1. The Past Six (or so) Months:
So, those of you familiar with this blog probably know that I ran Badwater last July, and haven’t really done much — running-wise — since, except (1) signing up for some races I had absolutely no business signing up for, and, not surprisingly, inevitably dropping from them very early in the race (due to total lack of motivation to run; call it the “post-Badwater blues”) ; (2) feeling the need to call out someone who was obviously lying about a solo run he claimed to have completed (I still don’t know why I felt a strong need to say something about that one; although his claim was the functional equivalent of me claiming to run to the moon, looking back, I now don’t see any good point in having said anything); (3) writing about my epic 5-mile January run through the South Florida Polar Vortex (I’m not sure how I survived that epic run) :), and, oh yeah, (4) we gained a new addition to our family on December 19, 2013, Witt Alexander Krupski:
(Witt and his big sister Zoey).
Incidentally, Witt is named after the finish line at Badwater (on Mt. Whitney), and his middle name is in honor of his mommy. At any rate, after Witt was born, my lack of racing motivation completely went away and I knew I was “back,” so to speak.
It was also right around this time that Alex and I came up with “zwitty,” which is really just a combination of “Zoey” and “Witt.” Plenty of people in ultrarunning have all kinds of colorful nicknames; some are spot-on (“Peacock,” for example), some ironic, and some confounding. For us, we just wanted to create something that would recognize the most important things in our lives, bind us all together, and give us a common identity (Alex is also a pretty serious runner . . . when she’s not pregnant, which hasn’t been often since 2011 :). So “zwitty” was born, and my love for running/racing was definitely renewed.
(Zoey modeling some of her “zwitty” gear)
And after a few months of hard and solid training, I was excited to run the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trial (“LOST”) 118-mile run in February for the second time.
Unfortunately, even though I felt great mentally, my pelvic tumor (discovered a few years ago) did not agree. It started acting up, and I had to stop only 15 miles into the race. But after a trip to the ortho and some anti-inflammatories, I felt as good as new and ready to tackle the next challenge: the Donna 110, an ultrarmarathon held in conjunction with the Donna 26.2 Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer, in Jacksonville.
2. Donna 110 (Day 1: 83.8 miles):
Before I get into detail too much, if you are an ultrarunner, do yourself a big favor and sign up for this race next year. It is AMAZING. The race directors, Chris and Mark, are both great guys, the course is absolutely amazing, and the energy and support out there — for both days — is really something special.
Okay, on to the race. This was the third year for the Donna 110, and in previous years, people would just start at whatever time on Saturday they wanted, in order to finish 83.8 miles in time to start the official marathon on Sunday morning. This year, however, was different. We all — and by “all” I mean me and three other runners — would start on Saturday in Ponte Vedra at 7:30 am, run our 83.8 miles, and then that time would be added to our marathon time for the total finishing time. The other runners were Traci Phillips, the incomparable Tim “Salt Shack” Purol (who was running his fourth 100-mile or longer race in four consecutive weeks!), and some Cross-Fit dude named Sean who had never run more than a marathon but was sure he would be fine running 110 miles because, you know, he “lived in the gym.” The race director politely tried to talk him out of it, but he was adamant that he would be fine. Okay, dude, good luck…
The course for Day 1 was pretty cool, and basically mirrored the marathon course until the northern-most part of it (the first 14 miles, run mostly along the various Jacksonville beaches), and then we would run a 7-mile loop around the northern beach neighborhoods, 8 times (for a total of 56 miles), and then run the 14-mile section back to Ponte Vedra. It was a well-designed course through some of Jax’s best neighborhoods.
For me, the run went very well for the first 40 or so miles. I kept a solid 8:00/mile pace for the first 42 miles, which was a big confidence booster for me. Around this time, my buddy Chris Roman joined up with me as he volunteered to run laps 4-5 with me (Miles 42-56). Incidentally, Chris is the newly-minted American record-holder at the absurdly-hard — but apparently not “world’s toughest” race — the Brazil 135. (That’s just a little good-natured Badwater humor; the Brazil 135 has 60,000 feet of elevation change over 135 miles of roads through the hot and humid Brazilian summer).
Anyway, the first lap with Chris went very well, but by the time I was starting the second lap, those anti-inflammatories did not agree with my stomach, and I slowed to a crawl and spent the next 2 hours getting re-acquainted with everything I ate or drank over the past 42 miles (Sorry for that, Chris)
But before Chris left, he got me some ginger ale, which, along with the makeshift aid-station set up by Bambi Pennycuff, helped get me back on track, and by mile 56 or so, my stomach was settled and I was ready to tackle the remaining 25 or so miles for the day.
I managed to average 9-10 min/mile for the last 30 or so miles, which was a nice rebound and turned into a very enjoyable evening run back down the Jacksonville coast. The stretch along Ponte Vedra beach was especially nice and tranquil; that area has multi-million dollar homes and sweeping views, and I had it all to myself. In fact, the only people I saw on that stretch back to the start line were when I went into an Irish bar on Jax Beach to have them refill my water bottles. The place was getting packed (it was a Friday night at about 8pm), and I got more than a few puzzled looks from the patrons. I didn’t explain anything to them; I figured that would only make them more confused (“You see, yes, the marathon is tomorrow, which I am indeed running as well, but there is also an ultramarathon in conjunction, and I’m about 80 miles into that right now…”). :)
I finished Day 1 (83.8 miles) in a tad under 15 hours (14:54), which I was satisfied with, given my stomach issues. I was hoping to be about an hour faster, but happy nonetheless. The most memorable part of the day probably happened when I reached the start/finish line at around 10pm. Day 1 started and finished at a fitness center in Ponte Vedra, and since it had a couch and showers, and also because the marathon start line was a few blocks away, I had just planned to crash at the fitness center that night. But the key fob they gave me (along with the key fobs they gave everyone else associated with the race) did not work, so for about a half hour, I was stranded outside a deserted fitness center and starting to freeze my ass off (as any runner will attest, once you stop moving, your body temperature plummets pretty quickly).
Luckily, there was a Caribbean restaurant next door, and a very confused bar patron allowed me to use his phone to call my wife (who was at my parents’ house about 90 miles south with the kids, and was coming up the next day for the marathon). Alex got a hold of the race directors, and within 15 minutes, Mark picked me up and checked me into a Hilton next door. So that one worked out pretty well for me After a loooooong shower and 5 or so hours of sleep, I was ready to head back out there for Day 2.
3. Donna 110 (Day 2: 26.2 miles):
By about 6 am, all of the pacers for the marathon, as well as the elite marathon runners, were gathered with me back at the fitness center (which was still locked; eventually it opened about 45 min before the marathon, so the Kenyans got to do whatever it is that Kenyans do in a fitness center to prepare for a marathon)
I also learned around this time that two of the three other runners had dropped on Day 1, including — to the surprise of no one — the CrossFit dude. (I have nothing against either CrossFit or “shoot for the stars”-type goals, but there’s a difference between being prepared enough to give yourself a realistic shot, and setting yourself up for failure). The only other ultrarunner toeing the line with me at the marathon would be Traci, who got through the first day in a very respectable 20 hours.
My ambitious plan for the marathon was to hang with my buddy Sung Ho “Bruce” Choi (who readers of this blog will recognize as “Baby Gap”) for as long as possible, as he was pacing the 3:35 marathon group (basically 8:00/mi). Well, I managed to run those 8:00-miles for the first 15 miles, but then my energy levels started to plummet — not much of a surprise — and I crawled those last 11 miles in about 2.5 hours.
(Hitting Atlantic Beach around Mile 10 with Bruce and the 3:35 pace team).
(Coming back to Atlantic Beach at around Mile 16; the wheels are starting to fall off…)
Those last 11 miles were brutal, and the finish line could not come soon enough. But eventually, it appeared, and I finished in around 4:40 (which is the slowest “official” marathon I’ve ever run — by far — but I’ll take it given the 84 miles the day before!):
(Finally crossing the finish line!)
Lucky for me I didn’t take too much longer; about 30 minutes after I finished, they shut down the marathon due to bad weather, and pulled everyone left — including Traci, who had three miles left — off the course. So she ran the inaugural “Donna 107″
4. Palm 50k
Six days after finishing the Donna 110, Alex and I were in Deerfield Beach for the start of the Palm 50k, which is a great out-and-back course between Deerfield and Boynton Beaches. I’m running the longest race of my life at the end of March (the Ultra-Milano Sanremo, a 175-mile race in Italy), and I wanted to see how my legs would respond in a 32-mile run so soon after Donna (50ks are traditionally 31 miles; this one was about 1.4 miles long).
I signed up in part because I had run the Palm 100k before (in 2012), and because a lot of my friends were either running the race or would be there to volunteer or crew other runners. Plus, Alex and I had a babysitter, and were going to a concert in Lauderdale that evening, so we could make a day of it at the beach after the race. And it was an AWESOME day/night!
Also, the woman who beat me at the Keys 100 last year (by 14 minutes), Texan Brenda Carawan, would also be running the Palm (but the 100k race, not the 50k). So I would have to wait until another day to get my long-awaited “revenge.” :) (In all seriousness, Brenda is a top-flight runner who has run Badwater, Spartathlon, and done really well in other races; I was not upset at all to lose to her at the Keys. I was more concerned about my buddy Andrei catching me from behind than anything else…)
(Reunion with my “arch nemesis” at the start line).
My plan for the race was to hold 7:30/mile as long as possible. As crew members are only allowed at official aid stations, Alex would only see me every 3-4 miles, which actually was plenty.
The first two hours — or 16 miles — went perfectly, and I hit the turn around in 1:59:45, or pretty much exactly at 7:30/mile. While I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold that the whole race, it was good to get the first half over relatively quickly. The only thing that amazed me was that with a time like that, I figured I would be in the lead at the half-way point. Not even close. There was a guy — who I later would find out is an Aussie 50k specialist — who was about 18 minutes ahead of me at the turn (meaning he was running about 6:15 per mile!). And another guy — a triathlete — a few minutes ahead of me.
(Feeling good in the early miles).
On the way back, I held 8:00-8:30 per mile, and ran most of the way with Brenda and Marc Drautz, a local Boca Raton friend I’ve known for several years. (Their 100k race started 15 minutes before my 50k race, and I caught up to them right before the turn-around point). It was great to have company for those miles, and they both looked very strong, considering they still had another 50k to go once I was finished:
(Running with Marc and Brenda)
I kept my energy up right until the last two miles, and hit the finish line in about 4:18 (50k in about 4:05). It was a major confidence booster for Italy, for sure.
(Glad to be crossing the finish line).
5. On the Horizon:
The past two weekends were just what the doctor ordered as far as my confidence headed into the most daunting running challenge of my life, the Ultra-Milano Sanremo, a world famous cycling event that is being held as a run as well for the first time ever this year. To finish within the official cut-off, you have to run 175 miles in under 42 hours, which basically is the same pace as 200 miles in 2 days (and those of you familiar with my writing know just how hard that feat is to accomplish :). Even more ridiculous, if you want a buckle, you need to finish in an insane 32 hours (which basically means you need to run the first 100 in 16 hours or under, and then hold on and still run at least 5mph the rest of the way). I will definitely give it my all.
Alex and I have been looking forward to this Italy trip for a long time now. First, a lot of our friends will be there, including the race creator, my buddy Michele “Zoolander” Graglia, who is from Sanremo and will also be running — and probably winning — the race. Additionally, my very good friend Andrei Nana and his fiancee, Claire Dorotik will be there (they are actually getting married while we are out there).
(Andrei and I training on the Key Biscayne bridge).
My buddy Bruce and his girlfriend Brandi will also make the trip, as will my friend Sergio, who now lives in Arizona. Finally, Liz Bauer, who ran a mind-blowing 36 100-mile races in 2012, will also toe the line in Milan. It’s going to be an amazing trip…
Most of all, however, Alex and I have never had a honeymoon, and will spend a week bumming around Italy after the race is over (and do so without our kids, who will be staying with our parents). So only three weeks of training left until it’s wheels up for Milan