43 for 43

43k - 9

Since becoming a dedicated runner, I’ve tried incorporating a long run around my age.  Back in 2014, I ran 39 miles for my 4 country run starting in Belgium, traversing Luxembourg, touching briefly into France, and ending in Germany.  This year, I set out to complete 42 km for my 42nd birthday but ended up doing 43 km.  I justified the “43” since technically your birthday is the first day of the next year and the birthday means you have completed that many years.  It is all semantics, I know.

WARNING: This is more of a stream of consciousness type post.  While I would like all my articles to be top notch, I figured that I will sacrifice quality at this point to try to build the routine of daily writing.  Hopefully, over time they will improve.

43kI set out on this run to just enjoy it.  I had no preconceived notions of total time, pace, or expectations other than reflection.  My GPS watch was set only to show me my cadence (for those non-runners, that calculates the amount of steps I take per minute).  Too often I find myself in the never ending loop of checking my watch for my speed, how far I have gone, or how far I have to go.  If I am in a particularly low moment in a run, it can actually make the run drag even longer if I keep looking at the kilometers tick by.

43k - 1

After seeing my daughters off to school, I took off with good lineup of music in the playlist and a smile on my face.  My journey was to take me all around the western part of Mexico City.  The “fun” part of running in this section is that is quite hilly.  For the most part you are either going up or down.

The last time I ran this distance was in March for the Marathon Before Work Challenge that Fast Corey created.  Since then, my training has been haphazard due to family obligations, random life things, but more importantly I lost focus of my fine tuned dedication I normally have.  In my mind this run was a re-confirmation to my movement forward physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  In fact, it was my 14th consecutive day running.  For those that don’t know, I like the concept of run streaking to get things going in the right direction.  If there is no choice as to whether I am running or not, it makes it a done deal.  After 3 weeks, habits are formed and it becomes second nature.Back to the run…  It was a cool but humid morning.  In the beginning, I did some out and backs to pad the overall distance to the big loop I was running.  The first 30% of the run would have 70% of the elevation gain–over 1000 meters/3300 feet.  On one particular part, I took a road in which I was unfamiliar.  Much to my chagrin, I quickly found that it was much more downhill than I anticipated.  As I continued to descend, I had this feeling that I was going further and further into elevation debt because I had to back track to the overall loop.  In the end, I decided that the uphills are what I need to get my fitness back to top notch so I forced the smile back on the face and went into diesel engine mode as I came back to the loop.43k - 3Shortly after that section I reached the peak of this run.  From that point I felt more relaxed and was able to hit cruise control for a while.  An interesting challenge during this run was all of the chatter coming across my phone because of my birthday.  As a technology geek, I have my GPS watch tied to my phone which would chime/buzz every time another birthday wish would come across.  On top of that, I had a family member in the hospital who I was trying to keep tabs on via text messages.  Then there were some phone calls coming in as well.  All of this caused many stops and starts.  Rather than get frustrated (which can happen to me easily) I remembered that there was no time limit on this run and to just enjoy.  Once I let go of any ideas of how I needed to do this run, I was not bothered by the interruptions.  I definitely need to remember this frame of mind going forward.43k - 4When I run 4 hours or more, I like to carry water and some sort of food.  I used a 3 liter hydration pack for water and brought some Huma chia gels along with some mini Larabars.  I have learned that when you are training for an ultramarathon, it is not just the running that you need to train.  You need to train with your equipment and train your stomach for the food options you will use in the race.  It is much better to find out that a hydration pack or type of food causes you big problems during a practice run then to have race day emergencies or melt downs.  This run was almost perfect in terms of water and food.  My only changes would be to eat about 15% more and to restock the water in the last hour.  I ran out of water with about 30 minutes to go.  Luckily the temperature in Mexico City is quite mild so I can handle it.43k - 5Another point of focus to help enhance my enjoyment of the special day was to take photos.  I love photography but am always too caught up in the moment to stop and take photos for good memories.  Today would be different and as you can see by this post, I was able to capture much of the scenery of the run.  Now that it is completed, I am content that I forced myself to stop often for the snapshots.43k - 6When I crossed the 3 hour mark, I could feel some flagging and fatigue setting in.  My previous experience with many long runs is that I know I have the capability to keep on trucking when I feel tired.  I think I did that for about 15 hours when I ran my first 100 miler.  The tough part is when I started flagging, I was almost at the lowest elevation on this run–meaning I had about and hour of straight uphill to contend with to complete the journey.  Let the mind games begin!!43k - 7Once I hit the final major uphill, I committed to myself I would just downshift to a low gear but keep the wheels turning over.  I knew I would persevere if I just let it come to me and not worry about how long the hill was.  Just relax and go with it… At the summit I had a quick decent through a neighborhood of winding streets.  I could hear my feet slapping the ground quite violently which meant my form was deteriorating.  Eventually I made it to the final huge albeit short climb.  Slowly but surely I made it up while definitely redlining.  From that point I cruised to my make shift finish line and with that, the run was over. 43k - 8 This run instilled and reminded me of a few things:

  • Relax while running
  • Focus on the next step and the rest will work itself out
  • Keep on smiling–it makes you feel good
  • When tired, remember your form
  • I still need a lot of training for 100 miler in October
  • Life is good when you are committed to making it good

 

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A Renewal of Sorts

MD_Route_42Today I celebrate another year completed on this rotating globe named Earth.  I have never been one much for parties and hoopla but for some odd reason this year it feels like I should recognize and celebrate the occasion.  Over the past couple months, I have found myself becoming more introspective as well as having the desire to learn and challenge myself increasing.  I’m not sure where it originates but sometimes when you feel life pulling you in a positive direction, you need to go with it.

I started the year training very well but things derailed in April causing my level of fitness to fall apart and added many kilos back that I worked off.  Rather than dwell in the setback, I looked forward and wanted to figure out what do I need to do to get things going again.

First, I need to run a qualifying race by the end of October 2017 to be eligible to enter in the WSER 2018 drawing.  Since I didn’t get picked in 2017, I will have two names in the hat, provided I qualify.  I was going to run the UTMX 100 km in October–which would be convenient since it’s only hours away from where I live.  The problem was that when I went to sign up (at the same time I did last year) it was already sold out.  I guess the stars were trying to tell me that wasn’t my race this year.  I searched for other races in October and sitting right there was the Javelina Jundred.  I have heard lots of great things about the race but, and that’s a big but, it’s 100 miles not 100 km.  I have only run one 100 miler and that was two years ago.  Instead of worrying, I have put myself in “figure it out” mode.  I have around 16-17 weeks to prepare.  I believe it will be enough but I don’t think I’ll be as prepared as I was for the Keys 100.  That said, I simply need to finish the race in 30 hours.  I am sure I can do that as long as any unexpected injuries or incidents pop up during the race.

Going forward, I have decided to challenge myself in many different ways in this next year of my life:

  • Complete the Javelina Jundred
  • Write in this blog quite regularly (hopefully daily)
  • Focus on my training like never before–getting good sleep, no alcohol, clean eating, etc.
  • Renew my commitment to a whole food-plant based diet–I went vegan all of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 but then reverted to vegetarian/pescatarian.
  • Be more mindful and intentional of my actions and decisions.
  • Explore meditation–finally! (I have been learning and thinking about it for at least 20 years)

That is just a portion of what has been rattling around my mind but I think with writing, more will flow naturally.

To reward myself today, I ran 43 km to mark the first day of the 43rd year of my life.  I will post a separate article about the fun run around “La Ciudad de México”.

43k

 

Challenge Accepted

challenge

It’s remarkable what a random challenge can do for one’s motivation.  Earlier this week Cory Reese of the Fast Cory blog and of the fabulous book “Nowhere Near First” issued a challenge to those that friends with him on Facebook to run a “Before Work Marathon”.  In his challenge he also declared it a popup contest over a seven day span to win a pair of Altra running shoes.  For me, the added bonus of Altra shoes is AWESOME since I pretty much run exclusively in their various models due to their amazing toe box configuration and because I find the zero drop style of the shoe very helpful for the health of my body with miles and miles I log.

Cory posted the challenge on March 14th but I really didn’t want to wait around so I quickly started plotting when I could do this.  I also figured since I don’t work on Saturday and Sunday I would honor the challenge by only doing an early morning run prior to actual work.  This is where it gets interesting:  I have a family with three young daughters who all need to get ready in the morning for school.  Part of the balancing act my wife and I do is for her to get her gym time and/or running before she goes to work every morning.  She usually gets out of the house around 5:30am.  This means I needed to get this run done and be back in the house before she would leave.  On top of that, I felt like it really didn’t honor the challenge if I just did it the night before.  In my mind, I needed to go to sleep, get up, do the marathon, clean up, and go to work.  My calculations meant I would get up at midnight and get on the road before 1am.

IMG_0220

About to start

I got on the road at around at 12:38am.  What was going through my mind at this point was a) this will be fun, b) I hope I don’t encounter too many drunk people/drivers, and c) how is my body going to react considering I just did a 60km run six days earlier?  The excitement of this nutty adventure propelled me quite well for the first 10km.  Learning from the end of the 60km run, I planned this route not to end on a long uphill.  So I started on a big uphill to begin the run.  Where I live in Mexico City, you either go up or you go down– there’s no flat running to be had.  After about 11km, reality quickly set in that I still had over three hours remaining on this run and it was only coming up on 2am.  I got a bit demoralized and definitely started doubting why I did this to myself.  It was almost like I fast-forwarded to the later stages of an ultramarathon.  I knew the feeling all too well and had experienced it at the 50 mile mark in my first 100 miler and also 4-5 hours into my first trail ultra.  I think I remember reading in one of Dean Karnazes’ books that he recommended as preparation for an ultra to wake up in the middle of the night and train just to get you in that state where you aren’t well rested (like in an ultra) and to acclimatize you to running in the wee hours of the night/morning before sunrise.

Once I made up another large hill and to a gentle downhill section, my energy picked up again along with my enjoyment.  I was relishing the fact that I was knocking out a good long run while most of the city was fast asleep.  I also was laughing to myself of how such a random, spontaneous thing could get me out on the streets in the middle of the night.  As my wife mentions from time to time, I do like to challenge myself with crazy things.

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CDMX at Night

Around the halfway point of the run, I started up a long uphill section that really sucked my energy in my 60km run.  I took a peak at my watch and noticed that I was going considerably slower than I did on that run, too.  This caused me to start getting into an internal debate regarding my speed.  Publicly, I have been repeating that I am just going by feel during these runs and that I’m not trying to push hard.  The idea being that I enjoy running every day and do not want risk injuring myself.  I’ve seen big gains in my endurance and fitness following this method.  However, the competitive side of my was thinking, “What’s up with you dude??!!  You are being lazy and taking it too easy.” The internal response was, “Don’t forget you just ran 60km only six days before.” This back and forth went on for quite a while but finally I reached a conclusion, “What does it matter?  I’m only doing this for me.  There is no race.  I feel good.  I’ve avoided injury thus far and if this is what my body wants right now then that’s what it’s going to do!!”

After all the internal dialogue, I reached a point in the run where I needed to reference the map on my phone.  I know the neighborhoods where I run very well in Mexico City but because of the length of the run and the fact that I didn’t want to be on any major roads, I needed to do some zigzagging.  A pit stop was just what the doctor ordered and I used it to also eat a little bit more, top up the water, and focus on what remained.  Visualizing the rest of the run showed me there would be three more major climbs to accomplish.  I was about to begin the first one.  Onward I pushed.

It took a good 5-6 months for me to be able to “run” the hills in Mexico City.  Since I had been living in the completely flat city of Merida for the past two years, I had to walk almost all the major hills when I arrived last summer.  Around January or February, I finally had built the strength to run the major uphills.  After knocking out one of the remaining three major climbs, I dropped down into a valley that would begin my homestretch also known as the last 12km of the adventure.

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The moon keeping company

This section was the worst of the remaining climbs including 267m of elevation gain over 8km including 179m in just 3km.  I was dreading it as it drew near but then something else popped into my head, I had never run this stretch with no walking/hiking breaks.  This would be my first attempt to run it straight.  I put my head down and envisioned my inner diesel engine.  It was rough but I did it.  When I got to the top of the tough 3km section, I felt a weird sort of excitement knowing that I finally did something I couldn’t do before.  It’s those little things that make me happy and keep me going.

After all that climbing was done, I got to enjoy about 3km of downhill and it felt great.  I did one more quick climb knowing I had it literally all downhill from there.  The joy of finishing this spontaneous challenge helped me push hard down the hill to the end of the run.  When I checked the numbers, I actually ran this section faster than I did at the beginning of the run.  Go figure that after 40km I could muster the energy to run faster than the beginning.

IMG_0229

Challenge completed

There it is…I am now part of the group that accepted and accomplished Cory’s challenge.  I’m quite happy that this random event popped up because it helped shake things up for me.   Some of the traps of constant training are routine and boredom.  I am always looking for ways to infuse more fun into my runs and this did it.

As a parting note and for those of you unfamiliar with Cory Reese, I highly recommend you read about him.  I do not know him personally (only through his blog, book, and Facebook) but he seems like a remarkable person.  From everything I’ve gathered, he is great father and husband, a genuine friend to everyone, a gifted photographer, and all around cool guy.  His positive, humorous outlook on life and how to make the best of it are things in which we all can use.

strava

Noticeable Difference

While it is readily apparent to almost everyone, it still amazes me what hard work, consistency, and determination can do.  I have continued my efforts in 2017 literally putting one foot in front of the other on a daily basis.  This past Saturday, I decided it was time to follow up my 50 km effort in February with a 60 km fun run around Mexico City.  I prepared during the week by not running twice on any day and keeping all but one day below 16 km.  Throughout the week I visualized the run over and over; imagining how much fun I will have during the approximate 6 hours on my feet.  The actual run went very well and I had plenty of fun.  Here are a few things I noticed:

  • My stamina has reached the point where I can run at least 50 km without really feeling any substantial fatigue.  This is a huge increase considering only three months ago I felt fatigue after 20 km.
  • I was able to run headphone free and didn’t suffer from boredom or go crazy from too many things going through my mind.  I spent much of the time thinking of what good food I’ll eat when I get home, how grateful I am for the family I have, how lucky I felt to be able to do what I was doing, and other random observations of the environment around me.  There was plenty of time where I just blanked out and just went along for the ride–a sort of active meditation.
  • After the run, I wasn’t really sore.  The next day I was able to get out and do an easy run and two days later I still hadn’t experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle syndrome).  It seems to me, that my body is in the best condition it has ever been in my adult life.  In the past after marathon distances or further I would definitely feel some pain.  Considering this 60 km run had nearly 1100 meters in elevation gain, I was quite surprised but also happy.
  • My nutrition methods worked fairly well.  I used Tailwind in the water in my hydration pack, brought several Huma chia gels, and one Larabar.  I think I consumed around 1100 calories throughout the nearly 6 hours.  Maybe some of my fatigue around the 5:20 mark was due to the fact I needed a little bit more.  I weighed myself before and after the run and I was down about 2 kg afterwards which means I needed to drink a bit more water.
  • Prior to the run, I memorized the entire path I planed and I broke it into three distinct parts.  That way I wasn’t messing around with my phone to look at a map or looking at my GPS watch to see how much further I needed to go.  Instead I just looked for landmarks to help judge where I was on my course.  My main focus was to complete each third of the course and once a third was complete, I would reset my focus to start the next third.
  • My ego got going a little bit during my run when I entered a major park.  Since it was early Saturday morning, it seemed like the whole city was at the park running.  The reason I mentioned my ego is because in my mind I started contemplating ways other people could know how far I had run so far that day.  Some people I was running near would huff and puff trying to pass me and I just wanted to say “Yes, that’s nice, I’ve run over 50km today…and you?”  The thought process was completely silly and I know that no one could care less but I guess I was just proud of how hard I had worked that morning before the rest of the city had even started their days.

Going forward I think I’m going to try to do one of these longer efforts at least once per month.  I also believe that I need to find an ultramarathon or two to enter this year.  It’s been 14 months since my last one.  I also need to complete a qualifier for Western States so I can keep my consecutive entries going.

My parting thought today is I am not sure what to do about my current run streak.  I have run 71 straight days which is the longest streak of my life.  Most coaches do not recommend streaks to maximize performance but I have found that the daily focus has benefited me tremendously.  What I have made sure to do is rarely push myself too hard.  Every now and then I’ll feel extra energy and have some pep in my step but for the most part, I just run nice and easy.  After 2-3 months using this method, I’m running faster with a lower heart rate.  For the time being, I’m going to keep the streak going unless some sort of injury pops up.  I feel good and am happy with the results so let’s see what a longer streak will bring.

 

 

13 Months Later

feb

One could write a million different reasons, excuses, stories, etc. to explain the lapse in a blog. Rather than dwell on what didn’t happen or should have happened, I can tell you that I (like many around the world) decided to capitalize on the change of calendar year to motivate myself back into the condition and mental state of being that I enjoyed a couple years ago.

This challenge I posed for myself was to up my commitment to training which includes at least 100km per week, at least 50 pushups per day, and pullups when I have access to my gym at work.  In addition to the physical challenge, I also decided to learn German.  My goal is to study at least 30 minutes per day.  I find that by challenging the area of the mind that is associated with language acquisition, it seems to knock the cobwebs out of the brain in general.  The great thing is that with today’s technology, I’m able to do German lessons while running.

deutsch

To bring us forward to today, I have run every single day since January 2nd.  I’ve done my German lessons all but two days this year.  I’m on to level 2 of Pimsleur’s German.  If you’ve never used Pimsleur for learning a language, I highly recommend it.  There’s an entire science behind the method used to both actively and passively acquire the language.  Many times I’m prompted to recall a word or phrase and miraculously it comes to me–all because of doing their daily 30 minute audio lesson.  Beyond the language, I’ve done my pushups all but 4 days this year and the pullups have been done every day I’ve had access to my gym at work.

The good part of all this dedication is that I’ve regained much of my focus.  In the past month I’m averaging over 140km/week.  I even ran 50km for the first time since Bandera in January 2016.  And as an added bonus, I’m down 9kg since December.

The truth of it all is that I am not sure where all of this is headed this year.  I’d like to just keep these simple challenges going all year long.  Most certainly I will need to change things up here and there to avoid monotony but a year straight of dedication and consistency would be an amazing feat for me personally.

Finally, I decided it’s time to resurrect this blog from the dead and use it to share my experiences once again.  If it can help/motivate/reach at least one other person, I would be quite happy.

2016 Bandera 100k Race Report

bandera buckle

The Finisher’s Buckle

Summary
“Sometimes you bite off more than you can chew but somehow, some way you must find a way to make it work.”

The Bandera 100k is a two loop course through the Texas Hill Country.  It is not at high elevation but over the course (according to my Garmin) you gain over 2200m/7200ft.  There are parts that consist of double track, single track, rocky single track, tough rocky ascents and descents, and portions that simply were not runable for me.  Rocks, rocks, and more rocks would be the best way I could describe this race.

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile

The race itself is very well organized.  The race director provided very useful information. The course (except for a wind-blown portion at night) was very well marked.  The aid station volunteers were the best. They were so positive and supportive.  Since I had no crew on this trip, I relied on them heavily.  I really can’t say enough positive things about them. If you ever want to run races in Texas, check out Tejas Trail events.

Trail

Some of the terrain I’d be facing

Leading up to this race, I started training in September.  I put in a three part training regimen that got progressively more difficult with harder weekly speed work sessions along with treadmill ascent/descent workouts.  I ran on abandoned railroad tracks to try to simulate uneven terrain.  I felt pretty strong coming into the race having completed one of my best long training runs of my life (71km in 6:45) only 3-4 weeks prior.  However, the day before the race I did a small training run on the beginning of the course and had to reset my expectations when I saw how difficult the terrain would be for me.  The rocky condition was something I was completely unfamiliar with and had no opportunity to train on living in the flat Yucatan in Mexico.  This would be my first trail ultra and second ultramarathon.

1

Race Start
It was a cold morning when the race started with temperatures around 5°C/41°F.  It actually wasn’t too cold for me once we got started but waiting around I found myself fighting off the shivers. When we took off from the start, I was in between the front and the middle of the pack.  The path to the first aid station begins with some easy double track.  Yet I knew that this would only last minutes before I had to deal with some rocky climbs that required walking/hiking.  After getting to the top of a plateau, we had to drop down to the backside and this section also introduced me to the evil sotol plant.  It looks like a smaller cousin to the agave cactus but it has sharp teeth on the edge of the leaf.  These plants lined many portions of the course and slice your legs as you run by piercing your skin with tiny little punctures.  By the time I got to the first aid station named Nachos, I had blood running down both legs and it would repeat throughout the day.  It hurt but not too bad, just enough to be quite annoying.  I hit the first aid station about 10 minutes slower than I wanted to–foreshadowing of the day to come.

Not a nice plant

The Sotol–not a nice plant

Ouch

Ouch

At this point, I took off my windbreaker, filled up on some Tailwind, and got out of the aid station in 2.5 minutes.  For the most part I kept my aid stations stops efficient.  They were generally between 1-3 minutes with the two longer ones, of 5-6 min, due to refilling my hydration pack and to get my headlamp and windbreaker back on as the sun was setting.

More climbing

More climbing

The next section was supposed to be a faster and flatter by what I read and was told, but it still went slower for me due to my inexperience with running on jagged large rocks.  I felt like I had to run more tenuously than I wanted. In fact, during this portion, my frustration began to mount.  I wanted to “open up” the engine and fly but instead I had to hold back on this terrain.  Arriving at the Chapas aid station, I checked the watch to see I was so far behind the pace I wanted that even hitting my C goal was going to be tough.  I already threw out my A goal the day before on my training run and my B goal was toast when I saw how slow it took me to get to the first aid station.  My mind was not happy.

sunken trail

Coming out of Chapas, it should have been my true chance to fly because of the relatively flat dirt track.  I stress SHOULD have been.  Instead this was the portion where my knees began to ache. First my left one, via what felt like IT band issues, and then my right began to hurt worse and in a larger area.  By the time I hit the 3 hour mark, I was in considerable pain and started questioning this whole endeavor.  What kind of race is this where I’m already wondering why I’m doing it and we have only run for 3 hours??!!  I arrived at the Crossroads 1 aid station in a bad state of mind.  I refilled and began the section which probably ruined any chance of having the ability to make up time.

Up we go

Up we go

It was a very rugged section of terrain with–wait for it–more rocks and two tough climbs.  Again I felt myself simply trying to bound side to side on large and small rocks and not fall/die.  When you finish, it takes you to the Crossroads 2 aid station–which is the same as Crossroads 1 but on the other side of it.  My arrival this time had me at a whole new level of pain in my knees.

Countryside

Rolling trail

Leaving Crossroads 2 and for the next hour or so, I deeply contemplated dropping out of the race.  I even wished that I did fall, had a more acute injury, or maybe have some animal attack me, just something that would give me a good excuse to stop.  I went deep into the dark recesses of my mind and thoughts.  I played out different scenarios of how to drop.  If I didn’t get that animal attack I desired, I entertained the idea of just doing the 50km race.  The race director stated that if you signed up for the 100km, you could do 50km and stop and have your time count as part of the 50km race.  Hmmm, maybe this was doable for me.  Then I thought of my daughters, Fiona and Gianna, and their shining faces when they talk about Daddy’s races.  How could their hero look them in their face and tell them he didn’t finish his race?  How could I be a man of my word if I stopped because I didn’t get the result I wanted?  This loop of negative “I feel sorry for myself” thoughts replayed several times as I ascended one hell of a climb which of course was followed by a technical descent.  While on the ascent, I struggled to even hike a few of the huge stone steps ranging 2-3 feet in height.  I commented to some other runners that I have no idea how I’m going to be able to do this the second time in the dark.  I arrived at the Last Chance aid station filled up and set out for the end of the first loop.

Up

This last section puts you through another tough rocky climb and back to the plateau from the beginning of the race eventually forcing another painful, technical descent onto the only portion that I truly enjoyed–the double track to the start/finish line.  I think it was in this section that I realized I had been cursing more this day than I had in the past few years combined.  I am a father of three lovely daughters and work hard to watch what I say but if one were to have heard me they may have mistaken me for an old school military man.  I wanted all the rocks to be eradicated from the face of the Earth.  They were the bane of my existence.  I hit the halfway point of the race in 5:57:28–roughly an hour slower than I had wanted.

7

A funny thing happened while I refilled my supplies and headed back out–I never considered stopping.  I was in the middle of the ascents in the first portion of the course before I realized I forgot about the silly idea of quitting.  My knees didn’t get any better but I think my brain figured out that I wasn’t going to give in to the idea of dropping so it stopped bothering me with the idea.  While my mind was in a better state, the fact of the matter was that I continued to slow on the technical portions of the course.  It took me 20 minutes longer to reach the Nachos aid station the second time.

3

From Nachos to Chapas, I think I started to get a bit “lazy”.  What I mean is that a handful of times, I ended up behind a some runners who would descend faster than I but on the climbs and flats I would catch back up.  Instead of asking to pass and run my own pace, I simply tailed them which meant I was going about 10% slower than I would have normally run.  Looking back I think I did this one or two times more in the second half of the race.  I think in my fatigued state, my mind enjoyed going at a more leisurely pace and I zoned out.  Finally it dawned on me to stop this nonsense, ask to pass, and go.  Each time I did, I never ended up seeing those runners again. Who knows how much time I lost by not pushing my way though?  Definitely food for thought in the future.

downhill

The next segment, Chapas to Crossroads 1, was another portion that I wish I could have run without knee pain.  Like the first time I came through, I just kept thinking about how it would be nice to really let loose and run with authority.  Instead I let my knee pain reduce my stride to a quasi-shuffle thus reducing my speed.  I came into the aid station pretty much fed up with this ongoing pain.  My coach was waiting for me there and was asking me how I was doing.  He said I looked good…I laughed!  After explaining to him what had been happening, he suggested some changes to my running mechanics.  Amazingly enough I shot out of the aid station with much more spring in my step.  The slight change to my stride helped reduce some of the pain and I was able to pick up the pace.

4

The second time through Crossroads 1 to Crossroads 2 was a small success for me.  I was able to complete it in the exact same time as the first pass.  I don’t know if it was a matter of getting out of the aid station with a faster pace or the fact I knew I just wanted to finish but somehow I pushed through more efficiently.  During this segment I ran a bit with the winner for the 55-59 age group.  We ran over half the section together and the chatting helped quite a bit.  I think this was his 7th time running the race. My hats off to him for running this thing so many times.

Rolling along

Coming out of Crossroads 2, it was already dark.  You could imagine that with it being my first time on this rugged terrain with only a headlamp for light that things would be precarious at best.  This was also the section I dreaded the first time because it had such a steep incline and decline plus I had to do it again at night.  Wouldn’t you know that I completed it 2 minutes faster than the first time?  I think the fact that it was dark and I couldn’t see how high I had to climb and how far I had to descend kept me from overthinking.  Finishing this portion, 11 hours and 45 minutes had going by since the start of the race.  Now my personal goal was to finish under 13 hours.

Hill View 1

From Last Chance aid station to the end, I was pretty much in a robotic mode of just get the race done.  It was tough terrain summiting the same plateau from beginning of the course but I kept pushing and passed a few runners.  With only 3 km/2mi to go, I started to wonder if I ran off course.  The entire course has lots of arrows and ribbons with reflectors yet I hadn’t seen one in a good 10-15 minutes.  I started looking at the ground for footprints.  I found a muddy section but the only prints I saw were that of a mountain lion or bobcat–not what I was looking for nor did I want that animal attack any more!!!  After a few more minutes full blown panic set in.  I stopped, turned off my headlamp, and looked around.  I saw no lights behind me or in front of me.  I couldn’t hear the finish line.  Was I off course?  Was I lost?  This is not what I wanted after almost 13 hours of the race.  I decided to backtrack and either find a course marking where I went off course or another runner.  After about 3-4 minutes I found a runner and confirmed with him that this was the right way.  I ended up pulling away from him but still didn’t see a marker that he swore was there–I started to doubt this runner. Finally after another 10 minutes I saw a reflective ribbon. Ten minutes was probably lost during this error of mine.  I pushed down the difficult descent to the last stretch of dirt trail. I looked at my watch and it read 12:54. Time to fly! I really wanted a sub 13 time–just some sort of goal to be met since none of my original goals were achieved.  As I got closer to the finish line, I could see the clearing and went for it. I ran the last half of a kilometer at a 4 min/km pace and flew across the finish line.  I looked back at the clock and it read 12:58:39. A small victory for me to end the day!

unnamed

Permanently etched in my memory.

Wrap Up
Like many have said before, each race, each adventure teaches us something new.  This race was no different.  First and foremost, I had a large dose of reality and humble pie regarding terrain and specificity of training.  I spent the last four months training for this race.  I got stronger, faster, and built more endurance than I have ever had in my life.  Yet when it was all said and done, I felt like I arrived to a new country with pockets full of cash but in the wrong currency.  The currency needed for this course was that of running on rocky ascents and descents and I had none of it.  Had this been dirt trails with no rocks, I can confidently say I think I could have finished at least two hours faster.  I will not choose races in the future where I don’t have access to the same terrain or sufficient alternative means to match the conditions.

This reinforced the value in sticking with it no matter how dark things get in your mind.  You can power through those moments and find what it takes to reach the finish line.  It may not be in the time you would have hoped but the experience is something you will grow from and use the rest of your life.  Not that I didn’t respect the top ultra runners out there but after experiencing this course up close and personal, it gave me an even deeper appreciation for those runners who can practically fly on this terrain.

Looking back on my numbers from the race, I see evidence that I was in good condition. The fact that I ran a few sections at the end at the same pace or faster than the first loop tells me that my base fitness is good.  The final half kilometer “sprint” tells me that I still had plenty of strength to endure.

The day after the race my spirits were remarkably high.  I was able to recognize that I did accomplish something special.  One hundred kilometers is not your standard walk in the park.  It is something that, no matter your skill level at running, requires plenty of training, patience, and perseverance.  I will seek out some more adventures this year albeit races in which I can be adequately prepared.

Comparing my two ultramarathons, I would say that the Bandera 100k is harder than the Keys 100.  Even though the Keys 100 is 61km farther, my body didn’t suffer in the same manner as in Bandera.  The good news is now I’ve run my very first qualifier for Western States which means I can officially put my name in the lottery for the 2017 race.

The Setback

Over the past several days, I’ve pondered different subjects to write. I have thought of gratitude — how grateful I am to have such a supportive family in all aspects of my life. I have thought about the natural meshing of Zen principles with that of the long distance runner (I know it’s clichéd but I truly experience it). I have thought about the subject of being an example for my kids, especially as I am about to meet my third daughter any day now. All of these subjects warrant serious consideration but today the subject jumped up and bit me — in my right ankle.

Today’s run was a wonderfully refreshing morning run lasting around two hours and twenty minutes. I ran through various neighborhoods of Guadalajara. I finished the run with a run straight up a steep incline with a very positive rush of a job well done 24.5 km/15.2 mi in the books. A strange thing occurred happened about 20-30 minutes after the run. I finished showering, getting dressed and preparing my morning tea. As I walked from the kitchen to the bedroom of my daughters to help them get off to summer camp, I felt a pretty sharp pain on the inside of my ankle just to the back of the ankle bone and below it. It was not a terrible pain but one that caught my attention. As I was getting ready to go out the door, I noticed that I started to limp a bit.  

 

If you look to the right, you’ll see the ramp I went up to end my run.

 
My wife and I had our final appointment with the doctor prior to our newest daughter’s arrival next week. As I accompanied her to the medical building of the doctor, my limp became more pronounced. Hmmmm… I thought. This is not boding well. While we were in the doctor’s office, the pain continued to increase. The area around the inside of my ankle was very sensitive to the touch. Now I’m started to worry.

Side Note: I recently hired a running coach to help me prepare for my next race.

When we were called to go in for my wife’s exam, I could barely walk. I had to put all my weight on the heel of my foot to try to minimize the pain. Full on panic started to set in, did I break something? Could it be a stress fracture? As obsessive as I am, I immediately pulled out the iPhone to start Googling the symptoms. The first thing I found was Tibialis Posterior Tendonitis and other variations. As I read website after website, I was not happy with what I saw. This could mean weeks/months of being out of commission. Since I started running regularly, I haven’t had any major injuries. I’ve tried to be very careful with mileage increases and workload to ensure that I stay in the game for the long haul. As we were finishing our appointment, my wife asked her doctor if he could recommend an orthopedic specialist. Luckily for me, the doctor he recommended was the floor below us. We went immediately there and my wife, with her amazing personality and persuasiveness, was able to get us squeezed in even though they were telling her in the beginning that their next appointment was not until August 14th.  

The doctor saw me within minutes. During the examination, he asked me some standard questions and then started poking around my ankle. He then touched on or around the ankle bone and I shot straight up and then back in the examination bed. It was like I had a convulsion. Talk about pain…good lord!!! It even surprised the doctor. He sent me to get an X-ray since there was the possibility of a stress fracture. I was quite worried at this point. The pain is so severe that I thought there was a chance of the stress fracture. The only thing I thought (probably incorrectly) was that since I didn’t see a ton of swelling, maybe that means there was less of a chance of a stress fracture. We got the X-rays done and then had to wait about an hour to be seen. I forgot to mention that I was then being wheeled around in a wheelchair.  

Tibialis Posterior Tendonitis

  
Good news came when the doctor saw me again. He said there was no fracture and Tibialis Posterior Tendonitis, which I had guessed thanks to the Internet, was the diagnosis. He wrapped my foot in a Robert Jones bandage (I had never heard of it before) and told me to stay off of it. I am on crutches now and will go back on Tuesday.

  
At this point there are a few things floating around my head:

My wife is just about to give birth and I injure myself–way to go Dad! I am supposed to be giving her all the support in the world. This is not how you do it. Now she is caring for me. I am disappointed.

I just hired a coach. My initial analysis has been done and I am super excited to get the professional training plan started. Now who knows how long I am going to be in this state?!  

Could I have avoided it? I am not sure. Merida is completely flat and Guadalajara has lots of hills. The last time I trained here back in December, my left knee bothered me for a few weeks after the trip because of the hill training. I made a point this time to take it very easy on the hills and avoid any long uphills more than once per week. Today was day eight, and was only the second day that I ran up some long big hills. The best thing I can figure is that I ran up a very steep incline at the end of my run–one that was so steep that it was pure stairs at the top. My only guess is that after running for 2:20, my calves were very tight and it was just too much pressure for the tendon to take.

The good news, according to the doctor, is that we caught this very early. Since this just happened and has not been a chronic injury or one that has been slowly getting worse and worse, that should mean that recovery/rehabilitation will be faster. I am going to use my free time to try to find as many types of natural remedies to help with reduce inflammation. I am very aware of the properties of turmeric so it is on the top of my list to purchase but I need to find other things I can add to my smoothies and cereals.

I am committed to staying positive. The race I want to run is in 4.5 months. I think that if I can get back to running by September, I will still have enough time to train. My base fitness is the best it has been in my life. Even if I have to do a lot of cycling to maintain fitness, I will.  
Chin up!