Monday, November 25, 2013

Another Road Marathon

I ran another road marathon.  I learned more lessons.

Columbia City Veteran's Marathon (Columbia City, Indiana)

I ran less in preparation for this race.  Between the last race (Columbus) and this race I put in about 280 miles in 6 weeks (averaging 47 mpw).  I did a few specific workouts that gave me a little confidence leading up to the race:
  • A few miles at 5:30 - 6:00 per mile around campus
  • A 12 miler with a 10K tempo at 6:10 per mile in the middle
  • A 22 mile long run at around 7 minute miles
  • A half marathon distance - marathon pace run on a hilly loop at 6:30 per mile

I pondered my race strategy daily during the week leading up to the race.  Columbia City is a small marathon with a mildly rolling course on the northern Indiana country roads.  The weather promised to be cool with a little sunshine.  

I decided to try a few new things that went against my intuition:
  • Eating more gels (make me sick, but maybe if I start earlier they'll go down better?)
  • Go out more conservatively (try for a 7:00 first mile) (I always feel like running faster feels easy when I start out faster than goal pace)
  • Attempt to run an "even split" (I hate doing this as I like to bank some time and hang on for dear life . . and I like to try to hang with the faster pack just in case it's my day)
  • Choose a more conservative goal pace (2:59 finish - 6:50 per mile). (I hate this too, all of the esteemed Daniels and Noakes formulas say I can go faster.  Why take a shot at less than my best?)

I made my plans, folded my race clothing, grabbed my 8 gels, and packed up for the road.  I was ready to race (conservatively race that is).

I'm not a superstitious person but I am a superstitious runner.  I buy the same shoes over and over again.  I have to eat brown rice the night before a race.  I have to be up three hours before start time or an optimal outcome is impossible.  I also believe in staying relaxed and calm the night before the race.

I was slightly concerned when I managed to hit a deer on the way to my nearby hometown and family.  The deer seemed to flee in an adrenaline fueled state of post-impact terror and fell in the woods.  I don't think he survived.  I could have reacted more quickly, so therefore in my mind I had failed and the ultimate cost was the life of a deer.

I got to my parents house and tried to relax.  The deer had probably enjoyed running carefree across the fields and through the woods much like myself.  This line of thought wasn't helping me.  I vowed to run well for the sake of the deer.  If he was going to give his life for me to race a road marathon I needed to make it worth his while.  I was not calm.

The race start came, and I ran the way I planned to.  I stayed back at an easier pace.  The most difficult obstacle for a northern Indiana runner is the strong wind blowing across the mostly treeless fields.  I forgot about that.  A well formed pack of 20+ half marathoners ran just ahead of me for much of the first few miles.  I thought about catching up and working with them but it would have thrown out my new conservative race strategy.  I ran with the first half marathon woman and one other runner for most of the first loop, but the draft advantage in our small group was minimal.  Still, I finished the first loop at exactly 1:29 as planned.  The deer would have been proud.

I also ate gels, three to be exact over the last loop.  The wind picked up, and the 2o mph winds seemed like 30 mph winds now.  This time every direction of the second loop felt like running into the wind.  I slowed a little but felt like I was working much harder.  I ate another gel.  I caught a few runners and had perhaps reached 5th or 6th place.  As I neared the 22 mile mark and turned out of the wind I knew my time might be a little slow but I was poised to make a great finish.  I downed another gel, this time throwing up a little in my mouth.  The first drop I swallowed brought forth a wave of nausea.  I like blueberry but I should have stopped right there.  

I felt faint, and stopped for water.  I stopped for more water.  Two runners passed me.  I stopped again, this time throwing up all over the road.  Two more runners passed me.  I stopped yet another time, this time leaving my fountain of expunged electrolytes and fluid in the ditch.  I started to run again, and the female winner cruised by.  I was miserable and forgot about my promise to the dead deer.  After four 9:00+ miles I cruised into the finish line for a 3:12:13 finish. 

Finish - 3:12:13 - 11th Place

I cannot eat that many gels.  I cannot slow down and avoid running by feel.  If the pace feels easy and I have a pack to work with I will go along next time.  Cheer up.  I won my age group, I learned some new lessons, the race was well run and inexpensive, and I got to see plenty of family and see two of my uncles run.   

In Memoriam: SR 13 Deer
Unknown - November 8th, 2013

Sorry you got badly maimed and probably died so that I could
run 9 minute miles to finish a questionably executed road marathon.

I will try again to run sub 3 in your honor, but in the meantime
I will learn from your tragedy and probably stick to the trails.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mill Race Marathon (Columbus, Indiana)

I stood at the starting line near downtown Columbus (Indiana) beneath lines of trees on either side of the street.  The mass of runners (2500+) had begun filling in behind me, packing the single corral from the gate all the way to the line.  Everywhere I looked I saw familiar faces; some with names I knew, others just familiar.

I was well rested, and ready.  I had gone to bed early and woken up in my own bed in the morning for an almost hometown marathon.  I had actually tapered for two weeks, and peaked at 130 total miles of running during a 9 day stretch three weeks before.  I ate my usual pre-race bowl of corn flakes at 4:00 am on the dot.  I took one Starbucks expresso shot exactly an hour before the race start.  The temperature was cool and the skies were clear.  I counted mentally each variable that had been set with a value in my favor.

I felt the firmer lift under my feet of a fresh but familiar shoe.  I am "shoe-perstitious" to a fault.  My 6th pair of the out of production Nike Lunaracer 2 flats had arrived from eBay just two days before.  Originally a shoe with four different colors, these days I have no choice but to accept a women's size pink.

Family Portrait: Lunaracer 2 - #'s 1-5

While the crowd of runners chattered, I gave a final fist bump to my pal Ethan who was himself running the half marathon.  I spotted Joe, another runner I had just met recently at a 5K from the "Quaff On" team.  After a quick exchange with Joe and a few other nearby runners we quickly determined our goals were similar.  We could all run together at an even pace of 6:30 per mile, hopefully followed by an under 2:55 finish.

Race Start

Race Start - more photos at The Republic Photos

The starter's gun fired, and I began to run.  My stride felt effortless.  I cruised with Joe, even backing off a little when a glance at my Garmin showed 6:15 per mile.  We ran through a red covered bridge over the river.  The paved running path was flat and wound with only gentle turns.  The early morning sun still hadn't risen above the tree-line so all was shaded and cool.  The first mile came at 6:23.  The next at 6:27.  Before I knew it I heard the chirp of my Garmin and the third mile split was an exact 6:30.

Time and miles passed so easily that I can't even remember what the miles felt like.  I talked with Joe and enjoyed my first trip around the city streets of his small town.  Two african runners passed by quickly behind a volunteer on a bike.  We were bewildered but surmised that they had arrived late for the race.

I ran the first 13 miles comfortably with Joe in a small pack that continued to grow.  As I reached the half marathon split my watch read 1:26:01.  I felt elated and comfortable.  This was going to be my day.

Letting Go

I had only sipped a little water so far.  I try to drink well on the run, but I just fail to get more than a small swallow while keeping my stride long and cadence quick.  As I neared the next table of water I knew I should probably take a gel as well.  I couldn't stay with the pack, drink water and take a gel all at once.  So I slowed down and reached into my tiny waist pack for a gel, meanwhile watching the group gain on me.  I sucked the blueberry flavored syrup from the wrapper and finished the entire cup of water, not wasting a single drop.  The slowdown seemed worth it as I felt confident that my fueling would pay off.  I increased my pace and gradually closed in on the group.

I wanted to stay comfortable and not make a costly surge so after gaining a close visual I just kept my distance and ran comfortably in solitude.  As I ran from winding neighborhoods to wide open and long stretches of road I noticed I was only following Joe and one other runner.  They had fallen from some of the others.  They had also had clearly slowed just slightly and so had I (6:45 - 6:50 per mile pace).  As I reached the 18th mile I walked for just a few seconds to finish another gel and drink a full cup of water.  I began to feel fatigue but still kept the pace at around 6:50 per mile.

Can I still run a 46 minute 10k?

I looked at my watch, I had only a 10k left to run.  I noticed large patches of sweat enveloping my shorts.  Sweat streamed down my body into my shoes and my singlet alternately flopped against or stuck to my back.  The cool day had suddenly become quite hot and there wasn't any shade to be found on the long, open and straight roads.  I began to ponder the pain that was to come.  I hoped to feel a boost from the gel I had recently consumed, but I didn't.  I worked out the pacing math again.  I knew I could just keep an even pace and run a 2:55.  I realized I could even relax and still easily finish in under 3 hours.  I kept calculating options, splits, and paces in my mind.

As I turned from the long open road into a neighborhood I shortened my stride and quickened my cadence.  A friendly couple on a shady street even shot me with their garden hose.  I dumped the next cup of water I came across directly onto my head.  I was getting hot and tired, but my pace stayed consistent.  I felt strongly there was no way I was going to miss my secondary goal of running under 3 hours.  I just had to run under 7:30 per mile.


At 24 miles I slowed and walked while eating another gel.  I felt nauseous.  I didn't want another gel but I needed a miraculous energy boost.  There was no miracle.  My pace had fallen to a 7:30.  I felt the pull of a cramping left hamstring when I began to run.  I grabbed my hamstring and felt a knot like a golf ball.  I stretched it while pushing it back in a power walk.  Then the right hamstring cramped.  As the suburban families gathered on lawns watched and cheered I was engaged in my own struggle against a physiological response I am convinced no-one fully understands.

I heard voices talking about inadequate hydration.  I heard others proclaiming salt the savior of the cramped athlete.  I thought of pacing errors and going out too hard.  I thought of redlining core temperatures within the muscle.  I thought of Tim Noakes and the "Lore of Running".  I thought of Alex Hutchinson and his "Sweat Science" column.  None of the advice I had ever heard mattered.  It was me against the cramp.  I ran again and the hamstring cramps returned.  I struggled to stretch each back out and tried to keep a quick but short cadence.  I would will them away.

It was at mile 25 that I knew my quest for at least under 3 hours had failed.  A pace nearing 9 minutes per mile was too slow.  I could throw myself into an under 6 minute mile and still make it to the elusive 2:59:59.  I was a long way from the beginning of the perfect marathon day and had lost my will.  I lengthened my short strides and leaned into an exaggerated forward position to pick up some speed when I saw the finish line.

3:03:30 - 13th Overall

It was my best marathon so far, but that wasn't much consolation to my defeated optimism at the finish.  I was just glad the suffering was over.  This was my fourth road marathon that I had intended to run in under three hours, and for the fourth time I had failed.

I found out later the lead runners hailing from far away had been guided off course by the lead bike volunteer.  The mid-race flyby of 5 minute per mile runners giving chase was logical after all.  At least I didn't have someone else's error to blame for my near miss, nor was I racing for my paycheck.

I don't think I've run a "great" road marathon.  I've only run road marathons that "aren't as bad".  Still, I got closer to my current goal and the real wall happened a little later than usual.  Running at my goal pace had felt easy for most of the race.  My fourth road marathon was still an improvement over all that had come before.  That crazy old swimmer lady had to try five times before she made it from Florida to Cuba.

It looks like I'll be racing another one soon.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Tale of Two Marathons

It's been far too long since I've updated our blog with some running and racing updates.  I've missed documenting a few fun races!  This spring/summer I have twice succumbed to the temptation of running a road marathon.  One went decently well, the other did not.

Kentucky Derby Marathon (April 27th) 3:04:29

I ran this basically on a whim after a tempting "free entry and trip full of fun" offer from Scott Breeden to visit his Louisville friends (Kenyan runner Pius Nyantika and Beau Hollis).

This was by far my favorite road course I've run.  It begins flat and fast, and at the midpoint (roughly) has a nice 3.5 mile stretch of tough hills in Iroquois Park followed by more long flats and a few challenging hills toward the end of the race.

I didn't have any hard goals going into this race, but aimed to run around a 2:55.  I had some great Kenyan style black tea before the race that really kicked me off feeling warmed up and ready to race.  I started off easy and naturally fell into a 6:30-6:40 pace for the flat and long straights leading up to Iroquois Park at the 12 mile mark.  I actually was pleasantly surprised as I hadn't done anything resembling a tempo run in a while and felt quote comfortable despite some "dead quads" earlier in the week.

I came through the half at 1:27:54, close to goal pace and felt pretty good about that as the miles through the hills were a little slower.

I had miscalculated one logistical necessity however.  I had heard the course would have gels so I assumed I wouldn't need to carry any.  This became a huge issue as I started to slow down at mile 20 and still hadn't seen a gel.  I felt strongly that a single caffeinated gel could save me at this point and felt mentally drained in my fruitless constant surveying of my surroundings for some sort of a fix.  Finally just before mile 23 I found a gel, but by that time the gel didn't kick in and revitalize my pace till about the 24 mile mark.  I picked the pace up gradually to a 7 minute pace but knew my 2:55 hopes were gone.

A lesson was learned.  I won't fully plan to rely on course nutrition ever again!

Despite this I finished at a <6:45 pace for the last mile and just barely managed a Boston Qualifier at 3:04:29!  This was still a big marathon PR or me as I hadn't run a road marathon since the 2008 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (my first, and a 3:15).

Post Race - Me, Scott, Pius (Won Half!), Beau

Sunburst Marathon (South Bend, IN June 1st) 3:35:23

I went into this marathon ready to run hard and fast, with another 2:55 goal in my sights.  The weather conditions promised to be much more humid and hot, but with morning rain seemed better than originally expected.

Most unfortunately my pre-race preparation did me in this time.  I ate a large amount from a salad bar on Friday night (unusual foods that didn't sit well) and on Saturday morning decided to ease my already uneasy stomach with some super concentrated coffee that I thought would help kick off my digestion before the race.  I started to gag and feel a little sick while drinking this black oil and should have thought better and stopped before polishing off the cup.

Another lesson was soon to be learned.  I did pack my own gel, but never ate even one during the race.

I started off well and ran with the second pack of leaders and my friend Becky Boyle (a fast girl aiming for a fast marathon debut at around my goal time) which seemed well enough at the time.  After 2 miles at below goal pace I started to gag.  Soon I was throwing up in my mouth and swallowing it back down hoping the nausea would subside.  By mile 7 I slipped from a 6:20 - 6:30 to a 6:54 split and stopped at some bushes by the river to throw up.  I did throw up and threw up volumes.  I tried to run again but by mile 10 I had dipped to an 8 minute per mile pace with nausea still overtaking me whenever I tried to pick up the pace a bit.

It was at about this point that a long forgotten tendonitis pain came back in my flexor hallucis tendon and plantar fascia.  Every step started to hurt, and the pain stayed with me. I contemplated a DNF but realized that the easiest way to find everyone was at the finish in the Notre Dame stadium so kept forging ahead.  I decided at this point to throw out my goals and just use the marathon as a painful long run.

I finished but it was a painful journey the entire way.  I stopped a few times to massage my foot but nothing seemed to work.  I finally finished at 3:35 after seeing everyone I had been running with on the long out and back river section of the course and galvanizing my demoralization.  The one bright spot was seeing Scott and Becky run extremely well and each finish in 1st place for the men/women wins!

I will say the course was not all that great.  Although not terribly hilly it did have plenty of twists, turns, and turnarounds to kill momentum.  Although I think I could run a good time here, the time of year and course probably make it a poor choice for a stab at a PR.

Strangely after the finish Katie (who ran the 5k quite well at 24ish minutes) used my race medal to perform some nontraditional graston on my foot.  It worked like a charm and I never felt the pain again after this!

Sadly it took a real beating to drive the lesson home.  Take care of your stomach, and be careful not to abuse it before a race!

Happy finishers, some just happy to be finished

Where do these two marathons leave me?  I got my road marathon fix for a bit, but I'm still eager to put in the performance that I think I'm capable of.  Perhaps after a summer of training and a turn of cool weather in the fall I'll take another stab at this road marathon thing.

A great marathon is truly a difficult accomplishment.  One error, and hopes quickly fall by the wayside as a few miles way off pace can be insurmountable to reverse.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bagging Peaks in the Smoky Mountains

A few weeks ago I made the trip down to the Smoky Mountains (Gatlinburg, TN) with my friend Ben for a  weekend of all day trail running.  After day one of 26 miles, and 32 the second day I was somewhat battered from all the climbs and sustained downhill running.

I got to see plenty of the park and we got some great photos in the process.

Descending Bullhead from Mt. LeConte

Back Down Chimney Tops

Chimney Tops

Chimney Tops

Bullhead Trail (Descent from Lt. LeConte)

Bullhead Trail

LeConte Lodge

Mt. LeConte (Around Summit)

Ice Bath

Rainbow Falls

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Land Between the Lakes 60K

I wrote most of this report six weeks ago and have continually forgotten to finish and post it.  I signed us up for this race literally a few hours before registration closed (about a month ago) after getting a well timed warning from Scott Breeden that the race director would be closing registration within an hour or two.  I signed up for the 60k, and Katie signed up for the 10k.

My training for the race looked pretty much like this:

  • Run Lovin the Hills 50K
  • Don't run for a week, body is decimated*
  • Run a 34 mile point to point run to Brown County
  • Fall on a log, bruising shin badly - too painful to run after this
  • Don't run for two weeks*
  • Run another 34 mile point to point to point run to Brown County to test out the body
  • Don't run for a week*
  • Run the race
*I did swim and bike during all this

As we got close to race day we worked out a plan with our friends also running the race (Alex, Giesla, Scott, Becky) and all stayed together the night before the race.  In the race preparations I likely made three key nutrition mistakes:
  • Added an extra late night meal of an entire Subway footlong
  • Added an extra cliff bar to my already adequate breakfast of cereal and milk
  • Forgot to bring my corn flakes and soy milk so had dairy and heavier cheerios, plus extra half bowl of cheerios instead
The consequence of my ravenous pre-race eating would be revealed soon enough.

Course Map (Start, Finish and Canal Loop)

Race Start

As we gathered at the race start in the "center" of the town of Grand Rivers (Lighthouse Landing) I was impressed by the sheer size of the crowd.  The morning was cold but within the mass of almost 700 runners (50 mile, 60k, Marathon, 23k, and 10k simultaneous starts) I felt much warmer.  I wore only a technical shirt and shorts with an Amphipod brand strap hugging several gels above my right hip.  In dry conditions, I've been putting pretty much all of my miles in using the Brooks Pure Grit shoe (excellent on road and trail - but terrible and in fact dangerous grip in slick conditions).

Race Start

Instead of lining up at the front with Scott and the familiar cast of more aggressive running leaders I lined up a bit further back next to Katie, Alex and Giesla.  The race runs on approximately two miles of road before connecting to the single track trail known as "The Canal Loop".  Because of this, I had struggled with a choice:
  • Run faster and get to the single track ahead of most
  • Not worry about it and run further back, allowing myself to run a relaxed first loop of the "Canal Loop" (~12 miles) and deal with passing and catching people later.
I ended up opting for the second option and waffled a little on pace to run back with Katie for a minute (in the 10k) and then run back up to Alex and Giesla again.  After a relaxed 7:40ish pace for 2 miles, we dropped down a small hill onto the start of the singletrack "Canal Loop".

Loop 1

I spent some good times hanging with Alex and Giesla on the first loop.  The lap went by quickly with the first half being the easiest and the second half of the loop adding some small (100 ft. at most) climbs.  Aid stations were plentiful but I didn't really have much more than a cup of water and another cup of Heed.

There were a few nice spots of "cliff"-like trail that looked over the lake off to the left and perhaps were even a little dangerous for an inattentive runner.

As we finished the first loop I could detect that I had a made mistake in diet before the race.  I was going to need to find a bathroom soon.  I slapped a high five to Alex and Giesla as they exited the loop to the road spur back to the finish of the half marathon.  The first loop had ended with a total time of 1:35:00.

Loop 2

At first I tried to pick up some speed on the second loop but after initial few miles of "very easy" terrain I started to slow down.  My stomach again sloshed and I knew I had to find a bathroom.  I couldn't stomach a gel for some reason and took only a Coca Cola can which was actually quite good and provided a nice boost.

I finally found a port-o-pot (which was occupied) and ended up waiting a little before I could get in.  I had passed a few more runners but found (discouragingly) I had to pass them all over again.

I got to the mid-loop aid station and Katie, Alex, Giesla and Becky were all there and got me a throwback Mountain Dew can from my supply bag.  I chatted for a moment, chugged my Mountain Dew and gave Katie a kiss as usual before going off on my way again.  My stomach still sloshed and I again felt nausea when I tried to think about taking a gel.  I sort of mentally settled on only fueling with soda for the rest of the race.

I passed some more runners and chatted with a few who were using the race as a build-up to a 100 miler in the summer.  As I passed another two or three runners I tried to build up a lead as I could feel the need to find a bathroom again.  This didn't happen and I settled for charging up a hill behind some large tree stumps and digging a hole.

Again, it was somewhat discouraging to pass the same 3 or 4 runners again on my way to finally completing the second loop in 1:40:39.  Since I was racing from the far back of the pack, I really had no clue what place I was in or where the next runners were at.

Loop 3

Admittedly, by the 3rd loop I settled into too comfortable of a pace.  I saw few runners until the end of the loop and took two more bathroom stops and two more cans of Coca Cola.  I realized I was at least keeping an even and relaxed pace but had simply stopped too often to gain contact with the next runner or two that I would have liked to catch.

I did run into one guy during the last few miles of the loop who I passed and then continued to push and catch me on the flats.  I got motivated and ran the climbs with as much effort as was reasonable and was able to gain a lead that put me out of sight coming into the end of the loop.  My stops again inflicted a slowdown on the lap, making my time a 1:51:47 for the final trip around.

Looking back the three laps my "moving time" mile splits were pretty consistent at around an 8:30 average but the stops cost me more time with each consecutive lap.


As I dashed out of the trail loop (glad to be out of it finally after three times) I ran for a few seconds next to Alex, Giesla, Katie, Scott and Becky.  Katie sprinted out for a few hundred meters and pulled me into a faster pace.  After a few inside motivational jokes I turned off onto the main road and picked up the pace even more for the last 1.6 miles, starting at around a 7 minute mile pace and running the final stretch at a 5:50 - 6:00 per mile pace.

Finishing fast . . too much kick left

The energy I had finishing led me to believe that I probably should have been pushing myself much harder.  Then again, I was just happy to run reasonably and finish given that I had mostly been mired in injury over the previous few weeks.

I ended up finishing 10th with a total time of 5:34:19.  Had I known that the 3rd-9th runners were all over 5 hours and somewhat within reach perhaps I could have pushed my pace a bit more.  But, in my experience it has always been a little difficult to go out at a slower pace and maintain contact and competition with the faster runners.  In my mind, this also reinforces the "strategy" of staying out of sight on the trail if you don't want to get caught.

That being said, I think I will be motivated to give this race another try next year as I would like to run a much faster time.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Louisville's Lovin' The Hills 50K

Since I heard about "Louisville's Lovin' The Hills" two years ago I have been clamoring to race it.  The course has a reputation of being slow, difficult and full of steep climbs just slightly more difficult than those found around Bloomington.  That's my kind of trail race.  I decided this year that I would give the 50K a shot, and Katie jumped in and said she would run the 6 miler.

My once a week long runs have all been on this sort of terrain.  The Paynetown / Pate Hollow trail in Bloomington was probably the best specific preparation I had done for the race as the elevation profile is similar albeit with slightly smaller climbs.

We got into Louisville on Friday night and stayed on the South side closer to the race site at the Jefferson Memorial Forest.  My friends Scott, Becky and some of their trail running friends also stayed at the same hotel so this made the prospects strong for a fun race weekend.

Pre Race

I ate a light breakfast of two eggs and four pieces of toast at the next door Waffle House in the morning.  Since I have cut caffeine out, I also was able to down several cups of coffee and get a giant boost of performance enhancing adrenaline before the race.  We had a short drive to the race, got registered, and tried to stay warm as the morning was pretty cold before the 8AM start.

Race Start / First Loop

Photo from Jonathan Clinthorne

As we lined up at the start, I took off fast with the lead pack in my coffee fueled state of excitement.  I ran back for a minute and then ran up with Scott at the front for almost three miles.  The start had the fastest section of trail, and my Garmin splits were around 6:45 for the first two miles.  This felt a lot like the fast downhill start of the Tecumseh Trail Marathon.

After the third mile I dropped back and ran with third and fourth runners for a while, until finally I dropped my pace a little after the second climb and let them get away.  I felt the fast start was efficient, but pushing too hard on the first climbs of many was something I needed to avoid as my base of hill climbing was definitely not as strong as these guys.

As I ran in fifth place, I noticed that as I neared the end of six miles and the first of the three different loops in the course I was getting close to being caught by Russ, another Bloomington runner.

I slowed at the aid station and opted to grab a cup of water and one cup of Heed, and downed them both.  Russ passed me, and I quickly dashed down the single track of the next loop to catch up.

End of 1st Loop
Photo from Jonathan Clinthorne

1st Loop Split: 5th Place - 46:13 - 8:04 / mile pace (would have been good for 2nd place in the 6 miler!)

Second Loop

As I ran down hill into the second loop I tried to relax a little although my excitement was still a little bit high to reign in the pace much.  I ran with Russ for a while and then took off a little faster for a while with another runner who caught up to me.  The runner turned out to be Ryan Case, a friend of Scott's.  I chatted and hung with him for a few climbs but his strong climbing wore me out pretty quickly toward the end of the second loop and he eventually disappeared out of sight as we reached the climb at the end of the loop.

I only packed a small waist belt of gels, so I also attempted to eat my first gel during this loop.  It was a little later than I had hoped but the pace had been to0 agressive up to this point to really relax and try to eat a cold and very un-fluid-like gel.

The second loop also seemed pretty fast overall.  I spotted the 15 mile winner once somewhere in the loop and he was very aggressively hitting the climbs.

2nd Loop Split: 6th Place - 56:02 - 8:47 / mile pace

Third Loop

As the third loop began, we crossed a rather small patch of single track where water flowed down over a cliff.  In colder conditions, it would have definitely been ice and pretty treacherous.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky so the sun quickly warmed me up to not even a hint of feeling cold anymore.  If I had a good drop point I would have certainly ditched my tights at this point.

As I started in to the long out and back segment of the third loop called the "Siltstone Trail" I spotted Russ catching up as I came into each climb.  Eventually I ran with Russ for a number of miles on the way "out".

The Siltstone portion of the course was definitely the aesthetic highlight of the course.  I started to truly feel the "runner's high" and often look out to the North to see the overlooks off the ridge to rolling farmland below and even the Louisville skyline.

As I neared the end of the "out" portion of the Siltstone I knew I needed to relax a little more as I had at least 11 miles left in the race and I needed to start getting a gel or two down and allow my stomach to actually digest a little.  I finally let Russ go and that was the last I saw of him in the race.

As I ran the long downhill into the small loop at the end of the Siltstone at "Scott's Gap" I hit another aid station and this time took a cup of water and a cup of Coca Cola.  The coke was great and lifted my energy level a little more and settled my stomach.

As I ran into the "Scott's Gap" loop (3 miles) I saw Scott coming back out with no other runners in sight.  I slapped him a quick high five as I passed and could tell he was very aggressively flying over the trail to a hopeful win.  I was alone again, as I would be for the entire 3 mile loop which had as I recall the steepest and most difficult climb of the race.  I could do nothing more than "euro-hike" it, using my arms to push down my quads for a boost.  I knew the 2nd - 6th runners were all also somewhere in the 3 mile loop at this point.

This was also the slowest part of the race for me as my average pace dipped down to a race low of 12:31 per mile during the loop.

Scott's Gap Loop

I came out of the Scott's Gap loop and got another boost in morale when I saw Katie waiting to cheer me on at the aid station as I downed another cup of coke and water.  I got a kiss for luck and kept going.

As I headed back into the Siltstone for the leg back to the finish I started to see hordes of runners.  This was a big motivator as they all shared the trail and gave great encouragement and some reported how long ago they had seen then next runner.  I knew I was at least ten to fifteen minutes back from the next runner so I tried to relax and run a steady pace.  The climb back onto the Siltstone ridge was also pretty tough.

I ran as well as I could on the flats and rollers, and didn't really start to hit a low until close to the end of the Siltstone section.  Even during the low, it was good to feel like an "ultra" runner again after wading through a plethora of injuries and unsteady training over the last year.

I saw Katie again coming off of the Siltstone to the last leg going into the finish and at this point she said I looked good but I was having serious trouble doing any uphill running or aggressively running downhill.  The last few climbs including the one to the finish were pretty difficult.

I put together a solid streak of running for the last mile and ran uphill to the finish, where Scott, Katie and crew were all waiting at the finish line to cheer me in.

I just stood next to the finish for a long time, enjoying the moment of simultaneous energy, depletion and satisfaction that every runner knows after a strong finish.

Photo from Jonathan Clinthorne

3rd Loop Split: 7th Place - 3:37:51 - 11:08 / mile pace

Overall Finish: 7th Place / 5:20:17 / 31.7 Miles / 5,689 feet of climbing

Katie also ran a great race as she has been training well and bagged a 3rd Place Female prize in the 6 miler!

It was a good day for all the runners we knew.  Scott won the 50K, Becky won the 15 mile, and Ryan ran well and picked off two more runners for 4th place in the 50K.  It was also good to run with Russ for a while and he finished 15 minutes ahead of me by the end.

A few thoughts on the race after finishing:
  • This was the toughest course I have run, without a doubt.  It contained about 21 steep and challenging climbs.  Having a strong enough base to keep fresh legs and run every downhill and flat aggressively would have been a big help.
  • The course and trails were beautiful and scenic.
  • I enjoyed an aggressive start and getting to run with each of the 1st - 6th runners for a while.  It was actually a nice way to spectate everyone else's race to an extent.
  • I need a good liquid fuel for colder weather when gels are too thick and difficult to get down.
  • It's possible to run an "okay" 50K with only a long run and mostly cycling and swimming training every week.
  • The post-race food was great, with tons of home cooked food, homemade bread, and lots of delicious soups and chips and salsa.
  • We chatted with the race director for a while, who was super nice.
  • It was great to see Scott nail the race with a course record by over 40 minutes.
  • I need to make a return trip just to hang out and run these trails again.
To cap off the weekend, we made some new trail running friends and I even got a pair of Hoka One One shoes at the Zappos outlet for $60!

If you're reading this and are a local runner, add LLTH to your race list for next year!  I hope we will be there again!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Swim, Bike, Run, Push Ups, Situps and Repeat

Today is a rest day, but I've just finished up eight weeks of "triathlon training" loosely based on a plan I've had success with before.

Most days, I ride my bike to work (good gear makes a big difference in the cold) and get in swim during lunch and another ride or run in the evening.  I've found out that I still have a little tendinitis lingering in my tibialis anterior and abductor hallucis.  Fortunately, with limited running miles and a long run on weekends I'm still finding that it has improved, to the point where I ran on the trails this weekend and didn't have any soreness this week.

With all the cross-training volume, I'm finding myself in reasonable running shape and at least decent bike shape for 50 miles or so on my Saturday long ride for the first time in a few years.  With 8 weeks and 88 hours of total logged time running, riding and swimming that puts me at a decent amount of volume and hopefully will give a me a good base to actually race with this spring!  At 11 hours a week (on average) that still (assuming 8 min miles) puts me at almost the same cardiovascular volume as an 80 mile week of running.  Looking at it that way I'm starting to feel decent about where my fitness is heading!

Training Volume (Hours) by Week

Other than some weights, lunges, squats, etc. my primary strength training has shifted for to a pretty simple system.  Today in one set I did 30 sit-ups and 30 push-ups to complete the 30th day of a popular challenge making the rounds among Bloomington runners, cyclists, and even couch potatoes.  I hate complicated workout plans so this is actually kind of fun and a nice break from the usual!  And on December 31st (assuming I stick with this) I'll do 365 push-ups and sit-ups!  This challenge might get tough.

27 Push Ups on the Tecumseh Trail

27 Sit Ups on the Tecumseh Trail

As of yet, I'm still waiting to feel 100% confidence with my right foot before I plan any racing.  The weekly long rides have been a lot of fun.  I've gotten to at least mostly keep up with Alex Potter, who rides a bit faster than me and see a few interesting Southern Indiana landmarks.

Snowy Ride

Green County Trestle / Viaduct

Alex zipping by the Trestle in the distance