2013 Homestead 10 x 5K – Race Report

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Wow! I can’t believe it has been so long since I posted on my blog…I wonder how many blog posts start that way? Anyway, lots and lots has happened since my last post, so I wanted to get some of it down on virtual paper before the details start to fade.

Since rupturing my L5-S1 disk last July, and my subsequent back surgery in September, it has been a long road. I was released by the doctors in late December to start running again, and since then, I have been slowly building up the miles. After nearly six months of no running, it was like starting running for the first time!

After getting back into running, I also made the transition from being a pronounced heel-striker to a mid-foot striker. I have been meaning to write a post on that journey and what I learned, but maybe later. Well, the long and short of it is after about 8 months of experimenting, trial & error, and a lot of hard work I am almost back to where I was before my injury. In fact a few weeks ago (Aug. 24th, 2013), I achieved my comeback goal of completing my second 50k!

This race was put on by Lowcountry Ultras, and I must say Tim Waz knows how to put on a race! After this experience, I definitely plan to run more of the races L.U. sponsors.

This race format was pretty unique, and I thought it would be a good way to get back into ultras. It was run on a 5k loop. At 7am the participants lined up to run one lap. We repeated this every hour, on the hour until all ten laps were completed. In the end your time was calculated as the total sum of your ten lap times. Running ten 5Ks sure SOUNDED easier than running one 50k!

Performance Enhancing Kokopelli

I came into this race woefully under trained. Due to pulling a muscle in my back about 6 weeks prior to the race, I missed out on some of my key long runs at the end of my training. In fact, the longest run I had done since my surgery prior to the race was 15 miles. Even so, I woke up that next morning feeling pretty good, and ready to run. I was putting a lot of hope in my PEK working some magic to get me to the finish line!

So, with all that on my mind, I drove down to Ridgeland, SC on Friday afternoon to pickup my race pack and setup my tent at the race site. Afterwards, I went down to Hilton Head for my pre-race meal at Mellow Mushroom. By 8pm, I was settled down in my tent where I listened to a couple of podcasts and then tried to get some sleep before the big race.

I woke up at 5:45 am, surprisingly refreshed after the fitful nights sleep I had gotten (it had been too hot/humid for camping), ate some fruit and almond butter and went for a warmup walk before the race began.

Mud!

Thankfully, the weather was overcast and cooler than expected (high 70s – actually cooler
than the night before), but still pretty humid. The course was a bit of an out and back figure eight, with about 2/3 of it being single track and the rest service roads. The first lap let me know what I was in for the rest of the day. A large portion of the course was muddy. If you are not familiar with coastal GA and SC, you probably don’t fully appreciate what I just said. Mud in this area of the country is not just wet dirt, it is mostly clay, commonly referred to as “gumbo”, and it is like running in creamy peanut butter spread about 6″ deep…relentless, slippery, shoe-sucking mud! Even so, I felt pretty optimistic about the day by the end of the first lap.
I had hoped to hold a steady pace between 11 and 12 min/mile throughout the day, and so far, things looked promising. However, that was not to last.

The next few laps were uneventful, but by the end of the 5th lap, I was starting to feel the effects of being under trained, poorly rested and running solo. This was my first time running a race that my son Christian and I didn’t run together. Actually, it was the first time I had run more than 15 miles without my running partner. I totally underestimated the importance of having someone there to motivate you when it gets tough.

On lap six, I put on a fresh pair of shoes that had a little more cushion and traction and started using the run/walk method that had gotten me through my first marathon at a 3:1 ratio. By the end of lap seven, the wheels were coming off and I was running 1 minute, then walking two minutes.

Start of Lap 8!

At this point, I was hanging by a thread and I was doubting my chances of finishing. I started lap eight thinking that I would drop after that lap with a respectable 24.8 miles completed. About a mile into the 5k loop, my quads started cramping. every time I tried to run for more than 30 seconds, they would spasm and cramp. From the two mile marker, I death-marched in to the finish line with full intention of embracing my first DNF.

When I crossed the finish line for that lap, Tim Waz was there logging everyone’s lap time. He told me I was doing great. I just winced and said “I’m done.” He said something to the effect of “You’ve got about 12 minutes before the next lap starts. Get something to drink, sit down for a minute and see how you feel.” In my mind, it was over. But rather than argue with him, I grabbed a couple of oatmeal cookies from the aid station table and hobbled back to my tent. I got my last bottle of Tailwind out of the cooler, sank into my camp chair and took off my shoes.

My rationale was good. I knew I could not complete two more laps, and I also knew it would be crazy to quit with just one lap to go, so now was the time to drop. Just finish that last cookie, turn in your race bib and start packing up.

About that time, they sounded the five minute warning for lap nine. I didn’t budge. I didn’t even raise my head. Just finish the last of that bottle of sports drink, turn in your race bib and start packing up.

Soon I heard, “Two minutes, people!” Since my station was only about 30 feet from the starting line, I decided I would at least hang around to cheer on everyone for the start of the next lap. Just clap, turn in your race bib and start packing up.

Then, something happened. I honestly can’t explain it. It was like someone else was controlling my body. “One minute!” I looked down and one of my shoes was on my foot, then the other, and by the time they started the ten second countdown, I was standing there in the middle of the pack thinking “What the heck…it’s only two more laps!”.

To my surprise, I power walked the entire course except for the first and last 100 yards of lap nine, and finished in about 45 minutes (faster than lap eight). Every step took effort, but now I had a plan…relentless forward progress. I knew I was going to be able to finish this thing!

Just before the last lap, I realized that I had not taken any pictures of the course, so I grabbed my iPhone at the last minute and brought it with me. Now I knew I could take a little extra time and still beat the cut-off, so I stopped every 1/4 mile or so and snapped some pics of the course.

View of the finish line as I round the last corner.

It was such a great feeling to round that last corner and see the finish line! I was so glad that I stuck it out, though I’m still not sure where the motivation to get back out for the last two laps came from, but I couldn’t be more proud of my finish. As a bonus, I also won a pair of SwiftWick socks they gave away via several random drawings! No one was going to be writing articles about me in Trail Runner Magazine with my 7:04 finish time, but it was a PR for me, and that’s way better than a DNF!

As I slowly packed up my campsite (I had failed to consider having to do that by myself with leg cramps when I decided to camp out instead of getting a hotel) I did think to myself that I was done with any races over the half marathon distance. I had done it, I had nothing more to prove to myself or anyone.

Two days later, I’m browsing UltraSignup.com for a January 50k for Christian and I to run together…….

ipadio: Stuff Kit Says…

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ipadio: Stuff Kit Says… – talking about twitter, facebook, back surgery, well wishes, good afternoon

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Stuff Kit Says – 1st phonecast

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The 2012 SweetH2O 50K Ultramarathon

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Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.  ~T.S. Eliot

Well, last Saturday was the big day!  It was the culmination of just over two years of hard work and training for Christian and I. We ran the the 2012 SweetH2O 50K Ultra-marathon.

It has been an amazing journey.  A few days before the race, I was looking back through my running log on DailyMile.com.  I found my 1st Daily Mile run post, dated April 14, 2010.  It reads:

Ran 1.9 miles in 25 minutes and 30 secondS.  Got my orthotics today!
Ran with my son…first run in over five years. I died twice.

Christian and I have come a long way since then, but one thing has not changed…we still have an uncontrollable urge to push each other to our limits.  We’ve run close to 1,300 miles together, in sub-freezing temperatures, and in 100+ degree heat indexes, 6 hour trail runs, endless mile repeats on the steepest portion of the Cooper River Bridge, and hundreds of laps around our neighborhood.  None of that was enough to prepare us for what last Saturday had in store for us.

It was an incredible experience, but I doubt anyone would want to read the detailed account of our 9 hour, 47 minute ordeal, so I won’t put it all down here, but I will give a few highlights.

The race was harder than I ever thought it could be.  It actually turned out to be about 33 miles long, based on several GPS reports, and the elevation climb/descent was over 7,000 ft!  There were several points where I thought I couldn’t go on, but the encouragement I received from my son, or from the cut-off runner (Graham Gallemore) or from many of the friends Christian and I made on the course that day, spurred me forward.  The ice bath for my legs and back that I got at the river crossings were also a huge help.  After the second crossing (at about mile 19-ish), I changed into a fresh pair of socks, and rested my legs for about 5 minutes or so, and again felt like I could go on.

The last 8-9 miles of the course were simply miserable.  Christian and I were exhausted, having spent more time on our feet on a single run than ever before.  We walked almost all of those 8 miles, just struggling to put one foot in front of the other.  We met several other runners during this time as well and took turns encouraging each other that we could finish.  The last mile or so Christian and I decided enough was enough, and we wanted to finish under 10 hours, so we started to run again.  Running in this case probably only described our posture, as I doubt we were actually moving any faster than when we walked, but we finally reached the finish line and both of us crossed on the run!

We found out later that Christian set the record for the youngest finisher in the six year history of the race: 13 years old.

It is, without a doubt, the hardest and most rewarding physical thing I have ever done, but I can’t take credit for it.  I would have never completed it without the help and encouragement of the volunteers, fellow runners and most of all, my son along the way.

Thanks to all of you for helping me become an ultra-marathoner!

  

  

Running for a Cause

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Many of you reading this are probably friends and family, so you know the crazy running journey that my son and I have been on for the last 22 months. For those of you who are new here, I’ll give you the “cliff notes” version.  My son and I started running together in May of 2010, with a goal to get healthy, but mostly just to have some quality father-son time.  So far, we’ve run about 1,200 miles together, and also finished a few “milestone” races including our first 10k, our first 1/2 marathon & our first marathon.

In a couple of months we are going to be running our first ultra marathon: The SweetH2O 50K at Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs, Ga.  It promises to be 31.75 miles of beautiful trails and brutal hills!  We have been training hard for it and I am confident we will be ready.

Over the past two years, my son has surprised me many times with the grit and determination he has shown while training for these races (at 13, he was the youngest finisher for the Charleston Marathon this year).  Now he has surprised me again, this time with his compassion.  After being inspired by David Goggins, He has decided he wants to use this race to raise awareness and funds for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the Children’s Hospital at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, Ga.

Christian - 3 lb, 11 oz

In May of 1998, Christian and his twin sister, Johahna were born at MUMC at about 32 weeks gestation.  We were very blessed that they were relatively healthy for being two months premature, but due to their size and development, they were required to remain in the NICU for about 4 weeks, and in the hospital another two weeks before being healthy enough to come home.

It was an emotional roller coaster during those six weeks, but I can’t overstate how amazing the doctors and nurses were, caring for our twins. The peace of mind we had each evening that we returned to the Ronald McDonald house, knowing our twins were in capable, caring hands was what helped us sleep at night.  We also know that we owe so much of how well they are doing now (13 years later) to the excellent care they received in those first few weeks.

Christian has come a long way since then, and now he has decided he wants to give a little back.  About three years ago, the Stephen and Matthew Huffman Neonatal Enrichment Fund was set up by Stephen and Matthew’s parents.  You can see their story here.  This fund provides care items for use in the NICU and to parents for home care: rocking chairs, bouncer seats & toys for the babies to help with cognitive development, and sleep sacks. The sleep sacks help reduce the risk of SIDS while keeping the babies warm.  The sleep sacks are also given to the parents when their children go home.  All gifts are tax deductible, and obviously go to a great cause.

If you’d like to give to the Stephen and Matthew Huffman Neonatal Enrichment Fund, just follow this link:

Stephen and Matthew Huffman Neonatal Enrichment Fund Giving

Please select the “Stephen and Matthew Huffman Neonatal Enrichment Fund” as the choice to make donations.  Also, if you give, please make sure you put Christian’s name in the “Additional Information” field under “In Honor Of”.  That will help us track Christian’s fund raising.  If you would rather give over the phone or via mail, click –> here <– for information on how to do that.

Finally, if you would be so kind, forward this post to everyone you know to help spread the word about what Christian is doing.  Thanks again for taking the time to read this.

2012 Charleston Marathon

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“Hey Dad…you know we might as well go ahead and run a full marathon now….”

Last weekend was yet another milestone in my son’s quest to see how far he can push his “old man” (and for the record, I am still convinced he is trying to kill me!).  For those of you who may not know, this journey started with our decision to train for and run the 2011 Cooper River Bridge Run.  I talked about that race here.  Then, we set our sites a little higher, taking on the 2011 Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon, which I blogged about here.  So, last Saturday, we attempted our first full Marathon:  The 2nd Annual Charleston Marathon.  It was an experience that I will never forget, and quite frankly, even after a week to ponder things I am having a difficult time finding the words to adequately describe the experience.

By Charleston standards, it was a cold start for the race (32°F and breezy), but the sun was out and our adrenaline was high when the gun went off at 8am.  Our goal was to run a steady pace of around 12 min/mi for the entire race.  We were hoping to finish under 5 hours 20 minutes, but ultimately our goal was to just finish.

Because there was no pace group for our target time, we ended up running the first 10 miles or so with the half marathon 2:30 pace group.  This should have put us running about an 11:40 min/mi pace, which was a little faster than our plan, but tolerable.  In actuality, they ran way fast.  Our average pace for the first 10 miles was just under 10:45 min/mi!  Even so, we were still feeling pretty good at that point.  Later in the race, we would find that took a lot out of us.

After we split off from the half marathon runners, we slowed a bit, and found a good groove, running about 12:15 pace and feeling great.

By about mile 16, we finally got warm enough to shed our “throw-away” sweats and the cool air hitting us gave us a bit of a physical and emotional boost, but it was not to last.  Things really got tough during miles 19-21, our pace slowed and we took a few extra walk breaks to try and get ready for the final 5 miles.  That seemed to work, and we picked the pace back up and set our sights on the finish line.

As always, the last few miles are the toughest.  When we hit the 24 mile mark we turned into the wind, and it was demoralizing.  We were tired, dehydrated and that 8-10 mph wind made the 45° air feel like 30°!  The last mile, I had nothing left.  It was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, and praying for the finish line to hurry up and get to me!

We had a couple of false alarms where we turned a corner and thought we’d see the finish line but instead, only met disappointment.  When we finally turned that last corner, and saw the finish about 150 yards ahead, I was unexpectedly overcome by emotion.  At the time I couldn’t explain why, but I knew I was on the edge of weeping.  I held my composure for the sake of having a decent finish photo, but hearing my name called out, crossing the finish line, seeing that we beat our goal time and having that medal put around my neck was too much. I totally lost it for a minute or two.

And that is the part that I have such a hard time putting into words.  The excitement and pride, the highs and the lows experienced during the race was a large part of it for sure.  However, I know it was much more that that.  It was also all the emotions from the months of training and hundreds of miles my son and I have run together, the sore ankles, strained muscles, the great conversations we’ve had and the friendship & respect we have forged with each other, all for the sake of just getting to that finish line…it all came back at that single moment.  It was indescribable.

I wish that everyone could share that experience…and the fact is…you can!  If you are reading this and thinking you could never do something as extreme as running a marathon or even a half marathon, please read this post. You can do it!  You should do it!

So, what’s next?  Well, believe it or not, my son and I have now started training for our final leg of this journey extreme running journey.  We are running the SweetH2O 50K Trail Run in April.  It is going to be epic…I hope I survive!

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2013 World Wide Festival of Races

think global. run local.

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