Saturday, May 5, 2012

Trail Nut Half

Be sure to read last year's more detailed report HERE.

I remember saying "I'll be glad when this one is over"
I ran much harder than usual.

I've honestly never tried to race a 13 mile run before. I've run them, but not raced them... trying to see how hard I can push it. I have tried to race a 10 miler once last summer. That was the longest I've really tried pushing it for. You can read about that event HERE. It earned me a 2nd place in my age group. I was quite excited. That was October 22nd, and 10 races later, I finally place again. I've always said that it all depends on who shows up with how well you place in your AG.

Event details.
Date: May 5, 2012.  
Location: Falling Creek park / complex in Bedford, VA
Event: 13.1m and 10k distances offered.
Presented by: Mountain Junkies LLC
Event Website: HERE
Cost: Only $30
Swag: Nice moisture wicking T-shirt. 
Other race reports on this event:  Cardioholics Anonymous

The shirt for this event appropriately reads "Peace Love Trail Run" pictures of it are in the blog listed above, which you should take a moment to read anyway.

I've run this event for 2 years previoulsy. in 2010 it was incredibly HOT and I ran it horribly. In 2011 I ran a 2:01:14 and my goal this year was to make it under 2 hours. I think I had a good chance at that.

I was being told constantly in the week leading up and the day of by my friend Eddie Mann that I had a good chance to place in my AG at this one. I'd never placed in my AG before at a MJ event, but I was excited at the opportunity. I was even told by Sarah Holbrook that she thought I could do it in 1:51. but I knew that was a long shot. under 2 was my goal. with 1:55 being something I'd be super excited to do, but I really didn't know what I could do.

Pre-race

Excited to again be sharing the event with Lydia, as she was running the half as well. Ruth and 2 other friends came along, Laura and Kate. It was nice to all ride in one car and share the excitement to and from the event.

Arriving. packet pickup. bathrooms. sharing handshakes and smiles and recent race stories with others. It was that common "extended family" feeling you get at a Mountain Junkie event!

All lined up
Ready to go, I'm eye balling those I should try and keep up with vs those I know will either soon  fall behind or soon pull far ahead.
About a half a mile in I notice I'm running with others that I only see at the finish. Slowly they pull ahead and I settle in along Joe, another runner I only see when collecting his age group results winning medals from time to time... I was thinking that if I could only keep up with him! I started fast again and help my pace with the starter group for longer than I have previously. Once we got to the trail I think it ensured my place in line and kept me running fast.

A few miles in
I was happy to remain behind Joe and being able to keep up with his pace, I knew I was pushing it hard for it to still be early in a 13 mile run, but I was willing to see if I could hold on. My goal was to not let anyone else pass... That goal turned into not wanting anyone else in my AG to pass. Which was the better option.

The "half" point seemed longer than it should have been. I cross the half point at 1:01:XX and realize it isn't my 10k time, as it was longer than 10k having been run all ready, but I recall the second half was shorter. Still behind Joe and enjoying it. I'd walking up some of the hills now and then because I realize they slow me down quite a bit. There aren't any significant climbs on this course. It doesn't appear that there is any one climb being over 100 vertical feet according to the elevation profile.but the course surely rolls up and down. MUDS and PUDS I call them. multiple ups and downs / pointless ups and downs.

I felt comfortable that the gap between me and the next person behind me was a big one. Many times I looked after switchbacks and long straight portions for the people being me, and saw none. After the half mark, I began to see the trailing group. 2 girls leading 2 guys. I didn't see them long enough to estimate the guys ages. but the distance still let me feel comfortable to slow down a bit.

Pass and be passed
I slowly approached 2 guys who were slowing and passed them, but it took some effort. The 2 girls trailing me caught up and passed. I knew Courtney was way ahead and I think she was the only female ahead of me, so I tell them I believe that they are second and 3rd female. They seemed surprised and excited to hear that. I knew Courtney had secured first female and I was pretty sure there was no other ladies between she and I.

Don't miss it!
After a short distance of them and Joe ahead of me, they almost missed a turn. It allowed me to pass them but that just made me run faster for a short while until I stepped asked and allowed them to pass even though they weren't ready, I knew they soon would and didn't want to hinder the race they had going on for 2nd vs 3rd female. I was imagining them 2 battling it out in the final stretch and got excited.

The struggle
joe and I were struggling to keep the paces we had been holding. I just didn't want to be passed again. I caught up with Randy Blevins. Another runner that I shouldn't have been running with, as he is always much faster than I. Then I see Bill Vickery... I'm gaining on him. I jokingly yell ahead asking if he's waiting up for me. He explains how his past week at the beach and a recent 5k PR just a couple days ago have given him some rubber legs. I was excited to be doing so well even if I was passing respected runners on a not-so-good day of their own.

The final moments
I keep thinking about who is behind me. All I want is to hold my place. I know I can't possibly pass another runner ahead of me, I've not enough energy for that. In the final moments of the trail I see Jim Mullens in very reachable distance to me. He pressed me on to run harder when I thought I couldn't. I reminded myself that in an hour I'd be telling myself "I think I could have ran harder" but I felt myself pushing it a little too much... I walked a few steps up a final climb. saying out loud "I can't let him pass me" eventually out on the grass for the final stretch I pushed it hard as I could... I finished 6 seconds ahead of him. I don't know if he felt he was racing that part or not, but I surely was! Immediately after I thanked him and told him he was really pushing me. I thanked joe also for just being there and giving me someone to keep up with.

Post race
Social time. food. smiles. My face was hurting from smiling more than my legs were hurting from running... That is always a good sign. James Decker asked f I've checked the results and sure enough... preliminary results said I earned 3rd place, with Jim Mullens in 4th only 6 seconds behind me!!!
WOW! Sharing the top of my age group with David Tingler and James Decker was pretty cool for me. I say it all depends on who shows up. Had I run that time last year, I still would have only earned 5th place. but I was glad that today was today. Others in my age group took overall winnings. Shows how fast and competitive my AG is.

Thanks to the Mountain Junkies and all the volunteers for making it happen.

During this race I was excited to be wearing my Patagonia shorts I earned from finishing Promise Land 50k last weekend!.  I carried my hand held filled with ViSalus PRO. I took 2 GU gels, I'm estimating at about mile 6 and mile 10. I took 2 salt caps when I felt some calf cramping around mile 9 or 10. I'm considering that my Montrail Masochist shoes may be needing replacement, but not fully sure. I felt some "burn" and some flattening of my soles during this race, but I'm not sure they are "done" yet. I'm still liking my Smart Wool PhD socks, the thicker ones. Not sure how they will do over the summer, but we'll see.
weather was a drizzle and humid. I diddnt do much different this time except racing it rather than just running it. Pretty excited about my time of 1:58:XX and 3rd in my AG. I look forward to beating that time next year, but I've also considered doing the 10k, we'll see.

Next
Conquer The Cove Marathon will be next, in about a month from now. 2 weeks after that is the Eastern Divide 50k. Conquer the Cove will mark the end of the RNUTS (Roanoke Non Ultra Trail Series). Then as for the other series I'm running the Lynchburg Ultra Series. I've still got one event in November, the Mountain Masochist 50 miler... I'm scared (but equally excited) of what that day may bring!

Much to look forward to!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Promise Land 50k





Event info
Date: 4/28/12
Location: North of Bedford, VA
Event Distance: 50k 
Hosted by: Extreme Ultra Running
SeriesLynchburg Ultra Series - event 3 of 4
Event Website: HERE

Other race reports on this event: currently 15 reports listed HERE



The Plan
You should know all ready if I titled a section "the plan" that it didn't work out. Of course it didn't. I PLANNED to have a friend run with me a part of the way, but the layout of the course, and when "crew" could be present and when they couldn't sort of hindered the plan. not knowing the exact details of the course did as well. Ultimately I asked the RD and he suggested my friend could run the last 5 or so miles from Sunset Fields to the end. whereas I was hoping he could trail the last 15 or so, but the course didn't allow. So then I considered him running along with me from the first Sunset Fields visit. This was greatly discouraged, so I just chalked it up as a rookie mistake and jumping the gun on the excitement of having Eddie run with me. Thankfully he understood, but I know he was disappointed.

The reason I wanted such a plan was because Terrapin's 50k was such an emotional experience. I liked the idea of either having someone to unload emotions on, or (maybe better yet) help buffer them away.

A first for many
Countless times I heard that this was someone's first ultra. I wouldn't have suggested this for anyone's first, but It hunk I may be wrong. elevation profiles can be so intimidating, but they only tell a small part of the story, until you really get out there and experience it.
For example check out this pic of the Promise Land 50k elevation profile as compared to the Boston Marathon elevation profile that circulated on Facebook in the days after Promise Land.


Of course, I love to irony of the photo, but really these are 2 separate challenges. 2 very different races.

As for this being someone's first ultra. in hindsight I'm not sure if it actually may be a GOOD first ultra. As daunting as that elevation profile to the left looks! My first consideration of running PL50k was one year ago at Terrapin when I finished the half. Dr. Horton said to me "Are you running Promise Land?" for which I said "I've not even run a full marathon, man!" and his reply "YOU DONT HAVE TO! - PEOPLE DONT GET THAT"... and I learn that he is right.

So PL as a first - here's my thoughts. the course is tough enough that you just can't run for much more than 6 miles at a time. then you hike up some big 'ol climb, and then yoga re back to running again. give it a half mile to find your running legs again and settle into a stride, drop a couple miles. then uh-oh, hiking agin up the next big climb. The pattern of this course is a lot of stop and go. Climbs that most mortals wont even consider running up. but hey you are traversing mountains. A first timer still needs to know what they are getting into and should prepare to be on their feet for 7 or 8 hours, maybe more.


What a crew!
Countless Mountain Junkies were present! I really liked the local-Roanoke community support we had with each other there. Many familiar faces. I think that was in part what made Terrapin so difficult of me (one of the many reasons). I enjoy sharing new moments with others. Dragging a friend through something they've never done. It is exciting to me to share it. I like being the encourager. My friend Ed McKeown was taking the challenge! I was excited for him and encouraged by his determination, motivation and courage to do it. With so much of the unknown before me as well, we shared many moments together.

Taking it in sections
I've started to plan my approach to ultras in 3 sections. 10 miles or more for each section. This held me divide up the elevation profile in my head, so I can anticipate - though I usually end up totally forgetting the elevation profile and just take it as it comes. today's approach was to take the first 10 much slower than previously. At Terrapin I dove in too fast, and I knew this. I hoped to stay with Ed for at least the first, and hopefully the first 10 miles. Not only was I with Ed, but Sean Cooper, also doing his first ultra was with us for much of that time as well. I enjoyed the conversation with those around us, the encouragement that was given and received from Ed and Sean. I think after that first 10, Ed seemed positive and hopeful for the remainder of the day. Slowly I began to pull away and I knew it was time for me to increase my overall pace.

Watch this!
This was my first event wearing my Garmin Forerunner 110. Lydia had bought it for me for my birthday and we both know I'd been wanting one for a long time now. I considered all the models, but settled on the 110, cause it was a watch I could wear normally, and it would do all the fancy running stuff I wanted it to do. Sure there was other features that I would have liked it to have, but I knew I was capable of just getting all way too geeked out on it, so I settled for the simple and stayed with the 110. It does all the necessary things to help with my training and I'm very happy with it. Ed was my coach for how to use and operate the watch, as he too uses the 110.

It all blurs together when you go 30+ miles
I dont recall much about the middle section, but I do recall really enjoying the first downhill sometime after mile 10. beautiful single track, fairly steep but I could finally open up and RUN! I was passing a few here and there. Always thinking that they would pass me again sometime. interestingly this race was much different. The second and third sections after mile 10 to the end, I was consistently passing others. The closer I got to the end and was still passing others, I knew I had prepared with taking my first 10 miles carefully - I finally did something right!

Weather or not???
The most difficult climb was up Apple Orchard Falls. It happens to you (and I mean it HAPPENS TO YOU) between miles 27 and 30 or so and then you are in for a nice long downhill - the same hill that was the first climb. Coming up AO Falls was tough. I wasn't expecting any rain. Not that I would have done anything differently, but it began to rain just as I hit the aid station at the bottom of the mountain. Rain was one thing but cold rain is another. But again... not that I would have done anything differently. Maybe I would have carried gloves but they would have done little good. and I don't have a super cool thin running jacket, but I hope to get one someday.

What came from the sky at that moment has been described as freezing rain (it indeed was freezing cold!) sleet and hail. I don't know what a weatherman would say it was, but I was super cold! The only solution was to move and not stop. I was unable to run due to the steep hike that was before me and I felt for those behind me that had to endure it for longer. The climb which was around 2 miles, but I'm sure it was less than 3, yet it seemed to never end. Fingers immovable. My exposed forearms would sting and radiate over my whole arm when a rain drop hit it just right. I was unable to squeeze my water bottle but I knew I still needed to drink and remain hydrated. I still had a lot of miles left. About 5 miles AFTER I finished this climb... if I finished this climb, but I HAD to. There was only one way out and that was within what lay before me, and so onward I pressed. At the top I needed to refill my bottle, but only stretched out my hand to the AS volunteers who removed my bottle for me and refilled it. I struggled to get it back on my hand. It was the same at the next and last AS as well. Just frozen.

I knew this was purely a mental thing I had to overcome here. Sure the climb was a physical feat, but if I wasn't focused mentally and if I diddnt stay focused and positive - if I got negative and let MISERY sink in. I knew it would be so much more difficult. I recalled the saying on the shirt from the Willis River 50k that I ran in January "Pain is expected, Suffering is optional" I knew not to let the suffering set in. Stay positive I kept telling myself "Don't get negative (Win at this mental game), press on, you'll be bragging about this tomorrow". I appreciated that the other runners I was around said very little. Every once in a while a slight complaint of what froze or what they could no longer feel. I was thankful I could still feel my feet unlike one of the ladies around me at the time. I considered that they too were fighting that mental game and their silence affirmed that.

The TOP
Tammy Gray (she doesn't know I know who she is he-he) was at the top and said "you are freezing, you've got to keep going" She's a voice of experience and I knew she was right. I spent little time at the AS and took on down the hill. I knew this was a chance to move more and warm up, and it was a welcomed change. I diddnt exhaust myself on the climb but I was excited to still be pressing on... thinking to myself "I'll be bragging about this tomorrow" I even shared that thought with another runner or two on the climb to try and encourage.

The long gravel road toward the end, as expected, felt much longer than it was on the way up the mountain. I was still pleased to be passing runners. I glanced at my watch to see what my pace was, I was logging 8-minute miles for the last couple of miles and I was excited to be feeling this good. From gravel, to paved and then the distant sounds of the finish line. The cowbells and cheering for the runners ahead of me. I turned onto the camp property and let out a victorious Woo-Hoo, and then crossed the line at 7:45 or so. Immediately I thought, "better beat that next year". Despite the discomfort experienced one hour ago on that climb, I was all ready planning a rematch of man vs. mountain.


What I did differently
The most important thing I did was a low fiber and high carb diet for 3 days leading up to the race. I diddnt have to "pit-stop" in the woods like I had for the last 2 50k events. I read about going low fiber. and I mentioned it to a GI surgeon that I work with who knows quite a bit about running. He said it sounded like a good plan. It felt good to get his approval.

Post race smiles
The familiar faces were welcomed and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with Jerry and Dru and Andy and Ed and Gina and Helen and Sean and Anita and Jay after the race (I'm sure I forgot many others). Veggie burger, chips and water was on the menu for me. Phones didn't work so I was unable to call home and share the excitement. I was excited to have in hand my finisher's shorts. What a better finisher's award than just another cool shirt. I'd been needing a new pair of shorts anyway. I suggest a new pair of shorts every year!!!
I'm still wearing the Montrail Masochist shoe. I'm anticipating I'll be getting a new pair soon. I've had minimal foot and toe problems. I'm nervous what a new shoe will bring.

Looking forward
I'm curious how to progress from this solid foundation of the 50k that I've built up, to whatever it takes to go for about 12 hours and finish the Mountain Masochist 50-miler in November. I've run one ultra every month since December. I'm asking and listening to any advice from others. My calendar shows that I'm basically taking the month of May off from the really long run. June includes the Conquer The Cover trail marathon and then the Eastern Divide 50k, also. I expect I will try to do some back to back runs, say a 20 miler and then 15 or so the following day on tired legs. I've also been told just take it slow and I'll be fine. But still I signed up for the 40miler in Douthat State Park put on by Odyssey Adventure Racing - The Trail Running Rampage in September. I also know that Jerry Ballard will be doing all these listed events with me, as well as the MM50-miler. Cant wait for those days ahead.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Recent runs - Blue Ridge Marathon relay

This report breaks the mold of previous reports, but I'm behind on reporting on my events, so I want to get some words and stories on here so I can catch up on the most recent events.



BRM - relay
I liked the idea of running this marathon, but it was one week prior to Promise Land 50k and I don't believe I have the endurance to double up, and I didn't know what to expect with Promise Land. I was glad when my wife and a few friends expressed a desire to run it as a team. "James, James and the Rockstar Runners" That name, The Rockstar Runners has become the title of the running group that started as my wife and her mom's club friends, but it has since branched out to include others. What an inspiring group to hang out with. good people.

I eagerly claimed the Roanoke Mountain Loop portion of the relay, as I'd been wanting to run that road because of it's climb for a year or more now. but I'm thinking that the Peakwood section may have been the hardest. who knows, that race is all tough.
America's toughest road marathon - that's what they say...and yep, right here is good 'ol Roanoke!

Early morning. parking was sure to be a disaster. but it wasn't that bad really if you were willing to walk a little. but hey what's a couple extra locks of walking when you are lining up for a marathon?
At the start I get on the bus with Lydia and her sister Ruth. We and all the others on this bus are brought to the first exchange point where the first runner's section ends and they hand off the timing chip anklet thingy to the next person in the relay team.

Funny story about being at the transition area... The story of the triple fail at the port-a-pottie. There are 2 port-a-potties which many were thankful for. Were all waiting in line. Leaving the courtesy gap between who is next in line and the doors to the john. You don't approach an occupied john until they are coming out. it is just the way it is done. So some guy... I'll call him Sum-Dum-Guy positions himself between who is next in line and the johns. Obviously missing the fact that there was a line (fail #1). who was next in line? me. but I was polite to not say anything. Well the person who had entered a john just prior to me didn't lock the door... hey she figured everyone in line knew it was occupied because the last 20 people in and out were being waited on to get out... yet, Sum-Dum-Guy approaches her john, opens the door and sheepishly closes it backing off (fail #2). With his head down he returns to his convenient location at the front of the line, which he still didn't notice all of us waiting. Sure enough he gets his turn and enters the john, quickly he is done and departs... and I get the pleasure of following into the same john to reveal that he peed on the seat!!! (fail #3) DUDE!!! do you still live at home with mom or something? OK I shouldn't judge, but by thins time Sum-Dum-Guy had ROOKIE written all over him. It was even one of the fancier johns with the urinal on the side, which he failed to notice. Had he never used a port-a-pottie? then he's surely not run many races, cause they are at almost every one I enter. I was never angered of course, but it was entertaining how one thing after another went the way it did. I wanted to keep an eye on him to see what other disasters would soon follow.

So Amanda ran the first leg. Once she got to us, I excitedly ran the second leg.. passing others and running the whole hill, it was fun passing others, but I explained to many that commented that I was in the relay not doing the full distance like all those whom I was passing were doing. Back off Roanoke Mountain, I passed the anklet to Lydia, and she ran the third leg. I ran with her, just to share in the fun, and Ruth did as well. Amanda had a time of rest while I ran Roanoke Mountain, so she ran with us as well up to the star and down the "old road" to the greenway. Rockstar Runner friend Beth and some of her relay crew(The Feisty Asburys) were running close to us as well. It was an enjoyable run. I was still pumped and excited to just be participating in this event. once on the greenway Ruth's leg of the race began. but she had just run with Lydia and everyone else on the previous leg. yet that was how we had it all planned. total fun...

Ruth was left to run Peakwood all alone! apparently it was probably the toughest part of the race. I traversed across the park to where Ruth would complete her leg and met James, Amanda's husband. there we chatted and it was tons of fun to be "in" the race, but yet standing there watching so many running friends of mine pass by. Dru came by on her bike, just to share in the excitement. Frank Finch came by after having finished the half-marathon. Phyllis ran down the greenway to hang out with Ruth and be there to cheer us all on.



I was having so much fun the stand out sore muscles were my smile muscles... You know when you laugh or smile so much your face hurts... that was what I was going through - wonderful.

At the finish I soon found Lydia and we got to run across the finish line as if we had run the whole thing. Tom Rickard was announcing the runners and he recognized me, so it was nice to hear my name over the loud speaker.

I look forward to running this one next year. it was a well put together and organized event. post race food included chocolate milk which was pretty cool. We didn't stay long, as... get this. Lydia wanted to get to Lynchburg for packet pick up on a triathlon she was doing the next day!!!
Her first triathlon, pretty cool!

My only reservations about doing this next year would be if I was doing Promise Land again.

I took nothing serious about this race and it was good to do that for a change. All I wanted to do was to run Roanoke Mountain and I was glad that I did. It has been suggested that running it the opposite direction of traffic flow would make an even steeper. Maybe I will someday - I'm just usually on trails finding a climb. Another goal of mine for this race was to run with Lydia which I did. I'm glad we worked out running each other's legs with one another as it added to the fun we all had. I'd do a race like this one over and over. I've not had that much fun at a race in a long time.

We all got medals and T-shirts like as if we ran the whole thing too! lol
In case some reader is wanting the swag but doesn't want to run 26.2 of the toughest road marathon just to earn it... Good luck with that.