Getting off on the right foot in 2014


by Robert Lalus

As 2013 came to a close I knew a lot of things in my life were changing, for the better! The previous 2 years consisted of an insane work and commuting schedule. I took time off to travel and for races but my day to day training was inconsistent at best. My life was chaos. On November 1st I began a new job with a great company that would allow a return to a more normal schedule. The first things that picked up were my mileage and my sleep. I had already signed up for Rocky Raccoon so I had a goal...Get in shape for Rocky. For the first time as a runner I turned to the roads as my training venue. Early winter leaves much to be desired in terms of trail running in NH.

Then came the lotteries. I was really hoping for a shot at Hardrock. I wanted a big year in 2014. As it turns out I was not selected for Hardrock. However I was the second name pulled in the Western States lottery. Heynow! I assumed I had 0.0 chance of getting into States. That certainly got me thinking...I’ve always dreamed of a grand slam. It didn’t take long to make up my mind and commit to making it happen. With all this positive energy I knew I wanted to close out 2013 on a positive note and ring in the new year with a bang. So I booked a room for New Years Eve at the Eagle Mountain House in Jackson, NH and asked my girlfriend, VFuel athlete Larisa Dannis, to marry me before our New Years dinner.

The first 3 weeks of 2014 I was on hiatus from work due to a remodeling closure so I had my best opportunity to train ever. It was a horrendous winter in New England with bitter cold temps and enough daily snowfall to make the roads treacherous. But I ground out my daily runs and went into Rocky feeling good. I knew I wasn’t in peak condition but I knew I could run 100 miles at a solid, consistent pace. The weather for rocky was warm and humid, a far cry from the polar vortex I had been living and training in. I went out and tried to stay aerobic and not work too hard in the humidity as I've had some bad experiences running in high humidity. Mostly in the form of sore legs. So I kept a solid pace and never pushed too hard.

By the second lap the humidity was taking its toll as the sight of people walking became a common one. By the third lap walking was the norm. I just held on and took full advantage of the well-prepared aid stations and put ice in my hat and even down my shirt. It certainly helped, as I was able to maintain a steady pace throughout he heat of the day. By lap 4 it was finally cooling a bit and I knew the worst was over for me. The sight of someone running was a rare one at this point and folks were taking full advantage of the trailside benches.

Despite how much I had been sweating I was focused on not drinking too much and not taking too much salt which I had a habit of doing. The result of which left me a bloated mess by the finish line. I severely limited my salt intake without impact on my performance and drank a fraction of what I normally would with no ill effects. Also I stuck to water instead of sport drinks, which worked very well. This strategy was a huge success, as I experienced virtually no post race swelling. Fueled almost exclusively with VFuel, except a couple of shot blocks here and there, some oranges and a bit of soup.

Down the stretch on lap 5 I was still running steady and I knew I had a shot at a sub 20 finish. With about 3.5 miles to go a couple of fellow runners I was passing said " go man go you can break 20!" That was all I needed to hear. I knew it was going to be close but I was confident I could do it. I ran for all I was worth those last 3.5 miles and made it with a whole 55 seconds to spare! I was hoping to be a bit faster but with the heat, humidity, and carnage out on the course I was very happy with 19:55.

The last month and a half has consisted of a daily, hilly 7.2-mile run before work. Average temp single digits. On Sundays a run first then followed by a hike in the White Mountains makes for a very well rounded day. My other day off has been a little spotty but I can usually get in a quality workout followed by a nice kettle bell session or a trip to the Whites. Free of any real injuries I await the spring thaw as my fitness grows. There is a big challenge looming this summer. It is the culmination of a personal journey so unlikely that even I can't believe it sometimes.

All my life I have been looking for something. There was something in me dying to get out, yet I had no clue what it was. That any of this even existed. What started out as a late teen introduction to skiing, then hiking, has led me to discover who I truly am. For too many years I tried in vain to suppress this energy in far from positive ways. Too many late nights, too much partying. What I have come to discover is that I am truly alive when I'm out running and in the mountains. The physical endurance, immersing myself in nature, and mountain scenery is just a small part of it. There is something else I cannot describe, suffice it to say I am at peace.

Yesterday I ran the Eastern States 20 mile along the beautiful coast of New Hampshire passing through historic New Castle on the way from Portsmouth to Hampton Beach. Before the race the trend of horrendous weather in the New England continued as a heavy downpour and gale force winds greeted our arrival on the Seacoast. However right before the start of the race the rain stopped and the wind calmed a bit. Almost as if someone had flipped a switch. This was my second road run ever and I wasn't sure what to expect. The first part of the course went over several bridges and along the Piscataqua River where it was quite windy. I was running a very solid pace and felt comfortable. I was thoroughly enjoying the Altra Olympus on the road. I recently switched from Hoka to Altra because of my dissatisfaction with the brand.

I was cruising along at about 6:40 pace and feeling strong until mile 15. Then I hit the proverbial wall. I had only brought two VFuel gels with me. Huge Mistake. Lesson learned. At least there was a strong tailwind and the familiar coastal scene along 1a helped soothe my aching legs as I ground out the last 5 miles. Despite the slowdown I managed to run 2:19:02 and achieve my goal of running sub 7 minute miles at 6:57 pace. A SFH chocolate recovery whey immediately after the race was exactly what my legs were screaming for.

Hopefully spring comes to New Hampshire soon as I am dying to get out on the trails. For now all we can do is embrace the rain and cold, and even the road!

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