This past week I set out with a lofty goal, which is not abnormal for me. I have always been of the mentality that if I set my goals high if I fail, I will fail high. I started out strong with a 10-mile run on Monday morning last week and started getting some runs in early in the morning to start the week which has been my kryptonite over the past few months, but I still ended up fading a bit as the week went on.
By Thursday life got in the way a few times and I knew I was not going to hit the marks that I had set for myself, so I wanted to plan something bigger for the weekend. I figured that if I could push myself into the 30-mile mark in one day this weekend I would be at a good place to continue to train for 40 or 50 miles in a day. I marked my course and set out with a plan.
Saturday came and I had planned to rest completely for the long run of 32 miles on Sunday. We had a “crew meeting” where we revisited the map and the scheduled daily checkpoints for each day of the run. I am not going to lie, this freaked me out in a way that is hard to describe!
My shortest day of foot travel for this entire week is going to be 42 miles with my highest being 57. This means I will be running 7 consecutive ultramarathon distances in 1 week. We planned my lighter days in locations that are either filled with the most elevation or were at the very end of the run to allow me sufficient time and rest.
To decompress I went out with some friends and found out that my free day to run (Sunday) now had a few appointments in the morning that I needed to be at. These were smack dab in the middle of what I had scheduled for my long run. Now I was not only nervous but filled with some doubt. How could I do 7 consecutive ultramarathon days if I could not even schedule a full day to train for 1 ultra-distance? My mind was swirling, I was only at 30 miles of running on the week, my long run was now broken up and I was scrambling.
My solution was to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and run as much as I could before my first meeting. After 20 miles I stopped for the morning and jumped in the shower. Mildly satisfied with my performance and how I felt on the 20-mile jaunt I went about the rest of the morning fulfilling my obligations and thinking about getting more in.
By early afternoon I had some free time and decided it would be good to head out to one of the local Erie Canal Trails with my ruck sack and take some cards about the run. A nice and slow 5-mile ruck with about 30lbs of weight in my pack brought my total number to 25 miles on the day. I felt pretty good physically, but I was struggling with a few blisters that had been nagging me all morning. Desperate to get at least 5 more miles done I got home and while doing laundry I finished off the last 5 miles brining my total on the day to 30 miles and on the week 61. This is not where I planned on being this week, but I am satisfied with the amount in a day. By this time next month, I want to be putting up 40-45 miles in a single day in order to progress.
Since my runs on the canal will be broken up slightly and I will have a variety of breaks throughout the day I will continue with this plan and break up some of my long runs. So on the day I do 40 perhaps I will do 4 different 10 mile runs throughout the day, or two 20 mile runs depending on what I have going on. I want to simulate the start and stops that I will experience because the inconsistent rest and starting back up again will have a different effect on my body rather than just continuing to push my body non-stop.
With these ideas and reviewing the map there were some developments and discussions about the actual course. Originally the plan had been to run along the route typically used by the “Cycle the Canal” course. Recently however, New York State has connected all the canal way trails across the state. This may bring down the distance a little but will make the course easier to follow. The downside however is that being on the trial more will put me out of reach of my support vehicle. Also there is a matter of time. The canal trail is open from dusk till dawn, and I do not yet have permission to run through the night if needed on the trails, so this makes the original course a bit more appealing. There is nothing stopping me from running on roads at any hour! This is important to me because I have no idea what kind of shape I am going to be in as I progress through the week. I know there will be several instances where I need to walk rather than run, so this would obviously take a lot more time than running.
In the end and even though it will involve a longer distance with a lot more turns and directions it seems the best option is to run the cycling course rather than the canal trails all the way through. I will still spend the majority of my time on the canal trailway but will have a little bit of wiggle room in case I need to walk early or late in August.
The entirety of this expedition has finally set in! I know that I am going to deal with doubts along the way. I set out with the idea that this will put me through some of the same mental and emotional effects that Kevin and others have dealt with through their fight with colorectal cancer. I know that this will be substantially different but having an overwhelming task that I need to fight through, fear of not being able to push through all of the obstacles that I will face, consistent pain and suffering through training and the actual run all can be relatable to someone fighting this disease. Hell, I even have loved ones that are stressing over how I am going to get through this run safely and expressing concern and support throughout this whole process. The beautiful part though is I hope to also recreate as closely as I can one other aspect of Kevin’s experience. Through all of the pain, doubt, and suffering I also want to be a voice for those that are unable to fight! Watching Kevin use his suffering as a channel for good has been truly inspiring and I can only hope to use my pain and suffering (self-imposed) to do the same for others!
With all of that being said, here are the official stops (as of now) that will serve as my daily milestones for this summer.
August 15th, 2021
Albany – Fultonville
August 16th, 2021
Fultonville to Utica
August 17th, 2021
Utica to Chittenango
August 18th, 2021
Chittenango to Port Byron
August 19th, 2021
Port Byron to Pittsford
August 20th, 2021
Pittsford to Medina
August 21st, 2021
Medina to Buffalo
This plan might change slightly, but I feel this is the best way to accomplish this in the 7-day time frame. My lightest day will also be the day with the most amount of elevation on the route so it will be just as, if not more challenging. The nice part is this will be in my neck of the woods and I can look forward to a night in my own bed!!!
Now that the weather is finally breaking, I also plan to hit a number of different locations along the route and post a lot more pictures of what I am going to be running through. I won’t lie, I am very excited that this plan allows for a stop in Pittsford New York! I not only love this town, but it is where my favorite team, the Buffalo Bills, hold training camp each year… in August! Depending on what time I get out there maybe I can swing over and watch a practice! That would be awesome!
I hope each an all of you are having a quality week and hope you are pushing yourself through whatever challenges you are facing. No matter if it is running, training, life, school, work, or cancer we all know struggle and can support each other through it. Today is not a day to doubt, but a day to hope!
I adjusted my plans for this past week and took my usual 6 week active recovery week and made it during my 5th week instead. This was not due to illness, schedule, or anything in regards to training, but for mental health purposes. To be honest, I was down and struggled to get out of it. I say this not to draw sympathy, just stating facts and to stress the importance of listening to your body!
We hear this adage a lot, listen to your body. Many times it is in regards to injury or fatigue, not pushing yourself to the point of injury or other things like that, but in my case this week I was overwhelmed a bit with life in general and needed to take a step back. Running 60 miles this week honestly would have caused more stress for me than it would have relieved for once so I kept it under 20 and addressed the issues that were stressing me to the best of my ability.
This is something I do not see enough people do when they are training, and honestly I have not really done that well before. I know in my case I put so much pressure on myself to preform and get the job done that I set out to do that it can stop being fun and become more debilitating and distracting to the rest of my life. When this starts to happen though something eventually has to give, and for me I usually have to give up the thing that was designed to counteract the stress because I have allowed it to consume me too much.
Fortunately I am not taking my normal "bull-headed" approach to training for this challenge like I have others before it. Rather than run headfirst into training and pushing myself to be stronger, faster, and better than before I am actually taking advice! I am learning from those that not only have done something similar to this before, but also have done it with a similar lifestyle to my own. I have found a few guys that have not only run this type of distance before (in some cases much farther) but also have trained while having a career, family, and a few other things going on outside of the gym/trails. So this week I focused on getting my head right, spending time with my daughter, and tried to mend some things that have been eating at me because as of today I have 5 months!
That's right, today is March 15th and in exactly 5 months I take my first steps on running 361.5 miles in 7 days! This is both scary and exciting all in one. While I have been focusing on getting my head right I have also been looking at how I can maximize my training without causing myself to stress about not getting enough, because if I am being honest my biggest fear is not being prepared for this run! So I have worked to develop a bit of a plan again (I know I don't do plans too well) and am starting it this morning!
The plan is simple! First, I need to sleep. This has been my biggest struggle really my whole life, but has been exasperated throughout the COVID pandemic. Going to bed at midnight, having my daughter wake me up a few times, and then struggling to fall back asleep I have been physically unable to get up to an alarm to run in the morning except for a few occasions. This needs to change drastically! I cannot wait until later in the day to attempt a run between work, being a father, and the other responsibilities I have. If I am able to get out for a run during those times then it will be a bonus, but I need to get my ass going in the morning.
The first thing that I am doing is to try a few herbal teas that have been recommended to me. If/when they work I will share them with everyone, but until I have tried it I will be vague. I also want to start doing a nightly cool down, something like yoga or basic stretching. No impact to very low impact to calm me, slow my breathing, and still engage my muscles to repair during sleep.
Upon waking up I want to get a 90 minute run in before I start my day. No specific distance, just go for 90 minutes on the treadmill until the sun starts peaking a bit earlier, then I will be back on the roads and trails. I want to do this EVERY day during the week. If I can be on the treadmill by 5 everyday I can get my 90 minutes in before my daughter even wakes up and have my running done for the day if I need it to be. 90 minutes will be an easy 9-10 miles for me at a groggy pace and that will add up quickly over the course of the week. With 9-10 miles 5 days a week and a marathon or more on Sunday's I am anticipating my mileage to take a jump this week as long as I can follow through with this plan.
As long as I am able to do this I will take Saturday's as my rest/family day and Sunday's I will continue to have as my long run days. As I get closer to August 15th I will take one day during the week out and swap it with Saturday's on some weeks to have back to back long runs to simulate the Canal run a little more.
I am also still tweaking my diet, but hope to have a better answer for this over the next week or two. This Saturday I have tentative plans to meet with students and faculty from Syracuse University's "Sports Lab" where they will start conducting monthly tests on me for VO2Max, metabolic testing, and a whole bunch of other stuff that is way over my head but will help me to learn my body a lot more. This will help me to determine the various needs my body has, how my diet and training alter my body, and so much more data than I will know what to do with. This is a very exciting opportunity that will hopefully give me some insights into my current and changing needs.
Next, I am switching to tea and I am going to start going without coffee. I will allow myself a little leeway here and permit 1 cup during the morning, but I cannot continue to rely on caffeine to fuel me throughout the day. I have a feeling that this is one of the causes of my recent week of crap and I need to be at the top of my game, so coffee as much as I love you we are taking a break.
Finally, I need to add more strength training into my routine. This is where I started my fitness journey and what I really love, but with all of the running I am doing it has taken a back seat. I know realistically that I cannot get to the gym with a substantial amount of time to lift like I like to, but that doesn't mean I cannot do something! So every day I am going to do pushups, mountain climbers, squats and lunges. Today will be my baseline to start seeing how many I can squeeze in throughout the day and by next week I hope to have an idea of how many I realistically do throughout the day to share with you all.
I know some of you have found this blog today through the Dizruns Podcast and I would like to say welcome! I am glad you are all here. Regardless of your intent to sign up for the Virtual Pain in the Canal Challenge this coming May I encourage you all to leave comments here and/or join our Facebook Group "Pain in the Canal Challenge". This group is designed to support each other in our running challenges, or in the challenges that are presented due to Colorectal Cancer. No matter what, it is always a good thing to have a network of people there when you are struggling, whatever the challenge is, so please join us and show your support!
This week I do have several meetings with a few different companies and hope to have some really exciting news to share over the next few weeks, but until then keep running for a cause that is bigger than yourself and you will be amazed at how far you go!
It has been a busy few weeks when it comes to the Pain in the Canal. New partnership with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, working with Syracuse University on figuring out my needs for training and for the run, and even a few interviews! This has been crazy, but also a distraction from training (a good distraction if I am being honest). If that wasn't enough, my training took a massive hit!
As I mentioned in my last post I had to take a few rest days 2 weeks ago and I was well behind my 50 mile/week pace. I knew that I would not be able to hit that mark but I wanted to do something big. So on Sunday of last week I decided I would do my first "Half Day Pain" simulation by running a marathon. It is only half because this summer the plan is to do 2 of these per day.
I planned it out even simulating some of my breaks (although pushed through quicker than I plan to in August) and trudged along on my treadmill. I absolutely hate this treadmill, but it serves it purpose. I kept thinking about how I can't wait for the weather to break so I could run outside in the warm air of spring again, but knew that if I could push through a marathon distance of 26.2 miles on a treadmill I would have no issues outdoors.
Finally after just over 4 hours I hit 25.91 miles and I felt like sprinting to the end. I crank up the speed on the treadmill and then it happens. My treadmill comes to a complete stop! I frantically tried to revive it turning ever switch on an off, unplugging and replugging it in, desperate to get the last quarter mile done, but it was no use. In less than 3 months I had burned out the motor of this poor machine and it had died at 25.98 miles of my planned 26.2 mile run!
If anything it was decent timing. The weather finally tried to warm up here in Central New York last week and I was able to get outside briefly for a few short runs on Tuesday and Wednesday (7 miles) but it was still too cold for me to go out really early in the morning or late at night. I had a new treadmill on the way but had no real idea when it would arrive. March 10th was the date I was told which meant I would have a week and a half without the ability to use the machine I have come to rely upon despite my hatred of it.
During those few runs on Tuesday and Wednesday though I learned a few important things. First, I love running outside! It is so invigorating. I missed hills or changing up the tempo of my run based on how I felt rather than staying at a steady pace the whole time. Yes, learning to stay at a steady pace will be important for this summer, but at times takes the fun out of the run. I bombed down some hills and ran through some trails thinking about some of the adventures I have had the past year running solo or with friends. It brought back a lot of wonderful memories of pushing myself and others and how running has really become a solid part of my life.
The other and most important thing I learned was that I need to re-learn how to run outside. For me when I run (road or trail) I typically land with the balls of my feet first and then spring forward a bit as my heel hits the ground. On the treadmill however to help minimize the noise when my daughter is sleeping I land with my heel first. My gait was so awkward outside that I realized that I would have to spend a few weeks reteaching myself the lessons I had learned about trail running, hills, and what generally has felt comfortable with my stride and has prevented injury.
By the time I made it home on Thursday I had a surprise at my door, my replacement treadmill had arrived a week early! Now it was time to see if I could burn out a treadmill in 3 days rather than 3 weeks.
I woke up Friday with only 7 miles or so of training. I knew the weekend would need to involve a lot of running so I cleared most of my schedule for a fun challenge that was put out by David Goggins. The challenge was to run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours to raise money for a charity of your choice. It started at 8 pm on Friday night.
After clearing everything with all the necessary people I committed to run the challenge and get in 48 miles in 48 hours, easily hitting my mark of 50 plus miles of running for the week. What I had not realized was that Friday morning and Friday evening were the same day!
Taking the day off on Friday to participate in a few interviews regarding the Pain in the Canal Challenge I knew my morning would be clear. A participant of our challenge lost her grandmother to colorectal cancer just days earlier and I committed to run 7.8 miles in her honor (she was 78 years old). I got up and ran it without issue and continued on with my day.
Later in the morning while I was recording the DizRuns podcast I had made mention to host Denny that I was going to try and do the 4x4x48 challenge this weekend. Then it hit me. Just 12 hours before the start of an event that would take me farther on foot than I had ever gone before in 2 days I had put in a 7.8 mile run! This is when I started to get nervous and was unsure if I would have the endurance to last.
The runs at 8pm, 12am, 4am, and 8am on the first day were fine. I had virtually no problem with them, but then came dance class! Every Saturday my daughter has dance and I take her and hang out in my car. The insatiable hunger that I felt this week however while being surrounded by junk food brought me to a desperation I am not use to. I was willing to eat just about ANYTHING that would have provided me the amount of energy I needed just to drive us home.
The ride was only 20 minutes home from dance but it felt like an hour. I was groggy and not even the Red Bull I downed was enough to shock me awake. Yes we made it home safe (always first priority) but when I got home I realized I only had about 30 minutes until my next run.
The rest of the day Saturday was a bit of a blur, but I was able to accomplish all the runs. 4am was extremely difficult for me though. My legs did not want to run at all. I ended up walking the entire distance.
When all was said and done I had accomplished 12 runs of 4 miles in 48 hours (1 was a walk) and I felt physically good. I was nowhere near as stiff or sore as I feared, just tired from the erratic sleep schedule. This also taught me a valuable lesson, I could go farther!
Throughout the training for this extremely long run I plan to push my self imposed limits often. Knowing now that I can easily cover almost 60 miles in 3 days has provided me with a boost of confidence! I am a little over 5 months out from the actual run, and still have a lot more to go but this has proven to be a stark turn around in mentality over the past few weeks. I guess the solution to my problems, my self-doubt, and all things that discourage me about this endeavor can be solved simply by running!