by Zack | Sep 4, 2018 | Life Lessons, Non Disney Races
“Well, how are you changed?” My wife asked me two days after I finished running 37.5 miles at the Wildcat 100 in Pensacola, FL.
“I feel satisfied…like I don’t have anything left to prove and ready to move on to the next thing.” I replied.
It was a crazy race. I came with the intent on running 100 miles in 40 hours. I had gotten some good tips from Jeff and Barb, reflected and learned from my 24 hr race last year and some good takeaways from a solid showing in Boston this year. I was mentally and emotionally ready to tackle this race.
We set up the night before the race which I was very thankful for. It would be an additional stress to do that right before the race. The race organizers were fantastic, supportive and had us great facilities including a covered area for our tents, showers, full restrooms and a great aid station.
The course itself is very deceptive. You think FL and you think nice and flat ground. This had a variety of hills and included running along a few of the hills. (Meaning you were running at an angle).
Lesson 1: Everything multiplies.
Nearly all ultramarathons are some type of loop. This one was a 2.5-mile loop. With loops, all the nuanced pieces of the course are naturally multiplied. One of the sloped sections was a little over 100 yards and at about a 30-degree angle, which would not be that big of a deal if you are just running through it on a normal race. In this circumstance, I ended up running over a mile on it. Those small technical pieces can grind you down without you even realizing it.
Lesson 2: The mind will try to take you out at some point.
Any race that I’ve done that’s longer than a half marathon, (and even some of those) The mind comes in and tries to take you out of the race. This is often referred to as The Wall and typically hits between mile 18 – 20 of a marathon. If you know it’s coming and are mentally prepared, you have a better chance of pushing through.
It can come at any time at the ultra and can even leave for a while and come back later since the race is so long. I had an unexpected bout really early at mile 12. It was more of self-doubt than anything. At that point, it was mid to upper 80s with the sun beating everyone down. How do I keep that up for 30 hrs? I eventually broke through it and embraced the situation I was in.
Lesson 3: Your race can change quickly.
In the afternoon, it began to rain…..hard. Here’s a video where you can hear how hard it came down at some points.
I’m fine with running in the rain and I actually enjoy it most of the time. One of my favorite runs ever was during a tropical storm. The wind, water and changing environment is oddly exciting to me. It was during this race as well.
It rained 3 inches between the first storm and the last one that night. The rain itself didn’t bother me at all, it was when the rain took on the multiplier effect of lesson #1 that I was in big trouble.
The amount of water wrecked my feet. Part of the trail was underwater from the flooding and grass kept your feet wet even between the storms. As a result, I got several blisters on my feet in a short amount of time. I stopped after every 2 laps to lance all the blisters, apply a special type of band-aid to them and change out socks.
My mind was strong, but my body was starting to fail me.
Old injuries came creeping back as well. Both sides of my hip, my right knee and my upper and lower back were killing me.
As night fell, I made the decision to up my body care, but it’s a one-way ticket. It involves wrapping the affected area in medical grade sports tape. It works fine on the feet, but the after effects on places like a man’s hairy legs are awful. They must use this stuff as the basis for Gorilla Glue, because the glue stays long after the tape is gone.
I taped up a large portion of my legs and got back out there with my headlamp in the dark and turned in one of my faster times of the race. Halfway during the second lap, the rain came back. Imagine yourself driving down the road at night with no windshield and only one headlight working. Still, my spirit was strong, but a whole new round of blisters popped up and within a mile my body had broken.
I was disappointed and felt like I had let so many people down.
My wife took me back to the hotel and I got a good amount of sleep before heading back to the course the next morning. By then, I had made peace with being satisfied with my 50K. I only got a stronger confirmation of this when I checked in with our tent neighbors and found out that two people were put in the hospital during the night. Both of my neighbors dropped back like I did, and when a couple that runs 300-mile ultramarathons says that this was their hardest race, you believe them. The first place runner also quit after being 75% done.
Lesson 4: Friends and family are everything.
I ended up running this race solo, which is not how I planned to going into it. Sharon organized a phone schedule and a bunch of my friends called me while I was out on the course. It made all the difference. Julia was the first to call and it was right during that early mental battle. Just having someone to talk to helped me overcome that hurdle. I also talked to other friends while running in the rain, navigating flooded paths, taking some breaks and out at night. Thank you all that took to the time to call, text or message me on social media. It was more impactful than you know!
I do have the best family. Sharon would often be waiting on me as I finished my lap, had me a Powerade and would either apply Biofreeze to hurt areas or reapply sunscreen as I walked. She was like a rolling pit-stop in Nascar! Beth walked a lap with me when I was really hurting and she helped me really make it through the heat before all the rain came. My son just entertained people and explored the area. He enjoyed being out there as well. I could not do what I do without you.
This was the cap to my race season. I ran 1 5K, 4 10Ks, 4 half marathons, 3 marathons and an ultra marathon. I do have a few bonus races left in the calendar year with a really fun finisher prize for the next series in October.
Keep pushing yourself to reach your personal goals. You are capable of much more than you think!
by Zack | Aug 29, 2018 | Non Disney Races
The Peachtree Roadrace is the biggest running party in Atlanta and perhaps the world. It’s also the world’s largest 10K and one of the largest overall races to take place yearly across the globe. Held on the 4th of July, you are guaranteed to get a splash of freedom as you run the course.
I’ve come to really love this race for a few reasons. It’s my fastest Atlanta 10K. (The year it was shut down while a storm passed.) I’ve loved enjoying the course with both local and national friends. My good friend Jeff Galloway also won the first one 49 years ago. I also think of the race as a way to celebrate the legacy that he has built in his lifetime.
If you want to do this race I would suggest joining the Atlanta Track Club. You are guaranteed entry and with next year being the 50th, I would expect the lottery pool to be larger than it ever has.
The Expo and Pre Race
The expo is really a good experience. It’s well organized and has a good variety of A-level vendors. There are races from all over the South there where you can get some great sign up deals and you just may run into Jeff or Barb at their booth. We typically spend about an hour here but have blown as much as 2hr here in the past. They also have a nice kids area and a huge sale on past track club event shirts.
This was the first year that we stayed near the start line. There are definitely pluses and minuses to the strategy.
- + We could leave the hotel almost at start time. If you have a coral that’s a few back and arent with a group you can actually leave after the first people start and still get there in plenty of time.
- + Sleeping in and no stress before the race. Our hotel also was giving out some food items for people on the way to the race.
- – The trip back to the top of the race is brutal. Brutal!! It’s over a mile straight uphill to get to a bus to ride to a train to get back to the room.
- – We typically park at the end and walk/train to the front early in the AM. The plus to this is when we are done running, we are close-ish to the car and can get out of the area.
Either way, you’ve got to make sure that you are dressed up for the race. You can go cotton teeshirt and mowing shorts, but what is the fun in that? I try to go head to toe America these days for the race.
We certainly enjoyed the “late” wake up call and being close to the start. We met up with our friends and headed out to the start.
My personal goal is to eat a whole meal plus on the course. It’s that stocked by the people of Atlanta! I eat fairly light the night before and don’t have breakfast before the race. We eat nearly from end to end of the race. We had Krispy Creme, popsicles, pizza, muffins, kabobs, oranges, sandwiches, candy and other fun stuff.
You also see a bunch of fun groups out there. There are a group of guys that go all out every year. Last year they were astronaughts and this year they were a water polo team. We also saw a full Marta Train and other crazy costumes.
I think our favorite stop is always the Shepherd Center. It sits on the course and they will bring their patients out to cheer and see the runners. We love to run through say hi, and say good morning to them. They are just about the only non-food thing that we stop for. They always give out wrist sweatbands, so that’s where the green ones come from in our pics.
It always goes by way too fast! At the end, you get your finisher’s shirt. It’s a surprise of what it’s going to be until you get there that morning. They also give out peaches and Coke at the end as well. If you are a track club member you can also enjoy a private retreat area, although you have to get fairly speedy or they will run out of stuff before you get there.
The Peachtree Roadrace is one that I highly recommend. See you at the 50th!
Next up: The Wildcat 100 Miler!
by Zack | Aug 28, 2018 | Disney World Half Marathon, Star Wars Dark Side Challenge, Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend
This race is one of the few “one-ways” that Disney does throughout the year. The majority of them are loops for the most part. basically beginning and ending in the same general area. On these, if you are driving, you’ll park at Epcot and bus over to the start near Magic Kingdom. Remember to build in some extra time when you attend of these races.
It’s always nice to see the WDW Radio Running Team to start your morning out right!
I was looking forward to this race mainly because Jeff and Barb were going to run with me and it had been so long since we got a race in together. They are truly a joy to hang out with and I was going to appreciate the company on this very hot run.
There were not many photographers out all on the first half of the course and to make matters worse, the sewage treatment plant was in rare form that morning. I stand in awe of the volunteers that help out in that area. Getting to run through Pandora for the first time was fun though and then it was off to race the sun up.
Once we hit Hollywood Studios it was a different story. There were photographers everywhere! We try so hard to get group pics but they rarely come out. I can’t really blame the photographers. They are taking a million pictures and its hard to tell who is solo and who is together most of the time. We did get a few group ones in Studios.
We tried again in Epcot was another good group of photographers.
Barb and I started calling out that we were together to get a good group shot. He took perfect shots of Jeff and I…… poor Barb in the middle was left out!
The next guy got us though!
It was a very hot and humid run that day. Even still, it went by too fast with these great people. Afterward, we got our medals, took our finisher shot and headed back to get cleaned up.
I celebrated the run by visiting Animal Kingdom for its 20th Anniversary. It was great to see some friends, take some pics and enjoy some food before flying out that day.
Next Up: Peachtree Roadrace!
by Zack | Aug 28, 2018 | Disney World 10Ks, Star Wars Dark Side Challenge, Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend
I love Star Wars. I would do movie marathons as a kid and watch all three of the originals back to back during summer days. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker. I don’t know if I had unrealistic expectations for this series, with all of its potential, but after doing it for the last three years, I’m not as disappointed anymore. I really don’t expect much from there series.
I think there are a few key things to manage on your expectations when doing this series.
- You won’t get to meet a ton of Disney owned characters. Typically the race will bring in different characters for each race. With Star Wars Weekends being previously held at Hollywood Studios, you’d think they’d take advantage of their depth of options. You’ll see the exact same characters regardless if you do the 5K, 10K or Half marathon. They do let the 501st come out for the 10K and the Half. While neat, it’s not quite the same.
- The medals for some reason aren’t as inspired and certainly not as original as other series. Case in point, I found the medal design from last year’s Half taken from the logo on my son’s coloring book. No joke!
- It’s always been the hottest race of all the WDW races. Its seems to be much more brutal on the Half.
I will say after three the last three series fo transitioning to the new building, they’ve got the expo figured out and it so much better. You no longer wait out in the elements for hours on end. There is plenty of room to shop, the checkout line moves quicker and the whole experience is better. They took the success at Disneyland and scaled it up. The room also has given them the space to really showcase some displays and show off the exclusive merch. Ive throughly enjoyed the changes that Run Disney have made.
At this point the statues have become a thing. It was first introduced for the 25th anniversary of the Marathon in January. Then a 10th anniversary statue came out for the Princess weekend in February. These were pretty cool, but I had to pass so I wouldn’t turn into a collector of them.
As always, it was great to see Jeff and Barb. We talked about Boston and planned to getting together to run the Half together.
In the past the Photopass people had an exclusive booth set up to do a nice shot of you. They recently moved away from this and have replaced it with either characters or special backdrops. Be sure to get your pic. Its the only time that you will see it!
I was excited to run with Nick, who was completing his first 10K. Its fun and rewarding to see the younger members of our team grow and do more and longer races. They are certainly braver than I was at that age! It was also great to see Frank out running again. He had been recovering from a knee injury and this was the first one where he was fully back to running.
I’m not sure why i’m the only one soaking wet. It was out hot out there!
Congrats to Nick on his first 10K and to Frank for getting back healthy!
Next Up: Star Wars Half Marathon
by Zack | Aug 28, 2018 | Non Disney Races
The Boston Marathon (Tough Ruck) was a culmination of many different parts of challenging myself over the years. In 2013 I participated in several GoRuck events. They are basically 8-12 hr events that are put on by special forces personnel that challenge and teach teamwork elements. You carry a 30ld ruck the whole time while marching, carrying other additional heavy objects and working on scenarios set by the cadre. In 2016, I did what I never thought I could do. I ran a marathon.
The Boston Marathon is the diamond in the crown of racing. Most serious runners have the dream of someday running in that race. The problem is that its a lottery based on running times. You have to be stupid fast just to even have a chance of getting in and there is still no guarantee then. When researching the race I discovered Tough Ruck. Simply put, it’s the military division of Boston. The main difference is that you do the race with 30lbs or more strapped to your back the whole time. it checked all my boxes: Boston, an extra challenge, and hanging out with fellow vets. Also, there was no time limit requirement to sign up. If you are brave/dumb enough to do it, then you are welcome to come. It was even recently opened to civilians to participate as well. They open 1000 slots a year starting on Veterans Day.
I had signed up for both the Dopey Challenge (5K, 10K, Half, Full Marathon) and the Ultimate Peach Challenge (10K, 10 miler, Half, Full Marathon) this last year. If there was ever a time that I was going to be ready for this challenge, it would be this year. I began prep by rucking around Atlanta. My wife and also toured several metal shops around the north end of town looking of the perfect piece of steel to serve as the weight for the event. We eventually found a blackened piece of scrap stilling in a junk pile. It was difficult to bring it back to life and figure out how to paint it without rusting it, but it was always very rewarding on a personal level. I chose to paint mine with the 39th Infantry Brigade logo. It was the last unit that I served with.
Pre Race Touring and Expo
I had never been to the Boston area before, so I took a few days to see the sights and explore the area. I ventured down to Connecticut, Rhode Island and settled in at Plymouth Rock. It was quite a different experience from what I am used to, but I loved every place I visited. The waitress at a local place made sure I had my first clam chowder. (It was great!) I The next day I made back into Boston and walked the Freedom Trail, visited the Boston Marathon store and saw the team repainting the finish line. I absolutely fell in love with the city and can’t wait to come back in the future.
- Plymouth Rock
- Where the two lamps were lit.
The expo was not quite what I expected. I think it was smaller than what I was expecting. They still had some crazy displays and exclusive merch at many of the vendors. I picked up the finishers jacket, 2 pairs of the shoes, some new Oofos, a magnet and some socks. I did enjoy riding the train into and out of town. Probably weird for a local, but it made me feel more connected to the city.
The night before the event of a bunch of the participants and the committee team had dinner together. I sat with the committee and it was a great time learning how the event kicked off and grew and the stories that have happened over the years as well. We also got see a live stream of a unit in Kuwait who were doing the challenge live at their base. We then broadcast ours to them the next day. It was a special surprise to see and be a part of that. Another special piece is that we were each asked to carry the names of fallen heroes on our pack to honor and remember them. I picked up a few as well as carried some names of those from our running team back home.
Tough Ruck is now run two days before the regular version. There are a couple of reasons why. First, you can imagine after the bombing several years ago that it might alarm the massive amount of spectators to see a guy running down the street with a heavy backpack following the other runners. It keeps them and us safe. The second reason is the security issue. The main race already has a heavy amount of security and we would only add to that burden. That’s not to say we didn’t have security checks. Each of our packs were checked multiple times by dogs and also by military personnel. They were also weighed before and after the race to make sure you didn’t drop weight along the course.
I wanted to do well, but I was a little bit nervous. I had an awful marathon (GA Marathon) less than a month earlier and that was without the weight. I had a run walk strategy and I would stick to the strategy that Barb Galloway gave me before the race. “Use the run-walk method. Don’t start out too fast and then pass them later in the race.” I had the Galloway timer and it was the first time that I was using in the race. When I told the committee what my target time was I think they thought I was crazy. I was going to give it my all and try not to fall too far behind.
The course was along the area of the first battle in the Revolutionary War. It was also the anniversary of the event and every year they re-enact the battle. By re-enact, I mean fully re-enact the whole day. I ran into these redcoats practicing for the battle just as they would throughout the day. During the morning, families and kids were out doing chores just as they did back then. It was like taking a time machine back. It was early enough that there weren’t a bunch of spectators out yet. I was sitting at about 35th place so there weren’t really any other people out there at the time.
A few hours in, I start noticing a lot more redcoats showing up along the route and the families have disappeared. This part of the course is an out and back twice meaning that I got to see the same scenarios four times as they changed throughout the day. I would also run into some of the committee members who were surprised, excited and encouraging that I was hanging with the front pack. It was getting serious on my third time through. I nearly got hit by a 7 ft tall horse with the soldier asking me what I was running from!
I finally stopped at the bathroom and lost my count on my ranking. I was 29th going in, but at least passed me while I was in there. The last segment was crazy. I was worn out, so I called a couple of friends to talk to get my mind off of the pain. I had a ton of people text and leave messages which were very encouraging as well. By the time I was coming through the area for the last time, it was a full-on battle. I was getting shot at, cannons were going off and there were people everywhere! Once I left the park it was still a few miles back to the finish through the town. There were no mile markers so I didn’t know how far to go or my ranking still. I was passing people but each pass was a battle. It was competitive so no one wanted to let anyone else pass them. I know that was true for me. I had a person that came up on me and I went from run-walk to just run to put some distance on them.
I was mentally exhausted at the end. I fell for the “You’re almost there!” cheer when in fact I was not. It was just me in the last mile. There were people behind me but not close enough to be a threat and not a person in front of me. As I began to crest the last hill I saw a vet to had lost both of his legs in combat cheering me own. That nearly brought me to tears (and still does as I’m writing this) He gave me the last boost of energy I needed to make it to the finish. I found out I finished 22nd overall at the race. That was a great feeling!
They also had a great post-race experience. Free massages, a full hot meal, free ice cream and all kind of swag.
If you are up to the challenge, I would highly recommend doing this event. It’s a very rewarding experience!
Up next Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend!