Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week in Review: 24-30 July 2011, and 6-Hour Pajama Run Race Report

Okay, making with the miles:

24 July 2011: 6 miles in the morn (45 minutes), 9 miles in the eve (60 minutes), all on the streets of Tel Aviv

25 July 2011: 10 miles in the morning (70 minutes) - last run in Tel Aviv for a while

26 July 2011: 14 miles (95 minutes), back in Baltimore, MD, USA

27 July 2011: 1 mile (10 minutes), in Baltimore - feeling lazy

28 July 2011: 5 miles (45 minutes), including a half-mile warmup, 35 minutes of treadmill hills (1628 feet of gain), and a half-mile warmdown, followed a couple of hours later with a 15-mile (105 minute) run through the streets of Baltimore

29 July 2011: 1 mile (10 minutes), in Baltimore - lazy again

30 July 2011: 46.81 miles (360 minutes), 2nd place at the 6-Hour Pajama Run in Queens, NY (revised total - see race report)

Total Time: 800 minutes

Total Distance: 107.81 miles (revised total - see below)

And now, the Pajama Run Race Report:

The 6-Hour Pajama Run, put on by the Broadway Ultra Society, in Astoria Park in Queens, NY (so-called because it starts at 6 p.m. and ends at midnight) was a "spur-of-the-moment" decision for me. I had been toying with jumping on the Burning River bandwagon, but a 100-mile race between Badwater and Beast of Burden (alliterative though it may have been) seemed like I might have been pushing the envelope a bit too far, not to mention the significant time and cost commitment (probably around $500). I still felt like this was a good weekend for a long run, and so on Thursday night, I looked at the website, and lo and behold, a race that was relatively close, time-limited, and only $50 to enter on race day. Pretty much sold . . . but I still waited until Saturday morning to decide to drive up there.

The drive was well-timed, with minimal traffic and only one wrong turn, and I arrived there in about 5 hours, right at 5 p.m. . . . only to find that they were waiting to let "post-entries" (i.e. race-day entries) in, because they had only 6 volunteers, and probably no extra pajama pants. I waited for about 20 minutes for them to let me enter; in the meantime, I made small talk with a long-time internet-only acquaintance who lives in New York, and who, via a series of Facebook posts on the drive up, I conned into running the race. Definitely an odd time to be meeting somebody face-to-face for the first time.

With 40 minutes before the race, this gave me just enough time to go to the bathroom, change into my shorts and singlet, set up a bag to put near the one aid station at the start/finish, and meander about for a few more minutes before the pre-race briefing.

At this point, I should mention that I did absolutely no research on the course prior to driving up, and, as it turned out, it was a paved path (good), but under a noisy bridge (bad-ish), in a crowded park (which meant dodging and weaving between people the entire race, also bad-ish), and on a hill. Over the course of the 1.27-mile loop, there was about 50-70 feet of gain/loss, which doesn't sound like much, but adds up, lap by lap, until you're not really running a very flat, fast course anymore. To add to this, the temperatures at the start were in the mid-90s, and humid, thanks to our proximity to the water (and never dropped below 80 as the night progressed). None of this boded well for a 6-hour PR for me (my previous best was 44.4 miles, set in the fall of 2007 on a much more forgiving course), but nevertheless, since I figured I was in much better shape now, and my Nike LunarTrainers seemed to have an extra spring in them today, I thought, why not go for it?

The race started exactly at 6 p.m., and the "lead group" of 4 or 5 of us (consisting in part of Phil McCarthy, who holds the US 48-hour record, Byron Lane, who usually wins the Staten Island 6-hour race, and is capable of running around 50 miles in 6 hours, and Tommy Sung Pyon, the heretofore unknown Asian) ran tentatively through the first loop, since the race director had only been allowed to mark the route lightly with chalk. Once we made the circuit, it was time for everybody to take off and settle into a pace. Tommy led the chase, with me close behind. We were hitting low-9-minute laps (or high 7-minute mile pace), which was pretty fast, especially considering the hilly course and the heat. I decided not to push the pace too hard, and diligently took my Endurolytes (one every 20 minutes or so) and my cups of water/Gatorade/Coke at the aid station after each lap.

Things were feeling good, and everything was clicking, but Tommy had run off. I was slowing to a walk through the aid station at each lap to make sure that the fluids wound up in my stomach, and not on my singlet, but I never heard footsteps behind me. With no idea where anybody was, I decided to continue to run conservatively, in the hopes that Tommy would blow up, and I would take the lead by default. I was worried about a Badwater epic-cramp repeat in these temperatures, and I felt as though I was running on the edge of what my nutrition would allow. (Several people later told me after the race that they didn't think I was going to last, because I was sweating so hard at the beginning. Of course, nobody knew who I was at this race, so it was pretty amusing to tell people - including Byron Lane at the start of the race - who asked if I had ever run an ultra that I had run "a few" . . . In Byron's case, he yielded a position on the starting line to me due to that response.)

This all proved to be a tactical blunder, as somewhere around 2 hours and 45 minutes, Tommy lapped me. Now I had pretty much no choice - I had to sit in second, keep up the pace, and hope that he would blow up, because it was far too risky at this stage in the race to mount a charge to make up the 1.27-mile gap. So I sat where I was, running around 10 minutes per lap (or just under 8-minute mile pace), and it felt pretty good.

I was in such a good groove, in fact, that the rest of the race hardly felt like a struggle at all. There were a few points where I thought my stomach would rebel and ruin things for me, but as it turned out, 4-6 ounces of water every 10 minutes or so seemed to be just the right amount for things to stay steady. The fact that I had to re-adjust every 10 minutes was also helpful, as I spent a fair portion of my laps (when I wasn't dodging pedestrians or gawking at the sunset over the New York City skyline) deciding exactly what would be the appropriate nutrition the next time I passed the aid station.

The crowd, as it were (minus my internet friend, who, somewhere between two and three hours, left, as it probably was not all that fun for her at that point), was starting to get excited, seeing that I was cranking out the laps with hardly a sign of exertion, even if they weren't sure exactly what place I was in (these things are confusing in a short-loop race with 70+ people running). The race directors had me run the "big loop" all the way up until about the last 6 minutes of the race, at which point I switched over to the "small loop" (a 0.323-mile loop, divided into 17ths, just to make any kind of mental math virtually impossible).

At that point, I was solidly in second, and the only question was whether or not I would PR (as it later turned out, I would have had 44.45 miles, had I simply stopped at 35 large loops, which is how many large loops I ran - EDIT: actually, I had run 36 large loops at this point; the initial results were incorrect). Not having any idea how many miles I had run, I dropped the hammer on the small loop, and, in the last 6 minutes, made it around 2 and 11/17ths small loops, finishing with a heroic dive for the "11" marker, in part because I wanted every last bit of distance that I could get, and in part because after all that running, it seemed like fun to dive in the grass. 45.22 miles (EDIT: 46.81 miles, in the corrected results), a 6-hour PR by nearly a mile, and good enough for second place . . . because Tommy kept on rolling, and ended up with 47.22 miles (EDIT: 48.34 miles), 2 miles (EDIT: about 1 and a half miles) ahead of me. He must have slowed in the second half, which of course makes me question even more my tactics in the first half (especially since early on, I was gaining on him on every hill), but, oh well . . .

The real point of all of this, though, is that there was free pizza and soda after the race, I got a nice plaque for my second-place finish, and the race director was even nice enough to give me a pair of pajama pants, after I thanked him copiously (and genuinely) for allowing me to enter the event last-minute, and he found out that I had driven there all the way from Baltimore to run the race.

In conclusion, a fun race, a solid training run, and I felt pretty good for almost the entire time, which made me wonder how much damage I could have done if they had let me at the course for another 6 hours . . . but I suppose I'll have to wait until Beast of Burden to find out.

The spoils . . .

(Epilogue: The Molly Pitcher rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike was a mess at 3:30 a.m., with somebody in the restroom vomiting just like in that Crank Yankers "Phone Sex Vomit" skit - I couldn't believe that anybody vomits like that for real - and an arrest in the parking lot, involving four police cars. Oh, adventures . . . :)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Catching Up: Weekly Mileage, 3-23 July, and Escape from Trash Mountain

Badwater race report aside, my blog has been a little bit quiet this month, as I've been a little bit busy with a lot of things (most notably, being in Israel, for longer than expected . . . international negotiations, as it turns out, are tricky).

Anyway, because there aren't enough irrelevant things in the world to bore you, here's what my weekly mileage has looked like lately:

3 July: 15 miles (110 minutes), on a super-hot day, through some super-bad neighborhoods

4 July: 10 miles (75 minutes), downtown Baltimore vicinity

5 July: 12 miles total: 25 minutes on the treadmill, at a 15% incline (2 miles), 2 miles on either side of that (15 minutes), 2 mile warmup before track workout (15 minutes), 6x800m (2:48, 2:51, 2:49, 2:49, 2:49, 2:52), 2 minutes jog rest between, 2 mile warmdown (15 minutes), 95 minutes total

6 July: 12 miles (90 minutes), with the Wednesday night run group

7 July: 2 miles easy (15 minutes)

8 July: 2 miles easy, in creepy Las Vegas Sunset Park (15 minutes)

9 July: 2 miles easy, also in creepy Las Vegas Sunset Park (15 minutes)

Total Time: 425 minutes
Total Distance: 55 miles

10 July: 2 miles, just outside of Stovepipe Wells resort (15 minutes)

11-12 July: Badwater Ultramarathon - 135 miles in 34 hours, 18 minutes, 14 seconds (round to 34:20 for ease of calculation)

13 July: 3-mile shakeout in the ol' Sunset Park in Vegas (25 minutes)

14 July: 5 miles in and around Sunset Park (35 minutes)

15 July: 5 miles at good ol' APG (35 minutes)

16 July: 11 miles (80 minutes) in Baltimore, before my flight to oblivion . . . um, I mean, Israel

Total Time: 2230 minutes
Total Distance: 161 miles

17 July: 13 miles (90 minutes) along the Mediterranean (out to Jaffa-ish and back)

18 July: 10 miles (70 minutes) in the morning, 5 miles (35 minutes) in the evening - south along the sea in the morning, and north in the evening

19 July: 5 miles (35 minutes) in the morning, heading south, and 10 miles (70 minutes) along the sea in the evening, heading north

20 July: 5 miles (35 minutes) in the morning, heading south along the sea, and 13 miles (90 minutes) in the evening, running off the script and heading into town, getting lost, and taking an extra 3 miles to get back to the hotel

21 July: 8 miles (60 minutes) in the morning, adding 3 miles to the planned 5 due to being lost in the city

22 July: 6 miles (45 minutes) in a late-night Jaffa jaunt

23 July: 24 miles (180 minutes) on my journey to Trash Mountain and back

Total Time: 710 minutes
Total Distance: 99 miles (so close to 100! oops :P)

And now, for something different . . .

If you haven't noticed, I've been taking full advantage of my first trip to anyplace outside of the US, and I've been turning every run into as much of an adventure as possible (without heading into disputed territory, of course). 23 July was my first truly "free" day since I've been here, so I took advantage of this opportunity for a long run to venture east from Tel Aviv, towards the mountains, to see if I could make it to something worth climbing. I wasn't entirely optimistic, but as it turns out, I did . . .

I wound up in an overgrown lot behind a run-down neighborhood - a lot which was full of this:

Which soon gave way to this:

Which I have dubbed "Trash Mountain." (The real story behind this is that it's a landfill about 87 meters high, containing about 16 million cubic meters of waste, in Hiryia that's being converted into a park, to be named after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Please note that I mean no offense to him with my informal name for the mountain.)

So, counting the climb from the ditch, I had the opportunity for about 100 meters of gain, which, running from pancake-flat Tel Aviv, was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I'll skip the part about the watermelon patch and the rose field in front of the mountain, and get to the climbing. As it turns out, there's sort of a trail up the mountain for construction equipment, which is smelly and dusty and ends like this:

To venture beyond the construction equipment plateau, you have to navigate a series of uncovered trash mounds, which look a little like this:

And then, the trail ends, and you have to go straight up this:

Did I mention that it was dusty and hot and smelled bad? Like, fecal-waste bad? Because that detail bears repeating.

Anyway, why go through all that trouble? Well, if only my cell phone camera were good enough to do this justice, but you have a 360-degree view of Tel Aviv, a bunch of other cities, and even, way off in the distance, Jerusalem. Also, you get a little preview of the park at the top. Here's the payoff:





And then some guys in a white SUV drove over to me and told me that I couldn't be there, Shabat be darned (so apparently they weren't Jewish). I left peacefully, since at that point, I had all of the exclusive photos of the view from the top that I could reasonably take with my camera phone.

Then I had to run all the way back to the sea, which ended up taking longer than the way out, because they made me run down the backside of the mountain, which, it turns out, has a very convenient (but also very clearly prohibited-to-traffic) paved path to the ground. Then I wound up running further south than I thought (using the "follow the sun" method to work my way west), so I had to run about 3 miles north from Jaffa back to the hotel.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my little adventure as much as I enjoyed experiencing it. In conclusion, I leave you with the following: The question all week is, do the streets smell like urine in Tel Aviv because people are peeing on the streets, or because of the stray cats peeing on the streets? (My vote has been mostly for people, as I am well aware of what cat urine smells like, and the urine smell is not that smell.) Here's the picture; you decide. :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Badwater 2011 - Revenge of the Fallen

Okay, normally I wouldn't post on my blog from my cell phone, but since this seems to be a hot topic, and right now, the memories are the freshest, here goes (weekly miles prior to Badwater at some other point, but suffice to say that I ran at least one mile every day).

In case you haven't been following, my goal at Badwater this year was to be as competitive as possible, which would mean a sub-30-hour time at a minimum. Considering how close I was to this last year, and how much more experience I had this year, I thought it was a reasonable goal. So, with the list of lessons learned from 2010, the same crew members (minus one), a team of reporters from the Washington Post documenting my race (along with Michael Wardian's and Brenda Carawan's), and a red Nissan XTerra tricked out with some tight gear organization scheme that my crew developed, and some haphazard-looking renditions of my last name on a four sides (including one that made it look like my name was "Plosko Nka," which led us to joke that we should develop a fake accent, language, and country of origin for me, which, as it turns out, Chris Kostman thought was funny when we told him about it at the finish line), per the race rules, we were confident coming into the race that I would do well. Add to that a "cool" year (115 F as the "high" is cool by Badwater standards), and it was looking to be an exciting race.

After the traditional countdown from 10 to start the race, our expectations were met, as I soon found myself in second place, behind Zach Gingerich, last year's winner (who showed up at the start in flip-flops, with a 2-liter bottle of diet soda, and claimed to be feeling nervous, scared, and not excited to run). This was by design, as I decided that my strategy would be to start aggressively and make a statement. This worked through the first time station (Furnace Creek, 17 miles), but then I slowly started to drop back, as more conservative starters passed me. I came through the first marathon in just over 4 hours, though, so I wasn't too worried. Still, I wasn't feeling quite right . . .

(Early in the race, when life was better . . .)

And then, as I was nearing the second time station (Stovepipe Wells, mile 42), things started falling apart. My calves and quads started to cramp violently, and my stomach was in knots. My body was failing me, shutting down, telling me that it wanted no part in this. I had never had these problems in a race before, and didn't know what to do, so I foolishly chose to hope that they would work themselves out. (And yes, in retrospect, this was stupid, although it did afford the media folks a chance to watch ms dry-heave several times by the side of the road, as my crew looked on).

As it turned out, pushing through made things worse. I started running up the climb to Townes Pass, and while I was passing people on the climb, my cramps and my stomach were worsening. Finally, I reached the point where I couldn't walk without fear of a sudden, violent cramp, so I "staked out" (left a stake with my number on it where I had stopped racing), and went back to the medical station at Stovepipe Wells with my crew. The medics advised putting my feet up, switching shoes, upping the water and electrolyte intake, and slowing the pace. An hour later, I was back on course, with Jason Wara as my reliable pacer. And for a little while, it looked like this was going to work. Jason and I even struck up a conversation about UFOs (we're both big fans, as it turns out) while we climbed. Amusingly, the Washington Post people heard us talking, and I had to tell them that that was the first time he and I had ever talked while he was pacing me. (Normally; he follows quietly behind me, footfalls in unison, silently urging me on).

Unfortunately, all was not well, since when I reached the top of the pass and started to run down (as the medic suggested, since, at 5'4" and 137 pounds, I am a "light" guy), my stomach and cramping issues came back in full force. Here was the first time when a DNF seriously crossed my mind. As I struggled down the pass on the seemingly endless hike to Panamint Springs (the time station at mile 72), I thought about all of the people that I would be disappointing if I failed to finish (family, friends, crew, sponsor, donators to CAF on my behalf), and this made the idea distinctly unappealing. At the same time, my body was falling apart, and I had tried pretty much everything in the book to pull it together, and nothing was working. The only thing I could think of to do was to keep trudging towards Panamint, and re-assess from there. I kept telling my crew this, and it was really killing any optimism that might have still been lingering.

When I finally reached Panamint, it turned out that Sara had told one of the race officials about my predicament, in a particularly emotional way, and so the first thing they did when they saw me was to send my crew away, and ask me how I felt. I told them that I was falling asleep when I was walking, my stomach was a mess, pretty much every muscle in my body was twitching and/or cramping, I felt weak and sick, and I had the hiccups for half of the descent. Cory Linkel, the race official who spoke to me, finally solved the problem. He told me that he knew that I wanted to finish, and my crew wanted me to finish, but right now, my body was out of control. He told me to lay down on the floor in the cottage for about half an hour, let everything settle down, and then see how I felt about continuing. Sara later told me that to her, he said that he understood what it was like to be the emotional leader of a crew, having been in that position when he crewed his partner at Badwater. He told her to get all of the angst out of her system, then buy breakfast and bring it to me, and tell me to get back on the course and start walking.

I plopped myself on the floor in the cottage at 5:30 a.m., and oddly enough, woke up on my own exactly at 6 a.m., to find that Sara was still sleeping in the cottage, in another room (I have no idea when she got in there). I decided that it wouldn't be right to wake Sara so I could go on, since she and the rest of the crew had been awake for way too many hours straight at this point, and she was driving the crew vehicle, so I let her sleep, and returned to the floor. (EDIT: apparently, this is something that I either hallucinated or lucid-dreamed, as Sara later told me that she and the rest of my crew slept in the car while I was in the cottage.)

Exactly another half-hour later, Sara woke me up, with a breakfast of buckwheat pancakes, eggs, and hash browns. It was a very sweet moment, and suddenly, I understood what Corey was saying, and I felt at peace with where I was. Yes, it was 6:30 a.m., 72 miles and 20.5 hours into the race, and if I wanted to at least equal my time from last year, I would have to run the remaining 63 miles in 14 hours, a Herculean feat, considering how much I had already run, and that 13 of those miles were the climb to Whitney Portal, which typically takes about 4 hours, leaving just 10 hours to run 50 miles, over a section of the course where the WINNERS typically struggle to run 5 miles per hour. But right now, none of that mattered. Sara brought me breakfast, and was going to be there for me even if it took the full 48-hour time limit to finish, and knowing this was all that mattered.

I set off down the road, walking, and feeling a profound sense of peace with my self, my crew, my body, my situation, and my environment. I wisely moved slowly, and upped my fluid and electolyte intake. After about two miles of walking, for some reason, the hill in front of me looked like it would be fun to run up, so I did. Slowly at first, but it felt okay, so I started pushing the pace. Before I could even process what was happening, I was plugging along at a solid 10-minute mile pace over the rolling terrain, including crew stop time, and Sara and Andrew were "teaching people how to Dougie" in celebration, courtesy of the mix CDs that we made for this event. In the back of my mind, there was still fear that maybe this was another temporary high, and that I would soon find myself doubled over by the side of the road, wretching in agony from cramps in places in my stomach that I didn't even know existed. I kept plugging along, listening to my body, running gently, and remaining at peace, and soon I was at the time station at Darwin - about 18 miles from Panamint on the strength of about 3 hours of tough running.

I could have slowed there. But I was gaining momentum, and passing people, and my crew was enjoying the show, and especially since I felt like I owed them, after all of the crap they had been through so far, I kept running. No pacer, just me and the 32 miles of rolling, open road between Darwin and Lone Pine. Somewhere along the way, the media crew spotted me, and, realizing that I was no longer dead, resumed questioning and picture-taking, which only spurred me on even more. I ran nearly all of that 32 miles, and passed even more people, and I could feel my confidence building. I reached Lone Pine at almost exactly 31 hours, or 7 hours after I reached Darwin - over 5 miles per hour!

(On the hunt - somewhere between Darwin and Lone Pine)

Now, to equal or better my time from last year, I would have to climb 13 miles, with about 5000 feet of elevation gain, in 3 hours, 27 minutes - a very aggressive pace, given the terrain. But I had a couple of additional motivators here: Jimmy Dean Freeman, who beat me by 5 minutes last year, and only because I was chasing him hard up the climb to Whitney Portal, saw me running between Darwin and Lone Pine, and told me that if I kept it up, I could beat his time from last year (and also, he said that I should do the climb in 3 hours, 20 minutes). Also, the media people wanted to take finish line photos in the daylight, and since night was just beginning to fall when I finished last year, I would have to finish faster (I told them, with a smile, that I would see what I could do about that.)

My crew knew from last year that I could climb, and they were in full support as I took on the climb, while everybody else looked on in amazement as I ran and power-hiked at 15-minute mile pace or better up the steep, winding road to Whitney Portal. Jason and Andrew traded pacer duties up the hill, and Sara kept me sprayed down and stocked with water, electrolytes, and Natural Vitality Energy 28, which tastes amazing and really gets me going on a long climb. When I reached the final time station and learned that I had just 3.6 more miles to the finish (I was expecting 4), and nearly an hour to do it, I doubled my effort and pushed hard to the top, with Jason and Andrew alternately behind me, pushing me forward. I think this pretty well sums up what it was like on the final climb (that's Jason pacing me in the picture):

My crew and I broke the tape in 34 hours, 18 minutes, and 14 seconds, ten minutes faster than last year, in the daylight, and faster than Jimmy Dean Freeman's finishing time in 2010, on the strength of a climb that took 3 hours and 15 minutes. Considering the circumstances, this was a beyond-miraculous victory, considering how hard I had to push, over the remaining distance. Make no mistake about it - while I was at peace with my body, it didn't mean that I wasn't in pain. It meant that I accepted the pain, and ran at the crippling edge of it, for 14 hours, at the END of such a brutally difficult race. I told Chris Kostman, the race director, that I liked the black-and-purple finisher's shirts (from Baltimore, and a Ravens fan), and he joked that they made them that way just for me. With that kind of finish, it's forgivable that AdventureCorps would mistakenly post on their website that I won the race. :P

(Race Director Chris Kostman presenting me with the awesome Ravens-themed finisher shirt by Moeben)

In a way, all of the above can be summarized pretty simply: my fluid/electrolyte balance was off, because I had never run that fast for that long under those conditions, and my body didn't know how to handle it. Had I taken in more fluids/electrolytes from the start, especially considering my performance at the end, I may really have contended for the win. (Incidentally, I eventually found that an Endurolyte every 15 minutes, and 20 ounces of water every 30 minutes, was the recipe for staying cramp-free, which sounds outrageous, which is probably why I didn't attempt it in the first place.)

But in another way, this is about working through a desperate situation, a seemingly ruined race, with the support of everybody around you. I am so grateful for the support from my crew, my sponsor, Natural Vitality, my friends and family, all the people who donated to CAF in support of my run, the people who texted/tweeted support before/during the race, the Badwater staff, and I really hope that I'm not forgetting somebody. Because at the end of the day, Badwater is more than just a 135-mile race through Death Valley in the hottest week of the summer, designed for lunatics or people who feel that they need to do something this "macho" to prove themselves to others. Badwater is a test of yourself, to find your limits and your weaknesses, to face them head-on, and to conquer them. Badwater is a race that requires the support of everybody around you to be successful, and it tests the limits of patience, charity, and love in those people. And finally, Badwater is an inspiration to everybody, in that knowing that ordinary people can work hard and achieve amazing things. So although I didn't get the victory that I was seeking (okay, I did get it erroneously :P), I believe that the race was victorious on all of these levels. And next year, I hope to have that victory on one more, for real. :)

(Epilogue: I hope that I didn't forget anything important, but if I did, I'll update this post. Maybe I'll even get ambitious and post some pictures. :) )

(Epilogue to the epilogue: So I did get around to making some editorial changes, and posting some pictures - all courtesy of Sara MacKimmie. Enjoy!)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Week in Review: 26 June - 2 July . . . Suspiciously Quiet

Thanks to a long 4th of July weekend, this update is a little later than usual (but not so late that I don't remember what happened) . . .

26 June: 15 miles (105 minutes), Canton/Fells/Harbor

27 June: 15 miles (105 minutes), Canton/Fells/Harbor (and, since it was the evening, a little Old Towne Mall thrown in for good measure)

28 June: 4 miles, treadmill hill program (35 minutes), 1608 ft of climb

29 June: 20 miles, part of which consisted of me being the sole participant in Wednesday Night Run from O'Donnell Square (until Arjun showed up partway through), and 2 miles of which were barefoot (at about 10 minute/mile pace). (150 minutes)

30 June: 6 miles at APG, consisting of a half-mile warmup, 35 minutes of treadmill hills (1598 ft of climb), a mile and a half of warmdown (for 50 minutes of total workout time), hot car ride home, then 10 more miles, a lot of which was on Baltimore Street (70 minutes)

1 July: 10 miles, warm morning, returning a library book along the way (70 minutes)

2 July: 13 miles (95 minutes), with a "fast finish" (1.5 miles at ~6:05/mile pace at the end), then 7 more miles (50 minutes) just before midnight, when apparently, according to a passer-by, I change into Urijah Faber

Total Time: 730 minutes

Total Distance: 100 miles

If you want to get really technical about the definition of a week, I completed my 15-mile run on July 3rd earlier than the 15 miles that I ran on 26 June, thereby cramming 115 miles into a 7-day period. But since that's splitting hairs, suffice to say that another 100-mile week is in the can, and I am not unduly worse for wear.

Which brings me to "taper time" . . . When I hopefully start feeling more rested and stronger, and when the positive effects of all of this hard work should become apparent. After taking an easier-than-usual 4th of July (a token 1-mile run to keep the streak alive), I'm already feeling a lot more rested than I have in about a month, which I think is a good sign. If that trend continues, by race day, my legs will be feeling fresh, and I'll be ready to spend a lot (but not too many) hours on a hot road in Death Valley. Overall, I feel much more prepared, and in much better shape, than I was for last year's excursion. Of course, anything can happen on Monday, but with the past year of experience, "anything" stands a good chance of being "better than expected."

Oh, right, and to acknowledge that I sub-titled this post "Suspiciously Quiet" . . . I don't have any particularly deep thoughts to share this week. Not that I haven't been thinking, of course, but unlike previous weeks, I have yet to sense a particular unifying theme within the mental noise. Until that happens, I'll keep quiet, and keep running . . .