Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Run ***OF*** My Life

Sitting in the relative comfort of my office, with race-start-minus-less-than-72-hours . . .
"In the end, endurance sports are a test of yourself against yourself; they require nobody else, and sometimes they can hardly tolerate anyone else." -Bill McKibben, "Long Distance"
I've spent the past few weeks (months?) thinking a lot of myself.  Yes, by cloaking this 100+-mile challenge as a fundraiser for four charities, I have essentially insulated myself a bit from otherwise valid charges of self-indulgence, self-centeredness, and self-congratulation.  But, if I'm being completely honest, I'm doing this because I want to do it, to test myself, to see where my limits lie, and - if it goes well enough - to bask in the glory of the achievement of completing 100 hilly miles on foot.  If things unfold in a reasonably positive way, this will turn out to be THE RUN OF MY LIFE.

But . . . my thoughts are not completely focused on my own navel.  In addition to my wife, my children, and my clients, my thoughts keep turning to the worsening crisis at the U.S. southern border.  The crisis where tens of thousands of unaccompanied children whom have fled violence-ravaged parts of Central America are streaming into the United States in order to have a chance to live.  Largely, their parents have done what loving parents do: they have sought to protect their precious children by any means necessary.  And yet, in this day of political polarization, shameless demagoguery, and fact-bereft ignorance, we cannot even seem to see this problem for the humanitarian crisis that it is.  Even Glenn Beck sees hurting children in need.  The response from his "constituency" when he went to help them?  Threats. How did we get to this hardened, punitive place?

While there is room for reasoned debate as to how we might reform our immigration laws and policy as a whole, there should be little disagreement about what to do with these children.  We should take them in, give them immigration/asylum hearings, and allow our flawed-but-still-workable legal process to sort it all out.  Instead, we get a political blame-game, with misinformation fueling unfounded fear and misguided anger.  I won't get into the details here, but will offer this photo meme for consideration:

As I wrote on my firm's Facebook page:

At its essence, the reason we have the humanitarian crisis at the southern border is because some people in the world still view us models of freedom, peace and opportunity ... read this article about what they're fleeing, and then answer this question: Are we going to prove them right?

So, along with supporting legal services for the poor, public broadcasting, cancer research, and spinal cord injury services, I will also maintain the perspective that - when all is said and done - I'll merely be on a recreational journey within an organized race, amongst other like-minded athletes, and with the support of a wonderful crew.  But, when it gets particularly tough, when it hurts, when the doubts are poised to dethrone my determination . . . I will think of these children, whose plight involves something so much more serious and dangerous, and who - unlike me - are in a RUN FOR THEIR LIVES.

Thanks for reading. -Ron

Friday, July 11, 2014

Vermont 100 - One Week Out

People have been asking whether I'm ready to run 100 miles . . . here's one answer, in stream of consciousness so as to reflect the thought process as accurately as possible:
I can do this . . . it's just a day . . . need more BodyGlide . . . what's that pain? . . . did I have it before? . . . my diet's been shit . . . I've gained weight . . . I feel great . . . I'm exhausted . . . why is my wife putting up with this? . . . why isn't my wife more supportive . . . wish I'd raised more money for these charities . . . who am I trying to impress? . . . sub-24 hours is in the bag . . . there's no way I can finish 100 miles . . . I LOVE running . . . Running is stupid; I'm going back to playing soccer . . . I need to pre-order those peanut butter protein balls . . . is my crew going to be okay? . . . why would anyone agree to crew me? . . . I love Vermont . . . look at these splits from 2013 . . . how does one wear a belt buckle?  . . .  Doesn't matter, I'm not getting one . . . Unless I'm injured or too sick to continue, I WILL FINISH . . . why does any of this matter? . . .   what do my kids think? . . . I can't wait to take a few weeks off from running . . . which shoes should I wear? . . . When should I change them? . . . Is THAT really the elevation profile . . . 15,000 feet? Are you SHITTING me? . . . Speaking of that, how many pairs of shorts should I bring, in case I shit myself? . . . Nip Guards, DO NOT FORGET THE NIP GUARDS . . . I need sleep . . . Wish I could sleep . . . I know so many people who've finished 100-milers . . . I can do this, too  . . . those people are far stronger than I am . . . When should I start eating carbs during the race? . . . Fig Newtons are yummy . . . I miss Oreos . . . Why does everything that tastes good eventually kill you? . . . Bug spray! . . . Troy's beard is dreamy . . . It is a nice beard, but what if I hallucinate that he has a 'possum on his face . . . Are there possum's in the woods of Vermont? . . . what about that time I chased the porcupine off the trail when I paced Kami . . . I know those last 30 miles . . . that'll help . . . Man, I've seem some carnage in those last 30 miles . . . 100 miles . . . that's far . . . But, really, it's just one day . . . less than 24 hours . . . unless it isn't . . . could be 30 hours . . . that would suck . . . can't worry about that now . . . I wish Nate was gonna be there . . . Nate's doing a 200-mile race . . . Nate's crazy; I'm wicked normal . . . is the World Cup really about to be over? . . . Suarez to Barcelona; how can that be? . . . I'll miss the kids . . . now way the kids . . .  Focus, you're about to run 100 miles . . . 100 miles . . . It's like 90 miles to drive to the race from my house . . . why did I agree to this? . . . pickle juice! gotta have pickle juice there . . . bacon; bring lots of bacon . . . hydration vest or handhelds . . . I haven't run enough trails . . . I haven't run enough hills . . . I haven't run enough . . . I got this . . . Can we just run already? . . . will the crew find the aid stations? . . . what if I miss them . . . what should my weigh-in strategy be? . . . will I get too dehydrated . . . HYPONATREMIA KILLS . . . I've never had that sort of problem . . . I've never run more than 50 miles . . . 50 miles wasn't that bad . . . of course, it was a cool day . . . and it was a flat course . . . but I'd just run Boston 6 days earlier . . . Not really, that was a long slow effort . . . This will be a long slow effort . . . True . . . Point me (or is that you?) . . . I can't wait to eat whatever I want during the race . . . Bring on the sugar and gluten . . . Mmmmmm, gluten . . . will they have peanut and plain M&Ms . . . I like them both . . . They're really giving us a poop bag? . . . Who the f--- crapped on someone's organic blueberry farm during last year's race . . . So many changes . . . I fear change . . . Change is life . . . Whatever, it's all new to me now . . . Will I be chatty during the race? . . . Will I make new friends? . . . Will my hair get in my face? . . . should I cut it? . . .  a dyed mohawk would be cool . . . I don't want to get divorced again . . . earrings? . . . should I get new ones?  . . . bigger? . . .  smaller? . . .  seriously, dude, enough with the bullshit details . . . stick to the important stuff . . . Will Meredith get enough sleep . . . Does she ever get enough sleep anymore? . . . I hope she enjoys this experience . . . It's cool of her to support me as I do this . . . What should I eat the night before? . . . what about breakfast? . . . 4:00 am is harsh . . . what time should I get up? . . . who's gonna drive me from Justin's house? . . . how do I do spreadsheet projections? . . . My poor crew . . . I gotta stay positive the whole time . . . I love trail running . . . I'm good at going slow . . . Not too slow, though . . . Whoa, slow down, cowboy . . . you're not going to set the course record . . . Today is not "the day" . . . No music? . . . that's stupid . . .  actually, it's cool . . . but, music would be awesome . . . maybe the crew can sing to me when I see them? . . . that's really stupid . . . I've met some awesome people through running . . . where the hell are they all? . . . Maybe I should have asked E.M. to crew for me? . . . He's blind, remember?! . . . Oh, right . . . well, I chose to do this, so I have to figure it out for myself . . . Weather looks nice . . . is that warm front going to move in a day early . . . good thing I've run in the heat lately . . . hot means shirtless, which means no nipple chafe . . . scrap the nip guards  . . . actually, bring them, just in case . . . bring everything . . . two of everything . . . no way I can do this if it's 90 . . . yeah, fret about the stuff you can control, like the weather . . . it's going to be so hard . . . it's going to be awesome . . . it's going to be both of those things and so much more . . . and, eventually, it's going to be over . . . and I'll have done it . . . and I'll know I can do just about anything else.
* * * * * * * * * 

The lesson here?  Don't ask whether I'm ready.  I'm as ready as I can be, which is not ready enough.  That's what big unknown new adventures do to you.  Bring it on.  Bring it all on!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Week to Remember: Boston and a Little Cool-down Run

At some point or another, we've all likely succumbed to the bizarre phenomenon where time simultaneously flies and drags by . . . a week ago, I was running the Boston Marathon.  I know that because the calendar tells me so, but it could have been a month, or even a year ago as far as my perception goes.  Or was it yesterday?

BOSTON 2014 RECAP: Running as Another's Eyes and Ears

Boston 2014 will go down as a running event like any other.  Not only did the world's oldest continuous marathon see its 118th iteration, but a city, a state, a country, and large swaths of the world bound together to avenge the catastrophic events of 2013.  It was impossible not to be moved by the stories of resilience, of facing down terror, or overcoming incomprehensible adversity to take back an event which now unarguably transcends running.

#BostonStrong pretty much sums it up, but the meaning of "Boston" part of that has taken on an ever more broad definition.

For my part, not having qualified for 2014, I was determined to be a part of it, especially if I could do so by helping someone else realize his or her own goals.  Through a series of fortunate coincidences, I found myself assigned to guide a visually impaired runner, Corvin Bazgan from the Bay Area in California.

There is little reason to subject the few decent people who find themselves ensconced in the contents of this blog to a long narrative race report, especially since Boston 2014 wasn't about me.  Perhaps a list of highlights and other memorable aspects would be the better approach, then.

  • Corvin's original goal was to improve from 3:45 last December to 3:26 in one training cycle, in his third marathon and first Boston.  We revised that goal to 3:40.  It was a warm day, and the Boston course is notoriously unforgiving, especially to first-timers.  Alas, we ran a 4:25.  I enjoyed every second; I suspect that Corvin - at least at the time - did not.:-)
  • Doing this magnanimous thing led me to get to hobnob with one of the only celebrities over whom I would ever fawn . . . one of the other sighted guides was none other than NPR's "Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!" host Peter Sagal [or, as one Facebook friend called him, "Peter F-in' Sagal!"].  I got to have brunch with him; hang out for a few hours pre-race with him; run the first 7 miles of the race with his runner, Erich Manser, and him; and decompress after the race with him.  His in-person persona resembles his radio one, and it was very enjoyable to exchange barbs and banter with a pro. 
  • I also met Aaron Scheidies, whose visual-impairment didn't stop him from running a 2:44 (!!!) at Boston 2013 (and a 2:47 this year).  Talk about another inspiring story.
  • The energy in and around the city of Boston and the marathon route defies verbal description.  It made me feel warm and safe and energized and happy and loved and accepted and all sorts of other things.  It's unlikely I'll ever get to be a part of something quite like that again, and I'm extraordinarily grateful that I was.
  • I was the recipient of myriad acts of kindness, including having another runner, Dan Streetman, volunteer to clear a path ahead of my runner and me, as well as navigate the aid stations, every big-city marathon's most challenging feature.  It is unfathomable to me to have gotten through the race without that extra help.
  • I had wished many of my runner friends good races and "pleasant surprises".  My own pleasant surprise was that my friend Holly fell in with my runner and me at just before the halfway point.  Her sore foot was our good fortune, and she stayed with us until the finish.  That allowed Dan to surge ahead to find another visually-impaired runner who had outrun (!) her guide and was fumbling her way on her own.  Holly's grace helped two blind runners and one guide.
  • Seeing friends from all over before, during and after the race was a nonstop source of joy.  Some of these "virtual" friends have turned into some of my actual closest real-life friends.  Seeing so many of them on Saturday night and then again on Monday was a tremendous bonus.  I even got to have a nice quiet lunch with Mark Remy, without even having had to enter a Runner's World contest or anything. :-)
The weekend came and went too quickly, but I have a priceless film reel playing in my head, and have felt buoyed in all facets of my life by the high level of all things good during the Boston weekend.

On Tuesday, I went to the office, and eventually got home feeling pretty wiped out.  Wednesday was an intense work day, before the kids and I took off to Vermont for a couple of days of their school vacation.  I ran some during the week, got back home Friday night, packed up more gear and left for the next running-related adventure . . . a 50-mile race around Lake Waramaug in Connecticut.

Lake Waramaug Race Report: aka, "Oh Shit, My Balls!"

Monday, Boston.  Tuesday-Saturday, frantic bustle of a busy life. Sunday, a 50-mile race in order to qualify to run 100-mile race.

On Tuesday, I walked a couple of miles.  On Wednesday, I worked feverishly, so I could not make time to run as I'd hoped.  On Thursday, I slogged through four-plus S-L-O-W miles, starting up dirt roads/XC ski trails towards Mount Mansfield near Smugglers' Notch, then turning into a stiff headwind and finally ending on the roads amidst unwelcome snow flurries.  On Friday, I managed a lovely 10+-miler, into Jeffersonville, Vermont and back.  Saturday saw a 5+-miler in a cold rain before driving down to Connecticut to meet my equally crazy friend Tom and his wife for dinner before finding our B&B.

Saturday proved to be a cold rainy day, with a small wondrous window of mild sunshine just in time for our early dinner in West Hartford.  We even sat outside.  After a few sweet cheats post-Boston, I mostly kept to my low-carb/Paleo/NSNG way of eating, and felt good energy-wise.

Meredith and I vegged out to "Ghostbusters", which I hadn't seen in who-knows-how-long, and got to sleep reasonably early.

The B&B was nice, with other runners lodging there, as it was about 20 minutes from the race start.  Innkeeper Bill was super-hospitable, even making me eggs upon special request.  He was confounded by a distance runner not carb-loading before a race.  I spared him the inevitably sanctimonious-sounding explanations.

Pre-race breakfast consisted of COFFEE, two hard-boiled eggs, some salami, provolone cheese and a couple of peanut butter "Barista Balls" from my favorite local coffee shop.  These are delicious shots of fat and protein, which taste sinful but help me start many a day on a positive note, carrying me through to lunch with no hunger pangs or energy dips.

Meredith drove me to the race, where we got settled [she'd obtained permission from the RD to do an unsupported long run during the race], and I kept my sweats on in the chilly morning temps.  It was hard to tell what the day would do weather-wise, but the forecast called for mid-50s, sunny with 10+-mph winds. Visually, the lake looked stunning in the early morning light.

My good friend Nate met us there, and Tom rolled in at around the same time.

I wore my official Boston 2014 participant shirt, so that it might explain why I was running so slow.  Given the general badassery of the ultrarunning crowd, though, doing a mere marathon in the same week as a 50-miler is not really anything special.  I spoke with runners who had just done or were about to do 100-milers, and for whom the 50K or 50-miler was just an easy training run.  I also sported thin gloves and a visor, since hats no longer stay on my froed head when I run.

The course started with a 2.2-mile out-and-back section, leaving a total of 6 loops around the 7.6-mile lake perimeter to get an even 50 miles.  All I knew is that I needed to finish the race in less than 12 hours, and that I wanted to be done in under 10 hours.  I was mentally prepared for a long day, and was patient in the early going.

Nate took off ahead, intent on breaking 7 hours for the 50 miles.  He would end up deciding to drop down to the 50K distance, and finished second overall with a smoking 3:54.

I decided not to look at my running pace at this race, focusing instead on heart-rate as a measure of sustainable effort.  While the early pace seemed "fast", my heart rate stayed at or under 140 bpm.  That seemed just right.

Tom and I were jovially talkative in the early stages.  We engaged with other runners.  We joked when we crossed the "finish" line for the first of 6 times.  We smiled for the cameras.  We ran together, except for bathroom breaks (since portapotties are a bit tight for two).  Everything was going well, though the temps did not rise, but the wind did pick up.  The sun made occasional brief cameo appearances.  For the first time in a race, I actually added a layer.

Undertaking to finish my first 50-miler [I'd dropped out of the JFK 50 in 2012 [sorta injured but really grossly under-prepared], I wanted to have a solid fueling strategy.  Based in part on the phenomenal recent racing success of Zach Bitter, I decided to stay low-carb during the first half of the race, and then eat whatever appealed to me during the second half.  I took only water for about 10 miles, then had one Chia Warrior Coconut bar, which I take on runs of 3+ hours these days.  I also had some of those delicious Barista Balls, though my cold-compromised fingers dropped two of them as I finished the second full lap.  That's when I said, to no one in particular, "Oh shit, my balls!", as I saw that delicious pair roll downhill towards the lake.  In an ultramarathon, it's a good idea to bring extra everything, and I was glad to have more balls in reserve. ;-)  Turns out, I would need them.

Somewhere around Mile 20, the reality of the moment hit me.  I had committed to running 50 miles today, just 6 days after the Boston Marathon.  This race was on pavement.  Things started to hurt: calves, quads, hips, shoulders/neck.  But, I shook off the negativity and just stayed in the moment: this lap, the next aid station, the next mile.

After completing the third lap, we were at about the 27-mile mark, more than half-way done and past the marathon distance.  And, for me, the Festival of Unrestricted Fueling was about to begin.  And that was my basic mindset for the rest of the day: Run to the next aid station. Eat and walk.  Start running again.  Repeat.

A sampling of what I did end up eating/drinking in the second half of the race:
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Deviled eggs (am-A-zing!)
  • PB&J
  • Fritos
  • Smartfood
  • Potato Chips
  • Pretzels
  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Oreos
  • Graham crackers
  • Candy fruit slices
My stomach felt fine all day.  My mental energy was ample and positive, much to my beloved fiancee Meredith's surprise.  The fourth time around the lake was the toughest.  Then the fifth lap was worse.  I had no doubt I was going to finish, and I started playing some math games.  Tom did the same, and we ended up running within view of each other, but no longer together.  Without saying a word about it, we understood that it had to be this way.

Coming into the Start/Finish for the final time, I saw Meredith and Nate.  My spirits were still good, but my body was tired.  I'd passed my all-time mileage PR (40 miles when I turned 40) and was in completely uncharted territory.  I felt some new aches, and had a blister which felt compelled to remind on every other step that running 50 miles on pavement is kind of a stupid endeavor.

The last time around the lake was a bit of a slog, but Tom and I treated it as our chance to say goodbye to the wonderful aid station volunteers, including the flirty ladies at the second station; the self-styled aid station chef (auteur of the morning's breakfast burritos, bacon, soup and grilled cheese), the soft-spoken blue-Gatorade peddler at the third station and then the home stretch.

Without a doubt, the least pleasant section of the course was a 2-mile stretch along Route 45, which was much busier than the rest of the lakefront road, and took us straight into headwinds which gusted upwards of 30 mph.  The final turn back onto North Shore Road was a blessing.  Tom and I cruised through the last aid station, where I had some coke and water, and then we headed for the finish.

My Garmin was reading long, so I expected to finish closer to 50.4 miles, as measured by my watch.  Tom was struggling (as was I) and he asked me if we had about 1.5 miles to go.  I didn't mean to be brusque, but I sort of snapped my response: "Don't worry about it."  He said something else, but I didn't really hear it, because a switch suddenly flipped and I picked up the pace.  Before I knew it, I had sped up by over 3 minutes per mile, dropping down into the low-7:00-minute range.  I had no idea that that could ever happen after running for 9 hours.  As I pumped my arms and breathed fast-but-steadily, I came upon a woman ahead, another 50-miler who'd been ahead of me for most of the day.  I flew by her less than 100 yards from the finish, and she was clearly a bit befuddled (as was I).

I raised my arms, hooted and hollered and literally took a flying leap under the finish banner [nearly crashing into the aid station table when I landed].  Official time: 9:07:56.  9th male finisher; 12th overall.  Tom came in a moment later, having been sort of blindsided by my unexpected kick.  I hugged Meredith, and Nate, and Tom, and would have hugged anyone else who'd have let me.


As I said up top . . . it was a memorable week.

Thanks for reading. -Ron

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Today's post title comes from an inside joke started by my friend Steve.  When he was a star high school and later standout college runner, Steve would notice fellow runners lining up at the front of the pack, where they would promptly start their race at course-record pace, before rapidly fading and coming back to earth.  Since nothing about those runners' training or race history would objectively indicate that they could hold such a blazing pace, Steve and his teammates summed up their apparent mindset with the simple phrase: "Today's the day," as in, "today-is-the-day-I'm-going-to-run-a-full-minute-per-mile-faster-than-I've-ever-run-before."  Silly thought process surely, but entertaining for the knowledgeable observer.

Well, for me, right now, at this moment TODAY IS THE DAY!  It is the day that I launch my long-awaited (well, by me and the causes I'm running for, anyway) 2014 running fundraising initiative.  4 Marathons.  100+ Miles.  4 Excellent Causes.  And, it all starts 100 days from today, on July 19, 2014 in a lovely field in eastern Vermont.  The causes - and the fundraising links - are listed at the top of this blog, but here they are, with a quick word about each:

The Jimmy Fund: Who doesn't want to help fight cancer?

Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation:Who doesn't want to help people with spinal cord injury?

NH Campaign for Legal Services: Who doesn't favor justice for all,especially for the poor?

NH Public Television: Who doesn't love public broadcasting?  Sesame Street helped me learn English.  "Downton Abbey" is helping me perfect it. :-)

I've also set up a Facebook page, and am affectionately calling this initiative "Ron's Run for Jimmy, Chris, Justice & Elmo".

So, please, donate if you can.  Spread the word.  Send a good vibe.  Pray, if that's your thing.

Nothing about my running history guarantees that I will be able to complete this undertaking.  So, it's just natural, that 100 days to go until I toe the line, "TODAY IS THE DAY!"

Thanks, for reading this, and for sharing this incredible journey with me.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A False Dichotomy: Reflections on Running WITH/FOR Others

The road and I have become re-acquainted during this fledgling training cycle.  It's a lot like I remember it: undulating, scenic, seemingly endless . . . but a lot whiter and more slippery.

A couple of Sundays ago, I capped a big training week for me.  I drove to Hopkinton, MA and ran 18 miles on the Boston Marathon course with my old friend Stuart, who's training for his first marathon. 

Then, since I'm in an extended base-building phase, I accepted an invitation to join some blind runners for a group run from the Massachusetts Association for the Blind's main offices in Brookline.  I was paired with a really nice guy named Erich, and we sought to negotiate the congested, only partially-cleared streets and sidewalks of Brookline, Boston and Cambridge, connected to one another by a short tether.

My interest in meeting and running with Erich and some of the others stems from my desire to be a guide to a disabled runner again at Boston 2014.  The Achilles International folks remain noncommittal at this relatively late stage, and some of us like to plan ahead.  OCD much?  Yeah, kinda. ;-)

During the first mile together, Erich and I covered the biographic basics.  He explained his sight loss (calling himself "low-vision") and I mentioned that my fiancee is legally blind in one eye.  He then posed what I regarded as a curious question: "Is that why you're interested in helping out, or are you just a good guy?"  I shuffled along without answering for a few strides, and then said, "Neither, really."  And so we discussed why I've taken to pacing and guiding as my predominant "racing" activities in the past several years.

It's not false modesty to say that I don't consider pacing and guiding to be great acts of selfless sacrifice. Granted, being a guide/pacer does require putting one's personal performance goals on the backburner, but - if we're being honest here - I turned to guiding/pacing for all sorts of selfish reasons.

Being a marathon pace guide is like being a rock star for a day.  The pace group members think of you as a running demi-god, someone able to leave them in the dust if you wanted to, but choosing instead to be there to shepherd them to their own goals.  They pose fawning questions; they ask you to pose for post-race photos; in some instances, they even try to kiss you in a way that might violate the Pacer-Runner Code of Ethics. :-)  We can blame that on adrenaline and exhaustion.

For a Pacer/Guide like me, though, participating in a marathon at a pace one-to-two minutes (or more) slower than my own race pace is a safe choice.  Factor in the long training/racing malaise which I endured, and you can get a sense that it would be fair to characterize my "running service" as an elaborately-crafted cop-out.  And, when you consider events like Boston and New York, where just getting into the race requires a qualifying time, some luck, and/or significant registration fees, being a Pacer/Guide is a very sweet deal.

Being a Guide for a disabled athlete is quite different than leading a group to a specific goal time.  Guides run their runner's race.  Our commitment is to making sure that this person has the best, smoothest, safest possible race experience, and we'll do what it takes to make it happen.  We stay with the athlete; we don't expect the athlete to stay with us.  Still, despite all that apparent selflessness, the cheers and the energy and the unfettered adulation as you accompany an inspirational figure as they do their inspirational thing is far more satisfying than hitting any goal time in one's own race.

So, Erich, as we discussed, I'm not guiding for my "low-vision" fiancee, and I'm not an especially good guy.  I just want to keep doing what I love doing, among other people who love, at the marquee events of our wonderfully egalitarian sport.

That's it.


Since my last post, I've logged three consecutive 70+-mile weeks, with a 75+-mile week during the week of February 3 through February 9.  This is where a lesser runner might gripe about the awful, frigid, snowy, relentless, unforgiving winter we're having.  Not me, though. ;-)

The plan is to log one more week in the mid-70's (mileage, not temps, sadly) before heading to Italy on February 23rd for the kids' school vacation, where I'll be lucky to run half that distance.  The timing is actually optimal, as I'm due for a cutback week, and the trip will force me to take it.

In other news, I'm looking for a 50-mile qualifying race, since Vermont requires that every 100-mile runner have completed a 50-miler in less than 12 hours, with a deadline of June 1st.  I was planning on getting my 50-mile qualifier at Pineland Farms, but with that being on Memorial Day weekend, it felt like I'd be cutting it too close.  Leading candidate right now is the Lake Waramaug Ultra in Connecticut, scheduled on April 27th.  Guiding at Boston April 21st would be a perfect final long run. :-)

Thanks for reading. -Ron

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

From Clarity, Commitment - Going Long in 2014

As this part of the world endures an especially long and unforgiving deep freeze, 2014 is nearly 1/12 over.  Hopefully, this dreadfully cold winter is making its last great stand, before yielding to more historically seasonable temperatures and a blessedly early thaw.

The last post about diet hinted that big things were coming for me in 2014.  Momentous things.  Things requiring preparation, dedication, and focus.  Things that took a lot of thought to decide to undertake.  Things that will likely change me forever.  The decision to pursue these things came from cutting through much of the emotional, physical, spiritual and other fog in my life and finding a clarity of vision which let me see clearly not only my goals, but also - more importantly - how to achieve them.  Notably, each of these what-I-deem-noble pursuits had to start with a full-blown commitment, and each will demand the full force of that commitment throughout its duration.

One of those things involves running, and it should take about a full day.  The other involves the most important of life's decisions, and should - with a lot of luck - take decidedly longer.

Last September, after finishing the 200+-mile Reach the Beach Relay (where we first met 3 years earlier), I asked Meredith to marry me.
  The standard responses to that question include two short options: a three-letter word (highly preferable), or a two-letter word (completely devastating).  The desired three-letter Y-E-S eventually came out, but it took a lot of reflection, emotion and patience . . . on both of our parts.  Now, we're planning a June wedding just outside our beloved Richmond, Virginia, the primary locale of our courtship.  And, while marrying my great true love is itself most appealing, realizing that we will all again someday soon be able to ride inner tubes down the James River helps get one through this winter's deep, dark doldrums.

The other major endeavor of 2014 will happen about 6 weeks later.  In what my friend Barb and others have termed BHAG (Big-Hairy-Audacious-Goal), I have registered for the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run
Yes, this guy.  The guy who's struggled to run 35 miles-per-week for the past couple of years.  The guy who's never run more than 90 miles in a WEEK.  The guy who DROPPED OUT of his first attempt to run 50 miles.  That same guy is going to train himself - physically and mentally - to become an uncompromising plodding machine, never going fast, but perpetually beholden to the ultrarunner's mantra of Relentless Forward Progress.  And, you know what?  I'm completely "terricited" about it, equal parts scared and excited.  Actually, that's not true . . . I'm far more excited than scared.

It is a great comfort to be back to having a clear purpose above beyond attending to the prosaic details of everyday living.  And, while some aspects of planning are expectedly less enjoyable than others, figuring out a wedding, a honeymoon, and how to get through a 100-mile footrace, all in the company of my favorite adult person, makes virtually every moment of every day wonderfully purposeful.

There's so much to figure out.  So many options to weigh.  So many attendant sacrifices to make.  But, sacrifice need not equate to burden when it's for reasons which mean so much to the sacrificer.

And, um, soooooo ... about that . . . it's been a while since I channeled the selfishness inherent in pursuing a running BHAG into benefiting a good cause.  That said, though, I'm not going to run for a cause this year, either.  I am going to run for FOUR CAUSES.  On Friday, July 18, 2014, I will run 4.8 miles.  Added to the 100 miles I'll run starting at 4:00 am on Saturday, July 19th, I will have run the equivalent of four full marathons.  And, so, I have chosen four causes which mean a great deal to me personally, and I will ask any like-minded folks to support them.

Since I'm setting up fundraising sites and finalizing other logistical details, I'll share the details soon.  Save your charity money just a little longer, then, won't you? ;-)

And, finally, partly for old-times' sake, and partly because it will keep me accountable, here is my training from the past two weeks.  I may or may not keep posting training recaps regularly in the months ahead, but I welcome thoughts, opinions, and insights, especially from the knowledgeable ultrastuds and studettes out in the Interwebz.

Monday - 5.3M (coming off my first long-run stack of 15M Saturday, 20M Sunday)
Tuesday - AM: 4.5M easy;      PM: 90 mins Indoor Soccer (fun!)
Wednesday - 5.2M
Thursday - 7M
Friday - 13.1M (ran to work)
Saturday - AM: 6M group run (for #megsmiles) PM: Indoor Soccer
Sunday - 14.3M

WEEKLY TOTAL (counting soccer estimates) = ~63M


Monday - 5.1M
Tuesday - AM: 5M      PM: 90 mins Indoor Soccer
Wednesday - 6.7M
Thursday - 9.4
Friday -5.8
Saturday - 20+M
Sunday - 10M

WEEKLY TOTAL (counting soccer estimates) = 67+M
January 2014 is shaping up to be my best month of running/training since March 2011.  In terms of the overall training arc I've begun to map out for myself, I'm right where I want to be mileage-wise.  My legs and hips are certainly fatigued, but my energy is good (high-fat/low-carb/ketosis!), and I seem to be managing the higher volume well.  Of course, other than a few pickups on the treadmill and the short bursts which inevitably happen in soccer, all of these miles are quite slow.  As I realized during my most recent 20+-miler, where I was dragging and at times even walking up steep hills: When training for a 100-miler, running slow and walking *IS* race pace.

As I settle into this most excellent journey towards adventures and rewards both known and unknown, I'm glad that YOU (yes, you, reading this), are choosing to come along.

Thanks for reading. -Ron

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


This post - or at least the underlying impetus for it - has been a long time coming.

Since I my late-teens, I've had chronic stomach issues.  Attributed to heredity (my mother has a "nervous stomach"), I'd come to accept it as a permanent burden.  Granted, it's been a longtime nuisance, but never been quite bad enough to derail me from doing what I've wanted to do.  In more recent years, though, let's just say that it became severe enough that I knew the precise location of every port-a-pottie and shielded patch of roadside woods within a 10+-mile radius of my house.

Among the suspected culprits of my gastrointestinal woes have been Celiac disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, lactose intolerance, and food allergies.  As a beer-loving aficionado of the carbohydrate-driven lifestyle, though, I embraced the traditional United States' government food pyramid (below) like a gospel.

But, despite my ostensibly "healthy" low-fat diet, I never felt quite right.  There's the obvious GI distress in the form of stomach aches and extended post-meal bathroom sessions (no one wants their kids to say "See you in two hours, Dad . . .").  My sleep patterns have been a mess since adolescence.  I have experienced daily energy spikes and crashes.  I needed to end every meal with a sweet dessert.  I couldn't sit in a movie theater without a box of Milk Duds or Twizzlers.  Oh, and there's was my much-beloved IPA life stage.  But, all along, I was at war with myself.  And, after years of constant training, racing, experimenting, it only seemed to get worse.  To this day, I think often about my fueling travails at the 2011 Boston Marathon, where I ran my PR of 3:08+ despite being unable to take any fuel after about Mile 14.  I know I was in shape to run faster.  But I didn't, so the marathoner I thought I'd become was tempered by the actual marathon I ran that day.  And, frankly, I haven't even been as good a runner, on any level, since.

So, I did what skeptics do.  I questioned myself, my beliefs, my behavior.  I consulted learned sources who have found a different way.  I shed that unquestioned orthodoxy and kept an open mind.

And, I'm rather glad that I did.

My first attempted foray into a full-scale diet modification came in the Fall of 2012, when I paid for a "Metabolic Typing" assessment.  The 25+-page report and analysis was enlightening, but the proscription for how to combine foods soon became unworkable for me.  The two main positive changes for me at that time were that I gave up soy and soda completely.  But, after feeling notably better for a few weeks, I went back to my old ways, where grains and sugars made up most of my daily caloric intake.

After another year of sub-par training, medication-assisted sleeping, and continued facially-okay-but-actually-fundamentally-poor nutrition, I decided to try something radically different.  Thanks to information received from accomplished runner/athlete friends (Abby, Tamy, Wes, Tim, Ernesto), as well as from experts such as Drs. Jeff S. Volek & Stephen D. Phinney, Dr. Tim Noakes, and the knowledgeable-but-occasionally-bloviating Vinnie Tortorich, I adopted a different dietary approach just before Halloween 2013.

The key resources for me have been Drs. Volek & Phinney's book, "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living"; a few select episodes of Vinnie Tortorich's "Angriest Trainer" podcast, and a cornucopia of excellent Paleo recipe sites, including PaleOMG, NomNomPaleo, and and the useful recipe compilation site Paleo Grubs.  Another unexpected benefit has been that I've discovered that I actually enjoy cooking and baking, and appreciate the challenge of preparing delicious dishes and treats within my newly discovered dietary parameters.

Since I despise labels, I call this new way of eating a low-carb/Paleo/NSNG (no-sugar-no-grain) approach.  It's not any one of those things exclusively.  I do consume some carbs, notably sweet potatoes and some honey/maple syrup.  I do consume dairy, but only whole-milk/full-fat.  I do eat peanuts, beans and some other legumes.  So none of the strictest labels fits me, and I'd have it no other way.  And, because a lot of folks ask, I most certainly DO NOT CALL IT A DIET.

The results since I started doing this have been - for me - nothing short of remarkable. I have managed to increase my running mileage from 25-30 miles per week to over 60, and have been playing soccer once a week, to boot.  I've run back-to-back long runs of 15 and 20 miles, with one small chia bar or a single nut butter packet to fuel me.  I am less sore after running longer than I could have imagined.

 Bear in mind that while I have been slowly ramping up my running mileage, I now eat more fat in a day than I used to consume in a week.  And I now eat fewer carbohydrates - especially sugar - in a week than I used to consume in a day (sometimes even in a single sitting, like breakfast).

But, more importantly, my mental focus and acuity have improved to the point that I don't know how I was getting by before.  My friend Ernesto addressed this quite well in his own recent blog post:

Also, despite because of consuming SO MUCH FAT, moderate protein and so little sugar/carbs, my weight and body composition seem to have found their own equilibrium.  Here's a self-consciously taken selfie from about three weeks into the new way of eating:

And here's the most recent, taken a couple of days ago (about 10 weeks in):

Of course, this remains an experiment, but the initial results and transformative feeling are so overpowering that I cannot imagine going back.  Have I cheated?  Of course.  In New York City.  In Italy.  During the holidays.  But every lapse reminds me in stark physiological terms just how much better suited I am to this new approach to eating. 

Much bigger tests are coming.  Stay tuned . . . :-)

Thanks for reading. -Ron