Monday, May 28, 2012

The HI's & LO-well'S of the Wild West 100K

**I will add more pictures by June 2. Here is the race recap with a few pictures for now....

      Sunday morning Andrew, Ken & I to take the trails in the Wild West 100K in Lowell, MI. Sounding like a simple 10.33 mile loop repeated six times or completed 3 times for the 50K runners. The description was a some jeep roads, grassy plain area and a knee deep stream crossing. The only requirement was you had to finish by dark 9:00pm and with a 7:00am start. Given 14 hours seemed very possible after reviewing the 2008 results; which was the last time they held the race.

     Gathering up in the starting the coral there was a mix of 50+ runners ready to tackle the course. The RD gave a warm greeting then began to show a collection of DNF prizes everyone could choose from once they drop from the race. I found this odd that we was offering these the gifts. Now my thoughts were, "What have I gotten sign up for now."

     7:00am on the dot and we are in motion heading down a short section of bike path towards the trail. The first mile was a rough but still runnable trail. Nothing out of the ordinary and the pace felt comfortable for a 100K. The second mile things got a ;little bit ugly on the trail. This mile had a lot of thick black mud patches that you could not get around. Trying to avoid some deeps spots you would accidentally find your other leg almost deep knee in mixture of water & muck. With my ankle socks it would pack in around my ankle bones then work its way towards my toes.

     The third mile I was presented with the three big hill climbs. The first was Ed, then came Fred and then Chuck Norris. After climbing each one you had to descend back down. One of the descents was called Geronimo drop. Two of the drops provided ropes for the runners. The climbs over this mile and a half section were some of the steepest climbs I have ever dealt with in a race. Each one felt like a 70 degree climb; the kind where your hand can touch the earth in front of you as you climb.

     Shortly after the climbing section there was a half mile of runnable trail again bringing me into the aid station at mile 4.33. Always great conversation there with the volunteers as I completed each loop. They would provide me updates to as how others were doing throughout the day. On my forth loop I remember they specifically telling me good job as I was only one of four runners that had not opted for the DNF. I quickly realized that meant Ken & Andrew had dropped leaving me out here to suffer on my own, ugh!!

    Leaving the aid station from there to mile 7 it was mostly a very runnable jeep road section. Each loop I made sure to pick up the pace in this area and run 80% of it. The few hills I would take a walk break to ensure I had legs for later in the race. If you do this loop this is a key area to make sure you run.

       Mile 7 started with a high grassy area with no shade in sight. They used a riding lawn mower to cut a path that went back and forth about six times across this big open field. Then dropped you back in the woods on to the trail. Again this was still runnable with only a few hills that are still runnable, but I choose to walk them because I had to repeat this over and over throughout the day. Even going from mile 8-9-10 the course stayed on a trail that would briefly climb and drop through the woods. The only slow down came from the few dozen down trees. Almost all of them I could jump up on to them then leap forward back on the trail.

    Finishing out the loop I came up to the "stream crossing."  The stream is actually the Grand River and is nowhere in any classification of a stream. Looking at the picture I attached you enter the river on the right side in the bay looking area and work your way up and around the island towards the left. Eventually, you end up on the bank on the left side of the river. If you look closely you can see a small building on the left side of the photo to give a perspective of the size of the river. Secondly, it was mentioned knee deep maybe waist in some spots. My first step was knee, second step went thigh, third went to waist, forth went to my chest. The temp of the water snapped the breath right out of me each time. Some of the other runners were neck deep in the river. At this point I was happy to be 5'11" crossing this thing.

The Grand River crossing

My DNF prize...A metal not a medal
      Once you climbed out of the river they logged my lap on the board and gave a congratulations on completing another loop. After my second loop I began to see why the pre-race briefing included DNF prizes. Not wanting to DNF I pushed on for another loop. Completing my fourth loop I realized that I would be completing my fifth loop around 7:45 and that meant the sixth loop I would not be allowed to start.

     I accepted my DNF prize and thanked the RD for putting on such a challenging course. He grinned and said, "glad you enjoyed it." It was a tough course and knowing I went more loops than everyone but the two finishers I feel rather good about that. My 50K split was 7 hours and 7 minutes netting me a 5th place finish in that distance. The overall time for my 41.33 mile distance was 10 hours and 4 minutes.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Almost Moments of Brilliance

     Every year I am trying to solve the mystery of my training for a more successful season. This year I feel a bit closer to solving this magical equation. My goal was to get a jump on my big race season with the Massanutten 100 Mile in Virginia, May 2012. I covered 69.6 miles in 19 hours 50 minutes with the last several miles a very slow walking pace. My legs felt stronger than ever when I dropped at the aid station. Throughout the day, I climbed with power, ran a comfortable pace on the flat sections and maneuvered the downhills with a conservative pace in order to be able to race the last 20 miles of the course. The overall pace on the day before those last few miles was 15 minutes per mile. Usually, most ultras for me are a positive split and the plan this time was to produce a negative split with the enjoyment of running strong in the last section. Around mile 40 the pads of heels started to blister, then my toes & balls of my feet started to go about 50 miles. Dropping is never a choice I want to make and I been over thinking my decision since that moment. After my race report here are the three things I felt made a positive impact on my training for the race.
      First...Last year I noticed that by increasing my speed & decreasing my mileage to an average 50 mpw in training runs yielded better performance. Where as before in 2010 logging more miles at a slower pace with an average of 90+ mpw. Building off of that this year I pushed my pace into the 7's for most runs 10 miles or less and even down to low 6's on less than 5 milers. Even track sessions were sub 6:00 minute miles. The longer runs, 20+ miles, were close to 10's. In the past when logging high mileage I was dropping the pace to 12-15's so that I felt good to be able to cover 100+ mile weeks.

      Second ....was building overall strength. I got a personal trainer in March. She builds very intense 30 minute strength sessions twice a week. In addition, there is an hour track session every other week. She has a lot of plyometric exercises, minimal rest breaks (less than 10 seconds most times), and explosive lifting. This has helped my body run harder longer for longer periods of time. Not to mention I gained over 5 lbs of muscle in this short time. Last year I was running at 155 lbs. Now I am running at 172 lbs.

      Third.... was building a bunch of training races. I basically, had a race every week for two months leading into my focus race. During this ramp up period I had numerous 5K, 8K, 50K and other various races. Every race I went out strong and held for as long as possible then running on tired legs. I had one PR set in the 50K with a time of 4:36:43. The first 10 miles of the race I averaged a 7:48 per mile then slowly dropped over the next 20 miles. In addition, several age group places in most of the races.

      I now have a good base, decent speed and strength to do the job. Expanding up that I am set to tackle Angeles Crest 100 Mile this July.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Massanutten Race Report 2012

The Start/Finish area of the MMT 100

Rock-it Man the theme of MMT

Caroline Furnace - Moreland Gap
4.1 miles  51 minutes

This section started with a basic road climb to the first aid station. Weather was nice and I took a few walk breaks to keep the legs relaxed as I eased into things. The plan was to try to run even splits throughout the entire race. So the body was was feeling good as I took in the moment.

Moreland Gap - Edinburg Gap
8.1 miles 2 hours 5 minutes
12.1 miles 2 hours 56 minutes

Finally on top and running
Leaving the aid station we went straight on to the trail and began the climb up Short Mt. which was covered in rocks. Taking my time with foot placement I was able to avoid smashing my feet or tripping. The congo line to the top of the mountain was steady with lots of good conversation. Gary Knipling the veteran on the course was giving out geographical call outs. I remember him saying to Tim, "when the big rock is against your right elbow we are 100 yards from the top." It is a great feeling having some guidance to the end of a long climb.

Final climb of the section

Running on top of the ridge I stopped briefly to remove my windbreaker and pack away my headlamp. The sunrise was beautiful from atop of the mountain. Weather was warming up and so were my legs in good way.

Edinburg Gap - Woodstock Tower
8.2 miles 2 hours 0 minutes
20.3 miles 4 hours 56 minutes

Starting the climb to Woodstock with Tim & Steve (Animal Camp Runners)
Rolled in and out of the aid station after grabbing a few hundred calories. As I entered each aid station I would get the logistics of miles and terrain for the upcoming section. Then from that I would would estimate my run time and eat 80 calories for every expected 10 minutes of running. That equation worked throughout the entire day. I would refill my bottles, attach them to the front of my pack, collected the needed calorie allotted food then eat while walking into the next section. Climbing out of that station I joined up with some of the Animal Camp runners on the way to the top. A bit later I was on top of a very runnable ridge and made good use of the time picking up the pace. The section went by smoothly.

Woodstock Tower - Powells Fort
5.6 miles 1 hour 13 minutes
25.8 miles 6 hours 9 minutes

Coming into Woodstock I caught up to Michelle Matys as she was about to leave. I had not seen her since the first mile. Her goal was inline with mine so I joined her throughout most of this section. A lot of the climbs my legs would power right up with my arms in a nice rhythm. The downhills I took precaution and kept a comfortable pace in order to ensure I had legs for later when needed. Again this section had some really good runnable areas on top.

Powells Fort - Elizabeth Furnace
7.5 miles 1 hour 55 minutes
33.3 miles 8 hours 4 minutes
Closing out the trail and into Elizabeth Furnace
Photo by Traci Phillips

Arriving into Powells Fort I was greeted by a volunteer who had just made french toast. He slapped some bacon & syrup on it to top it off. Then I pounded down a bunch of fresh fruit and heading on down the jeep road. Temperature wise the day was getting warm which I didn't mind. I was taking my time by occasionally stopping to wet my hat in order to keep me cool before falling victim to the heat. In addition, I was now adding S-caps to my fueling regimen. Soon came the climb again up another rocky trail. This time it passed by a bit quicker then the previous ones then came a nice long downhill runnable section. At this point I started leap-frogging with Zsuzsanna Carlson. She powered the downs quickly and I in return would sail up the hills. Most the time from here through the next several aid stations would we run together in the level sections then again play leap-frog up & down the climbs.

Elizabeth Furnace - Shawl Gap
4.7 miles 1 hour 18 minutes
38.0 miles 9 hours 22 minutes

Elizabeth Furnace Aid Station
Photo by Traci Phillips

At Elizabeth I saw Traci Phillips, Michelle's pacer/crew and David Snipes, another MMT veteran. Had some conversation with everyone in good spirits and ready for the next big hill climb. Took in all the food I needed and on I went. My entire body at this point felt amazing. It is the first time in a race that I didn't feel like work by easing the pace back to an overall 15 minute average this far into the run. I punched the clock and motored up the almost two mile climb.

Following Zsuzsanna into Shawl

Once at the top it was then about two miles all down into the next aid station. The day day was still getting warmer and probably about now it was near mid 70F. The S-caps & keeping my head cool was working like a charm. No cramping or white salty residue on my skin.

Shawl Gap - Veach Gap
3.1 miles 43 minutes
41.1 miles 10 hours 5 minutes

A quick bit to eat here at Shawl before I headed out for 3.1 rolling road section. Looking around as I ran the road I took in all the mountains around me. Knowing what I had covered and what was ahead of me I was feeling confident that my body was ready for the challenge. This section went by rather nice and before I knew it I was coming into Veach Gap.

Veach Gap - Indian Grave Trailhead
9.0 miles 2 hours 44 minutes
50.1 miles 12 hours 49 minutes

A surprise look when offered an ice cream sandwich
Photo by Kirstin Corris

I was greeted by ultrarunnergirl aka Kirstin, who I became friends with via twitter a few years ago. It was great to finally meet her in person. She helped me pop the blister that was forming on my right heel pad, attended a chafing issue on my right shoulder, gave me shout-out for my birthday and just made it a great experience there. 

Runners making the climb
Once again I the hill climb was straight out of the aid station and without hesitation I worked my way back to the top. Along the ridge at the top you are pushed to the outer most left edge of the mountain. There was a collection of leaves all over the rocks making it even trickier to maneuver. Suddenly, I slipped landing with my right quad on top of a rock and both hands were cushioned by the water bottles in my hands. As I laid there for a second I looked at my feet noticing the 1000' fall I just nearly escaped. Another runner just ahead of me stopped when he heard me fall then informed me a few years ago a woman fell off the mountain in this area and unfortunately did not survive. For the remaining portion of this section I slowed a bit to ensure good footing until I was back in a runnable section. A few minutes later I slipped again on some leaves but nothing as frightful as before on the ledge. I collected myself and ran the remaining section into the next aid station.

Finally on top and time to run the ridge

Indian Grave Trailhead - Habron Gap
3.9 miles 1 hour
54.0 miles 13 hours 49 minutes

Working the road section to the mountain in the distance
At the aid station I took a bit more to ensure I was staying hydrated. The last section was a bit long and I had made it through with just 48 ounces. Since everything was feeling good I wanted to continue that feeling throughout the race and not fall behind. The only problem that began now was both of my heel pads were getting sensitive & blistering. I expected with all the rocks to have the pain, but not the blistering. I thought at this point I had covered the issue by popping them. I jumped on to the road and headed to the next stop. The road was a gradual roll that again went by nicely. I didn't see many runners which I thought was odd.

Habron Gap - Camp Roosevelt
9.8 miles 3 hours 22 minutes
63.9 miles 17 hours 11 minutes

Again I saw Traci at the aid station, she said Michelle was close and she would be joining her since it was going on 6:00pm. I snacked on some cheese quesadillas, sandwiches and a few hundred more calories for the biggest section of the day. The word was two miles in your face straight up, a few miles on the ridge then a long decent into the next aid station. I went straight into climbing mode and made my way quickly up the mountain. Once on top the few people I had passed them and several more all began to zoom by me on the ridge section. Here is when I felt the blisters forming all around my toes. My stride on the downs was changing to adapt to the pain. A few miles before the aid station I sat down on the trail and popped three blisters on my right foot to try to escape the discomfort. Every step downhill was getting worse. Frustration was now in my mindset; here I was feeling absolutely amazing, my legs had not even felt like I had ran yet on the day, stomach was in check, no heat issues, no cramping, but my from my ankles to my toes a disaster was forming quickly. About two miles from the aid station I finally powered on my headlamp. Reaching the aid station I did the usual eat, drink and get the logistics then back out.

Camp Roosevelt - Gap Creek #1
5.8 miles 2 hours 38 minutes
69.6 miles 19 hours 50 minutes

Starting out it was a gradual climb and the trail started to become wet. Ankle deep in some areas and very wide. So a few times I ended up soaking my feet because there was no way around the wet areas. Mile after wet mile I felt the blisters getting worse. The uphill sections I could still muscle with no issues, but the downs were getting miserable. I would take a step then hesitate then step again. Walking at a snail pace into the aid station I knew it was time to stop. I informed the volunteer at the aid station I was dropping. The next several runners all come in running. Seeing that I knew my pace would not make the next 35 miles in 16 hours. I sat in a chair and waited out the ten minutes until the stoke of midnight and the start of my 40th birthday. Zsuzsanna was there, with her pacer Barry, and grabbed me a brownie to celebrate my birthday.

For making it 69.6 miles (Gap Creek AS #1)

All in all I truly enjoyed the adventure. Yes I wish I would have finished and gotten a belt buckle. I know that the training plan I used prepared me for this race was a success. My trainer pushed me hard for the past several months and now I see the benefits. Angeles Crest 100 miles is next in July. With some changes to my shoe lacing and foot maintenance I will be sporting a buckle at the end of the AC100. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

NRR 5K Club Race

In 2011 the 3rd moon of Jupiter was aligned with 2nd moon of Saturn thus giving me the ability to pull first place at the club race with a finishing time of 19:09.

Well 2012 it appears that the gravitational alignment of Earth in our solar system didn't yield to my performance. Today was 3rd place with a time of 20:11.

Really I just came out running way to fast. I lapse the half mile in 2:40-ish. With the first portion a downhill it wasnt to noticeable until the turn around when heading back up the struggle kicked in. I know the course, but went reckless anyway. It's always just for fun and you never know what can happen when pushed.

Time now to kick back with a few short runs then pack up for Massanutten. It is amazing how fast this training period went by for me. I think I ran seven races in preparation, all various distances too.
Everything is in the books so now its time to see what comes from it.

Buckle up it might be a rough ride or it could be smooth sailing. I am fond of the latter option!