1 month ago, we posted about refocusing and getting back to riding being the “The Mane Thing“. Since then, I have been struggling with distractions. I was registered for the Traprock 50k race in April and spending every Sunday morning running to train. The problem was, I wasn’t really running as much as I needed and I wasn’t riding Mojo as much as I should to get him ready for our first ride in May. Last weekend, I raced the Colchester half marathon and the training issues caught up to me. It’s a hilly course (about 1000′ of elevation) and I ran a 1:55, which I was happy with, but I had a lot more fatigue in my legs than I should have and the tightness in my hamstrings lingered all week.
The reality was, I had fallen back into the same trap from last year. I was splitting my limited training time between two different sports that require a lot of commitment and training. I was doing just enough to (barely) get by in each and not enough to do well in either. Physically, the 2 days a week of long runs was catching up to me and I couldn’t keep it up.
So, today, I made the tough decision. I withdrew from the 50k. I do love to run, and I will still run trails. But my runs will be closer to 1 hr instead of 2-3 hrs. And I’ll do more runs with the kids, instead of running with others training for 50k races. And I’ll put more time into my training with Mojo to get us ready for our races together. Maybe I’ll take him running with me if I can teach him to stop stepping on my heels.
Now if we can just make a post every week like we wanted…
All year, we knew the Pine Tree endurance ride in Fryeburg, Maine would be our big summer vacation. After all the problems around our kitchen fire in July, we needed a getaway. The week before we left was spent putting new shoes on all the horses and packing. In addition, Gem, the palomino 1/2 Arabian we got in April was sold because she wasn’t working out in our herd. My parents left from Alabama on Friday evening and were meeting us in Maine on Sunday. So, on Sunday, 8/4, we left for Maine with 5 horses (Mojo, Amira, Teddy, Duchess, and Huey) on the trailer, 3 dogs in the trucks, and the travel trailer loaded for a week of camping and riding.
Pine Tree is a special ride. It has 5 consecutive days of competition at the Fryeburg fairgrounds. There are stalls available for horses, electric and water hookups for trailers, a dump station on-site, showers and even a laundromat. This was our 3rd time at Pine Tree in the past 4 years, and it is a family favorite. The people are great (especially Sue, the ride manager) and there are plenty of things to do outside riding for the week.
When we arrive around 3:30 Sunday afternoon, you could tell it was going to be a busy week. Ride camp already was filling up fast and the first rides weren’t until Tuesday! We blocked out our area next to our CT friends, Rob and Mary Palumbo, and 2 down from the Coffey family. Everyone got to work setting up camp. I’m sure most of the people knew we had arrived, because 5 people configuring electric fences doesn’t always go smoothly and it’s possible, there was some yelling. A mere 3 hours later, the horses were settled into their pens happily munching on hay.
Monday morning we had a leisurely time around camp and went out to Walmart to pick up a few things for the week. Amanda got to find a friend for the week; Laney was another 9 yo who had driven up with her Dad, Jesse, from North Carolina. Laney and Jesse were in first place for the AERC family award with over 1100 miles already ridden this year. In the first 3 days, Laney rode 2 50 mile rides and 1 25 mile ride. It definitely inspired Amanda to step up her game and train Huey for more riding next season.
Monday afternoon, we saddled up the horses for a tack ride (a short test ride to make sure all the tack was set and ready for competition) and to check the river crossing. This is when things started to go awry. During the tack ride, Amira was HOT and giving Anna lots of attitude. All the horses were spunky and ready to run. There may have been some more elevated volume conversations (aka yelling) as we disagreed on how to handle the situation. Crossing back through the river, Vicki decided to work on sponging Duchess with a sponge on a rope. When the sponge floated in front of Duchess with a line trailing, I’m pretty sure Duchess thought it was a snake and promptly ditched Vicki in the river. She didn’t run off, and other than getting a little wet, Vicki was fine.
Coming up out of the river back to the trail, Amira decided to jump a log instead of going around it like the rest of the herd. Anna wasn’t expecting this and lost her balance in the fray. She got dumped and I’m pretty sure she hit her head on the log. This resulted in a minor concussion that ended Anna’s riding for the week. As we all jumped off our horses to help Anna and grab Amira, Teddy got scared from the commotion and threw Alex into the brush. We recovered all the horses headed back to camp. Needless to say, it wasn’t the successful ride we hoped for the day before competition.
That evening, we decided that we would not send 5 horses out on the trail together for competition. We have consistently attempted to obtain the goal of all 5 riding together, and it just hasn’t worked. There are too many demands of individual riders and horses to manage 5 in a competition. It does work if the 5 are split into separate distances, but we didn’t plan to ride any 50 milers during our week.
So, on Tuesday morning at 7:30, we started the 25 mile ride with me on Mojo, Alex on Teddy, and Vicki on Duchess.
The 25 mile course at Pine Tree goes out to a covered bridge that is about 11 miles from camp. The riders then go through a loop into what is known as “Fern Gully” before returning the to the covered bridge for the 45 minute hold and vet check. We did some cantering on the first loop as all the horses were feeling good. Here is a short video.
All 3 horses, Mojo, Teddy, and Duchess, made the 64 bpm pulse criteria with no problems and then we headed back on the return 11 miles. When we arrived back a base camp, Duchess was in 5th place and Mojo was 6th. Unfortunately, Teddy was lame on his right hind and didn’t get a completion. Teddy has been having problems on his right hind for a number of rides. This time, an extended discussion with one of the ride vets who assessed Teddy’s issue to be a hock problem. It looks like some hock radiographs and injections are in his future, because Alex and Teddy are a great team.
Once the ride ended, things went South for Duchess. We got her back to camp and she wouldn’t drink any water or eat any food. We offered her grain, carrots, and apples. She wanted to drop and roll. She wouldn’t eat fresh grass. It was clear we were dealing with a colic, likely from being dehydrated. During the hold we gave Duchess more senior feed and beet pulp than she normally gets. Our theory is, we didn’t have the feed wet enough and it sucked the water out of her gut, leading to dehydration, despite the fact that she kept drinking during the ride. So, 5 hours after completing, Duchess was checked in to an equine hospital and hour and a half from ride camp where she got a full colic exam to check for impaction or other problems, and 10L of fluid overnight.
Anna and I got back to camp about 9:30 pm, showered, took care of horses, and climbed into bed. Hauling Duchess to the vet wrecked our plan to do anything on Wednesday. Around 11:30 pm, as we were just climbing into bed, we heard a commotion outside followed by the sounds of a herd running – not what you want to hear in ride camp. It turns out, a stallion camping 2 spots down broke out, went running through some of our electric fence and into the next one over. That resulted in at least 3 more loose horses which then went back through our fencing and took down 4 of our 5 pens. In the end, Teddy and Mojo were still in camp and too scared to leave their electric fence (despite it being on the ground). Amira and Huey were running loose in camp with at least 3 other horses. Needless to say, many people were awakened by the commotion and lots jumped into action to help catch the loose horses. A little after 1 am, we had the fencing back into place and horses back in bed. At this point, I was definitely not having fun.
On Wednesday, Duchess got the all-clear at the equine hospital, so I made the drive back to get her. My Dad joined me for the ride and we had the chance to spend some quality time talking. When we got to the clinic, Duchess pinned her ears at me and spun her butt towards me. I could tell she was feeling much better. Vicki was happy to have her back in camp.
So, by Wednesday evening, Anna had a concussion, Teddy had been pulled for lameness and wasn’t going to ride again, and Duchess had spent the night in an equine hospital. We strongly considered packing it up and heading home. After a family conversation about the options, we decided to stay a little longer and hope that things got better.
On Thursday morning, there were heavy thunderstorms which delayed the ride start to 8 am. Alex, Amanda, and I went to the hold to help crew for Jesse and Laney. When we got back, we had a quick lunch and then headed out to go tubing on the Saco River. Each year, we think we will go tubing, but it never seems to work out so we made it happen. It turns out, tubing down the river is exactly what the family needed to relax. We got back to camp and vetted in the horses for Friday’s ride.
Since Anna had finally come to terms with a minor concussion, Vicki rode Amira, Amanda rode Huey, and I rode Mojo on Friday morning when we started the 25 miles at 6:30 am.
The first 15 miles of the ride went well. Vicki really enjoyed riding Amira and it brought her to terms with the fact that Duchess isn’t her long term endurance mount. When we rolled into the hold and vet check, Amira and Huey passed just fine. However, Mojo had some back soreness, which has been another recurring problem. We gave him some massage work and food and he cleared the vet, but I was concerned about him passing at the end of the ride. I made the quick decision to ditch my tack and do the 11 miles back to camp on foot.
It turns out, running in Ariat Terrain boots and long pants is challenging. The footing in the fields was deep soil with a wet top layer, which is hard to run on. Additionally, Mojo likes to invade my personal space when we run; he managed to step on my heel once and the side of my foot twice. It was hot and I consumed 2L of water in the first 10 miles. Before the hold, we were in last place and only had 2.5 hours to cover the 11 miles back to camp, which basically meant I needed to maintain at least 13:00 min/mile.
We made it back to camp with 7 minutes to spare and all 3 horses passed the final vet check. The vets agreed that Mojo’s back was better at the finish than the mid-ride vet check.
Friday evening was the traditional Pine Tree lobster dinner. We decided to head home on Saturday and give us a day to recover before starting the work week.
One of the reasons we switched to endurance was after a ride, the family was always excited about the next event. Even after our rough week, at dinner on Sunday the whole family was talking about what we learned during our week at Pine Tree 2019. We talked about what we learned about our horses and what we needed to changed before the next ride. We talked about modifying our training for future rides. But in general, we talked about the next rides. You know you are doing something the family loves when everyone is looking forward to the next event, even if that last one wasn’t perfect.
So, thank you to the ride management (especially you Sue) and all the volunteers at Pine Tree. We look forward to next year!
Daylight until 7:30ish each evening means dinner after 8 at our house because we are probably in the barn.
Last week was spring break for the kids. They rode horses basically every day it didn’t rain (or in between rain showers). They also got in a lesson with Ann Bowie. On Friday, Vicki rode Mojo and Alex rode Teddy as they went out together for a 6.5 mile ride in the forest. Living next to the trails has some significant advantages when you like to do distance riding.
All the rain is causing the grass to turn green and creating plenty of puddles for the peepers to start growing tadpoles.
Easter Sunday was no different. I went for a good 2 hour run in the morning to get ready for the Seven Sisters trail race coming up in 2 weeks. There were some lingering showers, so we delayed the family trail ride until the evening. Anna got a new (to her) Reactor Panel saddle for Amira for her birthday, so we have been making some adjustments to the tack. We didn’t start riding at Arcadia until 5pm. 2 hours of trails put us back home around 8 to do evening chores, eat dinner, and crash for the school week.
This evening, the weather was awesome. I went for a nice run after work and when I got home, Vicki was riding Duchess and Alex was tacking up Teddy. They both worked in the arena with Anna coaching from the side while I was doing some work around the house. Amanda saw that I had been running, so she changed clothes and laced up her sneakers. I saw her resetting Anna’s Garmin watch as she started running laps around the front pasture. It’s a 1/8 mile perimeter and she did her 8 laps to get in a mile. When I asked why she went running, she replied “I want to stay fit and I like running. It’s just something I find fun.”
On Saturday, June 16th, I completed my first half-ironman (70.3) triathlon. I don’t have a lot of pictures, but this is my race report. For those who don’t know, the 70.3 refers to the total mileage covered in the race: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, 13.1 mile run.
In October 2017, I registered for the race, essentially 8 months before the event. This is a well-known local event with a limited field of racers. I love this kind of event because you never feel lost in the crowd. I highly recommend this race for anyone considering a 70.3.
Last year, I adopted the “Primal” approach to training as I got ready for my first marathon. The diet and training practices served me well, so I continued the low carb-high fat diet approach. I didn’t follow a training plan. I just rode my bike, did some running, and occasionally swam.
Friday afternoon, I drove to East Freetown, MA where the race was held, picked up my race packet, and checked my bike into transition.
Friday night, I stayed a few miles away at a Holiday Inn so I only had a 15 min drive to the race instead of over an hour and a half. I went out to dinner with a friend and a Mystic based training group he knew. My pre-race meal consisted of Thai chili calamari, filet mignon, baked potatoes, honey glazed carrots, bread, and 2 pints of Yuengling. It was perfect. I was in bed around 10 with the alarm set for 4:35.
I didn’t sleep well. I never sleep well the night before a race. It’s not that I’m nervous about the race itself, but rather I am convinced I will over sleep and miss the race. I think I checked my watch 5 times between midnight and when my alarm went off.
Before leave the hotel, I had 2 cups of coffee and 1 blueberry muffin. We arrived at the race and set up for transition. My setup is very basic, which makes it faster for me. Next time, I will definitely leave skin lube and sunscreen out of my bag and ready to be used during transition.
The race started at 7:00. The air temperature was in the upper 50s and the water temp was 68F. Before the start, I ate 1 Honey Stinger waffle and 1 pack of Stinger chews.
One thing that is nice about Patriot, is the swim start is not a mass start. Swimmers enter the water in pairs every 5 seconds. It significantly reduces the chaos of the standard swim start. I completed the 1.2 mile swim in 41:13, which was right on what I expected. I completed the swim to bike transition in 2:34. The temperatures were climbing fast it was in the upper 60s when the bike started and over 70F for most of the ride.
The 2 loop bike course is a relatively flat (compared to our area) and I was able to ride it in 2:54:47, for a 19.2 mph average. That was significant for me, because I expected to maintain something closer to 17.5 mph average. I maintained my heart rate in the mid 150s during the bike portion (I train with an average heart rate below 140).
On the bike, I drank about 1.5 bottles of “Rocket Fuel” and half a bottle of water. Rocket Fuel is a mixture from Base Performance consisting of Hydro (carbs and electrolytes), Amino, and salt. I also ate 1.5 packets of Stinger chews.
The bike to run transition took 4:19. I did get out my skin lube for some mild chafing, but made a critical error. I didn’t apply extra sunscreen prior to the run. As a result, my shoulders got SCORCHED.
I had a great first 1.5 miles running with my friend Natalie. Alas, she is much faster than I am so I backed off as she continued on without me. She ended up finishing 28 minutes ahead of me.
The 13.1 mile run course has 12 aid stations along the way with water, Gatorade, and some other items. This was good, because the temperature had climbed above 80F within the first part of my run. I took at least 1 cup of water at every aid station and used my Base salt probably 7 times. I also drank 5 cups of Gatorade and sucked on 2 orange slices. I didn’t eat any calories on the run. I ran according to my heart rate: I was averaging around 165bpm and whenever I hit 170bpm, I walked to drop my heart rate back down. I completed the run in 2:09:51, for an average pace of 9:55/mile.
My total race time was 5:52:42. I was very pleased with a total time under 6 hours for my first 70.3.
Over the entire race, I burned well above 4000 calories, but I consumed less than 800. This is a significant advantage of the Primal/fat adapted approach. You are not reliant on consuming fuel throughout a race.
For any of my friends who have specific training questions, I am happy to share what I have learned. I don’t see a full ironman in my future, but I would consider another half…
All the details of my results can be viewed here:
Today, I ran my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon. It took me 4:16:07 which was in the top 15% based on the number of starters (~30,000).
Since I started training back in the spring, I lost 20 lbs and feel great. I highly recommend the book “Primal Blueprint” for anyone struggling with weight.
Anna and the kids joined me on the trip to Washington DC. We did a little sightseeing yesterday at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History after attending the race expo.
We had an apartment that was right on the marathon course at mile 23 and also where the Family Expo was held. Anna and the kids didn’t have to run around all over town trying to see me.
The race started at 7:55. I left the apartment at 6 and took a bus to the Pentagon. Everyone else slept in.
There was a lot of walking from the bus stop to the start area. We saw Osprey fly overs, parachute jumps with the American Flag, and lots of people.
Once the race started, I bumped into one of my co-workers, Steve Wright. We didn’t stay together long because we had different pace plans.
My training for the marathon was all heart rate based. I limited my training runs to a 140bpm heart rate. On flat ground, that equated to about a 9:45 pace. I knew I could increase the heart rate for the race, but I wasn’t sure how much. I had been warned by friends to start in a higher pace bin than I needed. I started at the 3:30 group, but even then, my first two miles we about a 9:40 average. It started to open up after 3 miles and I ran my best mile of 8:07 for the 4th mile. By the half way point, my pace was under a 9:00/mile, which was perfect.
The only catch was, the temps were rising. It was in the mid 50s when we started. By the half way point, we were in the upper 60s. By about the 18 mile point, we were over 70F and I fell off my ~9:00 mile pace and couldn’t keep up with the 4 hr pace group.
The last 8 miles were definitely tough. There was basically no shade. At every water station, I drank a cup of Gatorade and 3 cups of water. I was walking some and running some. I still maintained a pace in the 10:00/mile range, but I had 4 miles over an 11:00/ mile.
I finished at 4:16:07, with an average pace of 9:46/mile. According to Garmin, i burned over 3000 calories and had an average heart rate of 169 bpm.
Overall, I am pleased with the results. I definitely left it all out there and didn’t have anything else left in the tank. I am totally in awe of my friends who race Ironman triathlons and do a marathon after the swim and bike phases.
Marine Corps Marathon lived up to its reputation of being family friendly and a great first marathon. I’m not sure if there will be a 2nd…
This morning I (Rob) did my 5th half marathon at the Colchester half (all 5 have been there). In very uncharacteristic weather, it was 60F when we started at 10:00. I completed the 13.1 miles and 881′ of elevation in 1:58 (9:00 min/mile pace). Nothing like burning 1800 calories before lunch.
After a quick shower and bite to eat, I met Anna and the kids an hour and a half after I finished the race. They had a trailer load of horses and it was time for Pony Club mounted games practice. I rode Mojo, Anna rode Dakota, and Amanda rode Huey for the first session. Then Alex rode Dakota and Vicki rode Devil. Everyone had a great time, but if this weather continues we will need to body clip some ponies! By the time we got home and unloaded the trailer, everyone was ready for some dinner and a movie.
For the first time in 4 years, I returned to Colchester for the half marathon. It is a hilly course with over 800′ of elevation change. The temps were in the mid – upper 30s and the wind wasn’t too bad this year. My “minimalist training plan” showed with my slowest time on this course of the 4 times I have run it. I ran a 2:06:31 and that’s fine with me. I’m happy to be back in the groove and look forward to more races this year.
It was great to see my fitness friends. The picture is with my co-worker and friend Hank Brightman. The “tree pose” is a yoga pose that is his trademark after a race. A special shout out goes to my friend Chris Calhoun, who isn’t a runner, but came out anyways. With a 1:56 debut for a half marathon, I think we might have to upgrade him to runner status. Now it’s on to a weekend full of horse activities. Maybe right after I stop for a cup of coffee.
Today was the inaugural Colonel Classic 5k in Ledyard. Alex and I signed up and this was his first ever 5k. The course wasn’t exactly flat and it was about 42F when we started. Amanda came along for a ride in the stroller. Alex still needs to grasp the concept of pacing, because he tended to sprint for a few seconds, then walk. Eventually (around the 2 mile point), I gave up on convincing him to run a steady pace and we fell into a run/walk routine. 1:00 run, 30 sec walk. That worked well for keeping him moving. I also threatened that if he gave up, we would eat okra soup for lunch, but if he kept the 1:00/:30 routine, I would let him have Subway. About 1/4 mile from the finish, his friend Jack (who was watching his Dad run) met us along the route and ran back to the finish with Alex.
Alex’s first 5k was a time of 42:14, which equates to a 13:37/mile pace. Not too bad considering the hills. Best of all, he said he actually had fun!
Yesterday afternoon, as the holiday stand down was coming to an end, and the new week loomed, we needed to do some chores. I was short tempered with the kids and snapping at everything because I felt we had not accomplished as much as I hoped and the kids were not moving fast enough. Anna looked at me and suggested I take Mack for a short run. I snapped back that there was no time for running, we had things to do! So I grabbed my coat and went out to the barnyard to get things done.
In the evening, I realized, it had been a week since I had worked out. It wasn’t that I didn’t have time, it was that I didn’t make time. This morning, after getting up at 5:30 as I scrolled through FB, I noted a friend who posted about a workout and I scoffed, thinking, that doesn’t even really qualify as a workout. But then I realized, I had done nothing. Who was I to judge another for what challenged them, when I was doing nothing. So after working on some chores around the farm, I grabbed my gym bag and tossed in my running shoes, some shorts, and a top appropriate for the 50F weather that had surprised me during chores. Off to work I went.
When lunch came, I was hesitant to go to the gym. Maybe I should skip the workout and work on a project over lunch? No. I left the office and headed to the gym. Before I arrived, a massive rain storm started. I was planning to run outside (I hate running on a treadmill). Oh well, no workout today. But then, it stopped. Ok, no more excuses – I picked up my bag and headed in. Once at my locker, I realized, I forgot to grab socks this morning. Oops. Guess I will have to just hit the pool instead. No. My shoes were designed to run without socks, and I had run without socks almost as much as with socks. So, I changed into my running clothes and went outside.
It was clear from the humidity and clouds in the sky, the odds were not in my favor of making it through the run without getting overtaken by another rain squall. I started out at a steady pace. About a quarter of a mile into the run, I encountered a puddle on the gravel path. As I started to weave around the puddle, I discovered the grass was a mushy, muddy mess. So, I went through the puddle in my sockless, minimalist trail shoe. And I resolved, that no matter what I encountered on my path, I would go through it, not around it. I was hit with spray from the water as waves pounded into the rocky shoreline. But I ran on. It started to rain. But I ran on, through every puddle I came to. In fact, I went straight into a puddle that was slush mixed with ice, water, and snow over my ankles (my feet were not really cold until that one). And I ran on, hoping to regain the feeling in my feet lost from the ice bath. Then it was over.
This wasn’t a huge run. It was 3 miles that took a little under 30 minutes. But this run was significant. On this run, I got back what I had been missing since my concussion, nearly a year before. I have had very few headaches over the past 2 weeks. And today, I found the mental release I was missing that lets me ponder everything, and nothing. The clarity to analyze my life and recognize what I’m doing wrong. And when it was over, I had the feeling that I’ve missed. I can’t describe it, but if you run, you probably know what I mean. Somewhere between accomplishment, calmness, zen, and the urge to run some more.
Tomorrow it will be in the teens, so maybe I’ll just ride my bike on the indoor trainer. But maybe I’ll take some running clothes to work, just in case I stop making excuses. Just a short run makes a big difference.
At the Naval Academy in the late 90s, I ran a lot. I ended up with a double Achilles injury at one point. I also ended up in PT (physical therapy) for sciatic nerve pain. Then I went to the fleet, gained weight, quit working out, etc. In 2009, I got into triathlons and lost 30 lbs. For about the first 2 years, everything was great. No real injuries or problems.
Then, in 2012 injuries started. Subtle at first. More tightness than normal. Then the sciatic nerve pain returned, in particular, after a fast run like a 5k race. I started stretching more and tried to get around the problem. By the fall of 2012, I was back in PT and completely off running trying to fix the now constant sciatic nerve pain. The PT didn’t really help. The stretching provided only a short duration of relief. After 3 months of no running, I was given the OK to return to training, SLOWLY. I did. But 1 month later, I suffered a serious concussion and running was put on hold again.
Fast forward to recently. While I am not over the concussion, I have decided to give up on waiting and just run anyways. The intelligence of that approach can be debated. However, I was still having sciatic pain, and I wasn’t even running. Then, one day in the gym, I was on a treadmill with a mirror in front of me. I noticed my right foot turned to the outside at about a 20 degree angle as I ran. For the next few minutes, I forced myself to twist my foot straight. When I got off the treadmill, I could feel how dramatic the difference was in the improvement of my sciatic nerve pain. So I started trying to understand what was going on. I was already in the process of listening to “Born to Run” on an audio book and then followed that with “Running with the Kenyans”. The more I read about “barefoot” running, the more I thought I wanted to give it a try.
So, I went to a local store and found a pair of Merrill M Connect shoes, which are a minimalist shoe that encourages a forefoot strike instead of the heel first strike. I took them back to the gym and ran for a few minutes on the indoor track. It was amazing. I immediately transitioned to a forefoot strike. And it felt awesome. It felt easier and faster. I was careful not to overdo it, but over the next couple of weeks, I kept doing some easy runs of 20 minutes or less. However, the most amazing realization was, my sciatic nerve pain was gone. The first day I ran in the new shoes, I had NO sciatic nerve pain for 48 hours. Since then, I can actually feel the stretching in my right hip as my foot is realigning with the natural motion it had lost.
What fixed my sciatic nerve problem? Forefoot running.