Tuesday, November 10, 2015

2015 Ozark Trail 100 miler

I ran this race in 2010 and it was the toughest 100 miler I've experienced so far. I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to return. It was my slowest 100 miler, felt crappy very early in the race and I couldn't run for 2 weeks after. I guess time and some prodding from my running buddy Steve running his first 100 miler, and a $50 off coupon I found helped to convince me to sign up again. Also, I thought it might be good for me to return to overcome the fear, and hopefully redeem myself and have a good time and hopefully feel good during the race.

I had an aggressive goal to run in 23:45 or at least under 24 hours. I ran in 27:50 in 2010 and it was a long day. A picture after the finish has me looking my worst. After finishing this year, someone that I ran with for the first 10 miles said he was worried since I didn't seem that into it. Also, my training wasn't that great either and I really wasn't as into it as I should have been for a race this difficult. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around doing another 100 miler. It takes a toll and did I really want to do it? I accepted that I would do it even if my training wasn't ideal. Luckily, I also have 5 more years of ultra experience that made up for my non-ideal training.

I slept pretty good the night before the race taking 2 Benadryl and was asleep shortly after 7 pm with the alarm set for 2:30 am but I woke up short after 2 am on my own. The bus left at 3 am and we arrived at least an hour before so plenty of time to use the bathrooms or stay on the bus to stay warm.
I started very conservatively with Steve and Allan behind most of the runners. It always pays to start off slow. There was a short and and back on a forest road at the beginning. It turned out we didn't really need out lights since it was daylight very quickly. At the first aid station I was only 5 min behind where I estimated so didn't start out too fast. I continued to run with Steve and Allan until after mile 10 where I went ahead. I arrived at the aid/drop bag at mile 14, 2 minutes past my goal. I saw Steve coming in on my way out.

Overall, the race was very uneventful. I felt good, no falls other than a stumble and caught myself with my hands before completely going down. At mile 47 I had fallen a bit further behind schedule but only 12 minutes. I didn't worry about it considering in 2010 I was hours behind on my plan. My memory must be short since I had forgotten the difficulty of parts of the course and should have allowed a little more time. Normally, a runner slows down in a race this long and I had built that into my plan but I still had my doubts, especially later in the race that I could go under 24. I didn't ever totally give up on the idea though even though by mile 73 I was 30 minutes behind and 47 minutes by mile 87. I had gained 11 minutes at mile 94.

I kept passing people, and moving up the ranks even as I was slowing down. I pushed as hard as I could through the pain the last 6.5 miles to hopefully have a chance at sub-24. Interestingly, pushing through the pain, often makes it go away but you pay for it after. Also, the quesadillas at the aid stations helped too and were very energizing.

I ended up finishing in 23:50 (8th place), 4 hours faster than 2010! I feared I would regret that final push. Before I had been running as gently as possible and avoided falling. My body responded well to this race and I'm fine and can walk better than after my last 50K. One would think the post race pain after a 100 miler would be 3 times worse than a 50K but that isn't true. I still wouldn't recommend this as a first 100 miler unless you know what you are getting into. The runners this year though made it look easy with over a 70+% finishing rate. All 4 runners from Columbia finished with 3 of us in the top 15.

The volunteers were great and really spoiled us with the variety of food offerings but some of it I still won't touch during a race. I still ate some crazy things that worked such as cheese quesadillas and some with guacamole, a pancake (didn't settle well), a slice of bacon (not the best choice), a bacon and cheese quesadilla at mile 94.5 (it worked), grilled cheese (couldn't stomach it in 2010) and some stuff I just mindlessly ate and don't remember. Also, used Huma gels and Sword drink which I think contributed to feeling good the entire race and feeling like eating most of the time. If you can't eat, it doesn't go well. I had a completely opposite experience from 2010 and am glad I went.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

2015 Defiance 50K

I needed a long run today while traveling so decided that I might as well do a race so I wouldn't get lost. Also, this gave me a chance to run an ultramarathon in another state. I ran Rock Bridge Revenge 50K last week and the major aches were gone by Saturday. I decided to do the Defiance 50K in Tacoma, WA since it was the right distance had not filled. The course is 3 loops through Defiance Pointe Park. The trails for this race were pretty smooth and the race course had a lot of turns but a beautiful course.

The weather forecast was 100% chance of rain. It rained on the drive there from Portland but was not raining at the start. Temperature was low 60s. All three distances, 15K, 30K, and 50K started together. The course was chip-timed. Very few people lined up in front so I got close but once we started I was passed by a lot of people. We ran along the waterfront on a paved path above the beach for a half mile before going up some stairs. Then we hit the trails which were advertised as single-track but most of it was not like any single track I’ve run in Missouri. There was plenty of room to pass, a pretty solid surface even though wet, and some mulch and pine needles. There were very few rocks and roots.

The first loop I had plenty of people to follow and seemed like a lot of turns so I had to pay careful attention to the course markings which I would describe as average. I had to look ahead and there were volunteers at many of the turns and roads since the course crossed over where we had run before at different points. Not long into the first loop it started to rain and it rained hard. I was expecting more of a drizzle. My shorts and shirt were completely soaked and the trail started to accumulate lots of puddles that could not be avoided. I didn’t bring Body Glide but my feet were fine. Nips were a little sore by the end. It felt a little too cool to run shirtless and I didn’t see anyone running without a shirt. Before the end of the loop, we had to rappel down a steep, wet and muddy hill. There were 2 different ropes since it switched directions. Then there was just a short run to the finish of the loop. I ran the first loop in 1:34:27. My first loop came out to 10.3 miles on my GPS but my other loops were slightly shorter even though the same course.

For nutrition I had 3 bottles of Sword and 5 gels. I had a full bottle of Sword for each loop at the start finish area to save time. Prerace nutrition was not ideal since I didn’t have access to the foods I normally eat so I was hoping I wouldn’t have any issues. None of the food other than bananas looked appealing at the aid stations but I didn’t take any since they were all whole and not cut up. My energy level stayed good and the rain became lighter in the second loop. Another 50K runner caught up to me and was running his first ultra. He had finished the first loop just a few seconds behind me. Eventually, he ran ahead of me the second loop but I caught him later and we finished the second loop together with my loop split at 1:37:22. I was surprised since I expected it to be a bit slower than just 3 minutes.

I took off on the 3rd loop and pushed the pace as much as I could. Along the path to the stairs some walkers pointed out a humpback whale and a seal. I’m not sure if it was a seal but there was definitely a whale. The whale came up for air several times as I was running past. I passed a 50K runner before reaching the steps. I had been running the gradual uphills and walking the really steep sections in the previous loops. On the 3rd loop I was just a little slower going up but really pushed on the flat and downhills. Overall the course was very smooth, runnable, and fast. I didn’t see many runners during the 3rd loop although I passed some from the 30K and lapped a few doing the 50K. I had a guy running at me at some point that was questioning the direction he was going. Although it wasn’t marked very well I assured him it was the right way. He was a 50K runner and the only other one I passed. Once I passed him I pushed the pace even more until the end. I ran the final loop in 1:38:01, only 39 seconds slower than the previous loop.

I finished feeling good and didn’t fall like I did at Rock Bridge Revenge since the course was so smooth. I placed 3rd overall out of 76 finishers and 97 starters in 4:49:50. Placed 1 of 6 in 45 – 49.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

2015 Rock Bridge Revenge 50K

Saturday I ran Rock Bridge Revenge 50K for the fourth time. There is also a 7 mile and 25K race as well. Temperatures turned colder on Friday night and it was only 43F at the start of the 50K at 7 am. Sleep wasn't ideal since I was awake at 3:30 am but I felt good and ready to run. There were 60 people signed up for the 50K but after dropping down and no-shows, only 40 runners started. If you want to drop down you have to do so before since the other races start an hour later.

As opposed to last year, the trail was dry and it has rained very little recently. The weather was perfect through the race with the temp reaching upper 60s by the time I finished. My goal was to finish between 5:10 and not longer than 5:30. Last year I ran 5:22 but the course was muddy so this was a reasonable goal for the dry trail. Overall, I was thinking 10-10:30 pace but this course is tough to run even splits since the terrain varies. The first part of the course is run on one side of the park and then we run a loop on the other side of the road, cross the road and finish the loop we started earlier. Then we repeat for the second half. The first few miles are generally faster and the pace slows across the road even during training runs. On the first loop, we ran a short out and back on the road to spread out the runners. I positioned myself behind Sankalp and he was setting an aggressive starting pace. There were 4 other runners trailing me.

I kept Sankalp in sight but didn't get too close other than on downhills I would catch up a bit. When we reached a creek at 3 miles my splits were 8:31, 9:29, and 8:43. I made the decision that when I got to the creek I was going to let everyone right behind me pass since I felt the pace was not sustainable for me. I stopped for a few seconds and let 4 runners go around. I carefully crossed and mostly avoided getting my shoes wet trying to stay on rocks. They all sped ahead except I did catch up to one of them shortly that had turned his ankle but he walked it off and passed me. The first aid station is at 6 miles where we cross the road. Those 3 miles before the aid station were run at a similar pace that I started even though I let 4 runners pass me so I was in 6th place at this point.

For nutrition there are 2 aid stations on each set of loops and one at the start so a total of 5 for the 50K. I filled my bottles and sometimes had a piece of banana. I also carried 5 gels and used 4 of them and 3 of them were the yummy expensive Huma gels. I used 1 serving of Sword per loop. After the first loop, I was back at the start in 2:24. The first loop is slightly longer since we have a short out and back on the road that we don't do the second loop. I grabbed my full bottle of Sword, a piece of banana, and continued. I didn't see Sankalp but had passed him at the aid station. Shortly after I see the guy that had turned his ankle earlier coming towards me. Apparently, he had gone the wrong way around the loop on the way back. Also, I passed another guy just over 3 miles into the loop. If I passed anyone else, I didn't notice.

Just as I was leaving the aid station 20+ miles, I noticed Sankalp behind me. Whether in front of me or behind me, he helped push me through this race. Also, I kept pushing the pace since I thought that sub-5 hours was very possible. Up to this point, I hadn't fallen and managed not to fall at all in my last 50 mile race but I guess I was overdue. After mile 21, I tripped over something and landed on my arm and left knee. I had a couple scrapes on my knee and my arm felt a little sore for awhile.  At mile 24, I managed to do almost the same thing but landed off trail and squished a bunch of liquid out of my bottle and added a third scrape to the left knee. My legs were tiring so it was more difficult to pick up my feet but I still felt good. A few miles later I hit my left big toe hard attempting to jump over a log that I should have stepped over but didn't fall.

Up to mile 21, I had 1 mile just over 10 minutes in spite of some hills. My slowest mile was 22 and I am guessing took a bit to recover after falling and I had to descend a steep hill and climb another. I'm watching the clock pretty closely since keeping my mind on sub-5 kept pushing me forward. I figure if I can keep an 11 minute average the rest of the way, I can do it. I managed to do all remaining miles under 11 except 1 and even ran several under 10 min. My finishing time was 4:54:06 (2nd overall) so ran the second loop 6 minutes slower than the first and finished feeling good in spite of the half mile climb uphill to reach the finish. This turned out to be a course PR by 17 minutes. This is the best 50K, I've had in years.

There were 30 finishers and 10 DNFs so still a tough day for 25% of the runners. The winner ran 4:33 (24 years old) and Sankalp also finished sub-5 in 4:58. The cutoff for the race is 8 hours. This race is very much run by volunteers and seems to get more support every year. It is becoming an event that everyone wants to do and has filled the past 2 years.

Earlier in day pancakes were served but for those of us finishing later we had pulled chicken, chips, cookies, chocolate milk, Gatorade, and fruit.I managed to eat a little right after finishing. I've recovered well from the race in spite of running on the hard trails and a sore ankle for 1 day. On Sunday, I went out and "ran" 5.5 miles helping to remove flags from the course.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

2015 Mark Twain 50 miler

I had hoped to run the Barkley Fall Classic 50K again this year but decided to go the Mark Twain since it is closer to home and I had not run the race before. Also, I thought it would be good training for Ozark Trail 100 miler in November. It is only 2 hours 15 minutes  to drive but I decided to travel the day before since the race starts at 6 am. I opted for a hotel since I thought I might sleep better than camping in the tent or car. I was craving pizza so decided to skip the pre-race pasta meal which was 25 minutes away from where I was staying in Cuba, MO. I've never done this before but ended up consuming a medium hand-tossed with mushroom and chicken from Pizza Hut. I still felt a little hungry so went to Sonic and had a medium peanut butter fudge shake.  Not my typical pre-race meal but it worked since I had no issues during the race. Also, 3300 calories so I was well fueled for the race and didn't feel like I stuffed myself.

I slept poorly and just over 4 hours. Maybe I should  have slept in my own bed and driven since I would  have ended up with the same amount of sleep. I forgot to bring the Benadryl so didn't have that option when I woke up at 2 am and couldn't sleep. At 3:45 am I decided I might as well get up. I had a Lean Body Shake, coffee, and watermelon for breakfast. I left at 4:30 to head to the start where packet pickup opened at 5 am. I arrived shortly after 5 am so got a parking spot close to the starting line. It was very dark and then it occurred to me I didn't have a light in the car. It would likely be dark for the first few miles but I didn't worry too much about it. I figured I could just go slow and others around me would have lights. The temperature was 66F and a little humid since it had rained overnight. However, the trail seemed pretty dry. It was warmer than predicted since the cold front had not quite come through so I ran shirtless which turned out to be a good decision.

I saw Allan B. at the start line and he noticed I didn't have a light. He had a headlamp and a small flashlight which insisted that I use. It wasn't too bright but just enough to get me through the first 2 miles until it got light. The race also included a 100 miler with everyone starting together. I got up close to the front since we would be heading straight into the woods and figured I would end up being at least in the top 10. I was thankful to have the light since it was dark but only turned it on in rocky sections. I'm sure other runners thought I was nuts running without a light but it was easy to see most of the time.

The starting pace didn't seem too fast. My plan was to finish the first loop in around 4:20 or 10:30 pace. The course is the Berryman 50 mile in reverse and I have run it close to 9 hours the past 2 years. The reverse course is more elevation gain according to my GPS so maybe a little more difficult. Allowing for my second loop slowdown I thought 4:20 was reasonable even though Ultrasignup predicted my time at 9:26. The first 10 miles were interesting since I was running with about 10 people in the lead pack. The first 8 miles were between 10:30 - 11:45 pace (averaged 11 min) so seemed quite reasonable . At the same time I am wondering why am I still with them since it felt easy. I kept thinking someone is going to take off soon since this has never happened. Usually, someone takes off right away and I don't see the leaders.

After the mile 9 aid station, I took off before most of the group and was right behind a couple of the leaders for a very short while and then all of a sudden one of them takes off at a blazing pace and a few others followed. They were quickly out of sight. A couple guys stayed behind me and I set the pace for the second pack for awhile and we sped up too. Eventually I was passed by one of the guys but I completed the remaining 17 miles at 10:17 pace. The loop was a little over 25 miles (had about 25.5 GPS) and I came in at 4:27, refilled my supplies and was off at 4:30.

Nutrition was pretty simple. I used mostly Huma gels and a few other brands I don't like and won't buy again now that I've experienced Huma. I consumed 4 gels per loop and a few pieces of banana. Also, used 2 servings per loop of Sword. The second loop I consumed more banana and a tiny avocado wrap which I considered lunch. It worked quite well and I had very few hunger issues.

Energy was steady the second loop but hamstrings were feeling sore and getting more difficult to run up hills but I still ran up them as much as I could although slowly which is faster than walking for me. Even though I had slowed I was surprised I hadn't seen anyone. Coming into the 40 mile aid station I see the guy I had passed earlier leaving. I eventually caught him walking and he started running behind me once I passed. We ran together until the next hill and then I went ahead.

For the second loop, I had been running 11-something until mile 35. The next 6 miles were mostly 12-something until I caught the guy that I passed. As much as I slowed I managed to not fall completely apart and most of the remaining miles were 11-12 something. I finished the second loop in 5:06 so 9:36:51 overall, placing 4th out of 42 finishers.

2015 Heart of America Marathon

Heart of America was my first marathon and my longest running race streak, having now run it 12 times.  I've been training for a 100 miler in November and it is a bit difficult to stay focused and train properly for both. However, I need other race distractions before the 100 miler or I will start to lose interest. Training for a 100 miler so far out in the year is a bit stressful and I prefer to run one earlier in the year.   Training for the marathon went okay and I managed to do several of the Long Run Lunatic training runs while still doing some trail runs and a trail 50K in July. The biggest distraction was 2 weeks before the race I was severely bitten by chiggers which made focusing on running very difficult. I had to get a prescription steroid cream to heal faster and it still itches at times. I didn't run for 5 days since running made the bites itch worse and my feet were swollen for a few days. Instead of feeling refreshed for the marathon after 5 days of no running, I felt more beaten down. Then I ended up running more than I would have the week before and am still not sure if that was the right thing to do.  

The weather turned out cloudy with a start temperature of 74 with 82% humidity at 6 am according to Accuweather. It never felt like it warmed up too much since the sun stayed under clouds. I woke up at 4:30 am and we left at 5:30 am leaving 1 car downtown. Hugh also signed up for the race the day before. He wasn't too crazy about the temperature which was the warmest starting temperature in the 12 years I have run this race.

I'm not sure how many starters but there were 162 finishers down 17 from last year and I am sure there were some drops. I had a plan to pace a 3:10 and depending on how I felt I might run faster or slower. I spotted Andrew and his sister than came in from KC as soon as I stepped out of the car. We had just a few minutes before the race started. I never arrive too early since this is a small event, plenty of parking, several bathroom options, and I only live 2 miles away. I started off with a 10 oz bottle of water since the first water station didn't come until 3.5 miles and I didn't want to get too far behind with the warmer temperature.

So we are off and around the corner the first mile is downhill and unfortunately this is part of the course we have to repeat later when we come back in. After the first 3.5 miles, the course is a 17 mile loop and then we come back on those 3.5 miles plus some additional miles to finish downtown. I ran the first mile in 6:46 which was a few seconds faster than planned but okay since downhill. The second mile which is uphill I was right on pace. Andrew was close behind. Around mile 4, Alex, and 18 year old that I know running his first marathon settles in beside me and we run the same pace until around 8 miles he went ahead.

Then we hit the gravel road and Andrew catches up to me on the downhill. We talk a little but it was a little difficult to talk much and keep the pace. Usually, I can talk just fine in a marathon at this point but it was taking a bit more to focus on my pace than usual and the gravel didn't help. It was nice to get to the trail that runs along the river and enjoy the flat before the big Easley Hill.

I ran 8:16 up the portion that included Easley which turned out to be my slowest mile. My overall time was around 1:36 at the halfway point. I was able to get back on pace somewhat running a 7:25 in mile 14 and 7:12 in mile 15. I passed 3 runners in the last second but one was in the woods so I didn't realize that I had passed him. Around mile 16, it was getting more difficult to keep the pace but Still managed 7:25 average for the next 9 miles.

At this point I was checking behind and didn't see any runners. I had a hill to climb as well. I could have tried harder but ran the last 2 miles in 8:03 and 8:11. My overall time was 3:16:13, only 2:29 slower than last year. Many of my splits were very close to last year up until the last 2 miles. They were my slowest last 2 miles in 4 years.

I felt an extreme sense of tiredness after the race and felt like I wanted to lie down and go to sleep. I waited for Hugh to finish while I ate 2 Hot Box cookies and 2 small Gatorades and still felt wiped out. After he finished we went to the after party and awards at Shakespeare's. I ate 2 pieces of pizza which I really didn't even want that much. I placed 2nd in my age group and 4th overall out of 162 finishers. This is my highest placing in the 12 years I have run this race. No one broke 3 hours this year. The winning time was 3:06 and I know several runners that struggled to finish.