Sunday, November 27, 2011

Next race - April 2012

I've been feeling a bit lost since the Ireland race; a little ungrounded, unfocused, and unmotivated. Not meaning to sound like a whiner, but recently it's been the first time in a long while that I hadn't had a race or adventure in the concept/planning stage. I needed something to get me going again.

In 2008, my Finnish friend Janne Kankaansyrjä completed a solo run along the Camino Frances de Santiago de Compostella and blogged about it. Straight away, running this ancient pilgrim route was added to my personal "bucket list". And then earlier this year, my friends Christian and Ursula had reinforced the idea by buying me a wonderful coffeetable book of the route, which they themselves have walked during several trips from their home in Switzerland.

The third piece of serendipity is the organization of the third edition of a race along a French part of the route (the Via Podiensis) from Le Puy en Velay to the Pyrenees. An old friend from the now legendary Transe Gaule 2005, Patrick Bonnot, is the race organizer. The April dates of the race fit reasonably well with family plans (just after the birth of grandbaby #3 in March, for example). And so I am delighted to be preparing for another (almost) cross-country adventure. 730km (450 miles) in 12 days - my tenth country - following routes along which pilgrims have been passing for more than a thousand years. Very cool.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma

A spectacular place we visited this week near Ft Sill. We climbed Mt Scott - here's the view of Medicine Park from the top...

...we cycled past buffalo roaming the prairie grass...

...and we ate a light lunch at the famous Meers Restaurant...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Not running tonight

Location:Cain's Ballroom, Tulsa

Racing Miles

This morning my friend Matt was talking about Randy Ellis, a local runner who surpassed a very creditable 5,000 race miles during our Midnight Madness 50-miler in Tulsa this summer. He asked me how many miles I've run in races, which got me wondering...I don't keep great reliable records of such stuff, but I can account for at least 6,148 miles of racing:
* 4,819 miles of stage races;
* 319 miles of other ultras;
* 27 marathons and over 300 miles of miscellaneous shorter distance races, courtesy of (my new favorite running site).

Training miles? Absolutely no idea...but if I conservatively estimate 15 miles per week for the 30 years I've been running, I'd end with another 23,400 miles.

So I'm nearly at 30,000 miles. More than once around the planet. Whew!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ireland - looking back

Claire and I shared a wonderful experience, running across Ireland with 12 other hardy and eclectic souls we'd never met before. We celebrated 25 years of marriage in some style, and no cross words were ever exchanged. Despite the threat of a hurricane at the outset, we managed to avoid bad weather for the most part. One day of headwinds and a few hours of rain were all we had to contend with. The last three days were beautiful, with some sunshine and great running temperatures.

Big thanks and gratitude are due to the crew for getting us through 11 stages - Rory, Jen, Ann, Paul and Jim. These races are profoundly affected by the quality of support received. We experienced nothing but positive affirmation from the race support team, and that counts for everything. As the race progressed, we became better at map reading, and the course became better and better marked. Having our son Rob join us for the last three days was icing on the cake; a great mental boost for us.

Ireland - as any country - has a great deal of variety, and we saw most aspects of it. The towns we passed through were generally uninspiring; some nice old landmarks, but generally a little down-at-heel and seedy. The countryside is easy on the eye, but has been spoilt by a recent rash of McMansion developments which look out of place amid farms, cows, sheep and peaceful lanes. The "Celtic Tiger" phase of economic prosperity has been replaced with a vague general feeling of economic distress and uncertainty.

Our bodies and specifically our legs and feet held together well. We had prepared well for the rigors of a 350-mile journey, and so felt strong almost every day. Because of experience from previous stage races, we were able to deal with Claire's toe and heel issues well. I seldom had doubts that we would both make it.

The only thing we'd change was the tour bus format. The bus had a great "cool factor", and it was nice not to have to pack & unpack every day. But it became cramped and smelly by the end, and we had several squalid days without toilets and showers. Although she pulled off some minor miracles preparing endless meals & snacks, our cook's catering area was too small for preparing high quality meals. Very close quarters with very fatigued ultra runners could quickly degenerate into a whiney, squabbly, acrimonious mess. We didn't quite get to that point, but there were times when it could've easily unraveled. Personal space is important for exhausted, stressed runners, and frankly there was very little.

Going into the race, my goals were listed as (a) to run across another country, (b) to have fun and (c) to make new friends. Given those goals, the race was a huge success for both of us, as we achieved all three. Would we do the race again? Probably not, as life and money is too short. Would we recommend it to someone else? A qualified yes, to the right person with the right attitude. It's an amazing experience and privilege to have run across this ancient country.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Beautiful Mizen Head weather

One happy camper

Location:Mizen Head, Eire

Ireland - final stage

Done! Country #9 for me, #1 for Claire. And on the very best weather day ever in Southern Ireland.!

Location:Mizen Head

Ireland - Stage 10

Our last "long" run today was a very, very hilly and headwindy 35-miler. The landscape was beautiful, as was the sight of the sea as we reached Bantry Bay. Some of the climbs were astonishingly steep. It threatened to rain all day, but never did.

Claire's Achilles survived, and she made it to the finish line smiling. Having Rob's company during some of the stage really lifted her spirits.

I enjoyed another day of Chris' company. It made the time pass much quicker.

Tomorrow's finale is a brief 20-miler to the most southerly point in Ireland, Mizen Head. We're trying to coordinate the finish so that we all finish at 11 a.m. - and then it's off to Cork Airport and back to real life.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ireland - Stage 9

35 more miles completed; only 55 to go. Today's weather was sublime as was the scenery. Breathtaking. Undoubtedly the best day, ending in the very historic town of Macroom, where we were welcomed by our son Rob. We've already shared a pint of Murphy's.

Chris and I ran together the whole stage, and it really helped especially during the long, long climbs. After 9 days it is amazing that only 9 minutes separate us. I don't feel the need to push it to the finish; I'm happy just to be on the podium (assuming of course no last minute disasters).

Claire's still wrestling with her sore Achilles, but she's nearly there too. She was tearfully happy to give Rob a hug at the finish.

So tomorrow's our last major effort before Saturday's "finale". Life on the big purple bus is good.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ireland - Stage 8

Today's stage was really hard, even compared to 7 already hard stages. A fierce headwind all day, with some cold driving rain and busy traffic thrown in, made it very little fun. Everyone was glad to be done.

I averaged 10 minutes/mile, after reaching the marathon distance in 4hr20mins. A pleasing time given the conditions, but I don't think I did enough to preserve my second place overall ranking, as Chris finished a quarter of an hour before me, but I know I needed to save something for the next two long, mountainous stages.

Claire struggled emotionally today, but finished strong and enjoyed some good food and a hot shower at the finish. Bliss. Her Achilles tendons are now both sore, but I'm confident she'll make it to Saturday's finish.

Today was a sad running day for me. I learned last night of the untimely death of a fine former co-worker, Kathleen Kelly. Life is not at all fair. Kathleen will be greatly missed.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Irish whiskey

According to the barkeep at our new 'local', Tullamore Dew is not popular "around these parts", but exports well. I trust his opinion, as he pours a first-rate pint of Guiness, and it does indeed hit the spot in Oklahoma...

By the way, we spent last night at Borrisokane (at a depressingly deserted gas station with no toilets or showers, in fact). Sounds like an Irish-Soviet double agent? Ah, if only it had been that exciting.

Ireland - Stage 7

The most beautiful stage so far, with mountains and no rain. 29 miles disposed of, and now resting and eating after a warm water sponge bath (another night without showers...grrrr!) The 9 runners left in the race are doing well, despite a few blisters and other random long-distance ailments. The next 3 stages are 35-milers, so that will sort things out.

It has been a 220-mile week - a PR for Claire and most of the others. Her sore Achilles has slowed her down, but she's moving along sensibly and enjoying the journey. I'm still feeling unusually good, with none of my usual stage race issues. Starting slowly has really helped.

Tomorrow's another day. Only 4 to go. It'll be great meeting up with our son Rob in 48 hours.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Ireland - Stage 6

Several abandons today, almost all due to very sore, inflamed shins. It's sad to see these nice people leave the roadtrip. Today's 30 miles were along some very straight roads. I smiled as I saw several signs for Tullamore - home of my brother-in-law's and my favorite whiskey, Tullamore Dew.

So now only 9 remain in the race. Jed is the star, and has killed every stage by a country mile. Only major injury can stop him now. Well deserved - he's a great lad.

Chris, Rick and I are his bridesmaids, but none of us have his pace. I ran my fastest pace thus far again today - exactly 10 min/mile. (Patience, Russ, there's still a long road ahead.)

Michelle and Claire are leading the female contingent. Claire's toes were better today, but her Achilles was unfortunately worse. She's very upbeat and strong, though, and it will take a lot to stop her.

But now we're past the halfway point of the race with only 5 days to go. Mountains ahead, I hear. A rest will be nice!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ireland - Stage 5

Today's stage was blissfully short - a 'mere' 28 miles. Temperatures were pleasantly cool, it poured heavily only once, and the wind was usually at our backs. And Jen and Rory had pulled out all the stops on signage, so no-one got too horribly lost.

My bi-daily ministrations to Claire's feet seem to be working. She's running well with less pain now, but they're not a pretty sight:

Tonight our tour bus is stationed at a football club in Ballynahown. A wonderful place to be, as they have not only warm showers but also a washer & dryer. It's amazing how much you sometimes appreciate the normal creature comforts. Now our running clothes no longer smell of dead animals.

By this time tomorrow, we'll be past half-way. That's a good feeling. Today was my fastest average pace - a shade over 10 minutes per mile. If I can stay uninjured and healthy, this will definitely be my best stage race finish. Ahhh, but that's a big if. Jed and Chris are ahead of me in the rankings, but there's still some way to go. I have to say that I'm enjoying the journey with Claire as much as the race itself.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ireland - Stage 4

A pleasant enough day, with only a few heavy downpours. 32 miles ended up being 34+ miles for some of us, as the final turning was missed again. Aggravating, but just how it goes sometimes.

Claire and I performed sufficient shoe and blister surgery to get her through the day unscathed. I start an hour later than her each day and it's nice when I catch up with her around 20 miles or so. She always smiley and running strongly.

I'm (so far) feeling better on this stage race than on any previous one. Legs are tired, but nothing really hurts, and so far no blisters. 140 miles in 4 days - more than a third done!

Location:Near Longford

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy anniversary!

Thanks to Rory, Jen, Ann and Paul for taking such great care of us...

Ireland - Stage 3

Much more typical Irish weather to help us celebrate our wedding anniversary today - heavy rains for at least half of our 31 miles, interspersed with grey skies and about 90 seconds of sunshine. It's not green here for nothing.

Claire is starting to have blister/toenail issues, so started off today taped and with the toeboxes of her sneakers (and now crocs!) removed. She's sore and tender, but is a trooper and will fight on. She completed in 7 hours, and remains as second placed woman in the race.

I ran the first 10 miles with race leader Jed, who's celebrating his 30th birthday today. Then he took off just before Enniskillen, and I kept going on my own and later on with Canadian Rick. Unfortunately we had our first abandon today - our youngest competitor Jimmy who's not been feeling good. But he'll be back when he's healthy.

Another thirtysomething tomorrow, but spirits are generally high tonight. It's amazing how restorative a warm shower can be.

Location:Corlough GAA club, Eire

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ireland - Stage 2

A better day for me today, as I didn't get lost. But an extra 4 miles for poor Claire who's struggling with the very tricky mapreading skills required for this race.

The first few miles to Strabane were along a wretchedly busy highway with no shoulder and plenty of trucks and busses. But then things became quieter and more rural...and also super-hilly.

The stage was nearly 34 miles, and we were all quite happy to be finished. The weather cooperated for a second day. It drizzled briefly a couple of times, but no raingear was required, and the scenery was splendidly Irish-farmy.

Lying down on my bunk feels good now, but we are in very tight quarters and have no shower or toilet facilities beyond buckets and fields. The race support team is excellent, but it's turning out we prefer the school gym format for stage races - more space, showers and toilets, despite having to unpack and repack each stage.

Location:A farm somewhere in Ireland

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ireland - Stage 1

Everything started well and on time today. The hurricane gods rested, and we had an atypically dry, sunny, Irish day. My run had me close to the lead for quite a few surprising miles, but failing to make a final turn near the finish cost me a depressing extra 4 miles and a decent place/time. 41 miles is MUCH further than 37. Oh well.
Claire finished second lady, and right now looks in much better shape than me. Awesome.
And along the way, we both chuckled sophomorically about this sign:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ireland - Day 0

Blowing a gale, rainy, grey and menacing...ah, Ireland! All 14 competitors present and accounted for on the big, purple bus. Fun starts at 9 a.m. tomorrow. Our first Guinnesses have been satisfactorily dispatched.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What's with these Ultra hurricanes?

Just as our TransAmerican friends ran into Hurricane Irene on the August day their race finished in New York City, we now appear to be running into her younger sister Katia as we get ready to head to Ireland. Hopefully travel logistics won't get too messed up. But with 20 people taking different routes and trying to get to Malin Head by Wednesday, things could get a little tricky. Life's never simple.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

One week to go

Starting to get impatient...this is the time I like least, marking time, everything in suspended animation. Now that our few "long" weeks of training are over, I keep imagining injuries, aches and pains, and illnesses starting to take hold. But nothing serious so far. I just want to get going.

Today's windy, hilly, rainy 10 miles felt really good - no pain, no stress, very smooth and comfortable. Six more days of the same, and then we're off!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Keepin' on keepin' on

Two twenty-milers in the last three days have gone pretty well. We've managed to incorporate some modest hills at the beginning and end of these jaunts, and this is good for the head as much as the legs.

Two doggie incidents today. First we spotted a very sad looking beagle looking for his owner. As we'd seen an owner calling for a dog shortly before, I ran back a half-mile to find him and advised him of the whereabouts of missing pooch. "Oh, he knows where to find me," he said and walked off. Grrrrr.

Then later, we encountered two guys walking a Jack Russell off leash. It took an immediate shine to Claire's bright red Zensa compression socks, and started barking aggressively. You can never quite trust protestations that "she's friendly". Fortunately no stitches required this time.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

3 weeks until Ireland

Suddenly the ground is starting to rush up towards us. Training - or lack thereof - is almost at an end. We've run between 10 and 15 miles most days here in England over the last week or so, which is good. We have only been training by running along the very flat River Lee, which is not good. Our training pace has been pretty reasonable (good) - only my varicose right leg hurts, which is partly good (or partly bad, depending on one's viewpoint). But it is - as they say these days - what is is. Of course it is.

Now of course I'm very keen to get underway. I have never been to Northern Ireland before, so a new experience for me there soon. And for Claire also, whose ancestors probably originated in Donegal or West Tyrone, given her maiden name McMenamin.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

OK, time to get serious!

...and get the ol' blog back into action ready for the M2M Ultra. Today I leave Tulsa for 3 weeks before the race starts in England, taking care of family stuff and hopefully getting in some final training miles in cooler weather. In case you missed the news, Tulsa has languished under record heat this summer. Not just anecdotal - July 2011 was actually the hottest average temperature month ever recorded in the US since records started to be kept in 1895. We had days and days of hot (100F+) and humid temperatures.

I've run a decent number of miles and a few races, and done a lot of stationary biking at the gym (in part to escape the heat outdoors), but as usual I'm not as prepared as I would've liked. Brief health check (and early excuses!): Everything from the knees up is working OK. That's good. Feet are painful, especially the left one, and I've developed a very sore varicose vein above my right ankle. Not so good. But not too serious, I hope.

So on September 14th, the M2M Ultra starts - just over a dozen of us covering the length of Ireland from north to south (344.5 miles) divided into eleven daily stages averaging 32 miles each. We start at Malin Head in the North, and finish at Mizen head in the Republic. We will fly to Belfast on the day before the race starts, meet race organizers Rory & Jen for the first time, and be whisked to the start on a sleeper bus with our own personal chef. Sounds groovy. Rumor has it that it was once Status Quo's (the legendary hard rock band) tour bus. In a beautiful piece of life's symmetry, this was the first band I ever saw perform live, as a spotty 14-year old at the Wake Arms pub in Epping, England. Like me, they must be getting on a bit by now.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chris Brown Duathlon

Two better than estimated runs, exactly as estimated (i.e., slooow) bike ride. A shockingly hot morning - my car thermometer said 86F at 6 a.m. on the way to the start. A very well organized, low key, enjoyable event put on by Fleet Feet Tulsa. Third place in the old man's age group to show for it:

Location:Tulsa, OK

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Duathlon tomorrow...

Time to demonstrate to the world once more the infinite crappiness of my cycling...

...not to mention the lack of any 5K speed. I'm ready to blame my pathetic splits on anticipated silly saunaesque temperatures, as Tulsa swelters.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Trans America - ah, the glamor

The finish line of today's stage - Tour de France it ain't! Finish banner in front of Ponca Auto World, flashing 108F. Everyone survived.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More from Trans America...

My German friend Peter Bartel, who as he did for Trans Europe and Baltic Run is kickbiking across the United States. Peter was extremely pleased to see two friendly faces in the middle of nowhere, just east of the New Mexico state line. He is tired, and finding the weather and conditions very difficult - but he is nearly halfway across this huge country. Viel Glück, Peter!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rainer Koch

Finally I can keep up with Rainer for 10K! This was taken by his Korean crew person June, somewhere in western Oklahoma, towards the New Mexico stateline. Rainer is German - a former winner of Trans Gaule and Trans Europe, an awesome athlete and a fine young man. He is leading LA-NY 2011 comfortably, and in his usual unassuming, understated, modest style. Go, Rainer!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

James is tough

James finishes 55-mile stage 28 in Guymon after over 13 hours in temperatures which rose by mid-afternoon well above 100F. We really enjoyed keeping him company for some of those miles. His girlfriend Gemma arrived today - it was great to have her join the party!

Cheers, James!

Boise City to Guymon

A 55-mile stage for our friends today - flat, straight, hot and plenty of truck traffic, but at least there was a decent shoulder most of the way. Here's Claire keeping James company:

We crewed for most of the day, and then brought Jenni home the last few miles as the heat was really beginning to affect her, and we didn't want to have to make this particular detour:

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's REALLY hot out there...

100 degrees...

Jenni toughing it out...

...and James...

Don't be fooled by those fluffy clouds - they provide zero shade.

Location:Boise City, OK

Trans America (LA-NY) 2011

Rainer Koch from Germany, winner of Trans Europe 2009, is coasting along comfortably in first place after 26 brutally hot days. It was great running with him for a few miles, and seeing his Korean crew person June again.

Seven other runners (two Japanese, two Italian, two French and one Brit) are still in the race and battling along well. Today we helped our Dutch friends Jenni and Anneke to survive 100F temps, and met fellow countryman James for the first time. Our other German friend Peter Bartel is doing very well on his scooter. All are doing very well despite horrendous daily mileages and weather to match.

Now we're back at our finish line motel in Boise City. The Four Seasons it ain't. And not much like a stage finish at the Tour de France. But the air conditioning works, and here that's what matters most. Our friends have several more hours on the road today, which I don't envy them, but at least they will all have a cool place to rest up before another 55 miles of "fun in the sun" tomorrow.

Location:Boise City, OK

Saturday, July 02, 2011

End the Madness!

A brilliantly organized event - 5 loops of 10.3 miles along the Arkansas River starting at midnight. Heat took its toll on me especially after the sun rose, but I was pleased to beat my 10 hour goal by 25 minutes. Claire had to settle for 3 loops, as her Achilles started to bother her, and we can't risk a tear less than 3 months before Ireland.


Friday, July 01, 2011

Nearly midnight

Headed to the start of "Midnight Madness". It's hot out there - 88F. Mercy!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Little Feat

No running today...time for some rock'n'roll! One of my all-time favorite bands (regrettably sans Lowell George) in a classic location.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Salomon South Down Trail Marathon - June 11, 2011

A beautiful day, beautiful weather, and a beautiful trail course event across the spectacular but very hilly, chalky and flinty South Downs in England. Claire placed second in her age group and beat her expectations by a huge margin, running 4hr 50mins. I ran a comfortable 4hr 16mins - way off the age group podium but - as ever these days for me - kein Stress.

Next up in Tulsa two weeks from now: a 50-miler starting at midnight aptly titled Midnight Madness. It's hot here now - 103F (40C) today. Ireland in September should be a pleasant change, as long as it doesn't rain continually!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Oklahoma City Half Marathon

We successfully completed our "bonsai" marathon last weekend. (This expression comes courtesy of our wonderful Swiss friends and recent houseguests, Christian & Ursula

Marti.). The weather was astonishingly cold & wet, but on balance the event was well managed and enjoyable. I managed to place in my division, and qualify for NYC Marathon; Claire ran well after her collarbone injury, and came close to beating 2 hours. Good times!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Next few races...

Four races upcoming to prepare for Ireland:
May 1 - Oklahoma City Half Marathon;
May 21 - Aquarium Run Half Marathon in Tulsa;
June 11 - South Downs Trail Marathon in England;
July 1 - Midnight Madness 50-miler in Tulsa.

That should shake out the cobwebs! Running is slow but unusually and mercifully pain-free these days.

- Posted from my new iPhone using my fat fingers

Friday, February 11, 2011

Next up - 11 days across Ireland

In September, Claire and I will be running the M2M Ultra - the length of Ireland (344.5 miles) divided into eleven daily stages averaging 32 miles each. The race starts at Malin Head in the North, and finishes at Mizen head in the Republic. Up to 16 of us will be living on a "luxury rock-and-roll sleeper bus with our own personal chef". As ultrarunning and luxury have been rarely known to appear in the same sentence, it should be interesting!

Runners from the Isle of Man, England, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Canada - and now us - are entered. Kudos to race organizers Rory and Jen for taking on what sounds like a great adventure.