Zenman's 2013 Training Journal: 01 December

small zendurance cycling logoSunday, 01 December

Update for: 2013 One-Two-Three: 3 Events, 3 Causes:
Recovery and Event Three: NCR Trail Marathon Triple


In this Entry, I discuss recovery/training during the 4-day interim between:
  • JFK 50-Mile Run (23 November)
  • NCR Trail Marathon Triple (28, 29, 30 November)
These are Events 2 & 3 of the 2013 One-Two-Three: 3 Events, 3 Causes to raise money and awareness for:
  • MD (Muscular Dystrophy Association)
  • ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association)
  • MS (Multiple Sclerosis Society)

Fund Raising Update:

As of Sunday, 01 December, we have raised $1250 for ALS, MS and MD - with a total of 48 people donating. It’s not too late! For details on how to contribute, go to the ”2013 One-Two-Three” link just above. Remember, any donation of $10 or more entitles you to a free copy of my e-book ”2012 Triple Ultra Challenge” chronicling my training and racing experiences last year completing 3 multi-day ultra triathlons in 30 days - culminating with the Virginia Triple Iron.

Four-Day Interim

Sunday morning (the day after JFK 50), I was up by 7 - after a restless night. After T’ai Chi, Larry Lewis and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, along with several other JFK finishers and supporters. Since Larry is now a 16-time JFK finisher, he knows a lot of people. I enjoyed associating with such a celebrity!

Before we parted company, I showed Larry a video of the Norseman Challenge - likely the most challenging iron-distance tri on the planet. This one is on our shared “bucket list”. Someday...

I drove for an hour and then stopped along the C&O Canal, assembled my bike and rode for 35 minutes along a stretch we had run the day before during the JFK. It was bitter cold with a steady westerly wind. I rode into the wind to start, and then turned around to finish. My pace was slow - just an easy spin. This stimulated circulation and helped to loosen my legs.

It was good to get back in the warm car and continue on towards Baltimore to visit with my mother and Charlie. I stopped along the way for Indian food. The spices do my body good!

My feet were sore - specifically my achilles tendons and the inside of my ankles. I alternated between ice packs and a heating pad regularly from the time I arrived Sunday evening, through the rest of the week. I did this anytime I was sitting to write on the computer.

Monday morning, after T’ai Ch, I rolled out my yoga mat in the living room of Mom and Charlie’s apartment for Pilates/yoga. Slow and easy - with an emphasis on the stretching. It helped all the sore areas - achilles, hamstrings, quads, calves, low back, shoulders and neck. Except for a dermatologist appointment, I spent most of the day working at my “office”.

Sleep patterns were irregular both Saturday and Sunday nights - not unusual after endurance events. Monday night, I slept soundly. Tuesday morning, I headed out in the 5-Fingers for a 35-minute run - mostly on grass. It was drizzling, temps in the low 40’s. I returned with wet, cold, numb feet. This run gave me some assessment of my condition. At such an easy pace, I was not too stiff or sore. I felt confident. Back at the computer, it was ice and heat again.

Wednesday - my final recovery day before the third “event” of the “One-Two-Three” - I enjoyed another Pilates/yoga session in the morning. My body was much more limber than Monday - an indication of effective recovery. Midday, I swam for 30 minutes and steamed for 20 minutes. Let the triple marathon begin!!

Event 3: NCR Trail Marathon Triple: Three Marathons, Three Days

Thursday - Thanksgiving and Day One of Event 3 - I arose at 4 am for T’ai Chi and to prepare. I decided to run a close simulation of the NCR Trail Marathon on Thursday and Friday, rather than the actual course. This simplified the logistics considerably and minimized travel time. Previously, I had measured a 2.5-mile hilly loop of paved road - similar to the first and last parts of the actual NCR Trail Marathon. (However, this loop was quite a bit hillier than the road section of the actual course.)

I parked the car at “Milepost 2” of the North Central Rail Trail (NCR) - just a mile from my sisters house, where we gather for the holiday. I began the run at 6:06 am, enjoying the sunrise as I ran the road loop. Temperature was mid-20‘s, with a steady mild wind and clear skies. I took this loop very slowly - almost 40 minutes. Once back at the car, I mixed a bottle of Perpetuem and headed out on the rail trail for a series of out-and-back laps.

My goal this day was to go very slowly, yet be back in time to clean up for the festivities at 1 pm. For the out-and-backs, I ran either 4-mile laps (2 out, 2 back) or 6-mile laps - refueling after each lap. I used a random run-walk pattern - choosing when to change based on feel. It felt very casual. For each lap, I ran into the wind outbound, and with the wind inbound. Hence it was always a bit colder for the first half of each lap.

I was very patient - resisting the urge to just run it out and get done. I greeted many people out for a run, walk or bike and wished them all a “Healthy Thanksgiving”. This interaction helped me to stay patient and take it easy. The most unique activity on the trail that day: Two women in their 60‘s on adult-sized scooters with harnessed sled dogs towing them. I saw them twice.

Each time I returned to the car, I texted Betsy with my updated mileage. Finally, at 23.8 miles, I exited the trail and ran the hilly road loop to finish. Total mileage: 26.3 Elapsed time: 6:07 (Does not include the time to mix bottles of fuel or text.)

NCR Rail Trail
North Central Rail Trail - my "home" for 3 days.

I returned to my sister’s house, showered and jumped into the celebration. I refrained from talking much about the day’s run or the “One-Two-Three” - preferring to catch up with my siblings and their families. Finally, around 5 pm, I began applying ice packs to my sore feet and ankles. (I had avoided this through the afternoon so as not to call attention to my “feats”.) I iced intermittently until midnight, when all 17 of us retired to bed after watching the Baltimore Ravens defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I had thoughts that evening about skipping Friday’s self-supported marathon. I reasoned that it was late, and I would miss hanging out with everyone the next morning before they left. I would need to rise early, in spite of a late night. However, I arose before 7 on Friday, gathered my things and headed out before most of the family was up. “Today is “hump day”: If I can get over the hump, tomorrow will be cake. Just one more day of solitude...”

I started the second day’s run at 8:20. Temps were in the low 20’s, skies clear, with similar wind conditions. For both days, my ankles and feet were sore to start, and slow to warm-up and get limber. Again, I really kept it slow and easy. I ran the hilly road loop a few minutes faster than Thursday - a good sign! “I can do this.” I stayed with 6-mile out and back laps on the rail trail to minimize time spent mixing fuels between laps.

I wanted to finish quickly to return to the camaraderie, and also to allow for maximum recovery before the real NCR Trail Marathon the next morning. This was a great exercise in discernment: Keep the pace slow enough to avoid undue stress, yet finish to allow for adequate rest.

As with Thursday - especially between miles 8 and 20 - I felt the urge to run faster. I resisted, knowing I would have my chance on Saturday - if I still had the ability. I ran much of the trail portion using a “12-and-3” pattern - run 12 minutes and walk 3 minutes. I was averaging between 12:30 and 13:15 mile pace. At mile 19 or so, I switched to a “9-and-3” pattern. Amazingly, my overall pace did not slow. My running intervals were at a faster pace.

I finished with an elapsed time of 5:35 - 32 minutes faster than Thursday. I was back in the house just after 3 pm. I gathered up all my clothes for the wash, showered, and laid down for 20 minutes. Then, I headed down to be with family and share food.

I didn’t hesitate to start icing my feet and ankles. Oddly, my feet hurt a little less than the previous evening. I was running in the New Balance Minimus Road shoes - very minimal and flexible. I reasoned that the slower I ran, the longer my feet spent on the ground. The longer my feet were on the ground, the more stress they incurred. In my pursuit of ultra running, refining my efficiency - particularly minimizing foot-to-ground time - is a primary focus.

I organized my gear for Saturday and checked the website to see when the race started and what time packet pick-up was. I got to bed just after 11. I slept adequately, though I was a bit restless. I feel that is due to high cortisol levels and inflammation. This is a challenge of stage racing - orchestrating optimal recovery each evening. I was able to sleep until 6 am. The race did not start until 8:30. I decided to arrive just before 8 to get my race packet.

Day 3: The “Real” NCR Trail Marathon

I arose and felt “ready” for the final day. After T’ai Chi and suiting up, Betsy dropped me off near the start. I was limping slightly as I walked the 200 meters to the gymnasium. It was a tendon just above my right ankle, in front. I did my best to hide the compensation. It just does not look good if you show up to run a marathon looking like a wounded puppy.

At 8:20, we ambled up to the start line. I positioned well towards the back of the start pack, knowing I would be heading out very slowly. I went through the first mile (net downhill) in 11:30 - 95% of the field in front of me. I could feel the soreness in that tendon and general stiffness in my hips, ankles and feet. However, I knew that with a patient gradual “introduction”, my body would settle in and I would finish gracefully. By Mile 2, we were on the flat rail trail. I passed through there in just over 24 minutes. A few more runners passed me in that second mile.

Once on the trail, I began to maintain a “9-and-3” pattern. With this pattern, it was easy to hold a 12-minute mile pace - despite numerous pit stops to pee. I settled in to a rhythm and maintaining a comfortable reserve - gracefully clicking off the miles. I was already beginning to pass people. Through the aid stations, I refilled my handheld water bottle with just enough Gatorade and water to get to the next one.

Between Miles 10 and 11, the leaders were returning. As I saw them, I could feel my pace quicken slightly. However, I kept the “9-and-3”. I passed the halfway point in 2:33. Already I was 3 minutes ahead of a 12-minute mile pace. I clearly felt that I could break the 5-hour mark. My feet felt great running at a faster pace than the previous two days. My tendon felt no better or worse. The 3-minute walks felt like more of an option than a necessity. However, I stuck with them.

Once I reached the turnaround, I increased my running speed slightly. Keeping the 3-minute walks, I was starting to increase my overall mile pace noticeably. I was passing lots of runners now. By Mile 18, my running pace was probably 9:30/mile. Still with the 3-minute walk, I was well on my way to sub 5-hours. By Mile 22, I was more than 12 minutes ahead of a 12-minute mile pace. And still I felt my run speed increasing after each 3-minute walk. I felt progressively stronger with each run interval.

At Mile 24, we exited the trail for the asphalt. Still I kept the 3-minute walks ,certain that I would go well under 5 hours. Now I was shooting for sub 4:50. The closer I got, the faster my runs became - even pushing the uphills. However, on the downhills, I was fairly reserved - my tendon was sore. Passing the 25-mile point, I stopped walking (except for the steeper downhills). I “roared” across the finish line in 4:46:32 - running the second half in 2:13:38. A very strong “negative split”!

One-Two-Three Complete!
Sporting all 3 Medals: One-Two-Three Complete!!

My average mile pace was 10:56. I felt a great sense of satisfaction. I did not anticipate - based on the 2 previous days - that I would run this fast. No one from my family had yet arrived. I had figured a 5:15 finish time. I credit the performance to...

”Competition: A successful petition for the empowerment of companionship.”


I am so very grateful to my “o’hana” for all your support and love. I feel so fortunate for my health and the gift of mobility. I wish that no one had to suffer with diseases like MS, ALS, or MD. The “2013 One-Two-Three” is such a small and humble gesture towards this dream.

I will post another Entry soon to update again on fund raising, discuss recovery and share some more reflections on the experience.


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