Monday, June 16, 2014

My Gear

This one is for the gear-heads. I have received numerous requests to post what gear I use. No big secrets...or maybe a few. I am a firm believer in two things:
1. Use what works for you, and not because it's trendy, or has a "celebrity" signature line attached to it.
2. It is the runner, not the gear, that makes a runner. 

That being said, the stuff I am posting is what I use because it works for me. Go out and experiment.

Kicks: Salomon Fellcross 2 and Speedcross 3. The Fellcross are my go to shoes. Super light. Aggressive lugs for muddy terrain (they even work great on technical terrain). They dry really fast so your feet aren't soaking for long periods of time. The toe-bumper is built like a tank. There have been times when I should have broken a toe or two on the trails from kicking a root or rock, but they saved me from a good deal of pain. I go to the Speedcross when I need a bit more cushioning.  

Socks: Drymax Max Pro Trail. Probably the only piece in my kit that I can't live without. They are expensive but worth even more. No blisters, hot spots, masceration, ulcers, etc... Pulls the water away from the feet in minutes. 500 mile tested ;-)

Headlamp: Lupine Piko x4. Ridiculously expensive. Worth every penny. And ridiculously bright. 1200-4500 lumens. You can cook your food with it. Makes your Petzl feel like a kid's toy. Built like a tank. Extremly light-weight. Water-proof. Cold-proof down to 40 below. Tiny rechargeable battery that lasts 58 hours on a moderate setting. Flip on the high beam to replicate a Mercedes-Benz flying down the trails. The most reliable piece in my kit.

Poles: Black Diamond Ultra-distance Z poles. Carbon fiber. They weigh nothing and you can put your full weight into them. Collapse down fast and compact. I have beaten the hell out of mine and I can't break them. I cut off the wrist straps to be able to adjust hand placement for different inclines, terrain, etc...
Back-up: Raidlight Carbon fiber poles. Slightly heavier than the BD poles, but not much. Even more durable than the BD. These come with special gloves that replace the wrist straps, and clip directly between the thumb and index finger. Great leverage. 

Gloves: Raidlight fingerless gloves. Great when using poles to prevent blisters. Even better when you take a dive on technical terrain and prevents your hands from being shredded on rocks. 
Back-up: Salmon fingerless gloves. Breathe better and have a stow-away wind defelctor. I have a variety of fingerless cycling gloves that work just as well. 

Watch: No Garmin for me. I want something accurate, indestructible, and that I don't have to recharge. Casio Rangeman Japanese carbon fiber edition. I use it for food/water alarms and timer. The barometer, temp, elevation and compass are more acurate than any gps watch I have owned or tested. And consistently accurate.  But Nick, it doesn't tell you your mileage or heart rate!! I don't care about mileage. I know where I need to be at the given times. And I have an illogical timing method in my head that I can't explain to anyone, but it works for me and it synchs up nicely to my accurate watch ;-) 
And heart rate: I'm working hard anyway.  Don't need an HRM to tell me something doesn't feel right or if I'm in a proper zone. That won't matter running 500 miles, or perhaps a 1,000 mile.............

Hydro vest: Ok, maybe I have some secrets. I build my own hydro rigs from pieces of other packs. I'm picky. No single pack has ever felt "right" for me, so I decided to piece and sew together the things that did work, and make my own. It's always changing and evolving for a particular race, weather, and problem solving for things like: busted bladders, calorie dispensing, gear storage, preventing frozen hoses, breathability, comfort, etc... I have solved a lot of problems with experimentation and pretty much have a base-line hydro-vest that I can adapt to anything. My advice: don't settle for something if it's not working the way you want it to. 

Foot Cream: It's no secret that my feet got destroyed at last year's Peak 500 mile. So, I needed a foot cream to prevent blisters, repel water, and protect against open sores and friction. Some how word got out that, what was in my anonymous, unlabeled jars was vegan-aise, and I was also using it for calories...sure, go with that ;-)

Shirts: EMS long sleeve, and RRS sleeveless. EMS has the best material for keeping you cool and dry. 

Shorts: Race Ready. Light-weight even when wet.

Underwear: Under Armor 9" briefs. Prevents chafing. 'Nuff said. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Peak Races 500, Part 2: Random Notes

- Running a sub 2 hr loop with Kale...on our first loop
- Andy repeatedly wanting to rip off my two big toenails with a look of excitement
- Jade taking video of the progression of my nails as they popped away from the nail-bed. I told her I'd make her a necklace once I rip them off
- Margaret bouncing off the walls of the barn put a smile on my face ;-)
- Michelle: crying and hugging everytime we saw each other. Remember when we saw each other on Bubba/Fusters switchback?? Oh man. 
- NASCAR-like pit stops at the barn as Jeff and Steve changed my tires. Like a machine
- Would the REAL Bill Bradley please stand up!! Andy: "uh, you're not Bill Bradley..."
- Kale's corner growing. And growing. And growing. Wait, is that Kale on the floor??
- 3:30am. Jeff and I in tears, trying to muffle our hysterical laughing fit about an epi-pen
- Crying with Jeff more times than I'd like to admit
- Trying to mask the pain and fatigue, Steve and I began to sing parodies of Morrissey, The Smiths, Alice in Chains, The Eagles, and our favorite, Alanis Morisette's, Ironic:
"It's like one s-cap, when all you need is Aleve.
It's having 10,000 Jeffs, but all you have is a Steve..."
There's another verse but I can't repeat it...
- More pain management by Steve and I calling out a military cadence:
"Andy made this fucking course,
Makes us feel like sons of whores.
It's a bitch at every turn, 
Man my ass is startin' to burn.
It really shows that Andy cares, 
'Cause he makes us climb The Stairs.
Andy's smilin' really wide, 
Each and everytime we cried.
No Andy doesn't give a shit, 
We just have to finish it! SOUND OFF!"
- Being yelled at by a 200 miler from the bottom of Stone Wall to "Stop having fun!"
- Steve taking me off the mountain after a week to grab a quick shower and wanting to puke as the water hit me
- Andy's delayed reaction as he chewed that piece of ginger...wait for it...
- Bears don't get sarcasm
- Steve: "what the hell do the bears do when it rains? They must hate their life."
- Woodpeckers: the smart ones die!
- Jeff and I tracking down the two owls
- Is that bacon on that chipmunk ??
- Hey Steve, is that a bottle of beer following us?? 
- The quiet, mechanical rhythem Jeff and I would find. Silence. Just running. 
- Fuckitsville on Middle Ravine
- Running UP the Meatgrinder and The Stairs to get help for Jess. Her toughness astounds me
- Realizing Steve and I are more alike than we had ever imagined. Except the height. He's got me on the height
- Getting a text from Willy before I caught a couple hours of sleep, made me lose it. Cried myself to sleep
- Downing the magic Natureboy combo of Mountain Dew and Skittles and feeling Willy's presence as I cruised down Noodles Revenge. He was with me on my solo loops, at the summit and of course Noodles. Thank you my friend. 
- 1:39 am Saturday morning. The day we finished early. I stood in the darkness, headlamp off. Tired and in pain. I watched Kale stumble out of the barn with his pacers assisting him. He was hunched over and barely moving. He started the climb. At that moment, all I wanted from this whole journey was for him to finish. I held back my tears, quietly snuck into the barn and laced up. 

Group photo at the start: Andy, Jess, Will, Kale, myself, and Michelle

The Summit, alone, "with" Willy

Kale and I, closing in on 500 miles

An honorary member of the Stormtrooper Crew. Jade was a HUGE help to us all

The course

The profile

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Peak Races 500 miles: the SHORT version

2014 Peak Races 500 mile ultramarathon, Pittsfield, VT. May 22, 2014

I returned to Pittsfield, VT. for my second attempt at my "white whale," the Peak Races 500 mile. Last year, I made it to 460 miles with the help of the previous year's winner and first finisher in the race's history, Willy Syndram, along with a fantastic crew. However, it wasn't my time, yet.

It is difficult to put into words what I experienced during this run. It was a journey that changed me forever, more so than last year's attempt. I experienced so many intense emotions; excitement, happiness, anger, frustration, sadness. Words do not seem to do the experience any justice. 

The course changes every year. Offering new challenges, sometimes referred to as the "Andy Monkey-wrench," affectionately named after the RD, whom we love, and he in return, loves to torture us. Ten mile loops run 50 times of muddy, technical terrain. Ten days to finish. 50-60 miles everyday. Elevation change equivalent to running up and down Mt. Everest four and a half times. Five of us started. Two of us survived: myself and my new friend, Kale Poland, both finishing early in nine days. 

I ran through down pours. A possible tornado? Trails turned into rivers. Climbing through mud. Trekking through bushwhacking sections, twisting my ankles, smashing my toes into hidden tree stumps, freshly cut by Andy. Thanks. 
I power hiked up steep, near vertical climbs that seemed to have no end. Heart rate sky rocketing and trying to control my breathing. 
I ran down equally steep descents. Never ending drops that crushed my quads, strained my hips and created severe tendonitis in my right leg. 
I ran rolling technical terrain. Never finding a comfortable rhythm, just twisting my ankles, hammering my feet until toenails literally popped off from my toes. Cutting up my shoes to relieve the pressure. 
I ran through dense woods called "The Labyrinth," when even in the daylight, it was near pitch black. 
I ran through the night. Trying to avoid being stuck by the several porcupines who decided to wander out onto the trails. Trying to avoid black bears and coyotes. 
I ran through doubt. When I didn't want to run anymore. When I was tired. When I was nauseated. When my body hurt so much that tears fell. I ran after falling. I ran when my body said, "enough." 

At 9:15 pm on Saturday May 31, 500 miles later and done a full day early, I cried like I had never done before. Blinded by spectators' camera flashes and headlamps as I crossed the finish line, my wife found me and latched onto me. The tears flowing. I knew I could stop running now. The RD handed me my buckle and hugged me. Kale found me and we hugged as well. My spectacular crew that kept me moving, Jeff Seymour and Steve Antczak flanked me like body guards as I gathered myself. I was overwhelmed and the happiest I had ever been. 

I will post my notable moments later...that's the good stuff !!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Running Log Excerpts: 3/10-3/15/2014

3/15/2014 Saturday
3 PM Starting a small Trailrun now. 
Parked in the small dirt lot across from the water plant off Hospital Road. 
Did some hill repeats on the left side my head was just not into it. 

3/14/2014 Friday
Started run just after 9 AM heading on reverse black trail now 10:09 AM
Zig zagged all over trails and reverse directions as well. 
Tool mountain bikers. One a little __________ who could not decide which gloves to wear and ended up jacking his shoulder from attempting a wheely in the parking lot. 
Very cold start warmed up a bit and then got cold again. Clouds. 
Barometer dropped to 30.10

3/13/2014 Thurday
The Atlantic club
20 mins stairclimber
Leg press 3 sets x14 reps at 150 lbs
Hip sled basic squat at 180 pounds 3 sets x14 reps
9:35 AM run Allaire trails with Jeff. Last minute decision. My head was fucked up and we were silent the first loop. 
Three counterclockwise orange loops two hours 41 minutes. 
Sleep deprivation again running slow the first two loops. 
Took one piece of military energy gum on the third loop. Felt like goddamn rocket fuel. 
Wind was brutal. 

3/12/2014 wed
Run at Allaire mostly bushwhacking and hill repeats. Found a new muddy section down by the water. 
_____ unexpected ______________last night prompted sleep deprivation all night and into the morning. Strange dream but mostly up all night tossing and turning. Good training for the 500. 
Forced myself out here this morning and my mind just wondered. 
Came upon a hawk or osprey sitting on the white trail. 
Saw Frank in the parking lot. 

3/11/2014 Tuesday
Running Allaire started run at 8:12 AM
11:10 AM went two orange loops with Jeff. going on unblazed right now. 

3/10/2014 monday
03:35:04.39 / 20 miles +/-
run Allaire start run at 1:50 PM. 
Saw Jeff and ran two orange loops with him. 
Ran a clockwise orange loop by myself before Palmer got there. Unblazed trails with Palmer. Made him do burpees and timed his sock change to 2 mins. Stream crossings and hill repeats. 
Warm out and trails were extra muddy. Trails scars from trudging through pickers after a hillside climb.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Running Log Excerpts

Just some selected excerpts from my daily running log. A small, black, weather-proof notebook:
(Side note: "Allaire" refers to the mountain bike trails on Hospital road, not the park. Also, I run everyday; 20-30 miles, most entries are just running data, but I found these to be runs that made me MISERABLE. Those are the best kind)

3/6/2014 Thursday
20 miles. North to AP - winds 
cutting through gloves. 
4* w/ the wind chill. 
Had to duck into a
DD for coffee to warm up.
Headed back north. 
Steve w/the dog. I hate 
Asphalt. Knees and hips 
Are hammered. Wind @
Back on the return.

3/3/2014 Mon
Didnt have to teach. 
Hit the trails @ Allaire 
@10am. Frst one
There. Fresh layer of 
Snow about 4inches. 
Ran steady - hills 
& the reg trails w/ 
Some blue trails
& blue extensions. 
Seemed warm for a 
Cold day. Feet froze
Afterwards & got 
Feeling back in the 
Shower. Mentally got
My shit together today -

2/20/14 -Thurs
Run @ Allaire
Ice & slush. Fuck me. 
Falling apart. Met state 
Cop looking to train for 13.1. 
Fed my squirrel. Warm
Out. Tough run. Great 

2/14/2014 - Fri
Run - Allaire
Fuck me. Deep snow
& slush. Relatively 

Run - Allaire
Cold. Fucking cold. 

2/5/2014- Wed
Fucking miserable. Cold
Freezing rain. Soaked 
Thorugh. Seal Skinz 
Gloves failed - 
High NW winds brutal.
AP convention hall closed. 
Felt sick @ home. 
Knee/joint pain on

2/4/2014 - tues
Run @ Allaire 
Tough run - deep snow. 
Warm but tough. 
HR up & legs burning 
Fell off side of hill & 
Jacked wrist. 
Met dude & his dog...
Looked like a
Bear. Said he's 100% 
German shepard -
W/ a 1 in a million gene that makes him
All black w/ a thick 
Fur coat. "Riley."

Run Allaire , 9am
Tough run through snow &
Ice. Some bushwhacks. 
Followed a trail of blood on
Blue blaze
Shot of _____
In coffee to stay warm. Warmed up. 
Trail walkers in my way. 

1/27/2014- mon. 
Run start @ 12pm
Slush & snow made it 
nearly impossible to run. 
Slipping back a step for 
Every two steps. Palmer 
Showed up for last 
Orange loop & 2 mile 
Cool down... 
...Didnt eat enough - bonked 
Still bonking @ 6:08pm
Feet soaked and frozen but
_____ magic foot mix is
Ginger ale now.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Year in Review

So, it was a successful year of ultrarunning for me. What happened??

Ran up and down snow and ice covered rocks for 30 miles for the chance to get a giant blueberry pie, but all I got was a rock ;-)

Ran 460 miles non-stop through the Green Mountains of Vermont: Destoyed my feet. Went delirious after running for 48 hours straight, no sleep. Almost stabbed one of my pacers with a trekking pole...sorry Jeff ;-) Argued with a Zombie about the lack of a trekking ya Mark :-) 
Lost nearly 17 lbs. Got to run with a legend...thank you NatureBoy ;-)

Ran 50 miles on the hottest day in August for fun. On asphalt. 

100 miles on some gnarley trails at Oil Creek with the worst nausea to date, for 85 of those miles. 

Continued to run 20-30 miles everyday in between races. Virtually no rest days.

Got sponsored by Hammer Nutrition for 2014.

Sounds good to me! Epic stuff happening for 2014...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Post-460 miles: Madness...

It has been four weeks since I have returned from Vermont. 460 miles of running and my head was in the clouds. My new friend Willy, who finished the 500 last year, told me at the end of the race, "This will change you forever." He who runs 500 miles, speaks the truth...

I took two weeks off from running when I returned home to New Jersey. My body was pretty beaten up, but my spirits were high after accomplishing such an epic adventure. I was emotional. I couldn't stop telling my wife, Alison, that I loved her. I was tearing up at reading all of the posts and messages on Facebook.  I had people telling me they were inspired to sign up for a race, or start running after following all of the updates from Vermont. I was overwhelmed and humbled. I had never felt so shy and content in my life. Food tasted better. Crashing on the couch at night and watching TV was exciting. Going for a walk with Alison was bliss. But then the madness started.

My sleep patterns were off. I was falling asleep in the middle of the day while studying for my CPT exam. I was jumping awake at 2am. My legs were spasming at random times throughout the night. During the day, everything seemed louder: car horns, telephones ringing, doors slamming, people talking. I wanted to put ear plugs in. I became so irritable: grinding my teeth at traffic lights.  Snapping at people who were asking me harmless questions. Scoffing openly at the woman in the cafe, complaining that her latte was not prepared correctly. Driving felt foreign and I couldn't breathe being enclosed behind the steering wheel. I felt like everything was closing in on me. It was claustrophobic. There was too much noise, movement, talking. I wanted to scream. I still want to scream.

I desperately wanted to go back to the Green Mountains. It was peaceful and quiet. No car horns or cell phones going off. No traffic lights telling me when I could move. From what I remember, the porcupines weren't complaining about the preparation of their lattes. They just wanted to get out of my way and do what porcupines do...and I have no idea what they do. 

It was simple in the mountains. I had what I needed and nothing more. A philosophy which my friend Willy practices, every second of his wonderful life: live simply. From him, I want to incorporate that way of life into mine. I have no problem with the usual responsibilities; bills, appointments, family functions and the like. However, running 460 miles taught me that I can certainly do without many things in my life and there are things that I simply can't tolerate anymore. Oh Willy, you were so right! The mountains are calling my name, and for now, that is the only noise I want to hear.