Sunday, August 14, 2016

It Ain't About The Running - Drool Deer 2016

Sometimes running isn't about running at all. I mean how can it be about running when it's 145 degrees outside with 102% humidity? How can it be about running when every square inch of your clothing is bathed in your own salty sweat and your soaked socks weigh 50 pounds? How can it be about running when faced with a climb up a 30% grade on the sun baked slope of an exposed mountainside? How can it be about running when old Sol's angry rays are baking the back of your sweaty neck and blistering your overloaded retinas as you trudge across a giant solar oven made of bare, merciless, prehistoric granite? It can't. It just can't be about running.

What IS the Drool Deer all about then, if not the running? There's not a single answer to that question that I can give, but here are a few things that *I* think it is about.

The races put on by the mad genius race coordinator, Derek Cernak, are just plain fun. Miserable, sweaty fun, but FUN. Like the Rabid Squirrel race, there are parades, proclamations, prayers, and plenty of props at the start of the race. During the race, there are anagrams to figure out (try that with a hard boiled brain!), rocks to stack, and songs to sing at various checkpoints along the way. I've honestly never had so much fun being so miserable.

No matter how much I cursed the heat and humidity, there were enough drop dead gorgeous vistas along the way, that even as my brain boiled inside my baking skull, I had to stop and look. And smile. Stone Mountain State Park in North Carolina is perhaps one of the most beautiful places in the whole state.  To do anything there, even suffer mightily, on a glorious Summer day, is a gift worth appreciating.

There's no better way to be miserable than to be miserable with friends. Laughing about the sheer stupidity of intentional suffering somehow makes the suffering so much more bearable. I mean how bad can you feel when you are high-fiving a friend and actually get splashed with sweat? The hilarity of that sloppy smack can wash away the misery of the moment. More sweaty high-five. More laughs. More smiles. More cheers. More "thank you!" to the awesome volunteers. More runner fellowship.

Ok, it's not all sunshine and happiness. There are stairs in the Drool Deer. Lots and lots and lots of stairs. Evil, nasty, painful stairs. Merciless, brutal, gut busting stairs. If the finish line is heaven, you have to go up stair hell to get there. If someone finds a sour stomach, or some trashed legs, or a shattered soul near those stairs just before the finish, they are probably mine. Please mail them to me. I'll be needing them for next year's Drool Deer.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

It's All About The Equipment - Umstead Marathon 2016

I've finally cracked the marathon. On my 8th marathon (my 4th Umstead Trail Marathon), everything finally clicked and fell into place, at least in my head. How? Good question. Here's my final solution to the marathon puzzle.

Just skip it. Really. It's not worth the time or effort. I ran 32 miles the month before the race, and that included a 20 mile "hike" in the Uwharrie Mountain Run 20 miler. The two months before that weren't much better. Looking back, I realize I could have trained much less and had the exact same result in the Umstead Marathon. Next year, I'll train by only running my favorite races. My Strava training log will be a barren wasteland, much like my quads, and it will not make a damned bit of difference come Umstead Marathon race day. I'm fine with that.

Training Miles: Low. Very low. 

Pancakes, lots of them. And waffles, and omelets, and bacon, and hash browns, and coffee, and... My weekend "training" for the past few months has been an informal social run along the Eno River, ending with a visit to a diner for some classic greasy spoon breakfast goodness. Not low carb, not high carb, but high happiness. Eat what makes you happy, especially after a fun run with friends along a beautiful riverside trail. There is no greater happiness in life than good food with good friends.

Pancakes: 15, or as many as you can happily stuff into your gut.

New shoes, right before the race. Why new shoes and not some well known, well worn shoes? New shoes make me happy. It doesn't matter if your toes are rubbed into oblivion during the race, or if you develop a raging neuroma between your toes, or even crack one of the small unimportant bones in your foot (there are plenty more of them down there to take up the load). Your pre-race happiness is all that counts. Make sure you have ZERO running miles on your new shoes before the race. Their suitability should be a complete mystery, solved only through the marathon laboratory crucible of pain and suffering.

Blisters: Dozens. Deal with it.

Choose The Right Race
Most importantly, you must choose the right race for total marathon domination. I recommend the Umstead Trail Marathon. It's devilishly difficult. Even the guy who designed the course said he would never run it. However, having a stupidly hard course isn't the right selection criteria. You have to choose the race for its atmosphere, and that's where the Umstead Marathon wins. Even when my suffering was at 11 on the 10 point scale, I only had to hit an aid station to be reminded of why this race is so freaking great. The people. Umstead organizers and volunteers are absolutely top notch. It's a runner's race, pure and simple. No gimmicks, no massive crowds, just a run through a gorgeous park surrounded by awesome people. It just doesn't get better.

Happiness: Off the chart.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bile Burping Miles - Uwharrie Mountain Run 2016

Well, my fifth Uwharrie was perhaps my slowest, but that's fine. I'm just happy to still be able to get out there and finish 20 miles in a place like Uwharrie. I'm not racing much these days, so the blogging has slowed down as well. Besides, my races aren't really that interesting unless things go horribly wrong.

Starting hill conga line. Fun!

Speaking of races going horribly wrong, let's talk about today! After 5 miles, some horrible switch flipped in my stomach and gave me severe gastro distress. I thought seriously about dropping out of the race after 8 miles, but I soldiered on, because I'm stupid that way.

I spent the final 15 miles trying to get my stomach to stop cramping. The bloating was so bad, I swear I looked pregnant by the end of the race. No amount of burping or farting seemed to release the pressure. I must have generated some significant green house gases today, mostly in the form of burps. My apologies, Al Gore!

Uwharrie is always beautiful.

I can hear you now. "Well, did you try this or that or some other magic trick that always works on my cousin Susie?" Yes. Yes, I did.

I tried running faster. I tried running slower (walking, then stopping and sitting). I tried drinking water. I tried drinking Coke. I tried eating some salty soup broth. I tried eating potato chips. I tried eating some salty chocolate (OK, I just wanted that because salty chocolate is food of the gods!). I tried Gatorade. I tried Heed. I tried some medicinal liquid that vaguely resembled vodka (thanks, Heather!). That made me feel better for about 1 mile, but then the endless burping continued. I tried holding my breath (this was stupid and resulted in me nearly passing out and falling down). I tried belly breathing. I tried chest breathing. I tried short steps. I tried long steps. I tried, and I failed to stop the burping.

15 terrible bile burping miles.

30 minutes after finishing the race,  my stomach finally settled. Figures.