Monday, May 12, 2008

Rambling thoughts on training: Running Tired

This past weekend I had big training plans. Run 5 hrs. on Saturday and maybe run 2 -3 hrs. on Sudnay. It was to be a busy weekdn at the beach filled with house maintenance chores and quality family time. I knew this was going to be a challenge but a challenge that I would reap great fitness benefits.

Well 4 am Saturday morning came around and the alarm went off. Hit the snooze. At 4:15 it goes off again. Hit it again. When it went off at 4:30 the alarm neraby became one with the fishes. The 7 am am wake up call brigade (Emily and Amdanda) was much easier then getting up at soemthing-dark-30 to go running for 5 hrs. Before I knew it was in the midst of making breakfast and Elmo refereeing.

Call it lack of motivation, call it laziness. Whatever. I simply did not want to run on Saturday morning. It was a productive day one none-the-less with lots of chores being accomplished and the kids getting quality time with their aunts and grandparents. I managed to squeak in a 3 hr. run in the afternoon and felt strong.

Mother's Day started off great. Family time in the morning followed by completing household chores in the afternoon. Tired from Saturday's run but wanted to get in another 2 - 3 hr. run. Not to be had.

In past years I have run on 'tired' legs as I thought it was good training for ultra's. A bit older now (and maybe a little more wiser!). I avoid the 'back to back' long runs. I simply do not like running tired and would rather take a day off, rest up and run strong at the next long run. Rest is best!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

From 30,000'...

'Window seat please'. I almost always make this request when flying. As I travel for my job I have the opportunity to see and experience new cities across the U.S. Flying today is anything but a the pleasurable 'jet-setter' experience it was portrayed as 30 years ago. Longs lines, lost luggage and flight delays are the norm. Despite travel inconveniences and grievances I am still fascinated by flight. I love the window seat. I can stare out the window for hours, looking at the earth below, the rivers and lakes, mountain tops and plains. It's all fascinating. Who needs a movie when there is endless eye candy below?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Life is Motion...

Race days don't come any better then this past Saturday. What started as an idea over dinner and vino six months ago morphed into a finely tuned classic event. The women of the charitable East Oreland Neighborhood Association (EONA) had spent 6+ months organizing this local 5K, 1 mile walk and numerous children's events. The race directors instinctively knew that after a long, wet, dark winter nothing reinvigorates the soul better then being outside on a beautiful spring day. A day to shake the cobwebs out, reunite with old friends, make new ones, and run through the neighborhood. Race day had all the atmosphere of a friendly neighborhood block party.

The main event, a 5K, was a loop course through the East Oreland neighborhood. At 9:00 am sharp the runners were off bounding down through the familiar streets. Neighbors at every corner greeted the lead runners in their anaerobic haze. Mid-to-back of the packers were smart enough to hang back, breath, chat, smile and smell the flowers.

The 1 mile walk followed shortly after the end of the 5K. Jogging strollers, parents and kids of all ages participated in this multi-generational fun event. It was a rolling Baby's R Us promotion!

Finally there were the kids races. This was the 'real' main event. Well over 50 kids of all ages and sizes lined up ready to tear up the turf. Originally conceived as a non-competitive event, these kids were going for the gusto over a the distance of approximately 200 yds. Only the innocent laughs of children permeated the air as proud parents and grandparents looked on. They enjoyed the first race so much they begged for more. Round and round they went... 10+ times. Only the innocent laughs of happy children permeated the air as proud parents looked on. Their little faces flush red, legs a burning, and smiles from ear to ear they stood in line for their well earned medals.

Founded over 50 years ago, EONA represents the heart of a community. Over 200 participants, volunteers, and businesses helped raise $4,000 for the March of Dimes through the events on Saturday. This first annual, first class right of spring event can be summarized in three words... family, friends and fun. See ya next year!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bull Run Walk, Slog, Crawl... 50

‘The hills are alive with the sound of music…’

Well this will be short synopsis of this past weekend’s epic Bull Run Run 50 mile event ( Many came far and wide to participate in this annual rite of spring through the gentle hills of Virginia. Not to be disappointed, the blue bell’s were in full bloom, the grass was green, creeks were flowing and the weather near perfect.

An old friend form the south, Jill Hughes, broke out of her six year ultrarunning hiatus to join in the fun. Pre-race she was claiming she was less then ideally prepared. Fully knowing that there was a fighting spirit beneath her Southern charm I sensed sandbagging and called her bluff.

A new friend from the north, Deb Sutton, came way of Bull Run Run via Mrs. Hughes. There were pre-race rumblings of Deb’s injured leg. Hmmm. This doesn’t smell right. Although an ultra newbie, I knew she was a seasoned Ironman triathlete. I called her bluff as well.

There was no doubt in my mind that when the race began these two would be locked into a steely focus that would stop at nothing. Well on this day that adage was all so true. There were cool temps, warm temps, rain, sun, dry trail and wet trail. And one, maybe two tiny hills. From dawn to dusk these two soldiered on with family and friends cheering them on.

As the day wore on the clock kept ticking. International news correspondents were at hand to witness Jill passing through the last aid station (mile 45) with 30 minutes to spare the dreaded cut off. The clock ticked on. The cut off loomed. Tension filled the air. With less then 5 minutes to spare ESPN reported Deb sprinting into the aid station. Time is of the essence.

With the late afternoon light bouncing off the pond to the left, up and own the hills they go gutting out the last 5 miles. Across the fields, back down the creek and a nice meander through the blue bells ends the day. Then make a right, up a few steps, across a field and onto the road to glory. Jill Hughes, affirming her return to the ultra scene, finishes in 12:37. Deb Sutton, seeking challenges beyond the Ironman, finishes her first ultra in 13:17.

So how did my day go? It went great. I ran the first 20 miles then took a turn for the worse. I stumbled, fell a few times, mumbled, puked and groaned. However every time I saw Jill and Deb they were all smiles. They remained impeccable, hair in-place and ready for afternoon high tea. Inspiring. Head down, focused we all marched on. I hit the line in 8:50 a worn out, tired man. A few steps later I was under a picnic awning chatting with old friends sipping on a soda. The pure internal satisfaction of finishing another trail adventure etched a big smile on my face.

Congrats Jill and Deb. You know how to finish with style, class and poise. A gerat day in all, reconnecetd with old ultra-friends and making enw ones. See you out there again soon!



Monday, March 31, 2008

Running home!

The Ocean Drive Marathon ( A flat and fast, point to point marathon starting in Cape May, NJ and ending in Sea Isle City, NJ. I ran this marathon two years ago and had a great time. Ending in a seaside town that I spent many a summer in, I felt like I was literally running home. This year I managed to rope in a local friend of mine Dan Brown and he in turn returned the favor by roping in a bud of his from Richmond, VA, Mike Shourds. A second marathon experience for both of them!

Well the day started out just fine. We made the bus to the start on time and also ran into a work colleague of mine, Chris Schwyter. Together the four of us drank our coffee, chatted away and made our last minute race preparations en route to the starting line.

The starting line was perfect. temps in the mid-40's, sunshine and the beautiful backdrop of the Victorian Congress Hall on one side of the street and the ocean on the other. Oh... and a light breeze in the air. With a yell from the mega-phone the race began and we were off.

We'll those near perfect conditions lasted the first 1/2 mile. Than the wind hit us in the face. For the rest of the morning we ran straight into a relentless headwind. The Weather channel listed the official wind speeds ranging from 15 to 26 MPH. A conservative estimate was that we had a headwind for 24 of the 26.2 miles. This resulted in a higher then normal drop out rate for the event and 10 to 20 minutes off of the normal finishing times. Final results: Joe - 3:15:05, Dan 3:32:59, Mike 3:35:33 and Chris 4:13:47. Post race carbohydrate replenishment refreshments were had at the LaCosta bar & Lounge followed by dinner at Braca's Cafe. A good weekend had by all.

"The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, The answer is blowin' in the wind" - Bob Dylan

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lesson learned!

Mile 24 of the Tampa Marathon is when it happened. Yet another case of unraveling towards the end of a marathon. A classic case of going out too hard and paying the inevitable price. My hamstrings were shot and then seized, cramped, etc. Ran 22 minutes for the last 2 miles. Fortunately I had a week of vacation post-event to lick my wounds.

Three weeks later, marathon behind me, I'm back to the same routine. However my left hamstring is still noticeably tight. What do I do? Minimal stretching with what result? I pulled my left-side glute and lower back muscles and pinched my sciatic nerve so bad I lost a week of running. I was miserable.

A week off and I am back in the saddle albeit late in the training game, getting ramped up for the Ocean Drive Marathon in 10 days and Bull Run Run 50 miler two weeks later. I lost a week of training at a critical juncture. No excuses. I blame myself for not listening to my body, warming up, stretching properly and doing core strengthening exercises. Lesson learned from this recent injury escapade: Listen to your body, stretch and address issues before they become larger problems.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Rebel...

He did it! Bode Miller today has been declared the World Cup ski champion. And he did his way. Icing on the cake for the winningest U.S. skier in history.

Bode is an interesting athlete. You either love him or hate him. A rebel at heart, deep down inside of me I admire the guy. Yes, he has his moments where he is less then admirable but he lives life his way, on his terms and could take or leave the spotlight. Fancy hotels, elite camps? Not him. A mountain guy who prefers low budget hotels or an RV while on tour. Early to bed, early to rise? Nope. He has more fun taking in the local late-night cultural amenities (aka. party with the locals). Yet in spite of his cavalier attitude there is a certain intensity to him. He has the ability to tap into a special inner energy to pull off spectacular performances. He will uncontrollably bomb down a ski slope, safely in the lead, yet is confident enough to push over the edge into the abyss of failure. A man who races by the creed,' Go hard or go home'.

Congrats Bode!

Dream as if you'll live forever; live as if you'll die tomorrow. - James Dean

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sea, sand, sun... and a marathon!

A belated race report this is. On February 9th the whole Kulak clan got outta Philly just as the 15F, snow, ice and rain descending upon the Northeast. A few hours later we had our t-shirts and shorts on enjoying the balmy Gulf Coast weather on sleepy little Anna Maria Island. A few hours later I woke at 3:45 am and drove 60 miles north to run the Tampa Marathon. With a 6am starting time, this is the first time I've ever started a marathon in the dark. It actually stayed cool and dark until almost 7 am. Any early season race and kickoff to a week vacation. A real treat.

From the start the pace was just right to meet my pre-race goal of 3:10. I hit the half in 1:30 on the nose and felt comfortable. At mile 20 I started feeling confident I could finish in 3:05 - 3:07. I"M ON TOP OF THE WORLD!!! NOTHING CAN STOP ME!!! Then reality hits. I should have known! Mile 24 I cramped... hamstrings, calves, arms, brain... everywhere. Dismantled. I hobbled through the next 2 miles to finish in 3:11:26. Ouch! I took my twitching body through he food line for some home-style cajun rice and seafood, grabbed a water and headed for the car. An hour later I was in the backyard playing with the kids in the pool. The 2008 running season has begun!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

ATP ----> ADP + energy + Pi

English translation of post title: Adenosine Triphosphate produces Adenosine diphosphate + energy + inorganic Phosphate

My translation: The above compounds represent the breakdown of energy in your muscles at the cellular level during exercise.

So we don't feel good after running an ultramarathon. Legs are tired, lungs scorched, body drained. Duh. But do we really have a true understanding of why? Has what is going on inside our bodies after running for 10, 15 or 20+ hours (besides turmoil) been critically studied through a means of scientific process? Fortunately for us endurance junkies some (really smart) scientists have attempted to study the various impacts to the human body pre-, during and post ultramarathon.

The attached document ( is an executive summary of research articles on the physiological, psychological and medicinal issues associated with ultrarunning forwarded to me by my sister, Jennifer Kulak, Phd. She was kind enough to provide a short note of scientific translation for my less then nimble mind. My summary is as follows:

- Loading up on antioxidents such as Vitmain E and C provides little to no protection against muscular damage.
- Ibuprofen (aka. Vitamin I) is bad for you during races. It's probably not very good post-race either considering your liver and kidney's are working overload.
- Ego aside, the longer you're on the course the more you will hurt.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Your brain really does turn to mush during an ultra. I'd wager a bet that most politicians have exercised induced cognitive impairment.
- Your body chemistry and genes force you to crave beer, burgers and ice cream post-race (any race, any distance). This data has been compiled through my 14 years of dedicated, exhausting, tedious research on the topic of post exercsie fluid consumption needs.

The human body is an experiement of one.

Monday, February 4, 2008

January run off...

"Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired." - Jules Renard

January was off to a better then normal start to the running year. This time of year I frequently end up doing more cross-training then running to get ready for spring training ( Usually I can't get motivated until at least February but the unseasonably warm tempertures in the Northeast have given runners the opportunity to stay in shorts and enjoy unfrozen ground through January. I have actually managed to get outside four Saturday mornings in a row for 2 to 4 hr. runs with some friends. It has been great seeing lots of people on the trails enjoying the outdoors at a time of year when most are in the midst of cabin fever. Personally, I miss the snow. But since I can't shake the clouds to make snow fall out of the sky I'll take advantage of the clear streets and trails while I can. Tampa Marathon this upcoming Sunday is a good start to the race season and February's training!



Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Beginning of a New (Running) Year

Well the holidays are finally behind us. Great times and memories made with lots of family and friends over the two week period. Couldn't have been better (although snow would have been an added bonus but not this year!).

So now it's time to step to the plate and make good on those new years resolutions. Mine are the same this year as they have been the last ten years... train smarter and faster. Oh and to build up to doing 100 consecutive push ups (never have been able to break that milestone). January started off slow but is ending on a good note. Just beginning to feel good about increasing mileage and hope to hit 60 miles this week. Will likely stick to a reasonable plan of 10% to 20% increased mileage on any given week. Struggling through once a week short (30 minutes) treadmill workouts at the YMCA. But I typically follow an undisciplined approach to training and any given week can be + or - 50% off previous weeks mileage. Regardless, I'm off to a good start so far, feeling good, and getting geared up for my first run of the year, the Tampa Gasparilla Marathon ( Have hopes of running 3:10. Well see. Hope everyone's training is off to a good start.