Monday, November 09, 2020

2020 Ozark Trail 100 miles

Saturday I finished my third Ozark Trail 100 miler. Several people have asked recently and in my mind, I have lost track of how many ultras and 100 mile races I’ve run. I keep a spreadsheet so checked and I am up to 84 ultras + 37 marathons. Seventeen ultras were 100 miles or more with only 9 that were traditional 100 mile races. The rest were either backyard or set time events which I have done more in recent years. I first ran the OT100 in 2010 and then in 2015. Since 2015, the only traditional 100s I’ve run is OT100 and Kettle Moraine. This time I was definitely reminded of the unique difficulties of running a traditional point to point 100 miler compared to other types of races where I’ve run 100 or more miles.

I had signed up for the Ohio Backyard Ultra which was to take place in March but was postponed to November 14 due to COVID. I withdrew as that didn’t work well for my schedule so was given a refund. I decided to attempt OT100 again and my pattern has been every 5 years so it seemed fitting. Also, the race occurring on November 7, I thought it would be a way to “celebrate” the end of the Presidential election and the election season. Also, it is a low-key smaller event and an easy drive, I’d done it before, and other friends signed up later so it kept looking even better. It would also be a time of social contact that has been lacking a lot this year. Of course 2020 has been surprising in many ways so I should have known anything can happen this year. The outcome of the stressful election wasn’t even known until I was out running. Maybe it was good I had a 100 mile run ahead to think about almost nothing and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist.

 The weather before the race was looking warm (highs in mid-70s) but of course a lot of variation out on the trail especially at night. Definitely not ideal for a November race but I typically can deal with the heat pretty well although before the race I had been training in far cooler temperatures for several weeks. I set a pretty aggressive unrealistic dream goal having run the race in 23:50 in 2015 and training went really well this year. I was right on track for the first 2 aid stations up to mile 14. Less than a mile before I slipped walking up some steps and somehow lost my balance, fell at the top and cut near the side of my wrist on a very sharp rock. Thankfully, I was only a few minutes from the aid station so a big band aid was able to stop the bleeding and by the time it was ready to fall off later, it had stopped bleeding. I don’t know if this was a sign how the day would go or if I should have quit, but I felt good and continued on. It was getting warm so I ran shirtless probably about 12 hours which I really didn’t expect for November. At times there was a nice breeze and others times it was a bit warm for ideal conditions.

Right before Johnson Hollow aid station at mile 24.6, my eye caught a flag on the left and without looking right, I followed. And I followed a bit too long before turning around giving up hope I had gone the right direction. I had not looked for or followed the OT permanent marker as I focused on an irrelevant flag. On the way back, I see another guy that had done the same thing. He was far enough behind he hadn’t followed me but made the same mistake. Once I got to the aid station, I had 26 miles so assume I took at least a 1.4 mile detour. At that point, I was about 15 minutes off my goal to the next 2 aid stations.

I picked up my light at Highway DD, mile 47 which I was looking forward to seeing Tim Garvey working the aid station. I wasn’t moving as fast as 2 of the runners that left with me but I was still running. Also, I left the aid station with Joe Cooper who I had passed just before the aid station and he wasn’t feeling well but he did run behind me for a while. I arrived at Martin Rd (55 miles) around 6 pm and now was 52 min off my goal. From here it continued to go downhill but not entirely unexpected considering the challenges up to this point.

My Ultraspire 800 Ultra Waist Light (not the multisport) which is new failed me. I had returned the first light I was sent due to it shutting off unexpectedly. I incorrectly assumed the new light they sent me wouldn’t have the same issues. At my mile 61, it shut off abruptly after having been on for a little over an hour. I couldn’t see anything but soon could see the stars but that didn’t help me see the trail. I semi-patiently waited and kept trying and after 11 minutes it came back on so I continued and turned down to low setting since it was my theory that maybe it was overheating on medium. Thirty minutes later, it shuts off again during my mile 63. This time it comes on in 2 minutes. I still have about 4.5 miles to go so I figure it will happen again. I felt like walking at times but figured it better to get to Hazel Creek and pick up my headlamp as soon as possible. Fortunately, I made it without the light failing again. My pace wasn’t that fast but I was pushing faster than I would have if I wasn’t worried my light was going to fail again.

I was thankful to make it to Hazel Creek and only 35.5 miles to go. Sounds easy enough but I knew from 2010 from how I was feeling at this point that it would be far from easy. It was great to see the Columbia SMUT runners again since I hadn’t seen them since earlier in the day. Several were out crewing and pacing other runners.   I spent a little too long at the aid station but felt I needed the time to rest my legs while I sat and ate potato soup, a bit of quesadilla and items from my drop bag.

I left Hazel Creek around 8:30 pm about 1.5 hours later than planned but okay with it since I had plenty of time to finish even if I walked it in. However, I really wanted to be done as quickly as possible. Leaving, I realized my quads were really sore when I attempted to run, the course was extra challenging and I could not manage faster than 16 minutes per mile and sometimes slower for the stretch to Pigeon Roost at mile 75 but I was okay with that. After my wrong turn earlier in the day everything was about 2 miles further than posted for the race.

My pace slowed further (17 – 18 min) running into Berryman Camp at mile 80. I left Berryman around 12:30 am so 2.75 hours later than my original unrealistic goal. At this point, I knew 24 hours or less wasn’t happening and thinking 26 plus hours. I finally saw another runner again a few miles later walking slower than me that I passed with his pacer. I remember taking a Honey Stinger Ginsting to wake up a bit. From Berryman to Billy’s Branch, about 8.5 miles, pace was about 18 – 19 min. I’m pretty sleepy so details are a bit fuzzy for a while. Basically, a zombie walking through the woods just trying to get to the next aid station.

 After leaving Billy’s Branch at 89 miles, I’m starting to have hope that the end is in sight although it will be in the daylight when I finish and not under 24 hours. It was a struggle for me to follow some of the trail into the next aid station, Henpeck Hollow which turned out to be about mile 96 for me. It was a combination of sleepiness, lots of leaves, wide trail and trying to see the permanent trail markers. Lose your focus for too long and you will end up wandering off trail. Even as I approached the aid station where they had put out some glow sticks, I was still having issues. These were my slowest miles of the day at 20+ min/mile. I knew the next section would be easier to follow so was happy when I reached Henpeck.  Shalini and the Terrain Trail runners fed me breakfast burritos and helped me get on my way in my sort of confused state which improved when I restarted.

I could see the trail for this section and it would be light soon. Perhaps, knowing the end was in sight, I was able to pick up the pace a bit until the end and have hope in finishing under 26 hours. I could see a runner behind me on the switchbacks after a few miles so there went my plan of walking it in.

As I approached the finish at Bass River, a couple told me there were some people waiting for me. It was nice to finish to the cheers of the Columbia SMUT group. I finished in 25 hours 25 minutes, 6th place overall. A finish was the end goal. There were 79 starters and 45 finishers.

 I kept pretty good track of my nutrition. I consumed 2 protein shakes, 5 Body Armor drinks,  9 Untapped Maple syrup, 2 Honey Stingers, 4 Sword drink mix , 2 GU Stroop waffles plus solid food from the aid stations (Ramen, potato soup, quesadilla, grilled cheese), consuming an average of roughly 150 calories per hour. No issues with nausea and felt pretty good other than quads were done and really nothing nutrition could fix.

This felt like one of the harder efforts I have done in a while but in its own unique way. This course is definitely a big challenge for me. If it had been easier this report would likely have been much shorter. Every time I’ve run OT, the aid stations and volunteers (many runners that I know) are amazing and that didn’t change even during a pandemic. Time will tell if I’m confident enough to attempt again in 5 years or sooner. I’d more likely want to be a pacer the next time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

2020 Heart of America Marathon

Perhaps should have tapered more but I finished my 17th Heart of America Marathon on September 7. I wasn't feeling great the week before but I started feeling better on Saturday. There was a bit more stress leading up to the 2020 marathon. Took a risk and got a massage the day before the race to warmup. I was very cautious with prerace nutrition even getting up at 2 am to eat. I consumed extra sodium and Pickle (brand) juice both the day before and morning of the race.

This year's race was no fanfare, no relay, and no spectators at the finish due to concerns with the pandemic. There were many guidelines for the race to follow and everyone was distanced (lining up by their assigned animal) and wearing a face covering at the start. The weather was not ideal with 74 at the start and 81% humidity.

I warmed up 1 mile before leaving home and felt pretty good. I stuck with the plan to run 7:30 my first mile. I started in the 3rd animal wave. Overall, I felt good and sustained my pace pretty well but the last 2 miles were definitely not easy and my HR was higher. The lead bike fell back talked to me quite a bit earlier during the race which probably slowed me down a bit. I'm sure someone thought the bike was pacing but that was not the case. I wore my Hoka Bondi B's for the first time. They got me through but probably a bit more shoe that I need in the future.

Post race, I sat down for several minutes after to drink and eat and felt better. During the race, I had 4 gels and drank lots of water. Poured a lot over my head too. This year the water was in bottles and very cold which was an advantage to the cups that are normally passed out. The first few aid stations a couple slipped out of my hands as I passed but I eventually got the hang of it. Even with lots of drinking, I lost over 5 lbs.

I passed 1 person in the first mile of the race and then was in 3rd place until mile 25.5ish passing a runner walking and finished in 2nd. 3:22:22.22 official time which is second slowest overall of 17.

2020 Rock Bridge Revenge

Rock Bridge Revenge 50k race went smoothly. I felt like maybe I started just a bit fast but turned out okay. I ran behind Marianne for a couple miles and once we got to the gravel before the Gans loop, I could still see here but not after we went up the hill. I ran the first loop in ~2:18:30 and was hoping possibly going under 4:40 since 2nd loop is shorter without the beginning out and back to spread everyone out in the first loop. It warmed up about 20° during the second loop from when we started at 59 so not realistic for me to run more even splits.

I continued to feel good the second loop so pushed when I could but not much up the really steep hills where it makes sense to walk. I passed Marianne a little ways after I got up the hill on the Gans loop. I was slowing but figured sub 4:45 was still doable. I managed to keep all miles under 11 minutes. Felt a twinge like a cramp about 1 mile from end but nothing further. My overall time was about 4:42:47 (9:13/mi - GPS for 30.67 miles) and 3rd place overall. My fastest RBR 50k. Thankful to be outside and see so many friends before, during and after.

I did pretty good with nutrition and hydration consuming about 750 calories with 2 Sword and 5 various gels or Sports Beans. The Untapped maple syrup gels are amazing. The course was marked extremely well with plenty of volunteers and aid stations.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Dark 2 Dawn 6 hour

Sunday morning, June 28 at 12:30 am I ran the Dark 2 Dawn 6 hour at Indian Camp Creek Park in St Charles County by Terrain Trail Runners. It was awesome having the choice to run an event even with COVID-19 protocols in place.

This year to spread out the runners there was a staggered start based on marathon time. I started in 1st wave and a lot of runners passed me that I passed again later. Conditions were far from ideal since it had rained earlier and temps in 70s and humidity in 90s. There were a few sections that were quite muddy, slippery and tacky where a lot of mud built up on my shoes making it difficult to move efficiently.

In order to go out on 5th loop we are supposed to be back in 4:30-40. 4:30 is 1:07:30 per loop so I made that my goal just in case I slowed later I could use the 10 minute buffer. It isn’t the way I’d normally pace 6 hours but adds to the challenge.

I ran loops 1 and 2 both around 1:06 each. I knew I couldn’t afford to waste much time at the aid station so had bottles ready in my cooler. I took 2 headlamps so I could switch after 3 loops and not waste time changing batteries. I drank Sword the first loop and had intended to have a gel or pack of Sports Beans every hour but only had 3. Before my 2nd loop I drank half bottle of Body Armor and filled bottle up with water. Felt a bit overhydrated so cut back. Another gel at 2 hours. I was feeling hungry but at same time didn’t feel like eating much. I didn’t see nearly as many people loop 2 where loop 1 had more passing back and forth than I anticipated.

Loop 3 dumped a bottle of mixed Sword into my handheld. I accidentally switched lids and it wasn’t quite the same. Most of it leaked before I could drink much and it was empty after a mile. Then around 14 miles I wiped out sliding sideways in the mud. Noticed a little twinge on inside front of right leg and eventually it decided to cramp. Massaged and walked. Still feeling crampy so I just gradually sped up, mentally willing it to stop and all was good. I also had an episode in loops 4 and 5 and followed the same protocol but cost me some time. Loop 3 was quite a bit slower at 1:14 with the issues.

I intended to drink Pickle Juice before loop 4 but forgot. I ate half a banana from the aid station to curb hunger. I didn’t think I’d make 4.5 hours but pushed so I’d at least hope to make 4:40. I fell once in the 4th loop and got a small cut on my arm. Loop 4 in 1:11 with 3 minutes to spare but felt like it about killed me.

I took a couple minutes before starting loop 5 but figured I had plenty of time to meet my 6 hour goal. I kind of needed a bathroom but started anyway and before half mile I had to quickly take care of business. Wet leaves are great as a TP substitute. It was getting light and I pressed on wanting to get it over. Last year I ran in 6 hr 20 seconds after running 16.5 miles the previous day. I really wanted to improve my time even with the challenging conditions and cramping in loops 3-5. I felt like that wasn’t too much to ask even though I was ready to be done.

I was lapped by a runner about 2 miles from end that ran 6 loops and set a new CR. I ran last loop in 1:18, a bit slower than I’d hoped but considering I was spent after 4 loops I’m not surprised. Overall time was 5:55. I placed 4th overall of 66 finishers. One runner with 6 loops and 3 runners with 5 loops. I placed same last year but hard effort in a different way. I guess I need to go back next year with fresh legs and hope for drier conditions.

I ended up using only 3 gels/sports beans, 1/2 banana and various drinks. 800 calories which is a bit low for 6 hours. Normally there is a post race breakfast but received FarmTruk granola bars and beef sticks to go.

Photos by Janzow Photography.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Quivering Quads 50K

Ran my first race of the season, Quivering Quads 50k on March 8. My weight was down 11 lbs since January and I had a few decent mileage weeks. I wasn’t sure how my body would perform although I’ve felt better than I have in quite awhile. I’m was shocked how well this went. I was a little embarrassed getting bib #1 but was realistic hoping for maybe 5 - 5.5 hours and maybe 5-10 place. I passed 11-12 people during the first 18 miles and the final runner a few miles later, managing to put about 6 minutes between us by the end. 4:41 was 24 min slower than my fastest 50k, 11 years ago on a flat mostly paved course. It was a beautiful day, beautiful trail and enjoyed making the trek to the race with friends.

Unfortunately, every race (Ohio Backyard, Double Chubb 50K, Trail of Four Winds 25K, Berryman 50 miler) since then has been either postponed until later this year or the next year. I decided to drop Ohio Backyard Ultra since it was moved to October. I'll probably run Trail of Four Winds next year since it was moved to September. Double Chub and Berryman, I can run in 2021 or 2022. Hopefully, some races start happening soon!