Monday, October 29, 2007

My Next Adventure

It was a beautiful weekend in Chicago. The weather was finally cool and crisp and perfect for a long run. We just launched our Winter Warriors program with a record sell out crowd and it is nice to be back on the trail this time of year. The path is peaceful, the weather is perfect and there are hundreds of new runners all training for their first half marathon. There is nothing like your first...

Speaking of firsts, my brother Scott has decided to train for his first marathon this year. I am speaking at the Disney Marathon this year and the family is coming too! He is doing very well with his training and we're going to run the race together in January. Funny, the last time we exercised together we were pretending we were professional football players in the backyard. Seems like just yesterday. We even had the black lines under our eyes for authenticity.

Anyway, I am proud of him for taking the challenge and excited to run with him. Disney is a very special place for our family. My mom and dad use to drive us down from Chicago to Orlando in the Spring and it was always an adventure. Funny how life comes full circle. Although we won't be driving this time, it will definitely be a great adventure. And one that will bring back all those magical childhood memories. I can't think of a better place for him to run his first marathon.

Happy Trails,


Monday, October 22, 2007

Recovering at 40...

It is one week and a day post Ultra Marathon, and I am still sore. Typically, post marathon the soreness subsides in 3-4 days and the healing gradually happens over three weeks or so. I ran a short run on Friday and was surprised my right quad cramped up in the middle of the run. That, and I was walking like Frankenstein until Thursday which is timely because of Halloween. It worked out nicely...

I think I am recovering more slowly for a few reasons. A, I used a lateral stepping motion while racing up the steep trail hills in the Ultra Marathon. I hadn't done that step since Eco-Challenge and although my body knew how to do it, my muscles were a little taken back. They went along with it in the race but let me know they weren't happy with me after the race.

And two, I am simply getting older and it takes longer to recover when we age. I haven't really raced hard in a few years so I haven't noticed my aging body's demand for extra TLC, but I am listening and learning.

The good thing is there is an element of wisdom that comes with age that has taught me to listen and modify my training. I remember in the adventure racing world many of the athletes were in their 40-50s and would kick the butts of the whipper snappers on the course. They trained just enough and not too much and used their wisdom to outwit and out smart.

So as I learn what its like to train and race in my 40s, I will lean more heavily on my wit and wisdom and less on my quads.

Happy Trails,


Monday, October 15, 2007

The Fire Inside

Just back from Greenbush, Wisconsin and my very first Ultra-Marathon race, the Glacier 50K. I can honestly say I had no idea what to expect. Although I've run trails and competed in lots of races, I just didn't know how my body and mind would do Sunday. It's been a few years since I've "raced" an event and I was beginning to think I didn't have the "fire" inside me.

Well, I had enough fire to start a small forest fire Sunday. From start to finish it was a magical day and those don't happen very often. The drive up to Greenbush, Wisconsin was beautiful as the leaves are at their peak and fall is my favorite season. The weather was cool and rainy and the temps never rose above 50 degrees all day. A true gift after the 80-90 heat all month.

The race was an intimate experience and reminded me of the first few adventure races I did. About 100 runners towed the line at the start and I positioned myself cautiously at the back of the bubble. We hung out in the Greenbush Fire Dept until a few minutes before the start and then walked out a few hundred yards to the start. Another gift...We had about a half mile down the road and then hit the Ice Age Trail. A rugged single track trail with rocks and roots all under the cover of the leaves.

I took it out really slowly to make sure I finished and did so with a smile on my face rather than cramps in my quads. I was surprised at how "friendly" the runners were and listened to them chat for the first few miles. I met a runner with a picture on his back [pictured here] and asked him who she was.

"My running partner of 12 years," he said. He went on to tell me all they had done together and how she was in her fourth round of chemo for breast cancer. For me, it really put perspective on the day. I thought of my dad, who we lost last year from a brain tumor and his journey. It was the first time I could talk about him without falling into sadness. The miles went by as we discussed her spirit and the hope to some day find a cure for all cancers. My dad was with me every step...

As I reached 15.5 miles and the half-way turn around point many of the lead runners were coming back on the trail. The course is set up as an out-and-back. The competitor inside me [that fire I was referring to] starting tapping on my shoulder. "I know you are out here to finish, but if you push a little harder you can pass some of these nice runners." The first half of the race was all about conservation in the hopes of finishing and as I passed the half-way mark, the race became all about picking off runners [nicely] along the trail.

As the course rolled up and down [and up and down], the rocks seemed to multiply and the hills grew steeper [this is the elevation chart for the race].
I didn't remember that many rocks on the way out! It started raining and it quickly became more difficult to navigate over the slippery roots and rocks. My mind was growing tired of looking for the next spot to place my foot. One false step on a rock or root and you're down on your face. In fact, falling is a big part of ultra-running, especially as you fatigue.

Surprisingly, I was able to pass a few runners as I counted down the miles and then something [the fire] kicked in. The song "The Fire Inside" from Bob Seger came on my ipod and all hell broke loose. It is one of those songs that motivates me to leap tall buildings [or rocks in this case] in a single bound. My arms started moving faster and my legs followed. I passed a hiker with a cute dog and he yelled out, hey, you have about 7 runners just ahead if you push you can catch them. That is like telling me, hey, there is a sale going on at my favorite store and if you get there early enough you'll hit all the good stuff! I kept hitting the repeat button on my ipod and kept passing runners. What a high! As I finished up running my fastest mile of the race, I saw three men and a truck [the finish] and couldn't believe it was over already. Don't get me wrong, I was ready for it to be over at about mile 25.

It was a great race and a breaking moment in my life.
I've been stuck in a fog the past few years dealing with the loss of my father, grandmother and dog. Running this race cleared the fog and unveiled the trail ahead.

Getting off the beaten path unleashed the fire inside and for that, I am grateful.

Happy Trails,


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Doomsday Scenario

Unless you've been on a week long expedition in the wilds of the outback, I'm sure you've heard about the Chicago Marathon. We [Chicago Endurance Sports] had over 400 runners participating in the event and for me, it was like letting your kids go play in the middle of Death Valley in July. I couldn't help but be concerned for everyone. Outside the troubles with fluid on the course, it was an absolute brutal day to run a marathon. 70 degrees is considered hot for a marathon and running a marathon is hard enough without the heat. It was 88 degrees, 90% humidity! The only way you can get through it is to throw out your plan A, B, and C, and go with the Doomsday Scenario. That may sound negative, but running the marathon Sunday was all about surviving the heat. And our runners did just that.

They carried their water bottles, they brought money just in case and they slowed their pace. I am pretty darn proud of them. Although they are quite disappointed they didn't finish 26.2 miles [some did], they did finish the event on the day. Although it wasn't a traditional race, it WAS a marathon of an event.

So for those who ran or attempted to run the Chicago Marathon just remember this...

A marathoner is not made in a day.

A marathoner is made like a fine wine.

From long runs on the weekends and fartleks during the week.

From weeks and months of preparation and early Friday nights.

You were all aged to perfection and ready to run.

What makes a runner a marathoner is the will to prepare and the courage to show up on race day.

Hold your head high. There are plenty of marathons to tackle.

Happy Trails,


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Running Canada

Just back from a fabulously fun trip to Toronto. John and I were speaking at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and we turned it into a fun adventure.

We had a little extra time on our hands and decided to take advantage and ride our motorcycles to Toronto. We took it easy and broke it into two days and stayed with our running friends Therese and Gary Grondin in Michigan. BTW, T, good luck this week in Maine!

We hit Toronto Thursday night, enjoyed dinner with our friend and owner of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Alan Brookes [pictured: John, Me and Alan] and settled in for race weekend. It is a lovely race that is flat and fast. So fast in fact the Canadian marathon record was shattered! A record that held for 31 years! The women's course record was also broken and you'll be amazed to read the "juggling while marathoning" Guinness World Record was broken too! Can you imagine running a 2:50:13 while juggling? I can't even imagine doing one at a time!

I ran the half as a training run for the ultra next week and had a great day. There is nothing like getting into your tempo and feeling strong on a great course on a great day!

This week is the Chicago Marathon. Chicago Endurance Sports has over 400 marathoners running on Sunday. Can't wait to cheer them on!

Happy Trails,