Appropriately enough, my 100th post is a race report from a 100k…
Saturday I ran the Weymouth Woods 100k down in Southern Pines, NC. I had targeted this race for a number of reasons. For one, Weymouth Woods Nature Preserve, where the race was held, is only about an hour south of me so I wouldn’t have to worry much about travel. It also worked out in the lead-up to Umstead. While it was a race and of course I want to do well in races, I viewed it as more important as a an opportunity to test equipment, fueling, etc and get a really well-supported long run in with plenty of time to recover before the goal race. The 100k consisted of fourteen ~4.5 mile loops on the trails through the park, which at first seems horribly boring but I didn’t really mind and it made logistics a lot simpler. A big bonus was the fact that the always amazing Ashley was flying in from Boston and my brother Scott and his best friend Pete were coming in from LI, specifically to come to the race for me. Add to that my cousins who live in Raleigh were planning on coming down with their little boys who know I run but have never actually SEEN me run a race, and I was pretty stoked. I was also feeling slightly bad that all these people were going to see me and I wasn’t exactly expecting that good a performance. My training hasn’t exactly been stellar since Stone Cat. I’ve had some nagging issues that have prevented me from training the way I’d have liked to and I am not in the sort of shape I hope to be in a few months from now.
Still, a race is a race and when the race starts all the outside issues and excuses get put out of mind and the goal is to run smart, hard, and well. The week leading up to the race I actually started feeling particularly good. Fresh. It probably helped that I took Tuesday and Wednesday off. An easy “8” miles showing Ashley one of my favorite routes (the loop around Lake Crabtree) Thursday evening and a quicker-than-it-felt shakeout Friday night led me to believe that my legs were definitely ready for the race. Mentally, I was also in a much better place than usual before such a long race. I think a big part of this had to do with my lowered expectations. I was looking forward to just being out there running, not trying to make months of hard work and training culminate in something that would make it all worth it.
Friday night we all got pizzas at Bella Mia, got my stuff together, and got to bed a bit later than I probably should have. But I slept like a rock, another departure from usual pre-race happenings. Saturday morning we were all up and on the road shortly after 5am, saw maybe a dozen cars on the way down, and made it to the park a little after 6am which meant we were able to snag a parking spot right near where the course runs along the sidewalk in front of the visitors center. Getting to the race almost two hours before the start afforded me some downtime. First there was some vegging, the typical pre-race bathroom trips, having oatmeal squares and blueberries for breakfast, the process of getting everything organized, waking up the crew and shepherding them into the warm visitor’s center, going over the plan a few more times, making sure the watch was charged, going to the pre-race meeting, then going back into the visitor’s center for final preparations with about fifteen minutes to go. I finally got my pinky toe taped up in hopes that it would help prevent he usual blister forming there, put on my Brooks Pure Grits, got my water bottle and watch and the big warm gloves and headed out to the start line with about two minutes to go. I got to the start line and didn’t have much time to think before the countdown started. Ashley wished me good luck, I shook out my legs, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!
As we crossed the start and ran about a tenth of a mile on the park road toward the trail, I settled in behind a group of about six guys, running very comfortably. Two guys had immediately shot off the front and quickly put some distance on everyone. For once I felt no temptation to run hard and get up there with them, reminding myself over and over that it was a VERY long race and it was quite probably I’d be seeing them again. As we turned onto the trail I was very happy I had made the trip down to run the course a few times the previous Saturday, knowing what to expect helped a great deal to mentally prepare for the many different things the it would throw at me. The way it worked, the first mile or so of the loop was a pretty rooty, mostly downhill winding stretch. Then we’d hit some wooden bridges, things would roll and then gradually climb for another mile or so before coming to the only aid station about halfway through the loop. From there it would be a relatively flat, immensely runnable stretch before a short climb, a short, steepish descent, some more winding, and the last mile or so to the finish would be mostly uphill, with what felt like the most arduous part coming at the very end when the trail came out behind the visitors center and wound around to the front. After each loop, we’d run along the sidewalk and make our way back onto the start of the trail. Rinse, repeat fourteen times and that’s all there was to it!
Early in the first loop I settled in with a group of three other guys, one being a fellow Brooks IDer who had run the race the previous two years (this was the third year), John, as well as a young army guy, Dan, and another dude with a sweet mustache. I recognized Ray K early in the loop, an extremely accomplished ultrarunner and someone who I’ve learned a lot from by mostly lurking on the Ultra List. That was a pretty cool moment, recognizing him. For most of this first loop we chatted idly about previous races, the weather, whatever really. I was feeling fantastic and didn’t look much at the Garmin (which I wore mostly so I could keep myself in check in the early stages), opting to go with the flow, considering no one was pressing anything. I think I led the group for most of the first loop, not necessarily by choice but because everyone else seemed a bit deferent.
We all came through within seconds of each other, 37:54, and Ashley had a fresh gel ready. I didn’t need to swap out my water bottle because I’d only had half. The plan was to eat a gel every half hour, just like I had done on my 47 mile Christmas run, and swap out the water bottles every loop so I wouldn’t have to waste time refilling. I had mostly GUs with some Hammer gels, and a few Cliff shot blocks. In the water bottle was primarily coconut water which has worked extremely well for me, on some loops I asked them to add some pineapple juice. I also brought a 2L of flat Coca Cola for later and in case my stomach got upset. Finally, I had a 5 hour energy shot for the halfway point. My goal was to run about 40 minutes/loop which would give me a 9:20 finish. That was honestly what I figured I could do if everything went right and I had a great day. Considering the winner ran 9:23 the year before, I figured that would also make me competitive at the front.
I wasn’t concerned that the first loop was a bit faster than the plan as I almost felt like I’d cheated and gotten through it without any real effort. I remember one of my early running mentors talking about a 5k and saying you want to get through that first kilometer feeling like you haven’t been racing at all yet. I just sort of extrapolated that to the first few loops here. Loop two was pretty much identical to the first. No really. I ran almost EXACTLY the same time (37:54.75 vs 37:54.05). After this second loop, I ditched the really big warm gloves as my hands were actually feeling too hot and the gloves made handling the gels and all that almost impossible. Instead I got Ashley’s pink ones. Awesome. I opted to keep the MacArthur wrestling hat and my long sleeve Brooks shirt on a little longer. I also had on clear safety glasses, the reasoning being that my previous experience with my eyes ‘fogging up’ during my last few ultras and long runs was probably related to the cold air and wind so hopefully the safety glasses would help prevent that. But the kept developing condensation and so about twice per loop early on I had to wipe them off. They were also scratched up pretty bad but it was better than the alternative (being blind with 30ish miles to go). As I came out of the woods at the end of every loop someone from the crew would be standing behind the visitors center and I could hear the cheering, “GO MARK!” as I climbed the hill. That was one of the best parts of the race. Every 4.5 miles I got to see Pete, Scott, and Ashley and there enthusiasm was noticeable and appreciated. I started the third loop in much the same frame of mind, feeling great, definitely wanting to push the pace but realizing that it was waaaay too early. I bargained with myself that around 40 miles would be ok to start running hard if I still had it in my legs, and if I didn’t, that would be the time to really dig in.
At some point early in this loop, our little group of four became fractured. Dan and I got a little ahead of the other two and ran most of this loop by ourselves. At one point we passed a guy, who looking at the splits and results I realize must have been James Brennan, and with that there were only two runners ahead of us, albeit way ahead and out of sight already. We chatted a bit and I learned that he was from upstate NY and his previous longest race was the Marine Corps marathon last fall. He was anticipating it hurting pretty bad later but said he was tough. I was impressed. The two of us came through the third loop together but I as I kept moving through quickly, I was on my fourth a little ahead of him. That was the last I ran with any other racer all day. I was 13+ miles in with a long way to go and I just settled in for the long haul.
The next few loops are mostly uneventful and kind of blended together. I was doing a very good job of eating every half hour, sipping from my water bottle every few minutes, and generally relaxing into the run. I’d check my watch every mile or so and was pleased to note how consistently I was running and how good I felt. I took it easier on the uphills and was cautious on the downhills. I wiped out once early, I think it was the third loop, landing on my knee, then rolling to my hip, and finally smacking the side of my head. There were two or three stubbed toes which hurt and I paid for after the race but other than that, I remained upright and moving forward. After the fourth loop I took off my long sleeve. After the sixth loop (almost mile 27), I took off my wool hat in favor of a baseball cap as I was definitely warm enough. This helped cut down on the condensation forming on my glasses, win-win! I also noted right before that that I had passed through a marathon in about 3:41, as opposed to ~3:19 at Stone Cat. Much smarter! I hit halfway in 4:22:36, feeling great still. I took off the t-shirt I had underneath my singlet. It was on this seventh loop that I caught and passed the guy who had been running in 2nd, though I didn’t realize it until I was done with the loop and my crew told me there was only one person ahead of me. Of course, at that point Tomasz had about a ten minute lead and was apparently running strong. I recognized the name from other race results and figured he’d have to have a really rough second half for me to have any chance of catching him.
I got through loops eight and nine in much the same fashion. Pretty sure I stopped to pee during loop nine which is reflected in it being a trifle slower than the first eight. After nine I was just over 40 miles but I was beginning to feel it a bit. I was approaching uncharted territory but I was also running a good, smart race and I was confident I could keep it up. I slowed a bit early on the tenth loop but once I got to the halfway aid station, I felt a bit better and picked it up, even dropping one of my only sub-8 miles of the race. As I crossed a bridge I saw Ray K sitting there and he told me to “keep hammering” and so I began repeating that to myself when I started feeling sorry for myself or particularly low. As I came through at the end of the loop, Ashley was there ready to run some with me and after taking a big swig of Coke, we were off. My cousins and their little boys had also arrived at some point around here and that was a HUGE mental boost. The next three loops were basically a minute slower than the previous. Considering I was beginning to feel exponentially worse, I’m pretty happy with how well I kept it together here. Ashley was very encouraging and helped warn runners we were coming by, something I didn’t really have much energy for. I found it a little amusing when we would pass people and they said something about how good I looked, because I sure didn’t feel like it anymore. After the eleventh loop, there was a slight mix-up now that Scott was in charge of the crew and there was no water bottle filled and waiting for me. I didn’t want to stop moving so I just kept going with whatever was left in the one I had. This is one of the only (small) mistakes made the whole day and probably didn’t mean much in the big picture. At some point I noted that I passed 50 miles and, according to the watch, had done it quicker than at Stone Cat. Baller.
The penultimate loop was definitely the hardest, quite similar to how the third lap of a mile race on the track is always the toughest (to me at least). You’re so close to being done but you know that when you finish that loop, you still have a bit more running to go. I didn’t stop and walk any but there were definitely some slow stretches. My feet were beginning to hurt in spots; I could tell there was the familiar blister/callous combo on my left little toe, my big toe felt like it had rubbed and the top of it hurt like it had in previous weeks. My left Achilles had been sore off and on all day. I was feeling kind of drained. But I pressed on mostly for want of being finished, and out of my shoes and so I could finally stop moving and just lie down.
Ashley had to peel off because her calf was starting to hurt and I would be on my own for those last 4.5 miles, which somewhere in my head I kind of wanted anyway so no biggie there. I took off the glasses here, which had worked extremely well. As I passed people they asked me if this was my last and they began congratulating me. I appreciated it but in my head had to remind myself that I hadn’t yet done anything worthy of congratulations. I was running with a little more abandon, determined not to leave any energy left in reserves by the end. I blew through the halfway aid station, ran as hard as I could up the short uphill and bombed (or what felt like bombing at least) downhill. With about a mile and a half to go, my watch died. I was surprised it lasted as long as it had. No matter, didn’t need it at this point. As I crossed the wood bridge by the swamp I knew I had about a mile to go and I put the hammer down. Despite it basically all being uphill to the end I ran, harder than I had in hours. I saw Scott at one of the last trail junctions, about a half mile from the end and I almost broke down there, but instead he just started running and I made it my goal to try to catch him. It felt like I was sprinting. I came to the very last climb up and out of the trail and I pushed and pushed. My legs were on fire, like they feel in the last reps of the last set of heavy heavy squats. I could hear everyone cheering from the top of the hill and as I came out and rounded the visitor’s center I could see everyone standing there looking extremely excited for me. I ran right through the line and into Ashley’s arms for one of the best hugs ever. I finished 2nd overall in 9:05:27, about eight minutes behind the winner (and the fourth fastest time in the race’s brief history).
I congratulated Tomasz on his victory. I ended up making up nearly five minutes on him over the last nine miles, but he was clearly better all day. As I staggered the twenty or so meters to the chairs where we had set up camp, lots of random people congratulated me and I was kind of in a daze so I hoped I thanked them. Everyone wanted to know what I needed. I downed a Boost immediately and took off my singlet. I wanted a shirt and I wanted to get my shoes off, but I also had to pee. About three minutes later, Dan finished up in third place. It would be over an hour until the next finisher would come in, the three of us had lapped the rest of the field. Cool. The two of us talked a bit, congratulated each other and then I went inside the visitors center to take off my shoes and prop my legs up for a bit. Eventually we left for my cousin’s in-laws place where I had one of the most delicious burgers and sausages ever (hunger is really the best sauce).
The damage wasn’t as bad as I imagined it to be, and a few days later it’s even better (although I definitely wasn’t walking normally until Tuesday). The plan is to be smart about recovering so as not to experience any unnecessary setbacks before Umstead. I won’t be doing much of anything this week, and then I’ll be slowly getting back to normal over the next two. The confidence I gained from this race will definitely be a help. I finally managed to race smart AND hard and the result was much better than I anticipated it would be. I am eternally grateful for the wonderful people I was lucky to have there with me, and super thankful for all the race staff and volunteers who did such a fantastic job putting on the race. People have expressed disbelief that I actually ENJOY doing something like that, racing for 9+ hours over 62+ miles. At times during the race I have to remind myself I do it willingly, but the fact is, I really DO enjoy this, and thinking back a few days later, most of my thoughts are positive. It was a very fun day. Hopefully next year I’ll be back in better shape and with a slightly better result.
Since this got long (of course), I’ll put up a separate entry with the many pictures from the course. But I’ll leave you with this one I snagged from Marie Lewis, the RD
My splits (Katie texted me on Sunday to tell me they were ‘beautiful’):
|Lap #||Lap Time||Lap Pace||Cumulative Distance||Cumulative Time|
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
Last night after picking Ashley up from the airport and doing a run around Lake Crabtree, the two of us headed to Fleet Feet Sports in Carrboro. Fortunately for me, John Stiner told me during my massage last week that Anton Krupicka, he of the world-class (and really, out of this world class) ultrarunning talent and general bad-assitude, would be doing a meet & greet and giving a talk there. I had had no idea and would have completely missed it. It was pretty freakin cool; Tony put on a slide show and talked about his running exploits through the years, answered a bunch of questions and was nice and patient enough to stay after and chat and take pictures, like the one below. He was very entertaining to listen to. Ashley and I both agreed that after listening to him talk and meeting him, we felt like we needed to go out RIGHT NOW and run UP A MOUNTAIN. And then do it again. TEN TIMES. Seriously, it definitely helped set the mood for this weekend, and for the year and beyond in general. Super motivating.
Cool in a different way was meeting someone outside the store who had also been to the talk. We started chatting about races and it came up that we had both done Triple Lakes 40. He asked how I had done and I told him I had won it last year. His reply was awesome – “Oh, YOU’RE MARK?!” Apparently more than just a half dozen or so people actually read this. I suppose that IS part of why I started it in the first place, to make some more connections in the running community, considering I’m still relatively new at it. And awkwardly shy in person.
Today we’re going to stock up on fuel stuff for the race and get my brother actual running shoes at Bull City Running Co and then eat pizza at my favorite — Bella Mia. This weekend has gotten off to a great start, here’s hoping it keeps going right through tomorrow and finishes with Ravens and Giants wins on Sunday.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
The US Olympic Marathon Trials are on Saturday in Houston (both men and women). I’m pretty excited about it as I love pretty much everything about the sport, from the sprints to ultras. Sadly I will miss the tape-delayed broadcast because I will be running the 100k all day, but hopefully I can get my cousin to DVR it. Last night I did something only a truly diehard fan of running would do — I went to Bull City Running Co and participated in a Marathon Trials fantasy draft. What’s that? It’s very similar to something JV and I have been doing three years running now with the NCAA XC Championships. Essentially, 23 dudes got together in the running store and spent about two hours selecting runners to make up our seven person “team.” After the races, it will be scored cross country style, meaning you score points based on the order of finish of your runners (1st gets 1 point, 2nd gets 2 points and so on). Lowest score wins. With 23 guys in the contest, I had to go pretty deep to fill out my roster. Even still, I think I picked a pretty good team. Here it is (bonus points if you can pick up on a particular trend with about half my team, it was not coincidental. If you want to know, scroll down):
1 – Mo Trafeh, Nike
2 – Max King, unattached
3 – David Jankowski, ZAP Fitness Reebok (Yeah North Carolina!!!)
4 – Daniel Browne, US Army
5 – Michael Wardian, unattached
6 – Camille Herron, marathonguide.com/Inov-8/Powerbar
7 – Devon Crosby-Helms
I had the 11th pick, which means every other round I had the 13th pick. Was really pleased Trafeh fell to me there as I think he’s got a shot at making the team. The theme is, not surprisingly, ultrarunners. Everyone knows about Wardian. To say he runs a lot of races is to say that the universe is kinda big. But what is sometimes lost is that he is a very good ultrarunner. He won the US 50k and 50 mile road championships last year, he would have won the UROC 100k if not for getting lost on trails, he was 3rd at the World 100k championships, and 2nd at the JFK 50 (running under the old course record), etc etc etc. Max King doesn’t do the mountainous 100 milers but he’s run (and won) a lot of fast 50ks and a a few 50 milers. He’s probably a darkhorse to actually make the Olympic team. And Devon Crosby-Helms has competed, and won, an impressive list of ultras in her own right. She won’t make the team but hopefully she’ll improve on her OTQ performance. I don’t REALLY care how I do, but it is nice to have a somewhat more invested rooting interest in the trials now. It helps that I actually know of and would already be rooting for the people on my team anyway.
Anyway, nothing much else to report here. Eagerly awaiting the arrival of some of Team Awesome (Ashley and Scott, along with Scott’s friend Pete) who are all flying in today to come to the race this weekend. We’re all going to Fleet Feet in Carrboro tonight to see Anton Krupicka talk and whatnot. As an ultrarunning fan, I’m pretty freakin excited.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
The first full week of 2012 is in the books. It did not start off particularly auspiciously, which seems to be a recurring theme for me. Last year I didn’t run my first mile until January 24th. After one week of 2011 I had logged a few miles in the pool and a couple hours on the arc trainer. Not exactly thrilling. In 2010 I had no injury excuse at the start of the year but I still only logged 4 miles in the first week, and 17 in the first ten days. In going back and looking at what exactly I WAS doing, two entries from the training log say simply “XT – bowling, pushups/pullups, something awesome” followed the next day by “XT – pushups, more awesomeness”. At least I had a good excuse it seems!
Unlike the previous two years, this one HAS actually gotten off to a pretty good start, at least after the first few days. Now that I’m settled back in NC and sort of into my regular routine, things are going much smoother. To recap:
Mon & Tue – absolutely nothing, though I did get an awesome massage Tuesday evening. And as usual, I really needed it. John worked on my frustrating big toe and, of course, Wednesday night I had my first pain-free run in a week or so. Gotta be voodoo.
Wed – the aforementioned pain-free run, 4 miles, 29 minutes, at the Fullsteam group. A couple new faces and a quickish last two or so miles in just-warm-enough-for-t-shirt (at least to me) temps. Went to the gym and did squats beforehand (as per Katie’s resolution for me to do squats at least once a week). I didn’t overdo it but I was already sore by the time the run started.
Thu – 10 miles, 89 minutes around the Duke XC trail. Ran into Kara early and ran the first 3ish with her, then ran over to the steepest hill on the loop and did that 15 times. It was slow going and my toe was getting a little sore by the end but I was happy with the effort on very sore legs.
Fri – 12 miles, 1:37ish. My legs were toast after two pretty intense days so I took it easy. Ran from the apartment up the Black Creek greenway, detoured onto Lake Crabtree singletrack, then up into Umstead for a bit before coming home. Really nice day for running and despite the soreness, my legs felt great as things went along.
Sat – 24 miles, 3:36. Drove down to Southern Pines and did loops at Weymouth Woods Nature Preserve. I’m running the Weymouth Woods 100k there this coming Saturday so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to do a long run on the course and see what I should expect. Glad I did, more because while driving there my GPS kept trying to take me down these private roads and some roads that didn’t actually exist. Glad I know how to get there now, so I don’t show up an hour late on race day. Each loop here was progressively quicker than the one before, and felt better too. Didn’t have enough water or gels but that won’t be a problem for the actual race.
Sun – 8 miles, 65:30. Watched the Giants beat up on the Falcons (GO BIG BLUE!) and then ran around my cousin’s neighborhood in north Raleigh before the start of the Steelers-Tebow game. Thanks to my fancy new Garmin (by the way, I’m probably ALWAYS going to refer to it as the “fancy new Garmin” even when it’s like 4 years old) I was able to go exploring a bit and ended up finding some sweet little trails that ran for a few miles along some stream near their house. Awesome. It was a wonderful night for a run and my legs, as is often the case it seems, felt BETTER after the long run yesterday than they had all week.
Total for the week – 58 miles
Not bad for only 5 days of running and overcoming some serious sluggishness (mostly of the mental variety) at the start of the week. It’s going to be an interesting week coming up. With the 100k on Saturday that’s 62+ miles for my week already allotted. However, I’m not tapering for the race, not really treating it much like a race at all. For me it’s going to be a long run and an opportunity to get logistical stuff in place for Umstead. Which is why it’s amusing to me that my brother and his friend, and my ultrafriend Ashley are all flying in specifically to see me at this race. Not to mention my cousins are coming down with their two boys. I’m going to feel a bit silly with such a big crew for a race I am probably not going to do particularly well at. Ah well, it’s nice to feel loved. The five days leading up to it I’ll take it somewhat easy but probably log about 50 miles total, more of it front-loaded. The goal is to do the race and not have to take a significant amount of down time after. Gonna be fun at any rate!
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
I remember sitting down to write out my goals for last year and having so many that I had to break them up into two separate posts. There were the intangible goals that really could have been summed up as, “there is more to training than just running, do the other stuff too.” And then there were very specific time goals, from one mile up to half marathon. It didn’t go and longer because at the start of the year I had no intention on running even a marathon, let alone an ultra. I was much more wrapped up in hitting a certain time at a certain distance, basically looking for races to serve as time trials, than I was on things like competition or, well, basically anything else having to do with running. And as I mentioned previously, I wasn’t actually very successful in achieving those goals. But it WAS a fairly successful year anyway.
Thinking about my goals for 2012, I feel quite a bit different than I did at the start of last year. For one, I am not nearly as obsessed with time goals. Obviously I want to get faster. Last year was the first year since I started running that I was actually consistent more than I wasn’t. And healthy more than I wasn’t. And the improvements were less about getting faster and more about my ability to turn it pretty good races much more frequently. And run a lot longer than I thought I would be doing yet. It was a decent start. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that at some point this year I’d like to run a mile in less than 5 minutes. Or finally break 17 for a 5k. If I manage to stay healthy, I’m pretty sure I will at some point, but that sort of stuff will have to wait.
I think my primary goal for the first seven months of the year will be to survive really. I’ve set a fairly ambitious and possibly foolhardy plan in place through mid-July. It starts next Saturday with the Weymouth Woods 100k. For being one week out from running 12+ miles more than I ever have in my life, I’m not feeling much stress. That’s probably because I’m treating it more as a long run and a way to figure out logistics for Umstead than as a race race. March 31st is the Umstead 100 which will be my first 100 miler. I’m somewhere around 40th on the Massanutten wait list, a race known to be one of the hardest hundred milers on the east coast, and one that attracts quite a few REALLY good ultrarunners. If I get in, and it seems likely based on past years, that will be by the most challenging race I’ll have attempted to date. In the middle of July, I’m running my first 24 hour race, the BOMF 20in24 Lone Ranger Ultramarathon in Philadelphia. So to recap, a 100k, two 100 milers, and a 24 hour race. Thus, the goal of survival. I’m sure I will also learn a considerable amount more, suffer a considerable amount more, and hopefully have a considerable amount of fun in the process.
But if I try to come up with more specific goals, I find myself struggling. I’m going to be running races and distances that I’ve never done before. I’m not sure how my body will respond and when it comes to most ultras, distance is a relative term. One hundred miles at Umstead is not nearly the same as one hundred miles at Massanutten. The longest, time-wise, I’ve ever run for is less than eight hours which is only 1/3rd the amount of time as the 24 hour race in July. Time goals (and distance goals for Philly) seem silly to come up with for these races, especially still so far out. So I will say instead that for these, and the entire year really, I want to run smart races more than anything. I want to be competitive if it’s possible and I want, more than anything, to finish each and every race confident that I ran as well as I possibly could have. It sounds corny and I’d roll my eyes at it if I weren’t me and reading that but it’s true. If I relax, run smart, dig deep, and run the best race I can, the times and all that will take care of themselves.
There are some little goals too – I’d like to run a race or two back in Baltimore, just because I do miss the city, and more importantly people like Johnny. I’d like to do well at some of the races I ran last year that I’ll be repeating (like Finger Lakes, although I’m running at least 50k this year instead of the 25k, the Triple Lakes 40, and possibly Stone Cat again). I want to blog here a bit more regularly, and write less… formally sounding. I read back over a lot of old entries and I noticed I sound a bit like a somewhat vanilla version of myself. Not that I’m dishonest with what I write or anything, just that I’m a bit boring, at least to myself. Of course I also want to recommit myself to “doing the other things that make up training” which includes weights (specifically squats) at least once a week, getting enough rest, losing a few (or a few more than a few) pounds, eating more vegetables, blah blah blah. I think I alluded to my biggest goal for this year in my last post. I want to be sitting down to write up my 2012 recap in twelve months and I want to be able to write about how THIS was far and away my best year of running ever and yet still have room for better.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
Seeing as how I have only 362 days before 2013 (unless the world ends, that is), I figure I should finally get around to reflecting a bit on 2011. In all measurable (and immeasurable) ways, 2011 was absolutely my best year of running ever. It’s not really even close. I ran more, I ran faster, and I ran further (or is it farther, I can never remember) than I ever have before. I made some awesome new friends through running, and some friendships I already had were strengthened. I saw some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen with my eyes. I discovered I can do so much more than I previously thought capable of. But all the intangible stuff aside, I’m kind of a stats/numbers geek so that’s what I’m going to talk about.
In 2011, I ran a grand total of 3,337 miles. That is a little over 9 miles per day, or about 64 miles per week for the entire year. Obviously the year was not nearly as even as those number would lead one to believe. I started the year not running for over three weeks, my first running coming on January 24th. I battled nagging aches and semi-injuries for most of those first few months, and my only workouts were races. Somehow I still managed to run some decent times and capped the spring with a big 10k PR at the 10k in Rockville and a very satisfying sub-hour run at Broad Street. It was after Broad Street that something in my head just clicked. I had spent the first few months of the year so focused on structuring this perfect running/racing plan and trying to hit workouts and I just kept feeling frustratingly on the edge of disaster. So I sort of gave up and decided to just run. And run I did. For some reason it seems I train my best in the miserable hot summer months. May was the first month I had run over 300 miles in almost a year. June I ran 397 which was a big lifetime high. July followed with 428. And so on. In the six months from May through October, I ran more than the entirety of 2010. And all along I managed to stay reasonably healthy and not feel particularly burned out.
I looked back at some of the goals I stated for myself at the beginning of last year. I didn’t meet all of them, but I came pretty close to most — no sub-5:00 mile (5:06 though, a new PR), no sub-17 5k (but I did run a 16:11 3 mile), no sub-28:30 5 mile (but I did split 28:32 at Pike’s Peek 10k), DID run sub-36 10k (35:29), DID run sub-hour at 10 miles (59:07 at Broad Street).
Of course, at the start of 2011, I thought my ultimate goal would be to run a really fast half marathon in the fall. And while I DID set a new half PR in Virginia Beach in September, by June my goals had clearly shifted to much longer races. 2011 was to be the year of firsts for me. I won my first race. And then my second. And third. And fourth. I won’t pretend that any of those wins were particularly impressive or anything to brag about, but they certainly were cool moments. And any time I can win good beer, I’m happy. Right around the time I ran the Finger Lakes 25k in July, I decided to listen to Ashley finally and run a 50 miler and that became my new goal for the fall. Along the way I ran 46ish miles on my birthday in August. I ran that half marathon PR. I ran that 3 mile PR. I ran a 40 mile trail race that I won despite feeling worse than I have ever felt while running. I smashed my weekly and monthly mileage lifetime highs almost routinely. I had two running streaks of over 60 days. I was running a lot and loving it and doing it reasonably well.
It wasn’t so long ago I did run that 50 miler, Stone Cat, and I did pretty well for a first attempt at racing that distance. I underperformed from what I thought I was capable of but I think I’ve learned a great deal from the experience. The somewhat disappointing end to what I really have to admit to myself was a better fall racing season than it felt like, only serves to fuel a renewed hunger for continuing to bust my ass and improve in 2012. I’ve taken it pretty easy the last few weeks of 2011. Mentally, I needed that. Physically, I DEFINITELY needed it. It’s easy to forget that in 2010, my longest run was 19 miles and my highest volume week was 80. I’ve laid out a pretty ambitious plan for the first half of 2012 and I’ll talk about my goals for the year and all that later today or tomorrow. Suffice it to say here though that while I am overall pretty happy with 2011, and ought to be, to me it just marks the first year that I really took this stuff seriously for the long term. Which means that I expect to be talking about how quaint it was that I thought 2011 was such a good year for me when I write my 2012 review a year from now. Onward and upward!
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
Finally finally FINALLY, after a frustrating few weeks I had one that actually felt like training and not just some jogging for fun and fitness!
Monday – 11 miles, 96 minutes on the treadmill at the Y. Also did some light lifting, mostly squats, before
Tuesday – 9 miles, 76 minutes on treadmill at Y, some steep hill climbs thrown in the middle
Wednesday – 4 miles, 31 minutes at the Fullsteam run and then 2 miles in 30 minutes on the treadmill (15% throughout)
Thursday – 12 miles, 97 minutes around Cary
Friday – got drunk, hooray for Christmas parties
Saturday – 20 miles, 2:54 at Umstead and Black Creek greenway
Sunday – 30 miles, 4:32 at Umstead (two Umstead 100 course loops, 1:51 each, plus some extra after)
Total for week – 88 miles
I was really pleased with this week. It was nearly 13 hours of running, most of it coming on my Saturday/Sunday back-to-back long runs. Although there are a few aches that seem to go and come every few days (currently my left big toe tendon again, the left hamstring earlier in the week but that has abated), I feel mostly fresh and healthy again. On top of that, since Hellgate, I have felt a renewed energy and enthusiasm to train and improve and compete, something that waned a bit in the weeks following Stone Cat. While yesterday’s 30 slow and I was pretty exhausted, it was good to see that I still have the endurance to do something like a 20/30 back-to-back. Actually, previously my longest back-to-back runs were a 24/20 in July, and those were on pancake flat rail trails, so this is progress.
I’ve got an ambitious week (and really weeks) ahead, with a birthday run redux Friday and another ultra distance run on Christmas. As of now there’s a little less than three weeks til my next race (Weymouth Woods 100k), which will serve primarily as a long run in the build up to Umstead. It’s nice to feel like an actual runner, and eat like one without gaining ten pounds, again!
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
Last week I actually felt like I did some relatively noteworthy training. It had been a frustratingly inconsistent and boring stretch. To finally run more days than I didn’t and to feel sore and not injured was definitely a good feeling.
Tue – 4 miles easy
Wed – 4 miles easier
Thu – 12 miles with some hills on the treadmill
Fri – nada
Sat – 13 miles total, crewed for David Ploskonka at the Hellgate 100k, 7 and 6 mile sections I’ll talk about later
Sun – 18 miles at Umstead on the Company Mill trail
Total for week – 51 miles
As mentioned above, Friday/Saturday I crewed for David at the Hellgate 100k which took place in the mountains of Virginia (about a three hour drive for me from Durham). I had heard about David Horton’s races and wanted to experience it for myself, from a non-participant standpoint first. The cool thing about Hellgate is that it starts at 12:01 am on Saturday morning so everybody (racers, crews, and volunteers) is totally exhausted pretty much the whole time. Add to that the fact that the 100k is actually closer to 66 miles, with roughly 13,000′ of elevation gain and this is a monster of a race.
I drove straight from work Friday night, arriving at Camp Bethel around 7pm, just in time for a lasagna dinner. I met Hope, who I would be crewing with, and Henry, who is another Baltimore area runner. The three of them had driven down in Henry’s truck which would be our crew vehicle for the weekend. I ate too much, as usual, and then we went to the lodge for the pre-race briefing. Dr. Horton is hilarious. This was unlike any pre-race atmosphere or meeting I’d ever been to. There were so many runners there who I recognized from being a creepy internet race results/blog stalker. It was neat to see them in person, and later to see them running.
After the briefing we had an awkward break where nothing was planned. Mostly we were just waiting until 10:50 when we’d drive over to where the race would start. We laid around by the fireplace, joking a bit. Eventually we got our clothes on and made our way to the truck. The drive over was quite amusing, there was lots of joking about Hope and I abandoning our crew duties in favor of the Monster Maze in Natural Bridge. There was Henry’s Starbucks cappucino/chocolate Boost concoction that looked very much like diarrhea. The mood was quite light considering what lay ahead. I think that was a good thing though, no need for the runners to get too focused and stressed about the task at hand, I know I appreciated the joking that took place before Stone Cat.
The race started exactly at 12:01 am and after seeing them off, Hope and I made our way back to the truck and followed the caravan of crew vehicles to aid station 2, the first time we could meet David. We hung around talking to the volunteers and being pretty happy that it wasn’t much much colder. We didn’t have to wait too long after getting there, he came through in 15th place and looking good. And as he was off, so were we. The gap between AS 2 and AS 4 (the next time we could see him) was considerable and that was really our only opportunity to try to get some sleep. I might have dozed off for about an hour total while waiting this time, that would be the only sleep I got during the entire adventure. AS 4 was definitely the coldest spot for me, but I was given the job of holding a potato chip bag full of grilled cheese sandwiches by the fire so I kept pretty warm. David came through a few spots further back but still looking good.
The rest of the race followed a similar pattern. We’d drive to the next aid station along some back roads in the dark, I would consume chocolate, or a Boost shake, or some trail mix, mostly anything with some caffeine. Then we’d sit in the truck for a bit to keep warm, get out and wait a little bit for David to come through, give him some fresh gels and whatever else he needed and then see him off, rinse, repeat. The sun started to come up while we were at AS 6, which was at the top of a pretty long climb. A frontrunner or two dropped out when they got up here for various reasons. Horton made Hope (who is a singer) sing a duet of Oh Holy Night with one of his students who was working an aid station. We did not see a lunar eclipse, which may have been one of the only downers of the whole weekend.
After that we got to AS 7 and it was here that I would start to pace David to AS 8. I went to the bathroom, put on my Pure Grits, and just waited around for him to come through. Now that the sun was back out, I was feeling a little fresher than I had been overnight. When David came in, we jogged over to the aid table with him, I grabbed a Hammer gel for myself, and we were off. The first part of the section was a fairly significant climb to the top of a ridge. On our way up we caught a guy who had come in a few minutes ahead of David and looked like he was really struggling. Any stretch that was downhill or flattish we ran and at one point were cruising at a pretty good clip for an extended period of time. We hiked up the last stretch to the 8th AS where I passed David off to Hope, got back in the truck and drove by myself to the last AS. When I got there, things were significantly less crowded than the earlier spots. The race had been going on for nearly half a day at this point and the field was definitely stretched out (and exhausted I’m sure). I was actually caught a little by surprise when David and Hope came through, running very strong and up a few places from earlier in the race. In fact, David was now in the top 10 for men and 12th overall! The last section featured a long three miles up up up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and then down down down to the finish back at Camp Bethel. We were hiking very swiftly up the first part of the section and once again quickly caught up to another racer who had left the aid station a few minutes earlier. When we got to the top, David mentioned that we would just ease into the descent gradually. I said ok. Maybe it was my fault as pacer or maybe it was just gravity but we eased into things for about 30 seconds and after that it felt like we were absolutely bombing downhill. Towards the end of the section, as we got off the trail and onto a gravel road, I’m pretty sure we were running close to 6:00 flat. And he had already run nearly 65 miles at this point! Amazing. Horton was there to greet him at the finish, just over 13 hours after he started.
It didn’t hit me how exhausted I was until much later. After all, I hadn’t just run 66 miles in the mountains on no sleep. I knew David was an incredible runner already, but to see firsthand on such a difficult course that had some bad history for him, that was so inspirational. I was honored and thrilled to have played my small role in getting him to the finish line. From a more self-centered standpoint, I got exactly what I wanted out of crewing Hellgate — some experience on the other side of an ultra (which I will happily put in the karma bank), an exciting adventure in the mountains, and it reinvigorated my passion and desire for running, and specifically running these long distances and crazy races. I’m finally feeling unbroken and uninjured and the fire is burning again. The rest of December is going to be pretty awesome and next year is going to be even better.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
It’s been almost a month since my last update. It seems I fell into my familiar habit of when things aren’t going so well, I’m much less inclined to talk about it. Instead I tend to just get grumpy, brood, eat ice cream and oreos, and drink beer (that is, much more beer than I normally do, which is probably borderline having a problem level), and that ultimately leads to being slow, fat, and out of shape. Now I understand that three weeks worth of binging and inactivity and gaining about twelve pounds does not lead to the same type of slow, fat, and out of shape as your average American. I’m still only a little more than 160, which is still lighter than I used to be when I thought I was in pretty good shape. And I kinda half-assed an 18:50 5k on Thanksgiving on a whim, a time only two years ago I would have been THRILLED with. So perspective is important, and something I tend to lack when things seem to go less well than I’d like them to.
The week after Stone Cat I tried to run, and did. 30 miles on a sprained right ankle. Exactly one week after the race I drunkenly sprinted around downtown Raleigh with my friend Zane. The next morning my left peroneal tendon felt really sore. And it felt that way pretty much every day since. The past few weeks, as I mentioned above, I’ve done precious little running, or anything for that matter. Last week I went to the gym and lifted for the first time in a long while. Even though I THOUGHT I wasn’t overdoing it, apparently I overdid it. And was sore for the rest of the week. I was also getting more and more frustrated. Another week was slipping away and things still weren’t feeling as good as I wanted them to. Next year’s big races were getting closer and I’ve got to get back into training. Ugh. 24 frustrating miles was all I managed, a lot of it uncomfortable.
Sunday I went to see John Stiner for another massage. I walked in and I guess I was giving off the frustrated vibe because he told me I seemed real down. I explained my issues with the ankle and he set to work on it as thorough and focused as usual. Almost as important as the work he did on me physically, he helped reset me mentally. He’s a smart guy and he helped put things in perspective (which, again, is something I tend to lack when evaluating myself is concerned). I had a long stretch of very intense training and while I didn’t perform quite as well as I wanted to, I still ran two pretty good, very long races (the longest of my life). And throw in a new half marathon PR and what would have certainly been my first time under 17 for 5k and I had a season to be proud of. It was pretty much necessary to take some down time after all that. And it’s hard to go from up, up, UP, go, go, GO all the time to nothing. Any runner can relate to this. But that’s what I needed and that’s what I ended up getting, whether I liked it or not.
I took two days of pretty much complete rest after the massage. Last night I laced up my Brooks Launches, the ones I haven’t worn since the 40 miler, and ran 4 miles. It was the first time since Stone Cat that I completed a run without thinking to myself at some point, “[x] hurts, dammit.” I’m not 100% yet, but I’m ran mostly pain free last night and that’s a big first step. I’ve got some adventures left this year (one of which will be crewing Dave at Hellgate this weekend) and some big plans for next year and I think I’m finally ready to get back to work.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!
Usually at the end of my race reports I like to write down some of the lessons I learned from the race. But that novella was long enough with just the who, what, where, when, and why (well, I still don’t know exactly why but whatever) so I decided to break it. Plus my thoughts after the race were mostly just negative and not really all that constructive so a “what did I learn” post would have been pretty terse and just consisted of “I learned that I suck and I ran a pretty bad race.” Not exactly helpful going forward. Because I’m still pretty new to t racing somewhat competitively each race is a great learning experience; especially race distances I’ve never done before. Stone Cat in particular was an extremely valuable experience on a number of fronts. I learned about myself as a runner, myself as a competitor, abut some of the gear I run in, the in-race fueling strategies, all sorts of stuff. I’m going to try to put it down in some logical order but my propensity for rambling will likely win out.
I’ll start with some of the positives I took away from the race. The first is my gear. I ran in the brand new Brooks Pure Grit, part of their more minimal-focused Pure Project line of shoes. I intend to write a full review of them but suffice it to say these shoes really held up, and exceeded my expectations. The terrain wasn’t crazy, but there were some rocky sections, some twisty rooty sections, there was that stream crossing and a number of other muddy/wet spots, and the Pure Grits worked fabulously through all of them. Light and quick yet adequately cushioned, perfect decision for the race. I was also EXTREMELY happy with my Drymax socks. After years of reading all sorts of ultrarunners plug the brand, I bought a pair at Bull City Running and on the few 4+ hour runs I’ve done, they have been great. This was their biggest test by far, every loop my feet were completely soaked with freezing water and not once did I get so much as a hot spot. By the end of the race, my feet were actually dry. Amazing. My $15 headlamp I bought a year ago at Walmart worked reasonably well, though I suspect if I intend to get more serious about ultras and just long runs in the woods through the night in general, I should invest in something a bit higher quality. The rest of the Brooks kit worked well, as usual. The only complaint, gear-wise, was my gloves. And it’s not my gloves fault really, it’s my hands. I really ought to invest in some mittens, because my hands get too damn cold in gloves. I’m not sure what I could have done differently, I thought the gloves would provide a bit more protection from the cold water bottle but I ended up running with it like a football way more than I wanted to (which is at all). Maybe chemical hand-warmers? Maybe mittens? Maybe TWO mittens? It’s something I’ll have to continue to research.
Probably the thing that went best was my crew. As I mentioned previously, Katie, Tyler, and Scott were phenomenal and without them I doubt I would have done as well as I did. I’d like to just reserve Katie for all future ultra endeavors as I can’t imagine anyone would be more prepared and just completely on top of things like she was. It saved me time at the start/finish of each loop and precious mental energy.
Like in the 40, I went out a bit more aggressively than I probably should have, but also like the 40, I was feeling remarkably good early. Of course, you SHOULD feel remarkably good when you’re only 25% done with 50 miles! While I may have run slightly faster later on if I had gone out a bit slower (or even if I had just taken it easier on some of the steeper inclines on the loop), I don’t think that was the main factor for my slowdown later in the race. What I DO think was the biggest issue was once again in-race fueling. I didn’t throw up, or even get nauseous at all so at least I learned something from the 40 miler. The coconut water was, I think, a good idea. Katie suggested maybe a 2:1 coconut water/pineapple juice mix. I dunno if I’d like the taste but maybe it could work. I have used both now and both seem to work really well for me AND sit well with my stomach. I think the primary problem was that I didn’t eat enough. Two GuS or one Gu and and a package of Clif shots for every loop was not enough. I could run a pretty good marathon on that strategy, and essentially did. I’ve done 25-30 mile long runs on that or less and been fine. But those are done in four or so hours, not six or seven. I don’t know if I should have frontloaded things more and doubled my intake early on and then tapered off toward the end, or if I should have tried to eat more real food at the aid stations, or what but I know that by the last two loops my energy levels were not where I wanted them to be. What I need to do is get better about trying things out IN training. Too often I go out and maybe have one gel and some water during my training long runs and then I just kind of guesstimate come race day. That’s probably not the best strategy to figure out what works and how much of it I need in situations like that.
I think another issue that negatively affected my performance, but one I don’t have as much control over, is my overall training. Quite simply, I haven’t been training for stuff like this very long. Until May, I hadn’t run much over 50 miles/week in almost a year. Each year that’s passed as been more consistent than the last but that is not saying a whole lot. Finally in May I started getting consistent about running and about increasing volume without getting hurt. I ran almost as much from May through race day as I had all of last year! But seven months does not make someone a good runner. Seven months is a good start, but it’s just that — a start. A lot of the people who ran the race, and who do ultras in general, seem to have been at it for at least a few years. So I have a long way to go. Fortunately, not running much in high school or college probably saved my legs so I’m hoping I have at least a few years that I can push them and continue to see improvements. I don’t think I’m that close to being topped out yet. But I have to continue to be consistent and actually put in the work.
Related, I need to get less lazy. I tell people this and they look at me strangely. It’s true though. I don’t find it very difficult to just go out and run for an hour or two each day (and four or so on the weekends). It’s a matter of lacing up the shoes and getting out the door, the rest is sort of autopilot. But it’s the rest of the things that go into training that I need to recommit myself to, and that I hadn’t been leading up to Stone Cat. It’s going to the gym and lifting a bit to strengthen my legs. Strong legs are beneficial to overall power output when running AND they help you get up the damn hills better, plus at the end of the race, stronger legs will be able to maintain pace easier. I need to be better about doing mobility and flexibility work, particularly with my ankles. This is not the first time this year I’ve sprained an ankle trail running. If I’m intending to do MORE of them, I need stronger ankles and that doesn’t take much, just a a commitment to actually work on it a few days a week. I DID join the Y last week so once I feel a bit more recovered from the race, I intend to be a regular there. The sleep has been better than it used to be but there’s still room for improvement there. The beer, oreos, ice cream, etc etc needs to get SERIOUSLY scaled back. I don’t think I’m ever going to completely cut out beer but the other stuff is just filler. I’m not fat and I’ll never be one of those people who knows he’s not but says he is so other people will say, ‘Nooooooo you’re in SUCH good shape.” Lame. I know I’m in good shape. GREAT shape. But I could be in better shape. How do I know? Because I have been before and it doesn’t even require the borderline-ED behavior I used when I wrestled in high school. Just some discipline and self control.
I need to get the eye issue figured out. Someone suggested (and I kind of suspected) it had a lot to do with the cold, dry morning air. This would explain why it doesn’t happen to me over the summer. Still, I think I may go see an eye doctor just to be sure.
I also think I need to get mentally tougher. There were WAAAAY too many moments during the race where I allowed myself some time to feel sorry for myself. Where I stopped or slowed to a walk when I probably didn’t need to. Yes, I ran at least 20 miles aware that something was wrong with my ankle and some people think that’s tough. That’s mostly just being jacked up on some adrenaline and as long as I kept moving and didn’t stop for long, the real pain wouldn’t set in. I knew that so it wasn’t as big a factor as it might seem. But the fact that I was able to run the last 8 or so miles of the race while I didn’t do that on the third loop indicates to me that I wussed out quite a bit. I’m not saying that if I were just mentally tougher I could’ve held pace for the last two loops but I think I could have run much better than I did. Part of it is just not being used to THIS sort of pain and exhaustion, it’s not the same as running a mile all out on the track. It’s not the same as the last minute of the third period of a wrestling match, though it’s MUCH closer to that than the mile. I don’t know HOW exactly I’m going to work on this except to just be more mindful of it on my long runs, in my workouts, and in future races. I wish I could talk to high school wrestler Mark, he seemed so much tougher than I feel now. I’m gonna try to channel that intensity and focus in my running more.
Overall, I’d give this race a B- because I DID run 50 miles for the first time in my life and I did it in a pretty decent time. Still, there were a lot of mistakes made, and there’s a TON of room for improvement in the future. Katie said something that really stuck with me – I’m allowed to not be satisfied, but not disappointed. I think I confused the two immediately after the race. I’m not disappointed because I didn’t mail it in, or quit, I gave a full effort and finished a race longer than most people I know will ever think of running. I also got to see my best friend kick some ass too. But I am certainly not satisfied with anything. Satisfaction breeds contentment which breeds laziness. I’m not going down that road. I’m going to take a little bit of time to recover from both this race AND the six or seven months of training that led up to it. And then I’m going to get back to business as smarter runner, with more focus and determination and motivation to improve than I have ever had.
Til next time, RUN HAPPY everyone!