Remembering Eric Sherman

Talking with Eric Sherman before my first marathon.

Talking with Eric before my first marathon.

This post, and blog for the most part, is a journal for myself.  Honestly, besides my family, it is unread, which is completely fine with me.  I write here to keep myself on track and with the infrequency of my posts, you can see how off track I get.  I feel like I need to write something today though.  A local runner and podcaster, Eric Sherman passed away on Tuesday and I can’t kick the emptiness his death has left me with.  I didn’t know Eric well, but he was an inspiration to me and my running.  Let me tell you a story.

I got out of my car, nervous and not quite ready for my first marathon. I walked around to the back to get my gear ready and heard a distinct voice coming from the hatch of the car next to me. I told my wife, “I think that’s Eric Sherman from DFL.” I looked over and saw Eric, sitting cross-legged in the back of his car, doing an intro to the 2015 Spring Classic episode. I waited until he was done and introduced myself. He was completely sincere from the first sentence. I talked to him about the race and how his recovery was coming along.  I remember hearing him talk about the difficulty in attending races while he was injured.  He asked if he could interview me for DFL after the race, which he did on episode 49. He also interviewed my wife about how she felt about crewing for me.  Alicia had a blast chatting with Eric and still remembers the conversation well.  I remember telling him that my first ultra was going to be Pisgah and he mentioned that was his first and probably his favorite.

I met up with Eric again at Ghost Train last fall.  I was stoked to see that he had rehabbed and was running the race. He looked great and I thought, damn, what a difference from April.  I’m not sure he quite remembered me, but he chatted me up like he did.  I only saw him a few times over the next 9+ hours, and he had left by the time I finished my 3rd loop.  I really wanted to talk to him about his race and am pissed I never emailed him.

He made me feel welcome and through his podcast, I felt like I knew Eric more than I actually did.  He made a difference in the way I looked at training, racing and my life in general. I never got to run with Eric. I never got to pick his brain about the New England Trails we both love. I wasn’t able to thank him enough for the joy his podcast brought me. I can say that in the short time I knew Eric, he made me feel included in the new-to-me ultra community. I always felt that when I talked with him, he was more interested in my story than I was in telling it. I will miss Eric sincerely.

Back On the Horse

With my last race of the year completed and the New England winter approaching, I’m in that spot where sitting at my computer, playing a video game sounds way more appealing than covering up in layers and hitting the trails with a headlamp…  Thanks a ton daylight savings.  This is where I need that little extra push to get my ass out of the house and do some work.  I’ve just started to put together a winter program and plan on incorporating a new diet to help get through the winter doldrums without an all-out depression setting in.  My first race of next year will be the TARC Spring Classic.  This year’s Spring Classic was my first marathon and I’m going for the 50K this year.  I’m adding something new to this winter’s training, a weight goal.  I would like to be around 165 or so by race day.  Over the summer, I’ve put on a little weight.  Some of it is muscle, I definitely feel more strength when climbing hills, but some of it is most certainly from cookouts and beer.  I’m sitting around 180 now, and feel confident that I can shave 15 pounds by April 23.

My main goal for 2016 will be finishing at least one 50 miler and using Ghost Train, at the end of the season, as another experiment to see how far I can go.  I was excited to hit 45 miles this year, but would have liked to have gotten another loop in.  It’s a little odd how excited I am to have these goals, especially the weight loss.  I’ve found that I take my diet and training way more seriously when I put solid, attainable goals out in front of me.

TARC Spring Classic

Well hell, it’s about time I write something about my first marathon experience, so here goes.  I’m way late in posting this, and I’ve actually run another race after this one, but I haven’t been even close to having the desire to write.  Here I am now though.  With my first marathon in the books, I have a few thoughts about it and some thoughts about my first trail race.  First and way foremost, the Trail Animals Running Club was so superb in every way that I could have imagined.  The volunteers were so pleasant and helpful.  The course was well marked and clean.  The other runners were mostly considerate and fun and the weather was phenomenal.  First, some pictures, then a quick recap of the race.

We arrived early to the race in Weston, MA.  I really didn’t think it was going to be a problem finding a breakfast restaurant that was open at 6 am, but it was.  I freaked out a little until I found a gas station with a Dunkin’ Donuts attached.  I grabbed a couple of bananas and a packet of 2 Pop Tarts and had at it.  I think it was around 600 calories I was able to get in.  I was hoping for some waffles, but was happy I found anything that didn’t scare me too much.  When we arrived at the race and parked in the adjacent field, I noticed the guy next to us was wearing a DFL Ultrarunning shirt.  If you’re not aware, DFL Ultrarunning is one of the podcasts that I never miss.  I rolled my window down and in between spitting Pop Tarts through my beard, I gave a hearty thumbs up and said I loved the shirt.  The guy smiled and thanked me and that was that.  I walked over to where some volunteers were setting up registration tables and had a look around.  It was a chilly, but a beautiful spring morning.  After sniffing around a little, I went back to the car to start getting my kit ready.  As I got closer, I realized that the guy in the DFL shirt was sitting in the back of his car speaking into a digital recorder and immediately recognized the voice of Eric Sherman, the host of the DFL podcast.  Heh, I’m such an idiot.  When he took a break from his pre-race report, I introduced myself and had a laugh over the shirt thing.  We chatted for a few minutes and I quickly felt that Eric was a real solid cat, who really does care about the community and enjoys talking running.  He asked if I would be willing to chat afterward about my experience during the race.  I agreed and left him to visit with his co-host who was running the 50K.

The next part of the pre-race was pretty typical.  Getting dressed, getting lubed, getting my head right.  There were 4 different race distances, 10K, half marathon, marathon and 50K.  The course was a 10K loop with the half and full marathoners doing a little mini-loop before going out on the main loop.  The halfs did the loop once, the fulls did it twice.  This was the only part of the race where it was a complete bottleneck.  The first mini-loop was nearly impossible to run.  I was a little frustrated, but at the same time, I treated it as my warm up and didn’t really let it get to me.  After completing the mini loops, I set off on the true course for the first time.  It was a series of well maintained trails with only a smidgen of mud and only a few hard climbs that really aren’t all that hard.  I ran the whole course the first time around, but walked the steep hills on loops 2-4.  I used my pack through the second loop, but switched out to a single handheld at the beginning of loop 3 which was plenty for loop 3, but after getting a fresh handheld from my wife at the beginning of loop 4, I realized I should have brought them both.  I was trying to stay hydrated, but around mile 24 I got a bitchy cramp in my left calf that lasted mostly through the remainder of the race.  This is totally my own fault.  The only nutrition I used all race was Huma gels and water.  After chatting with Eric and another friend, I quickly went online and picked up some S!caps.  My final time was 4:43:32 which I’m happy with.  I was shooting for a sub 5 hour race and got it.

I think the day was made special, not necessarily by completing my first marathon, but by how humbled I was that my wife and daughter, sister and brother-in-law, my parents and some friends all drove nearly 2 hours to see me run.  It was such a lift after every loop seeing them all there cheering me on.  It was also really, REALLY cool talking with Eric Sherman and being part of his podcast. I also can’t say enough great things about the TARC community as a whole.  I’m already signed up for a fall race of theirs and might try to squeeze in some more this summer.