Tag Archives: Potawatomi Trail Run

Race awaits in Bighorn Mtns.; follow my progress live

16 Jun
Marta Ostler pauses along the trail for the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run on June 7, 2014. The 100-miler starts June 20 and the 50-miler on June 21. Portions of the trail have been described as a "shoe-sucking bog," and this portion qualifies as that. (Photo courtesy Michelle Maneval and the Bighorn Mountain race)

Marta Ostler pauses along the trail for the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run on June 7, 2014. The 100-miler starts June 20 and the 50-miler on June 21. Portions of the trail have been described as a “shoe-sucking bog,” and this portion qualifies as that. (Photo courtesy Michelle Maneval and the Bighorn Mountain race)

Here we go: Wyoming or bust.

By Thursday night, Barb and I will have trekked the 1,000-miles to Dayton, Wyo., and bright and early Saturday morning, my niece, Melissa Davidson, and I will hit the trail on the Bighorn Mountain 50-mile trail run.

I can’t wait.

After a few setbacks in training after the first of the year, I was finally able to ramp up my mileage in May, logging 173 miles. This is the highest monthly mileage I’ve ever run. Since I limit myself to four runs a week, that means my average run was 10.3 miles. By the end of the month, I had completed long runs of 20, 25 and 30 miles, and those were all done one day after doing medium-long runs of 8-10 miles. When mapping out my training, I had hoped for a 35-miler, but time got away from me.

Most recently, I’ve been on a three-week taper, and my form and speed (all things are relative) seem to be returning. The break from the long runs was needed.

Snow still dots the landscape on June 6, 2014, near the start of the 50-miler in the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run. The 100-miler starts on Friday, June 20, in Dayton, Wyo., and will turn around near this spot. The 50-miler starts on Saturday, June 21, at the Jaws trailhead. (Photo courtesy Michelle Maneval and the Bighorn Mountain race)

Snow still dots the landscape on June 6, 2014, near the start of the 50-miler in the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run. The 100-miler starts on Friday, June 20, in Dayton, Wyo., and will turn around near this spot. The 50-miler starts on Saturday, June 21, at the Jaws trailhead. (Photo courtesy Michelle Maneval and the Bighorn Mountain race)

Some of the best news I’ve received in the past few days is that the trails, even at the highest altitude, are snow-free and passable. But there are plenty of “shoe-sucking mud bogs.” Since there have still been flurries on the mountain and the overnight lows have remained in the mid-30s, the lack of snow on the trails is really welcome news.

We’ve rented a cabin less than a mile from the start of the race, which is a real plus from a logistical standpoint. I hope to get in a short run on Friday morning to test the trail and get a feel for the challenge. The race begins at 6 a.m. Mountain time on Saturday.

Follow me:

  • This link from the race organizers will provide updates at three checkpoints in the race. For the 50 milers, it is will give updates at mile 18, mile 34.5 and the finish. According to the website, “Each time the participant reaches one of these timed points, their pace is recalculated giving you a view of where your runner should be at their current pace on the course map.”
  • Scan for resultsIf you’d like to track the results on your iPhone, look up “It’s Your Race” in the App Store or click on this link to go directly there. Or scan the QR code here to go straight to the site. For even quicker results, you can narrow it down to: 50M race, male, 50-59, Smidt.
  • Here’s a link for the Android version of the official tracking app, via Google Play.
  • Barb will post occasional updates to either her Facebook page or my Facebook page.

I’ll let you know next week how it went.

Powder River!

You can wish me well in the comments below. I could use all the support I can get.

New, challenging goals help keep me motivated to run

21 Jan
Barb shot this photo of me starting a climb in the Potawatomi Trail 50 mile run.

Barb shot this photo of me starting a climb in the Potawatomi Trail 50 mile run.

I often hear of runners who have lost their motivation. Every six months or so, “Runner’s World” publishes a new story on how these folks can get their mojo back.

In a dozen years on the roads, this has never been a problem for me. The stress relief alone keeps me motivated. 

But I think there’s another key to my internal motivation: I am always striving toward a new goal, a new challenge. 

2013 mileage by monthAt first, I wanted to complete a marathon. Then I wanted to complete a marathon faster. At one time, I was working hard to qualify for Boston — although a years-long injury and an acceptance of my limited abilities have prompted me to set aside this goal. Last year, the goal was to complete an ultramarathon — 50 miles in my 50th year.

So what will get me off the couch and onto the frozen, snow-packed roads this winter? The challenge presented by the Bighorn Trail 50 mile run, which will be run near Sheridan, Wyo., in June.

The unknowns of my first 50-miler kept me honest last year. The Potawatomi Trail 50 was nearly double the length of my longest previous runs. It was on a trail and featured some crazy ascents, descents and creek crossings. It started in the dark and, as it turned out, finished in the dark, too. 

The Bighorn 50-miler takes this to another level. First and possibly most obvious, it takes place in the Bighorn Mountains (the web site says that, under certain circumstances, runners may be liable for their own search and rescue costs). It tops 9,000 feet in altitude. Despite the fact that it starts on top of the mountain and ends in the valley, one climb includes more than 3,100 feet of vertical gain. If I don’t stay motivated and honest in my training, this could be a disaster.

There’s another factor that will keep me motivated: I’m running with my niece. And she’s a decade younger than me. Screw this up and Christmas dinners could be embarrassing for years to come. 

♦ ♦ ♦

2013 snapshotIt’s probably easier to stay motivated in the coming year when the previous year has been good to you, and that’s certainly the case with me. 

Having just passed the age of 51, I’ve learned that injuries can become a problem. But for the most part, they weren’t a factor in 2013. Sure, my hamstring bothered me off and on over the months. But I have learned that when the dull ache becomes a constant pain, I’ve got to lay off for a few days. 

My total mileage was up in 2013, which training for a 50-miler in the spring will do. And I ran a pair of marathons in the last quarter of the year, although my finishing time in the Belize marathon hardly qualifies me for “running” a race. But when you are in Belize, who cares?

And a review of my training log has helped me determine an area of improvement for 2014. Over the past three years, my annual mileage, monthly mileage and average run distance have all increased. Unfortunately, in 2013, my average weight increased, too, so some sort of weight loss plan will be on the agenda in 2014.

1,000 miles run in 2013

16 Sep

Monthly mileage 2013Sunday’s long run pushed me over the 1,000-mile mark for 2013, which means this has been a good year for a couple of reasons.

First, it means I’ve been able log miles on a consistent basis, something I wondered about four years ago when a strange ache at the ischial tuberosity curtailed my efforts for nearly two years.

I still suffer the aches and pains of age and training, but I have learned to listen to my body. I can hear the whispers of the normal pain from training. But when the aches begin to scream, I am now smart enough to take some time off.

Several times this year, I have cut mileage when the aches increased their protests. But there’s only been one week where I recorded zero miles (two weeks after the ultra), and there have been only a handful of weeks when I have run fewer than 10 miles.

Second, I was able to tackle a new challenge — an ultramarathon — and that new challenge added a whole new level of fun to my training and racing efforts. I ran my ultra in early April, which is why my highest mileage months were in January and March. (A couple of trips in February and some aches led to fewer miles that month.)

My average run exceeded more than 10 miles in January and March. In the past year or two, I have pretty much confined my runs to Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday-Sunday. The roughly every-other-day schedule gives my body more time to rest, but it also forces some sort of cap on weekly mileage.

The ultra, the Potawatomi Trail 50, presented a major challenge. I’ve now completed 9 marathons, and I know I can tackle that distance. But I wasn’t sure about covering 50 miles on a trail in one session. That unknown distance increased my focus. The trails presented a whole new set of challenges themselves. And I enjoyed the physical effort and the mental challenge that the trail ultra posed.

I still have two marathons planned for the remainder of 2013.

In late October, I’ll run the Des Moines Marathon, which will be the fifth time for that race (third time for the marathon, twice in the half marathon). Last year, I stumbled to an awful finish in Des Moines. After a strong start this year, I had hoped to set a new PR there and gain a bit of redemption. But some unplanned rest at times throughout the summer means my training isn’t where it should be. So this year, I’ll keep telling myself “Run a smart race,” and my goal will be to beat last year’s disaster.

In December, I’ll run the End of the World Marathon in Placencia, Belize. It will be my first international marathon and my first trip to Belize. The goal there: Have fun and finish. A race in a tropical locale, accompanied by my wife and good friends — I can’t see any way I won’t reach my goals for this race.

And finally, my relative good health this year means I should meet my annual mileage goal and set me up for a new challenge in 2014.

Coming into 2013, my mileage goal was to exceed what I ran in 2012. In 2012, I was finally able to run a couple marathons — after a two-year hiatus — and I wanted to stay healthy enough to build on that in 2013. So far, so good.

And that has me thinking about 2014.

The Illinois ultramarathon was a ton of fun, but I’d like to take that a step further in 2014. I love Wyoming, and we’ve spent some time in the Bighorn Mountains in the north-central part of the state. And that makes the Bighorn Mountain 50 mile run attractive. Registration doesn’t open until January, so I’ve got plenty of time to plan and prepare.

I’m sure there will be additional challenges pop up between now and the end of the year, but with three-fourths of 2013 behind me, it’s been a good year.

I am now officially a special kind of idiot

9 Apr

Ten years ago, I took up marathoning as a physical challenge. This year, as I celebrated my 50th birthday, I wanted to take that challenge to another level. And thus was born the idiotic idea of running a 50-mile race in my 50th year.

Buckle and QuoteActually, everyone around me thought it was idiotic. I thought it was pretty cool. I liked the symmetry of the thing. And since, at heart, I’m a stubborn guy, I stuck with my idea.

That stubbornness paid off when, after 15 1/2 hours on the trails on Saturday, I completed the Potawatomi Trail Run 50 in Pekin, Ill. (The race features 100- and 150-mile runs, too, but I’m not that crazy.) The race takes place in McNaughton Park, a large forest preserve on the edge of town, and features a 10-mile loop that I would have to complete 5 times.

It was an amazing experience — definitely one of the most memorable events I’ve participated in. It started before the sun came up, and for me, it didn’t end until 2 hours after sunset.

Barb and I pose before taking off on another lap. I've completed 30 miles at this point, and Barb is getting ready to pace me for her first lap.

Barb and I pose before taking off on another lap. I’ve completed 30 miles at this point, and Barb is getting ready to pace me for her first lap.

Along the way, I met a lot of neat people, runners and volunteers alike. And the support I received from friends and family made the difference in my completing the event. I got texts and messages from all kinds of people before, during and after the run. Knowing I had so many people pulling for me made it that much easier to finish the race.

But I couldn’t have finished the race without the love and support of my wife, Barb. She planned on doing one lap with me — probably starting with mile 30. But she ended up doing two loops, and in the dark of night, her gentle encouragement and first-hand support was invaluable.

I am admittedly a neophyte at ultras, so take the following lessons with a grain of salt, but here are a few lessons I learned at my first ultra:

  • Traditional road marathons and ultramarathons are so different that it’s hard to even compare the two. I’m sure some trail runs don’t have as many hills as this one, but I think many do. And the extreme ups and downs on the trails first strain your hamstrings and then shred your quads. And I’ve never stepped around roots, balance-beamed over a log or arrested my descent on a nearby tree during a road race.
  • There are standouts in every sport. When I first took up marathoning, I was awed by the runners who could pound out 4:45 miles over and over again. I still am. At this weekend’s race, I watched another breed of outstanding athlete. I saw runners churn out 150 miles over the span of 48 hours, pausing for little more than one brief cat nap. (Mad props to Spencer Swearingen of Morton, Ill., the son of my colleague in Carthage, Joy Swearingen.) And I watched some young studs finish the 50-miler in just over 8 hours, 17 minutes.

See this post for pre-race insights on the park and the trail.

  • There’s a different vibe to the participants, the spectators and the organizers. I get the feeling that trail ultras attract the outdoorsy crowd. The parking lot was filled with Subarus and the finish chute was lined by tents — by necessity. Admittedly, this was a relatively small race, but most everyone seemed extremely friendly; slower runners would concede the trail to faster runners, and I never failed to hear a “Good job” from any of them. It just had a very collegial feel — except for the one bitchy runner who wanted everyone off “her” balance-beam log NOW. Oh, well, there’s one in every crowd.
  • Blisters truly are the enemy. In the couple of dozen road races I’ve done, I’ve never had a serious problem with blisters. I battled a half dozen on Saturday. From my research, I knew blisters could/would be a problem. I taped my heels beforehand because I had gotten some blisters on training runs, and my heels stayed good the entire run. But I developed blisters on the ends of several toes and one on the ball of my right foot.
  • A headlight that’s fine for the roads may not be up to snuff on the trails. I do many of my training runs in the dark, and I’ve got a couple of headlights I use for those. But it’s twice as dark in the forest after the sun goes down, and it only gets worse when it starts raining. (Yes, we endured a few sprinkles, a 10-minute downpour and a whole lot of lightning.)
  • Chicken soup is not only good for the soul; it’s good for the ultrarunner. Although the race featured a smorgasbord of foods – boiled potatoes, potato chips, GORP, licorice, Gummi worms, bacon, PB&J sandwiches, energy gels, oranges and on and on – nothing sounded very good after 30 miles. But a slightly warm Campbell’s chicken noodle soup hit the spot, and I ate a couple cups of that at the aid stations every 5 miles or so. The sodium and the broth proved to be a perfect elixir. I’m trying to figure out how I can adapt this to my road races.
  • You can’t be held to any promises made on the trail. Barb did two laps with me, and somewhere in the middle of those she extracted a promise that I would never again do another race this long or this crazy. And I kind of agreed. But I was thinking today, if I had just done a little bit more hill training…

Click on any photo below to launch the photo gallery.

It’s the final countdown…

4 Apr

No more talking about my first ultramarathon. It’s time to do it. Thank god.

My crew of one — wife Barb — and I head to Pekin, Ill., on Friday afternoon to prepare for Saturday’s run in the Potawatomi Trail 50. The 50-mile race begins at 6 a.m. I hope to be done in 12-15 hours from the start.

I’ve spent much of this week in final preparations. I’ve set aside a bunch of shirts, socks and shorts. I’ve waterproofed four sets of running shoes. (The trail includes at least a couple of creek crossings.) I’ve prepared some maltodextrin-spiked water bottles. I’ve run my last couple of short, stretch-the-legs training runs. I’ve thunk and re-thunk this thing.

Time to run.

Follow me:

  • I plan to run with my iPhone and my Endomondo app running. If it works right, you can follow me live at this link.
  • The race directors have a group on Facebook that can be found at this link. There will be updates throughout the weekend. (In addition to the 50, there are 100- and 150-mile races, and a 30-mile “fun” run. Sadists.)
  • And Barb will post occasionally to either her Facebook page or my Facebook page.

I’ll let you know next week how it went.

You can wish me well in the comments below. I could use all the support I can get.

GPS drawing: 50 miler pending

28 Mar
GPS drawing of a "50"

Only 9 more days until my ^ miler.

With my long runs behind me for this training cycle, I’ve resorted to entertaining myself in other ways. Like, drawing pictures with my GPS tracker.

The drawing above is the Endomondo route tracking from Thursday night’s run on the streets of Keokuk, Iowa. I only tracked a portion of the run — about a mile and a half of what was overall a 4.3-mile run.

With only 9 days until the Potawatomi Trail 50 in Pekin, Ill., my remaining runs are all short. I ran 6 last night, and I’ll do a 10-miler this weekend, and then just a couple of 3- or 4-milers next week.

I’ve built all the endurance I can hope to build. Right now, it’s all about getting healed. My left hamstring attachment at the ischial tuberosity is hurting again; I’ve been slamming ibuprofen a couple of times a day in hopes of calming the inflammation. But at this point, I’m just going to have to deal with it on April 6. I’ve put in too much time and effort to stop now.

The long-range forecast calls for only one day of rain between now and race day — Saturday, April 6. There is still a bit of snow on the ground from this past weekend’s 10-inch snowfall, but temperatures in the 40s and 50s over the next few days should take care of that. Now, if the warmer temps will just firm up the trails.

I’ve got some packing to do, getting my extra shoes, shirts and socks ready for the race. I need to prepare my race fuel.

But most of all, I’m ready to get this show on the road trail.

♦ ♦ ♦

If you missed it earlier, this post features photos and a scouting report on the Potawatomi Trail in Pekin.

This post details a battle I’ve had with blisters.

And this post tells some of the things I’ve been trying to stay fueled on the roads.

Ultramarathon: Ready or not, here I come

12 Mar
The Mississippi River can be seen in the distance as River Road makes a bend a few miles north of Keokuk, Iowa, on a gray March 2013 day.

The Mississippi River can be seen in the distance as River Road makes a bend a few miles north of Keokuk, Iowa, on a gray March 2013 day.

When do you know you’re ready for a race? Well, not just any race. But a race that is a one giant challenge beyond anything you’ve done before.

That’s a question I wish I could answer definitively.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve run 9 marathons and 8 half-marathons. In that time, the only time I had real doubts was for my first marathon. I worried about finishing within my goal time. I worried about finishing with a minimum level of pain. But I never really doubted my ability to complete the race.

30-mile run from Keokuk, Iowa.

30-mile run from Keokuk, Iowa.

In three weeks, I’ll tackle my first ultramarathon — the Potawatomi Trail 50 in Pekin, Ill. — and I have doubts aplenty.

Today, I finished my last pre-race long run, a 30-miler. I had back-to-back runs planned for Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, I waited out the rains and got in my 10-miler. On Sunday, the rains didn’t stop until late afternoon, so there was no hope of getting in a long run. So Monday, I took a half-day of vacation. It was gray and windy (25-35 mph) and fairly cold (32), particularly considering the wind.

That’s the longest I’ve ever run. It was my lone 30-miler. My hamstrings were tightening, my quads were aching, my feet were hurting, my pace was falling. And I wonder if I have enough long runs in me to complete the ultra.

For marathons, I’ve been able to fuel myself with gels and sports drinks and the like. But I expect to be on the trails three times longer than any marathon I’ve run, and I don’t think I can stomach the processed fuel for that amount of time. I’ve been trying lots of different food and drink in training, but toward the end of my 30-miler, my stomach was queasy and I was reluctant to take in any other fuel. I wonder how I’m going to handle my fueling needs for another 20 miles.

Fish on the road dropped by an eagle

An eagle is missing dinner.

The Potawatomi will be my first trail race. I made a trip to Pekin to see the trail a few weeks ago. Wow. They won’t be growing corn on these trails, which rise and fall like a rollercoaster. I wonder what those hills will do to my quads, and I wonder how my ankles will handle the tricky footing.

These are just a few of my unanswered questions. But if I had all the answers, if everything was a certainty, then it wouldn’t be a challenge, would it?

It’s easy to fall into a rut. An old boss of mine had a favorite phrase: The only difference between a rut and grave is the depth of the hole.

I want to continue to explore the world around me. I want to see new places, try new foods, meet new people. I want to push myself mentally and physically.

As I celebrate a landmark birthday (my 50th) this year, I wanted to push myself beyond my comfort zone. At the time, running a 50 at 50 sounded like a good idea. Now I wonder if I was crazy. I’ll answer that question April 6.

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