Monday, May 23, 2016

2016 Berryman Trail 50 miler

I ran the Berryman 50+ miler Saturday. There was a large group of us from Columbia that went this year and many of us camped together. Some were running the marathon and several the 50. Temperature at the start was 53F and humid and got up to 75F. The 50 miler started at 6:30 am. I took off near the front and was in 4/5th place the entire first loop since I ran with another runner. He wasn't wearing a GPS and it was his first 50 miler. I think this is the longest I have run with the same person in an ultra.Most of the time he ran right behind me.

I didn't spend much time at aid stations so often started out ahead of him but he would shortly catch me and not want to pass. We had a drop bag at the 16 mile point on the loop. He even changed his shoes after we had crossed the creek and still caught me. I was a little worried I might be running too fast but hoped to finish the first loop in 4:20 as I have done many times (might be time for a new approach). As we finished the first loop, the time on my GPS just hit 4:20. It seemed a little more difficult than some years which might be since I ran all the hills. I have run all the hills in this race before but it has been a few years. One of the 50 milers had dropped at the first loop so we were now in 3/4th place. The first loop went by quickly and I am thankful I had someone that I enjoyed running with to pass the time.

I took off for the second loop while he was changing his shoes but of course he soon caught me. I asked again if he wanted to go around. I had a feeling that might have the ability to pick it up since I never heard him breathing hard behind me. After about a half mile, he said he was going to try to run the downhills faster. I wasn't able to keep him in sight for long since he did pick up the pace. He obviously had the ability to run faster but was smart to hold back on the first loop. I was able to keep my pace in the 10s (about same as first loop) for 5 more miles but at mile 31, I slowed to 12 min.I kept running other than uphills and managed 11-12 something pace all except 1 mile at 14 min where I spent a little extra time at the aid station catching up on hydration. No miles in the 13s!

I passed a few slower marathoners but didn't see anyone else. I wasn't too worried about any 50 milers passing me even though I had slowed since the temperature had warmed up. I didn't feel great the last 20 miles but felt good enough to run most of the time so pace didn't completely go downhill. I probably made the mistake of running the entire first loop and didn't walk any hills.

I ended up finishing 4th overall, 2 places higher than last year and 14 min slower. The guy I ran the first loop moved up to 2nd. He ran the second loop only 8 min slower. I ran it 38 min slower in 4:58 so my overall time was 9 hr 18 min.  I ended up breaking my streak of 4 Master's wins since another 47 year old finished 22 min ahead of me. Fine with me since I really didn't need another plaque and even if I had run the first loop slower, I don't think I had an 8:54 in me. I did run an 8:52 in 2014 but it was much cooler. 

This race was the 7th time I ran the 50 miler here plus 2 marathons. Most likely I will plan to go back for another 50 miler next year. It seems to be a tradition to have a group from Columbia and it is always a fun time. The winning time for the 50 miler was 8 hr 18 min which was much slower than usual. Typically, there are runners in the 7s and the record is 6:30. There was a guy trying to break the course record and didn't even come close. Times seemed slower than usual for whatever reason. The course was wet in a few places and it was a little warm so probably didn't help. 

Crossing Brazil Creek

Friday, May 13, 2016

2016 Flat Rock 101K

I ran Flatrock 101K (aka Storm Rock this year) on April 30. I rode with 2 friends on Friday to the race. We encountered a storm on the way that we were driving right into. Fortunately, we were on the edge of it and only got really heavy rain. As we were nearing race headquarters we noticed piles of hail along the roads. Race headquarters had been hit with hail and high winds so they were putting everything back together. The race shirts were a little wet. The pre-race dinner was delayed about an hour. It was included in the race fee but with the weather I assume some of the locals stayed home.

The race started at 6:30 am and the weather was 58F, sunny and humid. The course is 2 out and backs. We could have drop bags at 2 locations in addition to the start but I had one at start and 1 location so had access about every 10 miles. The trail is very rocky but no major hills. The challenge at this race is getting through and over the rocks and we were literally climbing through and up some of the rocks. My favorite race photographers (90 Mile Photography) were there yet again. They've been at all my races so far this year.

I had a pretty good first half but very slow going since this is a very rocky course. About 10 miles into the course, a half mile looked like a war zone with downed trees. It was very difficult to find the trail and took some extra time to get through. I was in 5th place right behind a guy as I went through this mess. Huge trees had been uprooted, blown down and it was a tangled mess. The rest of the course was okay other than just a lot of leaves on the trail to cover up rocks. After the turnaround I was in 4th place and then headed back.

We had to run about 3/4 mile on the road on each out and back. Before I got there first place was going back out and around 4 miles ahead of me. As I was heading back on the road, I could see 2nd and 3rd place not too far ahead. I quickly took care of what I needed to do and was back on the road so now am in second place and 6 hr 28 min. 

On my way back from the turnaround I was hoping for at least 2 miles as a good cushion for whoever was behind me. It turned out to be 3.5 miles or I figured maybe 45 - 50 min but they were moving slower and I was building a cushion even though I had slowed down. It was a little warm and humid which slowed everyone down. They had flagged the area with all the trees down to take us around it a little but was still tough to get through since some of the flags were placed on the downed trees since there was no way around.

I slowly made my way back and felt great the entire time. I finished just before running out of daylight in 13:37:57, 2nd overall and 31 min behind 1st. They fed us our choice of breakfast foods after we finished. I ate biscuits and gravy (something I rarely eat) and sausage. Overall a very well organized low-key event. I highly recommend running this race if you want a technical challenge, beautiful course, and nice race amenities (included in overall fee) like pre and post race meals, buckle, great aid stations, and professional quality photos.




Sunday, April 17, 2016

2016 Free State 100K

I ran the Free State 100K yesterday in Lawrence, KS.  I had to get up at 3 am to leave around 3:30 since I decided to drive in the morning of the race. I ran this race previously in 2010 and 2012 and the 100K distance both times. They offer a half marathon, marathon, and 40 miler as well. Most people run the half marathon. This time only 20 were signed up for the 100K and I'm guessing even fewer started.

I ran the Ozark Foothills 50K last week and had already signed up for the Flatrock 101K in 2 weeks. I wasn't planning to do Free State but read in Ultrarunning Magazine that the race series for the year was for races through April 24. I had signed up for Flatrock in December thinking it counted for the race series. The only distance I was missing was a 100K. I already had a 50K, 50 mile, and 100 mile. It turned out the races on the calendar after April 24 on the race series website were listed in error. The series actually was intended to go through April 24 and races after count for the next race series year. I'm hoping that running Free State improved my standing in my age group in the Midwest Region.

The temperature at the start was 56F but it eventually warmed up to 76. The 40 mile and 100K runners started at 6 am. The 100K is 3 loops. I started off at a conservative pace. The trails were dry and in excellent condition. A guy I was behind fell in the first half mile which was a reminder of how soon and how many times I fell the last time I ran this race. I remembered the course being a lot of little up and down and not very bad hills but a lot of them. I had forgotten there were a lot of rocks and roots so it required a lot of concentration to avoid tripping and falling. I'm only fell once the entire race and in the first loop. My water bottle took the impact and lost quite a bit but it saved me from injury.

I felt decent the first loop but it quickly warmed up. Fortunately, there was cloud cover for much of the race or it could have been worse.  I passed one 100K runner in the first loop and that would be the only one I passed during the entire race. I finished the first loop in 3:32:09, not as fast as I hoped but considering the 20 degree warmer temps than when I ran it 4 years ago, not too bad.

During the first and second loop I had noticed my achilles feeling a little tightness and also the inside of my left knee. It was just a minor annoyance. Fortunately, it didn't get worse and completely disappeared after a little muscle massage and more running. I stayed on a program of about 1 gel per hour plus a bottle of Sword every 10 miles. In between, I filled up with just water. I ate a few small things at aid stations such as banana, peanut butter/jelly wrap, Nutella wraps, Coke and watermelon. Definitely more than I consume at a 50K but I tried eating less at a 50 miler once and that didn't work out too well. I train with no nutrition and race with some which seems to work for me. I didn't have any issues keeping food down as it warmed up and energy level felt good. My drink and gels still tasted good. My pace definitely slowed from the heat. I ran the second loop in 4:11:13. I was ready to be done after the second loop since I knew the 3rd loop could take even longer. It wasn't that I couldn't do it but I had hoped not to be out longer than 11.5 hours. Temperature warmed up to 76 so realized I had to take into consideration and was thinking 12 hours and then 12.5 hours started to sound more reasonable. I somehow managed to keep my shirt on for the first most of the first 2 loops. I felt much cooler when I took it off. I had intended to take off after the first loop but forgot.

The third loop was pretty lonely. In previous loops besides the great volunteers at the aid stations that put ice in my bottle, there were runners in the other distances on the course. I didn't see any other runners until 0.75 mile from the end when I passed a 40 miler finisher. The third loop went better than expected. Since the 1st loop I had been running everything but the hills. I was just slower running as the temperatures increased but I never felt crappy. I felt strong, but slow. I was able to enjoy the course. I saw deer on several occasions. I could have done without the turkey buzzard eating the dead rotting something in the middle of the trail. I heard what I assume were snakes rustling in the leaves and grass as I ran by them. The course is near a lake so got to enjoy the view and breeze off the water as I ran along at several points. There is a challenging rocky section along the lake and I managed to run much of it and didn't fall. I completed the third loop in 4:29:02 so only slowed down 18 minutes which was an improvement over the 39 minutes I slowed down between the first and second.

I finished in 12:12:25. The overall winner Jeff Browning, a high ranking ultrarunner, finished in 8:30! Overall, I placed 5th out of 12 which is pretty close to midpack and one of the smallest group of ultra finishers in a race that I've run. At first I wondered if there was anyone else left on the course since I only noticed a couple cars in the parking lot when I finished but it is possible they could have walked from the nearby campground. Also, as I was driving out I noticed a 100K runner on the short section of road we had to run. I hoped to finish a little earlier just so I could get home earlier but I was happy to finish before it got dark. I accomplished my mission of adding a 100K to my race series finish so will see how I do once all their calculations are done in a couple weeks.

Lots of cool race swag!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

2016 Ozark Foothills 50K

I ran the Ozark Foothills 50K on April 9. This year was the second year for the race and my first time running it. It is in the St. Louis area and only 1 hour 45 minutes drive from Columbia. Temperature was 30 at start and 48 by the time I finished.

The 25K started at 7:30 am and the 50K at 7:40 am. The course is 2 loops and for the first loop I had no idea if I was passing 25K or 50K runners but most likely 25K runners. The first 2 miles were all downhill so a very fast start. I've posted a link to my running log below with the course map/elevation. There definitely were some hills and the most memorable one occurred at mile 6 in the loop. Due to the hills my pace varied widely from 8:48 - 13:01. I was pleased with the number of 9-something pace miles I managed to run this course. Even with some hills, much of it was downhill and flat and not as technical as some 50Ks I have run.

I ran the first loop in 2:37 and had another 50K runner finish about the time I took off for the second loop. I only spent about 1 minute getting a new bottle and some banana. Also, I shed my zip pullover and went with just short sleeve shirt I had on underneath even though it wasn't very warm. This ended up being a good decision. There were 2 aid stations on each loop. One at 5 miles and one at 12 miles. Then at 15.5 miles at the beginning where we also were allowed to drop a bag. My GPS measured the loop at 15.4 so pretty close but others got slightly over 31 for the 2 loops. It seems like I'm always a little short no matter what kind of GPS I wear or the settings.

I eventually passed 4 guys in the 2nd loop. The last guy I passed really started to speed up once I passed him at mile 24 or so. The pressure was on me to keep up the pace which was easy enough for awhile but he sped up and kept up with me. I didn't offer to let him pass me at this point since he just let me pass him and he was moving slower up until that point. I thought he dropped back at the 27 mile aid station but he came back so I guess I motivated him to speed up. At about mile 29 I asked him if he wanted to pass since it was apparent he had more legs left than me. My breathing was great but legs were starting to tire a little. He declined to pass at this point and said it was his first ultra and he didn't really know if he paced the first loop right. I think he paced it well for a first ultra. Definitely better to go out a little slow and have a stronger finish. At mile 30, he says he will go around. I was slowing just a bit and was happy to see him go so I relaxed just a little. He sped up significantly and I couldn't see him.

I ended up finishing about 1:25 behind in 5:11:17 so maybe I could have kept up a little but I was happy to finish a little relaxed rather than racing the last mile. I had a 3 minute negative split which I am sure I can give him the credit for pushing me once I passed him. I had one of my slowest miles in the second loop but the really fast miles with him more than made up for it. I placed 6th overall so some tough competition. After the race they had pulled turkey, pork, cole slaw, beans, organic tortillas chips, and cookies. That's the basics since nothing eventful happened which I guess makes for a boring race report but I truly enjoyed this race and will most likely run it again. I was back home by 3:30 so I could enjoy the rest of the day relaxing.