Monday, January 9, 2017

Harbison 50k Race Report

This past weekend, I toed the line for my first ever 50k race. Which is kind of amazing when you consider I had the audacity at some point in my life to call myself ultrarunningboy. I had looked up the runners predicted to beat me-there were a lot and the common thread was they all had completed a fair amount of ultras. Meanwhile, I've actually only done two(Pineland Farms 50miler and Leadville 100). Or four if you count my two DNFs at Vermont 100. But I don't so thanks for bringing it up!

Anyway, I had signed up for this race because partially as a tune up, over-mileage training run for my A-race(Columbia marathon in March) but mostly because I LOVE running at Harbison State Forest with some of the best trails anywhere near where I live. I also like running there because there are very few rocks/roots and the ground is some kind of clay that makes running a breeze and you feel like a super hero. Or at least a sidekick. At least when it's not running. Which of course it was on Saturday.

In fact, during the 30 miles of running, it rained, sleeted and briefly snowed. Come on! This is South Carolina! Apparently Mother Nature didn't hear me berating her nor my sobs later in the race when my uncovered hands(I didn't bring any gloves down to SC) started going numb and swell. Oh, I am getting ahead of myself.

So back to the start line...

I had read other runner's race reports saying that the pack took it out super fast so I was prepared to let the leaders go and hope to catch some as the day went on. However, when the gun went off, the pace was fairly leisurely. A group of three of us went through the 5k in around 24-25 minutes and it felt comfortable. I also felt good about my decision about wearing my road marathon running shoes instead of my more grippy but considerably more heavy trail shoes. Right about this time when I was getting confident about the prospects of a podium finish, the trail abruptly changed to that clay I referenced earlier. Not so nice running in it when wet. In fact, the pace slowed markedly as we slid, trudged, and glissaded over the next several miles. The pace still felt very comfortable but now I was started to feel strain in all those little intrinsic muscles that were working overtime trying to stabilize me.

Around mile 9, the leader stepped aside to let me and the other runner go by. We picked up the pace and settled into a good rhythm. Which lasted about 3/4 of a mile before we came to the Bluff Trail. Or as I like to call it Holy Hell What Did I Get Myself Into? trail. The trail is a side cut in a steep bluff which probably isn't terribly scary when dry but very nerve wracking when wet. So much so I half walked, half-hugged trees as I tried to keep myself sliding down into the ravine.

It was about this point when I was thinking that I didn't like Harbison too much nor did I have any plans to run another lap of this. 15 miles was more than adequate for a training run. This feeling was further confirmed when about two miles later the other guy took off like I was standing still(which I may have been) leaving me to run alone in second.

Having no motivation to push myself at this point, I was just looking forward to the turn in towards the finish(or second lap-however you want to look at it). And yet, when I came to the junction in the trail where I knew I needed to take a right turn, the course marshall told me to continue straight.

Danny: Errr, but there is a big WRONG WAY sign going forward.
Course Marshall: Nope, go straight.
Danny: You sure?
Course Marshall: Yes, go straight, right is for the second lap.
Danny: Oh, okay...

And off I went thinking that there must be another turn to take later on. And that is how I managed to go off course on probably the best marked trail race I have ever been on.

And that is also the first reason why I didn't DNF despite my best intentions.

As my GPS went off at mile 17, I grumpily realized I was duped and I wasn't going to be able to drop at the half. However, my plan was to get to the next aid station and drop there.

Unfortunately as I approached, volunteers were cheering happily for me and informing me I was in first place. Huh? This is when I knew I went off course and silently cursed the course marshall while also slightly ecstatic that I how had a justifiable excuse to quit.

And yet... As I was about to quit, I hear Mr Smiley! And I turned to see one of my school's teachers there. She was volunteering at the aid station and spotted me. She proceeded to tell me how she was going to tell all her students how Mr Smiley ran the 50k.

Crap. Now I couldn't quit. And yes, some of the students call me Mr Smiley as a way to differentiate me from another skinny browned haired staff member.

So instead of doing as planned and quitting nobly, I grabbed a full sleeve of Oreos, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and trudged on. Yes they really do serve that at ultra races. No, I didn't let a single one go to waste.

Bolstered, albeit slightly, from the cheers and the spike in my glycemic index, I started moving. Or so I thought until I was passed at mile 19 by the guy who had already passed me once. After asking him what mile he had on his watch[20.3], I realized I was a full 1.3 miles behind.

Some of you out there might be thinking that this fact would have been disheartening, but no. In fact, this lifted my spirits. Why? Well, because that meant that instead of 11 more miles I had less than 10. Anyone can run/walk ten miles. So I did just that. I ran all the uphills and most of the flatter flats and walked/slid the downhills. Well and nearly crawled that half mile of the Bluff Trail that second lap.

After what seemed like forever, I finally came on the finish line and poor Kenny who had been out there waiting for 3 hours(thinking she'd see me at the half). I explained how I missed the out/back on the first lap and therefore was disqualified to the race director. I said this with a mixture of relief for being done and trepidation. The trepidation was justified as he did what I somewhat expected he might, which was to tell me I could do the out and back now and get a finishing time based on that.

Crap. So after running ~28.7 miles, I had to turn around and do that out and back, where I passed the course marshall now for the third time, gave him my angriest stare-downs and then headed back to the finish.

Certainly not the time that I was expecting, but I was happy with the effort and, in retrospect, glad that the course marshall sent me off course. Otherwise I would have ended my day prematurely.

But the day was not yet done!  After heading home and quickly showering(as quickly as a octogenarian feeling, mud-covered person can), Kenny and I headed back out to Pawley's Front Porch because I had a date with a burger challenge. The challenge, for which you get a steak knife on their walls and a gift certificate, was to eat three half pound bacon cheeseburgers and fries in under 30 minutes.

The timer stopped at 24 minutes. No I did not DNF this one. I stopped because I had finished. Finally! Something I'm good at and very little chances of getting lost:)

All in all, a great Saturday. I hope all of yours were too.

Until next time,


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Danny's Predicted Finish Time at Harbison 50K This Weekend

Okay, so I know I was just writing about how I've gotten soft. BUT I was just on the Ultrasignup website for Harbison 50k this Saturday to see who else is racing and it gave my projected finish and time.

Drumroll please....

6:03:26 which would have me finishing in 39th place! I'm sorry 39th male, 48th overall.

I'm not typically overly competitive and usually like races more to challenge myself than others but 48th place?!?!?!

At a trail race with less than 200 racers? I. DON'T. THINK. SO.

Now looking at some of the entrants ahead of me does make me think a podium finish isn't likely with my current fitness and their recent good results, but still I'm certainly not going to be happy with a 6:03:26. That's pretty much the pace I ran a marathon on snowshoes. I may be soft but I'm NOT that soft.

In fact, I won't be happy with anything slower than 4:44:44 which was my first ever marathon and one I managed to walk the last 8 miles or so. After running the first half marathon with Rollerblades in my backpack. Haven't hear that story? Next time you see me, I'll tell you the details:) Bottom line I'll roll myself down the hills if I have to to not fulfill this horrendous prediction.

Now I'm riled up and hopefully don't go out too fast and have to walk it in and fulfill the predictions. That would be just like me. At least when I hit the low parts of the race, I'll think back to this blog and hopefully it'll encourage me to keep moving. We will see.

Until then,


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Living in South Carolina Makes You Soft

Well hello!

This is the first year in a long time that I haven't written anything about New Year's resolutions. Not that I don't have any but just that I've been busy. To read up on my suggestions on how to resolve to live a healthy happy life, feel free to check back on previous years.

2016 was a whirl-wind of activities. A lot good, some not so good. Over all though, another great year to be alive.

My resolutions include running more and drinking less. In fact, I am shooting to run 2,017 miles this year. So far I am at 12. Seems like a long way to travel, but so do most journeys that are worth taking.

This weekend will be helpful with my first ever 50k race scheduled for this Saturday. I suspect this past week of 0 miles of running while in NH and NYC(Kenny and I spent NYE in Times Square-surprisingly fun), will not help the outcome.

Also not helpful: living in SC. Why you ask? Because running here is easy. Nice weather, and fairly flat terrain. AND the beer flows like wine. Breweries are plentiful and seem always to be beckoning. Add in the fact that you don't have to spend hours stacking wood or shoveling and you can see how easy it is to get soft. And soft I have become. I noticed this on my first run back in NH. My legs and lungs felt like junk on a hill that I, at one point, wouldn't have even noticed. Hence my resolutions.

Anyway, just wanted to wish everyone a happy new year and hope that each of you have resolved to live a happier and healthier life in 2017.

Until next time,


Monday, December 12, 2016

Physical Activity and Your Child's Academic Performance-Get Fit to Get Smart!

After several years working exclusively as an outpatient physical therapist, I returned to school-based therapy when I returned from Guyana. So far I am loving it. It has been a great experience and some days I cannot believe I get paid to play all day. However, there is one thing that I had forgotten about: how much of the day students sit. 

Students sit and sit and sit. And then teachers are surprised that they don't act well. As a physical therapist, I want to yell: Get up and move! But I work only with the students in special ed, so it's not my place, right? Not so fast. Evidence backs me up. 

We all know a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of early morbidity and mortality and don’t you think that those behaviors start as a child? Plus, it is well-established that physical activity and sports have a positive effect on children's physical health. Regular participation in physical activity in childhood is associated with a decreased cardiovascular risk in youth and adulthood. 

In an age where 1/3rd of our children are obese and 1/12th have or will have diabetes, this should be justification enough. But there’s more! Numerous studies have looked at the effects of physical activity  and its beneficial effects on many mental health outcomes, including quality of life and improved mood states. Throw in better coping strategies, self-esteem and lower rates of anxiety and depression and physical activity at school seems a no-brainer!

Beyond mental and physical health outcomes, evidence has begun to emerge supporting a link between physical activity, cognitive function, and academic achievement. Cardiorespiratory fitness, speed-agility, motor coordination, and perceptual-motor skill all appear to be associated with improvements in cognitive and academic performance. A meta-analysis published in 2013, suggested that while physical activity in general improved cognitive outcomes, the largest effect size was with cardiovascular exercise. This is consistent with Lees and Hopkins’ study that revealed aerobic physical activity to be positively associated with cognition, academic achievement, behavior, and psychosocial functioning outcomes (Lees). Being cardiovascularly healthy improves their brain function!  

A review article in the Journal of American Medicine Pediatrics summarized the hypothesized rationale for improved academic performance with higher levels of physical activity. They cited that there are three hypothesized mechanisms which include (1) increased blood and oxygen flow to the brain; (2) improvement in mood and reduction of stress due to increased levels of norepinephrine and endorphins and/or (3) increased growth factors that help to create new nerve cells and support synaptic plasticity. By increasing a child’s physical activity levels, we are in turn allowing them an improvement in their learning potential while decreasing their stress.

Although schools are able to offer unique opportunities for structured physical activity for children, there is a tendency to cut back physical education and reduce the amount of physical activity afforded students during the school day. The increasing pressures to improve academic scores often lead to additional instructional time for subjects such as mathematics and language at the cost of time for being physically active. Integrating physical activity into the classroom may increase learning and offset the decreasing physical education classes and recess. One recent systematic review found that physically active academic lessons of moderate intensity improved overall performance on a standardized test of academic achievement by 6% compared to a decrease of 1% for controls.

I am in the process of proposing a kinesthetic learning lab for the elementary school that I work at. This would allow students that opportunity to be active while learning through a variety of aerobic exercise machines and activities. The hope would be that this would help supplement the limited physical education and short recess offerings that they get throughout the week. It’s in its infancy but I am very excited about the possibility of helping improve both wellness and academic performance.

Here’s the thing though, schools cannot do it all. Parents need to be on board to promote and model healthy behaviors and physical activity at home. Which can be tricky.  You work all day and just want to relax when you get home. But this really is time when you can model healthful behaviors for your children. Go for a walk, play outside or(if you live up north) make a snowman. The key is to instill upon them a love of the outdoors and being active so they want to do it.

Together we can create a healthier and smarter next generation.

Until next time,


Monday, December 5, 2016

Rudolph's Rampage

This past weekend, Kenny and I headed back to Harbison State Forest to try our hands at Rudolph’s Rampage Half-Marathon. I was looking for redemption after getting lost during the Hairy Bison 15k. Kenny was looking to complete her first trail half-marathon with her goal to “not walk”.

We arrived early with the intent of warming up. However the cold temperature kept us in the car until right before the start. Yes, I realize that it’s snowing in New England right now, but I swear that 40 degrees feels like it’s freezing. That’s what a year in Guyana will do to youJ

It was an interesting start to the race with 10k racers starting 2 minutes before us. In theory, you’d expect that they’d be running a bit faster but in reality, we still had to get through all the back of the back racers. In fact, when we took off, the first three miles or so were spent off/on trail getting around the herds. A group of three of us took the lead and starting making the passes. We actually ended up passing each and every 10k runner in those first three miles. At mile 4 or so, we dropped one runner so now it was down to two of us. At the half-way mark, I could still hear number 2 but not see him. By mile 7, I was running alone.

I settled into a comfortable pace and just ran enjoying myself while trying to keep the pace high enough not to get caught. Every once in a while, a mountain biker would come up on me and I’d panic thinking I was getting caught by a runner and I’d do a little pick-up only to see I was mistaken. The course was very well marked and despite my natural inclination to get lost, I did not. I finished with a time of 1:28:38 for first.

I grabbed a long sleeved shirt and headed back out on the trail to cheer on Kenny. Having never done a half-marathon on trails before, she had asked me what would be a good time for her. I took her 15k pace and figured that out for a half so I told her a 2:04. Not having a watch as I was running, I didn’t know what the elapsed time was as I ran back towards her. At mile 12, I came upon her looking strong and smiling brightly. Meanwhile, I was starting to bonk. I tried keeping up with her to run her in that last mile but I could not. Luckily, I knew a short cut and met her at the finish.

She managed to beat my expectations with an awesome  2:01:33 for a 5th place overall female finish. Based on how smoothly she was running, I am guessing she didn’t leave it all out there on the trails. Meanwhile, those two extra miles left me gassed.

I am running the Harbison 50k the first week in January and that “cool-down” was discouraging. I cannot imagine running another 17 miles. Oh boy, guess I better start up with some long runs.

In addition to eating my calories back in donuts, I got a free pair of sunglasses and a gift certificate for Fleet Feet for the win. I'd say it was worth the effort especially for such a fun race. 

Until next time,


Monday, November 28, 2016

Wrong Way Ferreira Strikes Yet Again!

I was jinxed. On the eve of a 15k trail race down here in lovely South Carolina, my good friend, Rich, commented on a photo I was tagged in on Facebook. It was the RI 6 hour race where I went off course and cost the team precious minutes(which we, of course, were able to make up but nevertheless became ammunition for Rich over the next years where I did continue to find ways to get off course).

So he makes that comment Friday night and Saturday morning about 6 miles into my race, I made a wrong turn which resulted in an extra half mile run and dropped me out of the top three.

 In fairness, there more than 2 people ahead of me but several of them were running the 30k so weren't directly competing. Yes that's right. There were people running twice the distance than me at a faster pace than me.
The Hairy Bison
Despite getting lost it was a fun race. The Harbison Trail Runners who put it on are hilarious. They have a hairy bison mascot, a funny pre-race introduction and Monty Python characters handing out water in Buffalo nickles at the only aide station on the course. There are NO course markers out there which likely contributed to my getting losted. I must note that the other few hundred runners did not seem to struggle with this.

I could have gone off course by a few miles and still had a great last few weeks. My parents came down from NH and we showed the around SC. Tailgated and went to a USC football, took them to our favorite restaurants.

USC's band

Hiked at Harbison and Congaree National Park.

A fallen tree from Hurricane Matthew
My brother and his girlfriend came over for Thanksgiving and stayed most of the weekend which was really nice and made me want to make sure I get him out my way more often. Maybe with more golfing:)

Jinxed is a relative term. I may have the worst sense of direction but I would say my life is anything but. I am blessed with all the people and adventures in my life and am thankful to be able to draw in each and every clean breath of air. I am likely to get lost again on the trails but I know where I belong.

Until next time,