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Showing posts from February, 2009

Mind games: Concept #5 = punch the card

One of my favorite running locations while living in Ohio was Highbanks Park in Columbus.

I was proud to be a founding member of the "Ohio Posse," a wonderful group of ultra running cohorts. We'd meet at the park most every Sunday and share some miles and good conversation.

One great advantage of the group was the unspoken camaraderie that existed between and among 100-mile runners. We could share the pain and victory of the journey and each time we'd complete a race, we'd acknowledge that we'd "punched the card" for another year.

Knowing that I had validated another 100-mile effort also validated my place in life. It's almost like a parking voucher; once it's punched, you know you're good to go and that your car is allowed and welcome in the garage.

The posse gathered at Highbanks one hot summer day. A young runner burst upon our group and joined the run. She quickly announced she was a marathon runner and began a lecture on how to be …

Mind games: Concept #4 = anger

When the going gets tough, the tough get angry.

Lance Armstrong, one of the greatest riders to ever spin a crank, is expert at channeling anger and turning it into Tour de France wins. Lance had a tough childhood, and it wasn't a big jump when he focused on bad memories with former stepfathers and dug deep inside. The past was hurtful and the only way through it was to use the rage inside as a motivational tool to outperform and overcome the best cyclists the world could offer.

On a much lesser scale, I have channeled anger onto the trail and forward to the finish line in ultra races. At another time in my life, there were personal and work issues that had me bound up on the inside. This pressure cooker of an existence needed an outlet and in my world ultradistance was the valve. I raced hard, often, and with deliberation.

About a decade ago, I started the year with the Bull Run 50 mile in April, the Ice Age 50 mile in May, then the Mohican 100 mile in June. After that I ran a…

Concept #3: Adaptation

When you've been around the proverbial block a few times like Tommy Terrific, there are things you learn along the way.

One important factor in the emotional and psychological realm is the ability to be adaptable on long ultra runs.

There are always opportunities to regroup, reform, and to forge ahead. A few examples are:

If you are sick and nauseous...vomit.

If you're leg succumbs to a lightning-like shooting pain...alter your stride.

If you think you're about to pass from this world into the next...realize it's temporary and refer to concepts #1 and #2 below.

There is always a route from darkness to light. If you are a seasoned endurance athlete, epic challenges have crossed your path before and in most all cases you have found ways to overcome.

I remember starting the Mohican 100 mile many years ago. Some dude from Seattle came all the way to Ohio for the race and started talking trash from almost the first mile. It was about pace and intake and salt and most every oth…

Concept #2: It's in the bank

Yesterday, I posted about a new rant.

You're entering the mind zone...that of how and why we mentally and emotionally comprehend endurance sport events.

This is a comprehension model of how we have invested in our minds and bodies over time. The years have ticked by and we've done the work; the long runs, the hard intervals and the pool and gym workouts - even on the days we didn't want to go.

That's as good as money in the bank for an endurance athlete. We've been dropping coins into the funnel, saving each precious penny's worth of aerobic base. And now, it's time for a withdrawal.

The morning of the event dawns big and large. We know what lies ahead, but it's OK because the money (i.e. confidence and ability) is there for the taking and we can access it as needed.

On some occasions the withdrawals are huge, similar to the hit some have taken on their 401K's in a tough recession. But when it's in the bank, there is no deficit spending. It's you…

The inner mind of endurance athletes

The Five Points of Life Marathon is running in Gainesville this weekend.

Part of the pre-event hype included guest lecturers who provided free information for runners ramping up for the event.

I went to a talk given by a sports psychologist regarding things of the mind, how we approach endurance running on an emotional and psychological basis.

Though that presention had merit, I'd like to give you the Tommy Terrific street version of mind games as part of the sport.

So stay tuned for updates over the next several days.

Concept #1: Just a blip in time

I like to try this one on during my longer events, mainly the 100-milers. I set my mind to the fact that the event will be somewhere north of 24 hours. That's might seem insurmountable, but it's just a blip in time on my journey through life.

I envision a time line for my walk on this earth, from birth to whenever the end might be, and picture a small blip - just one day in the overall universal scheme of things.

That blip constitut…

Dry spot

Today started warm, dark and windy.

I biked to school, changed into my running clothes and ran the 1/2 mile to the U of FL outdoor track. I started to log what was intended to be 30 minutes on the soft, oval surface; but then the rains came.

I raced away from the track and back toward my part of campus. I wasn't carrying my student I.D., so there wasn't an option to enter the rec center. Instead, I took a hard right and got under cover at the O'Connell Center, where U of FL's legendary basketball teams go to war.

The facility was empty and quiet. But on the second level, one can jog on the partly exposed indoor track. Bleachers obscure some of the surface, but it's possible to jaunt around the obstacles.

So I went - around and around. My MP3 player put out podcasts while I rounded turn after turn.

Instead of a wild, loud game day experience, I had the silence of empty seats and a few maintenance workers roaming the court. And no worries concerning a bathroom emer…

Gentle as we go...

There's no reason for the photo at the left. I didn't have anything profound to post, so here's a shot of me circa 1993 with my beloved (at that time) Suzuki Katana 600.

I could tell a few stories, but I won't. Suffice it to say that bike can get you in trouble.

So, here's my thought for the day. At 52, my enjoyment in endurance sports comes from being able to participate.


I'm back to running six days a week, with Sundays after church reserved for a gym workout. So, I have some heightened pain in my right knee and also some muscular stuff going on in my lower left back. I was diagnosed with a left leg that was a bit shorter than the right and was encouraged to use a heel lift.

I thought that over, tried it a few times, and then decided to pass. I'd rather let my body adapt than to make it conform to an altered foot strike. Just my opinion...others are true believers in orthotics, so I'll leave this subject where is stands.

Back to my rant for t…

Where there's Smoke...there's fire

I'm going to make a quick transition from endurance sport to motorsport...on just this one occasion, as the Daytona 500 hits the track today at 3:40 pm EST.

Many of us enjoy the master competitor lifestyle based on the personalities who cross our paths. The stories we tell incorporate interesting characters met on the trail. My most epic ultra tales include a strange character or two.

In the world of NASCAR, the characters and personalities who used to attract fans - and sponsors - have faded into the past. A few decades ago, races sometimes ended with a fist-fight at the finish line. But today in a homogenized version of the sport, drivers project themselves as cookie cutter personalities who are "excited" about most everything, and then shill for sponsors without passion or flair.

That isn't what built the sport. I worked on the PR effort of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. during his NASCAR championship seasons in 1986 and 1987, and I know with keen awareness that Dale, Tim Ri…

Green Swamp - this is the last post!

Hello master competitor blog aficionados...I've been busy with job hunting, dissertation writing and test administering at U of FL. Alas, I've been negligent and need to keep the posts coming.

So, I thought I'd conclude my rants on Green Swamp with this photo. It was a small water crossing under a roadway rather late in the race. The course took us on a rather silly out-and-back, which ran on a sharp off-camber along the roadway. At one point the off-camber morphed into a cement support for the bridge, with a very steep angle. I was afraid my feet would slip and I'd fall off, so I scurried down and bushwhacked through the woods.

This is the essence of endurance trail runs. Some promoters opt for well traveled, marked trails, as we will experience at the Guana 50K in March and the Croom 50 mile in April. Other promoters, such as the Dances with Dirt crowd, want to add more "memories" and routed a few obstacles and water crossings into this course.

I believ…

Green Swamp revisited part #2

A few more random thoughts about Green Swamp:

Here's a shout out to Jennifer, our new friend from Orlando...who just moved east from Seattle and is breaking onto the ultra scene. She's very busy with two young children, yet found time to put in a nice finish at Green Swamp and is now headed to the Iron Horse 50 mile. Gotta love it. And, also thanks Jennifer for a couple of the pics in my earlier post...she did an excellent job with the camera documenting the journey.

I ran in Injinji wool toe socks, and Brooks Adrenaline ASR trail shoes with ankle gators. Loved the setup. Even after stream and water crossings, my feet were good to go. No blisters, no hot spots. That was the last race for the Adrenalines, just broke a new pair of Brooks Cascadia trail shoes out of the box. I'm excited!

Guess I should mention that my finishing time at Green Swamp was good for the 50-54 age group win. I emailed the race promoter and he's sending me some sort of award. Life is sweet.


Green Swamp revisited

The Green Swamp 50K is in the books. The day started rather cold and damp and within minutes it was time to consider the sanity of what was to come:

For 5-6 miles, the course was a total bushwhack.

We were stumbling through nettles and brush, carefully placing each foot strike due to the terrain. Christie explained that Cypress trees need to take additional oxygen into the components they extract from the soil, so they push "knees" up from the surface. They may look like knees to you, but to me they seemed more like impaling devices!

Two runners behind me were chattering. One said to the other, "this is the type of run that if you fall, don't spin your butt toward the trail!"

For some reason I thought that joke was appropriate at the time.

We had to belly crawl across a downed tree to transcend a creek and then belly crawl again to get under a barbed wire fence. At one instance I started to mutter to myself that I'm too old for this type of behavior.

But jus…

"Those are for people looking for help"

A long time ago I drove for hours upon hours, deep into the heart of upper Ontario from my home in Wisconsin.

I found my way down gravel roads and finally came upon a campfire with a few stooped bodies soaking up the heat.

I'd found race headquarters for the 50K I noted in UltraRunning magazine; it was time to gear up for the event.

RollyPortelonce, a very tough coal miner and 100-mile runner, was RD. He introduced himself, and I blurted out my immediate concern: Did anyone have any PowerBars? I'd left home without them and was concerned for my energy needs while on the course.

"Those are for people looking for help," said Portelonce in a monotone yet serious voice.

I never forgot that comment and have used it on many occasions since. Now, as I'm dealing with a degenerating right knee, it may be appropriate yet again. I AM NOT advocating that knee braces and other support mechanisms are to be avoided. Yet, for me, I have wondered about the healing powers of the …

Humble beginnings


Does this look like a dude who has an illustrious ultra career ahead of him?

This a self-portrait done in the photo studio at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, 1978 or 1979. Guess I was into the gunfighter eye thing back then, but most of my concentration went into keeping crumbs out of that gorgeous Fu Manchu.

All good, life was fun...but fun in a different sort of way. Besides one feeble attempt to play hockey in college, I was aerobically lacking. There was no endurance sport activity in my life and I had yet to understand the void that existed.

So, I'm up and at 'em again today, thinking about what has transpired from then until now. The Green Swamp 50K is Saturday and I have begun to set aside gear and the cooler which will provide a few icy ales after the event.

Being young and hip and cool is OK. But being a master competitor en route to the next race is even better.

Thick in the middle

Here's an interesting shot at left: Tommy-not-quite-Terrific at the finish of a "hare scrambles" race near Atlanta, Georgia, circa 1981.

As you can observe, during this era I was curling more 12-oz. beer cans than barbells and was weighing in at 213 pounds. Amazing that I carried that much weight and amazing that I tried to ride a dirt bike. I was never talented on two wheels, so the extra weight only hindered me further.

This is a time of "then to now" thinking. I am closing in on completion of my PhD and a move to a new market for a teaching position may be mandatory. Or, I will find a place and life here in Gainesville. Whatever the outcome, my fitness and training component pops into mind.

Over the years, I have found my fortress to be God, followed by the condition of my body. When Guillaine-Barre ravaged my nerve system in 1992-1993 I thought it was over, but I was allowed a wonderful recovery and my endurance lifestyle continued. As the years progre…