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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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