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Showing posts from March, 2009

Go Go Guana

Hello to all. I'm delinquent about this post, no excuses. Old two-tone-Tommy is busy and tired and getting back into the big miles.

But before we fast forward, let's talk a bit about last weekend. A hard, rather awkward finish at the Guana 50K was accomplished, but it's nothing I'll write about in my next letter home to mommy.

It would be easy at this point to blow sunshine up your heinie about how well the race went, but let's dismiss that and move on to reality. I started the race with a dark cloud over my head, sort of feeling sorry for myself and my place in life. I don't know what that was about, since I'm one of the most fortunate soldiers marching on the planet today. Anyway, I knew it was going to be a hard day at the office and I set a solid albeit slow pace.

The course was picturesque and breezy, sandy and flat. On two occasions armadillos got underfoot and then scurried for cover; I was worried that one of the creatures might be rabid and att…

The path is long and narrow

Sometimes it's easy to amaze myself.

I came from humble beginnings. Much of my early years was devoted to all things two-wheeled, but with an engine mounted in-between.

A 25-year love affair with motorcycles.

She was one of the most sultry mistresses I ever encountered. Fast, unforgiving and demanding. No matter how hard you rode her, she wanted more.

And if you found her limit...you just traded up to another mistress, this one with a higher range of rpm's and increased torque.

Just roll the throttle on...and hope the day ended well.

Here's a photo of master competitor enjoying the 1978 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. I rode out with several other characters from central Wisconsin. At that time I was riding a Kawasaki KZ900...one of the baddest in-line 4-cylinder bikes on the road in that era.

But it's all just a fuzzy haze now. The attraction is gone and has been replaced by a more pure, unadulterated love affair with the human engine. The power I put to the ground now come…

Just a little bit of patience...

Here's a shot that depicts the inner workings of a healthy leg.

My muscles and tendons may weave together in similar fashion, but things may be a bit more fuzzy and torn around the edges.

I'm not much on keeping records and running logs, but I do believe this is my third 65+ mile week of running. I seldom get north of 60 and when I do, it's usually some sort of crash-and-burn scenario.

I ran my 50 mile PR (8:53) at JFK in 2004. Not fast by most elite standards, as Eric Clifton holds the JFK course record at 5:46. But that day was Tommy Terrific's own personal best and what is most interesting is what led up to it.

Once again the details are foggy, but I ran 85 miles the week prior to that race. I was training hard with daily morning runs and long weekend mileage. Then straight to the race and onto the course. No doubt my legs were trashed, but they performed well, especially on the final eight miles of road prior to the finish.

This flies in the face of modern trainin…

Mind games #6: Let the race come to you

Here's a take-off on "If Mohammed won't come to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed."

But with a twist for ultrarunners everywhere.

Roy Heger (at right) is an accomplished 100-mile runner from northern Ohio. He's a savvy character who knows how to make good time at races like Massanutten Mountain in Virginia - for those who enjoy running on sharp rocks for 24 hours or so.

Prior to each year's Mohican 100 mile, we'd have training runs on the course. One of my favorites was the night run, which covered the final 25 miles on what was the old course, mostly country roads under the moonlight.

Roy offered important input, like "let those feet work" which was about have some play inside one's shoes, so that feet can feel the terrain (not swell and bruise as mine have done).

Another epic piece of advice Roy gave me was "let the race come to you."

I have pondered this many times since that run. We sometimes let the clock, the terr…

If only...

I have to let you in on a secret. I'm a "little bit" of a NASCAR fan.

I don't actually view too many races on TV. But I have kept up with the business side of the sport ever since I had a promotions account with the Wrangler Brand in the mid 1980's and did PR for Dale Earnhardt, Sr.

Now Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (above) is all the rage with fans, but his performance has not been stellar. Junior was interviewed and said, "that's one helluva excuse for a race car" when asked about his recent driving results. Questions have arisen about his crew chief, his crew, and the competitiveness of his racing equipment.

Much of Junior's dilemma has raised questions in my own mind about ultradistance performances. Who or what is to blame for our results?

In the world of ultras it can be a bad knee or bad weather or bad food; it can be the wrong gear or the wrong event or the wrong course markings; it can be water instead of Gatorade, Gu instead of PowerGels, or ov…

Fragile

I'm sure many of you have heard the tragic tale of famed movie actor Natasha Richardson.

Beginner ski lesson in Canada.

Easy fall on a bunny hill.

Dead two days later.

I'm not making light of this event in any way. But it forced me to acknowledge that endurance sport has its own inherent risks.

Several years ago, while still living in Ohio, I was about ready to hang up my hand bottles and retire, mainly to get off the trail. I couldn't find my rhythm and was crashing on almost every run. Some were the simple stub your toe and catch yourself pratfalls, while others were rather ugly faceplants onto rocky surfaces.

I have joked on occasion that I'd be happy if my life ended during some epic ultra, that I have the "big one" while climbing a trail and die before I ever hit the ground.

The adaptation of that story could be an easy fall like Natasha, then lights out.

This morning while doing another easy 10, I thought about accountability in my life, what I am doing to …

The long road

I realize some of you may see the 1980's as a strange period of time.

Take a glance at the image to the left. Strange is right.

That's a promo card from my days in Greensboro, North Carolina. I put together a sponsorship with Wrangler and started my own triathlon team...pretty cool pioneering type stuff in its day.

I remember one local racer who was unhappy he was not on the team. It was none other than ultra-icon-in-the-making Eric Clifton. I've never been worthy to jog in that guy's ultra shadow...but that was then and this now.

Let's assume I no longer look quite like I did in this photo almost 25 years ago. But my weight isn't too far off and nowadays you'll see me wearing shorts that leave a bit more to the imagination. Deep at the core inside, I still want to train and race and feel as if I'm putting 100% into the effort.

I'm ramping up for the Guana 50K on March 28 and the Croom 50 mile on April 11. That's a tall order for old master com…

The perfect plan

Rob Apple has run over 500 ultradistance races.

I first bumped into Rob at a trail race over 20 years ago. I can't really remember when or where, but we have had some great talks along the way. In addition to running Rob and I both share a love for motorcycle motocross racing, so there are many stories to tell.

Rob is the master of consistency. He races approximately 30 times a year and has now gone international, competing abroad with his partner Susan. I love to get Rob's emails, getting the facts on some new excursion or road trip to a far away place.

Where I might complete several ultras each year, Rob and Susan complete dozens.

I checked in with Rob regarding his daily training. He lives in Murfreesboro. TN, where a paved and flat greenway is located behind his apartment. Rob commutes early to work, finishes his day (as an accountant) and then arrives back home to knock out his daily 10-miler. Rob connects the greenway to the Stones River Battlefield where " the …

Fountain of youth?

I ran into some old friends at a motorcycle function a few weeks ago. One of them emailed me and and asked "where did you find the fountain of youth?"

Drinking elixir from a special fountain hadn't come to mind before. At 52, I view myself as someone who keeps on keeping on, working for a good result from the effort.

I put some thought into what a fountain of youth could mean for me:
Not sure about the exact timeline, but I have been a vegetarian close to 10 years. There has been a result. The tone of my skin, color of my hair have been affected. This isn't a scientific study, but it's clear that my diet has been beneficial.Vitamin E gel. I buy this clear, gooey liquid at Walgreens, and use it liberally on my face, around puffy eyes, after shaves, etc.Cap with a visor. Most of my running life has been shaded over the face. I know of some triathletes my age who went the sunglasses route and their skin is dark and rough.Fistful of pills - I blogged about the c…

Mobile Waiting

This isn't the greatest photo of the man, but I wanted an image nonetheless.

It's Brian Menaker, a PhD student in Sport Management at the University of Florida.

I met Brian a few weeks ago and noted he was wearing a Brooks warm-up jacket; Brooks is my #1 running sponsor and I had a thought at that time Brian could probably put it to the pavement.

Brian was warming up for a run at San Felasco trails just as I was wrapping up a 12-miler, so we stopped to talk. He recently won a local 15K race and was also tops by over six minutes in the local 1/2 marathon.

"I ran a 1:12," stated Brian. "I was chatting with two fast marathon runners at mile 12, I had a 1:10 in me."

Brian and old Tommy master competitor are worlds apart. While I trudge along and count the minutes, Brian doesn't wear a watch and checks his pulse at the vein in his neck...no fancy pulse watches for this dude.

I wondered how this guy knows how far and fast he is going. "It's just 'mo…

Pull the pin

I can't remember who sent this photo, but it's a keeper.

This dude had a high pressure "release" but opted to finish the race.

It begs the question: When is it appropriate to pull the pin and call it a day?

I've blogged on several occasions about my poor decisions in knowing when to quit. It put me in a bad situation with those who cared about me and the finish may have been worth less than what my body incurred.

It seems "poopy pants" looks rather elite. It's possible that he wasn't prepared to give up the end result after months of intense training.

Humiliation and embarrassment aren't part of his deal. The other day I saw a female A rider from our bicycle club pull to the side of the road and squat. Bodily functions are just part of the game for some.

I am becoming smoother around the edges regarding absolutes in my life. There are still some deal breakers but many things are a matter of opinion, not right or wrong.

So, if you want to poop…

Carry the torch

Here are a couple of storm troopers who work the national motorcycle racing circuits across the United States.

Both are friends and both were pivotal in my career in the sport.

Davey Combs (left) comes from a family who is entrenched in racing. They operate two national motocross events. Davey was a budding journalist when I met him and now owns Racer X magazine. He is also heading up the group that is developing and improving the national motocross championship. Davey recently announced a wonderful new TV package that has six MX races live on NBC.

Larry Lawrence is the historian for motorcycle racing. His column "Archives" graces the pages of Cycle News each week. Larry has been instrumental in rebuilding a historical database of key individuals in motorcycling, which preserves the knowledge for future generations.

I realize this is an endurance sport blog, but humor me for a moment. All of our lives are built on folks who have assisted and inspired us along the way. I&#…

The saga of the 29er

Live in reality, not in the paradigm of who you wish you were.

That's a complicated way of saying that I'm past the days of riding a 29er mountain bike and need to stick to the (now) conventional full-suspension rides.

The photo at left is a retro shot of John O'Mara, a very fast motocross racer in the 1980's. I saw Johnny at the DaytonaSupercross. He continues to be proficient on mountain bikes and races for the Specialized brand.

The new rage is 29 inch wheels (as opposed to 26 inch) on mountain bikes, for less rolling resistance and more adaptability on rough terrain. Almost all of the new 29ers come with a hardtail rear end...they have foregone suspension in light of the larger circumference wheels.

I talked to Johnny about his experience on the 29ers. The new geometry frames have a bit more "give" in them and riders can also run less air pressure in the 29er tires - that adds up to a lighter ride with my power to the ground.

But this I know. O'Mara c…

Just a fish and a loaf of bread

I've been in Daytona Beach for some of the motorcycle races. I watched the 200 mile road race Friday night (most of it from the comfort of my friend Jeff Moser'smotorhome) and then on Saturday attended for the DaytonaSupercross.

And when at Daytona, it's always time to catch up with this wild man at the left - Ron Tichenor.

Ron has been in and around the national motocross circuit for a long time. His son, Ronnie, Jr. was a top national rider and two-time Japanese National Champion. Ron was also the long time owner of Cycle Springs Yamaha in Tarpon, Springs, Florida.

This year, Ron's entourage included Jeff Hembree (white cap at right) who is a home builder in St. Augustine. It's all part of the madness that surrounds this gang every time they're at the races.

Tichenor did what he's done for the past couple of decades: Pull up in his stretch van, fire up the cooker, and make sure the beer is on ice. It's the annual behind-the-track-in-the-pits BBQ.

Wh…

Bling bling but no ching ching

Thought I'd take a short reprieve from the Mind Games series and commiserate with readers about the sad state of affairs in my life.

Tommy Terrific is pouting. He wants the new Felt 29er Comp (shown above) but isn't in the financial position to buy it.

Boo hoohoo.

Such is life as a teaching assistant at U of FL. I'm back into another educational phase of life and extras like $1400 mountain bikes aren't on the radar screen. Maybe in the near future, but not now.

I am a frugal person who doesn't splurge often. But every four or five years, I do like to treat myself with a new bicycle. Since riding the Tour deFelasco mountain bike event a few weeks ago, I have been Jonesing for a new "29er" mountain bike - this mean 29-inch wheels versus the 26-inch standard sizing. The new 29ers are supposed to roll better over rough terrain. Of course, the new models come with hydraulic disc brakes.

Now I'm certain you can see why I must have one of these swift machi…

The life of Lloyd

Here is a photo of my dad, his name is Lloyd. This shot is from 1999, but he pretty much looks this way today.

What I like about Lloyd is that he is a simple man. Never got caught up in the bling-bling of life. Just church, his flower garden, and long morning walks. Being around the house was AOK, and I think he has had a ham sandwich on white bread for lunch for most of the past 50 years.

He's currently in a nursing home, fighting his way back from a hip replacement. Prior to the surgery, he was pretty much reduced to no walking and immobility.

So, the new hip was really the only ticket back.

Life does become an endurance sport. At some time, in some way, we will be fighting back for a recovery in a race that will be every bit at viscous as the roughest ultra we can recall.

I talked to dad this morning and he sounded clear and level headed. Our topic of the day was soda - called "pop" in some northern states. My fave is Diet Mountain Dew. Dad doesn't have a favo…

Mind games: Access the anger

This a strange time for me. My dad, who is 82, went from the hospital to a nursing home to rehab from a hip replacement. My younger brother Rick made the trip back to Wisconsin to look after and care for him, and from his report my dad's progress is slow. It's one painful step and then another, with a long road looming ahead.

I can't envision getting mobility back into a new hip, but I do know what it's like to journey back from ground zero, from a place where some would tell you there is no return. That's me at the left, at St. Francis Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The year was 1992, and I was a guest visitor in the Intensive Care Unit.

The effects of Guillain-Barre Syndrome had racked my system, leaving me paralyzed from head to toe, without the ability to use lung muscles to breathe. So, I was hooked up to a respirator to pump air in and out, in and out, in a long methodical cadence.

I was several weeks into my illness when my body started to reverberate. Musc…

Mind games: Don't drink my Kool-Aid

Over the past several days, I have been expounding on a mental disposition that may move you to the next great place in your ultrarunning journey.

We've been over several of Master Competitor's favorite mind games and as a matter of fact, there are quite a few more to go.

If you enjoy them, fine. Read and wonder and ponder and find your own path to the inner recesses of the mind. Use my concepts like a sharp knife and cut far and deep into the barriers that haunt your conquests.

Of course, you could on the other hand think I'm blowing smoke out of my backside portal, and with that dismiss my thoughts as psychoanalytical rubbish.

And for that, you should win a prize.

I'm surely not the end-all on this type of advice. Actually, I seem to be trumping up the battlefield with more information, adding to the duress and load that already exists. Just like the download from a Garmin or Polar, I'm brain dumping data onto your hard drive.

So, don't drink my Kool-Aid if you don…