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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

On Pacing 100 Milers

Kettle Moraine 100 - 2015


"Hey man....you want a beer before we head out?"  Not the typical conversation between a runner and his pacer before heading out for mile 62 of a 100 mile footrace.  But this wasn't a typical runner or a typical day.   His wife Cindy Faford is the world's greatest supporter/cheerleader/crewperson. James ran a rather unusual 100 miler in April at the Potawatomi Trail Races (46 hours over a couple of days after signing up for the 50 miler). Prior to that, he hadn't finished a 100 mile race in almost five (5) years.  James was 0-2 at last weekend's Kettle Moraine 100 mile race.  At 51 years old one would think his best years of running were behind him.   

James told me about his prior struggles at kettle as well as his problems running at night, generally, at the St. Pat's 24 Hour Race last year.  When I heard of them my response was simple: I need to pace you and make sure you get that kettle.  (the award you get for finishing the Kettle Moraine 100).


Little did I know this was not going to be a slog (slow jog) fest with a masters runner.  Instead, James took off like he was trying to win the whole race.  I expected to finish between 30 and 32 hours.  Much to my suprise, James rolled into mile 62 (the point where I was going to pace him) at 13:55.  About 3-5 hours sooner than I imagined.  He looked great and he was full of energy.  He was in fantastic shape and I instantly knew he would finish.

"Sure, that might hit the spot."  James took a cold Spotted Cow and started hiking with me down the Nordic Trail.  The sun was shining.  Our plan was to hike a couple of miles, drink the beer, get his stomach settled and then start running.


We had a blast.  chatting up some of the more colorful and interesting ultra folks along the way.


My nemesis Juli (although we can be friendly when not trying to kill each other)



We had a few run-ins with ultra vegan Dave Wiskowski and his amazing pacer Daniel Robinson.


In the end, vegan power overtook us.  We were resigned to a walk for the last five miles.  We went from at one point gunning for sub 24 hours, to 25, to, well, top speed at the time.  We talked of life and love and music and god only knows what else.  We saw and heard virtually millions of animals and frogs along the trail.  We tried certain things to settle James's stomach that worked and some that didn't.  One thing we never talked about - quitting.  The idea of dropping never came to mind and I think that's one good thing that can happen when you have a pacer.

In spite of what you might think, I didn't really focus much on pace.  (That's a lie.  I did break down the numbers on a semi regular basis for him to finish sub 24, 25 and 26 until he confessed that he could go no faster).  Moreover, we were not really concerned about what place James was in.  (That's also a lie.  I was constantly pointing out that he was ahead of people we saw on the trail in hopes of motivating James.  I don't believe it worked.  James is way too nice of a guy).  At the end of the day what we really were was two good friends (Well, that might be a lie, we don't really know each other too well at all) sharing the wonder of the trails at night (Another lie.  "This Sucks" was said early and often) together.

Does any of it matter?  At 26:02 we crossed the finish line.  James got his kettle and I finally fell asleep at the finish line.




You may be someone like me, that is in an Ultrarunning club.  You may have many questions about how to run 100 or 50 miles.  I just want to put out there something that I said earlier in my group about pacing and crewing: "I learned what I learned from finding people that knew a lot and watching them, crewing them, pacing them and expiramenting with them. I didn't learn it in a book or from the Facebook page. there's no easy answer. It's a path of discovery....It's one thing to come in [to a Facebook Group] and say "Anyone have any advice for me....I'm trying my fisrst 50k." It's another thing to spend 20 hours in the woods holding someone's bottle and seeing first hand how they struggle and overcome. And you give back. And you remember that later when a new guy wants to hold your bottle.


That smile was for you James Faford.  Because you really knocked me out!




Monday, May 11, 2015

Quick Update and Review of 2Toms and Saxx

It's been an interesting month, to say the least.  My double Potawatomi 100/Indiana 100 didn't turn out as expected.  I dropped at mile 60 at Potawatomi, but managed to pull out a 29:30 finish at Indiana in some calf deep, shoe sucking mud.  (special thanks to my pacer Paul Wilkerson).

Hanging with the crew at POT100 post-DNF





Photo by Scott Laduick



Going into Ice Age I wasn't totally healed (only 11 days post Indiana 100) and my feet, knees and back were a little sore.  Nonetheless, I had a great day (for me) and finished 11:15, more than 30 minutes faster than last time.  I was really happy with how strong I pushed and how good I felt all day.



Next up I have a large block of training which will end with Cry Me A Rive 50 Mile and then a short rest before Angeles Crest 100.  AC100 is the main race of my year and I've been waiting a long time to get to that start line (I was DNS due to injury last year).  This is a really important race to me.  It'll be the hardest race I have attempted.  Graduate level. Mountains, Altitude, Extreme Heat.  But breathtaking views and many great runner friends.

To get ready, I am going to have to train pretty hard.  I expect to really make it hurt on the trails and stairs...especially in the heat.  I am also going to have to work on losing about 30 more pounds by following the NSNG program I have been on.  So far I've lost ten pounds on it.  You can learn more about it here: http://vinnietortorich.com/

At Ice Age I tried two brand new products for the first time.  (I know....bad idea).  2Toms sport stick:



And Saxx underwear:



There's no delicate way to say this.  I'm a big guy.  Big guys chaffe.  In many, many places.  I also have a track record of blisters on my gnarly feet.  I am happy to report that, in spite of the really humid temps, I didn't chaffe AT ALL at Ice Age and both of these products are AMAZING.  No blisters, no chaffing.  I didn't change clothes once.  I wore a polyester tshirt.  (Imaginary Foundation).  And my mind was blown by these products.  I can't say enough good things.

Finally, things have really been taking off for Ten Junk Miles.  http://www.tenjunkmiles.com/



We've had about ten times as many listeners as I thought and it gets bigger every day.  If you get time give us a listen and rate and review us on itunes.  We don't make any money off of it, but your reviews move it up in the ratings so more people can find it.

Have a great Summer!!!!


Monday, March 30, 2015

I Cry When I Run

These days I cry almost every time I run.  It usually happens near the end.  It's really hard to explain.  I think of my friend Alfredo and I cry.  I just hope people assume it is tears of joy or the endorphins spilling over.  But really, it's that I miss running with my friend and I'm afraid I'll never get to run with him again.



Shortly after being introduced to ultra running I learned of a guy named Afredo Perdo Perro, or Alfredo Pedro, or Alfredo Perro.  No one really knows for certain and no one cares.  He was a CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) runner who was a recovering alcoholic and running for PAWS (a dog charity).  Between my love of running, dogs and the fact that I was a recovering alcoholic I knew Alfredo was someone I should be friends with.  I sent him a friend request and an instant message.  He confirmed that we should be friends and meet up soon.

Several weeks later some friends were running across Illinois (west to east) and my wife and I went looking for them to offer assistance.  That night we found Alfredo and my friend Kathleen Rytman running along a country road.  I jumped in to help and spent the next twelve hours getting to know the person that would become my best friend.



 Since then Alfredo and I have done just about anything hard we could think of.  We went on to run our first 100 mile race together, the Potawatomi Trail 100:



We then ran the Superior Sawtooth 100 together:



Ran a goofy food challenge through the streets of Chicago:



We did the first World's Longest Turkey Trot from Chicago to Milwaukee:



And so on.  I've spent many many hours with Alfredo suffering silently on the roads and trails of America.  We didn't talk much.  We silently suffered together.

One day two winters ago we ran 30 miles along the Chicago lakefront in subzero temps for no reason at all.  As the wind blew us nearly off the trail I turned to look at him and said "You know...when I run with you I feel like there is nothing I cannot achieve."  He said he shared that exact feeling.

Last spring and fall Alfredo started falling.  He was always a little clumsy, but he started falling hard and hitting his head.  He had trouble descending.  His neck bothered him.  No one could explain why.  Running got harder and harder, and eventually he couldn't run anymore.  In December he became hospitalized.

In late December he was diagnosed with ALS.

Our last run together was, ironically, the Leadville International Beer Mile.  Now we spend more time together watching movies and eating food.  We also talk more.



But I have to admit, it's hard.  It makes running hard and at times makes loving running hard.  If you see me crying and running just smile like you assume I'm super pumped to be running or finishing. Or I'm just my normal emotional self.



Alfredo has limited finances and needs a LOT of help.  If you have even $5 to spare, consider making a small donation to his giveitforward fundraiser:

https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/whc7/alfredo-pedro-s-als-fundraiser/updates/116835



And please, don't ever take running for granted.  Never take a finish line for granted.  Your entire life can change in one second.  Be grateful!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Winter Ultras - Part 2 - Frozen Otter

Amanda and I near the start

On January 17, 2015, I set out with a few of my fellow Flatlanders to tackle the Frozen Otter Trek, a 64 mile race in the northern Kettle Moraine State Park in Wisconsin.  The race is historically a tough race, with a 25% completion rate.  The race has a set of required gear that must be carried.  There is very minimal support.  Water, Coffee, Hot Cocoa and Ramen every 8 or so miles.  We were also given one hot sausage.  the required gear added a significant burden.  The forecast called for favorable conditions so I brought the absolute minimum.

The race consists of two out and back treks from a lodge in the park.  One is 46ish miles, while the other is 18ish.  To be an official finisher you need to make it to one of the posts and back to the shelter.  The finishers are then ranked by distance covered.  

To be one of the "Frozen Few" you have to make it through the entire course in less than 24 hours. 



The race takes place on mostly single track moderately hilly trails.  My watch got about 5,000 feet of climb in the first 40 miles.  I would guess the total was not more than 7,500 feet.  

Lucky for us, the temperature was very warm for that time of year.  I don't think it got below 20 and I think for quite a bit of the time it was around 30.  Cold wasn't a factor.  I didn't have to use any of my required gear.  The conditions were ideal.

Striking a pose with Mike Mike


That being said, this was no cakewalk.  25 degrees isn't 70.  Moreover, I've never done a 100K.  It's a strange distance.  In this instance having little aid was really challenging.  I found myself craving hot food and desperately craving coke.  I never realized how important it is on long runs/races!  I bonked a bunch.

I started with my friend Amanda Runion.  Our plan was to run the entire race together.  the other two friends we ran with, Mike Mike and chuck Schultz set off on their own.  We did see each other several times throughout the race.  With 9 miles to go Amanda, Chuck and I set out to finish together.




Amanda got cold because Chuck and I were moving so slow.  I mean molasses slow.  I mean like 45 minute mile slow.  Chuck and I have been in several bonk-bunkers before so we made the best of it....hallucinating the final mile with false identifications of the finish, followed by "that's not real" in unison.

In the end Chuck and I finished in 22:14.  I joined the frozen few and my name will be permanently added to the Frozen Few plaque.  Amanda was about a half hour in front of us and Mike was about a half hour behind us.  We all had a blast.  I would do this event again, but I did miss my sled.  I think I would prefer a sled pull event if given a choice.  If I do it again I'll bring a few cokes for sure!

Gear: I nailed the gear on this one.  I wore my Hoka Stinson Trails and did not change shoes at all.  Injinji mid calf hiking socks, shorts (yep, no pants at all), Act'eryx Stryka Hooded Base Layer and Arc'Teryx Gamma Men's Hoodie  Arc'teryx Phase II Liner Gloves, Flatlander Buff.  Black Diamond Headlamp.

Finishers Dog Tags and Buff

Finishing






Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Winter Ultras - Trying Something New

Winter Ultras

Part I - Tuscobia 150

     I decided to kick off 2015 with something new and interesting - Winter Ultras.  I signed up for the Tuscobia 150 Mile race and the Frozen Otter 64 mile trek.  These are two very different races that both had a common element of racing through colder temps in a relatively self-supported manner.  the result was many lessons learned, some success and some failure.

     Tuscobia 150 is part of the Tuscobia Winter Ultras which start in Park Falls, WI.  They are directed by Chris and Helen Scotch.  The races involves foot, ski and bike divisions along the Tuscobia Snowmobile Trail which runs from Park Falls to Rice Lake, WI.  There are three distances, 150 miles, 75 miles and 35 miles.  I chose the 150 because I thought "75 wasn't far enough."

     Tuscobia requires that you carry mandatory gear, including, but not limited to a sleeping bag, bivy sack, stove and fuel, pot, fire starters and a host of other safety items.  Most people carry these items on their sled.  As such, I needed to get a sled for the race.  I chose the Arrowhead Racing Toboggan by Black River Sleds:



     I'll list the specific items I bought on the required gear list before just for reference.  I went cheap on the sleeping bag, spending less than $100.00 for an item that could have cost up to $1,0000.00.  I also decided against taking the plunge and buying a similarly priced jacket for 'when things go wrong.'  Next time I'll probably take the plunge and add these two items to my gear.

     Sadly, we did not get any snow for me to practice with my sled.  As such, I went into the race having never pulled a sled.  I would have really liked to have had more practice.

     The pre-race meeting took place outside, on bales of hay in the cold.  The RD's checked my sled to make sure I had all of the required gear, gave us a short speech and sent us off to bed.  The race started at 6:00 a.m. in Park Falls.  It was about 10 degrees and snowing pretty heavily.  The scene was beautiful.  Imagine a wide path with pine trees thickly coated in snow.  I immediately felt extremely sharp pains in my calfs from running with a sled for the first time.  I thought I was in serious trouble.  I pushed on for an hour and then made my first stop for food and water.  I accidentally spilled water in my sled, which required me to take several items out and shake off.  I was frustrated and a little worried about the fact that this much was going wrong so early.



     Well, the great thing about a 150 mile race with only two (2) aid stations (basically to be used every 50k or so on the out and back course) is that you have a lot of time to work things out and settle in.  That's exactly what happened.  My calf stopped hurting.  My gear got organized.  And I got in the zone.  this is not to say that I didn't have more aches, pains and complications.  My back began to hurt quite a bit from pulling a 50+ pound sled for the first time.  I also had some really sharp foot and knee pains that mysteriously came and went.  I was able to ignore all of this and continue moving forward.  The lesson I learned was that these things were all temporary, and that if I continued on they would fade away.  With the exception of the back pain, they all did.  My goal was to get to each 50K checkpoint in under 12 hours.  I reached the first checkpoint in around 9.5 hours, which made me happy.  I put some hot foot in my body and got back on the trail.

     The second leg is where shit got real.  Very real.  within the first ten miles after the checkpoint I ran into another runner, Mitchell Rossman, who lured me to the town of Raddison with the promise of red hot cheeseburgers (you aren't allowed crew or pacers but if you happen upon an open local establishment you are free to enter and do whatever you want).  I was easily convinced.  The only problem was, it was closed.  Not so with the bar next door, which was having $1 cheeseburger night.  Inside I found my closest friend in the race, Aaron Ehlers eating a pizza and calling it a day (he was beat up from the North Face 50 a week earlier).  I ate a few cheeseburgers and talked Aaron back into the race.  He is an experienced winter camper, a great runner and a fun guy.  Something told me I would need him.  And I did.



     The temperature dropped at night into the negative double digits.  so i found myself on the trail, wearing everything I could and unable to get warm.  It was -10.  I had 22 miles to go to the next checkpoint.  at 3 miles an hour that another 7ish hours in negative temps (which got into the -16's at a few points).  I got scared.  Really scared.  Aaron was talking about just saying screw it and jumping in the sleeping bag.  I was facing the prospect of either joining him (which scared the shit out of me) or running on alone in those conditions.  Neither sounded good.  So I did something I'm not very proud of....I begged him to keep running with me.

     Thankfully it worked.  We froze our asses off and made it to the next checkpoint (Birchwood) at 3:30 a,.m.  I was still 2.5 hours ahead of schedule, so I decided to take a two and a half hour nap before heading back out.  I woke up at 6:00 a.m. and it was still -15.  The idea of moving slowly at that temp after sleeping (i.e. slowly) was not in the slightest bit attractive.  My back hurt.  My feet hurt.  I wimped out.  After snoozing a few more times and waking up to the same kind of temperatures I pulled the plug.  I was glad for the experience of making it to 100K+ in those conditions.  I learned a lot.  I decided that I needed a little more experience before I could tackle what I was facing that morning.  Another failure.  Another lesson learned.



     Sue Lucas ended up winning in around 48 hours.  So impressive.  of the 18 starters 6 finished.  Next year I plan to be among them.

Gear:

Arrowhead Racing Tobbagan - Black River Sleds
Sierra Designs P.A.W. Bivy
Thermarest Z Lite Sleeping Pad
Slumberjack Lattitude -20 Sleeping Bag
Esbit CS585HA 3-Piece Lightweight Camping Cook Set for Use with Solid Fuel Tablets
GSI Outdoors Halulite 1.1-Liter Boiler
Arc'Teryx Atom LT Hoody
Arc'Teryx Gamma Hybrid Men's Hoody SL
Arc'Teryx Phase Liner Gloves
Arc'Teryx Venta LT Gloves
Arc'Teryx Stryka Men's Hoody
Arc'Teryx RHO AR Balaclava
Arc'Teryx Thorium AR Jacket





Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Belly Flops


"A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. 
The real mistake is to stop trying."
B.F. Skinner

Zoe Summits Hope Pass

     I'm dubbing 2014 the "Year of the Belly Flop" for me.  Not only was 2014 filled with injuries, I DNF'ed every distance except the 50K.  (Potawatomi 150, Bear/Sawtooth 100, San Juan Solstice 50 mile and Las Vegas Marathon (though this is a long story).  I did more crying and quitting than usual. Poor Dovi had his mileage cut by almost 1/2 (from 1250 in 2013 to around 800 in 2014).  I also parted ways with several good friends and my former running group New Leaf.  

How bad did I want to quit?

     I didn't re-qualify for Hardrock.  I didn't finish a 100 mile race.  My pants grew tighter.  My hip hurt.  I became more bald and more grey.  2014 didn't turn out the way I wanted it to.

     That being said, it wasn't a total loss.  My friends often prevailed where I didn't:




     We also set up a small running group called Flatlanders.  It's growth hasn't shocked me.  It was built on a few very simple principles.  No money, no bitching, keep running and help one another.  I'm proud to be part of that group.

Trail Work

Lakefront 50/50 Aid Station


     OK, I know, I did some stuff too.  I ran the Comrades, Sean O Brien 50, 100 at Potawatomi, a PR marathon, the Gnome 50K, to name a few.  I climbed some mountains

Mt. Elbert


I made some new friends.  I volunteered.  I paced.  I crewed.  We laughed and cried.  We ran from Milwaukee to Chicago.  We put on some great fatasses (re-taste, krispy kreme, salichia) and we helped a few people reach their goals.  

Vicki - first 50 mile!

     Also, Dovi completed his first Ultra at McNotAgain 30.  He even beat me (by a nose).



     I'm convinced that you learn a hell of a lot more from failure than success.  I learned how to be OK with being injured.  I made some good decisions.  I learned how to cheer for the success of others while experiencing failure.  In short, I learned to make the best of it.

     2015 will be very different.  


     My main running and training partner Alfredo has been diagnosed with ALS.  This year I will think about him often.  My wife has laminated pictures of him to take with me on all of my races so we can continue to run together.  I will remember that he is suffering more than I.  and that my suffering has been self-inflicted by choice, for sport.  I won't take another run for granted.  When times are tough I will draw on him for strength.  

     Don't get me wrong.  I know for CERTAIN that there will be more belly flops.  I don't think Alfredo would have it any other way.  With that being said, I am off to tackle the next thing....Tuscobia 150.  This will be a long run n the snow carrying my gear on a sled (named Alfredo) which I drag.  I have no idea what I'm doing.  Things are about to get interesting.

    Please keep Alfredo and his family in your thoughts and prayers and have a great holiday!!!