Tuesday, October 18, 2016

2016 Big's Back Yard Ultra


Saturday I ran Big Dog's Back Yard Ultra for the 3rd time. For background info on this race, see my 2014 report where I did a pretty good job of explaining the race and why I enjoy it. I will say my training wasn't that great but I did run 9 ultras and 1 marathon this year so maybe all the racing counted for something. I even ran the same 3 races (Heart of America Marathon and Barkley Classic 50K in September, and Rock Bridge Revenge 50k in October) that I ran in 2014. I guess the races were my training. I did a better job with weight lifting over the summer and let my running slide and went into this race at 160+ lbs, 8 lbs more than usual but felt good. I also scrapped my training plan for the year back in March when I was training for Kettle Morraine 100 miler. It was actually nice not having the stress of a training plan for a change.

I arrived on Friday, setting up camp at race headquarters, talking awhile with a few runners I knew, and then going out to dinner alone since I thought I would try to get to bed a little early since I hadn't slept enough during the week. When I got back, it was a little noisy, but I took a couple Benadryl and managed to get to sleep and it soon quieted down. They had the race clock counting down and I kept hearing someone reminding everyone only so many hours to the start.

Trail hours:

We started at 6:45 am to give us more daylight on the last trail loop of the day. 46 starters and the race has a limit of 50 runners but they took a few more. We started off on the first loop. To my surprise, I finished the first loop first in 48:35 which was maybe reasonable other than this year it was definitely warmer. It was in the 60s at the start and got into the 80s later. The trail loops were pretty routine, running at the same times, and walking the same hills each loop. The second loop was 47:36 and 3 through 11 were 48- 50 so all very consistent. Some good conversation on some loops and I ran others mostly alone. I remember loop 6 feeling not that great but the rest went better.

I kept up on nutrition and watched my feet since my trail shoes have been rubbing my heels with the new version of Innov8 - 295s. I alternated pairs and socks for awhile and used the lubrication on my heels. Later I noticed they felt fine so quit alternating shoes. For nutrition I had Sword, Huma gels, and some solid foods. I really wasn't feeling the gels for some reason so didn't use as many as I planned. I wasn't feeling my best on lap 10 so decided to go a bit slower on 11 and hopefully speed up on 12 when it would get dark. I finished 11 about 2 minutes slower than the previous and felt better. I think the temps cooling off helped too.

I am excited on the 12th trail loop since it is the last one until we switch to the road which I knew would be easier and temps would continue to cool off. We were told to take a light but my plan was to go faster and hopefully beat the darkness.  I start off fast on the out and back road section before we come back and get on the trail. The guy ahead of me let me go around him as I started on the trail and I knew I was the first runner. I was feeling good although still walking most hills. At some point into my loop Marc Laveson flies around me. He's an amazing athlete and I watch him climb the hills with ease. He ended up running this lap,  10 min faster than he had been running all day. It was getting dark but I never had to turn on my light. I ended up running my fastest lap in 46:42, finishing second.

Road hours:

At 6:45  pm, we started our first lap (out and back) on the road with 17 runners remaining. I was actually happy to be on the road after 12 hours on the same trail. The road is easier even after running for 12 hours on the trail. I was running with some runners I hadn't had the opportunity to run next to on the trail. She was an excellent runner that seemed to run the laps with ease with plenty of time remaining. I had heard her talking throughout the day although I hadn't run near her that much. She was very talkative and outgoing and seemed to have a lot of energy for as warm as it felt. In case anyone from the race is reading and heard anything I will just mention the conversation turned south (big misunderstanding on her part) but we have since come to an understanding that I think I can live with.

The full moon was very bright and I barley used my headlamp all night other than to check the time. I ran the first road lap in 38:08 which was way faster than I should have but the adrenaline was pumping from the conversation I had at beginning of this lap. When I finished the lap someone said I must really like the road since I finished the lap so fast. I then explained to the race timers what had happened and they confirmed I was in the right.

On the next loop, I decided to calm down a bit and kind of hung behind several runners at first. I never mentioned the incident to anyone else still in the race since I didn't feel it would be appropriate. I finally ended up running ahead and I was probably still not calm since I ran that lap in 39:58. I didn't have a firm plan going into this but felt these were too fast so I decided to try to find someone the next loop to stay behind.

For laps 15 and 16, I ran with Case Cantrell, good conversation, perfect pace for me and it really helped my mood and helped me focus on running smarter. We took walk breaks and ended up running 45s. For laps 17 - 19, I ran pretty well between 42 - 46. I was getting to the point where it was more difficult to drink the Sword and gels didn't sound good. I was able to eat some vegetable soup between laps and had a brat which I have done before and had no problems. I started feeling worse (low energy), and finished lap 20 in 48 but still not unreasonable. Before lap 21 I was feeling pretty yucky. I was eating some yogurt and before I finished it, it felt like it was going to come up so I stopped.  I was feeling a little cool so I put on my jacket for the next lap thinking it might help with my tummy issues. I forgot to grab my bottle. My jacket was too hot so I had to remove and carry it. It was just as well I didn't carry the bottle since I doubt I wasn't sure I could keep it down. I ended up walking most of the last mile although some of it was uphill so would have walked anyway. I just walked more than usual.

I ran 51:50 but was seriously thinking about quitting due to how I was feeling. I decided to try one more effort to save my nutrition assuming that was the problem. I had some more soup and it went down okay. I also had some Sword. I got up with the 2 minute warning sounded for lap 22. I hoped I could finish it and feel better. Unfortunately, I felt worse, walked even more and finished 55:49. I didn't like the direction things were going so waited and went up when the 1 minute warning and turned in my timing chip. Marcy timed out and the other female runner quit too so now there were just 4 guys remaining. I waited until Marcy got back and talked a bit with Case until I said I needed to go lie down. 

It took me forever to get out one of my contacts. When I finally got to sleep, it was around 5:30 am and I woke up just before 7 am as the still final 4 headed out on their first trail loop of the day. In the end the winner ended up going 29 hours after everyone else either dropped or timed out. It would have been nice to get 100 miles but I just wasn't having fun anymore after mile 22. I had said before the race I wouldn't drop unless I timed out I guess how I was feeling persuaded myself to stop.

I tied 5th for most number of miles at 91.67 and placing 6th overall with my total time of 17:30:27.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

2016 Psycho Psummer, Heart of America, and Barkley Fall Classic

Psycho Psummer 50K

I ran Psycho Psummer in July. Starting temperature was 81F and finish 91F. It didn't make to 99 as predicted but the heat index was likely higher. I finished in 5:41:38, 7th of 50. 80 or so registered and some dropped to the 20 miler. I ran the loops in 1:47, 1:55, and 1:58. It could have been worse with the heat. I felt amazing the entire run which is unusual at this distance in the heat. I drank 12 - 20 oz bottles so stayed well hydrated. It sounds like a lot but apparently was needed. Also drank pickle juice. Kaci Lickteig, 2016 Western States winner was the first female and overall race winner in 4:23 - 1:25, 1:28, 1:29. I had the second most even splits. Hugh ran 10 on the road and walked/ran 14 including walking 1 loop of the course! We had lunch at Subway and shopped at Trader Joes before heading home.

Heart of America Marathon

Finished my 13th consecutive HOA on Labor Day. Placed 5th overall and second in age group. This was pretty good with my crappy my crappy training, weight gain and lack of motivation to put in the necessary miles. I felt pretty good except for first 4 and last 2 miles. 3 hr 16 min so same time as last year. I guess I will continue to try to keep up my streak but a long way to go to break the record. Another guy still running has 17 years and the record is 25 years. Maybe I should try running at least 1 other marathon for practice earlier in the year or doing some actual marathon training might be good too.

Barkley Fall Classic 50K

I won't go into too much detail since part of the fun of this race is a venture into the unknown. If you want to know more check out the race website, Facebook group, and this brief report by a fellow runner that covers the major points of the race.

Fortunately, I survived the Barkley Fall Classic (50k, lol) at Frozen Head State Park in TN, only 12 days after HOA. The race isn't dangerous but it is extremely difficult due to the severe climbs. I ran the 2014 version of the race and decided to go back this year since last year Laz added some additional challenges and running through the old prison.

The only things pleasant about this experience were the rugged, yet beautiful and peaceful scenery, the intermittent cool breezes and the satisfaction of finishing what at times felt like the impossible. I kept moving forward and that included going nearly straight up at times, hopefully finding footing or something to pull myself up to get a few more inches. The challenges: going uphill for long stretches, severe vertical challenges, briars, going downhill for long stretches, feeling lost at times even though with people, humidity, heat, running out of fluids up Chimney Top, muscle spasms 2 different times going up, and nearly complete exhaustion with high heart rate going up the severe long climbs. I’m sure I’m forgetting something. At least I wasn’t stung multiple times by bees like some people. Also no GPS and no gel packets allowed for this race. I only fell once but it was due to my own clumsiness.

I wore my old malfunctioning Fitbit which somehow died (for good I think) 2.5 hours from the end being fully charged and ate 4 Lara bars. Sword was served on the course which I regularly use so I didn’t need to carry much of anything other than the 2 water bottles which was a challenge at times since I needed to have at least one hand free at times to pull myself up. Once I got to mile 22 where Laz punches our bib (I think the first time, I’ve left blood on my race bib), we have the option of finishing a “marathon” or continuing up the last climb, Chimney top which I think is 3 miles of climbing. I had 5.5 hours to cutoff of 13 hr 20 min to finish so plenty of time. I caught up to 2 guys on the way up, one that I knew from previous races, and the other had been at some of the same race but didn’t know him. We enjoyed each other’s company and stuck together until the end finishing in 10 hr 31 min. I placed 22nd.

From Laz: 550 runners were accepted for entry to the BFC.  226 of those either withdrew, or never showed up at all. Of the 324 who answered the starting cigarette; 73 dropped out 132 either chose, or were relegated to the marathon... and 119 took home a croix de barque. 37% of the starters.

If you want the ultimate challenge and a race that will create doubt in your mind that you can finish, then this is the event for you. Runners can even opt for the "marathon" if they don't reach the 22 mile point by 9.5 hours or they can also choose to do they marathon if they've had enough. There's no reason to be scared of this race if you do your best to prepare. Also, with over 300 starters, you probably won't ever be alone. Another fun feature is that there were 7 checkpoints where we had to get our bibs punched. The punches spelled "I escaped" (the P was free).

I'm on the left.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

2016 Kettle Moraine 100 miler

I drove up on Friday, the day before the race. Due to road construction, the drive was much longer than expected. I waited until Rockford, IL to stop for lunch at 3 pm since they have a Roly Poly. I was pretty hungry and didn't pay close enough attention to where I parked so took a few minutes to find the car when I was ready to leave. Packet pickup was from 3 - 6 pm and I made it by 5:10. The Crossroads Motel where I stayed was only a 10 minute drive. The wifi was slow and I wanted to check email so I decided to go to Culver's. I wasn't really hungry for dinner so just had a concrete. Then went back to the room, got things ready, and went to bed so I could get at least 6 hours sleep.

I woked up a few minutes early at 3:45 am and was ready to leave by 5:10. Temperature was around 64F I think and humid. I still got a good parking spot and had to pick up my timing chip. The race started promptly at 6 am with all the runners from the 100K, 100 mi, and 100 mi relay. There was also a 50K and 38 mi run that started later in the day. Everything felt good and pain free at the start. I didn't follow an official training plan for very long. I didn't sign up for the race until April and ran 2-50Ks, 2-100Ks, and a 50 miler 2 weeks ago. I had some good mileage from the beginning of the year and with the races it seems like it would be a good buildup to a 100 miler. If I wanted to run a 100 miler this year, June was the time to do it. My mileage in May was over 100 less than April so I guess that was my taper. I was probably the least stressed about this 100 miler as any I have run. Also, I thought this might be a good time for my last 100 miler since it was also my first.

I did set some goals for estimated time to run to my drop bags the day before I left. I needed to do this to plan what to have in each of them.  I planned to be at 14 mi at 9 am, 31 mi at 12 pm, 47 mi at 3 pm, 62 mi at 6:30 pm, 77 mi at 9:30 pm, 86 mi at 11:30 pm, and hopefully done by 3 - 3:30 am. I had Huma Gels, Chia squeezes, and Sword in my drop bags. I also had my light, extra batteries, GPS charger, Body Glide, another shirt, hat, and 1 pair socks. I packed pretty light. Two of the drop bags would be accessed 2 times and the rest once.

I started off at a very reasonable 10 min pace for the first section which is pretty easy running in the grass. I walked all of the hills. Before the first drop bag at Emma Carlin the guy I ran with 4 years ago from Columbia recognized me. He was running the relay then and had run the 100 mile last year and was attempting again. We ended up running together all the way to the 50K and a little after. I arrived at the 14 mile drop bag at 8:30 am so 30 min ahead of schedule. I picked up my hat since we were heading into the open meadow and it was getting warmer.

Later the sky became cloudy and shortly after 11 am it began to rain which was perfect since we were running in the open with rarely any tree cover during this section. I made to the Scuppernong 50K turnaround at 11:32 am with several other runners so 28 min early. I was doing pretty good other than my shoes were rubbing my heels but just a minor annoyance at this point. Also, since it was raining I decided to get rid of my shirt and hat since I especially don't like running with a wet shirt. Also, I had to make a quick stop to the bathroom. I eventually caught back up to Josh and another guy I had been running with earlier.

I arrived back at Emma Carlin 47 miles at 2:42 pm, still ahead of schedule but feeling a bit dehydrated. At some point I had run ahead of Josh and didn't see him again until later when I was going back out from the first 100K. The next 8 mile section to the Bluff Rd station at 55 mi was tougher and my pace slowed some. Thankfully, the last section back to Nordic 100K and where we started is easier so I was able to pull myself together and go a little faster. It did cross my mind that it would be nice to be done if I wanted to stop. Since I was still running and things were going pretty well, I knew I would need to continue. I arrived at Nordic at 5:58 pm so 32 min ahead of schedule and 44 minutes earlier than 6 years ago.

I picked up my light and decided to remove my shoes since they were squishing. I put Body Glide on my feet and new socks which helped make the shoes less squishy. Also, my heels felt better. They were red but not blistered. I did have a small blister on my left little toe which popped at some point and didn't cause any issues. I'm not really remembering how I felt from Nordic out to Bluff in the next 7.5 miles but must not have been so great since my pace was 14:23/mi for this section. I may have been a little dehydrated since I remember drinking some extra water at this aid station which I had done several times as needed. Drinking to thirst as some suggest just doesn't work for me during a 100 miler. I drink extra and still get a little dehydrated sometimes. If I wasn't peeing I would drink more until I did and then evaluate if I needed to drink even more based on color.

When I ran this in 2010, I didn't get to see any of the next section in the light since it was already dark. It was light almost all the way to Hwy 12 so I got to see a lot of it and there were beautiful lakes I didn't get to see before. Also, the sunset was very pretty and I could see it while running this section. My pace improved to 13:40 for the section to Hwy 12. I had to turn on my light on the way there when I was on the single track sections in the woods. I was still seeing runners, some from the relay, 38 mile fun run, and eventually some of the first 100 milers coming back. I had started out in 42 place eventually working my way up to 9th when I arrived at Hwy 12 at 9:23 pm but only 7 min ahead of my estimated time.

I was and I wasn't looking forward to the next section to Rice Lake turnaround. It is the toughest section (technical and hills), 4.5 miles out and then 4.5 miles back to Hwy 12. My pace was 15:48 out and 15:07 back. I was back by 11:42 and now 12 min behind my estimated time. Understandably slow for this section at this point in the race. I knew I could hopefully pick up the pace once I got back to Bluff but I was pretty worn down by this section. It was difficult to tell sometimes what runners were running which race. I knew I had passed a few 100 milers and been passed by 1.

Some other runners came in behind me at Bluff. I had 7.5 miles to go to the finish. I thought I was keeping a pretty good pace and then at some point going down one of the hills, they blow right past me and run part way up the next hill. One of them was breathing really hard. I'm thinking this is crazy and let them go. A few miles later, I see them again and catch them. I have no problem passing them and get so far ahead I can no longer see them. I really don't like getting passed so close to the end so I was pleased I was able to pass them. Maybe I'm a little competitive and I thought at least a top 10 finish would be a good goal for me. I didn't think I would be able to pass them since they looked so strong when they passed me earlier. Around 2.5 miles from the end, I am a little confused as to which way to go since I didn't see the arrow or any glow sticks. I look behind me and I don't see anyone to wait and ask. I ended up running less than a quarter mile before thinking it didn't seem right so turned around. Then I saw the arrow was there (right next to the ground in the grass so hard to see) but no glow sticks. I caught up to the two 100 miler runners and a pacer again and confidently passed them to the point they were out of sight again. I'm thinking maybe a sub-21 finish is still possible.

I kept thinking I had to be close to the end and seemed like a long 2 miles but eventually I could see the timing clock and finished in 20 hr 56 min and 59 sec.  The runners behind me arrived 7 min later.
I placed 8th overall - 225 starters and 133 finishers. 4th in my age group 40 - 49.  In 2010 there were 155 starters and only 51 finishers and I placed 4th. The growth was good since I was often running near others but it was never too crowded. I felt it went very well and they had me at 12:29 overall pace. Pace during the last section with my error was 12:14 so not a bad pace to finish.

I wasn't able to eat anything at the end. I tried a little ginger ale but had to dump the rest. I stayed around for about 15 minutes and left to go back to my room to shower.  I managed to get down a protein shake and part of an Ice. I had hoped to sleep to 10:30 am but woke up at 8:30 so got ready and headed back over to retrieve the last drop bag and hopefully eat breakfast. The breakfast was catered and they had pancakes, 2 kinds of eggs, sausage, bacon, cinnamon rolls, orange juice, and coffee. I had everything except coffee. I made it home safely without feeling tired. I nearly drove straight through without stopping until about 45 min from home to fill up with gas and go to the bathroom. Appetite still wasn't normal so I skipped lunch.

Kettle is a great 100 miler, well-organized, excellent aid stations, volunteers, and good crowd support. It is not as difficult as some but still has plenty of challenges with only a 59% finishing rate this year and some years lower. The option to drop to the 100K is good too. The temperature in June can be a challenge but could have been much worse on this course in the open if it hadn't rained for awhile. I'm guessing it stayed under 80F. Accuweather says it was 77F. I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle the 100 mile again here (or anywhere - ask me in 6-12 months) but I would be willing to run the 100K.




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