Monday, December 27, 2010

12/11/2010: Magnus Gluteus 50K Race Report

A few weeks ago I went back to Magnus Gluteus 50K for the 2nd year. I really like this race, which serves as the club's holiday party of sorts. What better way to celebrate the holidays than run 31 miles? The race is on the Bull Run trail, which is only about 30 minutes away, and it is a great time of year to get in a long training run with some friends.

The run went very well, and I had a great time just like last year. I was running on fairly tired legs after doing 80 miles the week before and hadn't done a run over 20 miles in a very long time, but I felt good nonetheless.

On the first 12 or 13 mile section, I was moving surprisingly well. I was running out in the lead and ran a pretty fast split on this hilly trail (sub 8 minute miles). I ran a lot of that section with a young guy from LA. He was a 5K runner, and his longest previous training run was a 13 miler the week before. Sounds kind of like someone I know (cough, Brome). Oh, and did I mention he was wear the Vibram Five Fingers and had never run in them on trails? That is crazy even in the world of ultramarathons.

Next I got to the infamous "Do Loop". The barely marked, unnavigable section that meanders through a heavily wooded area. As I went into this section, I lost the fast cross country guy. I didn't see him again and dearly hope that he made it out of the Loop.

I was relatively sure I was going in the right direction based on what I remembered from last year and was feeling pretty confident. Then I got lost. The good news is that I cut the loop a bit short. This was much better than the typical getting lost situation, which involves going round and round the loop until you're too exhausted to move and finally give up.

I don't think I cut too much of the loop, but I managed to get ahead of the first place guy who had passed me just as we went through the loop. Fortunately this is barely even a race with no entry fee, timing system, or any of the other formalities that would indicate it is actually a race. I wasn't too worried.

I got back to the main trail to run the same 12-13 miles back to the finish/start. My legs were getting very tired, and I slowed down but still made decent progress. I finished in 4:37, which would be a solid 50K PR had I not cut the course short.

I've been training pretty well since then and have been concocting some racing plans for 2011, but more on that in the next post.

Happy holidays, everybody!

Monday, November 29, 2010

11/29/10: Flemington Turkey Trot & 5K PR

Steve and I have a semi-tradition of running the Flemington Turkey Trot each year. I realize that if it is "semi" then it really isn't a tradition, but oh well. Mike Mozer also joined in on the semi-tradition and rounded out our "Blood, Sweat, and Beers" team.

It's been a long time since I've run this race seriously since it's often right after a major race (Philly Marathon or JFK 50). For that matter, it's been a very long time since I've run any 5K seriously. But over the last few weeks, I've been running some surprisingly good speed workouts, so I decided to go for it.

My legs were still a little sore from running the Philly Marathon with dad 4 days before and doing a workout of 800s two days before. I felt pretty good all considering, though.

The gun went off, and the first mile went by quickly, as it always does. I was running very fast for me, but the pace felt sustainable. I hit the first mile in 5:32. I tried to stay relaxed and in control while still pushing the pace in the second mile. I didn't get an exact split for this mile, but I think it was around 5:45.

I was hurting in the last mile since I'm really not used to running this pace, but I know sub 18 and a big PR was in the bag. I hung on and finished in 17:48. That knocked out a long time goal of going sub 18 and was a 16 second PR. Also was good for 36th place out of over 5,500 runners. Woohooo!!!

So I guess even slow ultramarathoners like me can run fast sometimes. This also made me think how fast I can actually go for 5K. Maybe I'll give it a real go again someday.

Running has continued going well since the Turkey Trot. On Sunday I went for a long run on my favorite 25 mile loop (I mean who doesn't have a favorite 25 mile loop). I was feeling good and decided to run an extra 1.2 miles for hahas. Ran it in 3:15, which was surprisingly good for me.

I've been feeling awfully good recently, so hopefully I can keep it up and throw down some good performances this winter.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

11/21/2010: Philadelphia Marathon

Two posts in one day. You all are lucky readers!

Today was the Philly Marathon / Half Marathon extravaganza. Dad and I ran together in the marathon, Dylan (college roommate and Tahoe crew / guest poster) ran the marathon, Laura (Jen's high school friend and track teammate) ran the half marathon, and Roz (college friend) ran the marathon with one of her students in the Students Run Philly Style program.

It was wildly successful all around. Dad had an amazing race and ran 3:40, which qualified him for Boston with 5 minutes to spare! He ran strong the whole way, paced it perfectly, and just crushed it in general. We ran right around 8:12s for the first half and ran the second half in around 8:30s. This was only his second marathon, and it's incredible how well he had it dialed in. Congrats Dad!

I had a ton of fun running with Dad and really enjoyed the race. Highlights (aside from running with Dad) included excellent weather, gummi bears at mile 23, and liberal use of the beer aid station twice at miles 19 and 21. It's so good when it hits your lips.

Dylan did very little training and still managed to run 3:11 somehow. Rumor has it that he would have qualified for Boston if it wasn't for a porta potty stop. Dylan's ability to run races well with very little training just amazes me.

Laura racked up another half-marathon in her quest to run a half or a full in every state. Laura also didn't train a lot for this one but finished really well in 2:05.

We didn't get a full debrief from Roz, but we saw her out on the course running with her student. Students Run Philly Style is a great program, and it's great that Roz gives so much of her time to it.

Jen really outdid herself in crew duties this race. With so many runners going different distances, it was certainly complicated. Jen should write a book on how to crew in races. She's got a black belt in it.

I really like the Philly Marathon and have a ton of great memories there. I'm looking forward to going back there. Rocky has 5 movies (I only count 1-4 and 6), so I figure I should at least run the marathon that many times!

11/21/10: Mountain Masochist DNF

This post is about two weeks late, but I unfortunately DNFed at Mountain Masochist. Here are the details of my latest saga.

It was a cold day, and we started off in the dark at 5:30am on the roads for 5 or 6 miles. I was running a brisk pace, feeling good, and clicking off pre-dawn miles quickly. After 6 miles, we hit the trail and starting climbing. I was feeling good on the trails and moving up in the field.

Around mile 9, I went for my first S-cap and took a fall. Nice move, Will. I looked down and discovered my leg had very quickly gotten covered in blood. It wasn't pretty, but I felt fine and kept on running. The upside was that I figured I was now in contention for the best blood award!

Jen was waiting at the mile 11.5 aid station. She quickly switched out my bottle for me and sent me on the way. Boy what a great crew I have! There was a long climb up to about 2,000 feet, and I was still feeling great and ran the whole climb.

I was in about 15th place at this point, which is great for me in the very competitive field there. Unfortunately I hadn't been able to drink much of anything the whole race. I've learned my lesson not to overhydrate and let it just come to me. My new formula is to take it easy on the drinking for a while, wait until I get thirsty, and then drink as needed. The problem was not I knew I was getting dehydrated but still couldn't get much down.

The top of the climb is at mile 17 or 18, and I was starting to cramp from the dehydration. My legs weren't doing very well on the downhill. I threw down a few S-caps in case it was an electroloyte issue, but they didn't help. I was still about run a decent pace and got to Jen at mile 22 not feeling great.

Jen filled up my bottle with ginger ale, which I hoped would help. From mile 22, it is a nasty 8 mile climb up to mile 30 and 4,000+ feet. A very daunting prospect when I already felt bad. I slowed down on the climb and tried to make it to mile 27. The bright side is that the views up there were amazing, as they were for much of the course. The beginning of November is close to peak foliage in southern Virginia, and these really were beautiful mountains.

I came into mile 27 in worse shape than mile 22. I still wasn't drinking much of anything and was starting to feel pretty out of it. I wasn't ready to throw in the towel though, so I managed to eat one whole grape and got back on the trail.

The wheels really started falling off on the last big nasty climb to mile 30. My legs were cramping, and I couldn't run uphill anymore. Something I did during the fall early on had apparently been getting aggrevated, and it was also very painful to run downhill. It was getting extremely cold moving up the mountain, and there was snow on the ground. Because I was moving so slowly, I was really freezing. Yeah, not good.

I literally stumbled into the mile 30 aid station. I slumped into a chair and put my head in my hands. A little kid was apparently concerned about my leg that was still covered in blood and offered me a band-aid. Very cute, but it wasn't quite going to cut it. I asked the aid station crew to fill up the 1/3 of the bottel I had managed to drink with more ginger ale and stumbled on down the trail.

I now have 6 miles to go to get to Jen, and I am not in good shape. I take a sip from my bottle, and it tastes god awful. I have no idea what the aid station crew put it in, but I immediately threw up everything in my stomach. Now I can't run uphill, can't run downhill, am ridiculously dehydrated and low on calories, and am freezing. Somebody get me off this mountain!

I have no choice but to keep moving, so that's what I do. Somehow I get off the trail to the dirt road that climbs to the next aid station. This mile long climb really seemed to just add insult to injury. I trudge on up, wander over to Jen, collapse on the ground, and announce weakly that I'm dropping. Jen immediately agrees that is a good idea all around and promptly tells the aid station workers I'm dropping. They also agree. I'm glad we're all in agreement. Jen half carries me to the car, and we drive off this helacious mountain.

I think I trained really well for this race and was in top shape. I felt great for a while and was running strong. But on some days things go wrong and there is nothing you can do. I'll hopefully go back to MMTR one day, and I hope to have a bit more luck!

Monday, November 1, 2010

11/1/10: Tapering like it's my job

I’m five days out from MMTR and definitely ready to go!

Tapering is always weird. I can run 90+ mile weeks and feel awesome. Then I stop running, and I feel like I’m about to fall apart. It’s very strange, but I’ve gotten used to it. I don’t know if it’s the residual fatigue from training or just all in my head, but whatever causes it, I’ve learned not to stress out.

After the 22 mile run I did two weeks before the race, my right leg was feeling all sorts of messed up. My calf was blown, my knee was all locked up, and my hamstring was incredibly tight. I just took it really easy with the running and made sure to sleep a lot. Now I’m feeling really good and am ready to rock and roll at MMTR.

Mom and Dad were here last weekend, and it was great to see them. Dad and I went on a 12 mile run on Saturday and an 8 mile run on Sunday. It was awesome running with Dad as usual, though I still wasn’t feeling 100%.

Then on Sunday afternoon I went to the gym with the intention of lifting weights and maybe some stairmaster. My legs felt pretty good on the way over, so I decided to hit the treadmill. I ran 1.5 miles at 6:00 miles and then 2 10:00 miles at a 10% grade. The 6 minute miles felt pretty good, and the 10% grade felt REALLY easy. Better still, my legs feel great today.

I feel very ready for Saturday and just can’t wait for the gun to go off!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

10/24/2010: Fine Tuning for MMTR

As you can probably tell, I'm really getting excited for the MMTR 50. The big training is done, and now I mostly just need to make sure I'm rested for the race. I definitely want to avoid what happened in Laurel Highlands, where I came into the race not nearly rested enough.

I hit 90 miles last week, which was the third week out from the race. While it may not seem like that is tapering at all, the mileage was heavily stacked to the start of the week, and I was taking it easy in the second half of the week. I ran 6 easy miles on Wednesday, 3 easy miles on Thursday, and took Friday off.

Aside from resting, my other goal is to do some fine tuning to make sure I'm fully race ready. The first part of that was to get in a "comfortably hard" final long run this weekend. I did some light running and cross training yesterday to make sure I'd be ready for a long run on the Potomac Heritage trail today, which is fairly hilly and has a good amount of short steep climbs. The goal was to run hard but not redline it.

I had hoped to run to the end of the trail and back, which would have been 26 miles. But my legs were feeling really tired and "tweaked" though when I started the run. I guess I was still feeling the 90 mile week and 44 mile long run. I decided to cut it short and maybe not run as hard.

The first 7 miles were on hilly roads. I was hitting around 8 minute miles, and my legs definitely were not feeling great. When I hit the trail at mile 7, I surprised myself by really coming to life. My legs hurt less, and I was able to pick up the effort level. I felt fantastic on the climbs and descents. Usually 10 minute miles is fairly brisk on the Potomac Heritage trail, but I was averaging under 9 minute miles. I came off the trail at mile 16 and ran pretty hard to the end. Finished in 3 hours 3 minutes, which is a 7 minute PR on that route. Definitely better than I had expected, especially with tired legs. This run was a huge confidence builder for MMTR, which is exactly what I wanted.

Later this week, I'm also planning to do one of my favorite workouts for ultras as long as my legs are up to it. It's a treadmill workout where I run a few 6 minute miles, take a short break, and run a few 10 minute miles miles at 10% grade. I love this workout because it is a bit of a speed workout and then a great way to practice running hard uphill when you're already tired.

I'll do another short speed workout early in the week before the race just to keep the legs moving. I'm also trying to do some cross training and strength training this week, though I'll back off from that next week. Yesterday I biked 10 miles easy and did a good amount of upper body lifting.

Hopefully this will all result in me being in perfect shape for race day on 11/6!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

10/18/10: Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim

On Saturday I went for a really long training run with Greg. We figure the run was about 44 miles with 9-10K feet elevation gain, which makes it the biggest and baddest run I've done at least since my 53 mile DNF at Laurel Highlands in June.

Greg came up with the route, and a glorious route it was. The short version is that you climb up and over the Massanutten mountains, run across the Shenandoah Valley, run up the Shenandoahs to the Appalachian Trail, and turn around and do it again. Aside from running to another mountain range and back, another cool part is that the whole route is on the Tuscarora Trail, which is an ~250 mile trail that runs mostly parallel to the AT.

Here is the more detailed course description:
  • Start in the valley between the western and eastern ridge of the Massanuttens
  • Climb up the eastern ridge to about 2,000 feet (0 - 3 miles)
  • Run along the ridge with some great views out over the valley towards the Shenandoahs (3 - 6 miles)
  • For kicks descend back to the valley on the western side, climb back up, and descend over to the Shenandoah valley (6 - 12 miles)
  • Run across the Shenandoah valley and river on rolling dirt roads (12 - 16)
  • Climb forever from the valley up to about 3,500 feet (16 - 22.5)
  • Turn around and run back to car (22.5 to 44)

For the math whizzes out there, you'll see that the way back was a mile shorter. We took a shortcut route on the final descent (weak sauce, I know).

Below is a terrain map of where we ran. I've marked the starting point, where we crossed over the Massanuttens and into the valley, and where we hit the AT and turned around.

It was an awesome day out in the mountains. The weather was perfect, the views were incredible with the low humidity, and there was some good fall foliage. My legs were a bit dead after running 90+ miles the prior week, but I hit a groove after a few hours and stayed there for the rest of the 10 hour run.

Here are some pictures from the adventure:

(After climbing up the eastern ridge of the Massanuttens. We ran over the rolling hills up on the ridgeline that you can see in the center of the picture)

(View out over the valley to the Shenandoahs where we were going. It looked pretty dauntingly far away)

(Crossing the river down in the valley)

(We came across the biggest mushroom I have ever seen. It was bigger than Greg's head! Greg ate the whole thing while running)

(Part of the way on the climb up to the Appalachian trail. You can see the Massanuttens in the distance.)

(There's a trail somewhere in here!)

(Fall scenery up at 3,500 feet)

(Back down in the valley. The highest peak in the distance is where we came from.)

(View while climbing back up the Massanuttens)

(I really love this part of the trail that climbs back up into the Massanuttens)

(Another view over the Shenandoahs from the Massanuttens. Almost home!)

It was a fantastic run, and I was really excited by how good I felt. I'm pumped for MMTR in a few weeks and just need to make sure I'm fully recovered and rested!
Greg, thanks for keeping me company and designing a killer course.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10/10/10: Training Update

Last week was a bit of a down week for training. I ended up hitting something like 55 miles. Most of it was pretty easy running with the exception of a track workout with three 1 mile repeats (5:57, 5:51, 5:38).

I was feeling pretty energized going into this weekend. On Saturday I ran 26 miles out in the Massanuttens. It was an absolutely beautiful day (got some good pictures below). The run was so/so, and I basically ran out of gas, but it was a good time.

On Sunday I followed it up with a fairly brisk 27 miles that felt pretty good. One more big weekend of training for MMTR and then it is taper time!

(Nice morning view into the valley)
(The eastern ridge of the Massanuttens. I'm running on the western ridge. You can see the Shenadoahs in the background, too.)

(It was definitely well into fall up top!)

(Looking out west towards the GW National Forest)

(VIew from Signal Knob)

(Even better view looking out east over the Massanuttens and Shenandoahs)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

9/25/10: Training Update

I've continued to have a great time running the last few weeks.

I took it easy for a week and then got back to 80 miles this past week. Last weekend I ran 20 and 22 miles, and both were really hard and by far the fastest I've run on those routes. As a result, I was mostly taking it easy and recovering the rest of the week.

Today I was still not feeling 100% and did 8 miles with a bunch of cross training (30 minutes biking and 1 hour stairmaster). Tomorrow I'm heading out to Bull Run for a long trail run (hopefully 30+ miles).

I also finally got around to posting the pictures from my run in Toronto. It was actually a much nicer morning and much more scenic than the pictures show.

I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but I'm definitely putting my name in the for MMT 100 next year. We'll see what the lottery gods have in store, but I'm crossing my fingers!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11/10: Training Update

This ended up being a great week of training. The stats are:
  • Saturday: 23 miles in the Massanuttens on the Tuscarora trail
  • Sunday: 26 miles on DC trails
  • Monday: 17 miles mostly on hilly roads with 2 treadmill miles at 10% grade and 6mph
  • Tuesday: Off due to work travel
  • Wednesday: 9 mile run in Toronota. It was a beautiful sunrise run along Lake Ontario. I took some pictures that I'll post soon.
  • Thursday: 11 miles
  • Friday: 9 miles with hill sprints
  • Total: 95 miles

I felt strong all week, and most of the runs were pretty fast relative to my usual pace. This was the third week of heavier training (75 miles, 85 miles, 95 miles), and next week will be a down week with 40ish miles to recover.

I'm taking this weekend mostly off while I help my Dad do some work at the Florida house and drive with him from Florida to DC to bring some things back to Jersey. It'll be good to take it easy and not run much for a few days after a tough week of training.

Hope you all enjoy the great fall weather!

Monday, September 6, 2010

9/6/10: Labor Day weekend training

It has been an amazing Labor Day weekend here in the DC. For all 3 days, high temperatures have been in the low 80s with no humidity at all. In other words, a perfect weekend for tons of running!
On Saturday, I met up with Greg at Elizabeth Furnace for some mountain running. We did a roughly 23 mile out and back on the Tuscarora Trail, and it was a great day out in the mountains. Up on ridges, there was a great cool breeze, and the views were spectacular with the chrystal clear sky.
Unfortunately most of my pictures didn't turn out except for the one below, which was the view across the Shenandoah Valley towards where the Tuscarora Trail hits the Appalachian Trail. I've run a lot of the Tuscarora Trail, but this section was new, and views were great as you dropped off the mountain towards the valley.

On Sunday I did another 26 on trails around DC. I felt surprising good for the day after a long run in the mountains and ran much faster than expected. Then today I did another 17 or so with the last 2 miles on the treadmill at 10% grade.

That brought the total for the 3 days to over 65 miles, which is some of the best training I've done in a long time. My legs are pretty shot, but it felt great to get out there and run hard this weekend.

I'm looking forward to some more weekends of hard running on beautiful trails leading up to Mt Masochist. If this weather keeps up, it'll be a fun fall!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

8/29/10: Training Update

Boy it's been a while since I've posted! I've been working a ton and traveling a lot, which unfortunately has cut into both running and blogging.

For the last month, training has been decent but not stellar. My mileage has been a bit lower than usual in the 60-70 range. I've done some pretty good speedwork on the treadmill while traveling for work, but the long runs and trail mileage haven't exactly been tip top.

I'm starting to build back up though and get myself ready for what I hope will be a good performance at the Mountain Masochist 50 miler in early November. I have plenty of time left but just need to start upping the mileage and hitting the long trails runs on the weekend.

Last week I managed 75 miles and had a pretty sold 25 mile trail run out on the Seneca Greenway. I felt pretty solid throughout and enjoyed getting back to the Seneca Greenway fro the first time since March. I also got a few pictures while out there:

(There a several nice looking fields towards the beginning of the Seneca Greenway)
(Creek I passed around mile 8)
Today I started off the week with a 30 mile run on some of the tougher trails around Washington DC, notably the Potomac Heritage trail. This run kicked my ass, but sometimes you need those kinds of runs. I also got a few pictures on the run. It was a bit hot and humid, but all in all was a beautiful day with some great views on the local trails.

(Near where I picked up the Potomac Heritage trail, which was around mile 4 of the trail. I took hilly roads through North Arlington and a few other smaller trails to get there. The creek is on the right with the trail on the left)

(Most of the waterfalls were running pretty low, but this one for some reason was flowing more than usual)

(Looking out on the Potomac River from the trail. About half of the trail runs right along the river)

(You can tell the Potomac is pretty dry from this view)

(Dumbarton Oaks, which is right behind Georgetown and little known treasure)

(More Dumbarton Oaks)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

7/29/10: Catherine's 50K Race Report

This past weekend I hit a new level of stupidity (hard to imagine, I know).

I was scheduled to run a 50K, which was a questionable idea in and of itself. I had been on vacation in Hawaii and hadn’t been running much. The course was also out in the Southern Massanuttens and a tough one with somewhere in the neighborhood of 7K feet of climbing. It would have been a rough return after the hiatus in the best of circumstances.

As it turned out, circumstances were not at their best. The forecast called for 100+ degree temperatures. Did this deter me? You would think so, but for some reason I still decided to run. I even threw in a cocktail party the night before just to make things interesting.

In one last bout of stupidity, I also opted not to go for the shortened route on the out and back course. What can I say? I guess sometimes you just have to put it on the line and see what you’re made of.

(At the race start. I was already starting to sweat!)

It was a tough run, but I finished pretty strong and had a good day all in all. The first ~9 miles was on some trails I’ve run before and is basically a long climb up followed by a long descent down to the first aid station. The climb went pretty quickly as my legs felt pretty fresh after the rest. I also made good time on the way down the mountain to the first aid station.

(Running down the mountain)

I blew through the aid station as the race director said there was a natural spring just a mile and a half down the road. I filled up my bottles there and had a kind volunteer pour a pitcher of spring water over my head. It was amazingly and gloriously cold. Apparently it is fed from deep underground.

The next 10 miles out and back from the spring were fairly uneventful. I was getting a bit tired along the way, as my legs weren’t really in top shape after vacation. I was moving a lot slower on the uphills in particular.

Despite filling up by bottles at the halfway aid station, I was running low coming back towards the spring and was also getting really hot. Temperatures were really rising on the course, and it was slowing me down.

I stopped at the spring for a few minutes to get a lot more cold water on my head, neck, and back. There are few things in life that feel that good. There are some that come to mind, but not many! My core temperature lowered significantly, and I came back to life. I motored down the gravel road to the aid station 9 miles from the finish. I came in feeling strong and quickly filled up my bottles and got some more cold water on me to cool down.

The huge climb up the next 4 or so miles was brutal. My legs were shot, it was really hot, and I could already tell that my two Nathan bottles wouldn’t get me to the finish. I kept chugging along and finally hit the top. I start moving faster on the downhill but was out of water with 4 miles to go. Luckily I passed Eva from VHTRC hiking up in the other direction, and she filled up one of my bottles. Thanks Eva!

The last two miles were a gentle downhill, and I made good time again now that I was rehydrated. I was also really motivated to finish and cool off. I finished in around 6:35, which is slow for me on that course, but I was pleased given the conditions.

I survived my own stupidity and came out with a pretty solid race. Now I’m just hoping it gets a bit cooler for the rest of the summer!

Monday, July 5, 2010

7/4/10: 4th of July Browntown Loop with VHTRC

Yesterday I met up with the VHTRC in the Shenandoahs for the traditional 4th of July running of the Browntown loop.

I run a lot in George Washington National Forest but have hardly spent any time in the Shenandoahs. Man I've been missing out! It was a beautiful 20-21 mile loop. There are some great views and a lot of fun trail that is very runnable (especially compared to the Massanuttens).

Below is a picture from the spot where we all met up at 7am. The trailhead was about 15 minutes away from here towards the mountains. While it was supposed to hot later in the day, it was mid 50s at this point and looking like an excellent day for a run. It did warm up as the day went on, but it never felt too hot with the shade on the trail and lack of humidity.

The next few pictures show the view from Big Devil Stairs, which we got to by a side trail at the top of the first climb. On the way up, we saw a bear from the distance, and there was a buzzard hanging out at the top of Big Devil Stair. Hooray wildlife!

I didn't really know the route, so I was trying to stick with someone who knew the way. That someone ended up being Keith, which meant I had to run hard. This was at the bottom of the first climb, and I was starting to feel not so good. I hung back a bit but kept Keith and John in sight and met up at the General Store.

The next climb really worked me over, and I felt like crap. Keith very kindly circled back for me to point me in the right direction for the next turn. It was all downhill from there, but I just couldn't get the legs going. I started to cramp up and realized I was probably low on salt. I ended up taking four S-caps pretty rapid fire and really came back to life. I was back to having a good time in the last few miles and finished strong.
Thanks to the VHTRC for another excellent run! I'm excited to get back out to explore this area again soon.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

6/29/10: Gettin to It

So first off, Eve is finally recovered from Laurel Highlands. Between waking up at 4am, playing all day at aid stations, having to sit in my lap when I was gross and sweaty, and me spilling Ginger Ale all over her on the way back to the hotel, it was a rough day for her. Ultramarathons are tough for all involved.

I’m feeling recovered as well, but it did take longer than I had anticipated. I thought I’d be 100% after a week, but it ended up taking a full two weeks. I guess 53 miles is still 53 miles even when it comes with a DNF!

My shin continued to bother me after the race, but it has been subsiding and feels back to normal now. I’m really glad I didn’t push further in the race and do something worse. My knee is also still a bit tweaked, but it is also continuing to get better.

At the end of the Laurel Highlands race report, I mentioned that I wanted to focus a lot more on quality over quantity. I’ve always been more old school and felt that you could extol quality all you want, but at the end of the day, the person who gets out there and runs the big mileage will end up winning.

In my new and reformed mindset, I still think that quantity is important, but I recognize that it just isn’t enough. I really want to take my running to the next level, and to do that, I need to be able to run fast on technical trails in the mountains for a long time. I have plenty of endurance, but I just don’t have the speed or technical running ability.

This last weekend was the first step in that direction. On Saturday, I drove up to Catoctin State Park to run with Greg Zaruba. He and I have run a lot of miles together in races, and Greg is a really fun guy. We ran close to 20 miles in the mountains through his backyard trails, and it was a really solid run. I felt great, the trails were beautiful, and it was a good time running with Greg. Greg is also a really strong downhill runner, so he pushed me a lot on the downhills, which has historically been a weak point.

On Sunday I ran 11 miles on the Potomac Heritage trail, which is a really rocky and technical trail that runs along the west bank of the Potomac and is very close to where I live. It was 99 degrees and humid, and I got very dehydrated, but I ran fast at least for the first half and had a solid run overall.

I’m already feeling a lot stronger on climbs and on technical trails. Here are some of the main things I’m planning on to continue moving in the right direction:
  • More time on the trails
  • More runs out in the mountains (ideally once a month or more)
  • Shorter, faster trail and mountain runs. Most of my trail and mountain running tends to be on really long runs, but I think shorter runs of 10-20 miles would help me get faster on trails.
  • Run timed routes fairly regularly and track progress. I think this will also help me get faster and will make it easier to see if I’m getting in better shape. Started by running 2:03 on the 11 mile Sunday run.
  • More track workouts with the DC Road Runners

I’m still planning to keep up a decent mileage base but will try to focus more on the above rather than being a slave to big weekly mileage. I’ll let you all know how it goes!

Friday, June 18, 2010

6/18/10: Laurel Highlands Ultra Race Report

This last weekend I attempted the Laurel Highlands 77 Mile Ultra and unfortunately had to drop at mile 53. That being said, I’ve never been happier with a DNF for whatever that is worth.

It’s been a while since I’ve written up a full race report, so I’ll provide the full lowdown on Laurel Highlands even though I didn’t actually finish

Start to 11.6

Jen, Eve, and I woke up around 4am to go from our hotel room to the start line. Eve was wildly unhappy with being woken up that early. The race start was in a really great state park that had a beautiful waterfall running through it. I started thinking that white water rafting or kayaking may be a more fun outdoor sport for the day, but too late to change plans now!

We started at 5:30am, and it was just light enough to see where we were going on the trail. It was already humid with temps in the 70s, and it got up to the 90s later in the day. Not exactly ideal, but what can you do?

The first 8 miles is mostly climbing, and I severely underestimated this climb. I unfortunately didn’t have much opportunity to get out to the mountains to train, and the climb was tougher than it should have been. It certainly was beautiful, though. We broke through the clouds and got to see the tops of surrounding mountains peeking out around us.

I was pretty tired by the top of the climb, and my legs felt way more dead than they should have. While the terrain mellowed out, unfortunately my legs never came back to me. I think it was a combination of not having enough trail/mountain training and too short of a taper, but this was definitely the worst my legs have ever felt during a race.

My stomach also started going downhill fast around mile 8. Uhoh … all too familiar of a feeling. My stomach was rumbling and roiling, I felt really full, and I was having a hard time getting anything down.

It was going to be a tough day.

11.6 to 19.3

I rolled into the mile 11.6 aid station feeling like crap. But you can’t stop a 77 mile ultra 11.6 miles in. Unless one of your legs literally falls off, it’s just not an option.

I moved through quickly, said hi to Jen and Eve, and started plodding towards mile 19.6. Things definitely weren’t getting better. My legs still felt like lead, and my stomach was getting worse. I also managed to make a wrong turn with a group of guys I was running with that cost us about 15 minutes. Doh!

I kept on moving forward and running slowly with my main goal being to get to the next aid station. I figured that once I got there, I could reevaluate and figure out what to do.

19.3 to 28

Finally the aid station! I immediately sat down, poured a bunch of ice water on my head, and started chugging some soda. Eve sat in my lap, and we hung out for a bit. The soda gave me some much needed energy, and I at least felt a lot cooler, so I dragged my ass up and started running towards mile 28. I told Jen that it would take me a long while, but I’d meet her there eventually.

So far I have never been able to bring my stomach back after it went south. This time when things went bad, I just shut everything down. Stopped eating much of anything, didn’t drink much water, and stuck to whatever soda I could stomach with some regular S-caps. Slowly I started pulling out of the funk.

My legs still were no good, but I finally felt decent and had my stomach cooperating. Woohooo!!! I was still moving slowly, but it was getting to be much more enjoyable. The trail really was beautiful. It’s just covered in lush ferns and really is a great place to run.

As my stomach continued to settle down, I was able to eat some fruit and a Clif bar, which tasted pretty good. Later on I hit some Clif Shot Roks, which I’ve recently become a BIG fan of.

Around mile 26 you hit Seven Springs ski resort. It’s a really cool part of the trail that is really wide open and gives you a great view of the surrounding mountains. Before I knew it, I was at mile 28 and finally feeling decent. Jen said that I actually looked like I didn’t want to die. Next aid station was only 4 miles away, so I got myself moving on down the trail.

28 to 32.3

I was still in much much better spirits, but my legs continued their downhill spiral. I really didn’t know how long I could keep going and was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it 77 miles. But I was still having a good enough time and figured I’d keep shooting for the next aid station until my legs totally gave out. I figured that would be somewhere around mile 40 based on how I felt, which would at least be a respectable day’s work.

This stretch had a lot of hikers who cheered for us loudly as we went by, which was fun. I also had some company along the way for much of this stretch with a nice guy named David, who was having a great day and went on to a great finish.

32.3 to 44

I came into mile 32 tired but in good spirits. It was getting really hot by this point, but luckily we’d been in the shade for most of the day. I asked about the next aid station and was told it was at mile 39. I figured I could make it that far and told Jen that I’d see her there.

I took off and started slowly slogging through this rocky, technical patch. I was slowing down a lot, and my legs were seriously starting to hurt.

At mile 36 we got to the detour around the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The good part was that this section was on dirt roads and much more runnable. Bad part was that it was all in the sun, and it was REALLY hot.

As I kept chugging along the in the heat, I quickly started to realize that there wasn’t an aid station at mile 39. There was a manned water stop around 37, but I was only able to coax half a bottle from the guy. For some reason he seemed upset that I was asking. Given that he was there with the express purpose of handing out water, I’m not exactly sure what pissed him off so much.

At any rate, I was running out of water fast. I was carrying two Nathan handhelds with me, and they were getting empty fast. My 41 or so I was dry. I knew there was an aid station at mile 53 but didn’t know if there was anything sooner. If there wasn’t, I was going to be in big trouble.

I was making my way slowly up a big climb and getting incredibly worried about dehydration. Then I saw it! An aid station! My oasis in the forest! I took off running and ran my way all the way up there. As I got closer, someone started shouting over to me. Turns out it was Greg Zaruba.

Greg is fast guy, and I’ve had the pleasure of running with him in a bunch of races. He was recovering at the aid station, and there were a bunch of other guys trying to bring themselves back to life, too. Turns out that last section was brutal for everybody.

I got some much needed water, soda, and salt and was feeling MUCH better. Disaster avoided.

44 to 52.9

I left the aid station feeling better and was able to run for most of the first few miles. I then started to slow down fast, and by 48 or 49 just had nothing left. My legs were totally shot. I couldn’t run at all anymore, and my right shin was really starting to bother me.

I kept plodding along and inched my way closer to mile 53. I was planning to drop there and was feeling ok about calling it a day. Things hadn’t been ideal, but I’d gotten a lot further than I hoped. It was slow going, and I was very ready to call it a day when I got to the aid station.
I sat down and recovered for 20 or so minutes to make sure I was 100% in my decision to quit. I still felt crappy after resting there for a while, so I called it.

All in all, I’m really happy with how it turned out. I would really have liked to finish, and I think I could do very well on that course someday, but I pushed as hard as I could and ended up with my 3rd longest run ever (after Vermont 100 and 68 miles at TRT). Good enough for me.

  1. The important thing is that I learned a lot from the race, including:
    It is possible to pull my stomach back when it goes downhill. It seems like the key is to shut down the eating and drinking until it settles down and feels better.
  2. I need more time in the mountains and on the trails. I knew I was pushing it with spending much of the year on roads training for Boston. Even aside from the climbing, it takes a lot of time on the trails to be good at running them. I need to be more consistent and will try to run tough trails more often in the next year leading up to TRT 100.
  3. Do more course research. I got stuck out there without enough water and need to avoid that in the future.
  4. Take Tylenol 8 hour before races and again during very long races. I think this would have helped a bit with my legs. I did it at Vermont 100 and had a good result there.

I’ll take it easy for a bit to recover but am excited to continue training hard and begin the long build-up to TRT 100 next year.

Monday, May 31, 2010

5/31/10: Indestructable

This was a rare weekend of no running for me. Jen and I went back for our 5th reunion at Princeton, so I took a few days off, which I really needed anyway. Reunions was great as always. A lot of good friends, a lot of beer, a lot of dancing, and a lot of fun.

After a long weekend of hard partying, I decided to recover by waking up at 4:45am on Memorial Day for one last big training run before Laurel Highlands. I hit 42 miles in a faster than expected 6 hours and 45 minutes. The first half was singletrack trail, and the second half was mostly paved trail with some more single track

I felt really fantastic for the whole run and finished with a lot left in the tank. It was really hot and humid, but that didn't seem to bother me much. My stomach was also better than it has ever been on a really long run. I ate and drank a ton and felt 100% the whole way. On days like this you just feel indestructable. Everything goes right, and it feels like you can run forever.

Hopefully I'll feel the same way in 2 weeks. In the meantime, I need to do some SERIOUS tapering. I followed up 105 miles last week with this run, so I have a lot of recovering to do. I had to cram a lot of training in pretty quickly, but almost 2 weeks should still be enough time.

Bring it on Laurel Highlands. Bring it on.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

5/23/20: Back to the mountains

I'm a mere 3 weeks out from Laurel Highlands now and had a monster weekend of training. Jen was out of town for the weekend at her sister's bridal shower, so that meant it was time for some serious running!

I ended up hitting 60 miles for the weekend, which is a tie for the most I've run in a training weekend. All in all I felt great, and I think I'm in good shape for Laurel Highlands.

On Saturday I drove out almost 2 hours to the Massanuttens to run in the southern part of the range. I realized I hadn't been to the mountains since January, and it definitely kicked my butt.

I took a few pictures below:

The run started with a 5 mile climb up to Bird Knob that was 2K+ elevation gain. The terrain gets pretty gnarly in spots, and this is a picture of the "trail" up to Bird Knob.

Near the top I saw this guy in the middle of the trail. It was about 5-6 feet long, and I almost stepped on it!

Awesome view from the top of Bird Knob

View north towards where I started

The mountains in the distance are on the other side of the gap where I started. I've run over there before too, and it's also a great run.

Field about 8 miles in

Nice section of trail. This is as smooth as the Massanuttens get. No rocks!

Another nice view after the second big climb

Next weekend I'm hoping to do one more really long run that is around 40 miles. After that, it's basically taper for Laurel Highlands and hope for the best!