit. His encouragement helped me as well. So thank you to Brett and Caleb. You guys rocked it when I was pretty low.

I was in pain, but I must have blocked it out because the last stretch from Land’s End I pretty much ran the entire time. In fact, I even caught up and left a dude that had passed me way earlier. This, too, helped my morale. I felt like a beast at this point (a beast in pain, mind you). The best feeling was coming over a slight hilly part of the course and seeing the gravel road indicating my uphill trek to the finish line! I felt amazing at that point. Before this point, I was envisioning coming into the finish and I would crash. In fact, the opposite happened. I came in and I felt great. I could’ve pushed several more miles if I needed to.

Me coming in to the finish line. Photo by Dick Ross.

Me coming in to the finish line. Photo by Dick Ross.


And here are some photos after coming in, also taken by the official race photographer, Dick Ross (we had forgotten the camera when we left in the morning, so these are the only ones I have, sorry).
Me and Ben Holmes after getting my finishers medal

Me and Ben Holmes after getting my finishers medal


Happy go-lucky me. I was wired at this point.

Happy go-lucky me. I was wired at this point.


Me and Lisa post race with our medals. Lisa was great and finished her first-ever (trail) marathon!

Me and Lisa post race with our medals. Lisa was great and finished her first-ever (trail) marathon!


Me, Lisa, and Gary taking our photo. I'll post this one when Gary does (with permission, of course).

Me, Lisa, and Gary taking our photo. I'll post this one when Gary does (with permission, of course).

So I finished the race in something like 8:35:00 or so (my watch was off and the results are not yet posted so I don’t know for sure). When I get the time, I’ll post it. But although it wasn’t a sub-8 I had hoped for, I’m happy because I pushed hard and suffered out there and got through it. That, to me, is what’s important. I can always focus on improving my time(s), but you can never improve on quitting due to your lack of pushing through the mental and physical pain.

If you were to come up to me in early January when I started running and said, “Dude, in April you will run a trail marathon (Rockin’ K of all to choose from, too!) and a 40-mile trail race,” I would’ve said you’re smokin’ some heavy stuff and you need to lay off of those drugs. Not a chance in this world I thought this would have been possible. But I want people to see that in not even four months you can transform into something you never even dreamed was possible. And how? Yes, with some training, but mostly with your mind. Like with anything else in this world, you must want it bad enough. You must want to do whatever it takes to get through it and not complain about it because you know it’s something you need to do, not for others, but for yourself. We all want to know what our purpose is on this earth and, maybe more importantly, what we are capable of accomplishing. But how does one do this? You test your limits, then you push them. When you push them, you’ll surpass them. And when you do that, you’ll feel like anything is possible. When you feel like anything is possible, your mindset immediately switches, as if it were a light switch and someone turned it on to show you the possibilities you have in this world as someone who has a healthy body, two arms, and two legs. If people who are less fortunate can surpass these limits, what is holding you back, the person who is healthy and has nothing to cry about? Yourself, that’s what’s holding you back.

I’m very happy to have done and finished the race, even though at the end there was some bad weather. We had a tornado warning come through at about the 10-hour mark. The tornado never touched down, but Clinton Lake got hit pretty bad with a storm. Fortunately everyone was safe and were all taken off the course in time. It is unfortunate that the 100k and some of the 40-mile people did not have a chance to finish.

Thanks to everyone at the race who had volunteered and thanks to my blogging friends who support me as well. You are all incredibly important in the journey we are all on, namely that of ultrarunning.

By the way – I essentially ran in the Vasque Blue SL’s out-of-the-box. No problems. In fact, they are awesome shoes. Way lighter than my Salomons. I may be hooked on them now. It’s pretty impressive to wear shoes out-of-the-box and immediately run 40M in them and be okay. They’ve got my vote of confidence.

EDIT: Time for the race was posted.

    8:34:20

So I usually post a post (sounds strange, I know; it does to me, too) at any sub-24 hour point before the race. I think this is/might be an exception (and perhaps gives me a chance to get away from school obligations at the moment β€” this feels good once in a while).

The Free State Trail Run takes place this Saturday morning here in Lawrence at the infamous Clinton State Park. Great place to run and camp out. I haven’t done the latter, but I’m just making an observation and sort of expressing a future hope! Anyway, the race offers three race options: 26.2M (~ one loop), 40M (two loops), and a 100k (three loops). Lisa is doing the 26.2-miler and I’m signed up for the 40M. As expected, she’s a bit nervous, but to be honest, for no good reason. We’re all nervous before big races and all feel as if we didn’t train hard enough or long enough. I don’t believe that. I think that kind of thinking is just the jitters before the race. We’re also afraid of failing, so it’s natural to think that way. Anyway, she’ll be fine and she will not quit! I had her promise me she won’t.

I, on the other hand, feel extremely relaxed about this. To be honest, even when I’m consciously thinking about it Saturday, it doesn’t seem real for some reason; as if I don’t believe it’ll be happening. This is not in a bad way, of course, but it’s like it’s almost surreal. And the funny thing about it is that I don’t know why that is. I like to think it’s because I’m ready for the suffering to commence. As those who have been following my progress know, this will be my longest distance yet. Three weeks ago was my first trail marathon length at Kanopolis State Park’s Rockin’ K race. When I had initially signed up for this 40-miler, I was slightly concerned about the down time between Rockin’ K and this Free State race, but it turns out that it was actually perfect. The next weekend following Rockin’ K I was out going long and feeling relatively good. This is when I felt certain that we really don’t need that much time off between races. So, I obviously feel great going into this race. I’m well rested, focused, and just feel mentally prepared to tackle this course and its distance. As far as I know, I’ll be running with Nick the entire time. We run well together and we can push each other if one of us is slightly down. And it so far appears that our pace is relatively equal, so it makes sense to run together. Besides, we’re not looking to win; we’re looking to finish and have a great time in the mud.

In other news, I FINALLY picked up my shoes that I won at the Psycho WyCo Run, Toto, Run race back in February. Yeah, it took a while, but the place is in Overland Park, which is a slight drive from Lawrence. So you really need to plan it out in order to head out there. So I figured no better day than today to pick them up since there was one of two packet pick-ups there today. The one tomorrow actually works better for me since it’s here in Lawrence, but I needed to finally pick them up. And the other news is that I ended up not going with the Salomon XT Wings, but the Vasque Blur SL’s (these were the actual shoes that were being raffled).

The new shoes

The new shoes

They feel pretty good and I’ll give them a warm-up tomorrow (yes, I’m running tomorrow; very nice and easy and short). I’m not sure if it’s very visible in the photo, but the traction appears very aggressive when compared to the Salomon’s (any model). If tomorrow’s warm-up run feels good in them, I’ll give them a try in the race. The Vasque guy at the store said there really isn’t a “break-in” period with shoes, and if you need one, chances are the shoes aren’t a good fit for you. It makes sense and I’ll give it a shot. I’ll also bring other shoes in case, but I’m hoping I won’t have to change shoes. I have not been very happy with the traction in the XT Wings nor the XA Pro 3D Ultra’s with latest mud we’ve been experiencing at Clinton Lake.

XA Pro 3D Ultra's

XA Pro 3D Ultra's

So my hope is that everything falls into place. I have no doubt it will. I just need to maintain my relaxed state both mentally and physically and I should be in great shape.

I hope everyone is well and healthy. If you’re running on Saturday, make sure to stop by and say ‘hi’. I look forward to running with many of you on Saturday.

I’ve been tapering for the past few days, but maybe not so well. I’m not running a lot, but maybe more than a “tapering” calls for. But I’m not concerned. I don’t overdo my speed on runs anyway, so to me it’s still tapering.

Last Saturday, Lisa and I started our morning run on the other side of the trail at Clinton (around mile 12, where the White trail comes out onto the road and near the East end–Cactus Ridge). This was nice because it gets you away from the everyday grind of running the same course over and over. Besides, I like this other end much better. Somehow, the scenery is much different and therefore it gives it a different, more naturey (go with me here on my neologisms), feel to it. I must admit, though, that it was a bit strange to be out there and feeling “fresh.” Also, it’s a bit harder to know your distance when you start around there. But I know it was easily 17-18 miles. One mile off won’t make or break my log.

The other strange thing is that when you drive in to this point, it’s really like half a mile, maybe three-quarters of a mile (I’ll give it one mile, tops). So you get there and think, “What the…? How did we get here so fast? Is this the right spot? It sure looks like the right spot. There’s the white trail.” So it really shows you how deep this trail goes and with how many turns there are.

Our Wednesday night run with the newly formed Trail Hawks went well. A few new faces and the same ol’ mud. But the mud was actually improving since we haven’t had rain in two days or so. I’m hoping it’ll continue like this for another week, until race day. It helps when you’re not ankle-deep in mud, but I’ll take either with pride.

I’m not even sure how to start out this post. I keep asking myself, Where do I start? I think the best place to start is the race directors.

A section of the Rockin K course. I don't remember exactly where this was. Photo by Lisa.

A section of the Rockin K course. I don't remember exactly where this was. Photo by Lisa.

Phil and Stacy Sheridan were amazing, especially Stacy since I didn’t speak much to Phil since he was out running around making sure everything was running smoothly with the race. Gary had told me that these people were truly amazing, but I couldn’t fathom it until I actually got to meet them. Extremely friendly and are willing to give you whatever you need to help you succeed. This is one race that I will definitely do again, simply because of them. No question about it. That said, I highly recommend anyone in the Midwest (hint, hint, Rob!) to run this race because of them and the great environment they provide for a tough race. On that note, yes, this is said to be the toughest 50-mile course in the Midwest (coming from a finisher of the HURT 100 from Kansas). On that note, the toughest course, period. And I’m certain that anyone who has run this course will concur. I didn’t believe it for the first 14 miles or so, but I learned quickly after that. And I know many people reading this who are unfamiliar with Kansas will not believe this either because, well, this is Kansas. Believe me when I say that most of the course you swear to whatever God you believe in that you are in Arizona or New Mexico. If someone were to blindfold you and drop you off in that area and remove your blindfold, you would think you’re in one of those states. Simply beautiful, breathtaking, and physically demanding. These few photos do no justice to other parts of the course I’m referring to.

A broader view of a section of the course. Photo by Lisa.

A broader view of a section of the course. Photo by Lisa.


Another view of a section of the course. I think this was from the first manned aid station. Photo by Lisa.

Another view of a section of the course. I think this was from the first manned aid station. Photo by Lisa.

Lisa and I arrived in Ellsworth, KS later in the evening on Friday, which was a little later than I had wanted to arrive, but life got in the way, as usual. Because of the late arrival, I didn’t get the amount of sleep I would have liked, but it was fine. Plus, before a race or big event, I’m always sleeping “on the edge,” therefore, every time I woke up I thought it was time to wake up. Then I finally woke up at 3:15 a.m. and just stayed awake. It was hard to fall back asleep.

We left the hotel for the race a few minutes before 6. The directions were pretty straight-forward, but come to find out, it wasn’t that easy. Initially, I missed the turn for the State Park, since they never said that the sign will actually announce another park, not the one hosting the race. We turned around and luckily found the place in time. We were definitely cutting it close, but I still didn’t have to really rush. Checked in fine, saw a few of the Nerds, and then it was time for a quick briefing before the start of the race. I heard something about wind in the forecast but didn’t care much about it. After all, it’s wind. Who cares about some baby winds?

When we started, I started with Nick and Mark, fellow Nerds I often run with on Saturday runs. We decided we’d stick together for this thing at a nice pace. Nick was the only one with a Garmin, so we needed his pace report. Quickly into the run, we started seeing the New Mexico in Kansas. At times, it was hard to keep your eyes on the trail. It was the cliffs that had my attention. I really wish I had my camera on me. But I think Gary took care of that for me ;-). Soon after our beautiful view a few miles in, we had our first water crossing that was wide enough to get our feet wet. Nothing terrible. I thought the whole race would be this way and moved on with Nick and Mark.

Several more miles into it, I’d say between 5-7 miles, there was a crossing that was a bit more “real” than the first one. This was maybe knee-high. Wow, I thought. But I was happy since I was wearing my Drymax Trail socks. Some serious water. But my feet had ZERO problems. Again, I thought this would definitely be the worst of it all. Several miles later, we finally hit our first unmanned aid station (only water). I felt great, but I wanted to stretch just to be sure. Nick, and I think Mark, refilled on some water and we were off again on our way to the first manned aid station. At this point, maybe a little earlier, we noticed these “baby winds” were picking up. They were like a quick sucker-punch to the face followed by a few jabs. Not fun.

After that second water crossing, they just wouldn’t stop. At first they were sorta spread out, but it came to a point where they were a few minutes apart, or so it felt like they were. And these were all about the same depth (shin- to knee-high). The mud wasn’t bad at any point during the race, which was a huge advantage for all of us. The water, however, was pretty nasty in some places. You know, that nasty, stagnant water you find in woody areas? Yuck. It really smelled terrible, but it comes with the territory or running these races.

Getting close to our first manned aid station (which, by the way, wasn’t until the teens of running; approx. mile 14 or so), I was a bit worried whether Lisa would be able to drive to it. As we got close enough to see cars, I didn’t see her car which made me a bit more worried. But as we reached the aid station, I saw her outside Gate 6 snapping shots of us coming in. Boy was I relieved since I had some specific requests and I needed a refill on Nuun. Nick, Mark, and I refilled, quickly got our bearings, and were off again.

Photo from the first manned aid station. Photo by Lisa.

Photo from the first manned aid station. Photo by Lisa.


This is where we came in to the aid station from the course. This is a zoomed in shot of the one above. Photo by Lisa.

This is where we came in to the aid station from the course. Photo by Lisa.


Yours truly arriving at Gate 6, a.k.a. first manned aid station. Photo by Lisa.

Yours truly arriving at Gate 6, a.k.a. first manned aid station. Photo by Lisa.


Gary (orange cap) at Gate 6 aid station. He did a fantastic job in this race. Photo by Lisa.

Gary (orange cap) at Gate 6 aid station. He did a fantastic job in this race. Photo by Lisa.


Me at aid station 1. Check out the crazy hair! Ha! No, I'm in perfect position with the branches of the tree. Photo by Lisa.

Me at aid station 1. Check out the crazy hair! Ha! No, I'm in perfect position with the branches of the tree. Photo by Lisa.

It was around this area that we noticed the winds picking up. Okay, I’m not sure if anyone reading this has experienced heavy winds gusting between 40 and 45 mph. They are no joke. We were all getting knocked off course, that’s how powerful they were. There was actually a wind advisory in effect. When they were head winds, it was serious hell. I found myself exerting way too much energy in these situations. When we were lucky and the winds were behind us, you can literally feel as if someone’s simultaneously pushing and lifting you up. This helped when I was tired.

It was on this loop that we ran into the other Nerds, Coleen, Gary, Laurie, Debbie, and someone else I believe but I can’t remember. It was also on this loop that Nick, Mark, and I realized what Gary was talking about when he mentioned inclines. Goodness. These inclines are not meant to be run on, it doesn’t matter who you are or how good of a runner you are. Imagine going hiking in a hilly area and adequately preparing yourself for climbing. That’s what those hills looked like. Insane. There was a time where I passed a woman and I was passing her on my hands and feet, almost literally climbing the hill. It was ridiculous, my friends. Strangely enough, however, the descents were not bad at this point. But common sense told me that have to come at some point, whether sooner or later.

It was around this point when Mark took off with the girls and Nick and I ended up going to the manned aid station (the second time). Nick is a stronger runner, so it was nice to follow his pace at that point and throughout the race. Lisa was there again waiting at the gate to snap some shots. Took in my needed nutrients and refilled on Nuun again. Karen, Gary’s wife, was working the tent at the aid station. She was awesome. She asked what I needed and I ate a half of a potato and took some Hammer Endurolytes (Hammer sponsored this run, by the way. Thanks, Hammer!). At this point, we were pushing mile 20 or so. I was not doing as good as I was when I came to the aid station the first time, but I wasn’t horrible either. Lisa asked how I felt and I told her I felt my hamstrings tightening up. So as she refilled me and gave me nutrients, I stretched them out as best as I could, given that I only stayed at the aid station a few minutes. She later told me I was a bit disoriented at this point. I think I was trying to concentrate on this hamstring issue and what I was going to do about it. Nick had taken off with Mark and told me he’ll walk and wait for me as I was finishing up a few things with Lisa. I then ran out and caught up with them. Mark had taken off either by himself or with the girls, I don’t recall. So it was Nick and me once again.

Nick, me, and Gary coming into Gate 6 aid station for the second time. Photo by Lisa.

Nick, me, and Gary coming into Gate 6 aide station for the second time. Photo by Lisa.


Me checking into Gate 6 aid.

Me checking into Gate 6 aid.

About a mile out of the aid station I could feel the hamstring pain gradually getting worse. I took fluids, food, gels, endurolytes, and nothing seemed to work. We ran the flats and descents and walked the uphills. The uphill walks were getting more painful for me, as were the descents. The descents were getting fast at this point (I knew they had to appear at some point!). My body was perfect at this point, but the hamstrings I can tell were about to really do me some damage.

Nick was awesome and walked with me for a while, even at some of the flatter areas. I wanted to tough it out and not hold anyone back, so I pushed forward and told Nick to start running; I wanted to suffer a bit. We made it back to the unmanned aid station, stretched for a second and took off again. A little bit after this point, somewhere in the low 20’s of mileage, I could feel that lifting my legs to move up in elevation was becoming painful. Moreover, the winds at this point were hell, partly because at this point it was wide open fields in Kansas. We definitely hit gusts of 50 miles per hour and a lot of them were head-winds. I’m not talking a lot about these winds, but believe me when I say that they were pretty consistent throughout the race. I, personally, have never experienced such winds before while being outside.

As my hamstrings got worse, I did, however, get some relief when we reached a stream crossing. This baby was waist deep. No joke. And, seeing how it’s in the Midwest and it’s far from being consistently warm, it was pretty cold. But this helped my hamstrings. The almost freezing water was awesome for my legs. I came out of there wanting to go strong simply because my legs now felt better and also I wanted to warm up. Fortunately the weather was awesome that day (mostly sunny and 70ΒΊ–I got my first sunburn of the year!). At that point, we had several miles to go to get to the start/finish line. Those were some long miles on my legs. Nick and I pushed it a bit towards the very end (about a mile left or so) because some dude was trying to pull some stuff that we considered rude of him to pull. So I think we pushed our pace to about a 10-minute mile. We pushed it until the start/finish line we crossed in 5:50:XX and some change.

Me and Nick coming in. Slightly small to see, sorry. Photo by Lisa.

Me and Nick coming in. Slightly small to see, sorry. Photo by Lisa.


Coming home. Photo by Lisa.

Coming home. Photo by Lisa.

My legs, primarily hamstrings, were pretty spent from the course and the winds. I hate to report that I stopped at the marathon length, but it’s the truth. But, the good thing is that I again learned about myself, which is something I try to do in all things that require a lot from me, especially races where I tend to push myself. I’m not one to make excuses, so I’ll put it simply and bluntly: my body, again primarily legs, isn’t ready for a 50-miler yet. I had done what I signed up to do, which was good. I signed up for the marathon but later decided I wanted to do the 50-miler. Gary had recommended to just stay registered in the marathon and talk to the race directors letting them know that I may want to go out for another loop. The race directors allowed me to do this, so I prepped as I was going in it with 50 in mind. But I simply haven’t trained enough. There could be several reasons to this, but that’s probably the most honest answer with no excuses. Sure, the course was tough as nails and the wind was even worse. Could I have finished it if the winds were only blowing at 15 mph or the course was easier? Who knows. But that’s neither here nor there. As I’ve stated in previous posts that some of you may remember, I’ve really only been “seriously” running (trails) for three solid months (early January is when I started). It’s this reason why I say I just haven’t trained enough. But I’m not embarrassed by this. I really, really, wanted to do the 50 since I love nothing better than pushing my limits, but I knew when I finished the marathon that I didn’t have it in my legs. Just no way. The course was really tough and I’m happy with my performance in the marathon length and for even finishing the marathon length. Lisa had said to me that people often train for marathons in the length of time I’ve even been running, or sometimes longer. And many of those people are preparing for “easy” road marathons. I’ve got a 40-miler coming up in three weeks here in Lawrence (our Saturday running spot, so I’m very familiar with the course) that I’m really hoping to finish. The course is technical but much easier so I’m hopeful. I must admit, however, that I have a great feeling that this is my last marathon length race. Anything from this point onward will likely be an ultra. Let’s hope this is true with my first ultra in three weeks. I won’t let you all down. You have my word. I’m very positive at the moment because my recovery is coming along with awesome success. I’m relatively fully recovered. I hope this is a good sign.

After the race in shelter area with medal. Last marathon length for me. Memorable.

After the race in shelter area with medal. Last marathon length for me. Memorable.

I do need to extend a sincere thank you to Lisa, Nick, Mark, Gary, Karen, and the rest of the Nerds I came across who helped me run a successful race. I feel I have let all of you down in some way by not running the 50, but I promise you next year I’ll run it. When it’s physically not possible, it’s not possible. Lisa was a life saver in her support and help at the aid stations making sure I was taken care of properly. I couldn’t have made it through this race without her support. Nick and Mark were awesome “pacers” for me. I couldn’t have done this as well as I did without Nick. Thanks, bro. And you killed it out there. I look forward to our 40 together. And Mark, I heard you murdered it out there as well. Nice work. You two are awesome friends and excellent runners that know how to push me a little farther each time.

My finishers medal. According to Stacy, this is a horseshoe that has been used! I could have had an unused one, but what's the fun in that?

My Kansas Ultrarunner Society (KUS) finishers medal. According to Stacy, this is a horseshoe that has been used! I could have had an unused one, but what's the fun in that?

I’m about the head out of Lawrence to near Salina for the Rockin K in a few hours. Mentally, I’m stoked and relaxed at the same time. This is the ideal stage for me to be in. I have to have a good balance of excitement and reality in order to succeed, otherwise I get myself in some kind of trouble. One thing that was always drilled into us back in my military days was that being complacent is a severe disease. In hostile situations, complacency kills people. In the civilian world it’s not as extreme, but I think we kill a certain part of ourselves when complacent about any aspect of our lives. That said, I always have to stay focused and sharp on my toes, no matter the situation.

Some of you may remember a pain I had in the back of my knee. I’m happy to announce that pain is no longer hanging around. My time off, although I wasn’t happy about it, was great and well deserved. I’d like to think I’m back to my “normal” self. The pain may or may not start up at some point after mile 20, which is when it has been popping up in the past. But I’m staying positive and I’m being very, very careful about the nutrients I’m packing so that I avoid many aches and pains and stay strong throughout the race.

I’ll definitely post a race report on Sunday at some point. I was thinking about bringing a small tape recorder for various reasons, e.g., “writing” portions of my thesis and describing different parts of the trail and how I’m feeling at that point. I’m all about accuracy and this seems like a great way to go about being accurate. But the recorder idea may fall through; it was just an idea. Maybe the next race.

Hope everyone is staying strong.

The human body is definitely something to marvel at. No doubt about it. I find that it can be running as a smooth well oiled machine, then suddenly something small turns into something larger; like an outbreak of sorts. I find this said outbreak to be the latest case.

After my run on Saturday I noticed this area behind my knee to be a bit tight (okay, a lot tight) and a bit painful (okay, at times a lot painful). It feels like it’s an extension of my calf muscle. I figured I’d take Sunday off and take it from there. Well, it’s currently Thursday and still no running.

It’s not so much that it’s painful, but when I take stairs up and down I can still feel it enough to have me concerned about a casual run. Maybe some sort of cross-training like the elliptical machine, but, again, I don’t want to strain anything a week before the race. It does indeed feel like if I would do the elliptical, I’d feel it afterwards. Hell, for that matter, even if I did the bike I’d feel the same way. I don’t know for sure, but I’m just going off the feeling in that strained muscle.

If I don’t get as many miles as I’d like this week, that’s neither here nor there as far as I’m concerned. And besides, I should be tapering. I realize this doesn’t mean “don’t run,” but if there’s a pain that has me concerned, I won’t take a chance. I’ll do around 30 next week and see how it feels. But this will be an easy 30 for obvious reasons.

If the pain persists until late next week, I’ll be really concerned about the race. I’ll still run, but I may stop at the marathon length. I hope it doesn’t have to get to that extreme. I really want to push through the 50 with only “normal” pains, not ones that I am bringing to the race with me.

I’m a huge animal supporter, especially ones that are in shelters. I, along with millions of others, picked up my cat from a shelter and that was the best decision I have ever made. Honestly, if it weren’t for them, my cat, Andy, wouldn’t be around (he was terribly ill being several weeks old and alone in the world). Therefore, I’ve decided to make my running count towards something in this world that could perhaps help others. So the upcoming Free State 40M race in April will be for the Lawrence Humane Society. I’ve started a firstgiving fundraising site with a small goal of $200. You can read more about it at the site.

I hope this goal is possible. If not, that’s fine. Anything will help those helpless little guys who deserve it. So if you’d like to give, that would be greatly appreciated. πŸ™‚

If I’m gonna suffer, I might as well make it count towards something useful.

Feel free to drop me a line if you have questions.

Stay strong,
Mircea

Friday was personally a rough day for me, in many ways. I never managed to get a run in, but I knew this weekend would be long runs so although I was upset, I didn’t feel as bad as I may have.

When I have bad weeks, I need to get my aggression out in some way. I try to never get too angry in situations and sometimes I tend to hold it in until I feel like I’m going to explode. That said, running really helps me reorganize. However, I cannot do so with other people. I clear my mind and cleanse my soul out in nature on my own. So I did not run with the Nerds this morning for that reason. I hope nobody took it personally, but I needed my solo time.

I went into today’s run knowing that I’m going to run until I hurt, simply because of my week. I feel when one has a bad week, go hard and get your aggression out without yelling or involving anyone else. I have never done a complete loop at Clinton and so I knew today was as good a day as any to discover the full loop. I’m not sure what the full distance is; maybe something like 24 or 24.5 miles. It did feel good going into unknown territory and having new scenery. The sun was nice and warm, but nothing excessive. I was able to maintain a moderate pace even though I got a little thrown off at a few point. One in particular is at the very end because it doesn’t look like the end. So I kept on, which brought me up a hill to an apparent party zone. Not seeing any trails from that point, I knew that the point I had passed was the turn-around.

Another point was still on the west end when you follow the blue trail back and somehow it disappears and merges to white. This was no problem as I just took white back to an open road which you need to travel on to get back to blue anyway, so this wasn’t too confusing.

As I closed in on reaching Land’s End from blue, I came across a guy, Jonathan, who was out there for the first time and new to Lawrence. He just wanted to know where to go to get between 18-20 miles. After giving him directions and speaking for a few minutes, I was on my way.

When I reached LE, I took my break to have my Clif Bar and some water. I sat on the log for this and I think this was a bad move on my part. I usually never sit, but for some reason I did. When I got up I could feel some strain in my right calf but thought this would heal itself as I started running. Not so much. For a few extra suffering miles, I decided to take white trail back. Of the 6+ miles or so on white from LE, I walked about half of it because of that pain. It wasn’t terrible, but I ran what I could on it just so I could make sure I suffer some but not wanting to get hurt. I’d say I was pretty successful since I was hurting, as I initially wanted to feel, but it wasn’t anything serious. Most of it was probably my two days off again–yeah, again!

Overall, I ran about 26M and it felt really good to run to the point where you hurt. It’s good for the soul, if you ask me. It’s good for our well-being. I’ll be out again tomorrow morning for another 12-15M but I don’t plan on as much suffering since I feel much better after today’s run. I’ve also gotta prepare for the April 4th Rockin K. I hope I feel as good for that race as I did for WyCo. Assuming all conditions normal, I think I’ve come up with a time to finish the race in: 9:45:00. I haven’t had a time up to this point simply because I didn’t know what to expect form myself and the course. I think my 9:45:00 is reasonable since that makes about 11:43 mile averages. Totally doable. But, again, assuming all conditions “normal” (with myself and the course).

I hope everyone had a better week than I did.

Go out hard.