Friday, February 10, 2017

You are better than you think you are

You are better than you think you are, you can do more than you think you can!
These are the words of Ken Chlouber the founder of the Leadville 100.

This quote pops into my head time and again.  It hit me most recently around mile 31 of the Highland Sky 40 miler.  I had hit a rough patch, was tired, cramping, light headed and "just doing my best" to keep moving forward when the quote entered my mind.  It provided a bit of a reset, I was approaching a literal high point of the race, within the "boulder field."  I stopped, looked out at the amazing view, stretched, took in a couple deep breaths and continued on with newfound energy.

As it was in this scenario, I commonly get a mind shift in an ultra, where I get taken out of the race and back into life, the bigness around me, and the insignificance of the present moment.  I've run enough ultras to know that the pain is only temporary and many times, within minutes of finishing all of the pain and misery are quickly washed away.

You have to push yourself to find your limit.  I realize that many people just don't care about their limit, that's fine, but for me and many people I know, the training, the quest, the failures, the successes, and the few times you get to ride that limit, oh yeah, that's what it's all about.  You learn that things aren't really that tough, that you can get through "it," and that life goes on.

So many people say that they "can't imagine" running 3, 5, 10, 100 miles.  Whatever you believe is the limit, why not go out and push it.  See if you can achieve it.  Maybe you can, maybe you can't.  Regardless you'll learn something in the process about the endeavor and yourself.  That's the real accomplishment.

Start dreaming up your next big challenge, there are so many places to begin.

It's easy to live in the bell curve, but what is the fun in that?

Happy New Year, may it be all that you want.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

It doesn't matter how fast or far you run if you can't make it to the start/finish line...... (**With revision**)

Oh Hellgate!
This was my third Hellgate 100k and this year it was the anchor event of the Beast Series.  It's been long year of racing and trying to keep the mental and physical wheels rolling.  These last three months have been more about tapering and recovering than training.  Thus the title of this post.  Even when you see what others are doing and you think to yourself, am I doing enough, you have to place physiology ahead of the desire to do more or what your friends are doing.

I had some mixed feelings on what this race would be like.  I got a bit, post Thanksgiving Illinois trip, run down 2 weeks before this race, so that was on my mind in regard to how I would perform.  Overall I felt like I could match my 2012 fitness and work on a 12 and a half hour finish and possible top 10.  I knew from 2012 that I spent a lot of time not moving and I didn't want that to happen this year.  I had my pre-race oatmeal and then bulletproof coffee on the way to the start.

It was gonna be warm so I started out in short sleeves and gloves and handheld.  HR was a bit high at the start but I knew it would settle down after the first climb.  I mentally set the limit at 155 and then wanted to stay below 150 after mile 8.  I switched out my handheld for a pack at Petites Gap.  I had Heed first and then went with EFS at the other drops (mile 25 and 47).

Everything was going pretty well until the rocky section before Bearwallow.  That kinda gut punched me and set me back mentally.  You just have to see it to believe it.  It's a gnarly section!  I just couldn't navigate the leaf covered rocks.  My right knee was a bit sensitive and was a minor factor at this point but I kept thinking about how this rocky section could really ruin you for the remainder of the race.

My problem from mile 50 was just not having the will to run when I could have on the mild ups.  You always do some bargaining with yourself and this is where I started.  I wasn't sure why I couldn't muster the will to run, I just didn't have it mentally.  Not sure why.  Low training during all this race tapering?  Being run down?  The unseasonable high 60 degree day?  The Beast effect?  Who knows, I'll probably have to do this race again to figure it out or come up with another theory.

**In hindsight, the lack of training after Grindstone had to be the cause.  The 50+ mile endurance just wasn't there.  There just wasn't time or I just didn't have the ability to put in high mileage weeks following the GS100 and the recovery from it.  I was able to hold on for a good MMTR50 finish but that only got me a decent 50 miles at Hellgate.  I just didn't have the endurance to have a good, last 16 miles of the race.  That doesn't change the overall feeling I had about it being a good finish to a tough year.  And, although I can analyze it now, I don't think I could have changed anything.  The only area to improve upon was the fitness leading up to Grindstone.**

I'm pretty happy with my performance at Hellgate and the overall plan for this year.  I could have done more, but keeping in mind my overall health, I think I took the right approach and stayed on the conservative side.  You have to make it to the start/finish line.  I hadn't planned on mental side of the Beast.  It's a big investment mentally and physically.  The further you make it in the year the more paranoid you get about making it to the next race and then it switches to just wanting to be done.  I do know that with the amount of tapering that is involved I actually looked forward to the races and getting to go for a long run.

You are better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can....  Where will this adventure take me in 2016.

14th Overall/First Master in 13:23:42
Lynchburg Ultra Series - 4th Overall in the 24:26:05
Beast Series - 2nd Overall in the 61:06:50

Racing Miles in 2015
Holiday Lake 50k - 32.25
Terrapin Mtn 50k - 31
Promise Land 50k - 34.5
San Juan Solstice - 50M
Iron Mtn - 50M
Grindstone - 101.86
MMTR 50M - 51.25
Hellgate 100k - 66.6
Total - 417.46

Friday, October 16, 2015

Grindstone 100 - It's only a 100 miles.....

I don't emote or celebrate well.  I typically handle things as tasks.  You set out to do something, you do it, you move on.  This is my modus operandi.  Since the beginning of my ultra career, even though I hadn't been a runner of any distance, I figured if others could do it, I could do it too.  It's not the ability to do the task that stresses me, its the ability to do it to my satisfaction.  

This would be my 40th ultra (1st was the 2/16/02 Holiday Lake 50k).

So that brings me to my first 100 miler.  Although the Hellgate 100k was my furthest race/run, I didn't worry so much about finishing as I did finishing in the 23-24 hour range that I thought was possible, being able to run to the end, not be visited by the cramp monster, to keep my feet from falling apart with blisters, and to stay on top of my calories so I didn't get set back by a bonk.  

I've run with both Joe Dudak and Johnny Robinson and I knew their times at Grindstone were in the 23:09-23:16 time frame, so I figured that was a realistic goal.  That and wanting to finish in the daylight were two things I was focused on.  I had my pace chart set up and was going to use it as a reference if I felt good.  

Here I am a week later and I can't say that I've processed the race yet.  The majority of the pain has escaped my memory and I am left with the positives and some of the emotion of the event.  Writing this will be my way of looking back.  Following the race I was left with some left knee swelling and pain and right anterior tibialis inflammation.  

Leading up the Grindstone I was feeling good.  I did the Iron Mtn 50 miler on September 5 in 8:38 and that was my last test before Grindstone.  I ended up going out the next day to get more time on my feet and capitalize on this last big training weekend.  From here it was a week of recovery and then 3 weeks of taper.  

I started to get a little antsy about the 4 weeks of not running long, so on September 18th I decided to do one of my favorite 20 milers to shake out the nerves and get in a long heart rate run.  This went really well and running at heart rate I was able to run the loop in one of my fastest times.  

This last long run really paid off for me when the race got postponed for a week.  Although I felt like a slug for so little running in this extended taper, I was actually to the point of looking forward to running and the race start.  

Gear/Game Plan;
Nathan pack with 64oz bladder
     2 waffles
     1 clif bar
     Heed for the 1st or second water stop
     A buff, gloves, and very small packable jacket
     E-caps and protrysin pills
     Wet wipes
     4 Extra lithium batteries for either flashlight or headlamp (both took 4 AAs)
Princeton Tec AMP 4.0 flashlight - plenty of burn time on high
Princeton Tec Apex Headlight - should have been up to 9+ hours of light on low spot light.
Salomon Speedcross 3 shoes
Injinji Socks with Aquaphor on feet.
Salomon shorts (not compression)

2 hours before the race I ate my typical oatmeal concoction and had bullet proof coffee.

I had made some spanish rice and lentil portables (needed more salt) that I had in each of my drop bags.  These were great as my desire for sweet items at the aid stations got to be less and less.  I ate almost all of my portables during the race.  I had 2 packs of two in each drop bag to take as I came through those spots.  

I had hoped to keep my HR low for the entire race, 142 or below, but things started out a bit quicker than I thought and my alarm started buzzing early.  Somewhere in the first miles I turned that off and just went with the flow until things settled in.  Once my HR settled in, keeping it below 142 was easy.  
It started raining and the wind started blowing at around mile 3.  Things really cooled down and started to get foggy.  This made for worse visibility with a headlamp, so I used my flashlight about 90% of the time.  On the steep sections, I put the flashlight in my pack, and hiked, stooped over, using my hands to push off my knees for extra horsepower and to decrease the load on my legs.  Then once to the top, I'd grab my flashlight and turn off my headlamp and cruise on.  

For me it was critical to pick up my feet, to avoid catching a toe and falling, because I knew that anything like that would be a time killer in the late hours of the race.  So the flashlight was a big help and I concentrated on lifting my feet and picking them up on the pull through (higher knees and feet, then repeat).  

Although there were some steep climbs, I thought to myself that I was surprised at how runable the downhills were.  I didn't expect these early sections to be so runable.  

I got in to the Dowells Draft Aid station in 4:23ish, a bit behind my expectation but nothing I was worried about.  I kept telling myself, "it doesn't matter how fast you get to the turnaround if you don't have anything left, the last 50 are the real race, just keep chugging and take care of yourself, every minute/mile is an investment for tomorrows race."  And it really is all about investments, it's not what you have at the moment, it is what you keep for tomorrow or the next hour that makes the difference.  
Now for a big climb, descent and then some rolling terrain to the next Drop Bag and big aid station at mile 35.  I rolled in here a bit earlier than my projections at 7:10ish and felt pretty good.  It was good to see Gina, she took care of me, I changed shoes and socks, relubed, restocked and was off for the big 7 mile climb out of there.  It was a bit more than expected, but I just chugged along and was happy to be at the top and on to rolling double track to the next aid stations and turnaround.  These last 9 miles to the turnaround were relatively easy miles, nothing technical, just one foot in front of another terrain that slowly ticked by.  One negative of this section was that it was very very foggy.  Headlamp eating fog.  So I kept on with the flashlight.  

Closing in on the Reddish Knob aid station I met up with Todd Thomas and he said something about being in 5th of 6th place which was a big surprise.  After this aid station there are 2-2.5 miles of asphalt, some of which was at just the right incline where I didn't have a desire to run.  This is where I'd use landmarks or race flagging to run to one marker and then walk to the next, back and forth until things leveled out.  

I hit the turnaround in 11 hours which was just a bit off from what I expected but felt good.  Now it was time to retrace my steps and look forward to some daylight.  At mile 59.25 I hit the 7 mile downhill section back to North River Gap.  I was kind of dreading this section due to it's steep downhills and loose wet rocks.  I took this conservatively and I think this is where my left knee started to become a problem.  In hindsight, I wish I would have let gravity work its magic better and ran this section a bit faster so that my knees wouldn't have taken such a hit.  In addition, I didn't plan my hydration correctly and ran out of water, which didn't allow me to eat, in the 3-4 mile before the aid station.  I got to the AS with a mild bonk (Lesson 1 don't use the breaks too much.  Lesson 2 don't allow a bonk, stay ahead of food and drink).  

I got to NRG about 30 minutes behind schedule but felt pretty good.  This is where I picked up Chad as my pacer for the next 14 miles.  I relubed and restocked, drank some bulletproof coffee and had some very salty potatoes and then we set off for the last 50k of the race.  

I don't know what the deal was, but these daylight hours felt so much longer than the night time hours.  Shortly into this section I started to feel my left knee stiffen up and bother my running.  It wasn't something I have dealt with before and felt like I just needed to squat down and reset it.  It was a no go and this became the issue that kept most steep downhills to a shuffle.  It was strange, but there was a "just right" downhill that was just the right decline and just the right amount of rocks that I could run without any problem.  But anything else and it was a burden to keep a running pace. 

Chad got me in to Dowells Draft again at around 11:51.  I picked up Matt and we were off for the remaining 22 miles.  It started off pretty easy and then at the next aid station we were told we had a 4.5 mile climb to the top of Lookout Mtn.  This was rough, just slow gutting it out climbing, but it wasn't running so I wasn't too upset.  These miles were tough to not periodically stop and take a break.  In hindsight, I wish I would have both minimized justifying my occasional rest stops also taking in more time at the aid stations than I should have.  Prior to the race I was preparing myself for constant forward progress instead of chewing up minutes at the ASs.  I let this slide and justified my stops, but I should have told my crew to push me along (Lesson 3 the clock doesn't stop when you do, keep moving forward, the finish line won't come to you).

I remembered the turnoff from Elliott's knob being around 9 miles to go.  Once we hit this spot I knew we had it and started to play the numbers game.  Between mile 66 and here I didn't pay too much attention to the time, just stayed in gear and went with the flow.  But now it was math time.  We knew we had a sub 24, but how close we could get to 23 or 23:30 was yet to be realized.  

The downhill off of Elliott's is about as steep as coming down to the finish of Promise Land on Overstreet Falls Road.  This hurt a lot.  I couldn't really run it but I probably spent as much energy breaking as I would have letting loose.  My knee just couldn't let me go any faster.  But these next miles really ticked off slowly, they were mild, up and down, forcing you to decide on running slow or justifying a walk, mentally this is where you are going to make up time or loose it.  You can justify anything, but it was all runable.  

Next landmark I was looking for was the 1.5 mile to go spot where people were cheering us the day before.  I didn't think we would ever hit this spot, but we finally did, then the 1 mile to go sign.  From here the trail went back into the woods on a wide pretty section, we could see the lake and I knew it was almost over.  We navigated the sketchy up and down at the dam and then it was the last .2 on grass and the gravel road.  This last section is where it just hit home.

In most races there is a point at the end where it hits me, where the effort of the event crescendos into a peak and the emotions of the journey hit me, my mind does a quick rewind and summary and I recognize all that was involved on my end, the event organizers, and all the people that are cheering for me and collectively invested in my journey.  Sometimes this is only seconds and sometimes minutes but I enjoy that moment because it reminds me that we are all connected and not alone and that it really isn't a race, it's a journey and that each effort like this changes who you are and will be.  For me, these efforts make me better and more conscious of what I'm doing and the path that I am on.  

Grindstone 2015 was a big accomplishment - 10th in 23:17.03.  Thank you for being a part of it.  Now it's time to recover and get ready for the next two events in the Beast Series.

Friday, September 11, 2015

San Juan Solstice 50 miler 2.0

Race week; somewhere during this week they announced that the course would be the usual course and that we should prepare for lots of snow and high creek crossings.  The creeks are on the first climb, you climb 4500 feet and cross the creek 7 times.
6/23/15 - Ran the 6 mile loop and 2 mile cool down.
6/27/15 - San Juan Solstice 50m
We got out to Colorado on Thursday and drove to Lake City, where the race is headquartered.  Lake City sits at abut 8600ft elevation.  We hung out and tried to stay hydrated for the high elevation adventures that we had in store.
Coming out to do this race in 2013 gave me the impression that I should be able to run quite a bit better than the 12:37 I ran that year.  I felt good and my training was going great.
The race starts with a gradual climbs up a dirt road before heading off on the Alpine Gulch trail that climb climb climbs.
Due to the rapid snow melt the race had volunteers at each of the 7 creek crossings.  At the deepest ones they had rope assists.  I think it was the 3rd one where I went down waist deep and by the 4th my feet were frozen and numb.  Things came back to life as we climbed up to 13000 for the first time.  Once to the top the course rolls up and down before a huge 4000+ft drop into William's Creek Campground at mile 16.  I started to think something was off as I descended down to the campground and began getting passed by a number of people.  The legs didn't want to turn over like I thought they should.
At the campground they had the 2nd Water Stop set up.  I met Gina and refilled my water before heading out on a gravel road that would take us to the Wager Gulch Jeep Road and up to the Continental Divide.  Gina hung with me for about 3.5 miles before the course became too steep.  This is the second spot that I felt like something was off.  When things got to their steepest I didn't feel like I had the usual power I have for steep hiking.
At AS #3 you can use a drop bag.  This is where you decide to take your winter gear up to the divide.  From year's past you can experience any sort of weather to roll in, from heavy snow with zero visibility to hail and lightening.  This year looked to be a good one so I took a small packable jacket, a buff and gloves and headed up up up.  I really hit a wall on this 13 mile divide section.  Physically I felt good but just couldn't make my legs run for any length of time without taking a break and hiking.  I still don't know if it was the elevation or something else or a combination of the two.  Somewhere in there I decided the race was over and it was time to just enjoy the scenery and time on the trail.  From then on I didn't pay any attention to my watch and just made consistent forward progress.
The day ended with me running a little over 13 hours and enjoying a great day in the high Colorado Mtns.  Gina didn't get to run this one due to an injury, so we'll have to go back sometime.  That may be my opportunity to put it all together for a decent run and time.  You can't beat running in the San Juan Mtns.  I recommend it to anyone wanting a rocky mtn experience.

I took a bunch of pics and have them uploaded here - 

It's been awhile, let's catch up III - Road to the San Juan Solstice 50Miler

There are now two months until the San Juan Solstice.  Particular attention needs to be focused on recovering, ramping up mileage and then tapering.

5/1/15 - Marked the Trail Nut Course at Falling Creek Park for 3 miles
5/2/15 - Cleaned up the course for another 3 miles
5/3/15 - Ran Peakwood and Chestnut Ridge Loop for a 10 miler.
Total for the week following Promise Land - 16 miles

5/5/15 - Ran the 6 mile loop and 1.5 mile cool down.
              Ran another 4.4 in five fingers at night.
5/6/15 - Ran 6.25 miles in a downpour in the neighborhood and greenway.
5/8/15 - Ran a warmup and did a MAF test - Running at a 142 HR I ran the following mile splits on the track - 7:19, 7:40, 7:41, 7:49, 7:50.  Not that good.  Times not only were high but got substantially slower.  Normally my pace holds steady for the 5 miles.  Total run was 10 miles.
5/9/15 - Ran 9.5.  Did the 6 mile loop and winding way.
5/10/15 - Ran 13.5 cleaning up many of the trails of the CtC 25k course.
Total for the week;  51.1 miles running

This week I'll be headed out of town for Continuing Education to the Homestead and will have a tough time getting in miles.
5/12/15 - Ran the 6 mile loop and 2 mile cool down
5/13/15 - Ran 10.5 on the Bridge Street Loop
5/15/15 - After work on Thursday I decided to run from 220-311 starting at 7pm.  This was a nice run but got a little fatigued toward the end.  Made for a long day but good training.
5/16/15 - Cycled from the Homestead to Lake Moomaw and back for a 28.5 mile hilly ride.
Total for the week; 38.5 miles running and 28.5 cycling

5/18/15 - I purchased the BSX Insight lactate threshold measuring device and did my first test tonight on the treadmill for 5 miles.
5/19/15 - 8 miles running the 6 mile loop and cooldown.
                Ran another 4.6 miles of the fishburn loop that night.
5/20/15 - Ran 10.75 on the bridge street loop.
5/22/15 - Ran 6 miles on Dragon's Tooth
                Mtn Biked on N. Mtn for 11.25
5/23/15 - Ran the Lewis Gale Loop for 11.25
5/24/15 - James ran with me for a birthday long run of Greenway, Woodthrush, Chestnut Ridge, Fern Park and then Greenway back home.
Total for the week; 66 miles running and 11.25 mtn biking
This was a big week and everything feels good.  

This was going to be a stressful week of setting up for the Conquer the Cove races and timing the Roanoke City Triathlon on Saturday.  Not sure what I was thinking but everything went well.
5/26/15 - Ran the 6 mile loop and 2 mile cool down
                Cycled to Green Hill Park and back for 19 miles
5/27/15 - Bridge Street loop 10 miler
5/29/15 - Conquer the Cove course marking for 27 miles
Total for the week;  18 miles running, 27 mtn biking and 19 cycling

This is the last building week for the SJS50, then I'll go into taper mode for 3 weeks.  I was getting reports about how much snow was on the course and that they may need to do the snow route.  Reports were that they couldn't get to the Continental Divide due to waist deep snow.
6/1/15 - Ran 5 miles on the treadmill doing a lactate threshold test and 1.5 on the stepmill
6/2/15 - ran the 6 mile loop and 2 mile cool down
6/3/15 - Greenway run without Bridge Street for 9.6 miles
6/5/15 - Ran 21.5 up Poage Valley Ext to Poor mtn and back
6/6/15 - Ran 5.85 from home and on the Fishburn loop
6/7/15 - Ran 14.1 from Day Creek, up to the BRP, AT, Spec Mines, and back up and down BHG.
Total for the week; 65.5 miles running

6/9/15 - Ran the 6 mile loop and 2 mile cool down.
              Cycled the Roselawn loop.  Up Roselawn, down cotton hill, Keagy, Apperson and back home.
6/10/15 - Bridge Street 10 miler
6/12/15 - Ran 6.75 in Fishburn Park
6/13/15 - Ran 6.75 on Mill Mountain for our RNUTS social
6/14/15 - Ran the Elevator Shaft loop trying to get in less miles but lots of steep vert - 8 miles.
Total for the week;  39.5 miles running

6/16/15 - 8.15 miles running the 6 mile loop and cool down.
6/17/15 - 9.3 miles on the bridge street loop.
6/20/15 - 9.4 miles of running in the hood and fishburn
6/21/15 - Random hood running for 7.6
Total for the week;  34.45 miles running