Lessons Learned


First “really serious” training weekend – lessons learned
At this point, I am 10 weeks out from my 100 mile race.  This weekend I did some great training and at the same time, had my first real feelings of fear about this thing. 
I decided it was time to practice some night running, especially on very tired legs and a tired mind.  Friday I got up for work at my normal time (4:15am), got to work at 4:45am and worked a short day, till 3pm.  Went home, packed up (mostly food, really funny – about 10,000 calories and only 1 pair of running shorts – I have my priorities in order)! 
Met a friend at my house (Tim “M” – first time night runner, more on this later) and then another friend on the way up (Troy “B” – my pacer from mile 68 to the finish in Pinhoti) and drove to a mountain bike trail just over the TN border:  Brush Creek.  We met another friend – Rob “S” at the trail head at 8pm, right at dusk.
Start the run with me leading (great move, I have never been to this trail before) so I can set the pace (trying to slow Rob down, he is way faster than us) and I hear Tim trip in the first ½ mile.  Then we separate from him and Troy and he catches up, he fell.  Then he trips again and then takes a really nice fall right in front of me!  2 trips and 2 nice falls in the first 30 minutes, Tim “M” is really happy he now has me as a new friend!  Turns out he was doing 2 things wrong (we probably should have corrected these before we started, but what fun would that be?); he had a very heavy pack with small water bottles in it – threw his balance off.  More importantly, he had his headlamp adjusted to far in front of him, couldn’t see right in front of his feet so every root……you know!
The rest of the run was awesome, a new experience – running at night on a trail that was 100% run-able, no major climbs at all.  At one point we hit the top of the highest point and the stars were absolutely amazing!  I have not run without walking breaks in a while, except on the road, so it took some getting used to but after about 45 minutes I felt fantastic. 
We were planning on 14 miles (about 3 hours) but Troy was having a bad night (he better step up his training, how bad would it be if he could not finish the last 32 miles with me after I already ran 68 – you reading this, Troy???) so we cut it off at about 10.  Saw a bunch of snakes, heard something really big in the brush next to us (wild boar, Rob told us, probably a rabid squirrel but at night everything is scary) and chilled after the run with adult beverages and snacks back at the cars.
We then headed to Rob’s cabin in Blue Ridge and had a nice night grilling and chilling.  Rob is an awesome cook and really likes to try out new recipes on people, we were more than willing to oblige.  Stayed up till about 1am (almost 24 hours, still working on training the sleep deprivation thing).
Up at 6:30am, Rob made us a great breakfast and we all hit the road to different places at about 8am.  Tim had to get home, Rob was heading out for a 3 hour mountain bike ride and 30 minute run “brick” workout.  I was heading to Fort Mountain (famous from my last book – the Mystery Mountain Marathon – if you read it you might remember this race has about 15k of elevation change in 26.2 – really 28ish – miles)!
This was the same training / camping weekend I did last year – the plan is to run 12 miles Saturday and 16 on Sunday, cover the whole course over 2 days.  I was planning on going home Saturday afternoon cause my son was having a sleep over birthday party that I didn’t want to miss, so I planned on doing what any sensible ultra runner training for a 100 miler would do, I decided to do the 12 mile loop 2x!  Luckily the Race Director had planned on doing the same thing and 2 others joined us. 
Got to the park really early, it was really nice to not be rushed and be able to prep at my own pace.   We started our run at about 10am, the 2nd run was scheduled to start at 2pm – this race director is especially cruel, starting a run at 2pm in August in Georgia!  The loop was very nice, conversational and easy – we were in no rush to get back cause it would have made for more standing around time waiting for the other runners – which is never a good plan.
We got back around 1:20pm, and did our thing until the other runners (about 25 of them) showed up. 
Lessons learned here:  more than a 5 minute break really does not work well for me.  It felt great to fuel up, pour water over my head, change shoes, etc. but I should have just started running right away and met the new group at 2pm.  As it was, I started walking at about 1:45pm (25 minute break) and walked about a mile till everyone started.
I wanted to see how my fitness was progressing so I went out pretty hard with the 2nd group of runners – the first group was way, way out of my league.  Turns out so was the 2nd group, and probably the 3rdgroup, 4th group, ad infinitum.  Felt really, really good for about 90 minutes then the wheels fell off.  The heat was really getting to me and all I could think about was getting back to the car and jumping in the cool lake!  It really was not that hot, or humid, for this time of year but remember, if you read the last book, I got dehydrated and almost went blind at the Pine Mountain 40miler and it was about 30 degrees out! 
I started planning on cutting the 2nd loop down a bit, caught up with another runner I know and he was feeling the same.  We got to a road crossing and realized it was about 1 mile, all downhill back to the cars (instead of 4 miles left of trails) – Praise God!  Felt great running down hill on the road and felt very blessed when we finished.
Another lesson;  don’t wear bright colors while running on trails in Georgia in August.  A group of runners ahead of us ran through a swarm of yellow jackets and the guy with a bright orange shirt on got stung over 30 times – he had them everywhere, even down his shorts – ouch!  Luckily he was not allergic but his day was definitely over – Praise God again there was a park ranger close who had a bee sting kit!  The people with him said he took his shirt off, threw it away and a swarm of yellow jackets followed it!
After I got back to my car I went straight to the lake and jumped in, felt fantastic!  Cleaned up, fueled up a bit and hit the road.  About 32 miles done (10 Friday night and about 22 Saturday) in less than 24 hours – not bad.  Did a fast 5 mile road run on Sunday to top off the weekend.
Anyway, 2 things happened this weekend.  One, I realized as this training starts to cross over into ridiculous as far as time commitment, that this journey (until I retire) will probably be a “bucket list”, “one and done” like my Ironman experience.  I am fully committed to doing the best I can on 11/3 – 11/4/12 but after that – as I have said before, I get all the peacefulness, spiritual lessons, quieting of my mind from running nature, it does not need to be 6+ hours!   
More importantly, a big spiritual lesson of the weekend was this; I need to work on prayer and connections with the Lord when I am running with others.  I realized at about mile 20 on Saturday that I had not done a Rosary or really prayed or connected to God at all the whole weekend.  Nothing wrong with spending time with friends, fellowship is a big part of my religious journey, but I think I can get better at staying close to God while being around others – it is just going to take training and practice like everything else.  I did manage to do one decade of the Rosary on the 1 mile downhill stretch at the end Saturday and then listened to my Rosary “app” on my i-phone on the way home so all was not lost!
Had a great night with the family on Saturday night, got in 5 easy miles on the road Sunday and enjoyed a great day at the pool and Mass Sunday night.  I was only gone 24 hours and I was running for about 8 of those 24!
The journey continues…….
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