Saturday, March 14, 2009

3/14/09: 1st place or DNF

Back in high school and college, my main sport was ski racing. I know, who actually ski races?

Sometime while I was in college, Bode Miller burst on the scene. You may remember him from hearing about how awesome he was and then watching him stink it up at the Olympics. Bode always had a very simple philosophy - 1st place or DNF (did not finish). He skied balls to walls and either crushed the competition or crashed spectacularly.

My good friend Danny Brome (aka babaganoush, the big guy, or fat man) reminded me of this last night. It seems that I've adopted the Bode mentality for running. Last weekend was the DNF (see below for gruesome details). This weekend, at the EFA 50k, I went out hard and actually got first place!

This race was another tough training run for the BMER 50 Miler on March 28th. It was out in the Massanuttens again very close to where I ran the MMT Training Run in January and where I took some pictures 3 weeks ago. As usual with the Massanuttens, it would be a tough run with over 6K feet of climbing and plenty of rocks.

I did some great training last week and hit 102 miles. I though I'd be worn out from the mileage, but I felt pretty good and started out pretty hard. We took off around 7am from the parking lot and started up what would be the first big climb of the day.

I was soon in 3rd place but found out that the 2 guys ahead of me were going to call it a day at mile 22 when you loop back close to the finish line. They went on ahead leaving me in 1st place for the 50K.

I felt great up the first big climb and didn't see anyone else until mile 7 or so. A guy I didn't recognize was closing one me and caught me around mile 10. We ran together for a little while, and then I pulled away on the next big climb. The next 3.5 miles were on the ridgeline, and you basically had to jump from rock to rock the whole time.

I was moving along pretty well, but Greg (as I found out his name was) caught me at the end of this section. This dude could really move in the technical sections! It became a pretty consistent theme that I'd pull way ahead on the uphills, and he'd reel me back on the technical sections and downhills.

We came to the next big uphill section at mile 15, and I charged ahead hard to try to build my lead. We hit the top around mile 17, and the next 5 miles were technical and flat/downhill. I knew I'd have to really push on this section to hold Greg off. I was still feeling great, so I ran a bit faster than I normally would.

I came into the mile 22 aid station still feeling strong. I hadn't seen Greg in a while, but I figured he was close behind. From here we'd go on a 9 mile loop. There was a monster climb in the first 3 miles and then another 6 miles of technical, flat/downhill running. I planned to run for all I was worth in the 3 mile uphill and then try my best to hold on in the next 6 miles. 1st place or DNF!

I was warned that the 3 mile climb would be brutal. It started off pretty runnable, and I thought "man, this isn't so bad." Wrong. I got owned in the last mile or so. The trail got steeper and steeper as you went up, and it was just laughably hard at the top. Well maybe not, because I certainly wasn't laughing.

The next 2.3 miles on the ridgeline were still pretty tough, especially after the ludicrous climb. My stomach was also going south (pretty familiar story), but a Ginger Chew helped settle it down. I found Ginger Chews online recently, and I think they'll be extremely helpful with my frequent stomach troubles.

I charged hard in the last 3 mile downhill. I crossed the finish line (aka stumbled into the parking lot) in 5:41 and first place.

I was really happy to be able to charge hard and finish strong after a really tough training week. 1st place or DNF strategy is working so far! I'm hoping to hit 100 miles again this week provided that I feel ok after the race today. After that, I'll do a mini taper for a week before BMER 50.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

3/8/09: Not so great success

Yesterday I hopped into the Seneca Greenway 50K for another fun, hard training run. It's a great race about 35 minutes from home on the scenic and not too tough Seneca Greenway trail.

This weekend was unseasonably warm in DC. It was over 60 degrees at the start and around 75 at the finish. It was a really nice change from winter weather, but I think it ended up taking its toll on me.

I took off running pretty hard. I was definitely going faster than I should have since I hadn't tapered and was just using this as a training run, but I ended up in the front with some of the lead runners, and my competitive spirit got the best of me.

I came through mile 19 in 2:30, which is sub-8 minute mile pace. For me, that is definitely hauling some ass for a hilly, muddy trail run. I knew I'd have to slow down after that so I didn't kill myself in this race, but I was hoping that I could still cruise in to a 4:30 finish.

Nope! I had a stellar blow up at mile 20. My legs were still fine, but my stomach just went crazy. I had been really careful with taking S-caps and had switched over to Ginger Ale, so I should have been fine. But fine I was not.

I got to the point where I couldn't even run anymore. I found a nice big fallen tree and ended up laying down on the tree for 15 or 20 minutes to try to pull myself together. I finally felt good enough to at least walk a bit and slowly made my way to the next road crossing. If I needed to, I could have had one of the volunteers call to get me a ride to the finish, but I really wanted to try to pull this one out.

I sat down for a while, finished off my Ginger Ale, and took yet another S-cap. After quite a while, I asked how far it was to the next aid station. The volunteer asked if I wanted her to call me a ride. I said thanks, but I wasn't giving up that easy. I took off down the trail and was back running again.

Unfortunately it was hot out and I had already gone through all my Ginger Ale. After a few miles I was pretty dehydrated and was forced to walk to the next aid station. I filled up there, sat down again for a while, and then pushed on to the next aid station in about 3 miles.

Once again I was fine for 2 miles and then really struggled for the last mile. I downed my 5th S-cap but could tell that I was still having trouble absorbing anything that I had been drinking.

Right before the 25.5 mile aid station, I threw up all over the place. Nice. I also had a bloody nose earlier, so I really looked like quite a mess (even by trail ultra standards). Since things went downhill, it took me 1 hour to cover half a mile and 2:45 to cover the 5 miles. It had taken me longer to run 5 miles than it had the first 20!

Well, enough was enough. It was a while to the next aid station, I was really dehydrated now, it was still hard for me to get liquids down, and this was just supposed to be a training run! Game over. I caught a ride back to the finish and called it a day.

Cons from the day:
  • Miserable last 5 miles
  • Still have stomach problems to figure out
  • First ultramarathon DNF
  • Hands down most disgusting I've been at the end of a race.

Pros from the day

  • Blazing first 20 miles. Definitely getting better at fast trail running.
  • It showed that given enough time, I think I could come back from any stomach problem (though it would have taken a long time on this given day)