Friday, May 14, 2010

The Bright Side of Ultra Running

Back in February, I did a post called "The Dark Side of Ultra Running" where I empathized what KG went through at RR 100.

I guess the "kids" at had fun with it and kind of poked fun at us. They said "Is there a bright side to Ultra running?" I am not sure if it was the moderators, but I hear that site thinks ultra runners are just slow.

So this week is the perfect week to respond with "The Bright Side"

I had a bad week.

Those of you who know about the looming dark cloud which has been hanging over my head for the last 6 months know what I am referring to. It did not work out the way I had hoped.

But the events of this week are met with the same mentality I had at mile 20 last weekend, and mile 70 at Superior 2 years ago. I actually take on the persona of Al Pacino at the end of Scarface and yell "I'm still standing" as he has a handful of bullets in him.

Ultra Running has taught me to hand difficult situations a lot easier than I used to.

I was with a distributor on Wed when the bad news came down, and he said "damn, you are taking this well". I said, "This aint' nothing, try getting through Crosby Manitou at 3 am when you are at the end of your rope".

So, I actually feel a giant weight has been lifted.

Being tuff, handling adversity, daring to go big and take risks professionally and personally.

That, my friends, is the Bright Side of Ultra Running

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ice Age Analysis

In an interview with, Padraig Harrington said the following about a notorious blunder during a pairing with Tiger Woods;

You and he were having a great battle last year in the final round of the WGC event at Firestone when you were put on the clock on the 16th tee by rules official John Paramor. You promptly made a triple-bogey eight on that hole.
I'm annoyed that I allowed an outside influence to knock me out of the zone, not in the slightest bit annoyed with John Paramor. It was a real poor mental error. I should have been able to control the situation. I failed miserably that day.

I heard this quote a few weeks ago, and thought about it on Saturday when the doom set in. There is a fine line of explaining why one fails, and making excuses for why one fails. I am not sure I know where the line is, but I will put out there what I am calling "explanations". If they look more like excuses, oh well. Bottom line, I agree with "Paddy", I should have been able to control the situation. Race day performance was a reflection of a lot of bad decisions in the past month. I own it all.

#1 - Burning Desire
To do well in ultras, that is what you need. You can't "want" to do it, you need "I have do it".

I meet people who want to be runners, and want to run a marathon. I encourage them. I might point them in a direction of "read this book" or "follow x plan". When they ask about ultras, I tell them you need a lot more than the "I want bragging rights at the office" attitude. There has to be a force that sucks you into it, nagging at you, making think "I have to try this". Even the word "try" is okay in my book as long as there is a "have to" to go with it. "I want to do this" is not enough motivation, in my opinion.

Last year I had revenge on my mind, and I was on fire with desire. I had a lot of personal woes haunting me, but I found a way to use the races as therapy.

I learned this Spring that this mentality is hard to switch on for race day. One has to build it over time, and stoke it continually.

When I ran with the Lapham gang 3 days before the race, I told a few "I will be lucky to make it to the race at 100%". I was referring to my mindset.

I let the emotional roller coaster of the last month and more to dictate how I managed things, instead of the other way around. I am mad at myself for this, as I am an optimist by nature.

I was excited to be at the race, it was great to "be there", but I did not have the burning desire.

#2 - You are what you eat.

I guess I am Shit, because I sure ate like it recently.

Being a foodie, and in the food service bus., food & beverage is a part of my life. A big part. Like many, I tend to use food to comfort my soul.

Pizza is comfortable. Home brew is too. Veggies, not so much.

I have been eating like crap since Zumbro.

Barry Sears would say "You are WAY out of the Zone".

This brought me to race day carrying a few extra pounds I did not need. Not sure others could tell, but I knew they were there. Extra pounds slow you downs.

#3 - 50 Miles is a long way.

This was my 6th 50 Mile race. As strange as it may sound, you forget how long it is.

At mile 9 I picked up the pace, and felt great. It wasn't a "fast" pace, but I was pushing instead of cruising. I passed a "newbie" around 10 or 11. I knew he was a newbie because he was already struggling, and asking how long to the next aid station. I wanted to say "trust me dude, you are going too fast for your ability", but that is their own business, not mine. I should have been listening to what I was thinking and should have said it to myself.

Once I changed strategy at mile 22 or so, the pace seemed do-able but I could not stop thinking "Damn.... I have close to 30 miles left and I am already shot".

It was then that I remembered "50 miles is a long way". Never forget the distance and difficulty.

#4 - Fuel & Hydration

Apparently potato chips, cookies, coke, and PB&J sadwiches are not sufficient for fuel in a 50 miler. I had a ton of my own stuff, but could not get it in my mouth. I ate 5 shot bloks, and that was about 2 too many. NOTHING sounded good.

I don't like Hammer Heed, and I like it less at mile 20. I hate it at mile 30. Don't even mention the word at mile 40.

I think I should just start training with the stuff so I am used to it. Sounds like a plan.

This race used to offer Succeed! Ultra as the sports drink. I do well with that.

Oh yeah, 3 s caps for the whole race. At least I did not over electrolyte this time.

But my stomach was a knot at mile 22, and it felt like cement was in there. I have never had such issues as this, and it has happened in the past 3 races. It is hard to explain, but it is the worse part of the bad feeling. I can handle the raw pain of miles on the legs, but the stomach proboblems are a show stopper.

#5 - The knee

It started acting up around mile 13 or so. I had to change the way I ran, and I worried about it. It was very hard to run down hills, steps, and technical areas.

#6 - Zumbro

Running a 100 miler 4 weeks before Ice Age is a dumb idea. Just as dumb is starting a 100 miler 4 weeks before, and not finishing. That way, you get half of the destruction, and none of the glory. It is actually more than half the destruction, becuase your pace is a lot slower in a 100. I think I was out there for at least 12 hours, and it was 12 hours of wrecking the body.

Nobody had a good race at Ice Age this year AND last year after Zumbro 100. Ask, Meyers, Brownie, Zach, and Birkholz. BB made it 9 miles on Saturday and had to drop. At mile 2 he said to me "uh... my calf....". Not a good thing to happen that early in a 50.


In case you read my previous post wrong, I am not quitting. I am just taking a step back to get my act back together.

The next 3 days will have a big impact on what happens in my professional life in the coming months/years. I first just need to get through that.

Stepping down to the 100K at Kettle is not my idea of "taking a step back", but thanks for the offer CC. The relay sounds fun... but that is a hard one to justify to the family. But.... there was some conversation about having a "Matt's" relay a few months ago.

I also recall in a state of dizziness on Saturday that I offered to crew for the Paint King at Kettle. That would be fun, but tricky to pull off after my "I am not going to Kettle" statement to the family yesterday.

We shall see.

I first need the knee to heal, then I have to figure out why my stomach is rejecting everything, then I have to find a race to wear a skirt in. Afton 25K? I would love to go hard and watch others get humiliated as a guy dressed in drag pulls off a decent run.

And I forgot from the last post:
Todd "Tater" Egnarski finished his 10th Ice Age 50 on Saturday. He did it with a smile.... well, smirk on his face. He has something I don't have... a "I Beat Matt Long" shirt.

You're a tough man Todd, and an embassador of the sport.

Other good stories can be found here, as well as soon on the LPTR site.

Could the Grabowski "era" be returning?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ice Age Report

It was a long, cold, rough day for me.

I tried to run the race I wanted to, instead of the one I should have run.

At the Rice Lake mile 22 turn around, I sat down on a bench at the aid station. Vishal Shani was there too and gave me the "hey, great job man". I said "I am considering dropping here and now".

I can handle that feeling at mile 40. Maybe mile 30. But at mile 20, that feeling sucks.

Mile 20 to mile 40 is one long stretch before you turn around at 40 and come back to the finish. I spent the whole 20-40 looking over my shoulder expecting Zach to be there (not really, but makes for a good story).

Zach had a long day too, but he had good reason. 100 miles on your legs 4 weeks before is really tough.

My stomach gave me problems most of the day, and my heart and head were really not into it.

I made the decision at the Rice Lake turnaround to get up and start the long trek to the Emma Carlin mile 40 turn around. I saw Scott Meyers, and told him how I was feeling. He gave me a priceless piece of sound advice "Just slow down, man". Best advice of the day for me. I did.

At that point I made a decision. I decided this was a race I had to "just finish". I actually felt an obligation to the readers of this blog to not be such a quitter, and to suck it up and just get it done.

I actually said to myself "stop being such a self centered ass, and finish this race". I know there are a lot of people who would be thrilled to run a sub 10 hour 50 mile, so I figured I had to do that. I thought that might even be out of the question at one point, but quickly found the "ultra shuffle", and did that for the next 20 miles.

Mile 40 to the finish was pretty bad for me. I have never been passed by that many people. I had already checked my ego, so I was okay with that. I even stepped off the trail and directed traffic "The finish line is that way".

Coming off Bald Bluff at mile 45 or so, I was pretty much at metaphorical bottom, but I could feel the finish. Just then Dave Ruttum came from the opposite direction and said "hey, I came back to run you in". He could tell I was having a crappy day earlier. Those last 4 miles were a joy, as Dave helped me remember why we do these.

And for those of you who don't know who Dave is, he finished in 6:41, 4th place. He then proceeded to go out on the course 4 miles and back 4 miles as a "cool down".

Dave, you are the man.

I came in at 9:44:55, and I had to work for every second of it. Last year was half the effort, go figure.

Other notable finishes
Brother Grub (aka Pinche Flaco) pulled out a 7:23 and maintained his 3 year streak of 11th place.
The Paint King (Dehart) did 7:37
Christine "chicked" a lot of guys with a 7:41
Wayne Nelson finished another 50 Miler (I think his first was last year at Surf the Murph)
John Gustafson finished his "training run" really strong in 9:32

Full results here

Might do a longer report to explain what the heck happened.

As of now, I am officially pulling the plug on Kettle 100 in 4 weeks.
My head is not in it. I have stomach issues I can't solve. I am burned out.

It is hard to say I am burned out with only 2 races this year, but it is what it is.

I want to enjoy this sport, and I did not have fun yesterday (although, I did laugh when it started hailing on us).

I need to take care of some things before I get back on the long trails. May do some normal stuff, but right now I have no commitments. I am going to chill for a while.

Thanks for reading

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nothing to lose

..... Except my manhood, self respect, and bragging rights.

Aside from that, I am approaching Saturday with nothing to lose.

After I finished Ice Age last year, it was the first time ever in a race where I thought, "Darn, I ran too conservative".

So I am putting the cards on the table Saturday, and I am not worried about a crash and burn. I crashed and burned 2 out of 3 Ice Ages, so even if that happens, I still have a chance at a pr. I know, it sounds strange.

Down in Sconnie land now for work. Fratenized with the enemies last night. A simple 40 minute run last night where Double and I preached to Brothergrub. Next time we will try shock treatment.

Beautiful evening in So Wisco last night, and the Lapham campfire was a perfect finish, along with the Lapham Peak Brewing Company's beer.

We all watched as Joel decided to burn all of his awards from running (pulled the medallions off) and burned the plaques. Upon further review, I found these were all awards from beauty pageants, and synchronized swimming. I would burn those too.


So a rare declaration of my goals for Saturday

#1 - PR (8:41)
#2 - Break 8 hours (not likely)
#3 - Defend my age class title (really not likely)
#3 - Don't get chicked by Crawford (really, really not likely)
#4 - Not to wake up Saturday morning with my hand in a warm bucket of water
#5 - Beat all of the Lapham runners
#6 - Win the thing and go to Western States.
#7 - Set a course record
#8 - Set an American record for 50 Mile
#9 - Beat Zach Pierce

That should do it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Deep or Wide?

One of the things I have learned about the trail running community is that, for the most part, the runners are somewhat humble. (Except for you Howie ;).

I think one of the reasons for this is the inability for the layman to comprehend what it takes to get through a 50 - 100 miler. We have all heard the

"100 miles? I get tired driving that far"
"How many days do you plan on doing this?"

to name a few.

As a result, I sort of keep it to myself. I guess this blog is a platform to talk about it when I have nobody else who "gets it" close by.

I say "I am a trail runner" or "distance runner" or "adventure runner", but I try to avoid the term "ultra" outside of the circle of those in the know. It is too much of a pain to explain, and often I am defending the sport from a hostile attack, "That is not healthy, or good for you". Sometimes it is met with someone trying to equate what they do to it. (I won't give examples, but some are pretty funny).

Roadies are different. It is all about the PR, the splits, the training, the gaming, etc. Too much stress. Not my cup of tea.

"Tri's" are the best. And yes, I have many friends who are "Tri's" (term trademarked by Todd E). They will probably agree with this. Warning - following sentences are to be read as sarcastic.

"tri's" define themselves by their gear, and if or if they are not an "Ironman". It is always fun to meet one and they introduce themselves as "Ironman". Then there are the groupies oohhing and ahhhing about how someone can swim, then Bike, THEN RUN! What amazing athleticism!

Okay... enough tri trashing. Sorry gang. Feel free to reciprocate.

So, the point of all of this is how my not so close friends don't even know about my "ultra cool bad boy I am soooo tough" lifestyle.

Last week, as the group I was with was winding down from a stressful week, we were chatting about life and what a great team we made. One of my co-workers complimented me on something, but went on so say "just don't be boring". Or something similar to that.





Huh. I have been called many things. Boring was not one I was used to receiving.

I actually took it as a compliment. I knind of knew what they were getting it, and I am happy to be boring vs. the alternative which they had in mind.

But that stuck with me for a few days. And as my mind wandered, it hit me.

Too many people today portray themselves as a "Renaissance Man". In actuality, they are jacks of all trades, masters of none.

I simplified it even more

Mile wide, Inch deep.

This thought was solidified some as I recall conversations with others about home brewing. I meet people all of the time who claim they make their own beer. I think "cool", and start talking to them, discussing our common interest. Most of the time, I quickly find out that they don't brew their own beer. They happened to be, at some time in history, in close proximity to someone brewing beer. As a result, they figured they were a home brewer by means of "being there". Calling themselves a home brewer added to their width, but they only went an inch deep.

Throughout my years as a musician, I have met countless people who claim they play this, that, and the other instrument. I even met a kid once who claimed to "play every instrument". When I asked if he could play the ophicleide, he gave me a blank stare. Upon further review, I found this kid was an inch deep in his talent with each instrument, but people oohed and aahhed at him for each metaphorical width he added to his reperatoire. I can "play" every common wind insturment made today, but saying so would be offensive to those who play those insturments. I play the tuba, and bass trombone, and I am a hack at some others.

I used to be a competitive sailor on big and small boats. Small, one design boats are fun because the skill of the sailor is one of the most important things needed to win. Big boats get fuzzy, especially non-class, non one design. For those of you boat geeks, PHRF or IMS.

Every few years, a rich "adventurer" comes to a famous race, having dumped millions into a boat which should perform well. He hires an expert crew (we all did it for fun), and tries to win a big race. Or, he tries to set some kind of record.

What they are really after, is widening their breadth of "mile wide" or more. These guys go a little deeper than an inch, but they really don't care about the sport. They care care about their egos, or "lagacies".

So after much pondering, I realized that most of my life has been lived 1-2 inches wide, but a mile deep. Dare I say 100 miles deep? Okay, 50 miles, since I am less than 50% on the hundos.

Sometimes I change up what I go deep on, but it is never more than 2 or 3. Right now it is trail running and cooking (i put the beer in that category for now). But... in reality, it goes like this.


Okay, switch the first 2 (it might be switched for me in the near future anyway).

And before you think I am a lush, the brewing is "the art of brewing". It is not the drinking, it is the creation of a great product. It is all of the hard work, study, and know how to create something others like.

I guess God should be above family.

So the big question is....... is this good, bad, or neither?

If our paths cross, and you don't touch any of my "width", I guess I am boring.

Personally, I am fine with it. I find artistry in the things I do.

And the more I think about it, the inch deep runners are the ones who can't comprehend what we do.

I think trail runners/ultra runners are a mile deep by defacto.

Not sure how wide everybody is. (except for BrotherGrub.... he is WIDE)