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The Century Club

Back in my university days in the early 1990’s, to become a member of “The Century Club” you had to drink one shot glass of beer every minute for 100 minutes. To beer lovers unfamiliar with this silly college badge of honor, the challenge probably doesn’t seem that daunting. Well, it amounts to about seven beers in a little over an hour and a half. Depending on your school/fraternity/residence/major, a variety of other rules come into play. For instance, when I (successfully) attempted to become a member, we were not permitted to stand, leave the room, pee or puke during the entire 100 minutes. Failure to abide by these rules promptly disqualified you from the fun!

Fast forward over two decades and I am proud to have become a member of an entirely different Century Club. On November 16th, 2014 as I crossed the finish line of the Penang Bridge International Marathon in Malaysia, I completed my 100th race of marathon distance or longer! Details of that race will follow in a future post.

The Century Club by the numbers:

The Milestones:
-1st: Sulphur Springs 50K, Dundas ON, May 2000
-25th: Bull Run Run 50-miler: Mannassas VI, April 2005
-50th: Disney Marathon (part of The Goofy Challenge), Orlando FL, January 2009
-100th: Penang Bridge Marathon, Penang, Malaysia, November 2014

The Breakdown:
Marathons = 22
50Km’s = 34
50 Milers = 18
100 Km’s = 3
100 Milers = 10
Other = 13. (includes timed events and races of untraditional distances greater than 42,2Km’s)

28 US States, 2 Canadian provinces & 1 territory, 3 countries, 2 continents

Some favorites:
1. Volcano Marathon, Volcano National Park HI, July 2006: After over 30 ultras, this was my first marathon. Run on a variety of terrain from desert to lava fields and even rain-forests….and heck, it was in Hawaii! What more can I say!? Unfortunately, due to safety concerns, the race no longer exists.

2. Pikes Peak Marathon, Manitou Springs CO, August 2011 & 2012: Running to the summit of a 14,000 foot mountain is quite spectacular and difficult to put into words. If I could, I would run this race every year.

3. Mohican, Loudonville OH, June 2003: My first exposure to 100-milers was in the Mohican State Park and it was the site of my first finish at that distance. For some reason I am drawn back to Central Ohio year after year. I’ve been there: 2 X 100-miler; 5 X 50-miler; 4 X pacer/crew since 2000.

4. Yukon Trail Marathon, Whitehorse NWT, August 2010: Not many pre-race final instructions give you advice on what to do if you encounter a black bear versus a grizzly bear! Also, post-race dip in the clear and chilly waters of the Yukon River was beyond refreshing.

5. Miwok 100K, Sausalito CA, May 2009: Runners start on Stenson Beach north of beautiful San Francisco. A few miles of uphill running later and you are looking down at the Golden Gate Bridge. Ocean views (if there is no fog), giant redwoods and an elite field makes this a must-do for all ultra runners.

In conclusion, my feat (or feet??) isn’t that extraordinary. The 50-States Marathon Club publishes its newsletter four times a year. Each issue announces new 50-States finishers (those who have completed a marathon/ultra in all 50 States). Every issue lists dozens of new 50-States finishers, and several who have done so 5, 10, even 15 times! Ontario’s own septuagenarian, Joe Cleary, is well over the 500 mark and still runs 20-30 marathons each year. Local legend Monica Scholtz has 117 X 100-mile finishes to her credit. Another Canadian, Don McNealy, has run over 1000 marathons with nearly 400 of those after he had turned 80 years old. Finally, there are certainly countless runners everywhere who are well over the century mark and still going strong. But looking back in that dorm room circa 1990 during my inaugural Century Club attempt, if I had declared that one day I will have run 100 marathons, my friends would have certainly laughed uncontrollably and all would have agreed that that was definitely the booze talking! Number 101 is set for January 25th, 2015 in Khon Kaen, Thailand.

Footnote: Had the “no puking rule” been implemented for my marathon Century Club, I would have been disqualified dozens of times!

Gotta run,
Vince

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Book Review – Eat and Run by Scott Jurek

“Do you wanna be somebody, Jerker?  Do you wanna BE somebody?” — Dusty Olson, Scott’s friend and pacer extraordinaire

“Sometimes you just do things” is a mantra that Scott Jurek learned from his often strict and unrelenting father at a very young age.  It is repeated throughout his recently released book Eat & Run – My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness.  More than a memoir, this book chronicles Scott’s life from his rural roots in Northern Minnesota to becoming one of the World’s most successful ultrarunners.  The book combines Scott’s compelling story with training, nutrition and injury prevention tips.  The book even closes each chapter with one of Scott’s favorite recipes.  I, for one, am looking forward to putting my culinary skills to the test and trying some of these recipes.

If you are not familiar with Scott Jurek’s list of accomplishments, it includes seven consecutive wins at the prestigious (and highly-competitive) Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, North America’s premier ultramarathon.  Jurek also has two wins at the grueling Badwater 135-mile run from Death Valley to the Mount Whitney Portals.  He is a three-time champ of Greece’s 245Km (152-mile) Spartathlon, and is the US 24-hour record holder having run over 165-miles in one day.  Over the past two decades Scott has amassed many other wins and course records along the way.

I had the pleasure of meeting Scott on a couple of occasions.  I first met him at the Vermont 100-miler in 2004, then again at Miwok 100K in 2008, where he stayed and greeted all runners at the finish line although he had completed his run many hours earlier.  This is one of the many character traits that make Scott such a likeable guy.

I also took some on-line training sessions with him in 2005 and was lucky enough to hear firsthand accounts of his 7th Western States win and first Badwater title during our engaging bi-weekly phone conversations.  Furthermore, during this time Scott was preparing for his first trip to run in the Copper Canyon with the Tarahumara Indians, a race immortalized in Christopher McDougall’s hugely successful book Born to Run.

The training sessions were extremely helpful and Scott’s advice helped me overcome some stomach issues that I had struggled with for many years during my own ultras.  He introduced me to the concept of incorporating speed work into my long runs and I have conserved my notes from our email and phone exchanges which I regularly re-read to refresh my memory and tweak my training.  But what struck me most about Scott was how humble and down-to-earth he was despite his talent, fame and success.  Scott was not judgmental of my eating habits (I am not a vegan like him) and he did not preach or impose any training and nutrition regimens onto me.  He merely shared what worked for him and suggested ways for me to experiment with change and recommended books and other resources to help me with my own investigation.  This practice is consistent throughout his book as well.

Growing up with two younger siblings and a mother suffering from multiple sclerosis, Scott was therefore responsible for countless household chores.  He worked hard cooking and cleaning around the house and maintained excellent grades at school.  Scott’s mother’s illness inspired him and would later steer Scott towards a career in physical therapy.  His cooking responsibilities as a kid undoubtedly spawned an interest for food preparation.

The family’s financial situation did not allow Scott to participate in many little league teams, so he ran cross-country at school and later joined the ski team to nurture his love of the outdoors.  It was during ski racing season that Scott met his pal, the talented and colorful Dusty “Dustball” Olson.  Dusty ultimately introduced Scott to the world of ultra marathons thus helping Scott discover his passion for trail running and unleash his talent onto the running community.  Dusty’s carefree personality, his no-nonsense tough love towards Scott during races and his often blunt and questionable outbursts to rival runners provides comic relief throughout Eat & Run.

Jurek’s bold pre-race predictions might come across as arrogance to some, but like other elite athletes, this is simply a sign of confidence in his training and hard-work.  Although Scott believed that he had trained as hard as possible and trusted he could always compete for the top spot on the podium, he still at times questioned his diet.  Once a hunter, fisherman and lover of fast-food restaurants, Scott converted to a vegetarian (vegan) diet early in his ultra career.  Was he getting enough protein and iron to sustain the effort required to run 100 (or more) miles?  Would a healthier diet make him run faster?  Scott did his scientific research and has proven that it is possible to have a plant-based diet and still succeed in this sport.  He coherently shares morsels of this research in his book without losing the reader with too much hard to understand scientific jargon.

Although I was familiar with the outcome of most of Scott’s races, his lyrical prose as he describes the challenges encountered along the various courses creates an attention-grabbing page turner.  While Scott was winning races around the World, he wasn’t immune to personal struggles.  In Eat & Run Scott candidly shares his marital and financial pains.  He is upfront about his rocky relationship with his father and does not downplay his low points in races and in life in general.

You don’t need to be a runner (let alone an ultra runner) nor do you need to prescribe to veganism to appreciate this book.  In reading it, be prepared to be inspired.  The book might even encourage you to do more and to be more.  You will see that a person is capable of achieving greatness if they put their minds to it.  You will not learn any secret shortcuts to winning some of the toughest races around.  Heck that takes a lot of hard work, dedication and some innate talent.  But most importantly, Eat & Run will force you to re-think your diet, discover the power of food, and hopefully persuade you to lead a healthier, and perhaps a more earth-friendly lifestyle.

Scott is currently on a book tour across the U.S. and even on other continents.  In many major cities he is hosting group runs followed by a speaking engagement, usually at a book or health food store.  Although no Canadian appearances have been scheduled, I am hoping Scott Jurek will speak at a nearby city at some point.  If he does, I would strongly recommend attending it, but please save me a ticket!

Gotta run,

Vince

Note:  There’s another Scott Jurek book out there.  It is titled:  Extreme Sports – Ultra Running with Scott Jurek by Jim Whiting.  I ordered this book a couple of years ago and got an amusing surprise when it arrived in the mail.  I apparently had not read the book’s description.  As it turns out, it is a “Robbie Reader” children’s book!  Oh well, it’ll make a good Christmas gift for one of my grandchildren in the future and hopefully it will inspire them to run ultras one day.

You can order your copy of the books by clicking on the image of he book cover.  Please feel free to leave a commen below.

Next post:  Doing the Double at Pikes Peak

 

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I know I said that Monumental Effort’s next post would be a book review of Scott Jurek’s “Eat & Run”, but you’ll have to wait another week for that one.  Instead I’ve prepared a race report of The Limberlost Challenge.

Preceded by a week at a Muskoka cottage, The Limberlost Challenge (TLC) has become a bit of a family tradition.  My son-in-law Ross and I ran the 28K event at the inaugural TLC in 2010.  The following summer Ross chose this venue as his first marathon and lo and behold, he won it!  Actually he won the men’s race but got “chicked” in the last few kilometers to finish second overall.  Now don’t get me wrong,  I have no problem with women beating me in a race.  It happens to me all the time!  There are a lot of faster, more talented women runners than me out there, but it was fun giving Ross the gears nonetheless.

For this year’s TLC Ross wanted to test his mettle and run the 56K event which would also mark his longest run ever.  I on the other hand, felt that the fourth loop of the 14K course would simply be too punishing.  Besides, I didn’t want to get too banged up to the point that I wouldn’t be doing any running during my week at the cottage (AKA:  training camp).  Furthermore, I really wanted to see how much I could improve on my time from 2011.

Most people “run” marathons or ultras, and very few actually “race” them.  I wanted to actually “race” this one.  My strategy was simple:  go out hard and try to hold on.  I inevitably always fade late in a race, so I figured I’d push it for the first half or more and hope for the best.

When I started passing runners from the 56K race who started twenty minutes before us, I wasn’t sure if I should feel concerned or overjoyed.  I must admit that it did feel good when I lapped Ross near the end of the first loop.  “Why are you running so fast?” he asked.  Tongue-in-cheek I answered:  “Because I’m going after you’re course record buddy!”

After 28K I had no idea how close the next runner was.  As I slowed down on that third loop, at each kilometer marker I feared that I would get passed soon.  The thought of leading a race after all this time only to surrender the lead with a few miles to go (like Ross did last year) was unsettling, so I limited the walking even though my quads were cramping up and I kept pushing the pace as agonizing as it was.  The over-the-shoulder checks for upcoming runners were becoming more and more frequent.

One more loop? Really? This sucks!

 

In the end, nobody caught me and I was the first runner to cross the finish line in the 42K run.  An actual victory!  This was something I had never experienced in a race of this distance before.  (I once won a low-key 5K trail race).  With the win I also eclipsed Ross’s course record by nearly fifteen minutes, thus restoring bragging rights within my family!

Vince at finish

 

As for Ross, he successfully completed the 56K (no podium this time), he limited his running to a mere ten minutes the entire week at the cottage, and he is currently rethinking his plan to run a 50-miler next summer!

Done and done!

 

Please leave a comment below, perhaps some words of encouragement for Ross’s big challenge next year.

Gotta run,

Vince

Next Post:  Book Review of Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run…really!

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Let me begin with an apology.  I neglected the authoring of posts over the final month of my Monumental Effort.  Sorry about that, I really have no excuse.

On June 30th, my 90 day Monumental Effort concluded.  To be honest, I can’t believe the 90 days went by as fast as they did.  Looking back, my original three goals were as follows:

  1. Have visible abdominal muscles.
  2. Do 10 pull-ups.
  3. Run 10K under 50 minutes.

Have visible abdominal muscles.

I DID NOT accomplish this goal.  HOWEVER, I’m extremely happy with the progress I made with very little effort beyond essentially changing my diet and running.  Here’s my profile pictures with Before on the left and After on the right:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 And from the front:

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see my beautiful beer belly has shrunk considerably.  I can only imagine how much more it may have decreased had I stopped beer drinking for the full 90 days.  The best part about this change is that it’s very motivating to keep the beer consumption to a minimum as it obviously heads straight to my belly.  I’ve also noticed improved digestive activity.  Let’s just say, I’m in the bathroom a normal amount of time now.

Beginning Weight: 186lbs

Final Weight: 158lbs

Do 10 pull-ups

I DID NOT accomplish this goal.  Failure at this goal can be attributed to simply not trying hard enough.  Pull-ups are hard, and I simply didn’t try.  As of last weekend, I could do 3 chin-ups (hands facing forward) with considerable effort.

Run 10K under 50 minutes

Alas, I DID NOT accomplish this goal either.  However, I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made as a runner.  When I began, my 10K time was roughly 69 minutes.  As of last measurement, I am down to 53:30.  So I’ve shaved 15:30 minutes off of my 10K time in 90 days.  Best of all, running has become pleasurable and I miss it when I don’t do it.

Conclusions and Lessons Learned

In so as far as meeting my goals, I struck out.  But I’m extremely happy regardless.  I set the bar fairly high for myself and didn’t quite reach it, but I did come close, and that’s good enough for me.  In these 90 days, I feel like a new person.  I’ve adopted a new diet, learned how to cook delicious meals, and learned a considerable amount about health and the effects everyday food really has on it.

The following list is a few lessons that I’ve learned personally over the last 90 days.  Your experience may be different than mine.

  1. When making changes to improve your life, keep them small and move forward incrementally.  Let the momentum of small wins carry you forward.
  2. Time moves faster than we’d all like to believe, and each day half lived is sad.
  3. Overcoming 40 years of learned habits is hard, but very worth it.
  4. Starting anything is the hardest part, but momentum is hard to stop as well.

Next Steps

Keep working toward my original 3 goals.  I’m progressing at a pace I can tolerate so why change now.  I will check in with an update in another 90 days.  Perhaps by then I will have found that elusive abdominal muscle.

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MERT Day 53-73: 100 Miles or Bust

I haven’t posted an update in a few weeks.  I really wanted to track Charlotte’s Bruce Trail run closely, so we turned the blog over to that coverage.  But I haven’t been completely idle, so it’s time to get back to it.

A few weeks ago I paced Vince (the other guy who authors this blog) through the final 20KM of the Sulphur Springs 100-Mile Trail Run.  The race consists of a 20KM loop, run 8 times, beginning at 6am Saturday morning.  I met up with Vince at 12:30am Sunday morning to begin the final loop.  Consider for a moment that at this time, Vince had already run 140KM in 18.5 hours.  Needless to say, he was very tired and trail worn.  His goal for this race was to finish in under 24 hours.  Vince’s personal best to date was just over 24 hours, so accomplishing his goal would mean that he’d not only finish another 100-miler, but also set a new personal best for the distance.

Flash light in hand, head lamp on, off we went into the darkness.  As this was my first night time trail run, I was slightly anxious, convinced that at the next turn we would be attacked by a pack of coyotes.  What struck me most though was the number of lone runners on the trail.  I couldn’t imagine being out in the bush, alone, trying to push through the miles.  100-milers are truly a rare breed of runner.

Vince was running well, walking the hills and doing his best to push forward.  I tried to make as much small talk as possible, to take VInce’s mind off the pain in his feet.  Then something remarkable happened.  After a long slow climb up one of the final hills VInce asked for a time check.  We both checked our watches and realized that if we pushed the pace a little, Vince could finish well under 24-hours, and possible somewhere between 22 and 23 hours.  So as we crested the final long hill, Vince found another gear and took off down the hill.  Being the responsible pacer that I was, I attempted to warn him that he was going to fast to which he replied, “Nah, I’m running on fumes anyway.”.  It was all I could do to keep up to him.  About 1KM from the finish, another friend ran out to meet us and encourage Vince through the final push.  Vince ran like a madman!

Final time:  21 hours 40 minutes!  Vince had smashed his personal best by 3 hours.  Here we are at the finish, that’s Vince on the left.

But enough about Vince, this is about me right.  I’ve continued to run regular 10KM routes approximately every 2nd day and run every 3rd one as fast as possible.  My best time so far is 57:23.  So I’ve got quite a bit of time to knock off in order to achieve my 50 minutes goal.  I’ve only got a few weeks left, so that’s going to be a challenge.  

But a funny thing is happening.  I’m beginning to look forward to my workouts.  I’m not sure if this is because I’m lighter and don’t have to work as hard, or if the weight loss is a factor, but regardless,  with each additional run, I enjoy it a little more.

Upcoming on Sunday, June 17th I’ll be running in the Waterloo Classic 10KM race where I’m hoping to push hard and come in around 50 minutes.   I’ll be sure to post results here shortly after.  With 17 days to go in my 90 day effort, I can’t believe that it’s almost done.  But most importantly, if I can do this, so can you.  Just start.

 

 

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As some of you already know, Char has spent the past day and a half off of the trails.  As of 1:30 this aft, upon the emerge doc’s recommendation she has officially pulled from the Bruce.
 
Char has very taxed hamstrings which have caused a great amount of swelling in her lower legs. It’s actually a serious concern that has implications for future running if she did not stop.
 
This morning, pre-ultrasound, she could actually walk and we all thought there was maybe a chance of returning to the trails.  But this is one of those times where you must follow the advice you’ve been given. Char did see 4 doctors over the past 2 days so we’re confident that departing this adventure is the right decision.
 
Train well, train smart my friends.  Char will be home by this evening.
 
Diane
 
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Day 3 Recap:

A special thanks goes out to the wonderful hospitality of the Van Dorp family. We really appreciated the kindness in allowing Charlotte and the team to spend the night at their home in Wiarton. Today’s schedule was to go from Wiarton to Owen Sound. Some good ol’ bushwhacking was on the menu during the morning pass through of Kemble Mountain Mgmt Area. A huge thanks to Ken N for his patience and guidance along the trails. Ken more veggie muffins are on the way. I can save you a batch!

The afternoon steady pace held by Ron Gehl kept Char on track through Linwood.  The Glen kept her on pace to the outskirts of Owen Sound.  The last leg to Inglis Falls was led by Veronique, who calmly led the way through the dense bush of the conservation area. 

Total completed distance for the day was 77.1 km in 15hr 55min.

Thanks to all for your support and kindness

Char & Chris

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Day 2 – Sunday, June 3rd

May the rain keep fallin!! Two days down and two days of rain. Marylou, Ken & I had a really strong day running. It’s unfortunate that some poorly marked reroutes early in the day resulted in us losing an hour of running time & day light. Thank you to JVD and his family for the hospitality and acommodations. 

Total time on the trail for day 2 – 16hr 12min for 81.2km.

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On Saturday, June 2nd Charlotte Vasarhelyi began her second run of the Bruce Trail End-to-End.  Updates will appear here as we receive them:

Day 1:  Day 1 went well. Rainy conditions were a factor throughout the day and made the rock beaches in the Tobermory area slippery. Thanks to Wanda and Manuel for sharing stories and laughter on the trails. Through the moto – slow & steady – we completed the 84.8km day in 15hr 5 minutes.

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MERT Day 46-52: No, I’m Not Sick

When people run into me that haven’t seen me since I started this little adventure, they invariably ask me if I’ve lost weight.  This is to be expected, as I have lost over 20 lbs and counting.  I had an interesting reaction this week while attending a friend’s BBQ; someone asked me if I was sick.  It turns out this is a completely reasonable question, given that rapid weight loss is commonly a symptom of cancer, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, and depression.  The key factor however, is whether the weight loss is intentional or unintentional.  In most cases, it’s the unintentional form of rapid weight loss that should be cause for concern.  My weight loss has been entirely intentional in that I’ve modified my diet, restarted exercising, and began sleeping more.

Recently, I was pointed at Arthur Boorman’s story.  Arthur was a disabled veteran of the Gulf War who was basically told to accept his fate.  He didn’t.  Watch this video for a little inspiration:

Now, Arthur’s story is amazing, but it almost seems somewhat so extreme that it doesn’t apply to me.  And in the latter thought, I’ve discovered Resistance.  In the book, ‘theWARofART‘, author Steven Pressfield says that “Most of us have two lives.  The life we live, and the unlived life within us.  Between the two stands Resistance.”  Resistance is the little voice that tells you that this whole concept is bullshit.  Really?  How many of us are writers who don’t write?  Runners who don’t run? Substitute whatever you like into the latter sentence that applies to you and ask yourself why you’re not that.  I know exactly what the answers in your head are:

  • “I don’t have enough time.”
  •  “I have too many financial responsibilities to change anything. “
  • “I’m too old.”
  • “I don’t want to look stupid.”
  • etc. etc. etc.

It’s all Resistance.  You need to do the “work” that you MUST do.  Even if you can only do it for 10 minutes on a daily basis; do it.  Then go about the rest of your day.  But know that you beat down Resistance for that 10 minutes.  Perhaps in a week or two, you can expand to 20 minutes.

I can’t recommend Pressfield’s book enough.  It’s really helping me recognize Resistance within my  days.  I haven’t eradicated it yet.  But I’m working on it.

 

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