Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ulm Half Marathon Race Report

The time had come.  It was time that I finally run a race here in Montana.  Ok, ok, I had planned this half marathon for the past few months, but it kind of snuck up on me.  I hadn't pre-registered and didn't carb load, or abstain from alcoholic beverages the two nights beforehand.  I didn't have a plan for the race, I just kinda figured I'd get some miles in.

This particular race is held outside of the bustling metropolis of Ulm, Montana at the First People's Buffalo Jump.  You know, a buffalo jump, where Native Americans would herd buffalo and run them off of cliffs.  My dad made the joke that they were gonna run us runners off of the cliff.  He's very funny once you get to know him.  It's located about 30 minutes from my house via 10 miles of gravel road and some local paved roads.  The plan was to get up about 6:30 for the 9:00 start time, however that got changed a bit since I didn't get to bed until 1:00 AM.  I was out the door by 7:40 after eating a banana and drinking some water.  I also stole a powerade from my folk's fridge.  I decided to take the backroads to the race instead of going into Great Falls and the interstate, even though I would get my newly washed truck a little dirty.  The reason for this detour will be the subject of an upcoming post (teaser anyone?).  

I arrived at 8:15 AM and only 10-15 people were milling around the visitor's center.  I registered (40 bucks!!!  Little pricey) and waited around for the start.  They also handed me a map of the course as if I would be out front leading this mania.  I checked it over and got my phone to take some pics, since I don't have Amy around anymore to take pictures for me.  

This was from the edge of the parking lot looking back to the start/finish line.  Notice how smallish the parking lot suggests this race is.  This race was a fundraiser for the University of Great Falls cross country team, so there were a lot of skinny, pale white dudes running around the place.  The one thing that was great was that this was the FIRST race of 2009 for me where it wasn't raining!  It was great except that it was 80+ degrees outside by the end of the run.

Start line...or shall I say, start cone.  I liked it.  

Finish cone.  Shortest half marathon I'd been to as they were only 10 yards from each other.  Hee hee.  Notice how crappy of a photographer I am?  Stupid pudding head can't get his own shadow out of a picture.  What a dork.  

This is my attempt at getting the mountains.  A bit of a failure.  I guess I should try to get a real camera instead of my stupid camera phone.  As you can see, bright and sunny!

So after waiting around for 45 minutes, the RD lined us up at the start cones and gave us some pre-race instructions.  Here they were:  
  1. There is a baby antelope on the course.  The mom only comes around in the afternoon.  Please don't disrupt the baby antelope.  
  2. (The following was after a short exchange between the RD and the worker at the State Park)  Oh, yeah.  There are TONS of rattlesnakes in this area due to the number of gophers.  Please stay on the roads.
  3. Course description.  Including the words 'gradual hill'.  I'll get to this gem later.
So after the warnings about snakes and angry antelope mamas, the RD said go and off we went.  The first 4 miles or so are downhill on pavement leading into downtown Ulm.  These miles were fairly uneventful except for my 'are we done yet?' joke.  No chuckles.  I'm a dork.  The race then takes a sharp left hand turn in Ulm and goes from pavement to very loose and large gravel.  This is the best maintained country gravel road in Cascade county, I swear.  Most of the time the roads are made up of hard dirt and potholes.  I need to figure out how they get good maintenance and the roads in my part of the county suck.  This gravel was not good for running, however, and there were many slippages.  Halfway between miles 4 and 5 was the 'gradual hill' that the RD mentioned.  He seemed to shrug it off as this harmless little bump in the road that isn't that hard.  I know the first 4 miles we lost a ton of elevation, so I knew there would be hills, but I didn't think we'd gain it all back in one mile.  Yes, this stupid hill was a mile long with at least a 4% grade the entire way.  Also, to make things a little tougher, we were going into a 12 mph wind.  Nothing like going up a hill and into the wind.  There was also the whiff of some sort of carcass that wasn't too pleasing.  

Look at that damned hill.  Gradual my ass.

The course leveled off and turned into some rolling hills, although the footing didn't get any better.  It was difficult to find the most compacted route to run in.  I kept weaving from the left to the right and back to the left of the road.  I did have to negotiate passing a tractor that was out spraying some wheat.  It was a mighty game of chicken, but in the end I dodged.

As there were only about 50 runners, it was a little lonely out on the course.  I did talk to a dude that passed me at about mile 9.  He seemed to be a little less stressed as I was and he ended up going ahead of me, but it was nice to chat it up with someone after not seeing too many people.  

The course headed back to the state park, but first it had to do a loop up the hill that leads to the top of the buffalo jump.  This can be seen by the little blip right before the 11.5 mark.  This, my friends, was almost the end of Craig as you know him.  I was sweaty, hot, thirsty, and tired.  I did not want to go up this hill, but the site of more runners (the 10 k started at 10 AM, and we shared the final part of the course) gave me a boost.  I like passing people and this was my chance.  We headed back down the hill and towards the start of the race.  A 10k runner passed me and I noticed he didn't have a shirt on.  I thought this guy knows what he's doing, so for the first time in a race, I ran shirtless.  It was very liberating.  I especially liked that a photographer took a picture of this pale skinned, farmer-tanned, white boy as he finished.  Awesome.  So, in the end, I finished in 1:45.  Not a PR by any means, but good enough for 4th overall and a decent training run.

Now I have to complain about the water stops.  This race started in 75 degree heat, so we need water and gatorade.  The first station at mile 3 had two people handing out dixie cups of water.  These cups held about TWO ounces of water.  I needed some water and I got TWO OUNCES.  I learned my lesson and the next water stops I actually stopped, chugged water and refilled while chatting with the kids that were manning them.  Much nicer.  Oh, and no gatorade or anything, just water.  

So, there, I'm done.  First race in Montana.  I'm glad it didn't rain, didn't like the heat, but all in all a good small town race.  There is another half in a month I may run.  It's along the river, so it's very flat.  We'll see.  

Sunday, May 24, 2009


First I would like to congratulate the Vandy baseball team for getting into the championship game at the SEC tournament.  I'm a little upset because it's a double elimination tournament and we only lost in the championship game to LSU, who we beat the in the first round.   Shouldn't we play another game?  I think this should be changed...I guess I'll do it when I'm commissioner of the SEC.

So, this is about my latest plateau.  I just posted this in a thread at Runningahead...

I think I've hit a running plateau as of late.  I feel more fatigued, I can't keep my +30-60 second marathon pace for as long as I could in the past, I'm not having as much fun, and I find it a struggle to get out and run.

There are a few things that may have played a part in this plateauing...
  1.  I recently moved from 500 feet in elevation to 4,200.  Not only do I have this altitude change, but the wind blows CONSTANTLY and the first mile out of my house has a 300 ft. elevation increase.
  2. I gave blood three weeks ago before the move.
  3. I lost my training partner and have been running alone the past three weeks.
  4. My headphone wires keep getting caught in the wind and my camelbak, resulting in me having to adjust my headphones constantly.  I may have to quit running with music.
  5. I went from a pretty sedentary job (grad research) to a vigorous job (ranching, thus lots of physical labor, and the hours are long).
  6. I've started to lift weights.
  7. I run/lift after work.
Does anyone have any suggestions about how to bust through this?   You can take a look at my log.  I have a marathon on August 1st and am trying to get in a lot of 50-70 mile weeks the next few weeks.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rooney Rule

Disclaimer:  This post is NOT about running or wine. 

I am not a fan of the NFL's Rooney Rule.  This rule states that a team, when in the process of hiring a head coach, must interview a minority candidate.  On the surface, this may make me out to be racially insensitive, but let's take a look at it from a different angle.  

Let's say that you are the owner of the Oakland Raiders.  You haven't had a winning season since you went to the super bowl in 2003.  All of a sudden Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, becomes available.  Not only do you want him as your head coach, but he wants to coach the Raiders as well.  This dude has won 3 super bowls, so you KNOW he is qualified to be the head coach of an NFL team.  Instead of just offering him the job, you have to interview a minority candidate in order to fulfill the Rooney Rule.  I think this is degrading to the person in which you interview.  Do you keep an African-American coach on speed dial for these occasions?  I understand that there are very few African-American coaches in the NFL, however I do not think that instating a mandatory interview process will accomplish the goal that the owners think they will achieve.  I, maybe a bit naively, think that a team will hire THE BEST COACH POSSIBLE, whether he be black, white, green, or purple.  I know there is racism in the 21st century, but a team that does not hire the best head coach possible will have very little fan support.  Persons wishing to become head coaches in the NFL must pay their dues and progress at a rate that makes them stand out in the eyes of the owners.  (As a side note, I do believe there is a problem in the number of minority assistant coaches in the NFL.  I do think owners need to somehow think of solving that issue)  

Now to why I'm posting this.  The owners are about to expand the Rooney Rule to General Managers.  Thus, when hiring a new GM, teams must interview a minority candidate.  I think the same rule applies here.  I have no idea as to how many black (and let's face it, we are talking about African-Americans rather than any other minority group) GMs there are in the NFL, but I don't think a mandatory interview process is going to work.  I know there are qualified black candidates out there.  I mean if the Lions can go with Matt Millen forever, then they sure as hell can find a qualified minority candidate.  

I don't support the Rooney Rule, I don't support term limits, and I sure as hell don't support Tom Cable as the coach of the Raiders (At the powerhouse that is the University of Idaho, he obtained a record of 11-35, where he lost to Montana 4 times).  

I think there should be a Montana rule that states a team, when searching for a new QB, should have to try out at least one runner/wine drinker/rancher.

Sorry about this vent.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Sorry folks, but this is going to be a quickie.  I'm just getting tired from starting work at 7 each day and then running and sometimes lifting after work.  Not much time to decompress and let the legs recover, but I'm trying.

I went to the gym today thinking I was going to do some chest and bicep lifts, but as I was doing bench I thought that today might be a good day to do some leg stuff.  I took Saturday off, ran 9.4 on Sunday and 8.4 yesterday so I thought this may not be a great idea, however there is no time like the present to do something.  All of my lifting life I have HATED two things:  leg days and ab work.  Can't stand them.  After my last marathon, I decided that maybe doing some lower body strength training will give me that extra boost later in the race when I need it the most.  

So today I lifted before I ran.  I did some squats, Romanian dead lifts, leg curls, and leg extensions...all at 3 sets of 15 reps.  I've decided that for my strength training I'm going to keep my repetition range at 12-17, which would encourage muscle recruitment rather than pure strength training.  Curls and extensions are not a problem, however I hate squats.  Dunno why, it may be because for a three month period in high school whenever I lifted a ton of weight on squat and leg press I would get intense migraine headaches (which was due to a freak digging grave/backhoe accident).  Thus, I hate them.  I finished my three sets and washed my hands of that exercise until next week.  

Interesting things I noticed about my leg lifts today were:  minor, no thought knee injuries are brought to the forefront during leg curls, I'm not as strong as I used to be, my hammies are wussies, and again, naked old men are gross.

I ran 6+ miles after my lift (I would usually run before my lifts, but for some reason I wanted to get into the gym, I may have seen a cute girl, who knows).  The run was fine, a new route through the metropolis that is Great Falls, MT.  A few hills, lots of wind, you know, the norm for this part of the country.

Has anyone here done any lower body strength training while in the midst of a marathon?  If so, what sort of exercises/sets/reps did you do?

I'm out.  I have a few fence posts to pound tomorrow...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Apparently this is a running AND WINE Blog

I am sorry for you winos out there as I have been neglecting you as of late.  My stupid marathon seemed important, and I was out partying in Nashville, so I haven't been drinking from my cellar as of late.  If you live in Nashville or are visiting, please go out to Flyte.  They have a great wine selection, both by the bottle and glass.  Try the St. Urbans Hof Riesling on their list.  Superb.  

So tonight is the first night in awhile where I opened a bottle.  It's Friday night, and I've been busy working on the ranch this week, so I decided to open a bottle.  This past week I unloaded my cellar (81 bottles) into my parent's place.  I've tried to keep mum on how much I actually have, and it took up a lot of space in my closet.  (I live in the basement below ground level, so I think those wines will keep rather well, even in the summer).  So the wines are about 5 high stacked, so I tried to put the wines on top that I plan to drink soon.  Tonight happened to be the 2007 Domaine La Garrigue Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Romaine. 

Domaine De La Garrigue Cotes Du Rhone Cuvee Romaine 2005 from Labels at Wine Library

This was a great QPR wine at $11.99.  My decanter was a little dirty, so I just opened the bottle and let it breathe while I went on a run.  (See I can have a running and wine post!)  

On the nose this wine displays a big dust and leather component.  I love that.  Have I mentioned I LOVE earth, dirt, dust, leather?  I love that in my wine.  I'm not a big fruit fan, but if it tastes/smells like a cow, I'll probably like it.  Seriously.  Blend a cow hide and make it into a liquid, I'll rate it 90+ points.  This wine had a nice dark fruit aroma as well, with some plum and a little strawberry.

The initial attack displayed the leather and dirt component I love.  This slowly transitioned into the plum/mushroom flavor.  Awesome.  The back end had some tobacco and spice.  It was especially spicy with food, which was some pork chops along with spaghetti with a dark beef based sauce.  Great long finish with that dust and bitter component lasting awhile.  Not a bad wine for the price at all.  

I'm glad I have 3 more bottles!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Trail Running on the Range

Trail running while at home really isn't trail running.  I guess it would be more cross country running than anything.  There are cow trails to follow, but those buggers pretty much just go in a straight line to wherever it is they want to go, which is a little on the boring side.  I like to zigzag around and try to cover as much area as possible, mainly to ensure I get the milage I need for that particular day.

I've really never run on the ranch before.  I've run on the highway, but the 70 mph speed limit is a bit intimidating for the runner, especially with the narrow shoulder.  I got in late from doing some field work, had some dinner, and was off to run.  I didn't get out until 8, so I only had about 50 minutes until sundown.  I decided to run along one of our machinery roads that leads to some hay and wheat fields.  I started by running around each individual field, below the road.  This would give me some nice downhill slopes to negotiate.  It's been a pretty cold, wet (snow yesterday morning) spring thus far, so the grass hasn't grown as of yet, which makes for easy running.  I did the bottom half of the fields, and was as far away from my house as I can be, and had run about 5 miles.  Callie, our family golden retriever, was following me the entire way and she looked a little on the tired side.  Oh, that and I spotted a porcupine.  I did NOT want her to see that creature as I have had, on more than one occasion, to pull out many quills from my dog's mouth with pliers.  It's not really a fun experience.  So all in all, I did 6 miles on the ranch.  Not bad, however I do want to finish by going around the fields on the upper side of the road, but that will add a ton of elevation.  

You can check out the map/run here

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Unlike Nashville, there aren't too many things to do after work here in rural Montana.  There is the always entertaining Sip 'N Dip Lounge, which, of course, has a mermaid behind the bar and Moose Drool on tap, then there is the Peak Fitness Center.  (And no, I'm not getting paid by the endorsement)  

I ended up signing up for the next two months at the low, low rate of $25/month.  I used to lift a TON in high school, college, and early grad school.  I loved it.  I loved being in the gym, the fatigue, helping friends with spots, the views, you know, gym stuff.  I hardly ever ran.  I basically ran in order to get my HR up for lifting, and then another cool down jog, both on the treadmill.  I ran to supplement my lifting.

Things have now changed.  I don't want the body shape I had when I was lifting.  I was too muscular (is there such a thing?) and not lean enough, due to the lack of cardio.  I HATE that look, btw, of these amateur bodybuilders with muscular arms, shoulders, and legs, but also has a bit of a gut.  Not good.  I want to be both lean and muscular, and I've decided that I need to hit the weights, but not as a headliner, but the opening act.  I need the weights to supplement my running.  This, I hope, will get me my stupid PR in the marathon in 80 days.

So, today was my first day back at the gym, basically one of the few opportunities for any social interaction.  This experience today got me thinking about what I like and hate about the gym.

Love:  The adrenaline of lifting weights.  Even though I've lost a lot of strength, I always feel really good after a good lift.

Hate:  People who use dumbbells and do their sets RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE DUMBBELL RACK.  There is plenty of space to do your exercise.  I need to use the dumbbells too, idiot.  

Love:  The equipment.  No one could have a home gym like that unless they have tons of money.  Free weights, Hammer Strength equipment, cardio, spin classes, pool...

Hate:  Women who have abnormally large, fake breasts that dress a little too scandally.  Yep, you read that right, I'm not a fan.  I was doing some curls when a woman approached to do some exercises.  She was in skimpy shorts and a sports bra with huge boobs that pointed at 45 degree angles.  She then proceeded to do some sort of running in place, which just made everything go everywhere.  Definitely an attention whore.  I mean, it's like a car wreck, you know you shouldn't look, but you HAVE to.  And I did.  She didn't even have the 'best body', whatever that means.  Just go naturally, folks.  Home grown country cookin'.  

Love:  Steam rooms and saunas.  Best way to end a workout.

Hate:  NAKED, OLD MEN who sit in the steam room, saunas without towels, even though there is a large sign that says not to do that.  A guy today was sitting naked on the bench, his bare ass on the tile, but he had FLIP FLOPS ON!  He's worried about stepping on the floor of the locker room but has no qualms about his hairy, wrinkly ass and balls on the benches in the steam room?  Gross.  

Hate:  Teenagers.  Especially the ones that fool around in the weight room.  I did not do that when I was in high school.  I worked hard.  (State Football Champions, 1999)  If you and your pals want to lift and be obnoxious at the same time, do it at your school.  I'm paying for this experience, I don't need you guys being idiots.  I especially dislike those that don't know how to use the equipment.  Do it properly or don't do it at all.  

Love and Hate:  Treadmills.  I get bored by them, but in Montana they are a necessity.  I ran 5.5 miles in a 30 mph wind today and halfway through I thought I should have stayed inside.  I quickly regained consciousness and finished my run.  It would take nothing less than snow for me to run inside anymore.  

That's all I can think of right now.  I had tons more while at the gym and I should have written them down.  I will keep a running tab of what annoys me at the gym this summer.  

If any of you have any advice as to what sort of weight training to do while training for a marathon, let me know.  My plan is to lift 3 days/week, chest/biceps, triceps/back, shoulders/legs, all with low weight and high reps.  I will also be doing abs one day a week, which I have neglected for the better part of my lifting life.

Adios, Folks!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Is Craig Really, Finally, Truly, Blogging?

Well, kinda.

Sorry for the layoff, but I had a horrible marathon, followed by the death of my grandmother, then had to pack and move across the country.  It's been a busy month.

I'm in Logan, Utah, for a brief stay before I head back up north to Montana for a  bit.

Today's topic:   Easy running.

Is there such a thing?  Two months ago I could get out and run seven miles without even thinking about it.  I loved being outside, didn't even feel my leg muscles tiring.  It was great.

Now?  Not so much.  You see, I'm tired.  I'm crank.  I'm sick of running.  Yep, you heard me, I'm sick of it.  

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to quit, I mean I already signed up for the Grizzly Marathon AND the Bourbon Chase Relay.  No, this ain't my last rodeo, Hoss.  (RIP Vern Gosdin)

There are a few things working against me right now.  

1.  Post crappy marathon blues.  F-U GO! Marathon.  May I never speak of you again.
2.  I gave blood last week.  They love the O+.  Couldn't give double due to me giving too many RBCs this past year.
3.   I was pretty much drunk the entire week last week.  Didn't help I gave blood.
4.  I'm running at a start elevation right now of 5,200 feet.  My place in Nashville was about 500.
5.  I'm running trails IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.  Yesterday's run (if you can call it that) went from a start elevation of 5,144 to an elevation of 5,600 at 1.75 miles to a peak of 6,500 at 2.5 miles.  Yep, a gain of 900 feet in   3/4 of a mile.  That ain't running.  Oh yeah, I was knee deep in snow for a bit of it.

That's pretty much it for why I'm not into running much.  I do plan to get 40+ miles this week for the first time since the marathon.  We'll see how it goes.  

Just for shit's and giggles, here is a self portrait of my demise yesterday.