I intended on writing this post, like, two weeks ago, then I figured I would just wait until after the end of the month, then all of a sudden it's today and I'm just getting to it.
Following the race in Philly, I took a super chill week. Didn't ride much, didn't run much, didn't swim much. That weekend (9/24-25) I went down with Alyssa to East BF, Virginia, to help out at the Ultra Race of Champions. Her friends from Charlottesville Running Company put this race on every year, formerly under the name of Great Eastern Endurance Run (GEER). This 100k event is hard, although I suppose by definition an ultra marathon is not supposed to be easy. For this year's event, Gil and Francesca were taking it up a notch, re-labeling the race the "Ultra Race of Champions" (UROC), securing a fantastic field by virtue of a great prize purse.
We arrived at the Wintergreen Ski Resort, the staging area for the event, on Friday night, and after helping with some last minute preparations, didn't get to bed until 1:30. Needless to say, 4:30 came pretty quick, and our 21 hour day had begun. The race started amidst foggy conditions, and somehow it only got foggier throughout the day. As Yukon Cornelius would have remarked, it was as "thick as pea soup." It seriously never lifted. And these climbs the runners had to go up and down - geez. They were serious. Mixed with the fog, it was epic. Reminded me of LA's win atop Sestriere all those years ago, or Andy Schleck's win on Ventoux more recently.
After the start, Alyssa and I headed to our home for the morning and early afternoon, the Lake. I forget what it was called, Shoshana, Fofana, Yitchiyitchiyayadada, Okeechobie, Winnepesaukee, Champlain, Titicaca, I don't remember. It was in the woods (George Washington State Forest) and it was pretty sweet. The location was approximately the 17.6 mile mark, and then runners would do a loop around this lake and come back, hit the stop again at 18.5 miles. This made for some interesting moments as you're trying to help people as they come in, send them on their way (the right way), watch for runners coming back in, and send them out on their way (the right way) and do it all simultaneously. At times it was busy, and it was amazing how, even at just 17.5 miles in, people were somewhat incoherent. I think if you're in that kind of trouble that early into a 62 mile race, you may want to reconsider your choice of sport. It was also interesting to see how bad a job at listening some of them were doing when we explained which way to go around the lake.
The final runners finally made their way through, which concluded our day at the aid station. We received a number of compliments on our aid station skills, ranging from being the most fun, to the most helpful, to the most efficient. All of these things were unequivocally true. We had an obvious advantage over other aid stations, since we are runners (and Alyssa has done, and won, this race before), so we know what people want (or need) to hear, not to mention what they want (or need) to have at the aid station.
It was early afternoon and we headed back, up, up, up to the top of one mountain, then down the steep 15% gradient that almost burned up Alyssa's brakes, then back up the steep grade up to the top of Wintergreen. We were able to watch the leaders finish (including the indefatigible Mike Wardian, who, due to a wrong turn made in the trails, lost a big chunk of time, and the win). Following that incident, we had to go back out onto the trail and mark it up so there was no more confusion. It was eerily calm on the trail, the fog was still up in the higher parts of the mountains, and for a brief second even I had the urge to run along the single track. We headed back to the finish, handed out some medals and buckles for a while, and then, when it turned to dark, went back out on the course to drop glowsticks out on the road.
Something happened, though, when I went to take the glowsticks out of the bag. My fingers felt real greasy, and I noticed an awful smell. In the dark, I couldn't tell what had happened, but I figured it out - a glowstick must have exploded in the bag, and leaked all over the other glowsticks. My hand started getting this tingling, not-very-good feeling, and I really, really wanted to get back to wash my hands. I thought I was going to have to lose the hand for a minute, but my 27 minute ordeal was soon over.
Our food sources were limited to Stouffer's lasagna and mac&cheese, which, after a while, was sitting really heavy. We handed out more medals and buckles to the now trickling-in-ever-so-slowly finishers, and soon enough, it was 11pm. Now, initially it was supposed to be a 17 hour cut-off, but they were going to make it 19 hours this year. Midnight comes. We finally change the XM station that was going over the PA to a more contemporary one, and when I needed it most, Justin Bieber's "Baby" came on. It got me through to 1am, when the cut-off was supposed to be, but there were a few more people out on course and they were going to let them finish. At one point, sitting in the fog, facing the finish line (from beyond it), a person walked up from behind us. Joking around, I thought he had already finished, so I didn't get up. But apparently he was just finishing, and had come in from the wrong way. Oops. We made it to 1:15, then I had to pull the plug. I was in serious pain and needed to sleep. We drove back to the crib and slept.
It was a truly challenging adventure, and I didn't even compete. I almost think it would have been easier on my body for me to have just run the thing. But, it was a cool event to see, and help out at, and I feel like I made a difference in the lives of other people, because I am such a great person.
For a couple of days after UROC, I felt terrible. Had a slow run on Monday, and my track workout Tuesday did not go well. I finally got back out on my bike on Weds and Thurs, and Thursday I finally felt a little better so I put in a few short efforts on the bike, and then had a really solid swim. Friday was going to be an afternoon long run with Brennan and Joel - 17 miles through Gwynns Falls Trail, Druid Hill Park, and some of the less savory parts of our little city.
I went out ahead of the run and dropped water and some nutrition in two spots - where we would get into Druid Hill Park around 1:12 and then after the hills behind the zoo (about 25 minutes later). Brennan and Joel had already put in 7 and 8 miles, respectively, and after a quick refueling at Brennan's, we rolled out just after 4pm. The first few miles felt slow, but by the time we made it out of the GFT (55ish minutes) I realized that was as fast as I've ever come out of there. Brennan and I worked the hills, and man is he in shape. It definitely helps that he carries 30 pounds less than I do (at least, I'd wager), but I felt like I was keeping up okay. The nutrition stops were clutch, and with water in me and some food, I was having a great run. We came out of the hills and with just 30 minutes left, mostly downhill back into the city, we were moving. Joel departed us, having completed his 24 miles, and Brennan and I were left to blaze right through Camden Yards and back to his house. Finished in just a few ticks under 2 hours, which was three minutes faster than I've run that before. So I felt good.
What didn't feel good was getting into the pool after. Or not getting to bed until after 1. Or waking up at 6:10, realizing I overslept, and having to haul up to Newark, DE, to do this silly road mile. For just a brief moment, after waking up, I thought dude, don't go - it doesn't matter. But, I had to go up to NJ anyway, and I wanted to get there earlier than later. So I did it. And man, it did not go well. I wanted to run about 7 miles for the day, but due to time constraints only had time for about 2.5 on the warmup. I felt awful. I kept waiting for my legs to respond, but they were obviously not going to fire this morning. Got to the line and it was a much different scene from last year. The race started and I went out slow. By design, I didn't want to go out too fast this year because last year - oof - I went out just a little too hard and then faded super hard in the back half. Additionally, this is the worst road mile, it's generally uphill (not steep, just up most of the way) and it's a prevailing IYF wind.
I looked at my watch at the quarter mile and yikes, 80.3? I was a step or two behind the first girl. We then ran an 81.3 second quarter. Well, at least it wasn't much slower. I passed the young lady and put a few meters in between us, but we clipped 3/4 of a mile in an 89??? How was that even possible. There was no way. I let it get into my head, and felt like if I'm running 6 minute pace now, I may as well just stop running. The girl passed me, I let her go, and then finished at 5:30 - a 79 last quarter. Not sure what happened, I guess the 3/4 mark was probably misplaced. Either way, it was not a good time, and it was a pretty miserable race. I felt okay, but clearly the 17 miles the evening before had just taken its toll. I felt fine right away, and went into a 3.5 mile cooldown around UDel's campus, before heading up to the Jerz.
That afternoon I made it out on my bike for a decent 3h45m ride, 2 hours of which was with a kid I went to high school with. I noticed this summer that he had gotten into cycling so I let him know I was going to be home in case he wanted to ride. I think it must have been the first time he'd ever ridden with someone else because his etiquette was...lacking. He was riding all over the road before I finally figured out that he did not like to unclip! In one case he wanted to go left at a light. First, he went right, looked behind him, swung a U. Then that traffic light had turned red, so he pulled another right/U/right combo to do what could have been accomplished more safely by unclipping at the light.
Later in the ride, he goes up the right side of some cars at another traffic light. I noticed a sewer grate with the grates being long-ways, and it was mad wet (it had rained). I told him not to go that way, he didn't listen, wheel gets stuck in the grate, starts to fall. Holds himself up by falling into a truck stopped at the light. Ha. Fortunately there were no more incidents and he made it back in one piece.
Sunday morning was the reason I had gone up to NJ in the first place. My dad had been involved with organizing an event with the Red Bank YMCA and the Livestrong Foundation, to put on a 2 hour indoor cycling ride (essentially a spin class, minus the "jumps" and other acoutrements of a workout, and the BPM music). Instead, we rode to the 2001 TdF while I narrated. It was essentially a celebration of Mr. Armstrong, who, 15 years ago, on 10/2/96, had been diagnosed with cancer. It was the first time since the spring I'd ridden my trainer, and it sucked just as much as it did then. 2 hours inside, then another 2 outside, in a mean, mean wind out of the south. Nice tailwind as I headed north along the beach, brutal headwind on the way back. At least it was clear, which offered a great view of Manhattan and the new Freedom Tower.
Another short run at Tatum Park that evening gave me a great week - 10,500m in the pool; 210 miles on the bike; 45 miles of running. A 21 hour week, way above my last 4 weeks of 10/avg.
Friday's run also had capped off the month of September, and while I normally cherish my birth month, I was excited to see this one go. It had been lowlighted by terrible weather, including abnormally high humidity and LOTS of rain. Again, by design, I had intended to take it a little bit easier so I could recover from the effects of the ironman, and since I dotted the fall season with the RM Classic 5k and then PDR, I needed to keep other efforts to a minimum. Here's my grades:
Swimming - A+. I was a swim session away from hitting 40k for the month, instead finishing with 36,500m. So it was about the same I've been swimming each month this year, but I had some really positive workouts in there, including getting back to swimming intervals I should have been swimming all year. Additionally, I feel better swimming now. Maybe I just struggle in the heat and humidity of the summer. Whatever the case, I feel much more confident in my swim again and feel like swimming around or maybe under an hour at Arizona will be pretty comfortable.
Cycling - C+. With the exception of the ride on my birthday out in Frederick, I really didn't have any notably good rides. None were notably bad, either, but I just didn't get out that much. My intention was to not ride a ton, so I could run a little more and have the legs to run well, but at just about 300 miles for the month, that's like a Memorial Day weekend worth of riding. I'll need to ride quite a bit more over the next 7 weeks, for sure.
Running - A+. Let's see, I recovered well from Louisville and as such was able to run a decent track 5k just 14 days after, and then ran a 4 second lifetime best in the half marathon a week after that. I had weeks of 45, 45, 26 and 45 for a total of 161 miles, which is the most I've put in during the month of September since college (narrowly eclipsing my 159 from last September, although that month also featured nearly 900 miles on the bike and 75k in the pool). I had some decent runs but did balance it out with some not-so-decent runs. All told, though, I feel good at where my running is right now and think that I should be able to keep it up. This week is headed towards upwards of 55 miles.
My least favorite thing of this week has been swimming, not because I don't want to swim, but because the pool is in bad shape. I've never experienced chemicals so bad. It's supposed to be a salt-based chemical, but whatever it is leaves me feeling awful. My mouth literally goes numb. My skin is so cracked that my index finger just started bleeding the other night. My body smells like chemicals no matter how many showers I take. I don't know how the Merritt keeps constantly fucking up so bad, but it's awful. It's because they emptied it and refilled it, and to make matters worse, it's supposed to be back indoors but somehow they ordered the wrong size cover for the steel structure (that makes it indoors) so the back ends are open (there is a roof at least covering the top). This makes for some chilly morning swims.
This weekend I am heading to a half iron race in southern MD somewhere, looking to get in a very expensive supported long training effort. Then Sunday it will be my annual trek from College Park to DC to spectate the Army Ten Miler. After some chilly weather, it's supposed to be picking back up to highs in the low 80s. My favorite time of year - crisp mornings, low humidity and warm temps. Coupled with no clouds in sight and it should be a great weekend. And to my roommate Cheese - crush butts at Chicago this weekend!