A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Read All Research, Even If You Tend to Disagree With It

You know ultramarathons are starting to get into the mainstream when you start getting articles like this:

One Running Shoe in the Grave - New Studies on Older Athletes Suggest the Fittest Reap Few Health Benefits

Marathon Running can "Scar" The Heart, Researchers Warn

Too Many Marathons Can Kill, Warn Doctors

How Much Running is Bad for the Heart?


There are many other articles like this and there will no doubt be many more articles about the downside of "too much running" as more and more people run "extreme" events like marathons, ultramarathons, and Ironman races.

Although it's a natural tendency to "poo-poo" these articles and the research behind it, no research should be approached with a closed mind.

I definitely understand that these articles will not make you, the serious athlete, stop running. It won't make me stop either.

But it is worth reading this stuff with a bit of an open mind and see where the findings exactly come from.

More often than not, the articles that present conclusions to research can be a bit overgeneralized. And also, people who tend to read just the headlines or just the beginning 2 paragraphs of the article can overgeneralize too, especially when they tell their friends about this article.

And more often than not, people come away thinking that running in general causes problems in older adults. However, if you look at the research itself, it will certainly tell you otherwise.

My strong advice is to read the entire article itself, and to read the actual research behind the article. Most of the research, of course, is probably listed in a medical or health journal somewhere. You can get the full research online, if you do a simple search. If not, you'll almost always get the shortened abstract which summarizes the findings in full detail.

Most of the time, I find interesting tidbits of data that I can incorporate into my regimen that will make me and my athletes train smarter in the long run.

And that is where reading the research with an open mind comes in. Reading the data "under the hood" can be educational. For example, the above articles have one thing in common, and one thing that really needs to command attention to the serious athlete, that you need to have an extended rest period and down time for a good part of each year.

I can honestly say that more than half the runners and triathletes I know never take any extended period off. A lot of people I know finished their 2012 season with a big race like a marathon and immediately started their big push towards their 2013 season, with speed sessions like time trials and hill repeats. This is one of the big no-nos that I stress with people I know.

As a rule of thumb, you need to build in at LEAST three months of down time for every 9 months of intense training you do each year. This will allow your body to fully heal so that you can minimize any damage you sustained during your intense training.

And yes, you're allowed to detrain. I know that word "detrain" is a bad word in any serious athlete's mind, but when they are talking about conditions such as "left ventricular hypertrophy" in athletes and how a heart's muscles can be too thick to actually pump blood, then every serious athlete has to take a bit of notice and bring the training down for an extended period every year to prevent that condition from occurring in the first place.

After 3 months of easy recovery and very low intensity exercise, you'll be surprised to find that, at the beginning of your next training cycle, you really didn't lose much of your fitness in the first place. Plus, with a fully healed body, and a focused mind that comes along with it, you'll be eagerly gearing up for the next season. Sound mind, sound body. It's the best combination.

And don't neglect looking at the research. Even though you might strongly disagree with it, take a look inside and see what it's addressing. You might actually come across something that might be useful for your training.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cycles and the Decline of Things

Cycles upon cycles upon cycles. You see it everywhere. The day and night cycle. The seasonal cycle (winter, spring, summer, fall). The lunar cycle (full moon, new moon). Some cycles are very short, like a traffic light switching from green to red in a minute or so. Some are just amazingly long, like the birth and death of stars.

Everywhere you look, you'll see something in the middle of a cycle, yet we tend to look at things as static. It's one of the better ironies of life that some of us think we have the power to preserve the status quo. Keep things static. Make sure the next day is basically the same as the last few days.

They actually have a name for it. It's called the Normalcy Bias. Let me give you the Wiki on what the Normalcy Bias is:
The normalcy bias, or normality bias, refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to include the populace in its disaster preparations. The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred then it never will occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.
So basically, one expects the same, or similar, things to happen each day you wake up, even though there are hints that something may be changing. This hint of change might be staring them right in their face, but he will refuse to respond to it until it's too late.

About 7 years ago, I used to perceive things in a static basis. I wake up. I run, I work, I eat, then I sleep.

The loss of a job back then forced me to change my thinking somewhat. I wake up, I run, but now I can't work, might have trouble eating because I don't have work, and I can't sleep because I might have trouble eating in the future.

So now I was faced with what I perceived was an "upset" to my routine. An "upset" to the static universe I thought I was in. What is perceived as an "upset" was really a normal change in a truly cyclical universe. In reality it was that the cycle involved getting the job, getting excited about the job, excitement wears off when the job involved politics, job turns to mundane existence when people know you too well and take advantage of it, then quit the job when the politics gets too great for you to function properly.

It happens all the time. But sometimes cycles can change so subtly that we fail to realize it's happening in the beginning.

I was finally forced to think differently, very differently, 4.5 years ago, when my youngest brother perished in a car accident due to a irresponsible drunk driver behind the wheel of another car.

My brother was no more. His life, just like everyone else's, is cyclical. He was born, he had a life span, then he died. Unfortunately, his life cycle was painfully short, compared to others.

I finally, and ruthlessly, found out that life is cyclical, not static. And I was forced to think along those lines knowing that things actually do change from day to day, if I was to concentrate on it.

From my family members, to people that I know, to society in general, the cycles were everywhere. And when I was forced to see things in cycles, life began to make a hell lot more sense then when I perceived it as static.

And I started to detect the subtle changes a lot easier than before. And those subtle changes have a definite pattern which can help decipher what the future has in store for a certain cycle.

Cycles help me to think long term when everyone else is thinking short term. It's enabled me to prepare for certain inevitabilities that will most likely to occur in the future. It's ingrained in my coaching to help athletes do well in their races, and it helps figure out some major decisions that I would have to make in the future.

And there are a number of troubling trends that I see now. On the macro level, society in general is now in an advanced state of deterioration, as evidenced by the massacre of little kids in a Connecticut elementary school. There are still some people who view life on a static level who think this, and other recent massacres, are just isolated incidents that can be controlled through legislation.

But I think more people are starting to realize that maybe this is just a symptom of a greater cycle of things. We, as a society, are in an advanced state of decline.

When people eschew their moral values of helping their fellow man out; when the family structure breaks down to the point where a man will shoot his mother in order to obtain a perverse goal, where mothers throw their own newborn kids into dumpsters because they don't want to take care of them, when kids nowadays idolize gangsters and prisoners instead of their parents, even when parents put their kids into day care centers because they are too busy working to tend to their basic needs, we have a breakdown in society.

Nero's Rome burned, not just because the Goths invaded, but its corrupted society's inability to thwart, or even care that their city was being invaded in the first place.


And, knowing the trend of this cycle, it's going to get inevitably worse. And no amount of legislation is going to put a lid on the massacres of the future.

Not until this cycle completes itself.

Everyone has been corrupted in their thinking of the world. You see it in the stock market, in government circles, and in the people you interact with. At this advanced state of decay, most of us are starting to find out that society is indeed insane. Nobody is thinking the right way any more. Everyone's priorities are all screwed up. Silly laws and rules are being passed that inhibit progress.

As a result, society's important functions are starting to shut down. No small businesses are being created. Those that still exist are having trouble and are in the process of shutting down. Big businesses are also in trouble and are slimming down to try to stay above water. Jobs are getting scarce out there.

And people are getting desparate. In turn, they start thinking irrationally to make themselves whole again. They seek mood altering medications to cure their woes. They seek government assistance when they are out of a job. as a result, more and more people are not being productive members of society any more.

The cycle will be complete when society finally collapses. Of course, people that are starting to see this will try desperate measures to keep it together. Maintain that status quo. Maintain that normalcy bias. But cycles cannot be halted. This one will definitely not. Everyone has been corrupted completely.

Everything has cycles. People have cycles. They are born, they grow up, peak, they get corrupted (age), and die. Companies have cycles too. They are founded, they rise to popularity, the get corrupted and inefficient, and then they fold. Countries are the same way. They rise to power, get corrupted in government, pass bad laws, then they collapse.

But the best part is that new cycles always arise from the old one's ashes. Somehow, when the cycle completes, the corruption that contributed to its downfall gets purged, leaving new ideas in its wake. And sometimes a new, exciting part of a cycle begins.

A lot of you in the near future will find yourselves in a deteriorating situation or environment in which corrupted, irrational thinking has taken over rational thought. It would be only human if you were to somehow try to help save the situation from deteriorating itself.

But the prevailing thought is corrupted. Too corrupted for you to make a difference. The only rational recourse, for your particular situation as well as society in general, is to prepare for the inevitability, then walk away and let the corrupted entity collapse. That's it.

Just.

Walk.

Away.

Let the corruption cave in on itself. Leave it behind and let it wither and die.

Only then will we start letting a new cycle begin and start our forward progress again.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Stepping Down From Captaincy Soon

In light of the events of the past couple of days, I've been able to reflect on a lot of things regarding the Staten Island Athletic Club. It's a great bunch of people eager to try new things, including trail running and ultras.


And I'm glad to have a hand in that as a captain.

But, as recent events have pointed out, the captaincy position has some major drawbacks. And it has started to tie my hands down in a time where I really need to expand.

My situation is quite unique; it's tied into what has happened to Staten Island and the rest of the area with Hurricane Sandy. Because Hurricane Sandy affected a lot of my athletes that I coach, I have been in the unenviable position of trying to get my business back on track. These athletes, like so many people in the area, have are trying to pick the pieces of their lives back together again, and the last thing they need right now is my coaching.

I wish them well in their recovery efforts, and in time, I hope to have them back after they are made whole again. But it's put my business in a bit of a stall. Especially when I am shelling out big bucks in doing the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in 2013.

I would figure that getting some classes in order would be a way to go here. Everyone seems to love a group setting, and I can help those achieve a part of their goals in a more affordable way than the usual one-on-one deal.

But when I announced it to the club, it was met with controversy. "It's a conflict of interest with the captaincy position." "It's disrespectful for captains to seek money from their athletes." And on and on.

Well, something has to give. And I'm not in a secure position where I can receive a pay check every week. And coaching is my business.

That means my captaincy has to go.

It's not all bad news though. Obi Wan Kenobi stated to Darth Vader in the first Star Wars movie that if he is struck down, "he will become more powerful than he (Vader) can possible imagine."


If I step down, I will become freer than everyone can possibly imagine.

Stepping down from the captaincy, I can help this club grow even better from the outside than from inside. I'll have a lot less restrictions placed on me than I do now. I can become a lot more flexible with my schedule so that my work doesn't suffer much.

And I can finally get to regrow my business without the controversy.

My one year of being a captain was a good one. I like to think that I set up a viable alternative to road racing. We at siXac have seen more growth in this club this year than in recent years. And we now have a core group of people who know the trails in the Greenbelt and can help out with the regularly scheduled runs for the club.

I will still be a major mover of the club though, probably even more so after I step down than before. I can help schedule trips to trails outside the area, set up camping trips that focus on trail running, and I can go ahead with really improving athletes interested in trails on a one-to-one basis, so that we get some real competitive people onto the podiums of trail races in the expanding trail racing universe in this area.

And I can still lead a lot of the Saturday and Wednesday group runs as well, if I am available.

I will not be stepping down now though, although I will be in the process of grooming a successor to the captaincy position. And I'm sure he or she will fit right in to the position beautifully.

As I said, I think this should be construed as good news all around.

As for now, I'll be enjoying the Holiday Party, and still conduct the siXac meeting on January 10. Let's remember what 2012 has given us and look forward to a very productive 2013.








Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Rising Popularity of Ultramarathons

I thought that this would never happen at all. I guess I was wrong.

Ultramarathons have become so popular that a lot of new people to the sport are starting to consider them in their racing schedule. In fact, so many people are starting to run ultras that a lot of the ultras are starting to fill their fields quickly.


Take the Vermont 100, for example. The organizers opened the 2013 race this year on December 1. As of December 3, it had completely filled. The waiting list was also completely filled a couple of days after that.

It took several months to fill the 2012 race earlier this year.

It went so fast that it closed right before the December 8 Western States lottery. The organizers had to include several select spots to those people who won a coveted spot on the lottery who intend to do the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning.

I really thought the popular marathon distance would keep most people away from doing ultras. Maybe I was wrong.

Maybe the 50k distance is the new "marathon" now.

I, for one, welcome the newcomers to the ultra club. Most of these newcomers aren't the "weekend warrior" types that you see in regular marathons, as I have feared. They are experienced runners who are trying their hand at a new and more exciting realm of running.

And this means more races are on the horizon. There seem to be 2 new races in upstate New York next year (Manitou's Revenge 50 Miler and Rock the Ridge) and a flurry of Fat Ass (free, no frills races) ultras that are popping up all over the area.

That is DEFINITELY a good thing. :-)

Shot of the course for the new race Manitou's Revenge. You can see the other breathtaking photos here


Rock The Ridge course of the Shawangunk Mountains. Click here to see two other videos of this beautiful course.


---------------------

A couple of lectures that I'm putting together that can help athletes plan their training and hone their racing strategy are almost done and will advertise them shortly.

The first one is Planning a Winning Training Program, which goes into how to use periodization to optimize your training program so that you can perform at your best in your upcoming races in 2013. I'll show you what periodization is and how to successfully implement it into your running, triathlon, and ultramarathon training programs. The course takes about an hour and is only $10 for the lecture. People can then come to me afterwards with their own programs and I can advise you on how to improve on it.

The second lecture show the differences between a marathon (or a race of lesser distance) versus an ultramarathon. Other than distance, the overall philosophy and strategy of an ultra is on a completely different planet than regular marathons. In other words, the odds are definitely stacked against you if you take the same strategy you did in a marathon and succeed in an ultra race. Aside from philosophy, there are physiological, mechanical, and mental factors that must be addressed in order to do well in an ultramarathon. Again this course will be in the spring, will take an hour, and will cost $10. Even if you have an inkling of an interest in doing your first ultra, this class will be worth it.

Both courses are slated for early next year sometime. Let me know if you're interested.




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Course Overview for Trail Running Technique and Conditioning Class

This is the course overview for the Trail Running Techniques and Conditioning Class for Trail and Road Races. Due to the Wolfes Challenge this Sunday, the first class will start Saturday at 9AM after the usual group run in High Rock Park, then will move to Sundays at 8:30AM.


The class has four 4 week segments, each costing $40. The first class is free, so come on down and ask questions. If interested, then the payment is due at the 2nd class. The first segment is technique oriented for those who are relatively new to trail running. The second segment focuses on building endurance. The third segment is building speed and focuses on the Cold Feat race. And the last segment is putting it all together, a strenuous 4 week conditioning stretch that will culminate at the Indian Trails race.

If you want to kick butt in 2013, this is the class to go to. :-)


Date Week # Subject Description
12/15/12 1 Basics of Running Trails Trail Blazes, Eye Orientation, Foot Landing, Knee Pickups, Short Easy Run on Rocky Ground, 4 mile run
12/23/12 2 Basics of Trail Hill Running Running, Running Uphill, Running Downhill 5 mile run
12/30/12 3 Distance Running Forgetting about Pace, “Time on Feet”, Expanding Endurance – 6-8 mile run
01/06/13 4 Endurance Running Keeping Focus, Improved Eye Orientation, Not Following Someone Ahead of you in races, 8 mile run
01/13/13 5 Increasing Stamina – Heavy Endurance A 10 mile run on easy to moderate trails with some rocks involved.
01/20/13 6 Mixing up Endurance and Speed Hill Fartleks. A longish run with an easy pace, but hard up hills. - 6 miles
01/27/13 7 Gaining Endurance;  Preview of  Running Fast An 8 mile endurance run with fast bursts of speed.
02/03/13 8 Peak Endurance Phase - Long Distance Running 10-15 mile endurance run. Bring water and energy with you.
02/10/13 9 Intro to Running Fast Balance, Hand-Eye Coordination, Short Bursts of Running at a Fast Pace on Technical Trails - A fast 6 miles
02/17/13 10 How to Go Fast on Technical and Hilly Trails Preview of Cold Feat Course – Fast but not Race Pace
02/23/13 11 Final Prep – Cold Feat Race Cold Feat Race. Meeting beforehand to discuss race strategy and tips.
03/03/13 12 Endurance – Kicking Butt 8 Mile Run on Difficult Technical Course
03/10/13 13 Putting it All Together 1 Pretty hard 5 mile run
03/17/13 14 Putting It All Together 2 Slightly hard 8 mile run
03/24/13 15 Putting It All Together 3 Tough Hill Training
03/31/13 16 Final Class – Taper for Indian Trails 15k Indian Trails 15k Race

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Vermont Registration and Grand Slam Team Names

I just received my instructions from the Vermont 100 people on how to get into their race.

Vermont 100 Sub 24 hour buckle which I obtained this year.

 As I stated before, this is the first time the field has filled up this quickly for their race. Even the organizers couldn't believe it. As a result of this, they stated they will open their registration after the Western States lottery next year to keep it easy on the next batch of Grand Slam hopefuls.

As for now, they have spots reserved for the Slammers before they open up their waiting list, which is great.

With the Wasatch registration form out, the next thing to watch out for is the opening of Leadville on January 1.

So I'm a little bit poorer, but a little bit relieved that this hectic part of getting into the Slam is just about over.

Naming a team for the effort is the custom for Slammers. So, I thought up some names for the team:

Some potential team names...

Team Go Farther Sports/SIAC

Team Staten Island Recovery

Team Staten Island Resilience


And then the wacky alternatives (just joking, these will not be considered):

Team Off His Rocker

Team Beyond Ridiculous

Team Off His Medication

Team Stupid

Team Forrest Gump

I can think of more non-ethical names for the team, but I'll keep them off the list. :-)

And after settling on a name, I will seriously consider team uniforms. :-)

As for the team, I'm glad we already have a team assembled for some of these races. I had a great winning team in Vermont this past year; I am glad they have already offered to come again. What I might do is consider some generous discounts to my coaching services, classes, and lectures to those already on the team as well as those considering it. If you're interested in helping me do virtually the impossible in 2013, let me know. :-)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Setting up the Grand Slam - 2013 Style

Getting registered for all four 100 mile races (Western States, Vermont, Leadville, and Wasatch Front respectively), as well as actually register for the 2013 Grand Slam itself is a little bit involved.


First, each race is different in terms of how to register. Second, once finally registered, there is some volunteer and trail work requirements that must also be met before you're fully registered for the races. I'll give you a quick rundown on how everything needs to be done before it's all set up.

1) Win a spot in the Western States 100 race - You'll have to do this either through their lottery or if you're talented enough to finish on the podium on the several Montrail Ultra Cup races in the country to gain automatic entry. If you're like most people and try through the lottery, you cannot start planning a Grand Slam until you win this lottery. And you'll need to wait until early December for that. If you don't win the lottery, forget about the Grand Slam next year. Hopefully you'll have better luck the following year.

2) Send in an application for the Wasatch 100 immediately after the lottery - You need to send in your application online, then send in a check for $225 to the address listed on their page by January 6. Wasatch Front doesn't accept online payments because the race organizers have a selection process in early January. If you don't make the selection, they will make sure potential Grand Slammers have a shot at completing their Slam in this race by holding their checks until you actually finish the first 3 races of the Slam. So, if you're fortunate enough to finish the first three, then they cash your check and accept you into the race.

3) Request a spot in the Vermont 100 race immediately after the lottery - In the past, the Vermont 100 registration was open at the time of the lottery and one had no problem getting in after winning entry to Western States. But this year, the field filled BEFORE the lottery. In consideration for those trying the Slam, they will reserve spots in Vermont 100 if you send an email to the director at vt100@vermontadaptive.org. This SHOULD get you into the Vermont 100 race. Hopefully.

4) On January 1 - Register for the Leadville 100. Quickly! - And I mean quickly. I just have a feeling the field will fill up within hours after we ring in the New Year. I'm not sure what specific time on January 1 they will be opening up, but I'll be ready and poised to register at the stroke of midnight, eastern time. And since I'll be celebrating the New Year on top of a small mountain in the middle of the Greenbelt on Staten Island, I might have to use my girlfriend's phone to register for the race since payments are accepted online. :-)

5) Register for the actual Grand Slam recognition - This link provides the address in which an $80 check needs to go in order to be actually recognized for this herculean feat. I will probably do this after the Wasatch decision in January.

6) In the Spring, fulfill some mandatory requirements for entry - Western States and Wasatch front both have mandatory trail work requirements to be met for entry. Vermont has a volunteer requirement in an ultra. Both are slightly different in terms of volunteering. Leadville doesn't need a requirement. You can get some trail work done with a local conservancy or parks department in the area. As for volunteering in a race, find an ultra in the area and contact the director of the race. As directors always need volunteers, they should respond quickly and favorably to your message. For me, I can definitely fulfill the trail work requirement locally with the Staten Island Greenbelt Conservatory. Even though the trails were recently opened after Hurricane Sandy ravaged them, they still need some work done, so I'm sure they'll need a hand in the spring. As for the volunteer race requirement, I'll get a hold of Rick McNulty of the NJ Trail Series and I can volunteer for one of his races. I did that this past year when getting into Vermont, so it should be no problem there.

7) You should be set up. Whew!!! Of course, now you need to plan all your trips out, but that will be the subject of a future blog post.

Now to get my butt in even better shape than this year.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Schedule of Events This Week...December 10-16


First I like to congratulate everyone who finished the Staten Island Trail Festival 10k, 25k, and 50k races. Although a bit sloppy and muddy the temps were perfect for this race.

The results of this race are posted here.

I also like to thank the Greenbelt Conservancy, Matt Lebow and his people, the National Guard, and everyone else who contributed to getting the trails cleaned up for the race. In a way, the trails look even better than before Hurricane Sandy hit.

That being said, it seems the Staten Island Advance again dropped the ball on publishing results of this race in a timely manner. Hopefully they will post results tomorrow.

Now for this week coming up. Yes, there will be a Wednesday Night Headlamp Run coming up, at 7PM in Willowbrook Park. Since most of us are in recovery mode, I only plan to do 5 miles at a nice, easy pace.

With the Wolfes Challenge being put into next Sunday, there are going to be some changes to next weekend's schedule.

I was supposed to hold the first class of "Excelling at Road and Trail Races Through Trail Running" class at 8:30 on Sunday, but the race has changed it for that weekend only.

The first class will be held this Saturday (December 15) at 9AM after the regular SIAC group run. It's only $40 every 4 weeks and you will get some great tips on how to run trails effectively and efficiently. It will also strengthen you up for the 2 races focused in this class, the Cold Feat 10k Trail Race, and the Indian Trails 15k Road Race. It will also get you ready for other races that you plan to do also, so it will be a great class to attend. A 4 mile run focusing on the basics will this weeks' agenda after the discussion.

That means that I will be leading the SIAC group run on Saturday at 8AM for about 5 miles only.

After this weekend, the class will revert back to Sundays at 8:30AM.

-----

As for the future,  our siXac meeting for 2013 will be held at the Unicorn Diner on Victory Blvd on Thursday January 10. This will be an open meeting, meaning if you are interested in submitting a race for consideration for a strong siXac showing, you can let me know from now until the meeting itself. Don't be shy; make a list of races and come to the meeting. :-)


Saturday, December 8, 2012

SI Trail Fest 50k and Western States 100 Entry


 Where exactly do I begin?

Well, I'll start from the beginning. I got up, ate a breakfast, showered, and shaved.

Oh, maybe I should fast-forward to the interesting parts. :-)

OK, this was Decision Day, the day I know my fate with the Western States 100 lottery. This was also the day I ran an ultra as well, the Staten Island Trail Festival 50k starting at Willowbrook Park and basically run all over the Greenbelt.

Twice.

Yeah, there was a 25k race that did one loop and a 10k that did part of a loop, but you know me. I always go for the long stuff.

And 2 loops equals 50k.

And yes, my girlfriend was running the 50k also. Along with our mutual friend and several other people in the club.

Speaking of which, we now have two new ultrarunners in the club! Congrats Chris and Andy for enduring your first 50k race.

Hopefully the first of many. :-)

This race can be a bit tough at times. It's not because of the course in general. It's that the 50k runners start at the same time as the 25k runners.

And we all know that 25k runners will maybe run a bit faster than the 50k runners.

But, as a competitive runner, it takes a will the size of the Titanic to hold back in that beginning loop. And like the Titanic, if I stay with that group, my goal for a good race could easily sink.

But, I did go out fast. Heck, I had to keep up with Andy. You know, the guy with the awesome 3:04 Brooklyn Marathon time.

And those first 3 miles were a bit uphill. By the time I got to the multipurpose trail at mile 4, I was pretty much gassed.

And I still had 27 miles to go.

Anyway, I couldn't stay with Andy so I FINALLY decided to slow down a teeny bit by the time I got to around the Latourette House Aid Station at mile 6.

Just a bit though.

The rest of the first loop was a big blur. I knew I was running way too fast but I had a head of steam that can't be stopped. So I decided to go with it a little.

I started to lose it a bit with 2 miles to go in the first loop. Definitely not good. As I rounded the corner, through the finish line area, and out for the second loop, I take a look at my time.

2 hours 4 minutes. Holy crap; I did around 2 hours 18 minutes last time.

The second loop is the "lonely loop", No 25k people to push me along, and except for the 10k people (who started 2 hours after us) finishing up along the same trail, the rest of the course was desolate.

I slowed down much the first 5 miles of that second loop and went into "ultra mode". That means "slow the f--k down you stupid retard and manage whatever energy you have left."

It was a rough transition to a slower pace on the multipurpose trail but by the time I got to the Latourette House Aid Station again, I started to get back into somewhat of a groove. I was walking some of the steeper hills but at a very brisk pace.

I knew I was in 5th place all along, but halfway around the 2nd loop, I caught back up with Andy, who was in a bit of difficulty. After saying some encouraging words to him, I started off...

...until another runner basically blasted by both me and Andy and was gone in a half mile.

So, I was back in 5th place again, but starting to feel better.

In order to excel in ultras, you need to take a very methodical approach, listen to your body, and manage whatever resources you have left in order to get the best possible result. If that means slowing down or walking up hills, that's fine. If that means stopping at aid stations to make sure you're properly fuelled back up again, so be it. But management is king when it comes to these races.

And I managed myself very well in High Rock, where any one of those numerous hills could have taken me out to the woodshed and shot.

By the time I got to the last aid station, 3 miles from the finish, I know I was solid enough to make it.

The last 2 miles were downhill, and boy that I get a head of steam those last 2 miles. Nobody, I mean nobody, was going to pass me then.

I got to the finish with a smile on my face and relatively intact. 4 hours 38 minutes. 5th place overall and 1st in my age group. Probably about 10 minutes faster than last year.

My girlfriend also did very well also, and I'm proud of her for completing this tough course. Both she and our mutual friend are great partners on the trail, and they push each other well in races like this. :-)

 A little barbecue after the run, waiting and cheering the 50k people to the finish.

------

Soooo, the 2nd half of my day went like this...got home from the race, soaked in bathtub and heeded my call from nature on the porcelain throne.

Oh that's right...the interesting parts only. Sorry about that. ;-)

Logged on to my computer, went on twitter, and linked over to the website that had the final results.

Now remember, I only had a 21% chance of winning, so I was a bit pessimistic and resigned.

Well, I did a search on that website and my name came up. My jaw dropped. I fainted.

Well, no, I didn't faint. I really wanted to jump for joy but that would cramp me up big time.

I'm in the Western States in 2013. I'm also doing Leadville in 2013.

So it makes kind of sense to register for Vermont and Wasatch Front 100 and try for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning.

Four 100 mile races in four months. The sheer insanity if it attracts me like a fly to a steamy, juicy turd. ;-)

It was an incredible day today, and it looks to be an incredible year next year.

Congrats to all those who ran the Staten Island Trail Festival Races this year. I will be making sure your name will be announced at the January meeting. :-)


Friday, December 7, 2012

The Unexplained...Part 3 (Last Part)

Two days ago I wrote about Wim Hof, who can withstand cold that can claim other people's lives. He says he has the ability to "turn on" his heating to the point where he is unharmed.

Yesterday I wrote about people with Savant syndrome, and the extraordinary talents these people have that science can explain.

Today, I want to stress that it doesn't take superhuman person or special people to tap this incredible potential that humans have.

Sometimes it takes some special circumstances to turn a "normal" human to a super human one. Like trying to save a loved one's life:

As Monhollen stood underneath the car, it began to wobble and then fell, trapping him.
The grandson said that’s when his instincts took over. Smith was able to lift the 2,000 pound car so his grandfather could slide out.
When it comes to how young Smith mustered the strength to lift up that vehicle, he says, “I have no clue, probably all the adrenaline.”
He said he doesn’t think he could do it right now. But his grandfather is grateful and expressing gratitude for his grandson’s herculean abilities.
The video is included with the article; it's interesting to watch.

So, the grandson was able to lift a 2000 pound car off his grandfather, probably saving his life.

We definitely have abilities we don't think we have.

And if you think it's just a strong guy that can do it, think again. How about this "skinny 22 year old woman" saving her father from the same fate?


All humans have amazing untapped abilities that they don't realize they have. Part of the reason why people don't realize their own superhuman abilities is that all of us, including me, unconsciously set up their own limitations It's kind of like setting up the walls to their own prison. And sometimes, society has a hand in imposing those limits on everyone also.

But most of the time most people are happy with their limitations, take the easy way out, and stay in their "comfort zone". Which will probably lead to an "average" life as an "average joe" with no real milestones to mark their lives.

Sorry to offend anyone, but it sounds like a real boring way to live.

The only way to untap your superhuman potential is to realize what limitations you've made on yourself, then exceed them. That is when you start to live your life to the fullest. Will you fail? Many times, but each time you fail gives you information on how to succeed the next time.

And when you actually do succeed? That is when you realize that nothing is impossible and set yourself out to push your limits back even further. Remember it's not the goals themselves, but the exciting journey toward those goals which matters the most.

Remember that when you feel you can't run another mile in a race, can't do another bench press rep, can't cycle up that last hill, or can't overtake the runner in front of you at the finish line. You have that potential in you!

Now get out there and see if you can make it happen!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Unexplained...Part 2

In the last blog I told that science has a lot of shortcomings when it comes to unexplained phenomena. And I cited The Iceman as one of those special humans who can exceed any normal human's limits when it comes to extreme cold.

Today, it is those with Savant Syndrome.


Savant Syndrome is a form of autism that is both limiting and extraordinary. The people who have this syndrome tend to perceive reality very differently than most other people. This reality severely limits their ability to perform what we perceive as normal functions, but enhances greatly their skills in other things. There are savants that can listen to music and instantly play it on an instrument. There are savants that can memorize whole books instantly. And there are savants that can instantly calculate math problems without much effort.

Take a look at this video below:


Then take a look at this article on how one "does the math".

"Actually, he isn't "calculating": there is nothing conscious about what he is doing. He arrives at the answer instantly. Since his epileptic fit, he has been able to see numbers as shapes, colours and textures. The number two, for instance, is a motion, and five is a clap of thunder. 'When I multiply numbers together, I see two shapes. The image starts to change and evolve, and a third shape emerges. That's the answer. It's mental imagery. It's like maths without having to think.'"
Our common algorithms for multiplication, division, subtraction, and addition are based on regular logic. You know, "carry the one", "cross out the zero and place a 9 in its place", multiplication tables, etc. Although these algorithms are quite quick to use, even without a calculator, we still need a bit of time to figure out the problem using this method.

To see numbers as a series of shapes, colors, and feelings, and to see them morph into the correct answer is nothing science can explain. It might be even safe to say that these mathematical savants can do mathematics on an entirely different level than us mere humans can.

Next up, Stephen Wiltshire, "The Human Camera" This is amazing!


To draw an accurately detailed skyline of a city after flying over it for 45 inutes is just extraordinary.  How he does it, again, science can't explain.

Again, it is quite limiting believe your reality is just based on what your five senses perceive. This is proof that there is a reality beyond the five senses and is ready to be tapped by people who are willing to expand their possibilities. If you can think "outside the box" and never set any limits to what you can do and work toward what you think is an "impossible goal", you might just amaze yourself and actually accomplish it.

Tomorrow will will be the last instalment of The Unexplained.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Unexplained...Part 1

"I'm only human."

A very common phrase, isn't it. Most of the time it is used as a shortcoming of our species.

It's also used to define the walls we make in our own prisons. The limits we make on ourselves.

Most people think it's outside factors that make the limits. The problem with most people is that they don't even make the attempt at all.

Science is supposed to interpret our environment and attempt to explain practically why this reality exists. But science has never really attempted to answer some of the big questions, like who we really are. That requires some "out of the box" thinking, which is something most scientists have a problem doing.

So, even our sciences have self-imposed limits that are imposed on us as well.

Which is why science cannot explain a great many things that are out there.

Take this guy, for instance. His name is Wim Hof, dubbed "The Iceman". He can thrive in extreme cold when most other people perish in it. And yes, science cannot explain how he does it:

Wim Hof, the Iceman doing a half marathon above the Arctic Circle


In fact, this guy recently managed to get to the top of Mt. Everest with just a pair of shorts and no oxygen tanks. Mt. Everest claims a number of lives each year due to his extreme environment and yet he gets up there as easy as I climb Moses Mountain.


Science, again, can't explain it.

I come from a scientific background. And yes, science is very important to help us understand the environment we live in.

But science isn't king.

In fact, I think science has barely scratched 1% of understanding how this reality works.

For those who want to believe that the only things that are real are contained within your 5 senses, I really urge you to take your blinders off. You might see some amazing things that you otherwise won't see.

Tomorrow, I'll post another interesting example of something that is unexplained by science and I'll tie it all together on Friday.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Awaiting the Western States Lottery - And Maybe the Slam

One more week before I finally am able to set up my 2013 season schedule. The deciding day is, of course, the Western States 100 Lottery on Saturday December 8. That is, coincidentally, the same day as I am doing the Greenbelt Trail Festival 50k. That means that after the race I can log on and see whether I'm in the race or not.

Mile 4 of the Western States 100, near Squaw Valley. Look at that scenery, baby!


And a whole slew of decisions are to follow after that. I've already decided to attempt Leadville 100 again next year, after my bitter, bloody defeat on the slopes of Hope Pass in 2011. My girlfriend and a mutual friend of ours will be going out there to do the Transrockies Run3 Race a few days before, so it would be great to see her in action while prepping for Leadville. With the addition of the Western States 100, I would be already attempting half of the Grand Slam of Ultramarathoning.

 The upper reaches of Hope Pass, above the treeline. Scenery, baby, gotta love it!


To complete the Slam also requires the Vermont 100 race, which I have completed twice. It is also the closest of the races, requiring only a drive instead of a plane.

The Vermont 100. Scenery and horses, baby!


The organizers have already opened up the registration on December 1 and they are on the verge of selling out already! What the heck? Only 2 years ago one can wait until March to sign up for this race. I would have never thought that 100 mile races would actually become popular enough to sell out like this, but there it is.

The organizers of the Vermont 100 have assured all potential Slammers that they can enter the race if they are accepted into the other races of the Slam, which is fine by me.

The last race of the Slam is the Wasatch Front 100 in September. All I know about the race is that it is hilly. Very hilly. I think I heard about 25,000 foot elevation change from start to finish. And since it comes last in the Slam, it will be quite fun to do this race on tired legs, yikes! Their registration also opened up on December 1 but they aren't close to being full yet.

Wasatch 100. Um, scenery? Looks like this scenery can kill me, baby!


If I win and do decide to do the Slam next year, it would only be a one-time thing. The expense of going out to the West Coast 3 times next year will probably cause me to race only locally for the next 2 years after that, so I have to make sure I get the best chance of finishing the entire thing. And that means being as fit, or even fitter, than my triathlete days of the 1990s.

That is why I am trying to stress the diet part of the training plan, because I do believe this is where it makes or breaks my attempt at the Slam. As of right now, the Primal Diet seems to be the best plan, and you will see me posting up some primal food recipes more frequently on this blog.

So wish me luck. Oh yeah, if I don't win a spot in the Western States lottery, I won't sweat it. There are other options too, like doing The Beast Series down in Virginia.

I'm still going to Leadville though. I got a little revenge to take care of there next year. :-)

-------

On the SIAC front, there is a meeting tonight at Pepperjacks Grill at 7:30PM. It's all about the elections, so it's important to come on down if you're a SIAC member.

SIAC will also have a Holiday Party at the Staaten on December 15. There will be a slideshow thanks to Josh Pesin as well as awards. And good food and drinks, of course. Oh, and about the slideshow...it could be called an "xtremely" funny movie. ;-)

On the siXac ("xtreme") front, I did mention above that the big local race of the year is the Staten Island Trail Festival Races. You can go short with the 10k, go longer with the 25k, or go ultra with the 50k option. There will also be a 5k option available after Hurricane Sandy cancelled the Fall Flat 5k race in November.

Two other things to mention (I will give fuller details in the near future). Our siXac meeting is slated for Thursday January 10 at 7PM at Unicorn Diner in Bulls Head. Yeah, Thursday, not Wednesday. Had to do it some important people associated with siXac are available. We will be discussing the club's involvement in some key trail races in 2013.

Lastly, there is the Watchung Winter Trail Races on January 5. There is the half marathon, the full marathon, and the ultra (50k) option. Watchung is a great place to run on trails, and for only $25, it's definitely worth considering. I'll let you know more about it in the future.

Now back to your regular scheduled program. :-)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Introducing a new Class!!! Trail Running to Improve Both Your Trail and Road Races

Well, it's time to announce the first class in 2013. Classes will be a relatively new thing for me although I have done some informal classes in the past. This will be the first time I've announced a class to the general public.

And I promise it will be exciting!

I lead groups through the Greenbelt every week with the free programs described below from SIAC for beginners, so it's not a new thing for me since the format is similar.

With that said, one of the beliefs that I have tested in the past involves trail running itself. Some runners fear the trails, some tend to poo-poo it, and some are worried about injuries while running. So trail running has, in its past, been like a kid sister to road racing in this area.

I can understand this. It's an urban area. There are a lot more roads than trails in NY and in NJ. It's easier to just get out the door and do a quick run, then chance back and get to work in the morning. You might need to drive to a trailhead to access the trails which might take up some of your busy time. And you can easily figure out your pace on the roads.

But from what I see, trail running has made a revival, even in this area of cement and asphalt. NJ has its parks where races can be held. The Holiday Marathons utilize the trails in Van Cortland Park.

And we Staten Islanders have our Greenbelt!

What is great about the Greenbelt is that it's big enough so that every Staten Islander has access to its trails within 2 miles of his or her house, so it's easy to just lace on a pair of shoes, head on out for a warm-up on the road leading to the Park, then pick up the pace once you get to the trails.

And trail races are starting to become the norm here.

The fears that some runners look bigger than they really are. The fear that you might get hurt will go away if you gradually get accustomed to the trails. Most of those who poo-poo trail running tend to never really try it seriously, or just have a closed mind to it.

But trail running will get you to places that no car or road will bring you. I've been to places with such spectacular scenery that it provides an exclamation point to why trail running is so cool. Take a look at these pictures...now tell me where on the road will you find these shots?

Cold Feat 10k - 2012

Moses Mountain - New Year 2012 - Night Time Trail Running, it's quite an experience!

Bald Mountain at Bear Mountain State Park - the nearly 1000 foot climb is worth it!


Leadville 100 - Hope Pass, what a spectacular view! Nope that's not me, but there will be a similar picture with me in it in August 2013.


For those who are reluctant to take to the trails due but are willing to try, the Staten Island Athletic Club has a beginners program for those who would like to try trail running. We run out of High Rock Park. Beginners are more than welcome to try trail running out. We stay as one group, stay at an easy pace, and nobody gets dropped. Plus being in the group will expose you to other people who have been enjoying the trails since this program was put into place 1.5 years ago. And, for the more advanced, we also invite runners to try the trails at night also with our Wednesday Night Runs out of Willowbrook Road. Headlamps are required and we go at a very easy pace.

Thanks to the program, we now have very experienced trail runners in the club. It's great to see people who started trails just a year or so ago really get better on these trails.

Now I offer an advanced program for those who want to take the next level up in trail running. Evidence is mounting that excelling in trail running not only improves your trail race time, but also your road race times as well.

It has to do with improved balance that is needed on the trails. Unlike roads, the ground is uneven, sometimes with rocks and roots involved. And each step on the trail recruits more stabilizer muscles to keep you upright on the trails. As a result, you become a much stronger, better balanced, and therefore a MORE EFFICIENT runner.

And this increased efficiency translates well to road running also. If you're more efficient, you're more economical, you waste less energy, and therefore your times should drop.

And that's why this class will gear up for both a tough trail race in February (Cold Feat 10k) and a particularly hilly road race in April (Indian Trails 15k). At the end of this class those hills in both races should be less of a problem to tackle.

The class will start on Sunday December 16 and will run through 16 weeks, mostly on Sundays, to the beginning of April and the Indian Trails race. It will be broken down into four, 4 week segments, each with a slightly different theme. Here's how it will be broken down:

Week 1-4: Trail Running Basics (how to run at a faster pace, uphill and downhill trail running, mechanics and arm movement)

Week 5-8: Building Endurance (increasing your mileage on tougher trails, how to coordinate your trail training with road training, and a steady diet of hills to test your mettle)

Week 9-12: Building your Speed (increase hand-eye coordination on technical trails, so that you can "dance" easily over rocks and roots, how to tackle uphills and dowhills at a fast pace, and the final prep for the Cold Feat 10k in February).

Week 13-16: Putting it All together (Endurance and Speed together in perfect harmony, increased toughness over technical trails, honing your prowess on hills, and kicking some major butt at the Indian Trails 15k Road Race.

The class is only $40 every 4 weeks. If you do miss a class, I can keep you up to speed with what the group did on that Sunday you didn't go so that you can have the chance to go to the Greenbelt or some other trails and do the workout for yourself, and to keep you updated for the next class.

I will be posting more details of this class here in the near future. In the meantime, you can sign up either by letting me know on Facebook or you can email me at ironpete@ironpete.com or phone me at 347-996-0588.

Let's kick some butt next year!



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy - Picking up the Pieces/Preparedness

As I write this blog, people are still trying to pick up the pieces after Hurricane Sandy blew through the New York/New Jersey area.

I truly hope everyone recovers well through this trying time. It's very tough when people's homes are utterly destroyed by the flooding in the area.


What I find encouraging is the support of friends and family, helping others who are more in need. It's this human nature that I always find amazing when disasters like this hurricane hit. I think of all the commodities one needs to have, friends and family should rank as the most important. Leaning on each other is the best way to get through tough times like these.

For me, this is was a prime test for emergency preparedness. Or, how self-sufficient am I when a disruption of services happen.

It was very sobering. Although we as a family were well off in some things, we were lacking in other things as well. Although it was an unfortunate circumstance, it was indeed a great test to see how we fared.

I found out that the NY Times posted an article about why Big Government is needed in times like this. I offer a bit of a rebuttal here on why it is really YOUR responsibility to be prepared when a calamity hits.

While I do applaud the city government and its formation of several evacuation centers in Staten Island with Hurricane Sandy, and with their first responders for rescuing those who were truly in danger, that should not prevent you from becoming overly dependant on them and other people. What if the storm was so bad that government couldn't even function properly? What if the storm was so bad that even your friends and family couldn't help you out of a bad situation? We've seen a lot of evidence in Hurricane Katrina, where government services broke down utterly and a lot of people suffered because of it.

People have to empower themselves and try to reason out sound plans in case another calamity happens. It's your life (as well as your loved ones) that you're trying to save, so it should be of your paramount importance that you have several emergency plans in place in case a calamity hits. Depending on other people, especially strangers, puts your life in other people's hands who may or may not consider your situation as critical as you see it. So you want to make sure to avoid this as much as possible so that you are in control of your own destiny.

That means being as prepared as much as possible and implementing a number of emergency plans in case a calamity happens.

I know a relative and her husband who has a house in Tottenville, in a "Zone A evacuation area" according to the city. The day before the storm hit, the city enacted a "mandatory" evacuation of Zone A areas. Her husband didn't heed the evacuation orders.

If they wanted to stay by their house in a zone that might get flooded, then that's fine, but maybe, just maybe, they should have made several emergency plans in case the worst case scenario does happen.

They didn't do that. Plus, her husband doesn't know how to swim. Sorry guys, but if you're sticking at your house that has the potential to flood, and you cannot swim, YOU ARE A DISASTER IN THE MAKING. Especially if you didn't even plan for that eventuality.

The flood did happen, and thankfully, the city did respond by sending out responders out to rescue them from their flooded home. But that situation could have easily been prevented, and they know it.

If you were going to defy city orders, fine. Then prepare for a possible flood. A boat or raft at your fingertips might have worked. Or, plan to move away from the house earlier if the water was starting to move into the area. They didn't, and they became trapped.

And dependent on other people to save their lives.

Listen, I'm not saying that implementing several plans and getting prepared will make you 100% self sufficient. It won't.

But you can easily minimize your chances of putting you and your loved ones in other people's hands and being dependent on them if you are prepared.

Having a stash of durable food and clean water is important. With food, freeze-dried is preferred; most have about a 20 year life span before it goes bad. Canned food is the next preferred, with a 2-5 year life. For food, Freeze Dry Guy is pretty reliable. If you want, you can check out their website here.

With water, you can either store several gallons of water for immediate emergencies. For longer term emergencies, a means of sanitizing water would be paramount. Iodine and chlorine (bleach) are effective ways of sanitizing water. The water will taste like crap, but at least it's drinkable. The iodine product is described and can be bought here.

Next is a means of defense. Looting is an unfortunate circumstance in situations like these and you might be called upon to defend yourself and your loved ones. Guns will work; if you don't have a gun, knives and bats will work also. Hopefully you won't need them, but they are good to have in an emergency. It would also be good to learn a bit of self-defense if you don't have weapons available in a life-threatening situation

Having a car filled with gas is also great to have. I was comforted to know I had a fully fuelled car in case I had to "bug out" of the area.

A generator would also work for short-term situations. For long term, it wouldn't work since gas would unlikely be available to keep the generator running.

Lastly, if the worst case scenario does happen and you do have to depend on other people, friends and family are best to have. A good support network is key, and I've seen it prevalent in this case where friends and relatives were willing to help other people in need.

This is one of our best qualities as humans to possess.

Anyway I hope everyone here made it safely through the storm. I wish you and your loved ones a safe recovery, and better preparedness in the future. I am no exception; I will be definitely taking some actions of my own to further increase my preparedness.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My First Trail Race, How I Swore Off Trail Running Then, and How I Love It Now

I owe my origins of trail running to the people at Pretzel City Sports in Pennsylvania.


In the mid-90s, I was a hardcore triathlete and road racer in New Jersey, usually going a ton of these races in the local area.

As is the local tradition of New Jersey races, there is usually a table near the registration where brochures and applications to other races can be laid out. There could be as much as 50 of these applications placed on this table.

Over a period of time, some applications for races from Pretzel City Sports started to appear on this table. What caught my eye about these applications were that they were, well, different, from the other applications.

They proudly proclaimed that they were "the carjacking capital of the world", that you have to be of limited intelligence to enter some of these races, and you're basically bear meat if you don't make your way back to the start below the cut-off time.

If you want to read some of the hilarious applications on their website, you can go to Pretzel City Sports, hover over their Trail Apps tab, and click on any one of the races that pop up. Here are a couple from their Ugly Mudder and the Half-Wit Half Marathon races.

Intrigued, several of us NJ runners decided to race in one of their events. Of course, it would turn out to be one of the tougher races in the series, the Half-Wit Half Marathon.

Yes, I didn't really have my wits about me when I signed up for this race.

Road racers tend to be quite anal in the races they enter. Or is it spoiled? Well, most road races have a nice aid station for every mile of the course, with a nice big number on each side declaring how many miles they've done. And even though some of the courses are hilly, they have the comfort of being sure footed, as every inch of the course is nice hard pavement, which is very easy to try to maintain pace on.

My first trail race was a rude awakening.


This video I got from Youtube can pretty much show you how tough the course is for the Half-Wit Half Marathon


After travelling a couple of hours to the Reading area, I started to warm up before the race. I followed part of the course where it enters a split in a stone wall and the beginnings of the single track trail.

And this is where I encountered the first hill. Two minutes later, I was exhausted.

And worried.

Going up the hill was nothing like in the road races. My footing was so unsure on the uneven path that I was not confident at all.

And I have 13.1 miles of this to do? Egads...

Right before the race, we started to seed ourselves within the group. After Ron Horn, the race director went through his announcements, we were off and running...until we had to walk.

Entering into a very small trail from a much wider road tends to bottleneck the group a bit. And as a road runner, that just destroyed any notion of pacing that I wanted to establish.

Well, later on, I realized that nobody really can't pace accurately in a trail race. But try telling that to me then...

Finally getting onto the trail, I busted my lungs on that first uphill of the race, and the wheels came off soon after. By mile 3 I was hanging on for dear life, trying to make head or tails over what the heck was really going on here. I mean, no water station every mile? No big number telling me what mile I am on the course?

After an hour on the course, I was truly wondering how far I was along. I was figuring about 7-8 miles...

Then reality hit! I finally got to one of the few aid stations on the course and found out that I only did 6 miles!

I was a guy who regularly did 1:25 for a half marathon back then. So you probably know what it's like to discover that not even half the race is done in 60 minutes.

I was deflated. And yet, little did I know that the worst part of the course was coming up.

Immediately after the aid station was the "128 Steps From Hell", a long, steep concrete flight of broken steps cut into a forested hill that totally blew my lungs out (the 128 Steps From Hell is shown for a second or two in the video above, around 2:20 in). At the top, I actually had to start walking just to catch my breath.

And the hills just kept on coming.

In competitive road running, walking, for the most part, is a sign of weakness and defeat. So when I resorted to walking at this point of the race, I was definitely not in a good place emotionally (in trail running, walking is not a sign of defeat, but can be more efficient than running on steep hills).

The downhills were no picnic either, and the footing was treacherous. On a particular downhill section on mile 8, I really twisted my left ankle bad.

When I emerged onto the road at mile 9, I was set to give up. Mile 9 was only a quarter mile away from the finish, so I was tempted to just bow out.

But a moment of insanity kicked in and I decided to continue.

The last 4 miles of the course is like a lollipop, a short, out and back section with a loop at the other end.

The out-and-back section had a beer stop. What the heck...?


I ignored the beer stop and just moved on, shaking my head. Beer at a race? Especially a race with rocks and roots? I would probably fall flat on my face if I even drank a sip.

Still, I twisted my other ankle soon after the stop. Maybe I should have drunk the beer...

The loop section had a huge hill on it, so steep that I had to stop at several points just to catch my breath. When I finally got to the top  of the hill, and back past the beer section at mile 12, I started to swear off all trail races in general.

I got across the finish line in the most rotten attitude ever. Never again was I ever to do another trail race. This stuff is for masochists! Why would anyone want to do these regularly was beyond me.

A week later, I realized that I allowed this race to have the best of me.

Two weeks later, I resolved to give this race another go next year.

During the next year, I discovered that there was a different type of philosophy surrounding trail races that is not present in road races. I was starting to "get it".

The next year, I approached the Half-Wit Half Marathon with a different attitude.

I wound up taking 20 minutes off of last year's time and crossed the finish line with a big smile on my face. I've been transformed.

Trail running for me was a "trial by fire". And I discovered I was not alone on this either. Most road runners usually have a rough transition to trail races. Some, like me, swear it off. But unlike me, they stay sworn off and stay permanently with road races.

So if you are a road runner who had a rough time on the trails, whether is with race or even just a training run, I invite you to try again.

Who knows? You might like it this time around. Or, dare I say, LOVE it. :-)