When participating in a Running Race of any length, there are a few “Danger Days”. Days in which certain activities or lack of them can have negative effects to Race Day performance. Today is 2 days away from the Pistol 50k on January 2nd.
2 days away from Race Day is dangerous because there’s volatile mixture of excitement and anxiety. This can lead to making some bad choices, or being unaware of being in an unwanted situation. It can result in unwanted soreness in the legs, which would peak on Race Day.
Training wise, running the last few days before a race, you only expose yourself to injury than gain any physical conditioning. However, running the week of race isn’t for the legs or lungs but for the brain. It acts like a sedative with the intent to reduce some of the anxiety and increase confidence.
In general, most training programs have something called “The Taper”. It is a deliberate reduction in mileage during the last stage of training. The idea is that it gives the body time to heal and strengthen without compromising conditioning. This way, on Race Day, you’ll be strong in the ways of The Force conditioning.
The side effect of this strategy is called “Taper Madness”, a psychological condition in which doubt begins to take over thinking. “How can I be ready for the race, if I’m running less?” or “Why even run? It is only __ miles”
The best countermeasure to Taper Madness, is to run. At 2 Days Out, you can’t “Go for Throttle Up” or “Pass the Milk, I’m eating this hill for breakfast”. It needs to be calm, smooth, relaxed, with just a small touch of speed tossed in for those faster twitch muscles.
Today, I’m planning on running a little to easy my nerves. I’m a little scared because I’ve been calmer than I anticipated I would be given the distance (50k/31miles) and the fact that I’m running it memory of James Rich #WarriorMode. Strange things have happened before.
This was supposed to be the first part of a series of updates on the my training for the Pistol 50k (31 miles) which I am running on January 2nd 2016 in memory of my late Taekwondo instructor/mentor James Rich. However, some how time marched on (and on and on) and so it is now a single training recap.
I had wanted to start training a little earlier than I did, but sometimes life gets away from you. Or rather, it confuses you as it runs away FROM you. (The older you get the faster it seems to move.) Then when you stop to look around, you say “[expletive of choice]! Where did the time go?” That was me. I had wanted to “officially” start training on August 1st in anticipation that I would be representing my District in the blockbuster hit: Flying Monkey Marathon X, May the Hills Be Ever in Your Favor. Each year, the race has a different “theme” and the one for 2015 race was based on The Hunger Games series.
The premise is that I would treat the Flying Monkey Marathon on 11/22/2015 as a training run. Ideally, I would run ANOTHER marathon maybe as another training run in early December. The Rocket City Marathon on Dec 12th was a great candidate because it was relatively close (Huntsville, AL) and it is a flat course. So after the undulating hills of the Flying Monkey (Nashville, TN) it would be a nice scenario to attempt a Sub-4hr marathon. However, there was a failure to launch for Rocket City and the elusive Sub-4hr attempt would have to wait.
Congratulations, it’s a Monkey!
The Flying Monkey marathon is very popular for those runners who like hills that hurt you. For the past couple of years they have used a weighted lottery to choose who be running. Apparently there are enough crazy people who want to run that they have to limit the number. While the actual weighing of criteria is an ancient Chinese secret, it is possible that someone who has run the Monkey multiple times (I had run Flying Monkey 5 times previous) could not get a spot. Fortunately for me, the lottery went in my favor and I was going to The Monkey Games.
Pneumonia Road Bump
In mid August, I started to feel sick, but it never lasted more than a day or two and the symptoms changed. There was overwhelming fatigue one time, a super sore throat another, neither of which was accompanied with a fever. Without having a fever or chest congestion, I thought it might be allergies. In early September, almost 2 weeks since my initial symptoms, when I still felt bad with new symptoms, I decided that I would go see the doctor. Turns out, whatever “it” was decided it would turn into pneumonia.
I have had pneumonia multiple times, and there are certain warning signs that throw up Red Flags that I am on my way to getting (or already have) pneumonia. However, none of the ailments presented themselves like they were supposed to, so only because they wouldn’t go away did I seek counsel on what was going on.
As a result of my diagnosis, I went on antibiotics and took a 9 day hiatus from both running and Taekwondo. Training suspended.
Damn the 10% Rule, Full Speed Ahead
By the last few weeks of September, I was healthy again and ready to “restart” my training. At this time, I was already 6 weeks behind on my training for Flying Monkey, but I still had enough time for The Pistol. I decided that I need to take some big leaps in training to try to “catch up” or rather “not be too far behind” in my training.
There is a Rule of Thumb in running called “The 10% Rule”. It suggests that you should increase the length of your workouts (overall mileage, long runs, speed workouts, etc.) by 10% from week to week. The premise is that this progression helps the body transition to the rigors of the longer runs (or faster workouts) better without exposing one to injury. It is also one reason a marathon training program lasts 16+ weeks or more. Build the mileage up step by step, mile by mile.
With 8 weeks before the Flying Monkey and my longest run of my training a whopping 10 miles, I had to push the limit a little. Disclaimer: As a seasoned runner, I have a good feel for what I can and cannot do when it comes to running. This won’t work for everyone.
I started with a 13.5 mile long run at 8 weeks out. This was followed with a 13.3 mile run the following week. Then at 6 weeks out I made the big jump with a 23.4 mile run. Normal training program has a “Recovery Week” after a very long run, so my run at 5 weeks out was supposed to be around 16 miles, but I only ran 2 because I had some problems and I didn’t want to be that far from home. So I took 5 weeks out as basically a Rest Week.
4 weeks out was a 18.6 mile run. However, the next weekend, which was Halloween, I was just too busy for a long run and recorded 0.0 miles for my long run. This trend continued and I didn’t have anymore long runs before race day. I was able to get a handful of 4-5 mile runs in during the week. Also, I was going to Taekwondo class multiple times a week, so it’s not like I was sedentary.
Monkey, Monkey, Monkey!
On November 22nd, I ran Flying Monkey in just under 5 hours. As I mentioned above, this was a training run, so I wasn’t trying to run for a certain time. I haven’t written the Race Report for Flying Monkey yet, but I’ll go more into details there.
The Flying Monkey was 6 weeks out (that Magical Week) from The Pistol. I didn’t come away from Flying Monkey unscathed and my chiropractor put me back on the right path the Monday after. The next weekend I took as a Rest Week (5 weeks out). It was Thanksgiving and we were out of town. I almost decided to run a 10k but decided it would be better to rest than to race. Tough decision to make but never underestimate the power of a rest day.
It Beginning To Look Like Race Day
With it now being December, just 1 month left before Race Day, I took another Rest Week. Also at the beginning of December, I tested (and passed) for my Second Degree Black Belt and didn’t want to be distracted from what I needed I to do to earn it.
The next weekend, 3 weeks out – Dec 12 (when I had wanted to run another marathon), I ran 24.3 miles. I decided I would run from my house to Eddie’s Health Shoppe (about 8.3 miles away) where I would meet up with the Knoxville Marathon Training Group and run with them (6 miles) and then run home (around 10 miles based on the route). It ended up being kind of fun. I ran a little faster than normal going to the training group as I didn’t want to be late. Then ran closer to my 10k pace because I ran/talked with another running for 3 miles, but then was slower for the last half of the run.
Since the pattern of a 20+ mile run followed by a rest week seemed to work fairly well this training cycle, I decided that at the 2 week out point, I take another rest week.
So it is 1 week before the Pistol 50k. The rain that we have been having has moved on and I’ll get one more long run (about 12 miles or so) in before Race Day. I’m also going to try to get in 2 mid-week runs of about 4 miles. This helps with the nerves during Race Week when the looming race is only days away and the anxiety of the unknown envelopes me.
My nemesis, Pneumonia, decided to pay me a visit last week and throw a monkey wrench into my life. Thankfully, this go around is of the lesser impact type and can be treated with medicine and patience.
I knew that it had been a while since pneumonia decided to show it’s ugly face. Using the search feature, I was able to find a few references to when I had it back in December 2010. I have had it a couple of times in the past and even have warning symptoms that throw up red flags. This particular time, there wasn’t the standard order of symptoms, they all seem to be unique and unrelated. My guess, is that I was experiencing several little things, that opened the door for it. However, since these little things kept me feeling ill for over a week, when the pneumonia finally set in, I was already at the doctor’s getting medicine. So, they helped catch it early on.
One of the biggest impact of my illness is to my running. Specifically, my training for 2 upcoming races: Flying Monkey Marathon (Nov) and The Pistol 50k (Jan).
Training for Flying Monkey was supposed to have started 4 weeks ago in mid-August. Since August 1st, I was in a “base” mode, where I didn’t really worry about workouts/distance, just get some mileage under my belt. With not feeling well, since around August 20th or so, I hadn’t ran hardly anything. In fact, my log book says 0.0. At best, I’ll be able start running again during the weekend, but that’ll be bare-bones type of mileage, with only 10 weeks until race day. Thankfully, this isn’t my first time toeing the line for a marathon. I’m just going to have to be very creative. I won’t have any miracle workout that will get me a personal record or even a course record on Race Day. I’ll get from the Start Line to the Finish Line without killing myself (much).
The 2nd race, The Pistol 50k which I am running in memory of James Rich #WarriorMode, is still okay in terms of time to train. The Flying Monkey is one training component for The Pistol, and I am hoping for a good run at Flying Monkey to help bridge the 6-7 week gap between the 2 races.
As of writing of this post, I’m finished with the antibiotic protocol but still have an inhaler to keep the lungs open and drive everything out. I’ve also been resting when I can, but still have a few days before I start getting back into moderate exercise.
Runners, on a stereotypical level, do some pretty strange stuff. It’s not just going out of their way to run for enjoyment, they can do some strange things in the name of Running. Some have some good luck rituals in which they believe will help them like a nice drink of Liquid Luck, some will go out of their way to do some pretty (insane) Tough Runs and some others will use their running as a psychological release.
I am guilty of all three. I have documented some of it here on my blog. While I’m not “big” on the ritual aspects like whether I ties my shoe laces in a clockwise or a counter clockwise motion, I do like a significant challenge in my races (MONKEY! MONKEY! MONKEY!) and use my running for my psychological needs.
A few conditions are associated with running. On the positive note, there is the “Runner’s High” which is the euphoric feeling one gets from running. Not to be confused with the light headed feeling of almost passing out because running can be hard work. On the negative side, there is the “Marathon Blues” which occurs right after a marathon, when the massive accomplishment of weeks (and weeks) of training culminates into a memory at the finish line, leaving the runner asking “What’s Next?” There is even something called “Taper Madness”, a condition that starts approximately 2-3 weeks before a Marathon when the training moves into a stage called “The Taper”. This is the stage of training where the overall number of miles per week and the long run distances are reduced leading up to race day. After weeks of running lots and lots of miles, one begins to question the logic of a training program when it says they only have to run 8 miles for their long run. Madness, I tell you, Madness.
Runner’s also use their running to mourn, celebrate and even advocate. Many, MANY charities have been supported by efforts of the runner. Charities can be supported by someone wearing their shirt, running in a race sponsored by a charity, or by raising money. It’s common to see someone wearing a shirt or have something pinned to their shirt that says something to the effect of: “I’m running in memory of….” . I’ve done similar things in the past and will be doing it again.
On May 15th, Mr. James Rich passed away from a battle with a very aggressive cancer. Just his diagnosis of cancer was a huge shock this past January and his passing devastated many. He was our Taekwondo Instructor, our colleague and our friend. He just got people. I don’t know how many times I saw him bring out the best of people during Taekwondo. It was truly amazing.
When he was diagnosed with cancer and started to battle it, the mantra he used was “Warrior Mode”. His intention was to fight and beat the cancer with a warrior’s tenacity, never give up and never give in. I wear wristband that says “Team Rich, Warrior Mode” and everyone in my family has a “Team Rich Warrior Mode” t-shirt.
July 29th 2015 would have been his 51st birthday. He died too early. But while his earthly body is gone, his memory lives on. As of writing this post, I, personally have had no closure. While I was saddened to hear that he past, I was more relieved that he was no longer in pain. There was initially talk of having a celebration of life for him in Knoxville, but it didn’t happen. So with nothing formal, I’ve had not really mourned in the way I need to mourn. Jen keeps asking me if I have broken down yet and I have not, at least, not yet.
Mr. Rich was a great person. He was a lot of things, but he had his faults. I can tell you one fault of his, one thing that he was NOT… and that would be a Runner. He stuck to the “I only run if I’m chased by a bear.” I never got a chance to tell him that he was lying to me about that. He would never be chased by a bear, he would turn his head slowly at the bear, raise one eyebrow and give it the “stare”. It wouldn’t be him doing the running.
So, it is with great irony that I announce that I will be Running in memory him. It will be MY celebration of life for HIM. He was 50 years old when he passed, so I wanted to try to tie in the number 50 or some variant of it (e.g. 5 or 500 or 5,000). He also liked guns, and that got me thinking about a local race called “The Pistol”. It is a 50 kilometer race (so it ties in nicely with “50”) and what BETTER way to celebrate the life of a Non-Runner than by running an ultramarathon! So with great fanfare [trumpets blare] I’m running the Pistol 50k (31 miles) on January 2nd 2016 in memory of James Rich.
I’m not sure what I will being doing more on race day in January, crying or sweating, but I know I’ll be doing both. #WarriorMode
It was a cold morning, something around 16F, which was about the temperature at the start of Flying Monkey. The Start/Finish of the race was on the property of Alcoa Middle School which allowed us to use their gym facility. So instead of hanging out in the car, or walking around outside, we could stay warm inside and be as relaxed as we could get. The Junior ROTC from Alcoa?? Middle School was the Color Guard to present the flag for the singing of the National Anthem. There were only a few pre-race announcements before we headed out to the get the race started.
The course for the Pistol Ultra consisted of an out-and-back configuration of two circles connected together, much like two lollipops connected stick end to stick end. A whole loop was approximately 11 miles and the 50k runners were to run 2 full loops and then an augmented out-and-back to complete the mileage.
The course loop was on entirely greenways with a few road crossings at various points along the loop. About 2/3rds of the course was on the Alcoa Greenway with the other third on the Maryville Greenway. The Alcoa Greenway has a more rural feel to it as it is follows closely beside Pistol Creek (Hence, the name of the race). Once the Greenway changes to the Maryville Greenway, it is a more urban flavor as it courses around the Duck pond of the great city of Maryville (which to pronounce correctly in East Tennessee sounds like “Murhh-vulle”).
I was pretty anxious walking around the race start, as this was my 50k race, were I to finish this race, I could be called an “Ultramarathoner”. However, with ALL races, no matter the length, there is electricity in the air and that tends to bends one’s focus away from trivial matters of finishing a race and more important things such as starting the race.
Go geared up with 2 packs of Clif Blox, 2 Accel gels, and a 24oz Gatorade bottle, I was ready to attempt my first ever, 50k.
Lap 1: The Good Lap (11 Miles – Total Time 1:47:23)
The strategy I had planned for the race was to run for 9 minutes and then walk for 1. The most important part of this would be that it would force me to slow down at the start of the race. The starter’s pistol released its yell and the race was afoot!
The strategy I actually followed was not what I had planned. Instead of using a run/walk strategy, I opted for the run until you can run no more strategy. What I was most concerned about was that I would be starting off too fast, thus having to take walk break sooner. It turned out that I did find a pace that was slower than my usual marathon pace, however, it would still be too quick. I would find that out in the next loop.
I was familiar with the course, as I ran these greenways in years past and that was to my advantage. The first couple of miles, as the greenway dropped down by Pistol Creek, the temperature must have dropped 5-10 degrees cooler. There were places along the greenway where water had pooled and frozen over and still frozen.
Once on the Alcoa greenway, the few hills on the course presented themselves to taunt the runners. However, short work was needed for these short hills. Part of the greenway ran alongside the back of some buildings and some curious people asked what was going on and how far we were going.
Passing the first aid station, I realized that I wasn’t really hungry, but I knew that I should eat nonetheless. I grabbed a half banana at the aid station and broke open my pack of Clif Blox. I ate two of the Clif blox around the turn around. Once I came back around to the aid station, I filled my gatorade bottle with some Strawberry HEED drink (but I do like Mandarin Orange HEED). It wasn’t all that bad, but it wasn’t all that great.
Lap 2: The Other Lap (11 Miles – Total Time 2:05:24)
Shortly into Lap 2, I started to take walk breaks. I had wanted to push back switching to run/walk as long as I could, but given this was going to be a new distance for me, I thought it better to be preemptive in saving my legs. I ran alone for most of this lap, but I could still see runners ahead of me.
I didn’t eat/drink much this loop either. I still wasn’t hungry and forced myself to drink and make sure that I had a full bottle of liquids with me at all times. At the water station, it was still cold enough that the table that held the cooler for us to get water/carbo drink was frozen over with a layer of ice from the liquids that spilled. I found out that I don’t particularly care for GU’s Lemon Lime carbo drink.
Lap 3: The Short One (9.06 Miles – Total Time 1:50:16)
Knowing that the last lap (for the 50k) was a shorter lap, even if just a short distance, was a mental boost. I had ditched my fleece outer layer. It was still cold down by the creek at spots, but most of the course was getting warm, at least enough to shed a layer. I could manage the colder temps with just a hat and gloves for the short term, then take them off without having to worry about overheating.
And then, I pasted the 26.2 mile mark with 4.8 miles yet to go. All I had to do was finish and could add “ultra marathoner” to my list of things people could call me (this better than some other things people call me).
Most of this lap, another runner and I were passing each other in a leap frog fashion. She would pass me, then start walking and I would pass her. Then I would start walking and then she would pass me. On the return leg of this last loop, when she started to pass me, she stopped and said, “Let’s finish this thing”. We chatted for the next 3 miles, taking much fewer walk breaks while maintaining a decent pace.
If you have read some of my race reports, you know that I am kicker when it comes to finishing race. In the last couple hundred meters, I will use up any excess energy to pass runners at the finish. I even practice this “fast finish” technique on some of my training runs. This was my first ultra and as I stress for first time marathoners, it is about finishing, not time. Enjoy the experience, don’t try to kill yourself at the end, you automatically get a PR and unless you are battling for an award, don’t worry.
Official Time: 5:43:12
28th out of 80 50k finishers
What was strange about this race, I realized is that my food and drink consumption was nothing like other races and I’m not sure why. Usually in a marathon, I will eat 4 to 5 packs of gels, a pack of Clif Bloks, Fruit on the course (if available) and will drink at least 5 or 6 refills of water that I carry (bottle is 24oz). For this race, I didn’t finish one Clif Blok pack, I had zero gels, I did have bananas at the aid stations totaling maybe a full sized banana (or just a little more). To drink, I only had 4 bottles of drinks. I never really felt hungry or thirsty while out on the course
This was the longest time, by about 2 minutes, that I had ever ran in one day. My previous record was 5:41:10 at the 2010 Flying Monkey Marathon.
So now the question is would I do another ultra marathon. The answer is yes, I would. However, I highly doubt it would be much further than a 50k.
Kim Hale won the Guess My Time, Win Crap – Pistol Ultra Edition with her guess of 5:42!
It’s Back (RUN, RUN AWAY!) the GUESS MY TIME, WIN CRAP contest. The premise is straightforward, be the person with the closest guess of my official finishing time and win random stuff crap. Guesses can be left here on the blog, via Twitter, via Google+, or via Facebook.
Random info to give you assistance in guessing or Analysis Paralysis:
Haven’t run this race yet, in fact, I have never run this particular race distance. Furthermore, I have never run this far… ever!
Here’s an excerpt from the non-Pulitzer winning race report for the 2012 Chickamauga Marathon:
“It was so nice to get to chat with Susan while actually running and not on via the intertubes. I told her I doubted I would ever run an ultra marathon (a race greater than 26.2 miles) because at that point I had logged in about 28 miles and felt like crap. Of course, that was just crazy talk… I think there’s a 50k in me. :)”