Thursday, November 13, 2008

5 Q&As with team member Henry Asker (8)

I had no idea that there was a kids race at my first Ironman race. My son Henry 3 years old at the time and my father-in-law, Karl, had joined me on a road trip down to Florida. The kids race was held the day before my race and I asked Henry if he wanted to run with the other kids and he said excitingly yes! The race was a 1K run out and back course. Henry was probably one of the youngest but was determined to run in his white colored sandals and his favorite Hotwheels car in his hand. When the gun went off close to 70-80 kids took off. Henry was quickly passed by the flock of older kids but he settled in calmly in his own rhythm. This 1K had all the elements of what goes on in ones mind in an endurance race. Early on he passed a group of spectators who cheered him on and immediately his run looked like a rooster showing off his strength, he felt strong and confident, then came the cute blond which he tried to impress upon by striking up a conversation, then anguish of pain came where he said I am tired pappa can you hold me and finally when he saw the finishing line he looked like he had ingested turbo fuel. He then also started to pass some of the older kids that had run out of steam.

Henry at the age of 3

I was a proud pappa and Henry received a medal, Gatorade bottle and a t-shirt. He was elated. Henry went on to do two more Ironman kids races and had great fun doing them. Just play no training. Then this summer when Henry had turned 8, I asked him if he wanted to do a 5K with me and he said yes why not. I talked to Pete Stringer, my ultra mentor, about kids and running and whether I should run next to him or let him run his own race. We decided that he should run his own race. I would run with my 2 year old Fredrik in a stroller right behind him. In terms of training I took Henry to the track once and had him run 3 x 800s at even pace followed by 800 walks in between. It was amazing that he ran them evenly within a second or two without a watch. I still have problems with that. Henry complained that it was harder to walk than to run. I was very protective (probably overly so) and didn't want him to get injured. We never went back to the track after that session. Henry had enough of other activities and I didn't want to push him into something he didn't enjoy so I laid low. Henry played tennis and biked quite a bit as it was. Henry has always been active so I wasn't worried that he wasn't fit.

We had entered the Children's Memorial Run in Milford Connecticut on Sunday October 26th a few days before my 200 mile run. I felt fine and I was going to enjoy every minute of my sons run. On the morning of the run when we were getting ready to leave, Henry looks at me and says with confident eyes, "pappa you know I play a lot of tag in school and I run a lot then". I smiled and saw that he wanted assure me that he was prepared for the 5K. Ok I said to him let's get in the car and go." My wife had also said to Henry that morning that "no matter what pappa says to you you can quit whenever you want to remember that". Henry nodded and I wasn't disagreeing. Henry has always been a pleaser and I was aware of that. We arrived in Milford, it was cold probably in the high 30s at first but the sun was out in its full glory it was going to be a gorgeous day. The course was supposed to be fast. I was excited for Henry and we walked over to the registration table were Henry got his first race number bib #929. Henry was dressed in basket ball shorts a hooded sweatshirt and a beanie hat. I guess that's the new running generation I thought to myself. He had a pair of New Balance running shoes that he simply loved. He was ready to go and so were Fredrik and I. And we were off. We started out in the far back since I had a stroller and I didn't want Henry to feel discouraged by a ton of people running past him. I'd rather see him progress through the field if he felt good. Henry settled in his own pace we had no pace in mind. I wanted him to run this as free as possible. I had not tried to impose proper posture nor stride, it is way too soon for that. I wanted him to simply enjoy it. The sun and the weather made the run incredible. Fredrik was also enjoying watching his brother now working his way through the field. I was so proud and I could tell that Henry was enjoying it too. There was one aid station and Henry ran through it as a pro grabbing a cup squeezing it and off he went. As we approached the last quarter mile I could not contain myself, I wanted to tell him something that would get him going for a strong finish and I pulled up one of his words that is often exchanged among his friends at school when something is real cool. I said: "Henry that is totally sick what you're doing man!" and as he did when he was three years old seeing the finish line he kicked in the afterburners and finished in 29 minutes and 54 seconds! A 9:39 minute mile. 126th place overall of 230 runners and he won his age group 12 and under.

Henry at the age of 8 and Fredrik 2.

I was so proud. It really didn't matter that he won just that he finished mattered probably more to me than it did to him. All fathers knows what this feeling is like it almost overwhelms you. Whether Henry will run again is up to him. I will support him if he wants to. Pushing is the worst thing you can do. It has to come from within. A theme I will elaborate more on from my 200 mile run. As with my other Time For Lyme supporters I had the honor to ask Henry a few pointed questions about this first 5K:

C: Thank you for becoming another Time For Lyme supporter. You just ran your first 5K at the age of 8, can you tell us what that felt like?
H: It felt great but my legs started to hurt in the end.

C: How much preparation have you done leading up to this race?
H: I play tennis once a week and I usually bike 1-2 times a week and I play a lot of tag at school.

C:What is your favorite subject in school?
H: Reading

C: What is your favorite sport?
H: Golf

C: Why do you think raising awareness for Lyme disease is so important?
H: I think because more people get sick and we don't want that.

C: Thank you son!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A few photos until my race report is done...

Greetings from New England 200 Mile Endurance Run this looks like it could be a nice challenge....Wednesday night in Pittsfield, Vermont, the day before the race. Aproximately 60% would be run in darkness and the start would be at 5:00pm. It was dark 30 minutes after the start. I got lost on the first loop and then again during the first day loop not really recognizing the terrain from the night runs.

Race breifing. I didn't know if we were the four brave ones or the four fools who had entered this race. I was dressed like the Michelin man. I was not going to freeze ontop of that mountain. I'd rather peel of clothes than to start shivering.

Going for lap number 8 on the first 100. My first century.

Standing top of Joe's Hill on a toasty warm Saturday morning...(the warmest day). Most of the snow had melted but it would soon again get in the teens when darkness swiftly visited. Boy do I love Ensure too bad I ran out of them...

Kevin pulled up in his car next to me playing a tune "You had a bad day...." I was cold and tired and lightly amused. This is somwhere between 190-200. Can't this be over now....

My absolute favorite picture! Two rookies and one mission Lyme Awareness or Don Quixote (me) and his squire Sancho Panza (Kevin - The Ultimate Crew Chief). We laughed at ourselves but we got the job done. Here at mile 195 getting ready to run the last 5 miles to the finish. It wasn't pretty....but I got there thanks to Joe and Kevin. Lasting memories

There is Hope. Anyone can do it if you've got the fire in the belly!

Joe Desena, an exercise freak himself, showed incredible unselfishness and paced me for 30 miles to get my mission done! You're the man Joe! I will never forget that.

Pretty feet don't you think....this is just after an ice bath.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

200 miles 43,520 feet of elevation gain - 97 hours and 15 minutes

I finished yesterday. Elated, euphoric and tired.

A small step for me and hopefully a giant leap for Lyme awareness.

Race report will follow it might take a few days.

Thank you all for your support.

Best Carl

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

5 Q&As with team member Bart Yasso

Earlier this year I came home one evening from work and saw that my copy of Runner's World Magazine had arrived. It was an edition that gave me the chills. It was an article about Bart Yasso aka the Chief Running Operating Officer of Runners World Magazine, others call him the Mayor of Running. The article talked about among many of his running adventures, his Badwater run 145 miles (to the top of Mt Whitney) but also his tough bout with Lyme disease. I thought to myself now here is a guy who can relate to me.

Lyme disease for a runner is what sand in an engine would do.

Yasso joined Runner's World in 1987 to develop the groundbreaking Runner's World Race Sponsorship Program, creating a vehicle for Runner's World to work with over 7,000 races representing 4 million runners per year. In 2007, Bart was inducted into the Running USA Hall of Champions.
Yasso also invented the Yasso 800s, a marathon-training schedule used by thousands around the world. He is one of the few people to have completed races on all seven continents from the Antarctica marathon to the Mt. Kilimanjaro marathon. In 1987, Yasso won the U.S. National Biathlon Long Course Championship and won the Smoky Mountain Marathon in 1998. He has also completed the Ironman five times and the Badwater 146 through Death Valley. He has also cycled, unsupported and by himself, across the country twice.

When I called Bart up on the phone I was bit nervous. Bart inducted to the Running Hall of Champions did not make me feel any calmer. He didn't know me I was just a regular guy who is trying to raise Lyme awareness. When Bart picked up the phone and said "Bart" I felt already at ease. His voice was friendly. I told him what I was about to do and he was very supportive of my quest. He said "Let me know how I can help you and I will".

In his recently released autobiography "My life on the run" he recalls a visit to the doctors in 2006: (excerpt)
" Lyme disease returned with a vengeance, inflating my knees like basket balls. I went to see my doctor again, and he did an MRI. The scan showed degenerative joint damage in the right knee and ample evidence of arthritis. "Your running days are over,"my doc told me. "I can't run marathons anymore?" "No you can't run". I left the office in a fog.....In the end I didn't quit. I decided that however many miles more there were left in my body, I would use them judiciously, waiting for a glorious morning when it would be neither too hot or too cold, and then only running on a scenic trail. I still consider myself a lifetime runner, but only 2-3 miles at a time. I made peace with it after recognizing that running isn't how far you go but how far you have come."

Bart has been a great supporter and I had the opportunity to ask Bart a few questions of interest.

C: Bart, first I would like to thank you for becoming another Team Time For Lyme supporter. I know that you have just come out with your book "My life on the run" can you tell us a little about the book?
B: My book tells the story of runner just going out for a one mile run 31 years ago and ends about running on all seven continents and ends up with the coolest job in the world the CRO at Runner's World.

C: Being a busy man, how much do you run per week these days?
B: I do my best to run once per week 3 to 4 miles on a soft surface. It doesn't always work I haven't run a step the past 3 weeks.

C: What is your proudest running moment?
B: Getting inducted in to the Running USA hall of champions. I got inducted for all work I did for the sport not so much for my running accomplishments.

C: I know that your wife is an avid ultra marathoner. Do you have any plans to do another ultra?
B: My wife still runs lots of ultras. I haven't run an ultra in 6 years. I hope someday I can return and do one and only one ultra, Comrades.

C: Why do you think raising awareness for Lyme disease is so important?
B: I still think we don't know enough about the disease I would like to help people not contract the disease so nobody has to suffer the pain associated with Lyme.

C: Thank you Bart for supporting Time For Lyme
B: Thanks for reaching out to me I wish you the best on the NE 200!

For donations to support Lyme research (via please visit:

Thank you for all of your support and feel free to forward this blog to anyone you know.

Best Carl

Bart Yasso supporter of Team Time For Lyme.

Friday, October 24, 2008

5 Q&As with team member Pete Stringer

I think of myself as a decent student when it comes to preparation for a race. Whether the outcome is successful or not I would hate to have had simple things go wrong (but it still does at times helas) that you can control. When I signed up with an online ultra forum earlier this year I met so many fantastic people with one common interest and love - running. As the months went by, I had the opportunity to become closely acquainted with a few members of the forum and one person really stood out - Pete Stringer. Pete, 67, an ultra veteran and a very popular figure in his own neck of the woods, Cape Cod. He is humble, low key, polite and exudes a passion for running that few have and some ever will. I have always put high stock in experience, we all are humans and the next generations are not "Superman" meaning they will not deviate much in terms of what they will endure compared to what their predessessors went through. It is true though that we do evolve a bit and we adopt new strategies that can help us. But Pete possesses invaluable experiences and I see him as important mentor for my ultra running endeavors which by the way also has a lot in common with life in general, such as pacing for example. When I finished my Pittsfield Peaks 50 miler race up in Vermont in June earlier this year, I met many truly nice ultra runners. I spoke to one of them Steve Pero, who also knew Pete. Steve said to me: "wait until you meet Pete, he's not your average 67 year old". Pete is built with arms and legs that would make most people envious. Steve also mentioned how he battled with Pete in the Vermont 100 in the late 90s where they were neck and neck pushing each others limits. When I mentioned earlier this year to Pete that I was doing a 200 mile ultra in Vermont to raise awareness for Lyme Disease Pete did not hesitate and said "I'm in". Pete who has several dear friends battling this fickle disease knows that we need to deal with this now and not later. In August I was fortunate to meet with Pete and his wonderful wife Jane in person. Pete got to meet my family and we felt like we were old friends already. Pete has a lot of friends due to his great humility. Among Pete's many ultras Leadville 100 miler is one of his absolute favorite races. A race with an average altitude of 9,000 feet in the Rockies. He has run Vermont 100 in 19 hours and change in his late 50s which is incredible. He conducts a running clinic in his own town where he grew up. Running is a way of life for him no question about it. I managed to ask Pete a few questions that might interest you all.

C: Pete, what would you tell people is the biggest misconception about ultra marathoners?
P: That we are naturally, specially endowed or gifted.

C: What is your favorite distance and surface? 50K, 50 miles, 100K or 100 miles or other?
P: Favorite distance is 50 miles and favorite surface is hard packed dirt.

C: What is your proudest ultra moment?
P: Proudest ultra moment is running 19 hours at Vermont 100 in 1998 at the age of 57 or breaking the age group (60-69) 50 mile record at the Nifty 50 in 7 hours and 50 minutes.

C: What's your strategy to tackle this 200 mile ultra marathon in Pittsfield Vermont on October 30th?
P: To go one loop with patience and then figure it out from that.

C: Why do you think raising awareness for Lyme disease is so important?
P: I have seen Lyme disease disable a good friend and feel that better awareness would have vastly increased her chances and others.

C: Thank you Pete and I will see you up in Pittsfield!

For donations to support Lyme research (via please visit:

Thank you for all of your support and feel free to forward this blog to anyone you know.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

5 Q&As with team member Ed Viesturs

Team Time For Lyme has been fortunate to have gotten support from the first American to have climbed all 8,000 meter peaks without supplemental oxygen. A feat literally breath taking. Ed Viesturs is America's leading high altitude mountaineer, having climbed many of the world's most challenging summits, including ascending Mount Everest six times. He completed a 16-year quest to climb all 14 of the world's highest mountains (above 8,000 meters) without the use of supplemental oxygen. In doing so, he became the first American and the 5th person in the world to accomplish this. He reached the summit of his 14th peak, Annapurna, on May 12, 2005.

Ed felt compelled to support the quest better research for Lyme Disease since in the past 30 years little has been accomplished. I was able to take some time out of Ed's tough schedule and ask him a few questions of interest:

C: Ed, first I would like to thank you for becoming a Team Time For Lyme supporter. Tell me what adventure is in store for you at the moment?
E: I have plans to climb Aconcagua in January 2009. Then I am planning to go to Nepal in the spring to climb something fun and new-perhaps an unclimbed peak with a couple of friends.

C: Having read your great book "No short cuts to the top" are you planning to write a new book and if so what will be about?
E: I have a couple of books planned - an undated version of my photo book Himalayan Quest and another book based on one of my 8000 meter climbs with some historical perspective.

C: Having climbed K2 yourself what are your thoughts about the recent K2 incident?
E: It's a tough and unforgiving mountain. One always needs to be prepared for things to go wrong and it seems like some of the climbers were simply unprepared or didn't have the skills or equipment to rescue themselves. You can't rely on others to initiate a rescue at these extreme altitudes. Many of the climbers also climbed far too late into the day and watched the sun set while they were on the summit-when that happens your margin of safety is almost non-existent.

C: I have heard that you have run some marathons and have a good set of lungs what is your marathon PR?
E: I have only run one marathon-the New York City Marathon in 2006. I ran a 3:15 and was quite pleased.

C: Why do you think raising awareness for Lyme disease is so important?
E: This will help educated people about the disease and also alleviate some of the fears about being outside and enjoying the great open spaces we all can enjoy.

C: Thank you Ed for taking some time out of your busy schedule and for supporting Team Time For Lyme. All the best to your future endeavors!

For donations to support Lyme research (via please visit:

Thank you for all of your support and feel free to forward this blog to anyone you know.

Ed Viesturs supporting Team Time For Lyme!

To know more about Ed Viesturs please visit his website

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Elements to contend with

Watching the weather forecast has now become more than a casual "is it going to rain today?" type of observation. Understanding the temperature changes will be very crucial to wear appropriate clothing to ensure a stable core temperature throughout. Too much will not only make you sweat and overheat but it will also slow you down with weight (believe me 200 miles with 1/2 lbs of extra clothing will make a difference). I will already wear 3 lbs of extra weight with hydration and food to the next aid station. This is not a mere road marathon where you wear a pair of shorts, tank top and sneakers.
Well today's forecast calls for light snow up in Pittsfield with a temperature with windchill at 27F. This is daytime temperature. This temperature reflects the town of Pittsfield not what the mountains will provide.
As much as I don't trust the 10 day forecast I was amused to see that on Tuesday Oct 28th of next week had a note attached stating "Grab your skis"!! Well let's hope this race does not have too much snow on the mountain or it could become the east coast version of the mid western Arrowhead Ultra.
In addition to the temperatures there will also be other obstacles to contend with such as:
  • Close to 60% of the entire race will be run in darkness due to the season. This is the biggest challenge in my opinion. We all know how we run at night.
  • The cumulative elevation ascent and descent will make the muscles work for sure
  • Heavy slippery fresh foliage on the ground covering rocks, branches and "critters"
  • Rock hard uneven ground or muddy slippery hills
  • Keeping your fluids from freezing in your bottles
  • Bears - looking for a last meal prior to hibernation (not a big concern but a possibility)
  • Hunters - looking for a meal. We will run on private property to reduce this risk but you never know. I will wear bright colors.


Monday, October 20, 2008

NE England 200 mile endurance run - Final course alterations - Whoa!!!

As if 200 miles wasn't enough of a challenge the course has been altered (two weeks out) and now comprises of 43,520 feet of ascent instead of 30,000 feet as previously stated. The reason for change was due to land owner issues and for safety reasons due to the hunting season. As a counter balance to this I am pleased to announce that my goal of 154 lbs as race weight has now been surpassed and that I have been weighting in for the past days at 151.6 lbs which is an important thing when it comes to running/walking and climbing. Below are some facts regarding the race issued by the RDs (race directors):

"No man can live this life (in the desert) and emerge unchanged. He will carry, however faint, the imprint of the desert, and will have within him the yearning to return." - Sir Wilfred P. Thesinger

Some stats on the funeral run:

For the first 50 and 100 miles it is the Aimee Trail Loop :

The Aimee trail loop is 12.5 miles

The Aimee trail loop profile is 3440 elevation per 12.5 mile lap

The total elevation on this 100 miles is 27520

For the second 100 miles

The South hill loop is 10 miles

South hill loop is about 1600’ of elevation per lap.

So that adds up to 16,000’ of climb over 100 miles.

So the total elevation over 200 miles is 43,520…wow unless you train at Everest I guess.

Their will be 2 aid stations on the first 100 miles (12.5 mile loop)

Their will be 2 aid stations on the second 100 miles (10 mile loop)

Aid stations are roughly ½ way through the loops.

People can camp in the Aimee farm barn. They can change, rest, sleep, daydream or do whatever they need to do to get through their challenge.

We will have food at each of the aid stations as well as water. I personally hate HEED but if you guys like it let us know.

This will be a small event but extremely well run. It will be brutal but we will do everything in our power to get you through 50-100 or 200 miles whichever it is you are trying to accomplish. The trail is incredible, the weather has been perfect, it will be well marked fires will be going at night at both aid stations. Please remember to bring gear that you may want to leave at the primary aid station. Also not sure if everyone knows about our participant that is attempting to be the ONLY finisher of all of the PEAK races this year, and entitling him to receive coveted $10,000.00 purse.

Good Luck to all and please help convince some friends to come run/walk/or hike. If it doesn’t kill you it may make you stronger.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Last heavy training week done 111 miles -Taper time

Last Saturday night just before 10:00pm I left my house to do my last looong run before New England 200 on October 30th. I was planning to do a fairly hilly run of 30 miles. When I started to run my legs felt exceptionally strong. I thought it must have been the massage I had gotten on Thursday. As I made my way up the hills my legs kept on feeling "topped off" with glycogen and never felt tired. As I approached the 30 mile mark I said to myself this is too good to be true so I kept on going. Halfway into it I reminded myself not to have too much of a good thing especially when the results shows up a day or two later. I stopped at 41 miles and got home just before 7am or almost 9 hours. October 30th can't come soon enough.



Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Runners knee - Why running has gotten a bad rap

God knows that I never had the natural running anatomy. My toes and
knees pointed extremely inwards at birth and my mother was worried that I would have issues later in life. She sent me to PTs to try to correct the problem. I still think of how my feet should be pointing straight forward. I can still rotate my toes inwards and point them behind my center line (more than 90 degrees). I was still very athletic in my youth but never ventured into running. To put it bluntly I loathed running.

After a comment made by a PT earlier this year commenting that I have internal rotation of the femur I started reading up on my condition. Reading in Tim Noakes book "The Lure of Running" regarding common anatomical afflictions that may potentially predispose athletes to running injuries, it read:

"in its worst form, the malicious or miserable misalignment syndrome, comprising twisting (internal rotation) of the femur, squinting (kissing) patellae...."

That's me folks in a nut shell. My feet love pointing inwards and I deal with it every day. My daughter has gotten my syndrome. I keep telling her to point her feet straight forward but she forgets just like I did when I was a kid.

When I began running I started out as a heel striker. This lead to at times to the infamous runners knee, meaning the patellae moving and rubbing against cartilage leading to inflammation
of the knee. When I changed to forefoot striking (3 years ago) it all went away. Why you may ask? We'll I did a little investigation and experimentation myself first and then spoke to a orthopedic specialist after wards and he liked my demonstration and explanation. Since I have excessive kissing knees, meaning my patellas are pointing inwards when my feet are facing straight forward it is easy to show what happens with the patellae when you heel strike versus forefoot strike and it is fascinating what happens. Note that you don't have to have excessive patellae misalignment to cause runners knee.

When I put my heel down my patella is pointing inwards plus that the patellae is loose or floating (this is not good). Now when I put my forefoot down (balls of your feet not toes) my patellas are pointing straight forward like a natural runners knee and plus the patellae is fixed meaning it is not floating (which is good). If you combine the running motion with a heel strike moving over to a forefoot strike you now clearly understand the problem with runner's knee meaning the patellae is moving from one position to the other leading to rubbing. When I showed this to the orthopedic doctor he said that this is a very good explanation to tell people what happens when you have runners knee problem.

Heel position (right leg) - inward pointing patellae & floating patellae

Forefoot position (right leg) - neutral patellae position & secured patellae. Note how the patellae has moved into the proper position.

Now I will caution the person who runs out the door to change to forefoot striking that it takes patience and slow adaptation. The POSE technique is a good way to start. Do this experiment yourself and note how your patellae is locked and fixed and facing forward when standing on your forefoot (balls of your feet not toes) versus putting your heel down (feel how the patellae is floating). I have never had any knee problems when moving over to forefoot striking. Now even if you have a neutral stance and heel strike it still leaves the patellae in a floating position leaving it open to movement. And if you land on uneven ground the patellae is sure to move around which subsequently leaves the knee vulnerable. Heel striking is in my opinion why running has gotten a bad rap.

Best Carl

Monday, August 25, 2008

A day in the sun

Thank you all!
First of all I would like to thank my family and every single one of you who showed up on a hot late August day when most people are away on vacation! Thank you for all the emails as well. I heard all too familiar Lyme disease stories from people who joined me for a few laps. People from neighboring towns had come out to support me. It was a very gratifying feeling. It only reinforced my mission with Time For Lyme that we are doing the right thing in supporting research. We raised $542! Many small creeks eventually turns into a river as they say.

Why ultras?
One of the biggest allures of ultra challenges for me is the uncertainty of completion. Ultras tees up an attractive challenge that you prepare for the best possible way both physically and mentally. Drawing experience from every little mistake is vital for improvement. You also get to learn a lot about yourself and how your body works. Sometimes you succeed sometimes you don't. Last Saturday was a learning experience from many different perspectives.

24 hour run purpose
The run was to serve two purposes, first to spread Lyme awareness, connecting with people. And many fantastic people showed up on a hot summer day! Trail running would have made this much more difficult. Second the training would serve as an aerobic and mental preparation for what's to come later this fall. It would not of course include elevation change training.

Preparation - "finish strong" approach
I am not a top athlete, I consider myself a "middle of the pack" type of guy. I like to challenge myself and I do not get too wrapped up in competing with others. The reason why I like ultra challenges is because of the journey, the preparation to the destination. I also like to read up on training as much as possible and also experiment with my own theories. My family tree have a few inventors and entrepreneurs and I guess I have gotten a bit of that bug as well. For my 200 mile attempt in October I'll be running in more darkness than daylight. I knew that I would have to gradually and also in a controlled manner stress my system to a completely new level in order to handle extreme fatigue both mentally and physically. Simply put I had to train in those types of situations. The old running adage "finish strong" was key for my approach. Since a lot of ultras involve a considerable amount of walking, that is unless you are the elite, with being up all day working and finish the evening with a run, I thought that this approach would work well as a "finish strong" concept. Important was to focus on recovery thereafter. I tried to find running articles and empirical training studies about consistent night training but there were none. Another beneficial thing with running at night would be that 3 of the family's light sleepers would not be woken up since they would be in their REM sleep at that time. If I would go for an early morning run (which I have tried) I would wake the whole house up at 3:30-4:00am. So it was a good approach from both a training as well as a family perspective. I am curious to see how it all pans out. It might fail or it might work.

Going into this I had done the mileage to tackle the challenge. My legs were primed and my mind felt strong. I channeled all my lonely night runs when most people are sleeping in their warm and cosy beds and the occasional driver passing by slowing down to shout either "can I help you?- ahh great job keep it up" or "are you freaking nuts it's 3:30am!!!". I knew I could handle 24 hours since I had consistently trained for this since January. My long training runs, ranging from 4 to +7 hours, always started on a Saturday night having been up for 15-16 hours doing all kinds of things such as family outings, lawn care and other house chores etc. The longest run would end up just after 6:00am on Sunday mornings. This meant that I had been up for 20-23+ hours straight which was followed by a three hour Sunday morning nap. I would thereafter spend the entire day on Sunday with the family and surprisingly not feeling all too tired until it would really hit me hard at 08:00-08:30pm. I would then tuck myself in at the same time as the kids. I would then sleep 10-11 hours. During the weekdays I would start my run at 10:30pm and go for anywhere between 1-3 hours followed by 6-7 hours of sleep. With this whole training routine more or less every Saturday and weekdays since January gave me confidence that I could handle a 24 hour run. But as they say "Talk is cheap!" and it was time to show up. The only thing that was an unknown was that I had only 8 daylight runs since January and that I would run in quite a bit of sunlight!

The Saturday before I ran a 11 mile race at Silvermine to get a little intensity up. But I tried to hold myself back, it was after all taper time. I felt good about my race. I was ready for the challenge on Saturday and could not wait for it to come.

Many people had asked me how I was going to keep track of the laps since I had no one to keep track of my lap counting. I did not expect anyone to spend 24 hours out there with me seeing me going around in circles. So my plan was to have rubber bands in groups of 50 attached to a light carabiner in one hand and a lap counter in the other. At the end of each lap I would discard a rubber band into a wooden box and click my lap counter in the other hand. At the end of the day I would count the number of rubber bands in the box and compare it to the counter and go with the lower number as a conservative approach. The system worked pretty well. I was off by one lap and chose the lesser amount for conservative measures. The rubber bands kept me busy during the lap as well. My routine was as I approached the last turn of each lap I isolated one rubber band from the rest and as I approach the white wooden box at each lap I would drop one in and click the lap counter with the other. Believe me you need to keep yourself busy with something when going round and round on a track.

The haul
I woke up at 3:30am and turned on the coffee maker that was already prepared the night before. Accompanying my coffee were two pieces of toast with peanut butter and jelly. As I left the house I looked above at the beautifully starlit skies. It was going to be a perfect day I thought. As I drove over to the track fully packed the night before with quite a bit of luggage I was thinking about how much stuff I bring along for big runs. Shouldn't a pair of shorts a t-shirt and sneakers do it, just like a Kenyan? No this type of running you need to bring things that you might not expect wearing such as a long sleeve t-shirt, even a jacket that I wear during winter time as an insurance if chills might set in. All the first aid stuff, gels, food, donation cups, chalk board etc. I had borrowed my kids chalk board from home and written "Support Lyme Research" 24 hour run - Team Time For Lyme. Please Donate Thank You! :-) I was rigging this up all by myself. My good and loyal crew chief Kevin was on vacation but would check in with me intermittently via cell phone. So would my good ultra friend Pete Stringer. In hindsight the absence of having a knowledgeable crew member beside you was a mistake.

When arriving at the track it was still pitch black. There would only be a small part of the track lit up during the darkness and that was close to the entrance and where the parking was located. As I entered the track I saw to my surprise that the soccer field had been chalked and field hockey goals were put in place. OK is this good or bad, I first thought. They were not there on Thursday, I thought. Then I thought, great, the more people the better.

As I started to place my cooler and other things inside lane one at the lap count area the sprinklers went off unannounced. I immediately moved my gear over to the outside lane to await ceasing of water. This would have been great to have during the day because lane one was being watered down as well. I put all my food in one area, the wooden box to hold rubber bands for lap counting on a portable stool and a set of towels at the first turn of track.

Time to run
I finally got everything in order and at 5:05am I was ready to go. I called my ultra friend Pete Stringer from Cape Cod to tell him that I was on my way. It was time for some serious laps! it was still dark and I started out with my headlight perched on my hat. My first four hours consisted of a run to walk ratio of 25/5 meaning run 25 minutes and then walk 5 minutes. This worked out perfectly and I was slightly behind my schedule due to logistics of picking up hydration and gels and towels etc. At first the weather was nice and cool and the temps had started out in the low 60s and my Ipod was doing its thing. As the sun was rising the track would carry a white veil of fog 3 feet above the track and it was so beautiful I thought for a second that I should grab my camera but then I reminded myself that I had a mission and focus was key. The first person who showed up was an elderly lady who was getting in her morning walk at track. I am surprised at the number people using the track versus walking in the park. I guess they do know without a GPS or a pedometer how far they have traveled each time. As the sun rose it was looking to become a perfect day for the run and the cause. My hydration seemed to be on par the first 1 .5 hours where I had to go twice. Right on I thought! Once an hour was my goal and it had to be clear. But then the field started to unexpectedly fill up with teenage girls who were not field hockey players but soccer players. Someone told me it was the day for "The Gauntlet" or soccer try outs. This meant close to a hundred girls were trying to out run each other on the mile! Yikes! All of a sudden I was pushed aside to lane 2 and 3 for the next 2.5 hours (this was additional distance). I cheered the girls on and they returned cheers for my cause. One girl gave everything she had and then some, some nice vomit on the final turn in lane one.
Heading up the creek without a paddle ...
As a fantastic experience, during my laps, I was overwhelmed by the various people coming out running/walking with me, sharing their stories and frustrations with Lyme disease. It was either a relative or themselves who had had Lyme. Today we all know of someone who has had Lyme. There was the ironman Greg who came from Long Island to help out for a few hours, the mother and daughter, the young athletic physical trainer, the lady who went out of her way to buy popsicles and a bucket with ice to keep me cool, the young track star, an entire family who had had it and a few members still have it, ultra runner Rob who had run the infamous Comrades ultra marathon in South Africa (54 miles or 87km) a whopping 13 times and the list goes on. It was truly a great turnout on such a hot day.
I was making good progress on my lap schedule. I was slightly behind but within reach to restore my pace.

As the sun started to bear down on me I was getting worried that my hydration plan had been miscalculated for these types of temps. The forecast said in the low to mid 80s which I thought was fine. Time passed and I had not relieved myself for over 2.5 hours! When I finally went the color was yellow. This is the first warning sign that your hydration is not going as planned. I was taking 1 electrolyte tablet every hour on the hour but now I was starting to take them every 45-50 minutes instead plus I was drinking 24 oz every 2-3 laps! It got hot quickly much hotter than I had anticipated. Although I was wearing a sleeveless black top, shorts and compression socks in hindsight was probably not the best color for that particular day. I could not tell the temperature at the time but at a later review from the data of my watch indicated 92F at its peak! I have raced in similar temps some time ago but this felt even hotter. There was nowhere to hide. I was praying for some white clouds to give me a moment of relieving shade but they came and went very quickly. Adjacent to one end of the track there is a set of tennis courts embraced by a surrounding high fence and fabric sheltering the court from wind and acting as a contrast. Well the fence sheltered the the track from the albeit weak but immensively craved wind that day. I had not trained this year for these type of temps. I was almost a nocturnal creature. October will be a lot cooler and darker.

Blistering Hot
As I was talking with these people during my laps I was getting more and more dehydrated and my left upper Achilles and calf muscle started to progressively getting more and more tense. At lap 125 my left calf cramped up hard, it felt like I had been stunned in my leg, like an buzzing electric shock. the cramp was so disruptive that I decided to stop and stretch, change shoes and change lap direction. I was hoping that walking in the other direction would cease the pain. Walking at first felt ok but every time I tried to run the pain was there and it was not the type of pain that you put aside mentally and continue to run because it was even difficult to put any weight on the forefoot since I am a forefoot striker, I could walk faster. I said to myself that ok let's walk this whole thing after all I had trained for walking as well. It was now midday and the heat was there in all of its glory and most people had hurried home to their air conditioned houses.

The few clouds that brought shade quickly disappeared. I had reapplied SPF 50 twice now. Unknowingly I had developed two sizable sun blisters behind my knee from the sun. I have read articles about sunscreens that do not let your skin breathe properly but I was pretty convinced that the sunscreen had worn off in that area.
When most people had left, one thing that was good was that I could now focus and concentrate on my walk more but the cramping started to interfere even when walking. I was not mentally tired but more frustrated by the fact I was slowing down considerably. My pace schedule was slipping fast. My lovely wife came out to walk with me for a few laps to cheer me up and I told her that I would walk the remainder due to my calf issues. She told me to hang in there. I called my friend Pete Stringer on the cell phone and informed him that I was having serious issues with my leg but I wanted to finish this. I know it was a training run but I tend to finish what I have set out to do. My walk was now an ugly sight. After some laps of agonizing mental debate, the devil and the angel perched on either side of my shoulder, of whether to continue or quit I decided that I was not going to jeopardize my 200 mile attempt in October. I was now seriously dehydrated and my calf muscle felt more torn than cramped. I later learned that I was having hyper active muscle cramps which lasted for two days. I had no soreness days after the run besides in the calf area where the cramp was. Had I continued I could have torn a muscle and it was a wise decision. Sure I have had some small cramps in my toes and even in my hamstring when sleeping in my bed but I have been fortunate not to have had any serious cramping in any endurance event until this year.

Issues but still being optimistic at 31.069 miles (50K) or 125 laps

Lessons learned
"It not the glorious victory when you learn the most but rather when you have had a stinging defeat" Unknown

The goal was to go for 24 hours and beyond 100 miles which I was determined to do. I had a well thought out pace schedule with a progressive increase of walk to run ratio. I could have decided to continue but I stopped although somewhat reluctantly when I thought it was prudent to do so. No one else made that decision for me. Knowing the difference between good and bad pain is a key element that one should possess when taking on an ultra challenge. I was starting to make less than 3 miles an hour and now the cramps started to move in on my walk as well. I walked the last 20 miles. It was a training run and I kept that in mind but the goal was to go the full 24 hours no question about it! The decision to stop was difficult and of course a big disappointment but again many lessons learned.
  • Have a crew member who will monitor you even when you feel confident that you have everything under control. This person will facilitate simple things such as refilling bottles constantly asking you questions such as have you peed, have you eaten etc.

  • Make good hydration and electrolyte adjustments - detemine your hydration range for different temps and humidity

  • Have bright clothing available for unexpected heat
  • For a future official 24 run race avoid lengthy conversations and focus on pace, hydration and nutrition.
Result 204 laps or 50.704 miles (81.6 km)
- 11 hours 44 minutes.
A good day for Lyme awareness and many important lessons learned from an ultra marathon perspective.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Time for Laps - 24 hours

Well, It's been a while since I last posted something. I have kept my focus on my training but I have had a few bumps in the road here and there but that's part of life. I have topped out at 85 miles per week and the taper has been welcomed. It's finally time to put the training to the test on this Saturday (start 5:00am) for 24 hours on the track at the New Canaan High School. Part of my training has been speed walking and it is harder than you think. Sure walking slowly is fine but try to keep a 15-16 min/mile for a longer period of time requires hard work. The strategy is have a well distributed run walk combination where you incorporate your hydration and food intake. If my plan goes as I want it to, my calorie consumption would land around 11,400 calories in 24 hours. I have put together a pace chart and tools to track laps rubber bands thrown in a bucket and a lap counter (best accounting practice), run/walk splits and calorie intake. At the track I will have a big cooler, plenty of water, gels, food, clothes, lights and other good stuff which should help me get through the hours. Let's not forget to load up some music on the Ipod. I will carry my cellphone and have access to emails if you care for sending some encouraging words along my way. Forgive me if I do not reply. If you are nearby come on out and run a few laps with me to support Lyme research. I will also sell cool Time For Lyme T-shirts (see picture of me wearing it) at the track that my sister has helped to design. Come on out and support a good cause! After the run I have some exciting news to tell you. Some real prominent sportsmen have joined me and Team Time for Lyme to support Lyme research but first things first.
One more thing I will carry an extra headlight for you if you care to join me when sun sets. Best Carl

Monday, July 14, 2008

Full circle - My 24 hour run!

As it is getting closer to my 24 hour run and I can't help thinking of what happened to me over two years ago. The track at New Canaan High resembles something familiar, a bulls eye shaped circle very much like the one I had on my left hip. It is also symbolizes that we have been running in circles for a long time to find better testing and treatments. I hope that with my running I can bring awareness and support to Lyme research who in turn can provide our doctors today with better information and better methods of testing and treatments.
Running on a track for 24 hours will definitely be a challenge. Ultra marathons are run on many different surfaces such as track, road, trails or the sheer wilderness. Track ultras are especially known to be mentally taxing. This is an unknown challenge which I welcome. While the race will not resemble any of the elevation gain nor terrain come October when I will run the New England 200 mile endurance run, the track will serve as a very good place to dial in nutrition and analyze how my body will act during the run. Kevin, my crew chief, will be monitoring every step of the way to ensure that my pace, food, hydration strategy is going according to plan as well as keeping my feet happy.

I welcome you all to come out and support my cause and hey maybe run a lap or two with me. As added exposure to the cause Channel 12 will be there to catch some of the action. My start will be on Saturday at 5:00am and end the following morning. How far? Well the goal is to break 100 miles in 24 hours. Everything else is gravy as the say.....Come and join me for a few laps!



Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pittsfield Peaks Ultramarathon June 14th - 54 miles 14,000 feet of elevation gain

Anticipation day

It was Friday morning and I felt like a kid on the last day of school, full with anticipation of what was to come, excited and eager to play for the summer. I was ready and packed. My calf tear had healed nicely from late April. In terms of long runs since the injury all I had gotten were three long runs two 20s and one 33 miler all on road, but the foundation had been laid previously. I had run a total of 5 miles for the week.
Kevin and I had a slice each at Joe's Pizzeria in New Canaan just before departure. The tank was full. I checked my emails a last time and found a race update from Andy Weinberg (RD) and a course condition update from Sherpa John. The start had been updated to a 5:00am start to give us more light. Sherpa John's course update gave me pause:

"Course Conditions from Sherpa John on Friday morning:
Special Thanks to my group of fellow Trail Markers Jeff Waldron, Nate Sanel, Brenda Caldwell-Phillips, Dot Helling and special guest David Cristof form the Czech Republic. You all want to know how the trails are and we can certainly tell you. Expect to get PLENTY muddy on the Blood Root Loop and during short sections of the course like Hayes Brook and other low lying poor drainage areas. The mud on Blood Root is pretty deep in places and unavoidable. It WILL be there on race day. This also happens to be the kind of mud with an oily residue floating on top and smells like methane. :) You'll love it! Also, the stinging nettle is out there... and its out there for about 3 to 4 miles. It ranges from ankle to knee high! You won't notice the stuff and it'll drive you crazy with wanting to itch it. Do yourself a favor and bring a bandanna along to wash your legs off to remove the sting. Ignore this tip of advice and you'll surely pay. So... you WILL get wet, you WILL get muddy and you WILL itch like hell.... PERFECT! See you there!"

Would I love methane......?

My oldest son Henry (8) had been complaining of a sore throat in the morning and my wife thought it would be a good idea to take him to the doctor for a check up since strep throat had been reported at school. At the doctor's a standard throat culture was taken and I would find out around 1:00pm about the result. I would be on my way to Pittsfield by that time. You always worry about your kids.

Kevin, my crew chief who will assist me on my 200 mile attempt in November in the same area, was on time as usual. I could tell he was excited too. It was just him and I going up to Vermont. Never let go of the child inside of you. We were like two kids going on an adventure. Kevin an EMT volunteer has been by my side (on a bike) training for this event. All of my training runs (long and short) had started at around 10:30 pm to accommodate a "normal" family life. Kevin is a no nonsense type of guy but at the same time gentle when necessary, in other words the ultimate go-to crew guy.

On our drive up to Vermont we were laughing and discussing final strategy tweaks. We stopped at a supermarket to buy some video tape for my camera and I bought Kevin as a token of appreciation, a signal orange fly swat for the black flies and mosquitoes that we would encounter. I had made Kevin a spreadsheet with ETAs for the various aid stations, questions he needed to ask me each time and what he should supply me with. With ignorance at the helm I took a stab at my target time which was 12:20 a time that was not to happen...
We stopped at Dunking Dounuts in Windsor to supply Kevin with coffee. I had gone cold turkey two weeks ago and was tempted to give in. I needed the maximum caffeine boost on race day. While Kevin was ordering I noticed a grandmother with her grand child being in distress. The girl was panting like a dog and I turned to Kevin and said "Kevin I think you should take a look at her". Kevin's EMT instincts kicked into high gear. His gentle approach with the girl calmed her down. She had asthma. Kevin ran to get his stethoscope while I tried as best as I could to keep her calm. She was scared and did not know why this was happening to her.

After listening to the girls lungs Kevin thought it would be prudent to take her to the hospital. The wheezing sound of her lungs called for additional help. Kevin called 911 and the police was there in minutes and shortly thereafter the ambulance came. She needed to go to the hospital. The mother who was working at Dunkin Donuts at the time was in tears but we assured her that her daughter was in good hands. We hope everything went well with her. The police officer thanked us and insisted that he would pay for the coffee and not Kevin. The police officer told the cashier to hand the money back to Kevin and said jokingly to her "let me pay or I will arrest you!", we all laughed and said farewell to each other. A good deed done!

We continued our drive and it was time to call the pediatrician to find out about Henry's throat culture. It was positive and a prescription had been called in to the local pharmacy. My boy had strep. Henry seldom get sick. Kevin said he'll be fine in no time. Shortly thereafter Kevin's cell phone rings and his wife tells him that Tim Russert, the well respected political analyst had just unexpectedly died. Tim Russert, in my eyes a straight shooting, right to the point, no fluff, no "read between the lines type of guy" was gone at the age of 58! I couldn't believe it! We were both stunned.

As we approached Vermont the green mountains and lakes provided a sense of calmness that to a degree was soothing the news of the day.


As we entered the quiet town of Pittsfield we looked up on either side of the road seeing nothing but green covered mountains. It was a beautiful site. The general store where the registration was taking place was a place where I'd like to go every day to buy my groceries. The wonderful various smells of food, old wood flooring and it's personal ambiance is something that is missing in today's suburbia, a place where people congregate and share the news.

We located Aimee farms where the start would take place and the spot were we could raise our tent. As we navigate down a 3 foot drop in the dirt I jokingly tell Kevin that at last he gets to ride his SUV off road (after 100,000 miles).
After finally figuring out where the tent supports go (read rookies), we make our way to register for the race at the general store. I thoroughly enjoy the smaller venues much more so compared to giant races (anywhere from 1,000 up to 35,000 people). It's much more personal, intimate and you feel like a family. You'll share the race memories like you would with your family. I got to meet the Andy Weinberg (RD), Sherpa John and the rest of the contestants. What a group of nice guys and gals!

We make it back to our tent and make our last call home to our families and start the final prep for race day. I typically do not sleep much the night before the race and this time was no different. We both fell a sleep at 11:00pm.

Initiation Day

At 02:30am my near bursting bladder woke me up. The ultimate alarm bell. I quietly made it out of the tent with my head light on. Everyone else seemed to be still sleeping. It was only 2 1/2 hours to race start. Most of my ironman races people are already up and have finished their breakfast. I like this. Ultra people know how to stay patient and conserve energy for a long day that lies ahead. I made it quietly back into the tent and briefly laid down to try to focus at the task at hand. Then I put my racing clothes on. I would wear lyme green gaiters to match Time For Lyme's logo colors and my shoes even had the lyme green color. They sure stood out and would be helpful aid to locate me if I got lost.

Facing my fears of running in tall grass was part of it. Ticks. It's like falling off a horse you have to get back up again. Deet, the tick repellent, which I do not like (ask Kevin) would be a part of the preventative measures as well as tick checks. The repellent would go on my clothes and not on my skin. I had my compression calf socks on that reached just below my knees would provide added protection plus help me with the stinging nettles. A tick should not deter me from enjoying the outdoors. Prevention is key!

Running on "real trails" would be a first for me. Uneven footing, mud, water obstacles, rocks and with added weight close to 3 lbs would soon test my legs for the next 54 miles. I was excited no doubt about it but at the same time I was a bit nervous. How would my feet, ankles, calves and quads fair? All unanswered questions soon to be met with a dose of reality.

At 3:00am Kevin's alarm goes off! It was an alarm alright! Kevin who seemed to have gotten the same amount of sleep as I got to work right away. He made two cups of coffee and oatmeal with brown sugar, blueberries, cranberries and honey! Room service galore! As daylight approached we could see a camp fire being lit up at the starting line. We were only a few hundred yards away. The temps would rise quickly and so was the humidity.

This race was going to serve as a recognizance for my upcoming 200 miler in November. Part of the course (the now infamous Bloodroot leg) would be used for the PP54 but run in the opposite direction.

The course basically consisted out of four different sections each one with it's own degree of difficulty and characteristics.

Section 1 - The Overture - Contest trail to aid station mile 12

Five minutes prior to race start approximately 70 eager runners move towards the starting line which was drawn in the gravel road by the RD's heel. We were told by the RD to look for painted money stones which if found had to be carried to the finish to be redeemed for cash. I thought jokingly, ok I will probably see a million dollar monolith out there early on but in hindsight even if the rock weighed two pounds and if found early in the race I probably would have had serious problems getting it to the finish in time for the 24 hour cutoff.
A calm low key start took place. No frantic ironman start in the water.

The first section started out with a gentle climb with a breathtaking view only to culminate with a steep section which I have probably never encountered before in my entire life. It was short but long enough to make me worry of what was in store for the other sections. It is only the beginning and am am already thinking about stopping to catch my breath. My groins were now already shot (mile 6!) from all the lateral movements running down hill. Something I will train on. I started thinking about football drills where you move laterally with you hands up. I must do that before November! I thought to myself it's time to stay patient and not to burn out early. My strategy was to walk as soon as my heart rate hit 150 bpm knowingly with cardiac drift it would end up slightly higher. I also tried to start running just before the crest because it would eventually flatten out if the terrain was followed by a flat section or drop if I was going down hill. At every turn I consciously to choose the shortest point. It all adds up especially in an ultra.

As I was climbing I decided to take pictures along the course. Needless to say not too many pictures were taken after mile 18 I was too busy focusing at the task at hand.

Coming into mile 12 aid station I felt fresh. Kevin gave me a new set of bottles with 250 calories each and two gels. He asked how my feet felt and I said fine but my groins weren't. I had carefully planned my calorie intake with a gel every 30 minutes and a full bottle every hour which would give me 450 cal per hour. This is what my body is trained to take in more is a real challenge for when running or biking. According to my calculations this would all be ending up with a deficit of 750 calories if I hit the targeted finish time. There would be two times where I would eat also a Cliff bar (230 cal) at mile 18 and at mile 38. I had a plan but it was soon about to encounter a major mishap...

Section 2 - The Temptation - Hayes Brook - to aid station mile 18

By now the field had started to spread out and I felt that I was running mostly by myself. This section was very tempting to speed up on but I kept thinking about the challenging Bloodroot loop where I had planned to switch from handheld bottles to a Camelbak hydration system simply because it could hold more and this section was an 18 mile loop with a couple of remote aids stations.

The Hayes Brook section was probably one of the "easier" parts of the whole course but tempting enough to run fast to potentially ruin the rest of the day. I came into the aid station to see Kevin yet again. I was still feeling fresh and pleased with my nutritional strategy up to this point (mile 18). This time I sat down to change socks, Vaseline my feet again and switch to the Camelbak. I ate my Cliffbar. Transitioning has always been my weakness and this race was no exception but I did not want to go out forgetting something and pay a dear price for it. I timed myself at every aids station to analyze it later and hopefully learn how to cut the time down. Total rest at the aids stations turned out to be 61 minutes. This time should be cut in half at least!

Section 3 - The Bonk - Bloodroot - to aid station mile 38

Out I went and I started to feel confident about my nutritional strategy which is basically everything in an endurance race. The first few miles felt easy. When I took my first sip out of my Camelbak I tasted only water. I thought for a second that the powder must have sunk to the bottom so I started massaging the hydration bladder while running. I took another zip, water taste yet again and then another zip - H2O only! I had forgotten to put my mix in. I felt I had gone far enough where I could not turn back (hindsight I should have).

I had 6 gels (600 calories) and water in the tank for the next 18 miles, add some Gatorade and bananas which would amount to some 200-300 calories from aids stations on this section. My back pack was to be loaded with 750 calories plus the 600 from gels and add a couple of hundred calories from the aids stations. The planned total for the 18 mile section would be around 1,600 calories. I was now dealing with half the amount of calories. Ok I said to myself try to eat as much as possible at each aid station but the deficit had already started to set in on my first real climb. I have a hard time eating solid food when running. The heat and humidity was relentless but I was bothered more so by the humidity (read 90%). I was sweating profusely and I began to worry about my salt depletion. Instead of taking one salt tablett every hour I now took one just after 30 minutes of the prior one.

The first real climb went on and on. There would be 25-30 yard climbs only to be met with a disappointing 5-6 foot plateau as rest and then again another climb. It went on and on and on. It did test your patience for sure. With a mountain full of leaves it just hard to see the end. You had to say to yourself ok let's make it to the next plateau let's not worry about the end because it might just disappoint you again and get the better of you. Just before the summit I looked at my hands and they looked like Nathans hot dogs, swollen, retained by water. Too much salt I thought and decided to hold off for the next two hours. From here on I kept rubbing my finger tips feeling for signs of a return to normal skin tension.

As I greeted the nice and friendly volunteers at the aid station I emptied my Camelback which contained pure water and replaced it with Gatorade. I had a piece of a banana a few bites of a small apple. It's especially hard trying to eat something directly after a climb. Fluids are much easier in my opinion. A woman from Colorado came up just behind me asking for salt tablets. She had no problem with the climbing but the humidity was something new for her as Colorado air is bone dry. I gladly gave her a few salt tablets. I said thank you to the aidsstation peopke and left for next aid station at mile 33.

After a "nice descent" for a change it was time to start climbing yet again this in combination with stinging nettles and mud swamps. I ran as gingerly as I possibly could, stepping strategically on chunks of grass that could reduce the amount of mud seeping into my shoes. My feet are my investment for the race I kept thinking treat them as nicely as possible. These hills were relentless. The black flies started to follow me and my arm swing got more erratic. The mosquitoes were less aggressive. Time to press on. I meet up with another runner who has removed his t shirt, it was hot and the humidity was still zapping your energy. Soon thereafter I heard a group of guys behind us and it was Sherpa John and company. I asked him when I could expect the next aid station to show up and he responded "we are almost there". I started thinking about my kids "are we there yet?".

I tried to hang behind the boys but by now I was starting to bonk, loosing energy every minute due to my mishap of failing to add my energy powder into my camelbak. I had to get to the next aid station to get more food in my system. My 6 gels were long gone and I needed something to eat. I met up with the young guns at the aid station only to see them leave shortly thereafter. I refilled my hydration pack, had a luke warm cup of Coke and ate a few banana halves. It was time to get to the major aid station at mile 38 where Kevin was waiting with fresh supplies. "Only" five miles away. I looked at my watch and my altimeter indicated that I had only climbed 7,000 feet of the total 14,000. Time for a reality check. I knew the last section was designed to make you earn every step and to keep you honest.

The descent to the mile 38 aid station was a never ending story. My quads were taking a real nice beating and my toes started to hit the front of my shoes. Zig zagging down to reduce the quad beating and the blistering from getting worse. I was starting to get slightly lightheaded on the descent. I needed more food. I took out my forgotten candy treat, Swedish fish and licorice to tie me over until I got back to the aids station. The candy was simple sugars but it gave me a small boost of energy to get me to the aid station for refueling. My skin had now returned back to normal.

As I entered the aid station with great relief I told Kevin that the descent had given me a blister on my right toe next to the big toe and it needed to be lanced. He took a safety pin which he heated up to sterilize prior to lancing. I like to watch the fountain of fluid relieving the pressure. After some liquid band aid I put on a new pair of tetrasoks accompanied by a dry pair of shoes. I gulped an entire bottle of my crucial hydration mix at the aids station and a whole Cliffbar. I needed to regain my energy but as you all know the catching up on calories is tough part you need to slow down. I changed back to the two handheld bottles and a light fanny pack stuffed with gels. I had enjoyed the chair and Kevin kept telling it was time to go. I had spent 29 minutes at the aid station. I could have stayed longer easily.

Section 4 - Time to close the deal - Finishing

I felt cold and donned a long sleeve t-shirt. I also put my headlight on I was afraid that I might be out there when it got dark. I had no idea. It looked like I had a fair amount to climb still according to my watch. I left the aid station somewhat stiff but my mood was still intact I was having fun despite the mishap with the nutrition. My mood is my best gauge. Most ironman races I have done in the end I start asking myself why I am doing this but this race was different I was joking with people but suffering at the same time. This section has some really challenging and hard climbs that will play tricks with you mentally. It is one thing to be able to see the peak, pick a small target to reach half way and pace yourself thereafter but yet again the leafy woods and winding terrain made it hard to see the end. It will be hard to remember all the turns for next years race.

Just before mile 44 I took two other runners down for a 1/4 mile detour. We were running down hill and should have made a sharp left turn instead we all were zoning out but I felt responsible being in front and apologized for a climb that we didn't need every step counted and was felt. We hiked back up and lost maybe a 1/4 mile. Many climbs consisted of frequent up again down again and so forth. It jerked you back and forth and tested your mental fortitude. I still think if I would have seen the top afar I could have gauged my approach better but this made it very difficult. I met up with my recently acquainted good friend yet again who was climbing better than I was but I seemed to have more legs going down hill. He was still suffering from this years McNaughton 100 miler.

On the descent from Joe's Hill I could hear but not see the loud speaker at the finishing line. I said to myself "ok let's squeeze out the last you have in your quads and make a run for it" but at the bottom I saw an arrow pointing upwards. I said "you've got to be kidding me!". After the climb and another descent I saw another arrow and I said "let me guess it's going UP!" The next comment when another uphill showed up was "unbelievable when will it end..." and that was when I stopped saying anything because I started to sound like Jack Nicholson in "The Shining". I said this self talk will serve no purpose, stay focused and don't say anything and maybe, maybe you will not jinx it.

The thunderstorms had moved in and all I was praying for was no mudslides please. I finally made it down to the river in valley and over the bridge I ran. The final stretch was on an open field with a freshly mowed lane directing me to Aimee farms. The finishers ahead of me cheered me on and it felt fantastic. Running a big race your just a number but here you are family! I had just found another love in sports.

I finally made it, Team TFL made it! A final tick check and no ticks! Yes!
Simply put this was the most fun I have ever had in an endurance race. Some 8,000 calories later I was home. I gave Kevin a big high five and thanked him for a stellar job. All said and done this was a good primer and a break out workout for what's to come.
Next stop August a 24 hour solo run at New Canaan High.

The fun has just begun.....

There is hope!
Support Lyme Research
Team TFL - Nov. 6th, 2008
200 Mile Ultramarathon

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Prep race #1 Pittsfield Peaks 50 miler

To you all,

First off I would like to deeply thank you all once more for all the donations. Your support means a lot to me and Team TFL!

Pittsfield Peaks (53.75 miles, 14,000 feet of total ascent or 2.65 vertical miles, 24 hour cuttoff)

Exciting times. On Friday it's off to Pittsfield, Vermont. It is a 50 miler as ultramarathoners call it casually. It is my first preparation race for November's 200 miler. The course on Saturday will be a part of the 200 in November but this section will be run in the opposite direction. Temps should be bearable in the 80s. There will be aids stations spread every 6-7 miles on the trails. Crewing for me will be Kevin Cowser (appointed Crew Chief). I would like to extend a big thank you to you Kevin for all the fantastic help and support you have given me in getting ready for this event. What would have been long and lonely training nights (10:30pm start) became many times great conversational nights, me running and you biking through Stamford, Greenwich, Wilton, Pound Ridge, Vista, Norwalk and other places.
It's what Team TFL is all about, coming together to support a great cause.

Below is a quote from last year's race:

"The Race Directors have put together an amazing course which will take those brave enough to challenge the 53 Mile Course, over 14,000 + feet of elevation, through rivers and streams, over boulders, through briar/thorn bushes and through hungry swarms of black flies and mosquitoes. If thats not enough... add some humidity and heat to the equation and your race just got tougher. While some races in our country claim to be the toughest such as Zane Grey and Squaw Peak 50 Milers... Pittsfield Peaks is proving hands down... that this is the new home of America's Toughest 50 Miler. More elevation than many 100 Milers and enough obstacles to make you cry for mercy."

Thank you all once again and a race report will follow shortly.