Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Race # 26 - 2012 UROC 100k

UROC 100k
7:15 AM
Wintergreen, VA
Time: 14:36:35
Place: 43/66 overall (including Elite field) -- 23/46 for non-Elite field
139 starters. 66 finishers. 52% drop rate.

 -- I had hit the lowest point of my running career. I had hit the highest point of my running career. And it all happened in a span of 14 hours, 36 minutes, and 35 seconds. This is my story of the 2012 UROC 100k. --

You’ll never know what you can accomplish until you try. Some people are afraid to take chances. Some are afraid they will fail, or it will hurt too bad, or they are just scared. I've always been the type of person that if I get something in my mind, and I want to do it, I give it 100% effort, no matter what it is. When I started running 2 ½ years ago, I never knew how far I could go. While I still don’t know, I sort of have an idea.

Last November, I clicked submit, and with that, I was signed up to run the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k. One hundred kilometers. Roughly 62.2 miles. This was, by far, the craziest thing I had ever contemplated doing. But you can do anything you set your mind to.

My wife, Summer, actually encouraged me to sign up for this race. After doing the sister 50k race in 2011, she was familiar with the area and the race directors, Gill and Francesca, put perfect crew directions for aid station to aid station on their website. This made it easy for her to keep up with me. I did warn her though, that you can’t just go out and run 100k. You have to train for it. And with a baby due in February, this would mean somehow getting in long runs on the weekends, likely on less sleep that usual, so it would be a learning experience all the way around.

After months of training, and fighting off a ‘slightly frayed’ meniscus during the late spring/early summer, September finally arrived. My final major training run consisted of 35 miles of running, walking, and hiking, covering over 7,200 feet of elevation gain, and 7,200 feet of descent. This turned out to be a big confidence boosting run as that was in the ball park of the same elevation for the race. But the race just had 27 more miles in it. When you’re running an ultramarathon, it’s going to hurt. Plain and simple. No matter how fast, or how slow you go, eventually, it will hurt. But you have to push forward. Grin and bear it. For the feeling of crossing that finish line is unlike any other feeling.

-- Pre-race --

We headed up to Wintergreen, Virginia the day before the race to see some of the elites, meet some old and new friends, and just take in the whole race experience. The ‘mandatory’ pre-race meeting brought some not so welcoming news. The race directors had spent a lot of time making a new trail that led from the resort to the third aid station. This new trail meant that the 3 mile steep downhill down Wintergreen Drive, and the even steeper one mile uphill (~15% grade) to Reed’s Gap aid station, would be cut out. Last year, those two parts sucked because A) they were at the beginning and B) they were at the end so you knew that’s how you’d finish. Unfortunately, due to construction on the Blue Ridge Parkway, they were unable to get permits for us to run that trail. This meant that the lovely trail that had just been made would now be replaced with the steep road section. Awesome.

The night before the race, there was a discussion panel where all of the elites were gathered to answer some questions. Hearing what some of them had to say really made me feel like I was not alone.

Max King, one of the most amazing mountain runners in the world, who had never done anything over a 50 miler, (and only done two of those), said he was scared to death. I could relate. Ellie Greenwood, who set the course record at Western States back in June, talked about how we sometimes have to take chances, especially in running. And if you never take chances, you’ll never know what you’re able to accomplish. If you set limits on yourself, that’s as far as you’ll make it.

-- Race Day --

After a normal night’s sleep, 5 am came and it was finally here. I had been counting the days for months. It was time to push my body further than it had ever been. These were uncharted waters I was entering, and only time would tell how I would fare. My goal was of course to finish, but I also wanted the buckle, which required a sub-17 hour finish. I had my virtual partner on my Garmin set for a 16:19 pace but vowed not to look at it until late in the race. I did not want to get caught up in watching the clock the entire time. My shoes for the day would be the Hoka Stinson B’s, a trail/road combo shoe that I loved. Socks were Darn Tough. Literally and figuratively. Made in the USA out of merino wool, lifetime guarantee, guaranteed not to give you blisters. I love these socks. 

Gemma decided she was going to wake up shortly after 5 too. I guess she wanted to be with me on my big day. So we turned on the TV while I got ready and found some old black and white Three Stooges to watch. In the episode, some or all of the Stooges got married and were driving with their ladies in a car but appeared to be lost. One asked the other where the sign said they were. He said ‘Goslow’. His lady informed him the sign actually said ‘Go Slow’. I chuckled a little and then realized it was probably meant for me to see that as some sort of subliminal message and another reminder to take it easy and Go Slow.

We headed down to the start/finish line.  On the way, there was a guy walking in the middle of the road, in dark clothing.  It was still dark out.  We barely saw him but thankfully the little reflective pieces on his clothes made him visible.  I stopped and he said:  "I go to race".  It was one of the elite runners who was from Brazil.  I had watched his pre-race interview the day before and knew he didn't speak much English.  I told him to hop in and we drove him to the start.

The elites had a 7 am start so we watched them take off and then it was time. The moment was here. I lined up in the back. I was in no hurry. It was going to be a long day. No need to get in a rush. I crossed the start line, saw Summer and our daughter, baby Gemma. I gave them both one last kiss and I was off on an adventure I never dreamed possible.

-- Miles 1-20 --

Abiding by the arguably number one rule in ultrarunning, I started out slow. I was in the back. I didn't care how far people got ahead of me. I was going to run my race. The first four miles were mostly downhill. Nice way to start, but we had to come back up that hill eventually. At the 5k mark, we came to a creek crossing. With rain the day and night before, rocks were slick so I made sure I stepped carefully. Unfortunately, the guy in front of me slipped and fell on his back. It looked like it hurt. I pulled him up and made sure he was alright before continuing. He said he was ok so I headed on my way eventually reaching the turnaround and headed back up the hill, walking. Something I would do a lot of that day.

I walked up the hill with one guy and he was wearing some Hokas.  We casually talked about how much we liked them and shared some of our experiences with them. We met up with one girl who was from the Bay area in California who was running her first 100k, and she already had dried blood running down her leg so she must have had a mishap early on. She would eventually drop down and do the 50k at the Slacks Trail overlook, where the 100k and 50k runner split off.

Eventually we made it to the first aid station and I downed a couple of gels and grabbed some more to take with me. I thought Summer would be meeting me here but there was no parking nearby so I didn't know where she was. I then walked up this steep hill that eventually took me to a residential area of the ski mountain. It was here that I found Summer and her parents who had come along to take care of baby Gemma while she crewed for me. And it was here that I saw the sweetest thing ever:

I headed up the hill continuing through the neighborhood of vacation homes, walking a lot. I was not planning to run any uphills, especially this early in the race. Miles were passing by, I was eating gels periodically. And eventually got to the next aid station. I got an oatmeal pie from Summer, filled my water, and headed on my way. I get about 100 feet down the trail and realized I had forgotten to replenish my gel stock. With the next aid station 4-5 miles ahead, I figured I had better go get a couple. So I went back and grabbed a few and continued on.

The next section led us down steps in between condos. At one part, instead of steps, there were rocks. So I carefully picked out where I’d step and did so. I then went to take my next step and my foot literally came out of my shoe. My shoe was stuck between the rocks. I had put some new ‘lock laces’ on my Hokas and the shoe got wedged so tight my foot came out. I literally had to jerk it hard to pull the shoe out of the rock jam. It was quite comical.

I headed back down through the main resort area and then hit the dreaded three mile road downhill. I ran this section, but took it conservatively, not trying to trash my quads so early. A few 50k runners passed me and said I looked good.  I just said I was taking it easy and there was only 50 miles left! I couldn't help but think what it would feel like later that night when I would be coming up that hill 59 miles into the race. I just hoped everything would go well throughout the day and I could experience that.

Once I reached the bottom of the resort road, I headed up the one mile ~15% grade hill to the Reed’s Gap aid station. I walked the entire way, ate some, stopped for a bathroom break once, and eventually got there. The sun was out at this point so I got some sunglasses from Summer, drank some Ensure, had a slice of turkey and some potatoes with salt and headed out the 5 mile stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway. While this section was mostly runnable, I did take my time and walk the gentle inclines.

Eventually I got to the White Rock Gap aid station. This was by far the most spirited aid station out of all of them. The ladies here did a great job once again supporting us. I ate a little, drank more Ensure, topped off my bottles and left heading up the Slacks trail. Roughly 20 miles in, I felt great.

-- Miles 21-28 --

The next section was the Slacks trail which lead to the trail that took us to Bald Mountain. When studying the elevation profile for the race, this section did not stand out as being steep or anything. I really had no idea what I was in store for. The first mile or so was runnable but then the switchbacks came as we headed up. Walking this section, I had to go around some people as their walking speed was just a little slow for me. I kept hearing people say ‘almost there’ and ‘300 yards or so’. Lesson learned, don’t believe everything you hear. I didn't know if I’d ever get to the Slacks overlook parking lot. But I did, and Summer was there waiting for me.

That section had taken the wind out of my sails and I was quiet. She asked me what was wrong and while technically nothing was wrong, I could tell what direction I was headed. The split for the 50k and 100k race was here so at this point, I was along.

I left the Slacks overlook and headed up Bald Mountain. This is where it happened. I caught up to some people and we hiked together. I didn't really know how far it was to the Bald Mountain aid station. But we hiked. And hiked. And hiked. Up. Up. Up. Up. We could never get in a rhythm. It sucked. I was taking in gels, washing them down with water, and hiking. I thought we would never get to where we were going. Eventually, things leveled off and we hit a jeep road that was slightly downhill and runnable. This is where it started. My stomach. Everything I had taken in thus far, mostly liquids and gels, they were all forming one big slosh bucket. Liquid sloshing around in your stomach is not a good feeling.

Finally, we made it to the Bald Mountain aid station. The sun was out, and we were exposed on the top of this mountain. I saw Summer and I was still in the same state, only worse. The volunteers offered me some chicken noodle soup and I took some. That was stupid. Not only was it hot, I was hot, and the sun was hot. I burned my tongue on it a little and immediately threw it in the trash. I headed over to the car with Summer and felt it. The liquids were making a return. I threw up a couple of times and felt somewhat better.

Meanwhile, Max King comes rolling in leading the elites race. Yeah he’s at mile 48 and I’m at mile 28. He’s 20 miles ahead of me and only had a 15-minute head start. That’s why he’s a world-class mountain runner I guess.

-- Miles 29-40 --

I headed on my way as I was sort of glad to be back on some roads after that awful climb up Bald Mountain. Heading down the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Spy Run Gap unmanned aid station, I walked the gentle uphills and ran then downhills. I had to make a visit to the woods early on in this section, which seemed to complete the ‘cleansing’ process after what happened at the top of Bald Mountain. I then returned to the road and started feeling much better. Eventually hit a long gradual downhill that led to Spy Run Gap. On this road, I passed the majority of the remaining elites including Sage Canady, Jorge Maravilla, Ian Sharman, and Dave Mackey that I recall. Once I arrived at the water only aid station, Summer was there to greet me and a wonderful surprise, baby Gemma too!

By this point, I was feeling great. I hadn't eaten much since Bald Mountain but I decided that I was going to concentrate on more solid foods instead of gels in an effort to avoid the slosh bucket feeling like earlier. So I got a couple of honey buns from Summer and took off toward the Whetstone aid station.

I ran on a dirt road for a few miles and admired the scenery, farmlands and hills. Once I got to the end of this dirt road, it was back on the parkway for a few miles. It started with a long gradual uphill and I decided to power hike it and try to keep my pace around 15 minute miles. Once I got to the crest, it was a gradual downhill which I ran until I got to the Whetstone aid station.

I was in a groove at this point. I got two more honey buns and ate some other stuff at the aid station and headed on the longest stretch between aid stations of the entire race. The ‘Dragon’s Back’ trail runs along the ridge of a mountain and we were doing four miles out and four miles back. Eight miles round trip but the majority of it was runnable. I started passing people on this section and since I was past the halfway point, and I was feeling good, I decided to ride the wave as long as I could and take advantage. I was not being conservative at this point but I knew eventually the feeling would fade which is why I kept going the way I did.

The last few miles of the Dragon’s back got me thinking. When I got to the aid station, I’d be at 40 miles with roughly 22 to go. The way I thought about this race was once I get to the second half, something drastic would have to go wrong for me to drop as I’m on the ‘downhill’ part of the race. Plus, with 22 miles left, I thought about how many 20 milers I had run and just said ‘it’s only 20 miles’. I made it to the aid station, got a couple more honey buns and set out to the finish. This race was, after the beginning 12 miles, almost one big out and back as we would return the way we came. So I got back out on the parkway, and headed toward Spy Run Gap.

-- Miles 41-43 --

The first part of this parkway was slightly uphill so I alternated running and walking and eventually made it to the long downhill that led back to the gravel road. I ran this whole section and tried to eat. After the slosh bucket earlier in the race, I had limited the amount of gels and liquids I had consumed because I didn't want to have another bout of that again. By this point, fatigue was setting in. This was the uncharted waters for me.  I had never ran this far.  Each mile was a new personal best. The longest race I’d ever done was Triple Lakes 40 miler last October. So my body as expected was starting to tell me it was tired. But using one of the many mantras I had in my head, I kept repeating ‘tired is not an excuse’. So I kept moving.

-- Mile 44 --

Once I got to the gravel road that led to Spy Run Gap, I was cruising along and suddenly this feeling came over me. I had never felt this way before. I didn't know what was going on. It was as if gravity had taken hold of my body and was pulling me in the direction I was running. Almost like I was running downhill. But when I looked ahead, my vision could not determine whether the road in front of me was downhill or not. I kept looking behind me to see if that direction was uphill. I couldn't tell. I knew there were no steep sections on this road but I was just looking for something I could tell if I was going downhill or not, because it surely felt like it.

I didn’t know what was going on. It was almost scary but I did not want to panic. I got to thinking and although it was not noticeably hot out, the sun had been shining on me for the last 14 miles and I had just ran through the hottest part of the day (hot being a relative term as the highs for the day were 70-75). I started thinking about my electrolytes. Since I had not been eating gels like I was earlier in the race, my electrolyte levels may have gotten out of whack. While I was carrying double handhelds, one with water and another with Accelerade, my fear of slosh bucket had kept me from drinking on a regular basis. So I started drinking the Accelerade in hopes that it would get me out of this funk. Either it did or enough time passed and the feeling went away. I was back to feeling normal, albeit still with the fatigued feeling but again, that was no excuse. I knew when I signed up for this that it was going to hurt. There’s no way around it. Grin and bear it.

-- Miles 45-48 --

I made it to the unmanned Spy Run Gap aid station and Summer was there waiting. The water coolers were out of water and Summer informed me she had given water out of our cooler to some people that I had ran with earlier. I made it a point to her before the race about the culture of us ultrarunners and how kind everyone is. So if anyone ever needed anything that we had, to help them out, and she did just that. I’m sure those folks were grateful since it was about 3-4 miles back to the Bald Mountain aid station.

Summer asked how I was feeling and I told her I was ok, but just feeling a little tired. She told me tired was not an excuse and the also had poster board signs on the windshield of the car saying the same things. A lot of people saw those signs when they got to that point as well and I think it provided some extra motivation for them too. I can’t say enough about Summer and how wonderful she is and how much I appreciated her being there for me the entire day. I am so lucky.

I left Spy Run Gap and it was back on the parkway for a long gradual uphill followed by some flat and gradual downhill road running. Again, I walked the ups and ran the flats and downs. On this section, I saw two guys way ahead of me but never gained any ground on them, not that I was trying to anyway. The clouds began rolling in and flashbacks from the fog filled 50k from last year started. You could see the fog rolling in just ahead of me, which only meant one thing: darkness would arrive sooner.

I soon arrived at the Bald Mountain aid station for the second time and the two guys who were previously in front of me were there eating some food. Summer was hungry so I got her some chicken noodle soup since the weather was cooling off.  I drank some ensure, and put on some arm warmers and my headlamp as I knew the next trail section would be done in the dark soon enough. I grabbed a handful of gummy bears and headed on my way with the two other gentlemen.

-- Miles 49-54 --

The three of us walked and talked for a few minutes.  They soon stopped for a bathroom break but I kept going. Being on the trail, with tree cover, it was getting dark fast. I tried to keep moving at a good pace to get down the mountain to the White Rock Gap aid station as quickly as possible. I had not done much night time trail running in training so this was another learning experience. I learned that trail running in the dark slows you down. There’s no way around that. Especially when it gets really technical, which this trail had plenty of rocky sections.

As the last moments of daylight faded away, I soon saw someone ahead who called out to me. It was a volunteer whom I had seen earlier in the day at the Slacks trail overlook. He was a sweeper who was going to follow me to the overlook and said he would top off my water bottles. I said that wouldn't be necessary as my wife would likely be waiting for me and she could do it since this wasn't an aid station at all.

He continued to talk to me. I didn't like that. I was in a groove, all by myself. I was doing just fine, concentrating on the trail, in the dark, with my headlamp. He starts telling me how he’s a marathoner and he wanted to volunteer to help these crazy people who run amazing amounts of mileage. He then tells me he holds some record for an indoor marathon done on a 200 meter track while wearing a kilt. It was at this point I really wanted to tell him he’s stupid and to quit talking to me because I really want to just run. Then it happened.

I came to a fork in the trail. Course markers were orange flags all day. They even put out little orange glow sticks as it got dark. But once I got to this fork, there was a trail that led in the direction I was heading, but it also went behind me to the right up the hill. There were quite a few orange flags here. I turned to look at the trail behind me from where I just came. I saw no orange flags. I didn't know how I had missed a turn. Or did I miss a turn? I don’t know because kilt boy was back there blabbing his darn mouth. So at this point I’m kind of mad. I asked him what I was supposed to do. He ran up the hill to see where it led. He yelled to me to keep going in the direction I was headed. So I did.

I thought he would catch up with me. But he never came. I got to thinking just exactly what happened. It dawned on me probably a half mile down the trail that the hill he ran up led to the parking lot at the Slacks overlook. I was really mad then because I thought Summer was waiting for me up there. And I have no way to get in touch with her. She’s going to wait for me and I’ll never show. Then she’ll get worried that I've been eaten by a bear or something. I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to turn around and back track another mile or so up to the parking lot. So I just kept going and prayed that she would be waiting for me at White Rock Gap.

Then things got worse. As I was going down this trail, I never got to the numerous switchbacks that I had gone up earlier in the race. None of the trail looked familiar, especially since it was dark. The switchbacks just never came! But I was on a trail with course markers and glow sticks. I knew I was on some sort of right track and I would eventually come out somewhere. But where? Eventually I see reflections from my headlamp ahead. It was two other runners. Only one had a headlamp. The other was limping and said he was in some pain. They were mad too. Apparently kilt boy had told them it was only two miles to the aid station but they had been further than that. I told them my story and we were all one pissed off trio of runners.

We were all walking together at this point. Since they only had a small headlamp with not a lot of light between the two of them, I decided not to run ahead and leave them in the dark. I love my headlamp (Petzl Myo RXP). As we walked, my brain was processing the course. I got to thinking about the course map and remembered there was one section that we didn't duplicate. It branched off and circled around to return to the White Rock aid station a different way. About the time I realized where we were, I heard a cow bell and yelling. Finally. We had made it back to the best aid station. And even better, Summer was there waiting for me. Baby Gemma too! I came out of those woods expressing my anger about everything and those who were there probably thought I was the biggest butt face but I didn't care. I was mad earlier. I told them what happened, but then I dropped it. I drank and ate some, and knew I was on the home stretch. Only 8 miles to go.

-- Miles 55-58 --

The next 4-5 miles were back on the parkway. It was dark, cloudy, and the full moon I had looked forward to for months was rising as I could see it through the trees. That would be the only time I’d see it as it soon vanished behind the clouds. Temperatures began to drop and it was getting hard to run. My quads were very sore. I had been doing mental math since I started down Bald Mountain and the closer I got to the finish, the more I thought about not just a sub-17 hour finish, or sub-16, but a sub-15 hour finish! I knew the last three-mile uphill could possibly take an hour if I walked 20-minute miles. So doing the math, if I could just average 15-minute miles up to that point, I could pull it off.

When I left White Rock Gap aid station, there was one headlamp shining behind me. I didn't know who it was but assumed it was the two guys who I shared the trail with earlier when we were all mad at kilt boy. I tried not to make it obvious when I looked over my shoulder to see if the light was gaining ground on me, although it was pretty pointless. I know it’s a race and everything, but when you’re out there as long as we were, who cares whether you finish in 24th or 23rd place? But still, it is a race, and you always want to do the best you can. So I was doing my best to make sure I did not get passed.

I alternated running and walking. It was so dark and I could not tell if the parkway section I was on was uphill or downhill. There were no steep sections, but the gradual hills I remembered from earlier in the day were indistinguishable. Then it happened. Mile 55, I started getting that ‘gravity pulling me’ sensation as I was going down the road. Not knowing if it was downhill or uphill, my body was going through the same thing that happened at mile 44. Since I knew what helped that time, I started drinking my Accelerade more and more to get electrolytes back in me. Again, it only lasted for a mile.

Cars were passing by, some of them with people shouting encouragement out of the window at me when I was running. Alternating walking and running was best as my legs were really sore at this point and the best way to keep my pace below 15 minute miles.

Eventually I made it to the Reed’s Gap aid station. Earlier in the day this spot was filled with people, volunteers, and lots of life. Now it was dark, cold, beginning to sprinkle rain, and there were only two volunteers here. Summer was there to greet me again but I opted for no refills and just drank some Ensure. I thanked the volunteers for being there in such conditions, and left for the finish.

-- Miles 59-62 --

I knew the next mile was going to suck. Big time. One mile, down about a 15% grade hill, on some really sore legs. I didn't even know if I could run this section. But I tried. It hurt to run. So I did some sort of fast walk/slow run/shuffle your feet maneuver most of the way down. I was looking up in the air at the top of the mountain and I could see lights shining from condos way up in the sky. I knew that’s where I had to go, and I had roughly 70 minutes to get there.

Once I reached the bottom of Wintergreen Drive, the rain was slowly picking up. I started walking up the hill. There was no one behind me, and as far as I knew, no one in front of me as I hadn't seen anyone in a while. So I walked. Cars were passing by in both directions and I’m sure they thought I was some sort of idiot for walking up this 3 mile hill in the rain.

I reached a point on the road, maybe with a mile and a half to go, and my headlamp shining ahead showed another runner. He was walking up the hill, and I decided to pounce. I started to run, or whatever you want to call it. Granted it was slow, but it was getting me closer to the finish faster. The closer I got to the top of this hill, the harder it started to rain, and the colder it got.

I eventually became even with the other runner and as I got next to him I could tell he was limping. I told him good job, just as I had done most everyone throughout the day, and I kept running. In a not-from-around-here accent, he said something to the point of “I try to run to” and he began running. It didn’t last long and he continued walking. I was inching closer to the top, and it started feeling like it was beginning to level off a little, or so that’s how it felt to me, even though it was clearly still a hill. I ran until I finally reached the road that led down to the finish line.

After 3 miles of uphill, the finish was a ¼ mile downhill. As I continued to run, this time going down, a new sensation came over my legs. While the first few steps were the same agonizing pain as the last 10 miles, it suddenly eased off. My stride lengthened and I was sprinting! Or so it felt that way. As I ran down the road, I could hear people at the finish line start to clap. Then I heard my wonderful wife yell my name and I immediately got choked up and almost cried. The cheers were coming in full force from the dozen or so people still there. I rounded the last turn and headed through the chute finishing as strong as I could.

I did it. I had just run 100 kilometers.

I had hit the lowest point of my running career. I had hit the highest point of my running career. And it all happened in a span of 14 hours, 36 minutes, and 35 seconds.

I couldn't believe I was done. All the training runs, all the sleep that was sacrificed on Saturday mornings, all the hill repeats, all the runs in the 100 degree heat of the summer, it had all paid off. I completed something that I never knew possible. In my opinion, I was officially an ultrarunner.

I was awarded my finisher medal, and most importantly, the sub-17 hour buckle.

Summer and her parents, once again, were there to greet me. Baby Gemma even came out and slept in the stroller to wait for me. I was so lucky to have such a wonderful wife who supported me the entire way. Not just on race day, but every day in the months leading up to the race. She has always been supportive of me and I thank God every day for bringing the two of us together. I couldn't have done it without her. Thank you, Summer.

And to her parents who gave up their weekend to hang out with Baby Gemma while I ran up and down mountains in Virginia, I couldn't have done it without them. Thank you, Robin and Perry.

Now it’s time for a few weeks off before hitting another training block for the Weymouth Woods 100k in January, which will be my first attempt at qualifying for Western States 100!  Hey, one can dream, right?

Garmin Data:

UROC Elite Panel

Garmin elevation profile of the race

Start/Finish line

Actually got my name on this race bib!

Hanging out at dinner the night before.

Gemma likes my visor.

Race day morning with my wonderful family.

Seeing this sign at the aid stations was great!

Throwing up at the top of Bald Mountain.  Didn't really get to 'enjoy' the view.

That's how I felt afterwards. First time sitting down in over 15 hours.

But I was all smiles!

Got my buckle!

The guy in the green is who I passed on the last climb. The other two and I all finished within one minute of each other.


The hardware!

I knew Gemma would like the buckle.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

2012 UROC 100k preview - I'm entering uncharted waters

2012 UROC 100k - My pre-race thoughts

--100 kilometers.  62.2 miles.  Ten 10 k's.  Two marathons and roughly a 10 miler.  Whatever you want to call it, this is the craziest thing I have ever attempted.--

In September of 2011, I did something I never dreamed possible.  Heck, I didn't even know things like this existed three years ago.  I completed my first ultramarathon.  I know, I know.  Most *real* ultrarunners don't even consider a 50k an ultramarathon, but in the technical sense, it is, and I did it.  I ran the sister race of the UROC 100k -- the Uber Rock 50k.  It was an amazing accomplishment, and all of my training paid off as I ran one of the best races I've ever ran.

Leading up to the race, however, I kept telling Summer that "it's only a 50k.  It's not even a real ultra.  Those other people are running the real ultra" (talking about the 100k race).  So think what you want.  Maybe it's a real ultra, maybe not.  Either way, I did it, I finished it, and I had a great time doing it.  The weeks afterward, I was still enjoying the fact that I had done what I set out to do.  So much that the 2012 race registration opened in October and I began thinking.  Dreaming.  Saying, what if......what if I did the 100k?  Could I do it?  Could I put in the training and do something like that?  100 kilometers?!?  Roughly 62+ miles.  It's only 100k.  It's not like it's 100 MILES.  Wait, wait, wait.  Scratch that train of thought.  THIS IS a big deal.

Summer was pregnant with our first baby at last year's race.  Would she be able to put up with me going on long training runs again throughout the summer?  Would I be able to do the long training runs on minimal sleep given that we would have a newborn?  We talked about it, and surprisingly, she encouraged me to sign up for it.  The 50k was such a great race, with great crew access, that Summer was able to follow me all day long.  She enjoyed it as much as I did.  And that's just one more reason I love her so much.  So, roughly $175 later, I'm signed up for my first "real" ultramarathon.

--Training/Year in Review--

I ended 2011 feeling strong about my training.  I was putting in consistent weeks and January came along.  I did my first Frosty 50k and finished in 5h10m and was pleased with the result (57 min. 50k PR!)  Next up was the Pilot Mountain Payback Trail Marathon in my backyard.  Again, great finish in 4h1m with a 42 minute PR from the same race last year.  Trying to keep myself in marathon shape, and unable to resist the $10 entry fee, I did the Virginia Creeper Trail Marathon in March to make for my third race in as many months.  Afterwards, I stayed in training mode and signed up for the Bethel Moonlight Boogie 50 miler in June, thinking that would be a good training run in preparation for UROC 100k.  I faultered.  I ignored my body.  I developed 'discomfort in my knee'.  Eventually I had an MRI to learn that I had a slightly frayed meniscus.  After careful deliberation, I threw in the towel and backed out of the 50 miler.  I could have ran it, and possibly finished.  But if I had made my knee worse, that would have impacted my chances of doing my goal race, the UROC 100k.  So I bailed.

I took a few weeks off and things started to improve.  I started June and slowly began running again.  Taking mandatory rest days, I was increasing mileage again and feeling good.  My monthly mileage began to show improvement:

May (injured but in denial):  77 miles
June: 150 miles
July:  182 miles
August:  254 miles

By the end of the summer, I was feeling great.  Putting in consistent long runs, doubles sometimes three times a week.  Everything was falling into place.

Labor Day weekend I had planned to do my longest solo training run ever.  I didn't have a mileage goal, but I wanted to be on my feet all day.  I did just that.  I covered 35 miles in 9h18m, with 7,200+ ft. of elevation gain.  More important, I broke through the 30 mile barrier which had plagued me in previous long runs.  This was a big confidence booster.

My last long run was an experiment.  20 miles in 3h43m and no calories.  I had read about training your body to burn fat economically and how beneficial it was in long runs/racing.  So I tried it.  It too, was an amazing run.  I really enjoyed it and felt great.  This left me ready and excited about UROC.


I did my normal two week taper.  First week was great.  No 'taper madness' had set in.  Week two was a different story.  I was ready to just go run, but I had to finish the week out.

Last night, (Wednesday....3 days before race day), my fears became a reality.  I had been saying to myself all week that I should probably wear shoes and not flip flops like normal when I'm around the house.  Didn't want anything to happen to my feet.  I did not heed my own device and ended up stubbing my right big toe outside so hard that it felt broken.  The toenail ripped and was hanging off.  It bruised immediately and turned black/purple.  I had spotted the race a toenail head start.  After some maintenance this morning, it's still bruised.  I'm not sure how well I'll be able to run but as another running friend said, by mile 35, something else will be hurting and I won't be thinking about my toe.

--100 kilometers.  62.2 miles.  Ten 10 k's.  Two marathons and roughly a 10 miler.  Whatever you want to call it, this is the craziest thing I have ever attempted.--

Monday, September 17, 2012

Race # 25 - Kernersville Rotary Club July 4th 5k

Kernersville Rotary Club July 4th 5k
8:00 AM
Kernersville, NC
Time: 20:39
Place: 55/567 overall, 9th place age group

I guess I need to write a little something about my 25th race.  My sister invited me to run for free in the Kernersville July 4th 5k race.  I rarely turn down a free entry fee so I decided to give it a go and run a rare summer time race for my schedule.

I had no plans for this one.  I didn't care how I finished.  Of course I would see how fast I could do it, but I wasn't banking on any sort of PR given that it was really warm at the start.  There were 567 finishers so a pretty big turnout and one that I didn't want to be stuck in the back of.  So I lined up near the front and took off at the sound of the horn.

A few turns and we were out on Main St.  This course is an out and back that is slightly uphill, then a little down, and then turn around and back.  As usual, I started out a little too fast so about a half mile in, I finally found a decent pace.  Mile one clocked at 6:21.  Still a little fast, especially with the temps.  I kept it on cruise control though and tried to block out the uncomfortable feeling and the thoughts saying to slow down. I actually used a water stop in this race which is a rarity for me in a 5k.  But a little cold water to wet my mouth and dump on my head was welcomed.

Mile two I clocked in at 6:42.  So as expected, I slowed it down a little.  Doing quick math in my head, I had then ruled out trying to PR.  I was ok with that given that my PR was in a December race on a similar course in this city.  Temps were about 25 degrees cooler though.  As I made the turn at the halfway mark, I wanted to keep it steady for the finish.  I knew I didn't want to be passed, as usual.  So I kept motoring.

My Garmin had given me a low battery signal at the beginning of the race so I was just hoping it would hang tight until the finish.  We finally made our way back off Main St. and into the final two turns.  The last part was slightly downhill.  Mile three clocked at 6:48 so still slowing a bit but whatever.  I'm ok with it.  I did have one final kick at the end and I tried to catch a guy in front of me.  But when I kicked, he countered and we blazed through the finish line, him beating me by a step or two.  Nothing like battling it out for 54th position!

My Garmin actually died right as we were making the final turn and it was 3.11 miles in 20:32.  So that meant that the course may have been a little long but who knows.  Official time is 20:39.  I'll take it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Race # 24 - From King to Beijing 5k/10k

From King to Beijing 5k/10k
8:30 AM
King, NC
Time: 35:04
Place: 3rd overall, 2nd place male

Almost a month ago, I participated in a race to benefit a friend's mission trip to China.  It was slated as a 5k course with a 10k option that runs it twice.  It was located at the local high school I graduated from which is about 2 miles from my house.  So I decided to run there as a warmup, and then run the race, then run home.

We lined up on the track for the start, and once the horn started, we were off.  As usual, I started out too fast.  But this was uncharted waters for me.  Let me explain.  After the Virginia Creeper Trail Marathon, I thought I had recovered enough and jumped back in to training for the Boogie 50 miler I had planned for June 16.  The problem:  I had some discomfort (not pain) in my left knee.  It was weird.  I could run and feel it but after a few miles, the discomfort would go away.  But after the run, and sitting for a while, I could really feel it when I stood back up.  This went on for a few weeks until I finally realized I couldn't run through it and I'd better see a doctor.

One MRI later it was determined that I had a 'slightly frayed' meniscus.  This had nothing to do with the 'cracked patella' the PA said I had according to the x-rays.  I didn't really care about that as it was causing me no pain.  Not much you can do for a frayed meniscus. It's not torn.  Doesn't require surgery.  So it was either take some serious rest, or just make it worse.  I chose the former, and wound down my two months of not much running at the end of May.  I finally got back into training mode in June, but withdrew from the 50 miler knowing that although I could probably finish the race, I may do more damage and cause myself to miss more training for my A race, the UROC 100k.

So, back to the 'uncharted territory'.  Not only have I never raced a 10k, I had not been in full training mode and was slightly worried about pushing too hard and my knee discomfort flaring back up.  But as I started around the track, I just told myself I was going to push until something told me to back off.

Once around the track, we headed up to the baseball field.  Original course was to have us take one lap around the inside of the field, however, the girl who was standing there was sort of a 'low talker' and the guy leading us who eventually won the 5k, just skipped going around the field.  I wasn't about to add more time to my run so I just followed the leader, as did the three others in front of me.

We ran down by the greenhouse, and then past the bus parking lot to the natural area in the front of the school.  This was part of the cross country course so it was nice being on grass and not on pavement.  We then ran up the driveway to the main parking lot where we made a U-turn and ran alongside the outside walls of the school.  By this point I was running behind one guy, with no one in site behind me.  Through the faculty parking lot, back to to the natural area, and then to the bus parking lot.  Then down through the main parking lot and to the stadium where the 5k winner had already finished but I headed out for another lap.

By this point, the guy I was following had fell behind me and I was feeling good.  Back to the baseball field but this time I was told to circle the field so I obliged and the guy behind me followed suit.  I kept pushing my pace and eventually he fell off and I didn't see him anymore.  I ran alone.  But I was fine with that.  I put it on cruise control and passed by a lot of people I knew that were walking and running and I headed for the finish.

I had a feeling before the race that the course was short.  But that didn't matter.  This was for a good cause and it was good for me to get out and see what my legs could do.  I came across the finish line with a Garmin time of 35:04 for 4.82 miles, a 7:16 pace.  Overall, very pleased.

I took 3rd place overall and was 2nd place male.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Race # 23 - Virginia Creeper Trail Marathon

Virginia Creeper Trail Marathon
8:00 AM
Abingdon, VA
Time: 3:36:00
Place: 10th overall; 1st age group
Run Streak day 86

Yesterday I ran my first Virginia Creeper Trail Marathon in Abingdon, VA. I signed up for this race months ago, before the date was announce. They only allow 100 runners in this race and most register before the date is decided on. It's a $10 entry fee so knowing that, and knowing I would have a one month old in the house at this point, I knew if I had to back out, I could and wouldn't be that upset about losing an entry fee. I also knew that sleep would be a luxury so I would use this as a chance to add to my ultra training of 'running on tired legs'. More on this in a little bit.

I never really decided to "race" this event. I figured I would treat it as a long training run and go enjoy some lovely SW Virginia scenery. Easier said than done. I did, however, continue to train, albeit mostly easy runs, leading up to the race, instead of tapering. By the time race day arrived, I had already logged 35 miles in the week.

I also decided to use LTH's carb loading theory and test it for myself. This theory includes consuming 7 grams of carbs for each kilogram of body weight, the day before your race. For me, that's around 413g of carbs. So on Saturday, I piled it on. I could have eaten more, but I ended up with around 440g of carbs that day.

The night before, my assumption of running on tired legs was coming true. Gemma decided to stay up until 11, and with a 4am alarm, I was limited to five hours of sleep. I was lucky though, Summer only got four hours as Gemma decided she wanted to wake up at 1am and watch Twilight: Eclipse. When the alarm went off at 4, Summer was still awake having just put Gemma down a little before that. I felt so bad and offered to stay home but being the loving wife she is, and knowing how much I love to run, Summer told me to go ahead.

I left at 5am and made the 2 hour drive to Abingdon. With temperatures in the 40's, possibly climbing to the 50's, and rain in the forecast, it was shaping up to be a first for me. I haven't ever raced in the rain, but was looking forward to it if it happened.

7am: arrive at Watauga Elementary school and pick up my race bib, packet, and participant gift. We then jumped on the shuttle for the 1.5 mile ride to the race start. Yeah I know what you're thinking...slacker...why didn't you just run to the start line? Oh well. Once I arrived there, I put my drop bag under the tent and stood around and shivered until the race start. I met a guy from Ohio who was using this as his last long run before the Boston Marathon in three weeks. He was a nice guy. He was planning for a 3:35-3:40 time in this race and I silently said to myself that'd be nice if I could do something like that too! It'd be easier for him than me though I'm sure as he obviously has already met the qualifying time for Boston and has ran it four years in a row. Granted he was in his 50's, but still, pretty impressive.

We started a few minutes late after waiting for the last shuttle of runners to arrive. The first two miles were an out and back on the paved road that brought us to the S/F line. Then we hit the Creeper Trail and what I'll call 'section 1'. An old rail bed, the trail is made of mostly crushed hard packed rock dust, and some gravel road sections. There were also a few wooden trestles we had to cross that ended up being slicker than snot on a door knob. Ok maybe not that slick. But it was still slick. I decided to wear my waterproof Hoka Mafate's given the unknown amount of rain we'd get.

After the two mile out and back, the first trail section is a 3.5 mile out and 3.5 mile back. I finally warmed up about mile four and settled in to a 8:30ish pace. I ended up running with a guy who said he was running his first marathon. Silently, I was thinking he was nuts for running with me at this pace as I knew he'd probably pay for it in the end. Heck. I knew I'd probably pay for it in the end. But we ran together for a while and enjoyed the scenery. Once we arrived back at the S/F area, we were 9 miles in. I grabbed my handheld of Accelerade and started on the other end of the Creeper trail, which I'll call section 2.

Section 2 was a 4.5 mile out and 4.5 mile back, with the halfway point of the entire race being at the turnaround of this section. The first timer and I were still running together and I was steadily clocking off 8:00-8:15 pace miles at this point, feeling good, but still fearing that the aforementioned details (weekly mileage, lack of sleep) were going to catch up with me at some point. 13 miles in, nature called and I answered.

I hit the halfway mark in just over 1:50. I began thinking, if I can run a negative split, I could beat 3:40, which I'd be pleased with. I then made the turn and headed back to the S/F line to start the last out and back. The guy who was running his first went ahead when I took a nature break, but I soon caught him, and passed him. I was then running alone, just as I'm used to. The next five miles were done between 8:10 and 8:30, conserving what I could for the last section.

When I arrived at the S/F area, there were people there cheering me on which gave me a bit of a spark as I started this last out and back. It also started raining at this point as it had held off so far up to this point. Since I had already ran this section, I knew what to expect and knew how I could run it. I also started thinking about how I felt, and whether I could put forth a good push and actually 'race' this last section. It is in fact, a race. Training run or not, you always want to do as well as you can and be competitive. So I decided I was going to go for it. I started doing mental math, to see if I can beat 3:40. And when I saw the leader, I started counting how many people were in front of me. I was waiting for my body to start saying no. And I started playing the mental game. At this point in a race, you may start to fade, but you can always convince yourself to keep pushing. So I did.

As I reached the turnaround, I was in 13th place, with a guy in 12th right in front of me. I found out later, he was running his first marathon so he was doing great. I made the pass and kept on trucking. In these last eight miles, I would run five of them under 8 minute pace. I saw a woman up ahead who I could tell I was gaining on and eventually, made the pass on her. I was in 11th. I knew who was ahead of me, and this guy was lengthening his lead on me. I had already settled for 11th place.

The rain became heavier as I got closer to the S/F area. Soon enough, I could see it ahead. I also saw a runner who was slowing down, and stopped at the aid station for a drink of water. At this point, we were 25 miles into the race. The last bit was a 0.6 mile out and 0.6 mile back on section 2. When I passed the timing tent, I threw my handheld down and asked if they would hold this. And I took off. The guy who stopped to get a drink heard me coming, held out his hand for a high five and congratulated me on running strong. I made the pass, and was in 10th place.

My shirt was stuck to me, and visor dripping, both from the rain. I was really pushing hard. I knew I couldn't catch the guy in front of me, but I wanted to finish strong. Mile 26 I ran in 7:27. My fastest mile of the entire race. I could see the clock at the finish and I did it. I beat 3:40, ran a negative split, and came in with a time of 3:36:04. I was 10th overall and 1st place in the 29 and under age group. Satisfied...

So what did I learn from this race? I feel like the tempo run and hill repeats I have consistently done weekly since the beginning of the year have helped my performance. I really feel like the carb loading did help as well. I did have about five Clif gels during the race, and about 18 oz. of Accelerade. Call me scared of hitting the wall, but I'd rather "have it and not need it than need it and not have it". I really feel like I ran a smart race and I think my splits for the last five miles showed it as I ran four out of the five at sub-8 minute pace. Deep down I think I could have beaten my PR of 3:28:38 from November had I really treated this like a goal race. But with the 35 miles I did up to this point, and the somewhat lack of sleep the night before, I can't complain with my result.

This is a GREAT race. For the entry fee, you can't beat it. Volunteers are great and the food at the aid stations and S/F is mostly homemade goods. The course is great. I thought it was mostly flat the entire race. I could tell there were gentle ups and downs and only one major descent/ascent where a trestle was taken out last year during a tornado. Either it wasn't flat or my Garmin was crazy because it said it was over 2,100 ft. of elevation gain. Either way, I had a great time and will definitely consider going back again.

Pic of the participant paper weight everyone was given, along with my age group award and bib number. Thanks for reading!

Race # 22 - Feed Stokes 5k

Feed Stokes 5k
9:00 AM
King, NC
Time: 20:34
Place: 5th overall; 1st age group

A little late on this report. For the second consecutive year, I ran the Feed Stokes 5k here in my hometown. I like this event A) because it's $20 to enter and B) they ask that each entrant bring canned foods to support the local outreach ministry. So a win win for everyone here.

This was my first race since Gemma was born so of course she did not make it out in the cold weather to watch. She will one day though. Last year I ran this race and had a respectable time of 21:04. Goal #1 was to beat that time. Goal #2 was to go sub-20 minutes and goal #3 was to beat my PR of 19:52 set in December. I'd be happy with any of those.

I'm not sure why, but I just didn't have a PR in me on this day. So #3 was out the window. I got out to a good start and was in the top 10 with a few others who I knew would fade eventually. I just kept my pace and ran how I felt like running. First mile was done in 6:28. I knew right then I wouldn't PR, but sub-20 was still attainable.

As we headed through the King Central Park, I settled in about 10 yards behind a guy and was planning to wait and make my move later. Although there are no 'hills' in this race, there are a few inclines. Mixed in with a little wind which knocked me back every now and again, my second mile was 6:58. I figured out at that point I wouldn't go sub-20. So I just wanted to finish strong at this point.

We get out on Dalton road and head back to the park to the finish. It's a slight downhill on this road so I picked up my pace and made my move around the guy in front of me. He didn't counter. No one was in sight in front of me. My goal at this point was no surprise attacks from behind. As I entered the park, I tried to push myself. Eventually the finish line came in sight, with a slight incline at the finish, I pushed as hard as I could. Mile 3 was clocked at 6:28 (same as mile 1), and I crossed the line in 20:34.

I beat last year's time by 31 seconds. I feel like I could have done better, but I can't complain. The winner finished in 18:03 so if I can knock about a minute off my time, that'd be great. Maybe next year!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Race # 21 - Pilot Mountain Payback

Pilot Mountain Payback Trail Marathon
9:00 AM
Pinnacle, NC
Time: 4:01:48
Place: 16th out of 72 overall

Today I ran my second Pilot Mountain Payback. This was my first marathon a year ago so after a year of training, and three ultramarathons, my main goal was to improve my time from last year. This was also a toss up as to whether or not I'd get to run as Summer is due with our first child on Tuesday the 21st. She could literally go into labor at any point so I was hoping all week that she would hold off on making her debut until the race was over. She did! And as I write this, we're still waiting. Now, to the race.

Same course as last year, we start at the Yadkin Island Park area, run through a creek 30 feet from the start, then run up and down trails to Pilot Mountain, then up the mountain, around the knob, down the mountain, and then back to the start/finish. It's over 4,000 feet of elevation gain so definitely isn't flat!

We headed to the start an hour before the race, picked up my bib and free copy of Ultrarunning magazine, which apparently planted the seed last year of the whole 'ultrarunning' concept. I had never heard of ultrarunning before this race. Now I know who my wife can blame.

The race director announced a few things to everyone and happened to mention my name and gave Summer and I a big congratulations for coming out to run under the conditions we were in. He had emailed me the day before the race and said that he had informed all the volunteers that bib #341 had a pregnant wife and if need be, would take a DNF at an aid station. So now everyone knew our story and I was known as 'the guy with the kid on the way' for the rest of the race.

The race started and we crossed the first creek. I was wearing my new Hoka Mafate waterproof trail shoes and Drymax socks so I was interested to see how all the creek crossings affected my feet. I didn't know how to pace myself for this race so I just ran by feel for the beginning. After the first two miles, I thought that I went out too fast, but said the heck with it and I was going for it. There is a baby on the way, so I used that as motivation to finish as fast as possible! I used the downhills to pass a few people (probably stupid to pass so early), but I really wanted to run my own pace and not be behind anyone. As I progressed through the road crossings, Summer, her mom and my parents were all there to greet me and take pictures. They were my crew for the day.

My gear for the day. Love the Hokas.

Creek crossing at the beginning.

Summer, my awesome crew, at one of the aid stations.

A little 'Boost' before heading up the mountain.

The first part of the race was uneventful. Up and down hills, running the downhills hard, and the uphills slow, seeing if my hill repeat workouts would pay off. Once I got to the half marathon turn around point, I changed out of my long sleeve shirt into my singlet. Temps started in the mid 40's but would be getting up well into the 50's and maybe 60. The next section would be the hardest. The first part goes up about 500 ft. in a mile, then a little downhill. The next section goes up about 800 ft. in 1.4 miles, ending at the summit. Obviously, this is the toughest part of the race. In training, I try to run these parts as much as I can but today, I was forced to walk a lot of it. I figured I'd conserve some energy this way as well. I used it as a way to meet a new runner who I talked with for a little while.

My temporary running partner, Robert and I walking up to the summit.

Sometimes it feels good to just squat.

For the second consecutive year, we were graced with some excellent weather for this race. The view from the summit is worth the trip.

Once I reached the summit, Summer informed me I was in 19th place or so. I enjoyed the view for a minute, sucked down a Boost meal replacement drink, and headed on. I love those types of drinks because of their nutritional value and liquid calories are my friend. But for some reason, it almost gave me a queasy feeling after I drank them. It seemed though after a few minutes my body 'absorbed' it, and everything was fine. Who knows. I didn't have this problem when I used Ensure in my 40 miler last October. Maybe I should just stick with what works.

After the summit, Robert, my new running friend, and I headed around the famous Pilot Mountain knob. The views are great on this part of the trail. After this section, we head down the back side of the mountain. A lot of rock climbers were out enjoying the south side of the mountain on a gorgeous February day. This section is mostly a lot of man made rock steps. Pretty hard on the knees and you really have to watch your footing or you could easily bust it big.

The trip down the mountain via the Grindstone trail can be pretty speedy. I said goodbye to Robert and picked up the speed and used gravity to take me down the trail. I was feeling good at this point and knew that it was only 2-3 miles before I hit the home stretch 7 mile run back to the finish.

The Pilot Mountain visitor's center aid station is across the street from the trail. I ignored it last year and did the same this year and just kept on trucking. On the 1.75 mile grassy ridge trail, I ended up catching up with another runner and we hit a big hill at the same time. We walked and talked a little and he said 'you're the one with the kid right?'. Nice guy. But once we reached the top of the hill, I took off again and was heading at a faster pace than he so I left him. One other runner was up ahead and his body language said he was either hurt or tired as I have found my body in that same position before. I went around him and just said to keep running strong. These were the last two runners I'd see the rest of the race.

Coming off the Grassy Ridge Trail about to hit the 7 mile home stretch.

Once I reached the Pinnacle Hotel Road aid station, which is the half marathon turn around, this meant I was headed home. I run this section all the time when I go out for training runs. I know it pretty well. And I was feeling great. I knew how many miles I had left, and I started doing some mental calculating to see what my finishing time could be. If I really ran hard, I could go sub 4 hours, which would blow last year's time out of the water and exceed my expectations immensely. So I turned on the jets (relatively speaking). In hindsight, I turned on the jets just a little bit too soon.

Feeling good about 19 miles in.

I ran two solid miles and then it happened. I started feeling bad. I was feeling tired, and leading up to this race, I knew it was on this section last year that I was doing what I'd later learn is called the 'death march'. Similar to last year, I didn't continue my nutrition in the last hour. I guess I was so focused on the finish that I didn't eat enough and ran out of steam. Lesson learned.

Coming to a road crossing, I had lost that wonderful feeling and was starting to feel tired.

I had a three mile stretch where I ran 11:09, 10:09, and 11:02, compared to the sub 10 minute miles I ran the rest of the race (except those going up the mountain where I had to walk). My last full mile I gathered it together mentally and ran a 9:43. As I headed for the finish, one more big creek crossing and it actually felt pretty good to get a little wet. With the finish line in sight, I looked at the clock and it said 4:01:xx. At that point, I was not in a hurry. No one behind me about to pass me. I saw my crew waiting for me, I grabbed Summer's hand and we crossed the finish line together.

My 9 3/4 month pregnant wife running the finish line with me

Saying thank you to our little baby for staying in there and letting me run and giving her a little kiss.

With a Garmin time of 4:01:48 and a gun time of 4:01:53, this was a 42 minute improvement on last year's time on the same course and a new trail marathon PR. I finished 16th overall out of 72 finishers. I am very pleased with my result and now I have a goal for next year to go sub 4 hours. And just so you know the winner finished in 3 hours flat. He beat me by an hour. I can't fathom that. Pretty amazing!

My parents and I after the race.

My mother-in-law who ran around all day and took pictures.

Summer and I comparing our bellies :)

Talking with Jason Bryant (yellow singlet). He won the first two PMPB's but got second this year. Jason has been a great person always taking the time to talk to a me being a new runner. His next big race is the Nueces 50 miler in two weeks.

Elevation profile for the race. I never get tired of looking at this.

Time to rest up and get ready for the Virginia Creeper Trail marathon in March!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Race # 20 - Frosty 50k

Frosty 50k
8:00 AM
Winston-Salem, NC
Time: 5:10:xx
Place: 55th out of 114

Today I ran the Frosty 50k in Winston-Salem, NC. This race is essentially the closest ultra I have to where I live. So when I started getting in to ultras last year, I knew I'd have to do this one this year. Unfortunately, my training leading up to this race was, well, not very much. After the NC marathon in November, I was foolish and did not take enough time to rest and let my body recover. So I started having problems with my Achilles. This made for a long December with not much training, and a lot of hoping that the rest I was taking would help me get through this race pain free.

I took my lunch break the day before and went to do some recon work and check out the race location since I had never raced here before. The 'trail' was really just a hard packed dirt/gravel road. This year they also added a 25k and a 50k relay. The email we received days prior to the race stated they were almost at the 300 person capacity.

Summer and I headed out early Saturday morning. She was going to 'crew' for me even though the race was just a double out and back that went around Salem Lake. So the race was essentially cut into four quarters. The 'out' which went from the start/finish, around the lake to the other side, and then back. 25k runners did this once and 50k runners did it twice.

Now for the race. I wore my Hoka Mafate's as I knew I would need all the help I could get for my foot to hang in there for 5-6 hours. My goal was to run this under 5h30m. When we started, I was in the back. I didn't care about going out fast. And rule #1 in ultras is simple: Go. Out. Slow. So I did just that. I was concentrating on running between 10-11 minute per mile pace. That was still probably too fast but it felt good so I went with it.

I played leap frog with one girl a couple of times as first I stopped for a nature break and second I saw a family of deer walking through the woods and slowed to watch them. So I ended up talking to her. Come to find out, she was another Marathon Maniac that was racing. I noticed one other person on the MM website that was running this race in addition to me, so we talked and ran for a few miles. It was nice meeting Andrea, who said she was down here from Columbus, OH. I then came up on the first turn around and talked with Summer for a few minutes and had some gummy bears at the aid station. I hit the first turn around in 1h20m, which would be a pace that would equal out to 5h20m if I could hold that for the remainder of the race. I would be happy with that, but then I started thinking about maybe going sub-5 hour. After the turn around, I headed back to the S/F.

The second leg (of four) of the race was uneventful. Trying to stay at a slow pace, paying careful attention to my right foot and hoping that it never would start hurting. I made my way back around the lake giving the normal 'good job', 'looking good' comments to other runners. The leaders were definitely out there to prove themselves.

As I came in to the S/F halfway mark, I was feeling good still. Halfway I was at 2h37m. I took a 3 minute break to eat and drink some and headed back out for the third leg. This was where I made a stupid mistake. NOTE: just because you feel good after half of a 50k, doesn't mean you should pick up the pace that soon. I messed up and tried to pick up my pace. I got to thinking about this sub-5 goal and calculating what I'd need to run in my head. Stupid. I was running 9-9:30 pace on this leg. I ate something at each aid station, ate gels along the route, trying to keep myself fueled.

As I neared the final turnaround, I saw Summer and asked for some shot bloks and didn't really take time to rest. I started the last leg headed back to the S/F and I could feel my legs fatiguing. It was then that I could tell I didn't train much in the last month. Around mile 24-25, I was really feeling tired. I wanted to walk. The mental demons started showing up. This is where you find out what you're made of.

Even though I wasn't out there to compete with others, it's still a race, and we're all human. If I see someone walking, that is fuel for my fire to keep running and pass them. It's just human instinct I think. So I kept passing folks, and that also encouraged me to keep running so they did not catch up and pass me. I kept telling myself to just keep running. These last seven miles were a true test, mentally and physically.

With four miles left, I wanted to walk. I was tired. My legs were hurting (but not my achilles). I just kept repeating to myself, sometimes out loud, "just keep running, just keep running. No matter how slow you go, just keep running. You're going faster than those who are walking. Pain is temporary. It'll all go away when you finish. Pain is weakness leaving the body. It's all mental." I kept saying all of this to myself to keep me going. Then I thought about what a guy said in an article regarding Badwater (I think). He said something to the point of "I'm going to keep moving until my body will not let me take another step". So I said to myself, "keep running until your body will not let you run another step, then you can walk". As I battled the pain, I never stopped running. I passed many people, simply because I took it easy in the first half (yeah I almost blew it on leg three), but they had gone out too fast at the beginning, and simply ran out of gas. I wasn't breaking any speed records on this last leg, and actually was running a slower pace than what I was running in the first half of the race. But I was moving forward, and still running.

I made my final pass on a young lady and was nervous about it. I knew if I passed her, and since there was less than a mile left, I knew I didn't want to get chicked and have her pass me back. So that helped me hang on at the end. There was one final guy up ahead I thought about trying to catch. And I would have. But then I noticed his wife and three little girls came out about 20 yards onto the race course and he carried the little one while the other two held his hand as he crossed the finish line. I didn't want to steal his moment of glory just to pick up another finishing place. And I have a little girl that will be here in a month or so, and I thought about that day when she'll be coming to watch her daddy race. So I let him finish and I came in after him.

I finished in 5:10:xx. I was pleased. Not only did I beat my goal of 5:30, I have a new 50k PR, and I did the entire race without my Achilles flaring up and hurting like it did back in November. This time though, I will definitely take adequate recovery time!

Thanks to Summer (and baby to be) for spending half the day following me around and supporting me on another crazy running adventure.

A few pics from the race below.

Before the race start. I was freezing and I forgot my gloves!!

And we're off!

Coming into the first turn around with fellow Marathon Maniac, Andrea.

The guy who I decided not to sprint and try to pass so he had his moment of glory with his kids.

Coming in to the finish!

Homemade finishers medal

Race # 19 - Pilot Mountain Challenge 5k

Pilot Mountain Challenge 5k
9:00 AM
Pinnacle, NC
Time: 30:36
Placed 16th Overall

I never got around to writing a report for this race so here goes nothing. I registered for the PM Challenge 5k excited as this was the inaugural year for the race and it runs almost from the bottom of Pilot Mountain, to the summit, via the Grindstone trail. I've ran these trails numerous times so I knew them very well.

I didn't know what to expect on race day but there were a lot of people who showed up for this race, including Jason and Allison Bryant, both LaSportiva runners. Jason has won all three Pilot Mountain Payback trail marathons that have been raced on these trails. He's a super nice guy and would have been a favorite to win. However, he informed me after the race that he broke his arm back in the fall and was told not to run for 6 weeks. Luckily, that time frame ended right before this race. So he was game.

We all lined up on a chilly Saturday morning, me donning the Hoka Mafate's as I was still having some achilles issues from the November marathon. Actually more like the week I didn't take off after the marathon (stupid mistake). So I was nervous about how my foot would react to a mostly uphill race.

I started near the front and made my way through the crowd to get out in front of the mass. I wasn't going to win, but I didn't want to have to weave through the crowd by starting in the back. I settled in to a pace that was quick, but it's only a 3 mile race so I knew I just had to give it all I had for those 3 miles. Since I knew the trails, I made it through some semi-technical sections easily. It was mostly up and down until one big hill, and then it was all uphill from there.

This is one of those races that you just put your head down and go, without looking up to see how far ahead you have to go. So I did just that. I ran with a couple other guys and we made our way up. Once you get to the split where the Ledge Springs trail forks to the right, that's when the real fun starts. Man-made steps always give me trouble on this trail. I tried running around them so not having to 'step' each one. There was one water stop on the steps but I passed and kept going. I started power hiking while the guy in front of me was running. He did not gain any ground. So I decided to conserve energy and continue to power hike. Once the stairs were over, I picked it up again and we entered the summit parking lot.

The last section we headed around the Pilot Mountain knob. We passed the leader, and Jason was in second about 10 seconds behind. That's where he'd finish. Not bad for taking 6 weeks off. As we headed around the knob, I was the middle man in a pack of three. We stayed this way and I had planned to make a pass about 200 meters from the finish. This was thrown out the window as this section was crowded with people starting their run around the knob while we were ending our run around the knob. So I didn't have a chance to pass. We ran up some steep steps in the same order, and once we got to the top, the guy in front of me started sprinting. My legs were like jello. I started sprinting too late when I saw the finish and knew I couldn't catch him, I just hoped I could hold off the guy behind me. I did, and finished in 16th place with a time of 30:36. Most importantly, no achilles pain!

I enjoyed some homemade chili and then headed home. It was a good race and I look forward to doing it again next year!