Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How Do We Do This?

As you can tell, it has been a couple of weeks since we have put a blog up.  It isn't necessarily because we haven't been training, but we are already hitting some bumps in the road.  Kevin has been sick and has been trying to get his strength back over the last week.  Me?  Well, I have been training... getting my miles in... but I have been wrestling with the mental aspect of it all.  Let me explain.

Kevin and I are notorious for biting off more than we should be able to chew.  Running ultra marathons is no exception. Kevin has run a couple of 50K's but I haven't run further than 26.2.. and that is on the pavement.  We both set out on this journey because we wanted to try something different.  I love to be in the woods and I love to be on trails so naturally I decided to join Kevin and hit the trails for 2013.  I was pumped when we decided on our races, and even when we began training.  Don't get me wrong, I am still excited and I am enjoying the training but the mental battles have begun.

I have mentioned before that we have really enjoyed listening to the podcasts of the elite runners on The interviews with these runners are excellent.  They share their stories and experiences and even try to give advice about the different aspects of trail running.  The advice is good, but I often feel that most of the content is directed to ultra runners who are elite, or at the very least, able to put in 70-100 miles a week in training.  That is impossible for a husband, a father of 3 children under the age of 10, and as someone who holds a full time job with an 1 hour and 30 min round trip commute every day.  I often feel discouraged after listening to these podcasts.  I don't understand how I am supposed to approach the simple goal of finishing an ultra marathon with all of the higher priorities I have mentioned above.  Just getting in my back to back long runs on the weekend are a huge challenge.  I try my hardest not to infringe on my family time.  They come first.  I have a loving wife who supports me and wants me to reach my goal, however, she works hard all week being a mom and I need to help her on our weekends.  I simply need to be there with my family.  The elite runners make this a job, I can't do that.

Other things I hear the top runners talking about that leave me wondering what I should do?  Well, let's see...
  1. Core workouts to go along with your running - I love the thought of this and have really tried to implement it.  Time is at a premium though and it has been tough.  I get up at 4:30am each day just to get my run in before I commute to work.  It has been tough fitting this in the schedule as well.
  2. Running with someone - Kevin and I try to run together every chance we get, however, he lives 20 min away so it is almost impossible for him to come run with me early in the mornings.  We have made an effort to run together on the weekends but our family schedules can trump that too.
  3. Pit crews/support at races - I often worry about what we are going to do regarding this. Kevin and I are the only people we know that enjoy running, let alone, ultra running like we do.  I can't think of one person that would want to sit out on a trail all day talking us through 50 miles.  Every elite runner I talk to talks about someone to help them with nutrition and just be there to support them.  Is this not the case for someone who has a goal just to finish?  This is a big question I have.
  4. Nutrition - I know nutrition is important but let's face it... when you have 3 kids and are on the go every night, it isn't often you can get a healthy meal at the dinner table together.  It is too easy to grab something to go so you make it where you are supposed to be on time.  On the flip side, I worry about nutrition in the race.  Will I get enough?  How do I know how much I need in a race?  I am experimenting on my long runs but it is something that makes me uneasy.
I have loved training for these races and that won't stop.  I just can't get past these questions on how to approach some of these things as an Average Joe.  I will continue to listen to the elite runners because they inspire me.  Maybe someone out there can relate and can share their experiences and encouragement with us so we can figure it all out.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

An Elite "Average Joe"

As I mentioned in our weekly recap yesterday, Kevin and I have been listening to several of the podcasts at  A majority of the pod casts are from elite, well-known runners from the Ultra Runner community.  I have really enjoyed listening to each runners perspective on ultra running along with the experiences from their training and racing.
On my run this morning, however, I listened to a runner that bridged the gap from being an Average Joe runner like me to being an elite ultra runner like himself.  His name is Ian Torrence and he has acomplished just about everything in the sport of Ultra Running.  In his interview he discusses how he trains experienced marathoners to people running their first ultra marathon and how similar it can be.  The similarities of the goals he tries to set for his newbie ultra runners are so similar to the goals Kevin and I have set for ourselves.  This interview really inspired me and I highly recommend checking it out no matter what your current running goals are.

Monday, December 3, 2012

3 Days of Syllamo 50 Mile Training: Week 1 (Nov 26th – Dec 2nd)

Mon, Nov 26th  Plan: Rest

Tue, Nov 27th  Plan: Tuesday Six

Kevin:  I met Scott for the morning run in Conway.  I had to get up at 4am to get there.  Getting up was the hardest part.  We paced well together and pushed mile five pretty hard.

Scott:  I woke up at 4:30am ready to get this training under way.  Kevin drove to Conway to meet me for this run and it took him a while to get used to the early morning run.  We ended up running a good pace pushing it in the middle which made it a pseudo tempo run.

Wed, Nov 28th  Plan: Wednesday Easy Five

Kevin:  Missed my run in the morning because I turned off the alarm, no doubt due to the long day the day before.  I had to run this at lunch.  It was very hard to run as slow a pace as the plan has detailed.  I had to keep checking my watch because my body just doesn’t know this pace yet.

Scott: Took off around 5:00am for a nice 5 mile jog.  I settled in at about an 11:30 min/mi pace.  It was difficult to fight the urge to go a little faster but I was able to get in a nice rhythm.  This weekly slow run is going to be a key recovery run going forward.

Thur, Nov 29th  Plan: Thursday Six

Kevin:  Got up at 4 again to meet Scott.  Today’s run was a bit harder probably because of the 11 miles the past two days.

Scott: I woke up again around 4:30am and Kevin met me for this run. We ran at pretty much the same pace as we did on Tuesday for this 6 mile run, however, it felt a little bit harder.  This was probably just due to putting in a couple of days in a row with the medium mileage.

Fri, Nov 30th  Plan: Rest

Sat, Dec 1st  Plan: Weekend Road (3hrs)

Kevin:  We had to flip flop back and forth our plans a few times because of family obligations.  I ran a 5K with my family in the morning and then hit the trail for 1.5hrs (which is the plan for tomorrow), because I thought I’d end up running long tomorrow (but that didn’t happen either).  Because I was short on time I pushed the pace hard on the trail run and felt great doing it.

Scott:  Last minute change of plans on Saturday with my family forced Kevin and I to swap the trail run we had scheduled with the long run scheduled for Sunday.  My goal was to run this 3 hour around an 11:30 min/mi.  I actually settled in at about an 11:40 min/mi but was ok with it, especially with how my legs responded so quickly for the trail run coming up Sunday.

Sun, Dec 2nd  Plan: Weekend Trail (1.5hrs)

Kevin:  Scott picked me up at 5:45 and we hit the trail at dark.  We ran the first lap (3.25) in the dark.  Scott had a head lamp; I had the knowledge of the trail.  We ran the first lap right at our training pace and the second lap just a little bit faster.  I felt great on both laps.

Scott:  I drove to Greenbrier to get in our first trail run of the training at Woolly Hollow State park.  Picked up Kevin and we hit the trail at 6:00am.  The first lap was in the dark and I was a little conservative because I didn’t know the terrain very well.  I had a head lamp so I followed Kevin and watched where he was stepping to avoid turning an ankle.  The sun came up in time for the second lap and I was able to relax a little more.  We finished the training right at our goal of 1 hour and 26 minutes.

Week Overview Thoughts

Kevin:  I wish I had managed to get in a long run this week, but I still managed 36 miles, my second most ever in a week and I feel great.  A little fatigue deep in the legs on Monday morning, but no injuries and I’m looking forward to week two.

Scott:  Week 1 of the training was a success for me.  I was able to put in 39 miles and I feel good.  I enjoyed hitting the trail again and I am looking forward to the weeks of training ahead.  Another discovery that Kevin and I stumbled upon this week is  We have listened to many great interviews from elite ultra runners. Each guest to the podcast talks about the races they have entered, the ups and downs of their training, how they got into ultra running, etc.  My favorites have been the runners who seem to have the same life as Kevin and I do… 40hr/week jobs with a family.  Hearing how they adjust their training schedules to this lifestyle but are still able to accomplish their goals makes this 50 mile goal of ours seem more possible than ever.  I highly recommend checking out these podcasts. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Plan

Scott has run three marathons and I have run three marathons and two 50Ks, however neither of us has ever run an ultra of 50 miles so developing a training plan for this seems quite a bit different than anything we have done before.  Scott has traditionally done very well with training plans where I have not.  I run more based on feel and l am far less disciplined that he is, so why I was tasked with the developing our training plan I have no idea.

The basis for this training plan started with an ultra training plan from Runners’ World.  Here are three things that I wanted to make sure our plan had:

  1. Back to back long runs on every weekend.  This seems to be a staple of all ultra training plans so I made sure it was part of our training plan.
  2. At least three 25+ mile trail runs before the 50 miler.  We are going to run Athens Big Fork in early January and Sylamore 50K in February.  I’ve also added in our own unsupported BRT (Buffalo River Trail) Marathon in late January.  ABF and BRT are training runs and will be treated as such.  The goal of these long runs is to focus on nutrition and running comfortably.  Sylamore 50K will be treated like a race and we will push ourselves to see how we respond.
  3. Two rest days each week.  I think it’s possible we may have to add additional rest days when we notice dead legs or burnout, but we will start with two for the plan.
Tomorrow I will be making the drive to Conway to run the kickoff run of the plan together.  We will blog regularly about our experiences with the plan and let you know how we do and what we learn.

Disclaimer: I am not a health care professional nor a physical trainer and this plan should not be used as a guide with the impression that I know what I am doing.  This is merely our plan that I share with you for entertainment purposes only.
50 Mile Sylamo Training Plan

Sunday, November 18, 2012

White River Marathon for Kenya Race Report

For those of you that follow us on, you know that I have spent the last 13 weeks training for the Soaring Wings Half Marathon and ultimately the White River Marathon for Kenya.  The race took place yesterday morning in Cotter, Arkansas along the scenic White River.

This was my 3rd attempt to break the 5 hour mark and I have been pretty excited the last few weeks at the thought of finally doing it.  The route for this race is the flattest I have been on and one of the flattest Boston qualifiers in the United States.  My training for the last 13 weeks has gone well with no major setbacks and my longer runs were right on pace to reach this goal.  I was feeling confident.

Race morning was chilly, about 28 degrees at the start.  It was cold but I was dressed for it and new I would warm up quickly.  Kevin drove over to take a quick pre-race picture and see me off.  After a few more minutes, we were off.

I started the race with a girl that Kevin met the previous week at the Bona Dea 50K.  We had good conversation to start out the race and it helped me settle into a good groove.  The race starts just across the street from Cotter High School.  We immediately cross a busy highway (aided by the help of local police) and then head down a steep hill.  This would be the last hill we see for 26 miles.  This race is 2 out and backs on a flat road that runs parallel with the White River.  The first out I was feeling great.  We were keeping a pace slightly faster than I had planned on starting, but it wasn't much so I stuck with it.  Between the conversation, beautiful scenery, and crisp air I didn't think much about the running. I made it to the first turn around at approximately 7 miles and headed back.  I maintained my goal half-marathon pace all the way back.  I wasn't laboring and the continued conversation and the encouragement of the other runners passing us by was great.  Each aid station I passed was filled with local volunteers who were extremely friendly and quick to encourage us all as we passed.  I made it back in to the half way point in about 2:20 which was slightly faster than the pace I was shooting for, but I was still feeling good.  We made the turn and headed back out for the second time.  As we got to mile 15 or so, the girl I had been chatting with decided to go ahead.  She was shooting for the 4:30 mark and that was just too fast for me.   I decided to turn my music on and settle in.  Everything was going pretty well.  I felt pretty good, no laboring, but then mile 19 came.

I had been settled in for about 4 miles.  I was zoned out listening to my music when I noticed my feet were starting to get a little sore.  I was getting a sharp pain in my foot where I had never had one before.  I wasn't sure why but nothing I could do would relieve it.  I tried to curl my toes a bit or stretch my arch, but no luck.  At this point, my pace was creeping up closer and closer to the 11:00 min/mi mark so I new my window for my 5 hour goal was closing quickly.  By the time I reached the 21 mile sign, my feet started feeling like they had been running on a cheese grater.  The paved roads weren't bad, but they were not smooth asphalt, more like paved gravel.  I am not sure any of the other runners had issues with it, but I sure did.  I started to walk about 30 seconds every few minutes to try and relieve the pain but it only got worse.  By the time I reached mile 23, the 5 hour mark was out of reach as my pace had gone up to around 11:15 min/mi.  I was getting upset, but another runner told me once that you have to reassess mid race when you know your original goal is out of reach and make a new one.  So.. I did.  My new goal was to try and get a PR (personal record).  For the last 3.2 miles I was walking about a minute, running about a minute and I was in a lot of pain.  I limped along until I finally saw the finish line and heard the cheering as other runners were finishing.  I only had 0.2 miles left and it was going to take a full out sprint to beat my PR.  I took off as fast as I could and it was painful.  As I gingerly crossed the finish line, I looked up at the race clock and it said 5:07 and some change.  My Garmin had the same.  I was even more disappointed.  My PR is a 5:06 which I ran at the Little Rock Marathon last March.

Not only did I not meet my goal of breaking 5 hours, I didn't have enough left in the tank to get the PR.  A very disappointing day, especially for how well this training cycle went for me.  I won't complain about the race though.  It was a great small town race with wonderful people.  This race was also for a good cause.  All proceeds go to the children of Kenya and this is the 9th year the town of Cotter has hosted it.  The locals had a great potluck dinner waiting for the post race meal.  Home made soup and chili with pizza and various other goodies thrown in.  It was a great place to sit and chat with other runners about how their races went.  Although I am not happy with my results, I was very pleased with the race and the experience.  I wouldn't hesitate to run this again.  Who knows? Maybe next time I will break 5 hours.

Pros: Great small town race atmosphere.  Beautiful race route and a nice flat course.  Friendly volunteers who had everything well organized.  Also had a really cool finishers medal.

Cons:  Cotter is a bit of a drive from the bigger towns in Arkansas.  The pavement was a little rough for me but probably wasn't a problem for most any other runner.  There is a bit of local traffic to contend with but the local police do a good job keeping everyone safe.

Course: White River Marathon for Kenya Garmin Map

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bona Dea 50K Race Report

I was looking to get in a long run this past weekend of about 20 miles.  I found a 50K  race in Russellville this past week and entertained the thought of running it.  I was able to complete some important tasks around work and the house enough to free myself up for the trip over to Russellville to run this extremely flat course.  So, Saturday morning I got up and headed on my way.

I arrived and there were about two dozen people already there and signed up, by race time we would have 37 people running.  There was one aid station setup at the start and we made 3.4 mile loops around the course passing the aid station each time.  The aid station was stocked with anything and everything you could imagine that you would need.  The weather was around 53 at the start and would increase to 70 by the finish (at least for when I finished).  This is an extremely flat course with no hills at all.  The only elevation difference is roughly ten feet.  While this sounds like a dream, 31 miles of this tends to work just one set of muscles and by the end I was praying for a hill to go up and down to work a slightly different set of muscles.
Once the race started the pack split into 3 groups quickly.  There was a lead pack that went out at sub nine minute pace or so, this was the largest group.  A second group formed at around a 10:30 pace.  We had 10 people in the group.  And there was a smaller group behind us.  By the end of the first lap I had settled into a nice pace that I hoped to hold for 20 miles and I had found a running partner.  At mile 10 we were lapped by the first leader and he was flying.  We hung together for four laps until about the half marathon point and she decided to back off the pace.  I too backed off my pace a bit, but slowly separated from her.  Somewhere during these miles I was lapped a second time by PoDog, he’s kind of a staple of the local long distance running and I increased my pace for a half mile to chat with him.  We talked a little about his recent 100 mile race before I dropped my pace back down and let him go.  At mile 20.3 my early running partner had caught back up with me at the aid station.  I left out first and didn’t see her the next lap, 3.4 miles, she must have just been behind me the whole way.  By mile 23.7 she had caught me for good and we’d pace in laps eight and most of lap nine together.  With about a half of a mile left on lap nine she was ready to go and I had nothing left.  She separated and finished three and a half minutes ahead of me.  My finishing time was 6:38:00, shaving one hour and 24 minutes of my 50K PR and setting a new PR for me.  The difference was the course, not my condition, going from the hilly and rocky trail of Sylamore 50K to this really flat non-technical course.

I was able to run the first 20 miles at a sub 11:30 pace which made me feel really good.  However, after that I fell apart and walked quite a bit of the remaining 11 miles.
Pros: I like the small number of runners.  The aid station was well stocked and the workers were knowledgeable and friendly.
Cons: No cons to this race.  The flat is harder than you think and the laps may seem boring, but that wasn't the case.

Course: Bona Dea 50K Garmin Map

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Thoughts on Picking the Right Running Shoes

When I started running a few years ago, I had no clue what I was doing.  I thought all I had to do was throw on some shorts, shoes, t-shirt (yes, the cotton kind) and take off.  I found out in a hurry that this ensemble was a recipe for misery. 
As I have mentioned in a previous post, I started running by using the CoolRunnings Couch 2 5K plan.  At the time, I was intimidated by running outside so I started this training by using a treadmill at the gym. I had my old pair of Nike cross trainers that were my everyday shoes.  After about a week into the training, I noticed that my calves and shins were KILLING me.  I chalked it up to my legs getting used to running and told myself it would get better.  Well, 2 weeks or so went by and it only got worse.  I started talking to some running friends of mine and visiting some popular running forums such as Hal Higdon's Training Peaks forum and the forums. I read posts that talked about good running shoes and how they make such a difference.  One post related it to a mechanic or carpenter having the proper tools for the job.  Those that know me know I can be pretty cheap.  Most "running" shoes I could find were anywhere between $70 and $100 brand new.  I thought that kind of money was insane.

After another week of painful running from shin splints, sore calves, and now huge blisters... I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get some new "running" shoes.  I revisited friends and forums to seek advice on how to find the right running shoe for me.  All of the advice I got pointed to the same philosophy... get shoes that fit you and your natural gait.  Wait, what?  What does that mean and how do I do that? 

Study your gait to determine the type of running shoe you will need. 

There are a couple of ways to do this but ultimately it boils down to your arch.  Yep... your arch is the key.  If you have normal arches, you will use a normal shoe with limited to no stability control.  If you have flat feet, you will need a stability shoe that helps with under-pronation.  If you have high arches, you will need a stability shoe that helps with over-pronation.  If you want to quickly determine what type of arches you have, here is a great article called Take the Wet Test: Learn Your Foot Type.  However, if you have the luxury of being near a true running store, you might find it more beneficial to visit them and have them analyze your feet and gait in person.  This is the option I chose to do.  Most local running stores employ runners that know their stuff.  My store watched me run and could tell that I was a slight over-pronator.  They had about 4 options of shoes with the stability to help my foot land in a more neutral or normal position with each step.  I tried each pair on and jogged in them to see how they felt, and then I jogged with one shoe on each foot from different brands to compare the feel to each other.  Ultimately, I found a shoe that felt great and I was off and running (pun intended).

Find a brand/model of shoe that works for you and stick with it.

After being fitted for my new running shoes, the pain in my shins and calves started to go away. I was no longer getting blisters and running started to get really fun.  As I progressed through the Couch 2 5K plan, my body was adapting to my new lifestyle and running started to come easier. I ran my first 5K about 5 months after I started training.  A couple months later I ran a 10K.  By the end of the year I had added a half-marathon and a full marathon on these shoes.  Most runners will tell you that the life of a running shoe is anywhere from 400-600 miles.  Some like to push them longer and some like to buy new after only a few hundred.  I think it is a matter of preference and something that you should listen to your body to decide.  My knees, feet, and ankles start hurting around 500 miles so that is usually a sign for me to replace my shoes.  

Once you find shoe that is right for you then my suggestion is to stick with it!  The first time I ever replaced my shoes, I decided to try another brand just to try something different. I woke up the next morning excited to try my new kicks. After 3 miles, I had regretted my decision.  These shoes rubbed hot spots in different places than my old shoes, they had a different feel when my feet hit the pavement, and they didn't feel like they were giving me the support I needed.  I was fortunate that my local running store took them back and let me exchange them for the newest model of my old running shoes.  My feet were very happy on my next run.  Lesson learned.  I have been through 5 models of my favorite running shoe, the Saucony ProGrid Guide.  Recently I decided to purchase my first pair of trail shoes. After looking for weeks to determine what trail shoe I should get, I consulted my running store again.  I tried 3 different brands and guess what... I ended up with the Saucony ProGrid Guide version of the trail runner, the Saucony ProGrid Guide TR4.  Hey... if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Saucony ProGrid Guide 5 & Saucony ProGrid Guide TR 4

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Midsouth Marathon Recap

Another thing that you all should know about myself and Scott is that while we are both Average Joe runners, we are very different in our approach to running in general.  Scott is a very calculating and disciplined runner.  He picks a race, builds a running plan, executes the plan, and comes into the race healthy and generally the best prepared he can be.  I on the other hand sometimes pick races, sometimes build running plans, never executing the running plan very well, and come to races as a bit of a wildcard.  Scott always has a training schedule printed out and hanging on his refrigerator while I never have a printed copy taped anywhere.  BTW, Scott wins 80% of all races that we both enter, but I don’t know that he enjoys it anymore than I do.

So, crazy thing did I do this time?  Friday night at around 9PM I decided that it would be fun to run the Midsouth Marathon in Wynne on Saturday.  I checked the weather, highs in the 80s with 20MPH winds.  Not exactly the perfect running weather you would want in a marathon, but I decided to go on.  So I got up at 4am and made the trek to Wynne to run the marathon.  Not too smart, but here is the recap.
I arrived at the race in plenty of time and registered.  I didn’t get a t-shirt as they had just given away the last one to the person in front of me.  I received my bib and headed to the start line.  I was the last to register, #201, so it was my first marathon with such a small number of people.  I started at the very back of the pack and ran a nice and easy pace for the first 10K.  It seemed to be a steady climb for the first 2 miles then downhill for 3 or so.  The next section from miles 5-11 seemed to be all uphill and the temperature kicked up.  I spent more energy in this section than I should have.  Next we continued on to the turn-around point at 13.1 and made the turn back to home.  I arrived at the split at 2:23 and felt ok.  The next few miles from 13-17 I started mixing in some walk breaks and lost pace just a bit.  By mile 20 it was obvious I had no shot at a sub-5 full and decided to enjoy my race mates.  I took extended walk breaks and chatted with a lot of other runners.  It’s good that I did this as the temperature closed in on 80 and the wind was full on in my face for most of the last 5 miles.  I finished in 5:28, my personal worst, but enjoyed the race still the same.

Pros: I liked the small number of runners.  There were plenty of aid stations and they were all stocked with water, Gatorade, oranges and bananas.  The race organizers and aid station workers were all very positive.

Cons: The rolling hills are harder than you’d imagine in flat eastern Arkansas.  The course is a little boring and you run with quite a bit of traffic.

Course: Midsouth Marathon Garmin Map

New Shoes

New shoes are traditionally and stereotypically associated with women, but men that are active have learned to covet (maybe to unhealthy levels) new shoes as well.  I have running shoes, backup running shoes, trail running shoes, hiking boots, cycling shoes, river floating shoes, basketball shoes, and yes even golf shoes.  If I have an outdoor activity I probably have a pair of shoes associated with them.  I’ve hung on to shoes way after their useful life because I had a great level of success with that pair of shoes.  Those shoes and I went through some tough times together.  We trained, bonded, and succeeded together, and after all the hard miles I will ditch them for a younger model.  It just feels wrong, but that’s what I did this past weekend.

Once a year our local running store, , has their annual shoe sale.  This shoe sale brings out all the running crazies.  It’s not uncommon to see someone buying five or more pairs of shoes just for themselves.  This time I was able to get there at door opening time and secured 3 pairs of shoes for myself; one pair for road running, one pair for trail running, and the last pair for just wearing around.  I was able to purchase all three for the price of one.  Scott joined me for this sale and arrived about 10 minutes late and was still able to secure two pairs of shoes.

New Shoes

It felt wrong throwing those three pairs of worn out running shoes in the trash, but it feels great slipping on these new ones.  Oh, and by the way, shop local whenever you can.  Most of the races you run have sponsors and more often than not those sponsors are your local running store, not your local big box store.