Wednesday, October 23, 2013

SANITY NOW - Stress Fracture Status: 2 1/2 Weeks In

So it has been around 2 ½ weeks now since my diagnosis of a right foot 3rd metatarsal stress fracture. A range of emotion has been experienced in that time. Some of feeling good about the time off while some of it being frustrated at not being out in fall weather doing what I love. And that is just the running perspective. Life in general has been tossed about. For the first week, walking was painful, especially when trying to find shoes to get around in. Normally, my commute to work was via bicycle. Not at the moment. At the advice of my doctor, I ditched running shoes due to the flex in the front. I bounced from dress shoes to work boots to cowboy boots trying to find the best fit from a function standpoint. Despite having an injury, I had responsibilities in the home, one of which is walking the dog, especially on days when my partner has to leave early for her classes at university. So it was vital for me to find something I could do without setting me back. Towards the end of the week, the cowboy boots seemed to produce the best results. Mentally this was going in the right direction.

On the Saturday after my injury, I decided to order a pair of Hoka One One’s. Really, I did not want to drop 160 on a pair of shoes. But I felt, they might be worth the investment. Luckily, I got the Bondi’s for 101. Most expensive shoes I have EVER purchased but I felt, if they did not work, I would know quickly so I could send them right back. (Thank you Running Warehouse for your awesome shipping and return policies.)

Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? My logic for pursuing these shoes was due to the maximalist sole. I figured such a large sole would not have the same flex in the front.

As I arrived home a week ago, the Hokas were waiting for me. Once I settled in from my day, I took them out of the box and did the flex test. YAY! They did not bend like I hoped. So, with this positive result, I put them on and walked around the house. For the first time, I felt I could walk normally. Progress?

Since then, the Hokas have been my get around shoe. Except in the office, where I make due with some dress shoes when I have to leave my desk.

With the benefit of the shoes, I have been thrust through more emotions. Wanting to run and healing. It is a balance I am doing my best to maintain for the sake of my sanity. After the two week off from running, (okay, so I made it 12 days), I have done some running. Most of it has been limited to 2 miles and not everyday. However, I have done two 5K’s. The first of which, I brought 3 pairs of various shoes types. Before racing, I tried each set and ran around 50-100 meters to see which was the best. On that particular day, the Hokas won out. It was a weird experience doing essentially a sprint in them as I did feel my stride off some. This is probably due to the sole magnifying any imperfections caused by one leg longer than the other. On the second day oddly enough, the Hokas did not feel right so I ended up using a pair of cross country spikes with a stiff (but not plastic) sole. I had no problem at all in either case with post run discomfort.

Obviously, this makes me want to run more but I know running the Harrisburg Marathon is not going to happen. Such would set me back months trying to race it under 6 minute pace. I would not be surprised, if I am extending the recovery period just a bit with some short runs. But my goal is balance. I would be willing to trade a few extra weeks for peace of mind. Part of it, I admit, is the fact this time of year is when I love to run and race. Last weekend showed me I can do short bursts. Right now, those will be how I maintain balance. Next week, I do hope to try bike riding into work. I’d like to do that since it is expensive taking the train daily.

Come Nov 4th when I have a follow-up, I will have a better understanding if I am going about things the right way.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Snapped: Ultra Streak and My Foot - Blues Cruise 50K 2013

You might say that we want the good things that happen to us to linger and the bad to get the heck on out of here. As a runner, I tend to have that logic. This race report is definitely one of those. Considering Blues Cruise was this past Sunday, you might be able to surmise which of the two. (Especially since it took me a month to write about Green Lakes.)

Nonetheless, this report might just be cathartic.

It was not long after a strong showing at Green Lakes in August and some nice early September 5Ks that I decided to enter Blues Cruise. Aside from the 20in24, where the course passes over a 24 hour span less than a mile from my house, Blues Cruise just outside of Reading is the closest ultra to home. Pros of that are clearly no lodging costs and shorter drive times. A lot to like about those factors. And being in October, it could be typically expected for cool temps. I say typically because this year that was not the case. At start time, weather forecasts had the temp expected to be around mid 60s climbing to a high of 86. Yikes! A 50K in that heat is not necessarily the most ideal. However, it was expected to be overcast so we might luck out.

On the morning of the race, I got up and out of the house in a timely manner to get me to the race site by 7:30, an hour before the start. Surprisingly, when I pulled into the parking area, the line at registration was super long. Apparently, it had not opened for pick-up yet. I used a bit of the time to make a bathroom stop and move my bags closer to the start/finish area. Here I filled my handhelds and prepped my drop bag. Gels were pinned on my shorts. After handing in my drop bag, I was ready to go.

Well, after I put my shoes on first, opting to go with my reliable La Sportiva Vertical K’s. Before, I knew it, 8:30 and start time had arrived. In the largest field in the history of the race at around 350, the trails would see a lot of activity. The race directors started us off for our 31 mile counter-clockwise loop around Blue Marsh Lake. At the go, I went out comfortably in second right behind the first place runner. After a good 15 minutes, another runner in yellow blew past the two of us on an uphill. Here, it was the “do I go or sit” moment. Knowing the talent in the field, I opted to go deciding to not allow first to get very far ahead of me. For the next hour, the yellow runner was my prey. He seems to want to put me away as he was always looking back and every time he did so put in a bit of a surge. Not long after each burst, I would seem to close a bit more. I knew I could catch him. It was not until around aid station 3 that I took the lead. However, it was not long lived as we reached the big hill on the course. Within the first quarter, he went racing by me. This was not to be long lived as I passed him before the top. Around here, is when I started to really feel discomfort in my right foot. For the week leading into the race, something felt off but nothing that impacted my running. This sensation started to make me think different. However, I quickly moved on as on another hill in this mile stretch of course, the same yellow runner would pass me again. Finally, I would pass him one more time for good. In the end, he would finish third. He appeared to carry no gels or bottle during the race while also listening to his headphones.

Now that I was in first, I felt ok but not smooth. As the course ungulated along, the terrain kept playing havoc with my foot making me really cautious with the discomfort in my first foot. I managed to keep plodding along at pace aiming to hit the bag drop aid station (around 18-19 mile) around 2 hours. It was no long before this spot that I got to see second place. As we ran around a rolling field, I saw the runner in second about 3 minutes back. It was not the one in yellow I passed earlier but someone in black. At the start, I glanced certain bibs that I knew would be a contender, this was the one I felt could take the race being a 2:38 marathoner. (Could be 2:36, I don’t want to take away from him. Just having a hard remembering of exact details at the moment.) Knowing he was close, I pushed as much as my foot was allowing me. And it began not allowing a lot. Cardio-wise neither the heat or energy were the problem. It was just becoming tough to run on my foot anywhere there was not a completely flat section. And that means little of the course. This is not to say I was walking but my pace declined in direct correlation to the increase of discomfort. However, I was in first and did not want to lose by quitting, even if the thought crossed my mind.

Yes, my race turned into the suffer zone. Mentally I was cracking because physically I was cracking. A spiral effect was being fought as I was trying to hold 2nd off. At 22 miles, my lead was around 40 seconds. Just 5 miles later, 1:10 down. It had been around a mile prior to the last aid station I was overtaken on an uphill. I just could not go. In that instant, I felt defeated and let down by my body. But being this close, I kept grinding it out. With 2.5 miles to go, thanks to a slight mistake by the leader, I closed the gap to 20 seconds. I felt like I might push through and rebound. As the course continued to roll, I felt any chance slip away. I just could not go on my foot. My mind was doing a lot to block out the pain as my body was trying to do its best to not do anything painful. This meant slow pace and powerhiking the smallest of hills now. My goal time was gone. I hoped to challenge the record of 3:34. I was at that with 2 miles to go. Those two miles were a slog. At this point, I was hoping to just be under 4 hours. Had I had enough to shave 1:10 off, I would have been under 3:50. In the end, I wound up with 3:51:10. A time that was exactly behind John Wallace’s winning time of 3:45:10.

I felt really bummed that I tried to give it my all but could not as I had my first defeat at an ultra distance. My pace in the end was slower than my 50 mile pace and the winning pace was just under that 50 mile pace of mine. So it stings.

However, I did enjoy all the race had to offer. The finisher hoodie is great and someday I will wear it around. Today is too soon. Talking with and seeing all the other runners finish was great. Plus the spread was fantastic. I used a few cans of soda to ice my right foot and downed some grilled cheese with potato pancakes. I stayed around 2 hours after finishing before heading home. Taking in the atmosphere was really nice and needed.

Once I got home, my partner and I went out to the Penrose Diner in South Philly for breakfast food. She also had dessert, I did not.

Yesterday morning, due to my foot, I called the orthopedic specialist for an appointment. Luckily, I was able to get in to see one of the sports medicine doctors and get some extras. Now the diagnosis, while nice to know is not too great. Stress fracture in my third metatarsal in my right foot. I’m on rest for a few weeks. I could keep doing activity but it will not be pain free, so rest it is. That means at least one weekend with now racing. Bummer because it was the 10K & 5K combo I was looking forward too. Lets hope it is a short period, especially since I just need another 90 miles for 3000 on the year.

Plus, once I get back to winning some ultras and running, I feel like I can wear the awesome hoodie. Right now, doesn't feel too right even if the effort was gutsy.

Quick shout out to the Misery Loves Company folks. You've been great in the morale department since Sunday even if you haven't known it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Green Lakes 50K - PT 2: Race Day

Now…Race Day… (continued on next blog post or is it previous?)

If you want to hear all about the pre-race, please check out the other blog post on Green Lakes but if you want to hear about the race itself….read on.

So I get up at 4:15 on Saturday to get my act in gear. With Green Lakes starting at 6, I wanted to arrive around 5 – 5:15. Factor in a 20 minute drive and time along with the wonderful morning wake-up, 4:15 seemed like the right time. It was also in this morning period that I decided to go with the Women’s Medium Reebok top. In order to feel comfortable, I wore it on my way to the race too, under other clothes of course. One benefit with a loop course, I could always switch it out to the Nike or even the black singlet (which I so wanted to avoid). Another decision, I made was that on my way to the car, I was not going to check out. I wanted to keep open the option of coming back to the hotel for some rest if I finish early enough since check-out was noon. 6am starts are wonderful things in that regard.

Around 4:40, I was in the car and on my way to Green Lakes. As I got closer to the site, a line of cars began to form all going to the same spot. It was clear we were the racers. Once I parked, I hauled all my gear to the start/aid/finish area. Check in was easy and drop bags had spots along the wall. I found a great spot right where I would make a turn to head back out on the course. With my spot picked, I set up everything I might need out in an easy to find fashion. Quick in – quick out is how I like to be. My Nathan Quickshot Plus was ready to go filled with my Gatorade/Pedialyte/Water Mix as were my other two Nathan Handhelds. Also, I had a large bottle of my pre-mix solution out to fill-up if I did not want to switch handhelds. It was about this time, I put on my ultra-trusted speed shoes: La Sportiva’s Vertical-K. While I had time, I mulled about and did the necessary bathroom trips to clean my systems out for less worry.

Yet, I found something to worry about. Mere minutes before the start, I forgot my sunglasses were in my car! Easy to forget with the sun now just coming up around 5:55. I darted over to the car and got them with a few ticks to spare. I stashed them in the Quickshot Plus where my drop bag was. With the temps being so cool and the loops being 7.77 miles, I felt I did not need the fluid on the first lap. The gels pinned to my shorts would suffice.

Now it was go time…..

As we were given the 'GO' command, I started out rather casually. Mainly, doing this helps get a sense of the field without overexerting myself. My plan going into the race was for hitting the Ultrasignup prediction time of 3:43. I knew that required me running a tad over 55 minutes per lap. However, I was not wearing a GPS watch so I had no idea of what my speed would be. However, I could do lap splits on my watch to give me a comparison lap to lap. After around 3/4 mile, I started to distance myself from the rest of the field with just a subtle settling into the race. Helping definitely was the cool weather. The course starts off with running along size a pair of lakes before we go into the woods to start some climbing. Once we leave the woods we run a long inclined grassy straight that leads into the 'Serengeti'. The 'Serengeti' was the portion of the course open completely to the sun. Think of it as rolling meadows. Going in this was the part I was not looking forward to figuring if I am going to get hot, it would be here. In fact, this is the reason why I went out the night before to get something to wear other than my black singlet. Upon the first pass through this section, there was a good fog lying just over the meadow. I was very happy to see this. The moisture in the air would help me be cool.
In a few spots, I saw deer on the path. In one spot, I saw a buck. One of the most beautifully tranquil sights. Around 26 minutes in, I pass through the 'Mid-way' aid starting that is around 4 miles into the lap. (Give or take, of course.)  After about another mile, the course dips back into the woods and takes a nice downhill turn. I opened it up in this section. Not in a stupid way to empty the tank too soon. Once, the course finished the woods, it was back along the lake (but on the other side) towards the start/finish.

As I finished my 1st lap, I was at slightly over 50 minutes. Wow. Still feel good. As I ran through the aid section, I quickly grabbed my Quickshot Plus and sunglasses with hardly a stop. Lap two was much of the same except I was out front without any idea of where anybody was. About the end of the first lake on the loop, I saw other runners coming at me finishing their first loop. (This is one of the two small sections where there is two way traffic.) On this lap, my biggest notable was nearly blowing by a sharp right turn. I caught myself just in time. This was a turn about half way through the first woods section. Thankfully, this was the only problem on the loop. On the second pass through the 'Serengeti', the fog was clearing some but it was still cool. At a few dips in the meadow rolls, I would drop below the fog line. VERY COOL!!!! My slip through 'Midway" on this lap was 28 minutes. Ok...not too bad as I was feeling good and understood I would slow some. In the end, my lap split was around 51:30. Still motoring. (I also began to pass people.)

Lap three was a repeat of the second loop with more passing of people than the last. The highlight was a woman shouting in joy about getting lapped. My split here only a few seconds slower than lap two. After doing some math in my head I could run 57 minutes to be under 3:30. Crushing. As I past through the aid station on my last trip, I dumped two cups of water on my head as the sun was coming out and said see them in less than an hour. It was a mid-race goal adjustment. At no point did I know where second was. All I figured was I had a good lead. Turns out it was around 6 minutes.

Similar to my last lap at Sulphur Springs, I slowed. Unlike there, it was not as bad. I felt a little gassed in the meadows but still worked the wooded downhill section. On the final lake stretch, I felt warm. Not quite overheated but ready to get the race over with. I knew at each point if I was hitting a split that would get me to 3:30 and I was still doing that!

With my final right turn to the last 'straight-away', I could see the clock and pushed. Final lap split was a shade over 55 minutes. Time: 3:28:27. Tim Hardy, the RD, came up to congratulate me and inform me I had set a new course record. For some reason during the race I thought it was 3:10. Not sure why but I did. So it was a nice bonus to break the CR by 5 minutes and win by 9 over Jason Mintz.

Having a four hour drive home, I limited my lingering at the race. I stayed around 45 minutes after talking with a few people. Also, it was at this point that I decided I would not make it back to Hotel Skyler. Just felt I would rather use the time to get on the road. So what did I do? I called up and checked out by phone! Can't say I ever did that before. Luckily, I could do that as I had taken everything with me when I left earlier in the morning.  On the drive home, I stopped at the usual Cortland, NY Arby's for a giant Jamocha shake. I mean I deserved it. Thankfully, the drive home was good as I could remain on cruise control the majority of the time. And yes, I was driving in my slippers. All about comfort. Following, one more pit stop for gas and drinks in the Poconos, I made it home not long after 2pm. That left me with a lot of my Saturday. Win!

And that is the tale of my Green Lakes Endurance Run 50K. Maybe next time, I will go back for the 100K. It was a wonderfully organized race with wonderful support.

 (Since this race, I've been back on the roads but will be hitting another ultra soon!)

Green Lakes 50K - PT 1: Pre-race

If you have been following my exploits on the interwebs (well other places aside from this blog), you might be aware of my 50K ultra race. Regardless if you have or have not, sit back and read a little recap of GREEN LAKES ENDURANCE RUNS – 50K.

Around a month back I was in Maine on vacation and had a planned FKT attempt in my schedule. As you know the attempt never occurred thanks to the weather creating some high winds. To fill that void as well as get my third 50K in for the year, I was kicking around the idea of running the 50K at Green Lakes. I really starting looking into it once I returned from my trip. Particularly since I had to make a decision with it being a week away.  If I opted for the race, I would need to find a hotel room since it was a 4 hour drive up to the Syracuse region. The hotel part was tough. Everything was pricey. Only later on did I realize Syracuse was starting back up and the NY State Fair were occurring. Luckily, I found a good quality hotel 20 minutes from the race site. (And only a few blocks from the university.) So on the Wednesday before the Saturday race, I went all in.

With having such a long drive from Philadelphia on a Friday evening, I managed to get out at 2pm from work so I could hopefully make it up around 6. Prior to leaving the house in the morning, I packed the car with the items I needed. (Or so I thought…) Mere minutes into my drive, I landed in some traffic on I-76. Should have expected it but it was yet rush hour. However, once I got onto the PA Turnpike’s Northeast Extension, I found a good groove. Felt good about my travel time now. Then….BAM! No, not an accident but traffic crawling in Binghamton, NY. Arg….. There goes the 4 hour hope. I was headed towards 6:30 now. Not too bad. Still had to figure out food for dinner. Thankfully, I know the route I was taking and a fabulous Mexican establishment with easy on and easy off access. You guessed it…Taco Bell. As I passed through Cortland, I took a familiar exit to grab some grub. Black Bean Burritos are great while driving. This stop also meant being only 30 minutes from my destination, Hotel Skyler. I’ll fast forward check-in because we all know what that is. But once I got to my room, called the Mrs. and unpacked, I realized…..disaster!

Of all the things I forgot to triple check….my racing attire. My singlet, racing shorts and warm-ups all were back in Philadelphia. I was panicking. Immediately, I hopped onto the free wifi (at least I had my computer) to find a running store open. I pull up the site for the local place and find out they had closed a few minutes ago. NO!!!! I took a few deep breaths and went into my racing bag that usually has my racing shoes and extra cool-down clothes. Things were looking up. I had a pair of racing shorts but not the proper under support. I’m a briefs racer. Didn’t have those. I had a singlet but it was black. A fall back was developing. I had shorts and runner tees for warm-ups. Everything else nutrition-wise I had all set. I laid everything out to assess the situation. The one bit I kept coming back to was the singlet. I did not want to race 31 miles in black in August. Back to the internet, I went….I searched for a DICK’s Sporting Goods.

LUCK! One was 7 miles away. To ease my mind, I sacrificed some rest and went hunting for tops. Upon entering the store, I head straight for the men’s dept. hoping to find a small singlet. Once again, luck. However, it was Nike and I do not like to buy Nike products. (Including Starter and Converse.) Not feeling good I also hit up the women’s dept. More sort-of luck. They have a Reebok top that seems like it would work. Being unsure, I buy the two less than ideal options with plans to return the one I don’t use.

And with my purchase completed, back to the hotel, I went. From there, the rest of my evening was peaceful as I had everything laid out like I needed….

Monday, August 26, 2013

FKT - Recap: Aborted Attempt (Weather)

In my last posting, I announced my intentions on going for the FKT on the Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains of NH. As the time approached, I felt really good about my chances to have perfect weather to make an attempt. And then mother nature intervened….

With only a small window span on my vacation to do this, I needed weather to work out. My intention was to tackle the attempt on Tuesday, 8/13. My excellent partner was willing to drop me off at the northern end and drive to the southern point during my escapade. She plan was to do some hiking while I was running. However, the forecast for the 13th became rain. This meant at least a delay but required careful attention to the weather forecast from Mount Washington Observatory considering Mt Washington alone has some of the world’s harshest weather. Checking the forecast required a trip 20 miles away into Bridgton for internet access. A check on Tuesday showed high winds and cold temps for Wednesday. By high winds, I mean hurricane force gusts on the summits. With the route being on the summits exposed to the wind, clearly this meant a postponement to Thursday. This was my last day in a small window I could make the FKT attempt. Friday had to be focused on getting ready for my return home back to Philadelphia. Wednesday’s check also showed some rough weather in store. While in the past couple of days this meant an instant postponement, this was not the case here. My partner and I came up with a plan to have some benefit for both of us. We would call the AMC number for the weather forecast en route to the White Mountains. If the weather was favorable, we would head up 16 to the northern tip, otherwise, we would stay on 302 to the southern end. The former would mean the attempt would be a go. The latter meant it was being aborted on this trip but I would be doing some running.

Unfortunately, the wind speed is what did the attempt in. Regular speeds of 60 mph were in the forecast. For safety sake, we decided not to make the attempt. However, I made the most of the time in the White Mountains. While the rest of the group hiked, I ran ahead. We agreed on an out and back route up Crawford Path to the Mitzah Hut. Before leaving we got information on how long it would take to hike and I used that information as a gauge how far I could go. With my handheld, map and pack, I was off like a kid in a candy store. In the time, I had to regroup at the AMC hut, I made it to Mt Eisenhower. Once I got above tree-line, it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I felt like I could go on forever. On the way up, the wind was not much of a factor but as I turned back, it was noticeably strong reinforcing I made the right call. My turnaround timing was perfect as my group was just getting to the hut as I returned to the point. After a small stop, we all headed back down. I ran down and back to the car dropping off some gear before running back to the group where I would hike the rest down with them. At the end of the day, I ran nearly 12 miles in the White Mountains, really giving me the confidence about being able to go back and take on the FKT.

While, I did not have the planned experience, the fallback was nearly just as rewarding. Next year, I hope things work out and I will be able to take another crack…but it did mean I felt a bit empty so I filled that with another 50K in my schedule. But that is a post for another day.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Goal: FKT: Presidential Traverse

Sometimes, we have dreams that we internally keep to ourselves and manage to accomplish those dreams. On the flip side, we can keep them to ourselves and much more easily not accomplish them without anyone else the wiser. My point in this as a runner is that our goals can be our dreams. Earlier this year I mentioned on this blog that I intended on setting a FKT (fastest known time) on the Batona Trail in NJ. Based on how the year has played out, it does not seem likely to occur in 2013. However, in the past few months, I have been kicking around the idea of a FKT attempt during my upcoming vacation in Maine. However, the FKT attempt will not be taking place in Maine but New Hampshire in the White Mountains. It is my hope to be able to go for the FKT on the Presidential Traverse. If I fail to make the attempt it will be due to weather conditions. Weather is a huge factor as I will be in the mountains running the summits. One of those summits is Mount Washington which is known for having some of the strongest weather conditions in the world. The Presidential Traverse is a series of peaks that top out over 4000ft over an 18 mile stretch. There is 8500ft of elevation gain over the length with most of it on my planned North-South trek coming very early on. The trail will not be easy. Scenic, yes, but not easy.  To verify my attempt, I will be wearing a GPS watch. Likely the Garmin 310XT as my current GPS does not have the battery-life I need. I also plan on running with a hydration pack. I’ve been running with the pack to and from work without any discomfort or annoying bounce. This is goal is being taken very seriously and the trail is not being underestimated. Heck, I’ve even purchased the AMC’s Presidential Range map so I do not get lost and make sure I hit everything I need. Having this has made my partner feel better about my undertaking. Since this is a point to point, we are planning the attempt date around when she wants to do a day hike from the other end of the route. 

Currently, the record is held by Ben Nephew at 4h 50m 18s. Nephew is a very accomplished trail runner and knowing that means the record is not going to be easy to break. Just recently, he competed in the World Trail Championships. My only comparison to him is our results at Traprock. He has times on the course a few minutes faster than mine.  However, that does not mean I cannot run the Traverse quicker. If I believe I can do it, I can. In less than two weeks, we may have an answer. Let’s just hope the weather gives me the green light.

In other news, since my last post, I’ve run a pair of races. One trail and one road. The trail race was a 15K where I placed second. I was not happy at all with my performance. I don’t lose on the trails. Especially to a tri/duathlete. Yet, I found a silver lining. Just so happens I lost to someone who had taken 5th at the 2011 World Duathlon.  I did bounce back nicely from that result to hit the roads down in Wilimington, DE on a familiar course for a 5K. Considering, I had not run a 5K since late April and a road race since Broad Street the first Sunday of May.  I ran a fairly solid 16:18. Probably could have ground a few more seconds off but without speedwork, I’ll take it. 

With Maine not too far off, it might be a whole after the FKT attempt before a follow-up. Access to much of anything is limited up there as the only internet is at a café in a town 30 minutes away from where I stay. If anything, I might be able to get a quick Facebook post before something more substantial.

We’ll see….but for now, you know my current dream. And because you do, I’m more likely to go for it regardless if I succeed or not.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

One Month - 3 Races = One Rollercoaster

Full disclosure: I had not realized my last blog entry was in May! Totally thought I wrote something in June. Oops.

June was a rather busy month putting in the training miles and managing three races of varying distances in there. Coming off of the 50 miler at Sulphur Springs, a mere two weeks later, I hopping in a 10K trail run. It would been a bit crazier if it was a 5K. However, the 10K is in the park I do a lot of trail running in. I've not run it in the past but this year I felt compelled. Maybe it was a bit of peer pressure. Haha. Well, the Wissahickon Trail Classic took place on June 8th and despite my best effort, I ended up finishing second almost a minute behind first place. Upon the 1st climb of the day a little over a 1/2 mile into the race, I knew I was going to have a rough go. My legs had yet to shake off all the fatigue after the 50 mile and it hurt me in the 10K. At one point in the race, I was in 6th place. However, in the back half of the race, I did manage to make up places and time. You could say I just ran out of real estate. I should note that my loss at Wissahickon was the 1st time in a year I lost a trail race.

A mere two weeks after that race, I toed the line for a trail marathon. It was the XTERRA Big Elk Marathon. The course was a double half marathon loop. As the race got closer, the temps in the area started to climb. With an 8am start, I was expecting heat and got it. Heat for me is bad as I do suffer in it, especially in hard efforts over long distances. But then again, who doesn't. The course had a bit of everything in it. I enjoyed being in the woods the most as the cooler temps were refreshing while the patches where we were out in open fields just sucked me dry. My strategy was to play it calm and stay with the half marathon leaders. That did not play out as planned as I was in essence even the half marathon leader. At the end of the 1st lap, I was 6 minutes up on the half marathon winner. (Yes, I had the fastest HM time of the day.) My second loop was slower as the thermometer climbed during this time. I ran about 10 minutes slower!  (Funny note is that my 2nd lap time was the 4th fastest HM time of the day too. And if it was one second faster, it would have been 3rd) In end, I won with a time that ended up being 42 minutes over 2nd, who was the 1st female. It seems some of the marathoners dropped due to the weather.

Just a week later, feeling like I wanted to run something more, I hopped in the Schuylkill River Trail Run. This was a 5 mile run that was way more challenging than I hoped. It mentioned some ravine running and did not disappoint. We crossed 4 streams. Undulating is the perfect way I could describe the course. It was a hard fought race but I pulled it out as well winning by around 30 seconds. But boy was that tough. I'd say it was the hardest race of the three because the course kicked up hard and required maximum effort from a speed standpoint. A nice way to end the month.

July for sure will not be as busy. Only have one race on the slate (may add a second) but it is one I absolutely loved last year: Chasin for Chaflin. The fact, it is not a 15K, makes me giddy. Until then....

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sulphur Springs Trail Race - 50 Mile Recap

Admittedly, I had hoped to write this during my day at work but alas, actual work got in the way. Boo-urns. So I am attempting to recap a race while making dinner. The wonders of the multi-task. As a result, expect some rambling. I'd say fun rambling but this is me we are talking about here.

Anyways, on with the show....

Earlier this year, it was my goal to travel for some racing, particularly, trail racing. One of my aims was to do a late spring/early summer ultra that can be part of a bigger vacation. After consulting with Peg about her schedule and surveying the various options, I landed on doing one of the races at the 21st annual Sulphur Springs Trail Run in Ancaster, Ontario on May 25th. It was a perfect choice because I had a long weekend from work already for the Memorial Day holiday. And the Dundas Valley Conservation Area was an easy hour drive from downtown Toronto. Hello, Toronto vacation!!!! Our plan of attack was to leave Philadelphia on the 22nd (Wednesday) and return on the 27th (Monday) Due to the time of the race, I felt, it was worth another shot doing a 50 miler. So I signed up at that distance knowing full well it could suck my energy for a lot of the trip. And with so much time to be consumed on race day, I expected to really go to the race alone....

Fast forward a couple of months and race day was nearly upon me. The weekend before the race, I packed everything I think I would need including my fuel. My hydration strategy was to use a cocktail mix of Gatorade, No Flavor Pedialyte and Water. (That I would put together the night before the race in the hotel room.) Food wise: GU Gels, Clif Bars and PB&J Sandwiches (which is the one component, I expected at the aid stations.)

Race Day:
Woke up at 3:30 to leave the hotel around 4am for the hour drive. Peg had decided a few days prior to come along for support. I was happy to have her there. I did the driving since I am pretty use to driving to my ultras on race morning these days. And an hour is nothing compared to the 2 1/2 I have done a few times. The QEW and 403 (or was it the 405) were easy breezy. I did overshoot the race site by a half mile but all was fine. We got a great parking spot and walked my gear over to the drop bag area. By getting there when I did, I was able to have a perfect spot on the edge of a table meaning I could easily see and get to my bag. Before getting everything in order, I went to the registration table to pick up my bib number. Zang!

Once my gear was set, I hit the port-o-potty because I wanted to make sure I was as empty as possible before the race. Then just like that it was time to toe the start line. Due to the slight coolness, I opted for my blue tech shirt over my singlet with my black gloves. Shoe-wise, I was sporting my La Sportiva Vertical K's. I felt confident they would be the shoe for the day. However, I had other shoes to swap in case I needed to do so. I was rocking some pinned gels on my shorts and one in the pouch of my Quickshot Plus handheld containing my hydration blend. The 6am start was for the 50 mile, 100 mile and 100 mile relay. Later on a 10k, 25k and 50K would start for around 1000 trail users. While that sounds like a lot, never during the race did the course feel congested! As a runner in the 50 mile, I had 4 loops to do. With the blow of the horn, we were off down a very substantial downhill. A group of people just went flying down it. Not knowing if any were 50 milers, I went a bit faster than I may have otherwise but still smart enough. I didn't want to lose the race in the first 1/4 mile. Over the course of the first lap, I slowly reeled in a few of the people ahead of me and learned they all were in the 100 mile relay. Eventually, I ran alongside one of the relay runners who was going at a comfortable enough pace for me and have to say I enjoyed the company. Plus, having someone to work with meant doing less work with a faster time yield as long as it was not too crazy. Just before the very end of each lap, we go back up the hill we started down. Oh yes, climbing! It felt smooth going up. As I came into the drop bag area, I knew I was well under my objective to be conservative of 1:35 - 1:40. 1:24!!!! Wow. They announced I came through in sub 6 hour pace. As Peg would later say, people thought it was nuts and I would blow up. My stop was brief for a refill of fluid and gel restock.

Lap 2 did not allow me the same level of companionship as the first, meaning I was on my own a good bit. Okay so the whole lap. But I knew the route now which was helpful. And it was during this lap I started munching PB&J's at the aid stations. I was already drinking and downing gels. It was also during this lap that the rest of the races started. Unfortunately, I did not end up in a position to run with any of those runners as they were nowhere near me on our respective loops. This lap felt good and resulted in another surprising lap: 1:25! Once again, my stop was quick. The difference this time was rolling on some Bio-Freeze my legs.

Lap 3....more of the same. Nothing too eventful. However, I did start to have some left quad tightening towards the tail end of the loop. Slightly slower lap...1:30. After my first two laps, I was hoping for another 1:25 as I was beginning to think about sub 6. By the end of the lap, I knew I was not going to hit it or so I thought. This was verbalized to Peg who told me that I was 35 minutes up. A 1:37 was the needed pace on the last lap. This pit stop was not too smooth as I tried to find some Advil that I had but was stumbling finding the bottle. I said ' To heck with it' and just went off on my final loop.

Final loop - I worked as hard as I could to keep the pace of the prior laps but cramping began to take it's toll. The aid station I had gone though in 37 minutes prior was being passed at 40. It was true, I was slowing down finally. My next checkpoint, I hit 10 minutes behind schedule. Now it was going to be really hard to break 6 hours. I was fine with that but sad I was going to miss it. I told myself....6:10 now. Go for that. With about 3 miles to go, I started to tingle in my arms. I had to powerwalk here. It was a bit frightening of a sensation. Using the slowdown, I opted to down the last gel I had on me. Around 5 minutes later, I started to feel better and began running again. It was not as fast as early but faster than I had been going. Before I knew it, after what seemed to be a 'forever' lap, I was at the bottom of the final climb. I once again attacked the climb with a glide. The end was in sight! Well, the cones signally my final left hand turn into the finish was in view. As soon as I hit those cones, I felt so happy. I was done. I raised and pumped my arms in the air.

6:07:00! Initially, I thought I was under that but I managed to hit that perfectly. It is funny.

Not only was that a PR by 49 minutes. I broke the current course's record by over 40! And the event record by over 20! Oh yes!

As soon as I finished, I added some clothes, drank a bunch of liquid and put on my slippers to wait. With the awards scheduled for 2pm, Peg and I had to wait. However, it was a nice wait as we got to witness the atmosphere. Time flew by. Before we knew it, 2pm was there but none of the 50 mile women had finished. The awards were postponed until the top 3 women came in. I could have gotten mine and left but I wanted to wait. Very graciously, Peg encouraged the waiting. In the end, it was only an extra hour, which really meant talking to people some more and that was more than fine. I will say it did impact the rest of the night as we hit extra traffic and missed some times for our evening plans. Nothing too serious. We were on vacation so we rolled with the punches.

Amazingly, I was able to walk! It was tight and a bit sore but the rest of the time in Toronto was not a waste because we could still do vacation-y things. :)

Anyways, that is the recap of the race....and what a great one it was. There are those races that just end up being perfect, this was as close as can be. The only reason not is because I just missed 6 hours. However, cannot be upset by my effort as I just put my stamp on the distance.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Final preparations: Sulphr Springs 50

Fully in the midst of my taper for this upcoming Saturday's 50 Miler in Ancaster, ON at the 21st  Sulphr Springs Trail Run. For this race, I am using a 10 day taper. This past weekend was my final efforts of any substantial running. Saturday started off with a Traildawgs event at White Clay Creek Preserve....TriHUMPf Runs. It was a semi-formal trail race with sign out to confirm your time. Not sign result. There were 3 distances available: 4.5, 8, and 13.1 (HM). With a marginal entry fee of just providing food and drink, I signed up for the half marathon. Part of this events allure was the chance to do a race in 3 states! DE, MD and PA. The smallest part would be MD and that is only if you ran around the tri-state marker on the course. Yes, I totally did! Due to missing a turn, I ran an extra half mile. In the end, I did a 1:25:33 on a course with roughly 1600ft of elevation gain. A solid time that makes me feel good about my fitness.

However, that does not make me any less nervous about Saturday since it is my 2nd 50 miler. On the bright side, the high is scheduled to be around 62 compared to the 101 when I had my last effort at this distance. Running smart will be important as I expect a competitive field. I've been putting my attention to having a smart nutrition/fueling strategy.

My hardest efforts in the next week will be a pair of 4 mile runs with minimal exertion and reeling myself in from running too much. Or even doing too much for that matter. As this event is in the middle of a vacation to Toronto, I need to be extra cautious on overdoing it. Since I will be without the internet while in Canada, expect a report late next week.

 Until then......

Monday, May 6, 2013

Off Broad Street.....hoping on trails?

As 2013 is the year of trail thus far, yesterday marked my long distance foray at my home's Broad Street Run, which is one of the premier ten milers in the country. Some things went well. Some did not. Overall, my assessment is so-so of an experience.

It all started earlier in the weekend I got my bib assignment of 932. I expected higher and more of a seeded number but that was not the case. I knew I could position myself in the corral right behind the seeded athletes so I would be fine. Then they announced clear bags for gear. I had to adjust for this. It was expected on some level but always takes a bit to set in and refocus. Not too bad. Where things get shaky are went rules are not enforced. This goes for people in the wrong start corral. At the line, there was a row of people who linked arms together as if they were keeping the corrals from intermingling. Nope. They were running. And not fast. So getting off the line was tough. Knowing if I had any chance to hit my goal, I had to hook up with a group. To get in that group, I had to swerve and work harder than I wanted/needed to. In short, this came back to hurt me. I was in a great pace but as I started to slide off the back around mile 4, I could not hook back on as felt slow. I just grinded out the rest of the race. Oddly enough, I didn't get more than a minute behind the group by the finish. At the end of the run, I crossed with a time of 53:24 for a 2:07 PR. However, I wanted to be under 53. So as you can tell, happy on one hand, disappointed on the other.

In retrospect, I do wonder if the lack of speed work hurt me. Yes, I have the ability to grind out long miles at a good pace but that pace is slower than a 5K or 10 mile. I've been operating on two ends of the spectrum which feels like I have been trying to have cake and eat it too. For the most part, it has been working. Just gets me thinking when I hit a so-so place with a race effort.

Can't dwell on Broad Street too long as I have a trail half marathon on the 18th and the biggy.....50 Mile on the 25th! Oh yeah!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Brief runthrough.....

Off the roads for a few races. Just this past Saturday, I had a road 5k as a speed check for the Broad Street Run. Being that the course was one I have raced multiple times, it was a great gauge. Solid effort in 15:55. Makes me feel good heading into this weekend's big 10 miler. By far and away Philly's biggest race with 40,000 people.

Hopefully, I can well enough to set a big 10 mile PR.

Once the race is over, my next three scheduled races are all on trails.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Almost wasn't: Traprock 50K Report

During my last posting, I was feeling strong. Between that time, leading into Traprock gave me good reason to worry. Particularly, the week leading into the race. On a modest 15 mile trail run, I got some cramping in my left leg that forced me to stop in the middle for a spell. Then on Wednesday, a few days later, on my run into work, I felt discomfort come on a mile from the job forcing me to cut the distance in (as I like to add an additional mile near my job) short. As a result, I cut Thursday and Friday out of any running. Just hoped two days of rest would do wonders.

Whats more, with Traprock being a 4 hour drive away in CT, I needed lodging. So, I waited to the last possible minute to book through Priceline. Did I mention, I would be making the drive after work at 4pm on a Friday? Oh yeah. Traffic did not cooperate very well. I was already 1/2 behind schedule just leaving Philadelphia! Then to make it worse, I went 10 miles in an hour on the Garden State Parkway in NJ. Eventually, I rolled into the Courtyard by Marriott in Farmington, CT around 9pm with some Taco Bell dinner. Allow me for a moment, to mention, I would say at this hotel again in a heartbeat. It was so nice. Had generous pool hours, a fireplace in the lobby and located near civilization that was not a truck stop. Having to get up early and be on the road by 7:20 made me sad I would not get to unwind and enjoy all these things. But, hey, I came to run a 50K.

Saturday morning, I loaded myself in the car and headed to Penwood State Park a relaxing 20 minute drive from the hotel. Did I mention it was so relaxing? I show up at the race site and have to park a 10 minute walk from the registration/staging area. It was a great scene with everyone finding their spot to place there bags. Oddly enough, I found a little spot not far from the bottom of the climb/descent that began/ended every loop. I was nervous. Something told me I just didn't feel right. But I always think of this: 'When the gun goes off, all the pain will go away'. I was hoping that would be the case.

After some announcements, we were off at 8:30. Less than 50 meters into the race, we head straight up a serious technical climb. I was 4th up this as a runner took off and sprinted up it. Knowing I had 50K (actually it was longer as the organizers said it was 10.5 miles per loop of which we did 3), I knew not to worry. I methodically made my way toward the front, where Eric introduced himself. He said he wanted space and that adrenaline made him rocket up the first climb. I did my best over the incredibly technical terrain to get solid footing and a smooth stride to put some distance between myself and Eric. It just was not happening. I wasn't going to force the issue not yet. There were points, where I gained some distance only to have it swallowed back up. Repeating this so often began the thoughts of, maybe I am having a bad day. And then.....I fell. Coming off a wooden bridge where we take an immediate right, my right foot slipped. I got up but my psyche was damaged. Yet, I kept going while considering I might not finish. Eric and I hit a broken up road section and he just dropped me hard. At that moment, mentally I was barely hanging on. I let him go but seriously gave thought to dropping out once I finished the first loop. But then on the way into the start/finish, I got a small boost from seeing the 17K runners coming towards me. I also knew I would get a sense of how far Eric was up since he too would have to pass me. When I saw him, I didn't give thought to look at my watch to start timing the gap.

On my way off the descent, I hit my drop bag as it was a straight shot coming out of the loop. I quickly shed gloves, armwarmers and shirt layer leaving me with just my singlet on. (And shorts of course.) Also, I grabbed my small handheld as I checked in and headed back up and out. On each loop there is a lollipop loop where I figured I would have a chance to see Eric again and this time I was prepared for a few things: Time the Gap and if it was big enough: drop. Anything over 5 and I would call it a day. The course was full of suck and I felt like I suffered on the first lap despite covering the distance right on pace. (I set a goal of 1:20 per loop) Entering the lollipop, there is an aid station to check-in (or more like call out your number) where the record keeper encouraged me to 'Go Get Him'. In the loop, Eric passed by me headed in the other direction allowing me to start my gap timing. It was around 4 minutes. It was under 5 so I was living to fight still. Now I was beginning to pass people in the 17K and gaining on the back of packers in the 50K. All this was renewing me some, where I was able to disappear into running my own race despite the difficulty of the course. I made it to the bridge again and this time took it cautious as to not fall. Then my next challenge was the 'road'. As I came onto this section, I checked in with the aid station and could see up ahead...could it be..Eric? It was! I had claimed almost the whole time back. During this stretch, I passed him putting me in first place. Now, I was in a position to time how much gap I had. Out of this loop, I refilled my handheld, checked in and back out for another torturous lap. I will say I ran that lap in the same time I did the first so that felt good.

But once, I had to go up that very first climb, I knew this lap was going to be painful complete with full on suffering. I was not let down. My pace felt slower. Each cut on the trail did not feel smooth. The rocks and roots hurt more. My foot inside my shoe felt like it was sliding around from all the cutting. Despite feeling fully tight at the start of the race, my shoes were looser. And in shoes without a rock plate or solid toe guard this was tough going. I will say even a shoe with those would be chewed up on this course. It was a realization I made in the midst of the first loop when I pondered switching from my Vertical Ks to the X-talon 190s. However, I did manage to time my gap on Eric. 9 minutes. All I knew was I had to hold that gap as long as I could. This was really tested on the course's 'Stairway to Heaven' which is a rocky climb that has some stairs. Each loop requires some hand use to navigate it quickly. I was not looking forward this time. Even more so, I had an audience of hikers who were on it. They all moved to the side for me to go by and became encouraging. Also, gave me around of applause once I crested. It gave me a small boost as I made my way to the lollipop. My goal was to get in and out before Eric (or whoever was running second as third was 5 more minutes behind him at my last gap check) entered. I still timed it. Minimum 8 minutes up with just about half the third loop done. Things were not getting any easier. With 2300 ft of elevation gain per loop, I had more coming. Since the majority of the course was technical, striding to get some speed to use as momentum on the climbs was tough. Suffer-fest was continuing. I was clinging on by a thread hoping and willing myself to be up on time. But I resounded myself that if I was past, I was walking it in as I was beating myself up. I made it to the road stretch for the final time. This time, I paused, gulped some water and dumped the rest on my head. (I needed some fluid that was not Gatorade at that moment.) I was plugging away. Seeing people up ahead gave me some focus to push on and pass. The hikers also reappeared offering more encouragement! Coming off the road section, I just hoped I had 5 minutes up. I knew I would lose time but figured if I had that much up, I could hold on. My pace felt plodding even if it was not all that slow but compared to laps 1 and 2 it sure gave the appearance. At a point, I felt the finish was near, I asked a runner on his way out for a loop, the want it to be over question of 'how far?' 'Half mile.' Yes! I was so close and then not longer after.....I felt again. This time I was scraped up. My toe hooked the underside of an exposed root as I was making a right turn. I got up and kept going until I saw the finish area. Following my last spill I took it really careful on that final descent.

I strode over the finish line in 4:11:03. Not a course record but good enough for the win in a race that I considered quitting multiple times on the toughest course I have ever run. (Okay, maybe Rock'N The Knob is 1st. Both have nasty rock terrain. Except Knob has more runnable patches as its rocks are more concentrated making them suck more since they are at the end in droves.) 2nd place finished in around 4:30 and was not Eric.

After chatting with some people following my finish, I packed up and left to drive 4 hours home. This was a much smoother drive. However, had it not been for the long drive, I would have stayed as the atmosphere of the event is really magical. All the organizer and volunteers made Traprock such a tremendous event, regardless of how much I do not like that course now.

Another 50K down. Back down to some sprint distances for my next few races. I'll call those speed work and recovery. (For the record, I managed to go out for a little more than 6.5 miles today.)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Coming together....Spring is setting up.

For much of the first few months of the year, my spring (and really fall) race schedules were not fully fleshed out with few exceptions. In the past couple of weeks this has changed. A 50K, HM, 5K and Marathon all have been added to the existing 10M. Not to mention since my last entry, I have put in two fairly decent 5K performances. (a 2nd and 1st, each with faster times)

Up first is the Traprock 50K in CT on the 13th. I signed up for this at the last possible minute after determining I was ready and that the knee issues of early March were not an issue. My mileage and long runs the past two weeks have been right on point. I've managed to mix some speed in there as to benefit me for the Broad Street 10M the first Sunday of May.

That's all for now. Just keeping this short. Likely will be back around after the 13th and what should be a good Traprock. It definitely will put me on focus for having two 50K in the first half of the year.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

When a good race experience goes bad.....

As my previous entry discussed my Six Tunnels to Hoover Dam race, I purposely omitted some things I wanted to talk about by themselves. My main reason for doing it separately is because the other posting was lengthy as it was.

Saturday's race was a mix of good and bad.

Good: Got to race somewhere new, beautiful landscape, won and brought home a really nice alabaster statue reflecting the region on some level. Not to mention being able to change races in advance due to need.

Bad: Wrong shirt size (as in not having) despite pre-registered with specific size, starting line issues, turnaround point not staffed (this apparently was a huge issue in the HM), results issues, and the worst part: organizer attitude.

Now the shirt size would have been overlooked had the organizers attitude did not end up on the list. The organizers have held this event for 11 years so I expected a high level of professionalism. On some degree I got that by the event being held but not in all instances. Pre-registered runners should be guaranteed their shirt size. When I registered for a small, I should have not had to settle for a medium. Instructions at the staging area were not clear which lead to confusion at the start line and made it harder for the timers.

Now once I finished Eddie from Mountain Man Events came up to congratulate me. At this point I knew I won one of the alabaster trophies. As always, I like to stick around for the ceremony and was happy to know that the 5K would be done as soon as they had all the age groups from the timers. Since their event page listed the time for awards at 10:45 with no distinction made for the 5K, I thought I would have to grab it early and leave (especially since they clearly say they will not ship the alabaster). So this was good....

However, after the cooldown, I learned of some issues with the results being done. It was now close to 1:15 since I finished so I went up to Eddie and told him about what looked to be the issue with the results and requesting to take my statue early. It would have been one thing to say 'sorry, that is our policy' but to be flat out told 'no, you can't. we don't mail them.' in what is the most hostile of tones just shocked me. I replied about the results issues and know they do not mail the statues which is why I was asking. More of the most rude interaction with a race organizer ever to where I thought maybe he was joking as he just walked away. I turned to his fellow organizer and asked if he was serious. She said he was and that the policy is to not give out the awards early as they like to have the winners present. Mind you they will mail out the age group awards. And on their event page, only mention the alabaster statues will not be mailed, not that you had to present at the awards to receive something you won.

Considering they held all the cards, I had no choice but to wait. I had to wait about another 25-30 minutes before receiving my award. During this span, I heard Eddie from Mountain Man have two interactions with other runners (from the half marathon) that were just appalling to me. In the first, the HM 3rd place finisher, inquired about a turnaround point where 2nd turned and learned it was not the correct point (it was obviously confusing enough it should have been staffed). 3rd after seeing 2nd make the turn did the same himself (to find out he ran short). This gent mentioned how he trained for months to run the 13.1 and felt disappointed. The response was, well you were a solid third, 2 minutes behind 2nd and 2 minutes in front of 4th. Once again, no sorry. The other was much worse. Another HM finisher, commented also about a turnaround point. His dealt with the mile 10 marker. He said everyone was turning around at that point (not sure if it was the same point 3rd place was referencing) and he too turned there as a result for placing reasons. (After all, it is still a race against other people for some.) The organizer once again did not take any responsibility or offer an apology but went on to blame the runners in the most overly dramatic way I have ever seen. It was so bad that later on I went to the gentleman and let him know I saw and heard the whole time. And that Eddie's response was just unprofessional. He appreciated that someone else saw it and had a similar response.

As a race organizer, you do not get rude with the runners who pay the money to participate. They are in essence your customers. You don't need to treat them like you don't care about their justifiable concerns. In all cases, a simple 'sorry' would have been nice to hear. Instead, it was someone else's fault.

While my award was nice, I have to say, I would never do another even organized by these people. And I would not recommend their events as a result to anyone. Worst interactions witnessed as a runner ever. (Over hundreds of races, over 19 years.)

(Also, while switching events was nice, it took multiple email attempts days apart to get a response.)

Vacation Edition: Vegas and a 5K

This edition of everyone's favorite blog is thanks to a just completed residency in Las Vegas, NV. (Ok, so it was only 5 days and nobody came to see me for anything.)

While mostly all posts are running, this one will include some Vegas tidbits if for nothing else, this is the best place for me to write up about a vacation (which I will do in a separate entry). But that will be later on. First the running:

Vegas is tough place to run and I am not talking about the weather. I am mainly referring to the famous Las Vegas Strip. While much of it is flat, there are numerous intersections that require going up and down stairs. Typically, I was able to avoid this by making a right or left and going to the next traffic light to cross the road. This worked very well for me with the exception of my second run that had lots of construction occurring preventing even that strategy. Overall in my 5 days of running, 4 were spent starting and finishing at the Flamingo (where I was staying). My total trip mileage was just over 47 miles. My favorite run probably was the first day where I ran in a northern direction on the strip to downtown and up to the Neon Museum/Boneyard. Since my run was early enough, I got to see the lights on with very few people out and about. It was calm and peaceful like the city was just mine. And the weather was wonderful. Cool but not too cool. For the 4 runs I did in the city itself, I don't think I broke a sweat. Now, I am sure that is not the case come summer. However, I will say that any longer of a stay and routes would have gotten pretty dull either by being repeated or just more of wide open with nothing around. But I can say training was good on this trip. Now getting up and out today now that I am home is another story. (The flight home was tough to sleep on so I am pretty wiped.)

As for the mysterious 5th run (on the 3rd full day of the trip: 3/16), it was a day spent racing in the Lake Mead Recreational Area near the Hacienda Hotel & Casino. I participated in the Six Tunnels to Hoover Dam 5K put on by Mountain Man Events. Originally, I was signed up to do the Half Marathon distance but after some knee issues the first week of the month, I felt it was wise to switch the distance. (Thankfully, the day before, I was able to check my email and confirmed the switch happened.) I am glad to have made this call. While the time spent running early along the strip was cool, it was a bit warmer at the race locale with temps I was not really adjusted for. On average, my time in Las Vegas was 40 degrees warmer than home in Philadelphia.

After a brief 40 minute drive, I parked in the designated race lot and proceeded to walk the "1/2" mile to the start/finish area to pick up my packet. I quoted the distance because it was longer than the half mile organizers said. Probably closer to a mile. It was a hike. With being an out of towner and having a car only for race day, I had to wait until race morning to pick up my packet. Apparently, despite registering months ago and selecting small for my shirt size, I was only able to get a medium. For someone who wears is a youth large/men's small, a medium is in some instances huge on me. But I had my number and chip, so I had the things I needed to race. After a warmup in the opposite direction of the race, I laced up my shoes and walked 1/4 mile to the start line. Now there was some confusion here as the HM and 5K headed out 5 minutes apart in opposite directions with only one timing mat. The confusion was caused by some initially muddled instructions. It mainly impacted us in the 5K because the crazy sensitivity of the mats kept being triggered and what appeared to be some struggles by the timers to reset us. Anyways, we were giving the GO and off we went. Now here is where I goofed. I should have either gone over the course on race morning or read the description better. I thought we would be on a paved stretch. Not the case. It was looser gravel/dirt that took some time to get a nice pace going on. However, I managed to do so and by about the 1/2 mile mark I started to pull away from a pack of 3-4 others. Usually, I don't wear sunglasses but on this day I did which was fine except when we went through the 3 tunnels each way. Boy, they were dark. With this course being out and back, it was brutal on the way back as people were spread out across the whole trail. And this was not some trail I could hop off. Doing that would have had me going down the side of a 'cliff'. In the end, I passed the crowd and rolling in for the victory. Officially, my time was 16:51 but due to the timing issues, Peg felt it was a whole minute faster. Which would make sense since the clock said 20:51 when I crossed and the 5K was to start 5 minutes after the HM. Also, the initial results were missing several top finishers. Just wonky. But I did have a nice chat with 2nd and 3rd on a cooldown. After a bit of waiting upon cooldown's end, I picked up my alabaster trophy (apparently valued at 650 US) and went on my way.....I had the Hoover Dam and hiking to do.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Inspiration and reflection...

Due to some personal matters, I've been in a rather reflective state of mind these past few days. As part of this mindset, I've been thinking about some of my running. Not my performances but my inspirations. When I speak of inspirations, I'm not talking about anyone we might put in the category of  'running superstars'. (Which for the record for me would be Pre. I know so original.) I am talking about those people who have directly influenced me whether they know it or not.

First and foremost is my Uncle George. If it were not for the photo in his house growing up of him finishing the NYC Marathon, running would have never been a blip on my screen. In fact, he was the person who got me interested in sports. He taught me baseball and I recall the first football game I ever watched was the Fog Bowl in his living room. When I was a freshman in HS, he came to several of our championship XC meets. Never telling me he would be there but surprising me. To this day is is supportive of my running. It begins with Uncle George.

You could say that my coaches in school would be my next inspirations but you would be wrong. Yes, they helped encourage me to go out for the sport but their lasting impression is not so lasting. That is not say I did not have some good coaches. Just mixed reservations.

Next actually is my stepdad. He inspired me by telling me I couldn't do it. He wasn't been malicious when he said it. Far from it. He knew running was something I had a level of talent in and was really supportive of it. He also did what he could to make it possible for me to compete in 3 national championships during my HS years. Much of the man I am is owed to him. But that is way bigger than this posting.

While this next part may be a bit sacrilegious to some, I would collectively mention the Raritan Valley Road Runners. During my college years, I did not run for Rutgers but ran. And a lot of the people I met through the central NJ running scene were members of this club. Sure, during their summer series, as a founding member of the Middlesex Momentum, I wanted to beat the pants off their club for the overall title but the bounds formed by the post race BBQs were something I hold dear. Their many members became familiar faces for me and people I wanted to run like. Having a good time while running well. What RVRR showed me is something beyond running as they inspired and taught me the true social aspects of the sport. (Also, for the record, Gene Gugliotta from this group was barefoot running WAY before Born to Run came out. He inspires many of us in this area.)

Since leaving NJ, I have settled in Philadelphia where I have gotten the pleasure to be involved with the Philadelphia Runner Track Club, a collection of post-collegiate runners who performed at a level I wanted to push towards. From Ross Martinson to Ryan Fennell and Ted Callahan among others, I was in awe of what they were able to do from a performance perspective. Just being amongst this group was inspiring. To be surrounded by Olympic Trial qualifiers in the marathon and train with them, has pushed me to new levels. I would say that the big gains I have made as a runner is something I owe to this group.

One member of the PRTC, I would like point out specifically, Matt Byrne. Matt is the one person I can think about and say, 'he is the reason I trail race'. Much of my racing had been road based or some XC, but Matt was the first person I knew that was doing real competitive technical trail races. He was going all over the country. Trail racing began to pique my interest. Now for the past few years, I have been building a bigger and bigger portfolio of trail races. But I do not know what my relation to them would be without Matt. His performances at mountain racing just amaze and inspire me.

Last on this list from a running standpoint but certainly not least: Mike Dixon. Mike is a contemporary of mine. Not much of an age separation and we both ran together with the Middlesex Momentum and occasionally with RVRR. (Him more than I.) Because of Mike's inspiration, I now race ultras. Just hearing about his achievements caused me in look into the 'subgenre'. And that curiosity led me to taking the plunge. Of course, I fear having to race him head to head. This is clearly his wheelhouse. Plus, he is much more seasoned. Let me also give one more nod to Matt because without trail racing, ultras would never have been on the table.

There is one other individual, I want to take the time to note as a huge inspiration. In the 7 (or is it 8 now) years I have known her, she has gone from being 'just' a marathoner to being a world-class triathlete. I am speaking of the sole Canadian to make the list; Rachel McBride. She is truly amazing and to be along the ride (sort of speaking) to witness her growth inspires just not myself but others too. Of course this doesn't mean I'll necessarily do a triathlon but any thought I have given in the past or will give in the future is all Rachel. Granted she'd crush me head to head because I could never be in her class.

Those are my inspirations as I see them. Am I missing some, at a different point in time, I may say yes. But for today....these are ones who hold a place worthy to note. Remember this is about inspiration not necessarily those who are my supporters. That list....I could not give enough kind words to each and everyone of them. They keep me going strong.

Before I go, I must mention snowshoe racing and stair-racing are of my own zaniness. So I can't give credit for their inspiration but hopefully I can help inspire others.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Past 650.....but a speed bump.

I went over 650 miles on Sunday out in the Pine Barrens on a marathon distance training run. This run was done a day after I did a HM on the trails out in Valley Forge. Both were satisfying workouts.


Today, I wanted to do a simply 4 mile run before work and I had some discomfort in my right knee. I figured it would shake out during the run but about a mile in.....I bailed. Too much discomfort.

Stinks to cut out of a run and need to take a few days off but I reckon my body said enough or it will seriously injure me.

On the bright side, this happened to me this week since on the 16th I have a HM out in Nevada. That is enough to force me to actually take the days I need off. Otherwise, I admit, I might push harder. It does hurt in the sense that it reduces the amount of speed work I can get in. This is vital given that I've been fast over super long distances but that speed is not the pace I can use for my shorter races. The pace has to kick up a notch. Especially since I have a 5K on the 23rd that I would like to really do well at.

(Depending on how I feel at the end of the week, I might race a 5K on the weekend for some of that much needed speedwork.)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Shaping up indeed....and a 50K down.

Last time, we met, I was noting how I hit 500 miles and some race statuses. 80 more miles have passed since then. Also, races are becoming clearer. I appeared to be the last person in off the wait list for the MD ultra AND I got in to the Broad Street Run. Getting into Broad Street really helps to shape my 'season'. It gives me some road focus and forces some speed work before my 50 miler in the Toronto region a few weeks later. That also means if I want another 50K, I might need to do it a bit earlier than the week before at Ironmasters. Luckily, I got into Hashawha Hills at the last possible moment. This allowed me to get my 1st official 50K (not counting the fat ass 50K in the Wissahickon) on the books for the year.

By chance (well not really), Hashawha was this weekend down in Westminster, MD. Rather than book a room for the night prior, I got up at 3:30am and drove down in some drizzly conditions. Allowing extra time for 'weather traffic'. My drive down benefited from the extra time as I got turned around in Westminster at the transition from MD 140 to MD 97. But in the end, I got there in time to get some wonderful parking next to the host building. With temps, slightly warmer that I expected and very little precip from the skies, I opted for regular running shorts with a short sleeve tech tee with a long sleeve tech over it. Attached to my shorts, I pinned two GUs. For shoes, I decided to rock the La Sportiva Vertical K's, the same shoe I did the fat ass in. Since it was a double loop course, I prepped my drop bag with some extra gels, my Inov-8 Talon 190s, extra socks and a spare set of shirts. With respect to hydration, I decided to leave my handheld in the drop bag. If I was going to need it, I would grab it for the second loop.

At just about 7:30, the field was off. Knowing I had 50K ahead of me, I took it comfortable, much like I did at Rosaryville. Also, I did not want to tax myself too much not knowing the terrain ahead. Plus, it allowed me to get a sense of the field. The course had a mix of road, rolling hills, single track, double track and stream crossings. Due to the moisture and winter, the trail itself had icy patches that were easily avoidable by sticking to the grassy spots on the edges. What I disliked the most were the spots that had been muddy and then froze over. These had 'ruts' from both people and horses using the trails. My feet felt these ruts pretty well. Despite these conditions, the course was very runnable. As a result, I felt like I could begin to distance myself from the field. Because there is a point where we do a small out and back, I was able to see two people as those I needed to be concerned with. By the 8 mile mark, I began to have maybe a .2 mile lead over second. At this point is our 1st time past this aid station. I grabbed a cup of gatorade and was off. Not far after was the last time I saw second place for the rest of the 1st lap. My first lap time was around 1:44-1:45. Course record pace. Here, I hit my handheld for some gatorade but decided to not bring it. I did grab another GU to replace the one I downed at around mile 9. On the second lap, I was really able to use the turnaround second to see how far back any one was. 4 minutes with about 11-12 miles to go. I didn't feel comfortable with that so I began to push myself. had it been 4 minutes with 3 to go I would have been like ok. But I felt I would crack at some point and did not want to risk getting caught too late. I pounded it. My increased pace started to hurt a tad. Much more than at Rosaryville. But then again, I would say Hashawha was tougher. With about 6 miles left, I started to feel some suffer. Luckily the course during this stretch was a lot of meadow which was an easier stretch. It was after passing the last aid station with 4.5 to go that the fun started. This section started off with the muddiest portion of my race made possible by thawing ground and the mid-calf height stream crossing. First time through, it didn't feel nearly as cold as the second. Once beyond this stretch, the trail hit the portion with the climb I hated the most. It was a rooted and gouged climb that really felt like I was hitting a wall. I wouldn't say I walked this but I felt like I wasn't running it. After scaling it, I just maintained through the finish. While I slowed down, it was not by much. My finish time was 3:31:44. Course record shattered. 37 minutes. 2nd and 3rd was around 3:48. Also under the old mark. You could sum up my second lap this way: pushed my pace and then towards the end I suffered making my second lap around the same time as the 1st. Probably could have paced better.

I'd say lesson learned but we know that is not the case. I'll run by reaction again when I get 'scared' by 2nd being so close.

Hey, I did really well. 1st place. Course record. Not a bad day.

Funny note: one of the other runners was also at Rosaryville when I broke that course record too. Maybe I need him at all my ultras. Further funny note about that is when they were announcing winners, he stated to everyone about the Rosaryville performance.