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

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.