Tuesday, March 20, 2012

End of a Hair a

Birds nest in a Bradford pare tree.
Hair today, gone tomorrow. My Tom Petty roadie endorsed haircut is no longer viable. Trail running barely allows you license to a whimsical pony tail when your 40th birthday is less than an Asian elephant's gestation period away. Without trail running, a pony tail at my age implies you are either starring in an episode of COPS or are a confident jazz saxophonist. Since my medical running ban continues and as there are no upcoming auditions for Jesus Christ Superstar or Hair, my 2 year  impersonation of Swamp People's "renegade alligator man" Bruce Mitchell has officially ended. For the moment, I am keeping the 26.2 tattoo, although I would be interested in any sketches which help me convert it into a picture of president Fillmore high-fiving a fish.

Bruce Mitchell alligator hunter.
Ryan McCarty trail runner.

Running with long hair feels a little tribal. You can imagine yourself, in a past era, chasing down an antelope or nimbly cornering a can of beef-a-roni, before dragging it back to your cave. Now, I am restricted to biking, swimming and the occasional elliptical. Getting a pony tail through a bike helmet requires ambidextrous fingers and creative cursing. In a police line up, its hard to distinguish a bun in a swim cap from a row of suspicious prophylactics. And, swear to Dr. Frank-N-Furter, with your front to the TV you never want to be whistled at by Lou Ferrigno on an elliptical in a gym.

Last look before the Wahlpocalypse.
After sporting a Lex Luther for 9 years, I started growing both my beard and hair out for my first trail marathon, Umstead 2011. I ran that race with a zipped off pair of convertible khaki pants and a long sleeved, plaid, vented Columbia fishing shirt. My beard was a beauty that boasted a holding capacity of over 28 ounces of rice crispy treat crumbs. I looked like a lumber jack and ran just as fast. I finished late in the standings, but I did win most likely to appear on a roll of paper towels. As I am not a big fan of abstinence, the beard soon succumbed to my wife's pleas and was dispensed with after just 4 short months. Somehow, in spite of local health ordnance and good taste the Kenny G locks held on until Saturday.

All that hair was hiding this beautiful face.
MRI is finally scheduled for Monday. Consult with the medicine man does not take place until April 9. On the bright side, June has been reviewed as one of the best months to wear a boot. I am still holding out for an allergic to wool socks diagnosis, but my faith is starting to waver. The pessimistic money is on a peroneal tear. In the mean time, I am getting much better at biking and hope to take the training wheels off soon. In an effort to feed my racing shirt addiction, I am signed up to work a double at aid station 1 for the Umstead 100 Saturday from 7:30pm-2:30am. Looking forward to seeing my more able bodied friends out there. Good luck fools. Hope to join you soon.

Special thanks to my wife Penny for the new hairdo and unbelievable patience with my serious, but not terminal Peter Pan syndrome. Thanks to you for reading my running blog about everything but running. CROSS TRAIN!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Umstead Trail Marathon 2012

After cramming 6 marathons and an ultra into 2 years, I have my first DNF. The doctor treating my attention obsessed ankle reaffirmed my running interdiction. His diagnosis, without imagery (read useless), theorizes a tear. He ousted me to the dreaded orthopedic field for confirmation, mri, and possible torture. I entertained running Umstead against medical advice up to the night before the race. The small self-preservation section of my brain is usually fully employed with flossing, sun block, and avoiding Kardashian and Jersey shore news, but this time the archipallium stepped in to protect me from me. 
Runners gone wild. Jay Spadie with 
aerodynamic smiley pasties. They worked he
finished very fast. 

I came to the race pretty spent. Thursday night I slept at a hotel with a lap pool and put 30 minutes into arms only drills and 30 minutes into the weight machines. Friday night I did an additional 40 minutes of just core work. I arrived at Umstead Saturday morning with purposely unprotected nipples and wearing bike shorts with an eleven pound chamois in the seat. Too deterred by the cold sprinkle to run naked, I had discovered a way to safely attend one of NC's best races of the year, without participating. I pinned my number 68 and lined up in the back of the pack. After everyone cleared the start, I took one giant step for injured kind and reported my DNF to the officials.

Like many women, Susan is devoted
 to trying out the season's new 
kicks, at her first opportunity.
Best dressed 2012.
Finished watching my running compatriots gleefully tromp into the woods, I meandered back to parking lot A to get my bike. I had loaded it up with gus, water, vaseline, and Susan Gregory's street running shoes. She wanted to trade them for her trail shoes after the singletrack section of the race around mile 8 and I had signed up as delivery boy. I rode over to the company mill, reedy creek intersection and took some blurry pictures until I saw the tail end of the crowd pass by. I played santa with the gus, but everyone was still pretty fresh. When the rain started to clear, I took a short cut through cedar creek and crossed the stream to check in on the leaders. The leader was out front by over a mile and making better speed than I was on the Trek. Due, I am sure to not fighting the same big helmet wind resistance. I followed his sonic boom wake down Turkey Creek and made the turn onto Reedy where I exchanged Susan's shoe baton.

My sexy face pose,  complete with mud
mole and brain bucket.

My blood sugar was starting to react to all the biking miles and I wanted to see what the finish looks like from the front of the pack so I headed back to the lodge to see the leaders and grab a burrito. I crossed the finish line after 28 miles on my bike in second place! The winner, Mark Manz, beat me by over 5 minutes and I was wearing tires. I did get to see Dan Bedard, Bart Bechard, Kenneth Becker, and Barefoot Josh Sutcliffe get wood at the finish. Please insert your own running viagra joke here. Looks like you needed an 8:21 pace for the males this year. My personal established streak of mediocrity essentially ensured that someone with a wooden bat would still be have been eating Moe's when I finished, had I been healthy. 

Dan Bedard: may be fast, but a mediocre
Bart Bechard.trying to give his pet bat a
I hung out with the swift crowd for awhile and was surprised to see they look and acted a lot like me after a marathon, exhausted. I have always thought running was easier for them because they are so fast. I assumed they finished and then went out dancing or maybe to a jazzercise class. I discussed this with Barefoot Josh for awhile. He enlightened me. Running your best always hurts at whatever speed that happens to be. My recent marathon pace has dropped to about 9:10 from a 13:43 death march for my first and I know I am working just as hard. I think this is why the running community is so supportive. Runners understand each others motivation and obstacles. We are celebrating the attempt at momentary triumph. The last to cross the line is not too unlike the first one to finish. You are choosing accomplishment over pain.

Rocky theme music performed  at the
Turkey Creek, Reedy intersection by
both of  Durham's 2 young marathon fans.
Brandy Burns volunteered her time as
 a course monitor and saloon strumpet.
  I left the lodge and returned to pedaling to keep the blood sugars in check. Normally, I have to run a marathon to enjoy a burrito and the fire was starting to make me sleepy. I went out looking for the mortal runners and soon found Scott Lynch (Der Scott) heading into the last stretch down Reedy Creek. 

Scott had challenged Umstead to a grudge match before getting sick following Uhwarrie. He wanted to break 4 hours and had overtrained specifically for this race. I was really rooting for him as I felt he was only in slightly better shape than me at UMR. My plan for this race was to stick with him then try to outkick him or push him down on the final stretch. After pulling from Umstead, I considered Scott my pinch runner in this race. He looked great. He shaved over an hour off last year's time and kept his effort level at relaxed while doing it. I paced him for awhile, with the idea of talking him through the finish, but he was conversational and very comfortable on his own. He looked like he was out on a weekend long run. He finished right around 4:30 and I suspect had enough in the tank to mow the lawn when he got home.
Jack and Carolyn.

While Scott loped toward his finish, I went off in search of my other training partner Susan Gregory. Umstead was her first attempt at a trail marathon. She had just PR'd in Jacksonville and had decided a month is too long between marathons.  I have a special place in my heart for crazy and wanted to see how Umstead was treating her. We rendezvoused after the spiral ascent on Reedy. Susan looked a little tired, but determined. You could tell she was going to finish, but might need a nap along the way. By this time she was mainlining coca-cola from the aid stations out of a water bottle. I admired Susan's stamina, she showed more grit than Rooster Cogburn and better depth perception. I finished my bicycle adventure pacing her up Reedy, down Cedar Creek and back and up to the finish. She finished very near my time last year at my first Umstead and was already calculating next year's performance before she had her finishers mug topped off. Great job Susan.
3rd place Erik Johnson's after finish plate appears to
be missing only cotton candy and syrup.

Susan limped off to the lodge for a quick blood plasma refill and calf replacement. I had had enough Trek gluteal pressure point massage, so I cautiously wiped the bike off my butt and joined the spectators at the finish. Carolyn Quarterman faithfully cheered on the final finishers and I joined her rooting on those trying to beat the 6 hour limit. 
The coveted wooden chiroptera.
Fresh from the Weymouth woods 100k, Carolyn was one of the Umstead greenhorns for 2012. She had approached the beginning 8 miles of muddy singletrack cautiously. A wise approach, but it left her just shy of the 15 mile time cut off. She was pulled and returned to the line to encourage the remaining runners. We spent the remaining half hour catching up. Carolyn may be the sweetest runner I've yet met. She is always positive, supportive, and has politely feigned interest toward my endless monologues and pointless drivel whenever we've run together. Lately, she appears to be metamorphosing into an ultra runner. She's even nice to pain.

Jim and Jade finish together.
My forced break had bestowed a new perspective on marathoning, trail running, and people, a new vantage not constrained by clocks and distances. I seam always motivated by trying to squeeze in below an arbitrary time calculated with tea leaves, moon phases and chicken entrails a few months before a race. I really like to come in below x:00 or x:15 at a x:10 min/mile pace. It might be equally ridiculous to aim for a time that has a nice square root or is prime. Over the last year running has lost some of its purity and joy for me. When I first discovered Umstead I rejoiced in the dance through its trails. I have startled countless deer, gasped ice cold breaths, sprawled head over tea kettle by devious roots, and contemplated the total silence announced by a fresh snow blanket in an empty park. Running has been a privilege and trail running a rare gift in a paved world smothered with taco bells and auto dealerships. In this recent banishment, I have not regretted a single nullified time goal. I just miss the purity of effort and the earned content and fatigue after pushing near your body's limit.

At this race I had the opportunity to watch the leaders cross the line. I saw Jim Wei finish after running the 10 miles to the race from home. I saw Kristen Laduke finish her very first marathon at Umstead and under the cutoff. I saw Barefoot Josh and Scott cut more than 60 minutes off of last years effort. I saw selfless rain soaked volunteerism. I saw Bill Squier keep his Umstead streak alive. For 6 brief hours, I saw people transform into runners. I am going to return grateful. And smarter (read cross-training). And taller with better hair.

This post took a while to complete and reads like Mr. Rochester will make an appearance at any time (Jane Eyre for those of you with real college degrees). I am still adjusting to my new blood sugar trends. I am unable to replicate my running hours with just core work, upper body, and biking. As a result I am not quite as insulin sensitive as I have been for the last 3 years. Although I am keeping a tight rein on my carbohydrate intake, this still results in more insulin used, and until I completely figure it out a few more swings. This challenges me time wise by requiring a little more sleep to combat fatigue. And, the resulting more frequent BS changes make me just slightly more emotionally stable than a recently quit smoking, bipolar, menstruating bear with a popcorn kernel stuck in its tooth, waiting in line at the bear DMV which has a tv stuck on Judge Judy.
Monday March 12 I meet another Ortho and hopefully finally get a pic of my tendon for the refrigerator. Happy trails and PLEASE cross train.

Sockfoot Josh.

I  rode almost 42 miles and still no finisher
mug. :( I paparazzied this pic from Dan Bedard's
beer holder.

Cedar Creek was up.

The infamous ectoparasite mob in force.