Running 1974-1994

Running in Excess

The Extraordinary Experiences of an Ordinary Runner

Part 1: 1974-1994

 by Tom Perry

Becoming a Runner
The Early Years:  1974-1977
menu-spacer.pngIn 2010 while I was on the metaphorical injured reserve list with a prolonged case of PFPS (patella-femoral pain syndrome), I had time to reflect on what I'd been missing.  Part of that reflection was to look back on the experiences and lessons learned in over 35 years of competitive running.  A shelf full of training diaries covering most of those years has provided some real data to ground my rosy recollections.  So let us start at the beginning...


tom-the-bikie.jpg
Road racing in 1975... I was pack fill in most races.
Here I'm chasing to rejoin the peleton after being
dropped yet again on a hill.
 
How I Became a Runner.  I missed out on athletics in high school and college.  There was no tradition of sports in my family and I had no reason to believe I might have some talent for endurance sports.  My entry to sport came after college with a Schwinn Varsity ten-speed I bought for transportation in 1970 while living in Atlanta, GA.  Cyclists I met on group rides with the local bike club encouraged me to do a Century Ride.  Soon an imported road bike replaced the Varsity and a good friend talked me into trying a road race.  That led to many more road races and time trials, working in a bike shop and in the summer of 1974, moving to Auburn, AL to manage a bike shop.  I did my first running in the fall of 1973 and winter 1974 in a test of running as off-season cross training for cycling.  That low-key approach to running changed later in 1974 when one of my cycling friends challenged me to join him in running a marathon.   

Marathons in the 1970s.  Frank Shorter’s gold medal win in the Munich Olympic Marathon in 1972 is frequently credited as the catalyst of the 1970’s running boom.  Of course, it was bigger than just Shorter’s gold medal… at Munich in 1972 Kenny Moore finished 4th and Jack Bacheler was 9th.  And four years later at Montreal, Shorter finished 2nd and Don Kardong finished 4th.  America seemed to own the marathon in the 70s.  Millions of Americans were inspired by these heroic feats and thousands of them took up the challenge of the marathon.  Over time the marathon would morph into the mass migration charity runs that we know today.  In the 1970s there were relatively few marathons and the fields in each were largely limited to serious runners. 

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Finishing on the track at the 1974 Peach Bowl 42k.
Not owning any running gear, I did the race in cycling
shorts and jersey.
My first marathon was the 1974 Peach Bowl Marathon.  The race time limit was 4 hours and when I finished it in 3:42, I was near the back of the field of 122 finishers.  The next year, when I finished in 2:55, I was the 53rd of 119 finishers.  For comparison, the same time in the 2010 Atlanta Marathon would have placed 15th overall of 2155 finishers!

The Boston Marathon introduced its first qualifying standard in 1970 to limit the field size.  When I ran Boston in 1976 and 1977, the 18-34 qualifying time was 3:00 and was further dropped to 2:50 in 1978 (today it’s back up to a much easier 3:10).  The 1976 official results from Boston only list the 1131 men and 28 women who finished in under 3:30.  In 1978 the official time limit was extended to four hours and the record book lists 2219 men and 102 women as official finishers.  The small number of women finishers reflects the fact that women were not allowed to enter the Boston Marathon officially until 1972 and, until the 1984 Los Angeles Games, the longest women’s race in the Olympics was the 1500-meters.

How did so many marathoners in the 70s manage to break three hours?  My theory is that it mostly had to do with our goals and expectations.  If you were a young man running marathons in the 70s, your goal after the first one was to break three hours.  It was an achievable challenge and would qualify you for Boston.  Some of your running friends had probably already done it or were also trying to do it.  You expected to be able to do it and were willing to do the training to make it happen.

Road Races in the 1970s.  It is perhaps a little dangerous to generalize from a single year and a single city but I found a 1977 Atlanta Track Club Road Race Schedule in my files.  For March through December, the schedule listed 20 events, most with two or more race distances, but without even one 5k among them.  Instead the schedule offered a eclectic mix of race distances, many of which are not available today:  4 miles, 5 miles, 6 miles, 10k, 7 miles, 8 miles, 9 miles, 15k, 10 miles, 20k, half marathon, 25k, 30k and 20 miles.  Race entry fees were $1 except for the July 4th Peachtree Road Race.

I ran in the 1976 edition of the Peachtree Road Race.  That year the race hit the big time (as befits a premium $2 entry fee).  When most races in Atlanta had only a few hundred runners, Peachtree had 2,300 and Olympian Don Kardong won.  The following year the field swelled to 6,500 and in 1980 the entries had to be limited to 25,000. 

Note:  Unlike today, almost all of the road races available to a runner in the 1970s were promoted by track clubs to provide sporting opportunities for runners, not to raise money for a charity.  

Eight Weeks to a First Marathon.  As I mentioned above, in 1974 one of my cycling buddies challenged me to join him in running the Peach Bowl Marathon in December.  During the summer cycling season my running cross training averaged only 5 to 7 miles per week.  After a final bike race at the end of October, I had only eight weeks to get ready for the marathon.  At it turned out, when you have an endurance base built in four years of cycling and you’re 29 years old, it can be done.  My weekly mileages for those eight weeks before a race week taper are listed in the table below.
 

Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Miles 16 31 32 60 57 51 59 66

Despite the minimal running mileage, my first marathon was fairly easy to complete in 3:42 and left me wanting to do another one with better preparation. 

Two Sports, Two Seasons.  As shown in the accompanying chart, through the winter and spring of 1975 I continued running about 20 miles per week as cross training while my cycling increased to about 200 miles per week in March and to the 250-300 range for the primary summer racing season.  The diversion to run the first marathon in the fall of 1974 and the running cross training continued through March appeared to help my cycling.  My race performances were at least equal to those of 1974 and I set personal bests in 25-mile time trials in May and again in early September.

I then successfully shifted almost completely to marathon training… going from 0 to 85 miles per week in eight weeks and continuing to average 85 miles per week for the eight weeks before the 1975 Peach Bowl Marathon.  I ran 47 minutes faster than the year before (2:55:16 for 53rd out of 119 finishers). 

1975-cycling-running-graph.png
Totals:  8,933 miles cycling; 1481 miles running

As can be seen in the graph, it is quite possible to have strong racing reasons in two sports in one year.  And, if you come out of the cycling season at a high level of aerobic fitness, you can run a fast marathon on only 16 weeks training... 8 weeks to build up to an adequate weekly mileage and 8 more weeks to get race fit.

Running Takes Over.  The 2:55:16 finish in my second marathon did three things:  1) got me into the top half of the field, 2) qualified me for the Boston Marathon and 3) hooked me on running as my primary sport. 
The lure of running Boston kept me running through the winter and early spring of 1976.  I backed up the Peach Bowl result with a 2:59 in the hilly Stone Mountain Marathon in February. 

At Boston, it was over 90 degrees at the start in Hopkinton and, in hindsight, I feel pretty good about the 3:02 I ran that day.  I then had a final and abbreviated 15-week cycling season before again ramping up the running in early August.  After a rapid build up, I averaged 86 miles per week for the eight weeks before the AAU National Championship Marathon in Crawley, LA where I set my all-time marathon PR with a 2:50:08 for 50th place of 411 finishers. 

1976-cycling-running-graph.png
Totals:  3,060 miles cycling; 3031 miles running

Training without a Plan
.  In the beginning about all I knew about training for a marathon was one simple fact:  the top guys ran well over 100 miles per week.  One hundred miles in a week takes just over 14 miles per day assuming no days off.  Running was considered to be 8 minute pace or better.  If you went slower, that was jogging and you didn’t want to be called a jogger.

So my basic routine evolved… run every day, frequently running twice a day to get in enough miles each day to stay on schedule to complete 90 to 100 miles each week, doing every run at the same pace and working hard to get all of those miles under 8 minutes per mile.  Speed work came from shorter races run every couple weeks.  Easy days or rest days had no p;ace in the routine… I cut back only when forced to by fatigue, illness or injury.

For Want of a Coach
.  When you love something, it is all too easy to overdo it.  Over the eight weeks between the National Championship Marathon and the Peach Bowl Marathon I ran five races while still maintaining an average of 85 miles per week.  Those races weren’t controlled workouts; I ran personal bests for 10k, the half marathon and 20 miles.  By the time I got to the season-ending Peach Bowl Marathon, I was well past my peak and had to dig deep to get through the race in 2:53:55, a slight improvement on the year before that came at a high price. 

A coach would have insisted on my taking a couple of easy weeks after the National Championship Marathon and would have held me out of the 20 mile and half marathon in favor of being fresh for the Peach Bowl Marathon.  Doing so might have saved me from the physical and mental burnout that came in the spring of 1977.

The End is Near
.  My recovery after the Peach Bowl race was slow and incomplete.  My log shows that I eventually got my mileage back up into the 80-100 mile range but the comments I wrote at the time revealed a story of deep fatigue and a lingering malaise.  I remember to this day how bad I felt and how hard it was to complete runs that had been a joy to do a few months before.

In the spring of 1977, I did three long races and a highly memorable relay.  In February, without any specific training or strategy for running beyond the marathon, I started my first ultramarathon.  Everything that could go wrong did and I dropped out at 35 miles, having bonked and been hobbled by aching muscles and bloody socks.  It would be four years before I again attempted an ultramarathon.

In March while on a trip to Los Angeles, I ran the Los Angeles Marathon, finishing 45th in 3:05:41.  In April I again ran Boston.  That year the weather was only comfortably warm, not the oven-baked feel of the year before.  Running mostly on fumes and muscle memory, I just managed to get under three hours.

My Favorite Relay
.  Back in the 70s before Runner’s World was sold to Rodale, then publisher Bob Anderson came up with a bizarre idea that took off:  “Let’s do a 24-hour relay, 10 runners to a team, a mile at a time in a set order, seeing how many miles we can total.”  Teams came together in almost every state and gave the new, made-up event a try.  High school and college teams found it remarkably effective for team building.  Clubs put together teams and found it was great fun.  Results were reported to Runner’s World and records for each state were kept.  As I recall, ten distance runners at an Olympic development camp set the “world record” of 295 miles, 269 yards.

24hr-relay-photo.jpg
In May, I had the good fortune to be one of ten men on a team of Auburn area runners who set out to break the existing Alabama record.  The basic routine was: 1) run a hard mile (sub-five for the horses on the team, sub-six for the rest of us), 2) rest or snooze fitfully for less than 50 minutes, 3) return to step 1.  Weird things happened in the middle of the night… hallucinations, runners starting their miles half asleep and running like it.  Despite the challenges, we had a great time and easily set a new Alabama record with 258.4 miles.  That’s a 5:34 average pace for 24 hours.

Just as the marathon has changed since the 1970s, the 24 Hour Relay gradually morphed into the non-competitive charity events put on by the American Cancer Society and Easter Seals.  And, because the era of competitive 24-hour relays predates the World Wide Web, the records of those races exist only in the memories of those who were there.

In June 1977 I followed my wife to Los Angeles, CA when she accepted a terrific job in that city.  For practical purposes, the move put my running career on the back burner for several years.


Discovering Ultras
California:  1977-1988
menu-spacer.pngContinuing my look back on the experiences and lessons learned in 35 years of competitive running, Part 2 picks up with my wife and I getting settled in Los Angeles, CA after moving there in the summer of 1977.  Highlights of this next phase include: 
  • discovering that I have a talent for the longer distances
  • having the heady experience of leading a race for the first time
  • actually winning a race
  • surviving doing the Western States 100 as my first trail ultra 
  • repeating the error of racing too frequently with no off season
  • and finding a novel way to finish a 24 hour run 

1978-1980: Running on the Back Burner
My first three years in LA, I continued to run but was not training seriously and did not keep a training diary.  Often my running was a daily commute to and from work.  Looking to explore new challenges, I connected with the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club and started collecting peaks on the Hundred Peaks Section list of over 200 named summits of at least 5,000 feet in Southern California.  I made 20 peaks in the fall of 1977.

1978:  I hiked up and ran down 35 more peaks on the Hundred Peaks list and ran 3 marathons.  My best effort was a 2:56:45 in the Santa Monica Marathon

1979:  In the winter I took the Sierra Club Basic Mountaineering Training (BMTC) program which covered rock climbing, navigation with map & compass, ice axe and snow travel skills and winter camping.  I climbed seven more peaks, stopping at 62 without completing the list as I became more connected to the local running scene.

I started running with a Wednesday evening group at the Phidippides store in Marina Del Rey.  (The Phidippides store later relocated to Encino in San Fernando Valley; it is still generally acknowledged as the best running store in LA.)  A core of my friends who ran at the Phidippides store in the 80s moved over to the nearby Starting Line store in Venice and still run together every week.  Three years ago in LA on business, I ran with them again and it was like I'd never been away.  Re marathons completed in '79, I probably again ran the Santa Monica and Western Hemisphere Marathons but don't have any record of my finishes. 

1980:  I was a group leader in the same BMTC program that I had taken the previous year, responsible with several assistants for teaching and leading a group of about 15 students through the ten-week program.  In the summer, I changed jobs and went back to school for a masters degree.  My enthusiasm for running was on an upswing.  That summer I had a fast 10-mile (1:03:55) which helped my Culver City Athletic Club team win first place in the 35-39 age group.  I ran a 10k in 37:12 (5:59 average pace), my best time since 1976.  Then, in November, I ran my best marathon in four years with a 2:54:55 at Rose Bowl Marathon in Pasadena.  
Encouraged by that result, I continued training with the goal of a 50-mile race in February.

1981 - Discovering Quick Success in Ultras
I served a second year as a BMTC group leader and then stepped away from the mountains as running again took all of my athletic focus.  My second attempt at a 50-mile road ultra was the complete opposite of my first experience at the distance.  Four years earlier I had started my first ultra only to drop out at 35 miles, bonked & demoralized with bloody blisters – a 50-mile race at Stone Mountain, GA that was won by that pioneer of American ultrarunning, Park Barner. Barner rode the bus down from Pennsylvania, won the race on Saturday and caught a bus to Maryland afterwards so he could run a marathon on Sunday.

Four years later, I had read and reread Ultra-Marathoning – The Next Challenge, the (long out-of-print) seminal text by Tom Oslerand Ed Dodd. After running the 2:54:55 marathon in November, I took that speed into the Jedediah Smith 50 Mile and extended my range by applying the run-walk strategy suggested by Osler (and now heavily promoted by Jeff Galloway).  While Osler recommended sweetened tea as an energy drink, I went with a mix of defizzed Coke and E.R.G. (Electrolyte Replacement with Glucose developed by marathoner Bill Gookin). The course was one big flat and fast loop north of Sacramento, CA.  Where four years previously everything went wrong, in this race everything went right and I ran even splits to finish in 6:22:22 (7:39 average pace). The race was the highly competitive Pacific Association 50 Mile Championship and my time was only good enough for 12thoverall among the 114 starters.  Doug Latimer led five runners under 6 hours, winning in 5:33.
  Latimer went on to be the co-winner of the 1981 Western States 100.

My next ultra was in September at the Lake Tahoe 72 Mile.  I wrote a first-hand account of the race that was published in the November 1981 issue of Ultrarunning magazine.  You can read my account here:  lake-tahoe-1981.pdf.  As you can see in the illustration below, the run wasn't just long... it also had some major climbs and every mile of it was at altitude.  I ran a very conservative race and was only in 36th place at the top of the second climb at 20 miles.  This conservative approach paid off as I gradually moved up through the field over the remaining 52 miles to finish in 10:45:15 (8:58 average) for 5th place overall.  The race winner was Jim King in a new event record of 9:27:48.  King went on to win the Western States 100 in '1982, 1984 and 1985, making him the first three-peat winner of the race.  One lasting impact of the Lake Tahoe race was a continuing affection for long runs around lakes and the inspiration for the Can Lake 50, which I’ve directed for the past eight years.

1981-tahoe72.png 
Map and Profile of Lake Tahoe 72 Mile Ultra

In October I ran in the Southern Pacific Association 50 Mile Championshipat Pasadena, finishing in 6:28:18 for 4th overall.  As the race was only four weeks after the Lake Tahoe race, I wasn’t surprised that the time was slower than my February race although I was chagrined at being lapped on the four-mile loop course by Charlie Hoover and Jim Pellon.  I later learned just how great these two top runners were.  Hoover, co-owner of Phidippides Encino, went on to run 5:17:28 for 50 miles in the 1982 AMJA Ultramarathons.  Pellon was the first man to win 10 consequtive silver buckles at the Western States 100 and won almost every Southern California ultra that he started. 

Totals for 1981:  3 ultras (12th, 5th & 4th overall finishes) and 2 marathons run as hard workouts; 3129 miles total running.  My 6:22:22 in the Jed Smith 50 Mile made me the 104th ranked runner in North America at that distance.

Ultrarunning in 1981

The majority of ultras were road races on certified courses. There were probably as many track races as trail races in the early 80’s. In 1981, trail races for the whole country were listed on one page at the conclusion of the calendar section in Ultrarunning magazine.

While there were some exceptional American women running ultras in 1981 (Marcy Schwam: 7:47 for 100K, Sue Ellen Trapp: 8:05 for 100K, Sue Medaglia: world record 126 miles for 24 hours, Sandra Kiddy: 6:24 for 50 miles), many ultras in 1981 had no women starters.


The top men in California excelled at both road and trail events. Four months after winning the Jedediah Smith 50, Doug Latimer tied with Jim Howard for 1stplace and the new course record (16:02) at the 1981 Western States Endurance Run. 1981 was also notable as the year that Bjorg Austrheim-Smith took more than 3 hours off the women’s record with her 8th place finish in 18:45.


Nationally, winning road times were often fast and the men’s fields competitive, perhaps because there were relatively few races.  Some notable road races from 1981:

  • Lake Waramaug – Stu Mittleman won the 50 mile in 5:14 with 9 runners under 6 hours. Ray Krolewicz won the 100K in 7:05 with 5 runners under 8 hours.
  • National TAC 50K Championship – Richard Holloway won in 2:55 with Frank Bozanich and Warren Finke seconds apart at 3:06.
  • AMJA Ultras (RRCA National Championship) – Barney Klecker won the 50 mile in 5:05 with Bernd Heinrich second in 5:10. Seven runners were under 6 hours. Heinrich continued on to 100K, winning in 6:38 with 4 runners under 8 hours.
  • Nickel City 50 (TAC National Championship) – Frank Bozanich won in 5:17 with 5 runners under 6 hours.
  • Valley Stream 50 Miler – Bill DeVoe won in 5:12 with 5 men under 6 hours.
  • Metropolitan 100K – Bill DeVoe won in 6:54 with 4 men under 8 hours.

The 1981 North American Ultra Lists had 19 men under 8 hours for 100K and 56 men under 6 hours for 50 miles. In 2009, despite having many more total runners in the sport, the Ultra List shows 9 men under 8 hours for 100K and only 7 men under 6 hours for 50 miles. The early 80’s were the “golden age” for American road ultras.


1982 - A Career Year
My first target race of the year was the Southern Pacific Association 100k Championship at the end of April.  The 100k and 50k fields started and ran together until about 25 miles.  Once the 50k runners turned off, I was surprised to find another runner and I were together at the front of the small 100k field.  Being in the lead of a race was a new and heady experience for me.  I quickly learned my competitor, Jim Czachor had recently won a 50-mile with a time 30 minutes faster than my best and was the 50-Mile National Champion in 1977.  That didn’t stop me from taking every opportunity to open a brief lead every time he would stop at the race aid stations.  We traded the lead for the next 20 miles until he finally pulled ahead to stay while we were running into a headwind.  I went through the 50-mile mark at about 6:26 and fought to hold pace to the finish hoping to get under 8 hours.  But it was not to be… I was sprinting at 80 meters from the line when the 7 changed to an 8 on the clock.  In hindsight I probably expended too much energy trying to get the lead in the middle of the race and missed my goal by 22 seconds (time 8:00:21, a 7:44 average for 62.14 miles).

buckle1.jpgEight weeks later I ran my first trail ultra at the Western States 100.  By the time I had recovered from the fast road 100k, I had less than six weeks to get my legs ready for the trails over the Sierra from Squaw Valley to Auburn.  Six weeks was not enough; six months might not have been enough to convert me from a road racer to a trail runner.  It was ugly but with the support of my best friend pacing me through the final 38 miles, I managed to finish 49th overall in 22:48:35.  The best thing about finishing and getting the coveted buckle for a sub-24 finish was that I wouldn’t have to do the race again.

It took about a week for my quads to heal from the abuse of all the downhill running at Western States.  Then it was a relief to get back to the roads.  Eight weeks after Western States I ran the South Hell 50, a local 50-miler over hilly roads in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Again I found myself in the lead group in the race.  At about ten miles, I inadvertently opened a small gap on other leaders and got ambitious.  I pushed a little harder up a long grade to open the gap and by 15 miles was out of sight.  I quickly learned that it doesn’t pay to get competitive in the early miles of an ultra.  Five miles later two guys motored past me on a big hill and another mile or so later another runner passed, dropping me to fourth.

With the encouragement of my handler, I regrouped and settled into running my own race at a more sustainable pace.  By 47 miles I had moved back into second place as the runners ahead slowed.  At about a mile from the finish I got within a hundred feet of the leader.  He heard me coming and, with a long surge I couldn’t match, reopened the gap to about a minute at the finish.  If I had been more patient and waited until 30 or 40 miles to go for the lead, the result might have been different.

Another eight weeks later, I again ran the Southern Pacific Association 50 Mile Championship, contested on a four-mile loop around the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.  As often happens in small races, the elite runners who had finished ahead of me the previous year did not return for the 1982 race.  At about 30 miles I came up on the shoulder of the race leader and with a little surge moved into the lead.  I expected I would gradually pull away to a comfortable lead.  However, the gap stabilized at about a minute.  I would see him each lap at about the same point on a short out-and-back to the start/finish.  Being far more accustomed to chasing down other runners toward the end of a race, I found it stressful to be the runner pursued.  Still, I held onto the lead, winning the district championship by 54 seconds.  My time was a personal record:  6:21:42 (7:38 average).

Totals for 1982:  4 ultras (2nd, 2nd & 1st overall finishes plus a buckle at Western States) and 3 marathons run as hard workouts; 3501 miles total running.  My 8:00:21 100k made me the 12th fastest performer for that (infrequently run) distance in North America.  My 50-mile personal record was good for a 113th ranking, a truer indication of where I ranked during the "golden age of American road ultras."

Training for Ultras in the 80s

Consistent Training Pattern.  Being somewhat obsessive about my training, virtually every week had the following pattern:
Mon - easy run; Tue - easy run; Wed - easy run & fast fun run; Thu - easy run; Fri - easy run; Sat - long run; Sun - long run

Back-to-Back Long Runs.  The key workout in my self-coached training plan was two long runs on a weekend totalling perhaps 40 miles.  For example, I might run 24 miles on Saturday and then back it up with 16 miles on Sunday.  The reasoning was that you needed to train your body and mind to run when tired.  In the eight weeks before tapering for my 100k in 1982 I have six weeks with back-to-back long runs and one week with a 42-mile long run.

Moderately High Weekly Mileage.  My goal for the eight weeks before tapering for a major race was to keep my weekly mileage in the 70 to 85-mile range.  My eight-week average before the 100k was 82 miles.

Fast Weekly Fun Runs.  Being a self-coached ultra runner, I didn't do any formal speedwork and rarely ran any of the local short races.  Instead, I got my speed work every Wednesday evening at the Phidippides "fun run."  The group
started from the store in Marina Del Rey at about 8 minute pace so we could talk and catch up.  Once we headed down the beach bikeway the pace started ratcheting up.  Perhaps 10 of us would still be together at the turn around at 5 or 6 miles.  After the turn, the fast guys would take off and the rest of us would do our best to hang on.  In the spring of 1982, my time for a longish 10 miles "fun run" dropped from 1:09:09 to 1:08:30 to a sparkling 1:06:05 just 11 days before the 100k.

Easy Days.  I did manage to learn a little from my over-training days back in 1975-1977.  I had a running streak of over a year going but aside from the two long runs on the weekend and the Wednesday "fun run" speed work, the rest of my runs were lunch-time runs of only five or six miles at an easy pace.

Lessons Learned.  The above training practices enabled me to race reasonably well for about two years before the wheels came off.  Following are some of the problems I recognized in hindsight: 
  • Not enough gap between major races... eight weeks is not enough time to recover, train appropriately and taper for the next race and the next race after that
  • No off season after a series of major races... in Southern California it was entirely too easy to race year round
  • No off days to ensure adequate recovery from especially hard workouts or give lingering injuries a chance to heal
  • No easy weeks to allow recovery from hard weeks ("no recovery, no gain")
  • Over-reliance on back-to-back long runs... once every three or four weeks would have been better than doing these runs three or four weeks in a row
  • Long, hard runs too close to a major race.  For example, I did a 50k training run in 4:07 (7:55 average pace) the weekend before the 100k... a three week gap would have ensured adequate recovery and fresher legs at the race
  • No plan or structure to speed work.  I sometimes ran too hard close to a major race and more often missed opportunities for improvement 
  • No coach to talk me out of racing too frequently, put me through the right mix of speed work and to keep my morale up when things weren't going well 

1983-1987:  Crossing the Long Valley
With regard to racing, I have to confess to being both overly ambitious and a slow learner.  The lessons I learned from my burnout after 1976 (see Part 1 for the gruesome details) had been easily ignored with the quick success I found in ultrarunning.  After two career years with too many hard races and too little recovery, the inevitable again happened:  a rapid fall from the peak and a long-lived loss of enthusiasm for running, reduced training mileage, weight gain, and sub-par race results.

1983:  4 ultras (8th, 4th, 6th and a DNF in my first attempt at a 24 hour race) and 2 slow marathons; only 2363 miles running.  A lot of time and energy that could have been spent training went into getting my masters thesis close to completion and a job change.

The hubris of my misadventure at the Atlanta 24 Hour is worth a brief analysis.  I totally underestimated the difficulty of a 24 hour run, much less doing one in the heat and humidity of August in Georgia.  I mapped out a schedule that would get me to about 137 miles:  hours 1-4 average 6.25 miles per hour (mph); hours 5-12 average 6.0 mph; hours 13-16 average 5.75 mph; hours 17-21 average 5.25 mph and hours 22-24 average 5.0 mph.  Worse, I thought I could win the race despite being a long way from my peak race fitness.  My two 50 mile times were 7:05:48 for 4th overall in the Santa Monica Mountains 50 and 7:06:29 for 6th overall in the Southern Pacific Association 50 Mile Championship, a long way from the 6:21:42 of two years earlier.  

From the 24 hour start at 8am, I foolishly tried to stay close to the early leaders.  I ran too fast and walked too little, running ahead of my absurdly optimistic schedule.  At four hours, I had 26 miles and was a mile ahead of schedule.  In those same four hours, it had gone from a pleasantly warm 70 degrees to a hot & humid 80+ degrees.  By six hours I lost that mile cushion and began falling more and more behind schedule as can be seen in graph below.  At nine hours I had 50 miles but was in deep trouble.  I was walking more than I was running and stopped several times in futile attempt to recover.  Over the next three hours I added only another 10 miles for 60 miles at the race midpoint.  Three hours later at 15 hours, I had 72.25 miles and blistered feet from walking.  Over the next hour I added another 3.5 miles for 75.75 miles in 16 hours.  Doing the math, I figured it wasn't worth walking another eight hours just to get, at best, a hundred miles.  So I dropped out of my first 24 hour.

pacing-in-two-24-hours.png
    
1984:  2 ultras (16th place and a 2nd place in a 24 hour with 123.25 miles) and 1 marathon; 2619 miles running and 1134 miles cycling, mostly commuting to work.  I finally finished my masters degree.

After my failure in the Atlanta 24 Hour, I went into the No Bullshit 24 Hour with an enormous respect for the challenge of the event.  I was determined to run for the entire 24 hours.  To achieve this goal, I decide to try a novel pacing strategy.  The conventional wisdom in running trail hundreds and 24 hour events is "relentless forward motion" with time in aid stations held to the absolute minimum.  I decided to turn this notion on its head and run for 24 hours by not running for 24 hours.  That is, I decided to intentionally take rest breaks every hour in order to keep being able to run for the whole 24 hours.  My inspiration for this counter-intuitive approach actually went back to a book about cycle touring I read in 1955 when I was in the 5th grade... the text recommended taking a ten-minute break every hour when touring 100 to 150 miles a day.

My most optimistic distance goal for the race was 200k (124.27 miles).  Consistent with a goal of running relatively even spits for the entire race, I decided that 5.5 miles per hour was more than fast enough (5.5 miles x 24 hours = 132 miles) and would allow for a moderate slow down late in the race.  I started the race with the following pacing strategy:  Run at a comfortable, easy pace.  Walk a lap every two miles at a comfortable walking pace.  Step off the track at 5.5 miles (at about 50-52 minutes elapsed) and sit down with my feet up in a folding lounge chair.  Eat a snack or light meal provided by my crew.  Drink and relax.  At the end of the hour, go back to running.

As you can see in the green plot in the chart above, I consistently tallied 5.5 miles in each hour for the first nine hours and hit 50 miles in 9:04:35.  In the tenth hour, I slowed a smidge and, to ensure a consistent 7-9 minute rest break, I started taking my break at 5.25 miles elapsed each hour.  That worked for three hours and then I had to cut back to 5 miles per hour.  Except for falling one laps short at 15 hours, I was able to hold that pace to 20 hours.  I hit 100 miles in 18:50:47 (9:46:12 for the second 50 miles).  Starting at about 90 or 95 miles, I found I would stiffen up during the short rest breaks and it would take a couple laps to loosen up.  My last rest break was at 105 miles.  Running continuously got me an extra quarter mile in the 21st hour and kept me at 5 mph for the 22nd hour.  Then the wheels started coming off.  Hour 23 was passed running the straights and walking the curves on the quarter-mile track.  Hour 24 was all walking.  I finished with 123.25 miles for 2nd place behind the outstanding run of 130.25 miles by David Lygre (a highly accomplished runner from Ellensburg, WA who is still active in the sport today).  My more modest effort made me the 24th best performer in North America for the year.

Why the big difference between the failure in Atlanta the year before and the solid race in 1984?  I believe the biggest single difference was the pacing strategy.  I was, if anything, less race fit in '84... my time in the Southern Pacific Association 50 Mile Championship was slower (7:18:33).  My training prior to both 24 hour races was approximately equivalent... my average mileage for the eight weeks before each 24 hour was 71 miles per week.  On the other hand, the No Bullshit race was held in the coastal community of Ventura, CA and temperatures probably never got above 75 degrees.

Two medical issues from the race are worthy of mention.  First, the track surface was granite dust.  The thousands of laps run during the race turned the surface to a fine powder that penetrated the fabric of shoes and socks.   Starting at about 16 hours into the race, I noticed increasing irritation around my ankles and heels that got worse with each passing hour.  Several times my crew tried cutting away part of my shoes in hopes it would stop the irritation.  In hindsight, it mystifies me why we never tried a sock and shoe change.  After the race when the shoes and socks came off, we discovered the tops of both feet were red and blistered due to my allergic reaction to the dust.  It was about a week before I could wear shoes again.  From that race on, I always planned for a mid-race foot wash and shoe change for track and trail races.

Second, once I stopped at the end of the 24 hour, I started to black out.  Fortunately my crew was there to catch me.  I discovered I was OK if I kept moving or if I lied down but standing around chatting was not possible.  The week after the race I got a major workup from a cardiologist who found nothing abnormal, i.e., no arrhythmia or other possible problems.  The conclusion was that the cause of the near fainting was some combination of dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and blood pooling in the legs.  After that episode, I made it a point to always avoid stopping completely immediately after a hard ultra, to try to walk around for least five or ten minutes after finishing.

Tips on Applying the Counter-Intuitive Strategy for 24 Hours

If you would like to try the approach I used with considerable success in the No Bullshit 24 Hour, here are some tips
  1. Set up a pit stop where you will be able to comfortably take your rest break no matter what the weather conditions may be.  This could be as simple as a canopy for shade and a folding lounge chair so you can put your feet up.  In inclement conditions, you might need a tent to get out of the rain and wind while you rest, eat and drink.
  2. Have a pit crew to cater to your needs during the race.  Your crew should have anything you want ready to hand to you, whether it's a bottle for a walk break, a snack and drink for a rest break, a change of shoes or clothing, etc.  The goal is to eliminate all hassles and wasted time so you are either making relentless forward progress around the course or resting as comfortably as possible.
  3. If you can't have a pit crew for part or all of the race, prepare ahead all drinks and food so you won't have to waste time and energy in food preparation.  Have all other supplies organized and arranged so things are easy to find.  You might want to have food and drink within reach while you are sitting in the lounge chair so you can maximize the time with your feet up. 
  4. Plan to run from the start of the race at a very easy and effortless pace.
  5. Plan to take frequent and short walk breaks.  With additional experience, I now recommend shorter run intervals and shorter walk breaks than the run 7 laps, walk 1 lap which I used in 1984.  I suggest strong and fit runners try walking 200 meters every mile and less fit runners try walking 150m every half mile or kilometer.
  6. Do some practice runs using your planned run/walk strategy.  Take note of how many miles you effortlessly cover in 50-51 minutes.  Make that distance your maximum goal distance for each hour of the 24 hour.
  7. During the race, follow your run/walk strategy from the first mile.  When you reach your goal distance for the first hour, get off the track and rest/eat/drink until the end of the hour.
  8. As the race progresses your running pace will eventually slow.  When your rest interval gets under 5-6 minutes, it's time to shorten your goal distance for the hour.

     

Note:  The above approach is for track races and races with a short loop of a kilometer or less.  For 24 hour runs on longer loops, the approach would have to be modified.  For example, assuming a 2.0 mile loop and a runner able to effortlessly run/walk at 6 miles per hour:  I would recommend starting with a goal of run 3 laps and rest 8-10 minutes.  Eventually, the runner will slow.  When the runner feels the need for more rest, I would switch to taking a rest break after every 2 laps. 


1985:  1 ultra (6th place) and 2 slow marathons; 2115 miles running.  Life changes were a major factor this year… we adopted our older son.  My one ultra came in December at the Palm Springs 50 Mile.  I was at least 15 pounds over racing weight and averaged only 49 miles per week in the eight weeks before the race.  Fortunately the course and weather were favorable and I finished in 7:11:57.

1986:  1 ultra (7th place) and 3 slow marathons; 2448 miles running.  Buying a house, selling our condo and moving took lots of cycles that could have been spent running.

I was still carrying the extra pounds but my training was up (60 miles per week average for the eight weeks before tapering) leading into a return engagement with the Palm Springs 50 Mile.  I was pleased to do a little better, finishing in 7:01:24.

1987-san-juan50.jpg1987:  2 trail ultras (32nd & 72nd place) and 1 slow marathon; 2424 miles running.  This was my fish-out-of-water year when I tried a half-hearted switch to trail ultras with little success.

The Malibu Trail 50 Mile came at the tail-end of the Southern California rainy season.  Things went reasonably well until the deluge started after about 20 miles.  It poured and the trail turned to mud.  This roadie was really miserable in the mud.  The result was a personal worst 10:24:00 for 50 miles.

The San Juan Trail 50 Milewas on a warm day in November with lots of long climbs and descents, some rocks and not a trace of mud.  If you look closely at the photo, you will see I'm wearing a 1987 Nike Monitor at my waist.  That gizmo used the doppler effect to estimate your running speed and distance traveled.  The Monitor had no display.  Instead would tell you your current pace and distance through ear buds.  It sort of worked except it was sensitive to the terrain, giving different distances for running up versus down the same hill.  It also had a wired heart rate monitor strap that I could never get to work.  I used the Monitor for about six months before putting it on the shelf where it sits today.  My race finish was in mid-pack with a 9:38:48 time.
 
A Hint of Even Better Races to Come 
In 1988 I returned to the roads, gradually lost weight and ramped up my training in the second half of the year.  In October I again raced the Southern Pacific Association 50 Mile Championship, now on a flat five-mile loop in Fountain Valley, CA.  On a hot day I managed to finish 3rd overall in 6:46:10, my best result for 50 miles in six years.  Continuing to ramp up my training and losing the final five pounds to get to racing weight, I ended the year with my first sub-3 marathon in eight years by running 2:58:03 in the Western Hemisphere Marathon in Culver City, CA. 

Total running mileage for the year was 2455 miles, much of it in July-December.


Chasing Championship Medals
menu-spacer.pngCalifornia:  1989-1994

The previous phase closed with my return to the roads in 1988 and my first sub-3 marathon in eight years in December 1988.  Highlights of this next phase include:

•·         a PR in the 24 Hour

•·         age-group silver and bronze medals in TAC National Championship races

•·         discovering my favorite race in the 12 Hour and setting a race record

1989:  Another 24 Hour and the Edmund Fitzgerald 100k Championship.  With the promise of even better races to come, I started 1989 with a renewed enthusiasm for hard training.  Two workouts formed the core of my training at this time.  In an eight to ten week training cycle for a target race I did three or four weekends with 40+ miles done in two runs.  I also started working out once a week with Culver City Athletic Club (CCAC) Coach Bruce Robinson.  At the West LA College track, Bruce put me through an eclectic mix of distances each week, sometimes as short and intense as 150 meter hard and sometimes including longer repeats, up to 4 by 1 mile or 2 by 2 miles.  Sets of 200s, 400s and 800s were in almost every workout.    Bruce's strategy seemed to be to prepare me to be comfortable at any speed and efficient at marathon pace.

After placing 5th overall in the local Spunky Canyon 40.5 Mile Ultra on April 1st, I trained hard through the spring and into the summer.  My goal race was the local Orange 24 Hour on August 4-5.  I averaged 76 miles per week for the eight weeks before tapering.  During the taper, I did a 12k road race in 47:30 (6:22 per mile average indicating I was in pretty good shape.

The 24 Hour started at 6pm on a Friday evening.  My strategy for this track race was to walk a hundred meters every four laps.  I expected to run a PR and be competitive for the race win.  With these ambitions I was going for "relentless forward progress" and was not going to take rest breaks off the track like I did in the No Bullshit 24 Hour in 1984.  As can be seen in the graph below, my race broke down into four distinct phases:

  1. the "honeymoon" - running effortlessly for the first seven hours (6pm - 1am) at 6.25 and then 6.0 miles per hour (mph).  At 7 hours, I was 3.25 miles behind Mike McMahon in first.
  2. "tactical retreat" - the effort begins to tell and I decide to slow my pace to 5.5 mph for the eighth hour in hopes of avoiding a more major slowdown.  I manage to hold this pace through hour 15 of the race (1am to 9am).  At 15 hours, I had moved into second place at 7 miles behind McMahon.
  3. "hanging on" - the day starts to get hot and my fatigue increases.  I have to ratchet the pace back another notch to 5.0 mph and then to 4.75 mph.  It gets really hot and I have to pour water over my head at least once a mile to keep from overheating in the sun.  I am barely able to sustain this pace through hour 21 (9am to 3pm).  At 21 hours I was in second place at 5.25 miles behind.
  4. "death march" - the wheels begin coming off for good in hour 22 as I go to running the straights and walking the curves of the track.  Sometime during hour 23 I can no longer run and walk for the remaining time.

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I finished in second place with 128.3 miles, 4 miles behind first place but 5 miles farther than I'd done in the No Bullshit race.  I finished thinking that on a cooler day I might have a shot at 130 miles.  The photo shows me (left) shuffling along with race winner Mike McMahon (right) in the last hours of the race.

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Orange 24 Hour

 


Edmund Fitzgerald 100k

After the 24 Hour, I made plans to run the Edmund Fitzgerald 100k at Duluth, MN.  The race was the TAC 100k Open Championship in 1989. 

When I resumed training and track workouts in preparation for the Ed Fitz, I was plagued with pain from the groin down the inside of each leg (probably strained abductor muscles).  The pains continued on and off through the entire training cycle.  A two-week family trip to New Zealand also limited my training.  In the eight weeks before tapering, I averaged only 60 miles per week and my weight was up five pounds.

Using frequent flyer miles, I took my coach (Bruce Robinson) with me to be my handler for the point-to-point 100 kilometers along the shore of Lake Superior.  Race day on October 28th was clear and cold, cold enough that I started wearing tights and didn't take them off until after halfway in the race. 

My race went reasonably well as I started in about the middle of the pack and after twenty miles began moving up in the field.  I went through 50k in 4 hours even and kept working on catching the next runner up the road.  My coach met me every few miles along the course to hand me drinks and snacks.  Just as important in the last half of the race, he gave me time splits to the runners ahead who were out of sight over the next hill or around the next curve.  That kept me motivated all the way to the finish.

I finished in 8:11:33 for a 7:55 average pace.  I was 11th overall, 9th man and unofficially the 3rd masters runner (there were no age group awards).  The race winners in course record times were Charlie Trayer in 6:41:47 and the legendary Ann Trason in 7:33:13.

After the Ed Fitz, my abductors were even worse and ended my season.  I saw an orthopedist, did physical therapy, got reinjured by stretching and ended the year with a lingering injury and only doing low mileage running and weight up about ten pounds. 

Totals for 1989:  3 ultras (5th, 2nd, 11th overall finishes) and 1 marathon run as hard workout; 3049 miles total running.

1990:  Chasing Age Group Medals with Frequent Flyer Miles.  My next target race was the Wolfpack 50 in Columbus, OH on April 1st.  The race was the TAC 50 Mile Masters Championship and I would use some more frequent flyer miles in pursuit of a championship medal.

The sore abductors finally quite hurting in January and I had a fair training cycle.  I did several 20-mile training runs but had no 40-mile weekends in this cycle.  I was able to get back to the track and do longer repeats (e.g., 4 x 1 mile in 6:34 average) without reinjuring the abductors.

wolfpack44a.jpgThe Wolfpack 50 was held on a bike path in a Columbus park.  The course was a 2.5-mile out and back with the start/finish in the middle.  Ten laps with 20 turnarounds made up the 50 miles.  The course was great for me as a come from behind racer.  I got to see the next runner ahead at each turnaround and tell how quickly I was catching him.  The runner I passed for third place was especially memorable.  It took me ten miles to catch and finally pass him at 45 miles.  On my last lap, I had the open runner in second in my sights but the finish came too soon to catch him. 

I finished in 6:23:21 (7:40 average pace) for 3rd overall and 2nd in 40-44 for a silver medal.  I missed a gold medal by about 15 minutes or by 26 days.  At the time, I was 26 days short of moving up to the 45-49 age group.  This race was my best 50 since 1982 and when scored using the age-graded tables, it was superior to my 1982 50-mile PR. 

Seven weeks after the Wolfpack 50, with no concentrated training (only 48 miles per week average), I ran the SPA-TAC Championship 50 Mile.  On a warm day, I finished in 6:38:12 for 7th overall and 2nd in 45-49.  This local TAC association race had a better quality field than the TAC National Championship Masters race.  This example illustrates the sad fact that national championship ultramarathons are often no more competitive than a big regional race, especially in a strong running area like Southern or Northern California.

After TAC-SPA 50 Mile, I returned quickly to hard training:  40-mile weekends and regular track workouts.  I had 16 weeks of training in preparation for Megans Run, the TAC 24 Hour National Championship in Portland, Oregon.  With an average of 70 miles per week for the eight weeks before the race, I thought I was ready to contest the age group win.

But nine days before the race, the fever and body aches of the flu started.  My fever broke five days before the race and the headaches stopped four days before the race.  My resting pulse remained high at 60 versus my 45-48 normal range.  I ran 4 miles easy three days before race and decided to go as the airline tickets were non-fundable for my handler and me.

My race was not fun.  There was no "honeymoon" phase of effortless running.  I felt achy from almost the beginning.  My strategy was to walk 100 meters every other lap, i.e., run 700 meters, walk 100 meters.  My heart rate was elevated from beginning, 150 beats per minute during the run, recovering to 130 during the walk.  I began slowing from my already slow pace by 6 hours.  My quads were sore by 50 miles.  My calves started cramping by 80 miles.  I walked another five hours to 101.8 miles in 21:15 and retired to my tent.

What was fun was being on the track as Rae Clark set the current American track record for 24 hours.  Clark completed 664.7 laps of the 400-meter track for 165.2 miles.  I only saw him off the track for perhaps 10 minutes for a massage after he completed 100 miles.  While I was on the track, he lapped me about 200 times.

In hindsight, I would have been better off to have not started Megans Run while still recovering from the flu.  Recovery from the race took a long time.  I took two full weeks off with no running.   My resting pulse remained elevated at 60-65 for a week after the race.  I saw my doctor.  Blood tests showed my SED was 40+ indicating a problem with inflammation.  Two weeks later, my SED was still 20, the upper end of normal range and my resting pulse still above 50. 

After two weeks off, I resumed a maintenance level of running, 20-30 miles maximum per week.  I would feel good on perhaps one run a week and the rest I felt tired and very slow.  It was seven weeks before I had a run averaging less than 8 minutes per mile.

Totals for 1990:  3 ultras (3rd, 7th and 16th overall finishes, 1 silver medal) and 1 marathon run as hard workout; 2762 miles total running.

1991:  A Year to Regroup.  1991 was an off year dominated by a major life change.  My wife and I adopted a second son.  Gary was seven and in the first grade.  We had lots of colds and flus that year.  I had lots of business travel also.  I ran my favorite two marathons (Santa Monica and Western Hemisphere) in lackluster times.  In the fall I began a small ramp up in training for a January 100k.

Totals for 1991:  No ultras, 2 marathons; 2357 miles total running.  

jackson50-cropped.jpg1992: Another Medal and My First 12 Hour.  I started 1992 getting over the flu.  Two weeks after being sick, I flew to Dallas, TX for the Jackson Five-0 100k.  The race was the TAC 100k National Championship.  Weather in Dallas in January can be dicey.  Race day was a mix of rain, sleet and snow with strong winds.  Temperature was in the 35-38 degree range.  My race was not particularly good.  It was only two weeks after being sick and my training was marginal: only 45 miles per week average for the 8 weeks before the race and my weight was up at 143.  Then there was the weather; just finishing was a struggle.  Still everyone faced the same conditions and I finished third in the 45-49 age group and added a bronze championship medal to my collection.

Nine weeks later was the inaugural (and only) Los Angeles 12 Hour & 24 Hour, held at the Culver City High School track just down the street from my home.  Of course, I had to support the local race.  Recovery from the 100k went reasonably well considering I wasn't at a high level of fitness before that race.  My training before the 12 Hour was a little better at 53 miles per week average and three weekends with 40+ miles.  I was still well over racing weight at 141 pounds.

The night before the race, a heavy rain blew through the LA Basin and left muddy puddles around the turns at each end of the granite dust track.  In effect, for the first three or four hours of the race, we were running in the second lane around the curves.  Since the front had moved through, it was relatively cool and dry for the race.

I had a significant pain in my right hip in middle hours of the race... I took Advil and soldiered on.  The pain went eventually went away. In the final couple of hours, I was able to move up in the standings, passing Lorraine Gersitz (1993 US 100k team member) for third with about an hour remaining and closing on second, only 500 yards behind at the end.  My total for 12 hours was 74.17 miles (9:42 average pace).

After the 12 hour, the pain in my right hip and right abductors hung around for six weeks of maintenance running (30-40 miles per week, no long runs or track work).  Five weeks after the race the Los Angeles riots happened when the policemen were acquitted of the Rodney King beating.

The hip pain continued to show up from time to time for the rest of the year.  I continued on a maintenance level of training.  After Labor Day, I decided to try something different and got out my bike to train for the Conejo Century six weeks later.  My peak week of training was only 77 miles in two rides.  The Century ride was harder than I expected... that distance used to be a normal Saturday training ride.  The Conejo Century had five major climbs and I was beat by the end.  There's a big difference between doing a Century on a base of 200-300 miles per week and on a base of 50-60 miles a week.

After the Century, I was able to bump up my running into the 50 mile per week range, ran the Western Hemisphere Marathon on December 6th in 3:17  (weight 147, heaviest so far for a marathon or ultra) and after a week to recover, continued ramping up the miles into the 70 mile range.

Totals for 1992:  2 ultras (18th and 3rd overall finishes, 1 bronze medal), 1 marathon and one 100-mile bike ride as hard workouts; 2069 miles running, 676 miles cycling.

1993:  Breaking the Event Record.  In January, I began getting a sharp pain on outside of my right foot.  After a couple of weeks, an x-ray showed a stress fracture of fifth metatarsal.  I was able to run through the injury.

In April I flew to Columbus, OH to run the Wolfpack 50, which was again the TAC 50 Mile Masters Championship.  My training prior to race was only fair:  59 miles per week average and my weight was still at least 15 pounds over racing weight.  In the race, every five-mile lap was over 40 minutes.  I finished in 6:54:45 for 6th place overall and 3rd in the 45-49 age group and another bronze national medal.

After a couple of weeks off to recover, I ramped my training back up into 50-65 mile range and resumed doing 20 mile runs about every other week.  I started doing some speed work each week, mostly 1k or 2k repeats or 400 meter repeats, all on a 1k dirt loop.

During the summer, I decided to target the Claremont 12 Hour and upped my mileage further into 60-80 miles per week range and resumed doing track workouts with Coach Bruce Robinson.  My 10k race times dropped from 42:04 to 40:36.  I gradually brought my weight down to 135.  My eight-week average mileage before the 12 Hour was 65 miles.

The Claremont 12 Hour was held on a 440-yard granite dust track on the Claremont University campus.  Weather conditions on race day were typical of October in an inland location... very dry, not a cloud in the sky and hot in the afternoon.  I felt like I was in shape to do 80+ miles but the heat was a real problem for all runners.  I had my handlers give me a wet sponge every mile from early afternoon to sundown so I could wet my head and shoulders. 

The graph below shows the pacing of the first and second place runners in the race.  Lorraine Gersitz ran a very strong first half and took the overall race lead at six hours as the early leaders faded in the heat.  I was in third place at six hours, 2 miles behind Gersitz.  At eight hours I moved up into second.  Gersitz hit a bad patch in the eighth hour but I was still 1.25 miles behind her.  Over the remaining hours I was able to pick up my pace as the day began to cool and gradually chipped away at her lead.  At 11 hours I finally pulled even and then put the race away with a strong final hour.
 
claremont12hr-pacing.png
 

When the 12 hours ran out, I had 78.06 miles (9:13 average pace), the race win and had bumped the men's record distance up by 4.31 miles.  Gersitz finished with 76.5 miles, which also broke the prior men's record and set a new women's record by 4.25 miles.

I tried to come back a little too quick after the 12 Hour... I would have a few good days and then would be exhausted and miss workouts.  The weekend before Western Hemisphere Marathon I had a cold.  I had a bad race there, fading after ten miles.  I caught yet another cold a couple weeks after the marathon and gained back the weight I'd lost.  At yearend, my weight was back up to 144 pounds and I was back doing just maintenance mileage.

Totals for 1993:  two ultras (6th and 1st place overall, 1 bronze medal) and one marathon; 3039 miles running

1994: A Final Race in California.  The year 1994 started off with a series of unsettling external events.  The most notable of these were the 6.6 magnitude Northridge earthquake and the first ever layoffs in my group at Xerox.  The quake hit at about 4:30 am one morning in late January.  There was no significant damage to our house but it really put a scare into us.  An overpass of the Santa Monica Freeway about a half-mile from our house fell down, a 14-story building where my dentist had his office was damaged so badly that the entire building had to be torn down and many houses in nearby Venice and Santa Monica had to be destroyed after being pushed off their foundations.  The next week, there were layoffs in my group at Xerox.  I dodged the bullet but it upset things badly at work. 

I went down to a maintenance level of running for the first half of the year... running only 20-40 miles a week with no track work and no long runs.  Despite the reduced mileage, I had recurring problems with left knee pain and left foot plantar fasciitis.  My weight crept up to 150+ pounds by midyear, the heaviest I'd been since 1970.  My 10k times were up 3 minutes over the year before.

In August I decided to run the Claremont 12 Hour for my major race of year.  I got my mileage up into 60-70 mile range on good weeks.  New this year, I did a couple of trial runs on the track, running 16 miles using the run-walk strategy I expected to use in the race:  run at an easy pace (holding my heart rate under 145 bpm) and walking 100 meters after each mile.  For the two trial runs I averaged 9:29 and 9:30 for 16 miles.  My eight-week average mileage was pretty good at 61 per week but my weight was 150, the heaviest I'd ever been for a major race.

The 1994 Claremont 12 Hour was held on November 26th, which put it at the start of the rainy season.  At dawn on race day it was overcast.  By the time the race started, it was pouring and continued to rain for a couple hours.  Deep puddles formed in the turns and we ran in the second or third lane until the rain stopped and the track gradually dried out. 

As one might expect, being both overweight and undertrained, I was not going to set a PR.  In the early hours I was in seventh place.  Once the rain stopped, I gradually moved up.  By the sixth hour, I was in second place at 2.3 miles behind Chris Christensen who led from the start.  In the second half of the race I gradually chipped away at his lead but never got closer than 1.25 miles behind.  I finished with 72.71 miles (9:54 average pace) for 2nd overall and 1st Masters runner.

The 1994 Claremont 12 Hour was last race I ran in California.  My wife and I had been discussing moving out of Los Angeles for at least fifteen years and the Northridge quake finally got us off the dime to make the move happen.  I negotiated a transfer to the main Xerox offices in Rochester, NY and we moved in 1995.  

Totals for 1994:  one ultra (2nd place); 2432 miles running

Part 1 of this narrative ends with my having won three national age group medals (one silver and two bronze), found my best event in the 12 Hour and set a new open record in the Claremont 12 Hour. 

The story continues with Part 2 1995 - 2005.