Saturday, December 19, 2009

Breaking Boundaries in Bradley Palmer, or, 'Why Not?"

Don't call us 'Wyld Stallyons', but in the words of Ted 'Theodore' Logan, Breakheart Dan and I got together at Bradley Palmer State Park to partake in a most excellent adventure!

My training weeks have been typically made up of about half running and half resistance training since starting my new diet and training regimen. In fact my base of running training hasn't been impressive, and I have not done any runs longer than 8 miles or 1 hour since way back at the beginning of August, when I ran the Oxford Dam Trail Race. Following Oxford, I decided I needed to lick my wounds and try to heal some of the lingering injuries I incurred over the spring and early summer.

The first step to getting back has been to limit my mileage and start back slowly. Most of the late fall racing I have done has been shorter distance races, and have basically served as my long training runs. Then a couple weekends back at the Middlesex Fells I knew I'd be making the small hop from a long run of 6 miles to the 8 miles I'd cover during the race. The catch being that these 8 miles are over tough terrain and I expected my time on feet to reach close to two hours, which would be a challenge. Obviously I made it through the Fells in fairly good shape, simply having a little soreness the following couple of days, but nothing nearly as painful as it had been in August.

With the Fells being the end of my 2009 racing season, I wondered what might be next, and knew the GAC Fat Ass was perhaps a nice event to shoot for. Yes, the event is billed as a 50k, but this is one of the GAC races where you can come and have a good time with other trail running friends, old and new, and run the 10k loop through Bradley Palmer State Park as many times as you see fit. No pressure, no frills, just friends and fun on the trails.

Of course my mind has gone to the idea of running 50k on the day, but given my lack of training, and the short time before the race, I have been thinking really quite conservatively, and realistic (or so I thought). Then I read one of Sherpa John's recent posts about exploring Human Potential and pushing ourselves past that place that feels safe and 'realistic'. Then Larry Olsen suddenly passed away, and I now find myself in a position where I want to challenge myself and push myself past normal. I want to suck every last bit of life out of each day - through each endeavor. I don't want to be depressed or pessimistic. I want to live while I have the opportunity to live, and living for some people might not be running for 50 kilometers in the woods, but for me it is a physical and mental challenge that summons that internal reflection and connection with our raw souls. We arrive at that place where we are asked, 'Do you really think you only have this much?', and we are challenged to seek deeper into ourselves, finding more where we thought there was none.

In this spirit I came up with a simple training plan: increasing long runs to be able to run 50k on race day. So last week I ran one loop of the course, and this week I was scheduled to run two loops, next week run 30k, rest the following week, and then arrive at race day with thoughts of 50k. Though I haven't run over 10 miles since August, today's 20k seemed possible with an Ultra marathon pace.

Originally my plan was to practice my ultra run-walk strategy, but the temperatures hovering in the low 20's and the course layout seemed to inspire more running early on. Dan and I kept a moderate running pace and fit a few walking breaks in - not exactly on the schedule, in fact, I can't really say I know how close we were to running 2, walking 1, since it changed depending on the terrain, and I think we rarely did a 2-1 strategy, if at all. Having company during long training runs is a great distraction for so many reasons, and I was glad to do more running than walking because it showed how I am not as out of shape as I had anticipated I was.

We ran the first loop in about 1:08, which was a bit faster than the 1:10 to 1:20 per loop I had in mind, but besides a few aches, I felt good. We stopped and refilled water bottles, I chowed some PB&J, and we were back on the move.

Loop two was a lot of the same. Still freezing cold, still attached to no set walk break schedule, with the exception of some of the longer hills, and we just seemed to float along.

I will say, even though it was really, REALLY cold on the course, it seemed like once we got going the peace and quiet of the landscape and the stillness of the morning were really amazing. I honestly don't think I could have wanted to be anywhere else on earth... well, maybe a carbon copy of where we were with about 30 or 40 more degrees of heat!

Ate some more PB&J during the latter half of the loop and was expecting my body to rebel in the last mile or two, which would signal the internal yellow light that marks the preparation for the end of the long run. Then I started thinking... bad idea.

I knew Dan wanted to run 3 more miles beyond the 20k, and I was happy that I might be able to accomodate him. Also knowing that a blizzard was on the way, I was confident that forcing another 3 miles would only help, since I might not be able to run Christmas Eve morning for my third 'long run' on the course in preparation for the Fat Ass. Then I thought: 'you know, it has been a great day, and I don't feel too thrashed, in fact if forced to run a third loop, I probably could'. These are the thoughts that lead us past 'normal'!

As I was mulling this over, Dan says that he'd be cool calling it a day after finishing 20k and I laugh and tell him about being cool with another 3 miles. Then I joke about running a third 10k course loop.

Joke turns into reality and we are embarking on 10k loop #3. It didn't take long to start feeling every step a little more, and walking breaks seemingly got a little longer and less forced. The magic of starting a third loop is that you are commited and know that the only outcome is finishing that loop, no matter what it takes. I love that feeling. You hurt, but you know you have accepted the challenge and must tough it out. Tough it out we did, and finished the final loop with a 30k time under three and half hours, which is very, very impressive to me, since I haven't run that distance since running the GAC Six Hour back in May. It was a really great day for me (and I hope for Dan as well).

On the technical side, I used my new CW-X Stabylx Insulator tights for the first time today, and I wonder if they are part of the reason I was able to go long. If anything, the support on the knees, IT bands, hip flexors, and lower abs they provide was just what I needed. I am sore, but I feel okay. I also feel like I did an excellent job staying hydrated over the duration of the run. I was taking in about 20 ounces of water and NUUN each hour, and I took a S-Cap around two hours when I suspected we might be able to run a third loop. Pee stayed light yellow, which was a great sight... did I mention us ultra folk are an odd bunch? I also feasted on a powerbar before the run, and gnoshed a few segments of PB&J during the run - all of which agreed with my tummy.

Besides the distance and the time, it was great running with someone else, and sharing in the challenge. Too often we spend idle miles on the trail, and I am truly thankful for every single run I get to share with one of my friends.

I must give big thanks to Breakheart Dan who most definitely helped me through the miles, and to Sherpa John Lacroix, who I have yet to meet, but his continual pursuit of pressing the limits and finding the true 'Human Potential' has been an inspiration. In that same vein, the other members of 'The Gang' inspire me over and over with their tireless pursuit of the new, amazing, and adventurous.

Thanks Guys and Gals, you keep me running!

Happy Trails.

1 comment:

Dan said...

You handled the 30K pretty easily. Are you sure you haven't been doing any secret training?