Friday, February 17, 2017

Taper Time

There are 15 days remaining until my A race on March 4th. I will be toeing the line at the Columbia Marathon where I hope to run my first sub-three hour marathon in almost two years. Last year's marathon running in the tropics yielded a best performance of 3:03 at the Trinidad Marathon last January. The year before I didn't even race a marathon. As you can surmise from last blog post about Nashville, my training has been sporadic. I've had some pretty good weeks and then some with barely any miles.

This is usually the time where I panic and start thinking that I can somehow miraculously gain fitness in these last two weeks which will NOT do that and only leave me depleted come race day. So instead, I'm going to get in one last long run this Sunday and then start a true taper.

It's amazing that it takes a marathon to get me to truly think about health, but that's what these last two weeks are all about. Part of my taper will be decreasing my running miles, but a bigger part is to eat and drink healthy. Which basically means no alcohol, refined sugar and eating plenty of veggies. This actually will be fairly easy since I've already pretty much eliminated both alcohol and the refined sugar. The more difficult part is the coffee taper.

If you didn't already know, caffeine is a performance enhancing drug. But to optimize its effect, you need to not have a tolerance to it. Meaning if you usually drink two cups a day and expect any effect by taking in a GU with caffeine, you'll most likely be disappointed with the (lack of) results. However, studies have shown that as little as seven days of abstaining can result in an improvement in the effect of caffeine on race day. So as of next Friday, I'll be coffee-free. Might be a good week to avoid any form of contact with me.

Despite some missed long runs and any form of tempo or speed work, I did get in a few decent long runs and feel pretty good about this marathon. 26.2 miles is a long way to travel no matter what and there is always things that can go wrong but I'll take them as they come and hopefully have good news to report.

Until next time,


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

48 Hours in Nashville

$30 for parking seemed to be a bad omen for our trip to Nashville as we circled Broadway one last time before begrudgingly parting with the equivalent of a meal at Publico or a few rounds of beers. We had just arrived from the airport at 11pm and were headed to Broadway to meet my brother and his girlfriend. Would this be another NYC weekend of overpriced beers and undernourishing food?

Luckily this was not the case. Our parking fee was the only thing about the weekend that didn't go well. We quickly met Andrew and Vicky and after walking the strip a bit settled into a open air bar where we could surreptitiously people watch. Which was, in itself, worth it. The best way I could describe Nashville is a, somewhat, cleaner version of New Orleans with a little Vegas thrown in there. It was a fun first night's introduction. 

Some time before dawn but while after dusk, our heads finally found our hotel pillows for a few hours of sleep before a day of pain. 

The pain come in the form of consumption, first with the XXhot sauce of Nashville's famous hot chicken at Pepperfire which burned to such a degree from just the sample that both Andrew and I settled for the mildest option. That didn't change the 20+ minutes of burning that lingered.

The second burning sensation came during a Whiskey distillery tour. Not much of a whiskey drinker, this tour made me want to be one. All the history, the cool oak barrels, and the manliness of ordering a drink that can double as lighter fluid. However, this desire to pickle my liver was quickly extinguished with the first sip, nay sniff, of whisky. The tour guide described it as a warm hug, but I tell you it was closer to what I imagine drinking fire must feel like.

Despite these painful experiences, it was fun touring the city and seeing both the downtown as well as the Opry section of town. Which Kenny and I actually went to. The Grand Ole Opry that is. Not being much of a country fan didn't negatively impact the experience. It was really neat to see the variety of performers as well as the sporadic live advertisements tossed in for the radio audience. It was fun to be a part of.

The next day involved more eating, this time at Jack Brown's Beer and Burger Joint. The selection included an Elvis burger, a Danny Caruso(jalapeno and cream cheese topped), a Greg Brady(mac and cheese and BBQ chips topped) and the one I selected which had a glazed donut as the bun. Yes it may have been a little gluttonous but it sure was delicious.

We somehow managed to waddle ourselves over to the only full-size replica of Greece's Parthenon which houses a 42 foot replica of the goddess Athena. An interesting way to end our 48 hours in Nashville.

Now I better getting running to burn off all the calories accumulated this weekend.

Until next time,


Friday, February 10, 2017

Hallucination 6 Hour Race

This past weekend, Kendra and I headed over to Charleston, SC ostensibly for me to run a six hour race. For those of you wise enough to not know what this is, a six hour race is exactly what it sounds. Running for six hours. In this case around a lake on a 2.3ish mile flat jeep road. I planned to use this race to force me to get a long run in as I have not had great success doing that on my own with all the traveling we've been doing lately.

I had no idea how to pace for this time because if you run harder you still have to keep going. So I settled into 7:30's with another guy who just moved down to Charleston from outside of Boston. As I always discover, the world really is quite small with us having shared acquaintances. We settled in to chit chatting and ran stride for stride for the first 90 minutes or so. At that point Kenny joined us for a lap(pacers were allowed at any point). The three of us ran another two laps or two and then we split up just to give ourselves some space thinking we'd see each other again over the remaining four hours.

Soon thereafter, probably around the time I was running backwards talking to Kenny, I strained my hip flexor(which I had previously irritated at the Charlotte half marathon a few weeks ago). This was around mile 22-23. Kenny and I slowed it down a little but for fear that I would make it work we soon settled into a walk. A lap like that really put us off pace but then we decided to make a game of it but doing lunges or short sprints interspersed with walking. It got us moving a bit faster without irritating my hip. When I hit the 30 mile mark in 4:15, I decided I had had enough and we decided that a 255 minute race would suffice and any longer was just asking for doing myself a disservice from a training standpoint.

After a brief discussion with Lazarus, the notorious race director of the equally notorious Barkley Marathon, about Nashua women's basketball in the 1980's no less(I was racing in my Gate City Striders singlet), Kenny and I headed to Charleston where we had a great race of our day exploring a few breweries, a brief stop at an Oyster festival in Mount Pleasant and then a great dinner.

We awoke the next morning and both felt good enough to do a short shake out run over the Charleston bridge and then headed back to Columbia in time for the amazing Superbowl.

 Which Kenny slept through. But what an amazing game!

And another fun week.

This weekend we're headed out to Nashville with my brother Andrew so no long runs but Andrew did tell me that he found a food eating challenge out there I may have to accept:)

Until next time,


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Not all who wander are lost. Unless you are Wrongway Ferreira

My mom traces back my wayward ways to one Sunday at church. Before Sunday school she had told me that she'd meet me at the back of the church so we could all sit together during mass. As time approached, she looked around for her 7 or 8 year old boy and couldn't find me anywhere along the back wall, in the back pews or in the back waiting room. After probably a few moments of excitement about the prospect of losing her burdensome middle son(I joke. I think.), it occurred to her to look around the back of the church. And there I was waiting impatiently amongst the bushes apparently flabbergasted at her obvious  tardiness. And thus it began. Or born again as Wrong-Way Ferreira.

In actuality, I have an even early memory of getting lost. I don't actually know if it's a memory or a memory of a dream, but I vividly remember getting lost in a lobby of a hotel and having to depend on the kindness of strangers, like Blanche, to find my family. The fact that in the memory, I was in a fancy hotel and the woman who helped me was elegantly dressed, I suspect it was a memory but who knows. It certainly wouldn't be unusual for that to happen to me.

Over the years, I'd get lost on nearly a regular basis; relying heavily on maps and later GPS for routes(like that to my Connecticut cousins) that I traveled dozens of times. I learned to budget in some getting lost time into my trips but more importantly to embrace getting lost. I have found some pretty amazing places(like a natural hotspring in Iceland or more recently a cool state park outside of Myrtle Beach) when lost. Especially in an age of more and more connectedness where everyone is reading the same Tripadvisor recommendations and following the same Google maps, it's really nice to just wander and have some time to wonder. Sorry that was bad. Anyway, I would certainly recommend at some time to just get out there and get lost. And see what you can find.

However, I DO NOT recommend doing so during a race. Or a hike. Or when trying to get home to your rented villa in Portugal well after midnight.

Here's a list of just some of the memorable wrong ways I've taken:

Rhode Island 6 Hour Relay: As part of a six member relay team, I had a simple task. Run a 2.5 mile paved bike path as fast as I could. Check. Apparently, I needed more instructions. Like stay on the path. Instead, I followed a guy who was warming up for his leg, and only after about 20 minutes and not returning to the start did I realized I had gone off course. Luckily the rest of my acidotic RACING team was fast enough to make up the time I had squandered but the nickname Wrongway Ferreira was born.

Shortly after RI-6, I entered the Pisgah Trail race in probably close to the best running shape of my life. A few miles into it it was only me and Justin Fyffe out in front. He would usually have been several minutes in front of me but I think he was training for another race and using it as a training run. Either way, we ran and talked for several miles together only to come across the aid station from the wrong side. After learning where we had gone wrong, Justin took off leaving me trudging past back of  the packers trying to make up for the lost miles. One of the few races where I got lost and added miles.

Usually what has happened is when I get lost, my brain or body finds path of least resistance(or at least shortest distance). Most recently I cut off 1.3 miles of the Harbison 50k and last year I loped off a whooping 10k from the Guyana Marathon. That was a painful one since I DQ'd myself and the two runners trailing me making myself ineligible for the cool locally made Amerindian prizes.

 I also lost out on a possible podium finish at the Kingman Farm Snowshoe race, but I cannot be blamed for this one, as I was closely following the leaders. Still disappointing but I certainly took solace in the fact that, for once, I did not lead others astray.

I did, however, lead my buddy Miles astray during our epic winter hike of the Tripyramids. After a fun but possible breakneck glissade of the 1,000+ foot North Slide, we over-judged the turn to the trail and wound up in thigh deep heavy snow drifts trudging several extra miles back to our car.

There was another time I added miles in a race and that was a very unfortunate experience as it happened about 80 miles into the Leadville 100. I took a wrong turn and ended up coming upon a group of runners that I had passed an hour before. After getting back on track and re-running what I had backtracked on, I estimated I added 2-4 miles to this 100 mile day. Not one of my better experiences.

And it's not just running! I got lost during the Beverly Triathlon both on the bike AND the run. I thought I was crushing it as I was out in the lead, but an ambiguous(to me at least) direction arrow had me off course in no time. I ended up with 2 extra miles on the bike but 3 short on the run. What fun!

Oh and then there's the getting lost at an indoor track race. Well not lost so much as it's only possible equivalent. Miscounting my laps. An indoor 5k is 25 laps(yes, I know. That is awful and something I hope never to replicate). Well I must have liked it so much that I ended up doing a 26th. Nice.

Which brings me to Portugal. After a night out on the town, my two brothers and I somehow split up and I was left to find my way home. No problem. I knew the place was on top of the hill. So in true Ferreira fashion, I took off at a near-sprint at 2am up the hill only to get to the top and be totally lost. Crap. Wrong hill. The correct one was about two miles away but down and back up a valley. Filled with sawgrass and cows. Suffice it to say, the next morning when I awoke, I had lots of painful cuts all over my legs and smelling like what the cat dragged in. .

I would say that is enough misturns during races. I am attempting a 6 hour trail race this weekend which pretty much means I'll be doing the same 2.25 mile loop as many times as I can in that time. I hope that I stay the course but you can trust I'll let you know if I don't.

Until next time,


Monday, January 23, 2017

Charlotte Running Company Trail Half-Marathon

This past Saturday, I ran a trail half marathon at the US Whitewater Training Center outside of Charlotte. This was probably one of the biggest trail races I've ever done with over 370 finishers at the half marathon distance which also had a simulataneous nine mile race. From looking at my GPS after the race, you would have thought wrong-way Ferreira struck again, but for once, I was able to stay on course. The course just happened to be over two miles short.

Which wouldn't have been a problem except 1) I had entered this race as a good mid-distance tempo training run for my upcoming marathon so mileage did matter and 2) I was pacing myself for 13 so when three people passed me at what I thought was mile 10, I wasn't concerned thinking I had 3 miles to catch back up.

As it was I got an abbreviated training run in, a worse place finish than I probably could have had I known the distance, and a tweaked left hip from slipping all over the wet clay ground. I can't say that it was a good training day and since I've now had to take off a few days to recuperate from my hip strain, I definitely set myself back a bit. Oh well. At least I got a cool sweatshirt from the race.

Hopefully, I'll only be out of commission a couple days and will be back on track since I'm now only six weeks out from the Columbia Marathon. I have one more long training run scheduled for Feb 4th and after that it's all about maintaining fitness and healthy until the marathon.

On a side-note, Kenny and I are heading to Myrtle Beach for the weekend so hopefully I'll have a more interesting thing to write about next week:)

Until then,


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,