Thursday, August 13, 2015

My first ever time being asked to write a guest post...

My friend Adam of Hiking The Trail asked me to write a guest post recentlyand it was posted yesterday. I thought I would share it with you all. His site is a great resource for someone like me just getting started in this whole backpacking things, and he personally has been a big help. Even if you don't read my post, take a moment to check out the page and site, and give it a "Like" if you enjoy hiking and/or backpacking. Here is a link to my post:

A marathon runner turned trail runner learns to slow down – Guest Post

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

I don't even know what to title this post.

How many times have I written a post on this blog about needing change or lacking motivation? I'm here in that place again. I'm back here wondering what to change to get back my love of running. Don't get me wrong; I still love running. But do I love training? I love races. I've gotten to the point that I'm not all that interested in the miles between races. I feel like I've been there and done that. I don't feel like I'm accomplishing anything anymore. A run is a run, and some miles are some miles. But what was the point? Let's say I get home on a Saturday morning/afternoon after a long, tough 20 miler. Great. I covered a lot of miles, which many people really can't do, but why did I do it? I keep setting new race goals and signing up for things, but is that really the point of all this? I put in hundreds of miles between races, and most of them by myself. Is the point just to get ready for the next race?

I used to love training. Training is supposed to be hard work, but it's supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be the journey and the race is merely a destination. Right now that's just not how I feel. Training has become this giant pain-in-the-ass thing I have to do so I can run a race. Hours on end that just aren't fun to me anymore. I still love the races, but the training time has become something I dread. I don't feel like I'm seeing anything I haven't seen, or accomplishing anything I haven't accomplished. I barely even notice the things on my run anymore. I do a run on a beautiful trail, yet I see none of the trail but the ground in front of my feet. Running those training miles used to be my passion, now it's my chore. It just doesn't reach me the way it used to.

The thing is, I used to love those training runs. I used to find myself in them and lose myself in them. They were my favorite part of every day, and the very reason I looked forward to the weekend. Not anymore. Now it is something I force myself to do after work. Why? Sure, I'm a runner. Sure, I still love to run. But if I am not finding that same passion that used to, why don't I change course? Maybe I've grown to attached to defining myself as a runner, a marathoner, and an ultra marathoner. Of course, I do know you can redefine yourself at any moment you choose. I changed from a lazy couch potato to a marathoner in relatively short time. So why have I become so glued to being a runner that I'm unwilling to explore other possibilities when the passion isn't there anymore?

Over the last few years I have thought about things I want to do, but never do them because I'm too busy trying to get back my passion for running. Sometimes it comes back for a few months, but generally it's been a struggle. So why do I put off these new possibilities? After my most recent race in March, I decided to take some time off to recover and figured the passion for running would come back. Well, it's almost four months later now and I might actually want to run less now than I have in a long time. I even set some big goals to try to get it back, but I really can't seem to grasp onto those goals. Running further or running faster no long capture my interest like they once did. It's time I recognize that and reflect on what it means. Well, I've done that reflection and the realization was that I need to start exploring other things.

I started trail running more than road running several years ago because I wanted to be part of nature and experience the natural world. But when I run, I focus on the destination rather than than where I am. I also feel as I get older a stronger desire to spend time disconnected. Cell phones, Facebook, the internet, modern life. I love all of it, don't get me wrong. But sometimes don't you just want to disconnect for a few days and get away from it? I know I do. Well, for about two and a half or three years now I have talked about taking up backpacking and hiking. The more time goes by, the more I think about it. It sounds like a dream to me. Disconnecting and spending days out in nature walking, carrying everything you need with you, sleeping in a tent under the stars. It sounds hard. It sounds amazing. It sounds perfect.

I'm a man that sits behind a desk making Excel reports for a living. I dream of stepping away from this desk all day every day. I want to be in the world and see the world. I want to experience things. I have limited opportunities to get away and get out in the woods, but I rush through it because in running you are supposed to be faster. Instead I want to take my time and living the adventure. I don't know if this new desire to start backpacking will pan out, or if I'll love it as much as I expect. But I want to find out. I want to try a journey I've never tried before. Here's to the next step...

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Time for a change, and change is good.

Over the last several years, I have completed many marathons and many ultras. I start this post with that statement so that I am not misunderstood. I am VERY proud of what I've accomplished. When I started working out and doing the Couch-2-5k plan in November of 2009, I never dreamed I could run a marathon, much less 11 official marathons, 7 official ultras, 2 unofficial marathons, and 3 unofficial ultras since my very first marathon in March of 2011. These are things I never dreamed I could do in just 4 years.

All that said, I am not happy with where I am right now with my running, or my fitness in general. When I started, I did more strength training than running. That was the case up until I had a stress fracture in my foot shortly after my first marathon. I was not able to workout, much less run, for 8 weeks. I missed running more than anything. Ever since then, my focus has always been running. I still strength train, but usually not that hard and definitely not that often. I have just wanted to run all the miles I could, so I never made time for anything else. Run, run, run, run, maybe lift some light weights, run, run.... you get the idea.

My training plans always center on running and I say I'll lift weights, but I don't. I just don't leave enough time in my training plans to get in my scheduled miles AND strength training. As a result, I have gotten fatter and slower. Even worse, I keep running marathons & ultras while I struggle more & more to finish them. I sit around wondering why I cannot get better or lose weight, but deep down I've always known the answer. You can't lose weight or get stronger if all you do is cardio and you don't eat appropriately. When all I do is run, I have a hard time watching what I eat, whereas when I strength train, eating better comes more naturally. I don't know why.

With all of that in mind, I started contemplating how I can go about making the needed changes. When I am training for marathons & ultras constantly, I feel like I can't sacrifice the miles to make time for strength training. So what do I do? I started thinking, what if I kept my weekend long, slow runs, but change my mid-week runs? Normally during the week I am hitting 4-10 mile runs depending on what I'm training for, and they are almost always slow, easy effort runs. So what if I change that? What if I cut them to, say, 3-4 mile runs with much higher intensity (interval and tempo runs)? That would allow me the time I need to get in serious strength training and maybe it would get some speed back by doing higher intensity. Interesting.

But is this a viable plan? Can I marathon/ultra train this way and be successful? I really don't know. So, if you don't know the answer, what do you do? You seek the advice of experts. I'm lucky enough to have several friends that are experienced trainers and coaches, so I sought their advice. I told them all my thinking and asked what they thought of the plan I suggested above. They all were very supportive of it and gave me some further tips on how to go about it. I am truly lucky to have so many friends that not only have great experience, but also care enough about the success of others to be willing to offer advice and answer questions.

So that's the new plan. Lower mid-week mileage, higher mid-week intensity, strength training set in the schedule, and long, slow weekend runs. Oh, and of course rest days, I'll get yelled at if I don't include rest days! Three weeks from the writing of this post, I will start my training for my upcoming Fall/Winter races, so I am writing my training plan according to this new concept. I also started strength/core training this week so that my body is used to it when I start building my mileage again. I'm excited about this new strategy and I look forward to seeing if it works, but I'm very positive about it. I believe using this strategy for this upcoming race season will help me get lighter, stronger, and improve my endurance. If that all holds true and I have stronger performances this year, then next year I can look to hold that and work more on increasing my speed as well. But that's a topic I'll hold off on until I see how this works out for my Fall/Winter races. Wish me luck, and good luck to all of you with whatever you are working on currently!!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Spring Equinox 50k Race Report (Dropped from 50 Mile)

Kristy & me ready to head to Mississippi
It was supposed to be my first 50 miler, but it definitely did not go my way from the start. Sometimes that's the way it goes. I normally try to not wait too long after a race to get my report done, but it just took this long to sort things out and think about how to put my thoughts into words. Although it didn't work out, it was a good event, an interesting journey, and a change to learn. I fully intend to take the lessons learned from this race and use them to continue moving forward, accomplish my first 50 miler, and beyond.

This was the final piece of 8 months of consistent training, which is the first piece of the puzzle of where things went wrong for me. I started my training July 21, '14 when I started training for the Pensacola Marathon, then continued on from there to train for the Mississippi Blues/First Light Marathons double weekend. My original plan was to do the Blackwater 50k after that (which I did), then take some time off training (which I did not). I have a tendency to burn out mentally and physically if I don't take a break from training for too long. Well, after pacing Will at the Cajun Coyote 100 in December, then the back-2-back marathons went so well I decided to go ahead and carry the momentum into the Equinox 50 Mile. I knew I was rolling the dice on burning out, but I was feeling good and wanted to keep going. All the way up to the day before the race I felt good. I was excited for my hard work to pay off. In those 8 months I had run two marathons, one 50k race, and one 50k training run. In total, I had run 1,017.01 miles in that training.

Sunset through the trees of Homochitto National Forest
I felt confident and ready to go went race week finally arrived. The race was on Saturday, March 21, so on Friday my wife, Kristy, and I headed out for Homochitto National Forest in Mississippi. First we went to the hotel we were staying at about 35 min away in Natchez, MS and got dinner at a very good place called Biscuits & Blues. After dinner we headed over to the park for packet pickup. It was really great to get to see some of the friends I had made while pacing/crewing for Will at the Cajun Coyote 100 (both events are put on by Forge Racing). They are a good, fun group of people.

After pickup, we headed back to our hotel where I got all of my stuff organized and ready and we went to bed a little early. It was going to be an early morning and a long day, so I wanted to get some good rest. I did sleep well, but the morning alarm was my first sign of how the day would unfold. It's good to wake up excited, nervous, or even anxious for a race. I woke up ambivolant about the race and really just wanted to turn the alarm off and go back to sleep. That's a bad sign. Had I finally burnt out? I couldn't know at the time, I just knew I'd paid for the race and driven several hours to get there, so I might as well run it. Yeah, that is really how I felt race morning.

The forecast a few days before the race
We got out to the park while it was still very dark. In fact, it would be an hour or so into the race before the sun would be up. It wasn't raining yet. The key word: YET. The forecast said "periods of rain later in the day." Yeah, my ass. It started raining not too far into the race and basically never stopped. There were a few brief times that is stopped, but it was mostly a constant presence. There would be periods of very light rain, then periods of very heavy rain. But the rain was pretty much always there. Now, normally I love running in the rain, so the fact that I'm complaining about it tells you something of how my day went. The ground was often mudding and slick, and the leaves that covered much of the ground were very slick.

Don't worry, it was much worse than it looks here
There are small wooden bridges scattered throughout the trail, which had turned very slick. I don't know about any of the other runners, but I had slipped and fallen on them several times. About 7 miles into the race I slipped on one and fell backward, landing hard on my elbows. I'd cut up my left elbow pretty badly and my right hand and elbow a little, but not too bad. I had already pretty well given up any chance of doing well at the race, and I was already wonder if I could (or even wanted to) complete the full 50 miles. Now I was in a bit of pain and bleeding. I kept moving, though.

Me, Kristen, and Kristy at the 13.7 mile aid station
I finally arrived at the 13.7 mile aid station in about 3 hours and 50 min. I knew my day was done and the 50 miles wasn't going to happen. I did want to fight through and finish the 50k, but I was starting to move so slow and was so out of energy that I expected to be pulled before I made it that far. When I got to the station, Kristen and Kristy were working and Jeff (the race director) was just getting ready to leave. It was pretty obvious that I was really struggling so they asked me what was going on. I told them that it definitely wasn't my day and there was no way I would be able to finish the 50. I told them I would pretty much be walking the rest of the way and said I'd do my best to complete 50k in time for Jeff to not pull me off course. I also asked Kristy to help me clean up my arm, which she did. I hung out at the station for about 10 minutes before finally heading out. I really wanted to just drop out there, but decided to keep walking instead.

Little did I know when I left that station, but it would be another 5 hours before I would see another person. As I walked, I thought about the day and all that was going wrong. Sure, the weather was bad and making things harder. Sure, the course was crazy hilly and making things harder. But the way I felt when I woke up and the way I'd felt all morning told me that neither of those factors really mattered. I would not have done well on this day even in perfect conditions. I was definitely burnt out and in desperate need of a break from training and racing. I was disappointed in myself for not listening to my instincts.

The good news is that the race was on a very nice trail. So during my hours and hours of walking alone, I at least had pretty scenary to enjoy. The rain continued to stop and start, stop and start, and so on. At one point, the rain was starting to pick up more and I reached an unmanned aid station on a road. I stopped there thinking maybe someone would come along to check on the supplies or something, or maybe another runner would come along. I was quite worried that I had gotten off course since none of the leaders were passing me.

I took this picture to document how happy I was when
the rain really picked up during the last section
After a couple minutes, Ed (whom I had met at Cajun) and another runner came along. They asked if I was okay and if they could do anything to help me. This is what I love about trail and ultra running. Even with just a handful of miles left in a very tough 50 milers, these guys were asking if they could help me. I asked them if they know where there would be another manned aid station since I hadn't seen one in 5 hours. They told me that the finish line was just about 3 or 4 miles away assuming I was dropping to the 50k. Then they headed out, and I headed out behind them. Then it happened. What was a fairly heavy, steady rain turned into the heaviest downpour of the day.

The trail was under water, splashing with every step, and soaking my feet. I kept trudging through just reminding myself that it was almost over. Those were some very difficult miles. Finally, I made it back to the finish line having completed the 50k rather than the 50 mile. It had taken me 10:25:05. (Link to Garmin data) I spent some time collecting my thoughts, sitting down, and talking with some other runners and my friends from Forge while I waited for Kristy to show up. She had gone to try to help a girl that had apparently gotten off course. I was told lots of people got off course, but I still can't figure out how. I thought the course was well marked and I had no trouble following it. The only reason I ever wondered about whether or not I was on course was because of not being passed by any runners for so long.

Me & race director Jeff at packet pickup
Eventually Kristy & I headed out to get the hotel to clean up before going to get dinner. I am grateful to the Forge Racing folks for a good event on a nice trail, I just wish I hadn't been so burnt out and could have done better. But such is the way ultra running goes sometimes. Some days are just not your days. I hope to return to this race next year to redeem myself. As for going forward, the plan was to take some time off, then start training in July for the Cajun Cayote 100k in December as my first of that distance. I still want that to be the case. I want to see how things go during my non-training time and will see how I feel when the time comes. I will be at Cajun whether I do the 100k or not. There is also a 20 mile and/or I could pace in the 100 miler again. I'll decide later in the summer whether I want to shoot for the 100k or not.

After getting dinner, we went back to our hotel to catch a good night's sleep. The next morning we got some breakfast at the hotel lobby, then headed out. We were just a couple hours from New Orleans, so we decided to head there to have lunch in the French Quarter before heading home to Pensacola. Neither Kristy nor I had ever been to New Orleans (well, I had at 6 months old, but that hardly counts), and we have been planning to go on a trip there, so we figured this was a good opportunity to stop in for a quick visit that might help up in planning a real trip there. Besides, who can say no to taking a chance to get real Cajun food.

It was a beautiful city and we really enjoyed our short visit to the French Quarter. We ate at the Gumbo Shop, which was AMAZING! If you ever get the chance, I recommend it. We took a little time to walk around, but eventually had to get back on the road to get home. It was a very tough race, but a great weekend. I look forward to my next adventure with Forge Racing and making it far more successful than this one.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

2015 Blackwater Trail Challenge 50k Race Report

Me & my friend Laurel, who worked the turn-around aid station
It's been a couple weeks since the Blackwater Trail Challenge 50k, so I apologize for getting to this report a little later than I normally do. As usual, of course, this won't just be the story of the race itself, but of all the stuff leading immediately up to it. Let me start by saying that this particular 50k was less of a race for me and more of a long training run. I am currently training for my first 50 miler, which will take place 4 weeks to the day after the Blackwater 50k (Spring Equinox 50 Mile). I really have been training since 7/21, when I started training for the Pensacola Marathon in November, which flowed right into training for my first back-2-back marathons in January, which flowed right into training for the 50 mile. So I've done 3 marathons during that time and I wanted to do a 50k as well. So, that said, I wasn't planning to put a lot of focus on time during this race, just having fun and covering the distance. And hopefully learning some things along the way.

Kristy, me, Sarah, and Brandon at P'cola Beach
The events leading up to this race started a week before on 2/14 when Kristy & my friends from Kansas City, Brandon & Sarah, came down for a long weekend visit. I got in some running while they were here and even did a 5 mile hike with them. We also went out and ate a lot of seafood. We did a lot of touring around town, Brandon & I toured the National Naval Aviation Museum (which is a place I love to visit), and Brandon even did some Jiu Jitsu training at a local dojo. They were the two people we hung out with the most, at least while not running, so it was very nice to see them again and spend some time hanging out.

The Team RWB crew & Brendan at the WOB run 2/18
They left on Monday, and then on Tuesday our friend and fellow KC Trail Nerd, Brendan came in to town. He would be running the 50k as well, but for him it would be his first ultra. It's nice to have had Janee' here for her first marathon in November, and now Brendan here for his first ultra. We also spent some time touring the town, and eating seafood. I even took another tour of the National Naval Aviation Museum with him, although you just can't go to that place too many times. Every time I go I learn something new and see something I've never seen before.

Finally, it was the night before the race. I made pasta & vodka sauce for the three of us, which has somewhat become a tradition whenever I run a race that I don't travel for. I got all my gear together and we hung out for a while before getting to bed fairly early. Brendan & I were running the 50k, while Kristy and several of our Team RWB friends would be manning the turn-around aid station, so we all had an early morning and long day ahead of us. It was a nice dinner and a nice time hanging out with a friend we hadn't seen in quite a while.

I was using this race to work out a few things I would need for the much longer 50 mile distance, so this race took a little more prep than a 50k normally would for me. My Garmins only last about 6 1/2 - 7 hours, so I would need to charge it during the 50 mile. I've always just taken a second watch to switch to during 50k, but for the 50 I wanted to just use one. I had been told you can charge them on the go and they will continue to run, so I got a couple small portable chargers I could carry. I also got the batteries for my new camera fully charged since I planned to take a lot of photos. For my nutrition, this would be my first 50k powered by Tailwind Nutrition. I've been mixing it at 300 cal per 24 oz water bottle, and this is the first way I've ever found that I can actually get in some calories while running. I made 2 bottles to take with me at the start, and made 2 more to send with Kristy to keep in a cooler for me to switch out when I got to the turn-around aid station. Ready to go... time for bed.

Amy, Megan, and me before the race. They both ran with
me during the P'cola Marathon and were running their first
50k at Blackwater
We got up and got out to the start area at Blackwater State Park fairly early so I would get a chance to see some friends before we got started. We are still relatively new to the area, but I'm glad I've had the opportunity to make lots of new friends in what is a very wonderful running community. I met up with my buddy Jamie Knight, some of my friends from the Running Wild running groups, some friends from the Northwest Florida Trail Running group, a couple Marathon Maniacs, and my Team RWB crew before they headed out to their aid station. It was a beautiful morning, and I loved spending time with friends before, during, and after the event.

Start of the race
After spending some time with friends and getting ready, it was time for Paul (Race Director and owner of Running Wild) to give some pre-race instructions and get us started. We headed across the parking lot and down a hill toward the trail. For anyone that has never been to Blackwater River State Park, it is an absolutely beautiful place. Running there is always a treat. I was excited to get to spend many hours out on the trails enjoying the park. I was also happy to have gotten a new 16 mega pixel digital camera that is light, waterproof, and shockproof for Christmas so I could get lots of pics on this great trail. Click here for my full photo album of pictures taken at the race (almost 270 pictures). As we got started, I eventually settled in running with my friend Kim from the Northwest Florida Trail Running group, just behind our other friend (and her inseparable twin) Laura. We ran and chatted together for several miles until we came to the first aid station. They decided to stop for a moment, while I wanted to go ahead and continue on, so I just hoped back on the trail and went forward on my own for a little while. I was feeling really good and getting plenty of nutrition, hydration, and electrolytes from my Tailwind.

As I continued on, I started to notice an issue with my shoes. I'd had a pair of Mizuno EVO Cursoris that I had worn over the last couple years, but they had worn out. They stopped making them shortly after I got them, so it took some work to find a new pair. Well, this new pair was rubbing the top of my foot funny. It wasn't necessarily hurting, but it was going to as the miles piled up. I needed to do something about it, but there just wasn't anything to do until I got to the next aid station so I could get a band-aid to cover and protect that spot, so I just continued on.

New friends Taylor (left) and Brittany (right) coming up
on the second aid station
Eventually, I ended up meeting a couple new friends. One very nice lady (Taylor) was also wearing an Orange Mud pack, so we talked about our packs and how we each liked them to fit. Another very nice lady (Brittany) was also with Team RWB and even had an RWB Buff, so I asked her about how/where she'd gotten it since I've wanted one for a while. It always makes me happy to make new friends during a race, and it is really my favorite thing about trail & ultra running. I have made so many friends out on trails. I ran with them until we got to the second aid station, where I finally got to stop to check on and take care of my shoe situation.

When we did get to the second aid station, Paul was there. I asked him for a band-aid, which he happily got for me and offered to help. I told him I was fine, I just needed to sit down, get my shoe off and fix whatever was going on with it. I sat down on the bumper of some one's truck and took my right shoe off. It still wasn't really hurting, so I was a little surprised to see a little blood on my sock. Glad I stopped, that would have definitely become a problem. If I already had blood just about 8 1/2-9 miles in, who knows what it would look like after 50k. I got my sock off, cleaned the spot a little and put the band-aid on. This resolved that issue for the rest of the race, so I was able to put that out of my mind. I thanked Paul and got back out on my way.

Picture taken by my buddy Jamie at
one of my favorite spots on the trail
I was back on the trail more-or-less solo, although there were a handful of people that I would pass and be passed by during the stretch from that station to the turn-around. I was just enjoying the scenery and letting the miles tick off. I was still feeling pretty strong and doing well. Finally we started to see some of the front runners on their way back (it was an out-and-back course), then go into the more technical portion of the trail. I really like the more technical section, although it is a little more effort, but much of it is along the river and I really like that kind of trail. I came upon one of my favorite spots on the trail, which kind of jets out right next to a bend in the river. The water in the river is so clear it looks like it has been filled with bottled water, and there are beautiful white sand dunes at bends, so this particular spot is very picturesque. Luckily for me, my friend Jamie was there and got a few pics of me, gave me some words of encouragement, and informed me that Brendan was looking good and doing well. I hadn't seen Brendan since the start since he is much faster than me, so I had been wondering about him. I was glad to hear all my friends that had come through before me were all doing well.

My Team RWB friends working the aid station
The further along I got, the more excited I was getting to see my Team RWB friends at the turn-around aid station. I was doing well and feeling good, but seeing my friends and my wife would give me a boost. Before I would get there, though, I would see my friend Lori (running her first ultra) and Brendan. Brendan confirmed what Jamie had said. He was looking and feeling strong and confident. I finally got to the aid station and was welcomed by friendly smiles and cheers. I grabbed some watermelon (I really love that during long runs/races), some Red Stripe, Kristy swapped out my Tailwind bottles for me, and I had a little water. I also chatted with them for a minute and we got a picture together. I also got my portable charger from Kristy, put it in the left shoulder pouch in my Orange Mud pack, hook the charger to my Garmin 610, and put the watch around that part of the pack. It sucks trying to keep it plugged in on your wrist, so I put it on my pack while it charges. As I was heading back to the trail, Laurel yelled at me to take lots of selfies, so I ran over to her and we took a goofy picture together (see the first picture at the top of the post).

Kim from the NWFL Trail Running group on her way
to the turn-around
I was very tired, but having a lot of fun, and seeing my friends really did give me a boost. I also knew I'd get to see lots of friends that were still on their way to the turn-around. Before too long, I did see Laura & Kim (together, of course), then Amy, then Megan. All were tired, but all were doing well and moving forward strong. It really made me smile and feel good to get to see so many friends. I tend to like point-to-point courses, but out-and-backs are definitely nice from the aspect of getting to see all of your friends along the way, whether they are with you, ahead of you, or behind you.

A different angle of my favorite spot I talked about earlier,
although it still doesn't capture the beauty of this spot
After I'd seen all of my friends, I hit a spot that proved to be very tough for me. My biggest trouble with ultras has always been how negative I get when it is in the latter half of the race, I'm tired, and I'm pretty much by myself. It was quite a few miles from the turn-around to an unmanned aid station, then several more before the first manned station on the way back. During that time, I saw the handful of runners that were behind me, then no one until right before the unmanned station where I saw a guy I've run with at the NWFL runs, then no one again until the manned aid station.

Still just trucking along, enjoying a gorgeous day
That really was an extremely challenging stretch for me. I got more and more negative with each lonely mile that ticked by. I really felt decent and should have been moving stronger, but my mind was causing me trouble. I decided that if I was going to move this slow, at least make the time productive. I started thinking about how I could make times like this better. I have a feeling much of my time at the 50 miler will be solo, so I better find a way to stay positive and keep moving during those times. I decided it was about time I go back to something I hadn't done in years. For my next long run, I would wear headphones and listen to an audiobook. Perhaps that would better keep my mind engaged during these lonely hours. For now, though, I had no headphones, so it was all about keeping my forward progress.

Goats next to the road during the short paved section at
the manned aid station
Although I was tired, struggling a little, and lonely, I really was feeling pretty decent. Ultras are a funny thing. Sure, going well beyond a marathon distance is a physical challenge, but it is even more of a mental and emotional challenge. Your biggest fear isn't your body quitting; it is your mind quitting. Once that happens, you are done. No matter how your body feels. This was the challenge I was now fighting. I got back to the aid station where Paul had helped me earlier and he was gone. Off to the finish line like a good RD! The young man that was working the station was very kind, encouraging and helpful. He really gave me a boost. I wish I knew who it was so I could tell him thanks.

Jamie offers me what I like, just at the wrong time
I was back out on the trail with about 8 1/2 - 9 miles to go. After a while, I came to a road crossing and standing there was Jamie. He hollered at me as I was getting closer, "BEER AND MOONPIES!!" I love beer. I love MoonPies. My first thought was how awesome a MoonPie would be, but then I decided against it because I thought it would dry out my mouth a little too much. My second thought was how awesome a beer sounded, but I didn't want to stop long enough to drink it at this point. I just thanked him and declined both offers. Looking back, I should have taken the MoonPie.

I was tired, but I was kind of goofing around with this photo
I continued on. Seriously. Such a beautiful place to run. I kept thinking to myself the whole time I was out there how lucky I am to live in this awesome place and have this gorgeous park near me. I'm so glad I moved to Florida. I was tired, and I was fighting negativity, but I was feeling better and more positive than I usually do in ultras. Overall, things were going okay. Not too long after I saw Jamie at the road crossing, I came to the last manned aid station with just a few miles to go. Jamie was there as well, and as I was getting some water and stretching out, he gave me some updates on how my various friends were doing. Some were doing great, some struggling. Kind of what you'd expect in an ultra. The one thing we all had in common was relentless forward progress.

The final stretch of trail
Right after that aid station is a decent length paved uphill. Normally, this wouldn't seem like much of a hill, but with just a few miles left to go in a 50k, it seemed like going up Mt. Everest. I walked it. I wasn't so much begging to get finished as I was begging to get back into the beautiful trees. As I was heading up the road, I could hear people behind me. I kept moving and eventually Amy and three other folks passed me. She said they were doing 1 min run - 1 min walk intervals the rest of the way and she wanted me to join her. I did for a few intervals, but I was struggling too much when the run intervals had me going uphill, so I just dropped back off and would finish solo.

Coming up the final hill. Kristy was
shooting from the top, so this
is a much bigger hill than it looks
Finally, I came to the final turn to go up the road that would take me to the finish and I saw Kristy with her camera, and Brendan with his finisher's medal. I started to run up the hill, excited to get to the top to congratulate Brendan. This is a fairly steep hill. As Brendan would later say, "I can't believe that even in flat Florida, race directors still ALWAYS find a way to put a massive uphill right before the finish." It's true. Race directors are evil. I got to the top of the hill, congratulated Brendan, and made the turn to the parking lot and finish line. I was happy to be finished, and happy to get off my feet. It really was an awesome trail, a great event, and a beautiful day. I wouldn't trade it for anything. That said, I was tired! I crossed the finish, got my medal, and went over to the benches not far from the finish line to sit down. Kristy & Brendan made their way over and we talked about how he had done, how I had done, and how Kristy's aid station had gone. I was proud of Brendan. It ended up being a fairly heavy 50k, yet he had still finished in 6:59. Pretty awesome, especially for his first ultra. Lori had also finished strong and with a very good time. Our friends from the Team RWB station had left, but four folks had requested high-fives for me, so Kristy gave me all four high fives, while Brendan took pictures as evidence that the requests had been complied with.

Tired, but finished
Overall, I had finished 34.68 miles in 8:02:06 (13:54 avg pace). Click here for my Garmin data. Perfectly acceptable given what my goals for the day were. I felt like I had pretty much accomplished everything I wanted to. It was a great day, indeed. The race was well managed, and I would highly recommend it. I will most likely run it again next year. As I caught up with friends that were already done, and more finished, it was nice to hear how people had done. It was really great having about 4 or 5 friends complete their first ultras. I'm so proud of every one of them. 26.2 is hard enough, but going 5 miles beyond that (although physically not much different) is a much bigger mental challenge.

Some of the Northwest Florida Trail Running group that
either ran, or supported at the race
I had a few lessons to take away from this to move forward into my first 50 miler four weeks after this race, and my first 100k attempt this coming December. Tailwind seems to work better for me when mixed at 300 cal (3 scoops) per 24 oz of water, rather than the 2 scoops they recommend. I've never been good at eating solids or gels during runs, though, so Tailwind is great for me. I'm finally able to get in some calories, and it helps with my electrolytes at the same time. Using my camera is an excellent way to keep myself from going too fast and keeping my mind interested. I'm not sure how I even did ultras before I found the Orange Mud hydration pack. The new pair of my shoes (which the old pair had been one of my favorite shoes ever) are not even close to as good as the old ones. Bring music and/or audiobooks (which means buy an mp3 player) for long races when I am likely to spend a lot of time solo.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Mississippi Blues Marathon/First Light Marathon Double Race Report(s)

Me with the Main Maniacs (Steve, Chris, and Tony)
I was all set to tackle my first huge goal of the year with back-2-back marathons on January 10th & 11th. This year's Marathon Maniac reunion was at the Mississippi Blues Marathon/First Light Marathon Back-2-Back Challenge. I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to take on 2 marathons in 2 states in 2 days. It's close to home, with Jackson, MS about 4 1/2 hours from home and Mobile, AL about an hour away. It just made sense to go to this, along with the fact that I would get to spend time with so many of my fellow Maniacs.

Bringing Will in for his finish at the
Cajun Coyote 100 Mile
I had run the Pensacola Marathon on November 9th, so I had 9 weeks to stay in marathon shape and prepare to add a second one. I must admit, I was terrified of the idea of running 2 full marathons in 2 days. I decided to do something I'd never tried before. I decided to work with a running coach for my training. I talked to my good friend Ryan Knapp of Miles To Go Endurance, and he agreed to train me to help me accomplish my goal. I'd never worked with a coach, so I had no idea what to expect, but given how many of my friends have accomplished amazing goals with him as their coach, I felt better about my chances having him behind me. He started having me run some relatively short back-2-back long runs on weekends, and kept up my weekly miles as well. One fun part of my training was the opportunity to pace my good friend Will Sprouse at the Cajun Coyote 100 mile, along with driving and crewing for my friend Adama Anderson, who ran his first 100k at the Coyote. Will is a good friend of mine for Kansas, who I had paced earlier in the year at the Prairie Spirit 100, so when he said he was running one just 4 hours away from my home I was happy to volunteer. Little did I know that event would be so great that by the end of it I would have committed to coming back and running my first 100k at it the next year.

Some of my Team RWB group that I
run with on Wednesday evenings.
To be completely honest, my training just didn't go well. It seemed like I was constantly battling allergies, upset stomachs, and countless other things that were ruining long run after long run. I was getting more and more concerned that I wasn't ready the closer the events got. I told Ryan I was very worried that I was under-trained, but he kept reassuring me I was doing fine and I'd be plenty ready. Of course, once I get it in my head that I am under-trained, there is no way to get it out of my brain. With two weeks before race day, I ran an 11 miler which was terrible (fought an upset stomach and had to stop and call for a ride), then a 17.62 mile run the next day, which went mostly well but not enough to get a lot of confidence back. I knew I could finish the races, but I fully expected them to be terrible. The last weekend before the races I did a 13.13 mile run to try out Tailwind Nutrition for the first time. I always struggle with eating to get calories, so I thought this would be a good solution. The run went amazing and the Tailwind seemed to sit fine and help, so I decided I'd use it during the races to make sure I got the needed calories. Finally, training was over. Ryan assured me I was good-to-go, but I still didn't think so at all. I'm kinda stubborn sometimes.

Forecast for Saturday, it ended up
being pretty accurate.
The weather forecast was all set to make things very interesting and difficult to plan for, so I wound up taking almost every piece of running clothes I own. Saturday looked to be 23* with a 20* windchill, while Sunday said 42* warming up to 60*. Quite a range to try to plan for, so I brought pretty much everything and figured I'd decide what to wear the night before each of the races when I could have a clearer handle on the forecast. Kristy & I headed out for Jackson, MS at about 10:00 Friday morning after dropping our dogs off at her mom's house for the weekend. Kristy was not running Saturday, but was running the Half Marathon on Sunday, so we planned for her to come meet me at mile 20 Saturday. It's always extremely helpful to see a friendly face, especially her, during a long race. We got to the expo and I found the Marathon Maniac reunion booth to check in. While checking in, I saw the Main Maniacs (the original three guys who started the club) and I'd never gotten to meet them, so I introduced myself and asked them to get a picture with me. I'm very grateful to those guys for starting this club. It's nice to have a support group for the insanity we all love to be a part of. The expo was small, so I got my bib, jacket, etc, looked around a little, listened to a guy playing blues guitar for a few minutes, then we headed out to check into our hotel before the reunion.

Me, Chris, and Houston at the Maniac reunion/dinner.
That evening was the Marathon Maniac reunion meeting and dinner. It was awesome seeing so many Maniacs!! We ran into my friend Bob Schluben from Kansas City, Jamie Knight & his wife Christy, Houston Wolf, Annette & Arland Blanton, Angie Pace, the Main Maniacs (Steve Yee, Chris Warren, and Tony Phillipi), and many, many more. It was awesome to be surrounded by so many people that share my passion for marathons and ultras. I'd love to make it to more reunions. Good meeting, good people, good food, good times. I also got an autographed copy of the Marathon Maniacs book, which is a compilation of stories submitted by members, which I am excited to read, and a pink Marathon Maniacs Buff. I am a fan of Buffs, and I love pink, so I had to get my hands on one of those. After the dinner, we headed to the hotel to get my running gear together and get a good night's sleep.

Race morning #1, all bundled up.
The forecast hadn't changed, and I have cold induced asthma, so I did what most people call massive over-dressing. It was also going to be my coldest run in almost a year by about 10-12*, so I was definitely going to have to pay attention to managing my asthma. I went with the following for clothes: Trail Nerds cap (very comfy & warm), Marathon Maniacs Buff over my neck & face, Mizuno Breath Thermo shirt under a Layer 8 thick under-layer shirt, then my Marathon Maniacs Ultra sleeveless shirt, a pair of Champion compression shorts, thick Champion tights, running shorts, a thin pair of Injinji socks under a thicker pair of Injinji socks, Vibram Five Finger Bikilas, Mizuno Breath Thermo gloves, Garmin 610, RoadID, and my Orange Mud Double Barrel Hydraquiver with two 24 oz bottles of Tailwind Nutrition. Yep, probably about 75 pounds of clothes going on! Of course, I also had my albuterol inhaler and I was using my Symbicort inhaler every night & morning to make sure my lungs wouldn't be an issue. I was ready to go and I was going to be as warm as possible. I didn't really sleep well the night before the race, but not terribly. Kristy drove me to the start and dropped me off, where I met up with Jamie and tons of other Maniacs. At first we were all crammed indoors trying to stay warm, then we headed out to the start for the Maniac group picture, then crammed back into the building for a little extra warmth before the race.

At the 20 mile mark.
Finally we went outside for the start. My goal for this race was to go easy (5 - 5 1/2 hour), so I found the 5 hour pacer and decided to run with his group unless/until I felt like falling back. It turned out the pacer was a fellow Maniac (big surprise, right?) named Tom. He was a super-nice guy that has run many a marathon, so I knew I was in good hands. We started off nice and easy with a pretty decent group of folks all running together. Several Maniacs, the 2 1/2 hour Half Marathon pacer and her group, and several others. I was almost able to block the cold out of my mind since we were having so much fun chatting with and getting to know everyone. It was really quite enjoyable, even with the cold. Every two miles I was drinking some Tailwind to keep my calories and energy up, which seemed to work pretty well for the most part. In the future, I may try to drink more of it than that since I think I could've used some more calories. The race was well organized and well marked, and the scenery was pretty nice fore the most part. There were a decent amount of rolling hills, but nothing too challenging. The problem I was having was that the roads are TERRIBLE. They were all torn up, lots of potholes, gravel, rocks, etc. I really didn't expect that and I am not used to it, so with my VFFs, it was kind of hurting my feet a little as we went along.

I did really well staying with the group and I was feeling mostly good through 16 miles, but at that point I decided to drop off of the pace group and start doing some walking. My feet were really starting to hurt with the crappy roads. I knew that with another marathon the next day I'd better take care of my feet rather than let them get worse, so I started taking walk breaks and being even more conscious than normal about where to place my feet to avoid bigger rocks and cracks in the roads. A few times I did hit bigger rocks and I did end up with bruises on my right heel and ball of my right foot, but that wasn't anything bad. The problem at this point was mostly mental, though. My feet were hurting thanks to the roads, and I had a strange pain in my left shoulder. I didn't know what that pain was, but it was getting a little worse and a little worse. So I'm going to trudge through the rest of this race, but how am I going to finish tomorrow? If I feel like this 17 miles into the first marathon, what am I going to feel like 17 miles into the second? I just walked, ran some, and tried to stop the negative thoughts, but they just kept coming like waves. I was powerless to make them go away. Walk, run, negative thoughts. That was my existence at that moment and I couldn't change it.

Marathon Maniac group photo before Miss. Blues Marathon
Finally, I started getting close to the 20 mile mark where Kristy had planned to be waiting for me. Ever since I'd started walking more and getting negative, my main goal had become getting to Kristy. Seeing someone I know, especially my wife, is always such a huge boost to my energy and confidence. But then I got to mile 20 and there were very few people there and none of them were Kristy. Maybe she couldn't find it? Maybe she wasn't able to get there in time? I don't know why, but she's not here. Well, nothing I can do about it now, so just try to keep moving. About a 1/2 mile or so later I started to see a bigger crowd of people, and sure enough, there was Kristy sitting on a curb with her camera. I was walking, but I really didn't want her pictures of me to be walking, so I started to run. I said hi to her. I don't know what else I said, and I don't know what she said to me. I was kind of out of it and I was trying so hard to regain some confidence. I got a little boost, but not long after, I was walking again and getting negative. I really started to think that a double was a terrible idea. How was I going to explain to my friends and everyone that had encouraged me along the way that I wasn't even going to be able to finish both marathons?

All that continued until about mile 24.5. I suddenly had the thought, "maybe I should just run the half marathon tomorrow." The very instant I had that thought it pissed me off that I even thought it. This was not an acceptable thought. I need to get my confidence back if I want to complete the race the next day. No more fucking around, I need to get this done, and get it done running. I ran the rest of the way with no walking at all. It was tough, my feet were killing me, my shoulder was killing me, and I was still freezing my ass off, but I was NOT going to walk again. I had to prove to myself that I could do it. I ran from the mile 25 marker to the mile 26 marker in 11:23, then the final 0.32 miles to the finish at a 10:34 pace. I came through the finish line with a smile on my face and my confidence back. That last almost 2 miles of running had gotten my confidence back. I felt better about finishing the next day. Sometimes we just have to give ourselves a strong push to get get ourselves back where we need to be mentally. My feet still hurt and my shoulder was killing me at the point the volunteer put my giant, glass medal around my neck and another gave me a space blanket to help me warm up. I walked out of the finisher's area to find Kristy, who I had seen at the end, but laid down on the sidewalk instead. I had finished 26.32 miles in 5:23:06 for an avg pace of 12:17 (click here for Garmin data).

I just had to stop for a minute and let my feet rest. I wanted to take my Orange Mud pack off, but my shoulder was hurting so bad that I couldn't, so I just laid with it on. Kristy found me and I gave her my space blanket because holding it around me was bothering my shoulder. I laid down and she took a picture of me. It captured pretty well how I felt. I was hurting, but I was happy. I got up and I asked Kristy to help me get my pack off. When she pulled it back of my shoulder, I almost screamed it hurt so bad. What the heck was wrong here?? I had no idea, I just hoped it would get better before the next day.

We headed off to our car to get over to Mobile, AL for the First Light Marathon expo and get some dinner with some fellow Maniacs. We got to our hotel, which is just a block from the expo and a couple blocks from the start finish, and as soon as I got out of the car I saw my fellow Maniac and KC buddy Bob Schluben again. We told him our plans for dinner and he said he'd join us. We all got checked in and headed off to our rooms. Then we walked over to the expo where we saw Jamie & Christy Knight and Lee Condron. We chatted with them for a few minutes, then went over to get our bibs, shirts, plaque for running the double, and a few other gifts. We also went to a local Mobile running store's booth (Run-N-Tri Mobile) where we were give a water bottle and entered a raffle. I ended up finding out that I won the raffle and they are sending me a heart rate monitor.

Dinner with some fellow Maniacs Saturday night at
Dreamland BBQ in Mobile.
After that we went back to our hotel to drop off our stuff and pick up Bob before heading to Dreamland BBQ, which Jamie had recommended. Bob, Jamie, Lee, Kristy and I had all met there. Not long after we sat down we saw to more Maniacs come in, so Jamie invited them over to join us. It was a nice dinner and good fun getting to know some folks and spend time with friends. My feet and my shoulders were bothering me less and less as time went by, so I was hopeful that I wouldn't have problems for the marathon the next day. It felt good to have gotten some confidence back.

The weather on Sunday was MUCH nicer than Saturday. The start was 46 with a windchill in the high-30s, and was set to warm up quite a bit. Much more my style. I needed much less for clothes for this race, which is good, and my asthma would be much less of an issue. All I wore for this one was my Team RWB short sleeve shirt, Marathon Maniac arm sleeves, compression shorts, Adidas shorts, Zensah calf sleeves, Injinji socks, pink Marathon Maniac Buff, RoadID, Garmin 610, and Mizuno EVO Cursoris. I decided to go with the EVO Cursoris shoes for this one instead of my VFFs since my feet were still hurting from the bad roads the day before and I didn't want to risk there being bad roads again. I actually felt pretty good and loose. My feet were sore, my legs and hips were a little tight, but not bad, and my shoulder felt mostly pretty good. I got my Tailwind Nutrition for the day mixed in my bottles, and I started to make my way over to the start area. Unlike the Mississippi Blues Marathon, First Light Marathon was very bare-bones and low frills. I like races like that. Simple, laid back, most of the money going to charity. There was not ever chip timing, literally just a chalk line drawn across the road for a start line. People were already gathering at the start area, mostly Maniacs, and there was a DJ there playing music. Most everyone was running the back-2-back challenge, so everyone was moving around getting loose and having a lot of fun.

Marathon Maniac group photo at the First Light Marathon
I met several folks I had not met before and spent time chatting with friends. I talked with Kristy, Bob, Jamie, Lee, Tom, and many, many others. I even ran into Kim & Laura from the Northwest Florida Trail Running group. Eventually, I headed off to the back of the pack for the start of the race. The plan was pretty simple. Start slow, then slow down. I wanted to start with a slow run and do as much as I could without any walking to get confidence up, then see where I'm at and how I feel at that point. The race started and we headed off at a slow, easy pace.

I felt pretty strong at the start. I was keeping my pace easy with splits pretty consistent in the 11:45-12:30 range, and I didn't really feel a whole lot of soreness. I was just chatting with people and having fun. Just enjoying the day. I was doing the same plan as the day before, drinking some Tailwind every two miles, but also drinking more water from the aid stations as well since I was taking a little longer between stations. It really was a nice day and a pretty nice course, so it was easy to enjoy things.

As I said, my plan was to run straight through as long as I could, then re-evaluate from there. I went about 8 miles before I decided I really wanted to walk, so I decided I would run to 9, then walk a little. I got to the 9 mile mark and started to walk. I walked about 0.2 miles before I started running again, so I decided I would do that each mile. Walk 0.2, then run 0.8. I'd see how long I could hold that pattern, and figured if I could do that at least through the 18 mile mark I'd be in pretty good shape. It seemed to be working pretty well. I was really tired, but not all that sore, so the walk breaks gave me a chance to recoup some energy every mile. I wasn't bothering with trying to keep my walk breaks fast, I was just walking and letting my energy come back. I was mostly holding between 12:30-13:20 per mile with this strategy, which was perfectly fine for me. One thing I did at this race is kind of funny looking back, but really did help me, was using the virtual pacer on my Garmin. Kristy had asked me to text her if I thought I would finish later than the 6 hour mark, so I set my pacer at 13:40 and basically tried to race it. Each mile I would do my walk, then see if I could make time up against that pace. I knew going in that finishing slower than 6 hours was possible, but I didn't want to, I really wanted to stay somewhere in the 5 hour range.

As I was getting to mile about 13 or 14, I caught up with Kim & Laura. They were not doing the double, so they were very encouraging about my effort to do both races. They are very nice people that I love seeing during races, so I was happy to see them there. We kind of played leap frog for a couple miles. I would pass them, then they would pass me, until they finally got in front of me and stayed there. They never really got far out of my sights, though. I was still feeling pretty good and not really slowing down much when I got to the 18 mile marker and the aid station that was there. Now this was a great aid station. I had some oranges, some beer, some Skittles, and some nice jokes with people volunteering. This station really helped give me a boost. I also drank a 5 Hour Energy at this point to try getting my energy back up. I had held my 0.2 walk/0.8 run through the mile mark like I had wanted to. There was a huge hill at this point (which the volunteers referred to as Fireman's Hill since there is a fire station at the top) that was fairly steep and about 0.64 mile long. I decided I'd walk that whole hill, run the less than 1/2 mile to the 19 mile mark, then get back to my 0.2/0.8 strategy and do that the rest of the way no matter what. I was determined at this point, and I felt like I was doing really well and could finish strong using that strategy.

That long Fireman's Hill was a bit of torture. It was nice to have about 4 or 5 fireman standing outside the station cheering us on as runners went by. They were very positive and very encouraging. That felt good after such a long, tough hill. Once I got to the top, though, I was back to running and feeling pretty good. I continued to hold my 0.2/0.8 strategy and was still holding pretty consistent with my paces as I raced to try to make up more and more time on my virtual pacer. I knew based on the mile markers that I would end up close to 26.4 as my total mileage, so I decided when I got to mile 25 I would walk a third of a mile, then finish on a run with no more walking. As I got close to mile 25, I could see Kim & Laura maybe a quarter mile in front of me.

I got to mile 25 and started my 1/3 of a mile walk, then got back to running. I felt pretty good still. I was completely exhausted, but really wasn't hurting as much as I expected to be. There had been a handful of Marathon Maniacs that I had been playing leap frog with over the last several miles, and we were all encouraging one another, which really was helping. I ran out the last mile at around an 11:30-11:45ish pace, which is awesome after all of those miles. As I was getting close to the finish line I saw Kristy and she tried to get a picture of me, but didn't manage to get it. I was enjoying having lots of people there cheering me to the finish and telling me I looked  great. As I got to the finish line at 5:36:24, I had a huge smile on my face. I had not only completed day two of my first back-2-back marathons, but I had only run it 13:18 slower than the first day!! I never would have guessed I could have done that! I was completely exhausted. As I was still running to the finish, I knew I could have kept up the 0.2/0.8 plan for several more miles if I had had to, but as soon as I stopped I really how used up I really was. I walked over to the back-2-back challenge table to get my extra medal for completing both races and saw my friend Jamie and another maniac sitting in chair behind the table.

I grabbed my medal and went to sit with them. The empty chair was on the far side of Jamie, but as I was walking past him to the chair, he grabbed it and set it down in front of him. I had to stop and think for a second to manage to turn myself around and sit in the chair he had placed just behind me. I was so exhausted, but I was so proud. I honestly had not felt this much pride in an accomplishment since my very first marathon in March 2011. I had completed 2 marathons in 2 states in 2 days. WOW! The First Light Marathon ended up being 26.36 miles in 5:36:24 for an avg pace of 12:46 (click here for Garmin data). In total for the two days, I had run 52.68 miles in 10:59:30 for an overall avg pace of 12:31. I only lost on average 29 seconds per mile from day 1 to day 2. I was so proud. I honestly thought I might cry. I sat chatting with Jamie, Christy, Kristy, and Julie Weidner (another fellow Maniac who had run the double). After sitting for a while, we decided it was time to get up and get headed for home. I got up and all the tightness and soreness finally really hit me. I could barely walk!!! We slowly and gingerly started making our way back to our car at the hotel for the hour drive home from Mobile. On the way, we saw Kim &  Laura and congratulated them on their finish and they congratulated me.

We got back to our car and headed home. I'm glad it was a fairly short drive from Mobile, AL to Pensacola, FL since I was tired and sore. I knew it would take me a couple days to get over the soreness and get caught up on energy, but I felt so great about my weekend. I'd see people I hadn't seen in a long time, made new friends, and accomplished my first big goal of the year. I have to give a big shout out to Ryan Knapp, who coached me through my training. As I said, I had felt very under-trained, but it turned out I was perfectly ready to go and I had done better than my best expectations. I'm not sure I could have done it without his help. I also am grateful to my friends who recommended Tailwind Nutrition to me. It really helped me get through both of these races. Looking forward, a few things hinged on how this weekend went. As I said early one, I had committed to running my first 100k in December at the next Cajun Coyote, and in pursuit of that goal, I planned to run my first 50 mile at the Spring Equinox 50 Mile on March 21. I felt like if this back-2-back weekend didn't go well I would skip the 50 mile and try to use that time to get into better shape and recoup for the 100k. Well, this weekend went great, so I am sticking with the plan of the 50 miler in March. I'm also going to add the Soldier Marathon and the Pensacola Marathon as a back-2-back weekend in November as part of my training for the 100k.