Tuesday, May 16, 2017

More like the Extra Dirty German....

Sometimes, I look forward to sharing my thoughts about my running and get ideas of what I want to say only to not write things up in time or forget the cool catchy yarn I want to spin.

We can call this a clear mix of the two. Since last time I threw up on this blog, I've added races of 60K, 5K and 50M all the while working to stay focused on running. I'll tell you it has been hard. Allergies finally hit. A planned race was not doable for issues with the truck. And work got super stressful! The latter which required some serious overtime. Most of these were grouped around the start of May. This has enabled me to dub May, not exactly my best month. A few years ago, I had three ultra DNF's which I followed up last year with super stress from having my whole routine thrown out the window by serving practically two weeks on a jury. This led to stress causing a late DNS at World's End. Yeah, May....

Anyways, I've been managing fairly well this year. My sleeping rhythms (whether a good night or bad night) have me up running before 6am (sometimes a shade after). With the early sun, I've been able to do these morning runs mainly on trails. Most of my training has been within the Wissahickon lately. While I do not usually do my 20+ milers through there on the upper trails, on the day of my aborted race, I spent 3 hours cranking out some enjoyable footfalls. You might say that right now the runs through there have been centering. Sure I do a little pavement here and there on my morning runs, but I find myself dipping onto the trails.

Of course, I do not expect y'all to come here merely to read how I train but want to know about some racing. As I mentioned above, I've done three notable runs. The first was the 3rd edition of Bryan Court 100. Prior to this year's April edition, it was last held in Dec 2015. It is 100 laps around a .38 mile double cul du sac street. The brainchild of my friends Jurgen and Otto, it is not so much a race despite official results with awards and finisher medals but a good time to do a long run with friends. I needed the mileage considering I had just been moved off the wait list for TGNY 100 in June. And one of the things I hate to do by myself all the time are super long runs. (Anything about 20 as a training run moves into that category.)  BC100 was exactly the experience I hoped for. Got in miles. Got to hang out with people. Great day!

Now originally, I was going to follow up BC with Lake Waramaug 100K. Mid-week, I started to get hit with stress at work and that turned into anxiety surrounding the race, Luckily since I had not signed up, I opted to do a different race, Ironmaster's Challenge. It was closer by an hour, on trail instead of road, and I could sleep in the truck for free the night before. Not to mention, they had race day registration. Unfortunately, I never made it out to the race. The afternoon prior to my departure, the truck started running really poorly. It's an old truck so we expect some tempermentalism from it. However, the difference was this time the Check Engine light was on. Still I departed around 7pm to head out to Pine Grove Furnace. Considering, I had some time for the truck to settle down (since sometimes warming up does the trick), I told myself if the truck was not running right by the time I would hop on the PA Turnpike, I wouldn't go. This ended up being the case and the truck ended up in the shop twice the following week to correct the issue.

Mentally, I pushed through and did my 3 hour run through the Wissahickon getting in 22 of the 31 miles I had planned. Having almost bagged the run before 5 miles, this was a boost and led into a solid week of training and a 5K.

Sure, it was Broad Street 10 Mile weekend but I was doing a 5K because I was not signed up for the 10 miler because I had ultras on my slate. (Hello, conflict!) So I dipped my toes into speed again and went back to the Alex Wake Memorial 5K held at the Baldwin School. For whatever reason, this year the race felt smaller than when I did it back in 2014. (At least I think it was 14 and not 15.) Last time, I had won a gift card to Bryn Mawr Running Company and was hoping to do the same again. And considering without any present shoe sponsor, I planned on building up some cash to get a new pair of shoes. In fact, I had not only my previous gift card from this race but a second gift card to the store. In the end, the race ended up being 7 seconds slower than my previous winning time. A bit of a bummer but I did get another BMRC GC which I promptly went to spend after the race. Again with TGNY in mind, I got a pair of Clifton 3. I would have got the Brooks Hyperion for a road flat too but they were out of my size. (Amazingly, I also found out one of the old GC that I thought was for 50 was for 100!)

Lets call this starting to feel good!

And feeling good I was. In the week leading up to Alex Wake, I got into the Dirty German 50 Miler. I was going back for two reasons. I needed the miles with not doing the end of April ultra and a bit of redemption for 2015 when it was one of my May DNF's. The forecast looked good. Cooler temps! (Unlike the sufferfest of heat last time.) However, as the race got closer cool temps became cool temps and a Nor'easter!

Thankfully, the RD, Stephan green lit the race to continue.

Now, while feeling guilty for the mud running that was likely to occur, I was pleased as punch to be running this race in the rain. It is a little more suited to my liking.

With the forecast, I elected to bring a tent to the race (held in Philadelphia's Pennypack Park) to stash my stuff so that I would have dry gear, shoes to change if need be, my hydration.....

Let me say right now, I was very happy with this decision. Once the tent was set up, I stayed not only dry but warm as I did the final moments of prep. Bottles filled. Check. Shoes laid out. Check. Glide applied. Check. Bib pinned. Check. Socks....socks. Where are my socks? Search through the bag. How is it, I have everything else but my socks? Deep breaths. Apparently, somehow the extra socks I tend to leave in my ultra gear bag for races were not there. Now, I had one pair of slightly damp socks I wore to the race. Troubleshooting in the spot. I needed to determine my best combination options. Best non-sock shoes in this weather? I immediately identified my Montrail FluidFlex as the best draining shoes and thus the best choice for no socks. Considering my FluidFlex II's looked too shiny, I figured no sense to use those. That left me with LaSportiva Vertical K and Helios. After working with what fits best with my Farm To Feet socks, I decided to go with the Vertical K. In fact, I opted to start the race with this combo and go to the Montrails if need be. The Helios were comfy enough to walk around in post race without socks and the best candidate to keep me warm after. Crisis adverted. At least for now.

Fueling wise the plan was simple. 3 laps. 3 bottles. For the first lap, I would go with my Nathan SpeedShot Plus followed by Nathan ExoDraws for each of the last two. I would keep Clif ShotBlocs in my Nathan Hipster throughout the race. I would say this worked out wonderfully. No issues with this plan.

A couple of minutes before the start, I popped out of the tent, scurried to do my business and make it to the start just as Stephan was giving instructions before we went off. (Following a countdown of course.)

Like that we were off as the first race of the race (50K started 30 minutes after us and 25K an additional 30 minutes later). I got a few words of encouragement from people I didn't see. (Quite possibly all my friends staying dry who were doing the shorter races.) This encouragement prompted the runner a few strides ahead of me to ask if I was...well who I am. I confirmed this. Turns out the runner, whose name is Jameson, had heard about me through Peg during his own training in the Wissahickon. Small world? Probably not in this case considering...same city.

Anyways, it appeared we would be running together for some time. (I'd say we opened up a good gap from the start never really thinking about anyone behind us.)

1st lap....check out lap 3 later (it is of the same section)
Photo: Christopher Mortensen

Now the benefit of being out front for the first race of the day is getting the best trail conditions possible for the day. And of course, all the surprises nobody else has experienced yet. The first of which was the initial Pennypack Creek crossing due to a bridge detour. That creek was angry and it was still early. The rain was only going to make it worse later. I uttered something about fearing it on later loops. Aside from that one stretch, the first loop was rather uneventful. Tried to stay away from any giant puddles, run the drier edges and not push the pace too much. Jameson and I were pretty inseparable for that lap until he made a pee stop (sorry to out you but it is the nature of these) near the finish. Not long after I left for my second loop, he caught up and were we back together. This time we both discovered the creek crossing had been rerouted over the bridge. (Stephan later said the creek was really high on the 25K runners. Clearly. adding to the need to reroute on the fly.)

Also, it was obvious, that the course was going to be muddier and slower this go round. (It would be on this loop that I would slip twice.)

Buttery Singletrack
Photo: Renne Farrington Wentz

Maybe it was the rain but I did mention that I thought we might have missed a section between aid stations 2 and 3. For some reason, I felt like we had not done part of the course that you run in both directions. Our time on the first lap felt fast at 2 hours. I mentioned if we did miss it, I would run it twice this lap to make up the difference. (Which would be three actually since it would be correct time, back out to do it again and do it again.) Thankfully, I was wrong. I apparently my brain did not process one straighter stretch as the section I thought we missed. (This is the stretch right after AS 1 and right before AS3.) And yet, on the first loop on the way into AS 3, a group of runners asked if they were going the right way which I assured them. Because I will say this, despite the rain, the ground trail markings help up really well!

Following the 'repeater section', Jameson started to become a little elastic in his contact. Still we were together. Talking a little less but still together enjoying the weather. At one point, Jameson blew by me on a stream crossing. I was taking them careful. We hooked back up and it was through here that I started to distance myself from him. To be honest, I enjoyed the initial company but I'd rather not talk about my running in the middle of a race. So I was happy to be left to my own devices. It wasn't like I was alone with other runners around.

Eventually heading back to AS1/AS3, I could see that the aid station moved a little as the creek was now creeping up over the banks onto the paved path. Thus, reminding me to be happy about not having to cross the creek like the first loop. The rest of the loop was uneventful aside from working to pass people on slippery muddy singletrack. Loop 2 was 13 minutes slower than Loop 1.

During my start/finish pit-stop, I saw Sean from the Wissahickon Wanderers who ran the 25K. I was focused on getting back out so I didn't say much other than it beginning to suck a little as I took an ibuprofen and switched bottles for the last time.

On this loop, I hit what really is AS1 but with it being so close to the Start/Finish, less than a 1/4 mile, I am not calling it that. Here, I grabbed a swig of Coke and for whatever reason a Keebler-esque Fudge Cookie. Boy did that taste yummy! Much yummier than the trails looked. Lets call it what it is....a mudrun at this point. Water is really ponding on the trails. Especially those closer to the creek. Anyways, I felt good enough. Yet, as I got close to AS1, I started to crave those cookies again. However, it had been moved again due to an ever increasing creek overflow and it would have required extra steps, so I skipped it. Now, I was feeling like I was running through water. Some stretches it was either take the mud slopes or the water stream. Usually, I went with the latter as it ran quicker from a terrain standpoint. When it was a river on the path, that was a different story. That sucked! It created loads more resistance. I would say out of everything with the race, that is what made it super slow the third loop. Honestly, I was amazed I still got traction running at all!

3rd Lap - Another paved section under water
Photo: Christopher Mortensen

For the first time all day, I hit up AS2 for Coke and I grabbed 3 of those fudge cookies. Delicious!

Someone caught me eating all the cookies....(actually AS1/3 guest host)
Photo: Jeff Landerkin

More running through mud and water......

Photo: Kevin Minteer

AS3......course reroute!

The creek is now flooded to the point we now had a manned road crossing. (Stephan along with the volunteers did a great job looking out for the safety of the runners and making changes on the fly.)

Of course, I did not realize this at first. The downhill into AS3 was clearly different but I thought that reroute was for safety of sliding into the aid station. But if you are moving the course closer to the snack table, you bet I was grabbing cookies and coke before attempting to ford the path. Yes, I was going to go through the creek. My biggest worry was a Canada Goose floating right in my pathway. That is until, the volunteers shouted to me that I had to go up now. OH!!!!

Photo: Melissa Lin

I will say the changes made for a much more exciting memorable race. I was enjoying it expected I was starting to feel a little tired and sore. Not to mention cold. For my first lap, I ran with a tech-shirt over my singlet but I shed that before the start of lap 2. My singlet felt warm for much of the race as I was not overheating. However, with getting a little tired, I was feeling like I needed to be out of the rain. I wanted to be done and dry.

While the end could not come soon enough, it did arrive. My last lap was around 2:39. I finished the 50 Mile in 1st place in 6:52. Considering the conditions, I can't say a bad word about the time. I had an enjoyable run. Thanks to the tent, I had a place to change into dry clothes and warm up. Warm felt so good! And the Helios did a good job warming my sockless feet up. While I got no blisters on my feet, despite adding some protection for groin chaffing, I got a little tenderness.

It would have been a blast to hang out longer post race but it was still raining. The hour I did spend was really pleasant. Luckily, I got to see Stephan one last time on the way out. He did an amazing job!

And he has already organized a trail maintenance day post race because of our impact on nature in those conditions! That is hugely considerate and respectful.

Ok..I've waffled long enough now. In the end, I was happy to have done well and get in a good 50 miles. I would take the Nor'easter conditions over 95 degrees with humidity any day of the week.

From here on out, I focus on quality training for Worlds End 50K in 2 1/2 weeks before TGNY 100 two weeks after that. It is a big stretch but one I am feeling up to the challenge. Much more so because I got to take part in the Dirty German this year.


  1. Thanks for writing this up! I only did the 50k, but its nice to be reminded that it wasn't just a creepy dream. What a wild race!

    1. Jesse, it most certainly was a surreal experience out there! I'm glad other people took photos so we can have proof in image form.