Sunday, March 30, 2014

Things Are Starting to Click

It's been a cold winter - and my fitness hasn't been what I've wanted it to be. Of course, if I miss a day or two of running in a row I wonder if I can "get back in the groove" or how much conditioning I've lost. Do I have to start back with a 5K? Not having a regular running regiment in Nov/Dec means that the early year races are a good indicator of how conditioned the body is - has less mileage been beneficial - or detrimental? Has it remembered how to run?

Early indicators through the first 3 races of the season - Bandera 100K, Rocky Raccoon 50, and Cowtown 50K are that yes - it has weathered winter weather fairly well. Bandera 100K I improved by over 2 hours over 2013 even with IT Band issues that kept me gimpy for the last 15 or so miles. At Rocky Raccoon 50 I cruised over the roots and improved over 1:30 minutes compared to 2013. At Cowtown 50K this past weekend I nailed a 4:17 for my fastest PR at a 50K yet (it's roads - but I'll take it!)

The great thing about the races is that none of them I've really trained for. They have been more training runs than anything else. The main races of the year are the four Grand Slam races beginning in June. But it's been good to get an idea of how my running has improved. Now that the weather is warming - there's no excuse for not knocking out some serious mileage. In fact - the more I can be out in the sun to start my heat acclimization as it warms up - the better.

Week of Jan 27th 35 miles
Week of Feb 3rd 65 miles (Rocky Raccoon 50)
Week of Feb 10th 40 miles
Week of Feb 17th 55 miles (Cowtown 50K)
Week of Feb 24th 35 miles
Week of March 1st  30 miles
Week of March 8th  50 miles
Week of March 15th 48 miles
Week of March 22nd 107 (includes Moab 100 with 84 miles)





Sunday, January 26, 2014

Weeks Ending 1/19 and 1/26

Still being a fair weathered runner - and still complaining about it. You'd think as a trail runner I'd appreciate being outside, regardless of the conditions. However, I've decided that anything less than 40 is just too cold to run outside. Instead, I've been venturing indoors on these type of days to get some stairstepper and treadmill work in. If you think running 100 miles might be "boring" - try running 3 miles on a treadmill - or worse - 6+. Terrible.

This wknd was great - 70 yesterday and nearly 80 today. Never fear - it's supposed to be 35 tomorrow with a 35 mph wind. Treadmill anyone?

1/13 - 3.5
1/14 - 3.5
1/15 - 7
1/16 - 6
1/17 - 12
1/18 - 20
1/19 - none

1/20 - none
1/21 - 3
1/22 - 10
1/23 - none
1/24 - 6
1/25 - 16
1/26 - 15



Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bandera 100K Race Report

It's been a long 6 weeks. Thanksgiving and Christmas are always busy time of year - add a mother having major surgery, bad weather, a team meeting, totaling your mother's car on the way to Utah, a hurt dog that has a lame leg, etc and it really felt like 6 months. Running was really put on the back burner, and for everyone that knows me that isn't something that I sacrifice. My running is mine and I don't compromise or apologize for it. Unless it has something to do with my family, my paycheck, or my running buddy Callie.

It was this 6 weeks hiatus from running - and really the lack of participation of any type of organized race since August/Leadville - that got me excited about running Bandera. That is if the weather was going to be good. Instead of signing up way in advance - I decided to wait and see if it was going to be wet or not. I know, hanging head in shame, this isn't the spirit of a true trailrunner. Last year I ran Bandera in high humidity and thick, sticky mud - followed by a cold front with 40 mph winds and freezing temps. I've been there and battled the elements. I did it. I finished. But I didn't feel like a repeat and honestly after 6 tough weeks wasn't sure I was even up for the mental challenge of having to persevere. So - I watched the weather and when it looked like there was a reasonable chance it wouldn't get nasty outside I signed up.

A few days before I made my way down to the Hill Country as I have a few hotels I support near the race location (HI Express Kerrville is a great option if you ever run this race!). I drove out Friday evening for the race briefing and to get my packet. Smooth sailing. I got all my gear together that night - pinned the bib on my shorts - and crawled in bed later than I should have only to find I couldn't sleep. I saw every number on the clock that night but must have dozed off sometime because I jumped up when I got my wake-up call at 4:50.

At the briefing, RD Joe mentioned that we needed to be parked by 6am for a 730am start to avoid getting in traffic - so I took this advice and was out early. This was a good idea - not just because I didn't have to worry about missing the start - but it gave me time to get things together. Yah I know - I prepped the night before and still needed almost an hour to get it together at the start. You'd think I would have it more together at this point as many races I've run - especially since I had no drop bags. Anyways - I strapped on my Nathan 020 - grabbed my hat, glasses, warm warmers, gloves, ipod and nutrition and made my way to the start.

It wasn't as cold as I thought - so there were no warm up miles needed once we started at 730am. Of course there were people sprinting up at the front - some with a legitimate chance of winning - some trying to avoid the single file line of the first climb - and some inexperienced endurance runners that get caught up in the moment and crash and burn early.

My race strategy was to run reasonably fast including the ups - without going anaerobic. I don't really know where my heartrate needed to be to accomplish this - so I decided to go off of feel. I completely ignored people around me and just did my thing.

The first climb - steep and rocky - was relatively easy and even though it seemed a lot longer than 5.6 miles to the first aid station (Nachos) I got there feeling really good. A quick top off of water and I was on my way over the much easier terrain to Chapas where I had an Ensure that I had been carrying. Amazing how ditching something that weighs prob 6 - 8 oz makes a huge difference on the load you're carrying. Everything was going smoothly through the first loop - breezing over sections that last year were so muddy you could hardy walk - cruising to a first 50K loop in 5:38.

By this time it was starting to heat up. Heating up being relative - it was prob in the low to mid 70's. Usually a runner's dream. However, the weather has been so cold this winter that 70 felt like 90. I doused my hat with water - reapplied sunscreen - and headed off for the first climb. It was hot and dusty and the cactus around me seemed appropriate. There was not a repeat performance of bouncing up the trail as I had just 6 hours earlier. No - this time it was slower and hot thinking constantly "how many people are going to pass me before I get to the top?" I kept looking over my shoulder - no one - but I knew they were lurking somewhere close. I kept moving. I finally made it to Nachos and re-plenished my handheld and my Platypus collapsible water bottle which I've really enjoyed using the last few runs and kept moving. Even though it was hot I was still running most of the time except some of the steeper ups. I knew from exerience in other races that I would rebound when the weather cooled off and to just stick with it.

Somewhere in the lower 40's - I felt pain in my knee. Awww - what's this all about? I tried walking and it felt fine - but when I ran it would start hurting. I remember similar pain from my very first trail run about 5 years ago. I tried stretching my IT Band to see if that would help. I started running - no pain - and then 2 - 3 minutes later it would start hurting again. Yup - a tight IT band with 20 miles to go. Great.

I made it to Crossroads Aid Station having power walked and jogged the very easy terrain between the previous aid station. I decided to take a few minutes and stretch - the first I spent any decent amount of time at an aid station. For some reason coke and fritos sounded good - so I shoved a handful of chips in my mouth and downed 2 - 3 small cups of coke. I left the aid station and immediately felt sick. Stomach cramping, nausea - just felt rotten. Wha? Was this going to be my first official throw-up during a trail race moment? I have no idea why I decided I should go to the bathroom - but before the steep, rocky climb I decided to duck behind a tree - which fortunately made all the difference in the world. I stepped back on the trail feeling great - and started jogging - and then the knee issue again. Ugh.

Up and over the rocky hills and back down to Crossroads again for the 2nd time - it was finally dark enough to need a headlamp - and nice and cool. I took off again - running until my knee hurt - stopping and stretching - running - stretching. After a while I decided I would just practice my fast-walk. I did this at Leadville where I was walking faster than most people were running. I walked as quickly as I could and occassionally would run - but before I felt any pain I would start power walking again - then run a little bit. This seemed to be a good combo because I wasn't having to stop and stretch at all.

The last stretch from Boyles aid to the finish has 2 steep, rocky climbs and descents - along with a few miles of relatively flat gentle terrain - which is pretty much a summary of the whole course in 5 miles. I ran the last part of the downhill all the way to the finish - knee pain and all - to finish in 13:17 which was a nearly 2 hour improvement from the year before.

Bandera was a really good race for me. Since I hadn't run much over the last few months it gave me confidence that I am still a distance runner. I still have what it takes to run 60+ miles in a decent time. It also highlighted that I need to incorporate stretching into my workout schedule. As my running improves and I'm able to run much further into races - and as I work on my climbing - I have to get better at keeping the legs flexible. Better to learn that now rather than at Western States. I was also mentally engaged in the race. I was constantly aware of my heartrate/perceived effort throughout which is why I felt great and even though my IT band wasn't cooperating. I was also able to work through problems rather than beating myself up.

I finished with scratched legs from the Sokol but with no blisters. Today my legs are very sore - particularly the quads - but that's to be expected. Overall - a great way to start turning 40 - a great way to start 2014 and a lot of positives to build on in the upcoming months before Moab 100 in March and Western States in June!

Week Ending January 12th

Too cold and windy to run many miles. Fair weathered runner.

1/6 - 30 mins on stairstepper/30 mins on treadmill/upper body weights
1/7 - none
1/8 - none (birthday - ate too much - should have run)
1/9 - none
1/10 - none
1/11 - 62 miles (Bandera 100K)
1/12 - none (recovery)

Total - 65 miles

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Week Ending Jan 5th

Time to ease back into running after an off and on December!

1/1 - 10 miles
1/2 - 45 min stair stepper/15 mins treadmill @ 10% grade
1/3 - 10 miles
1/4 - 10 miles
1/5 - 0 miles - cold weather wimp

Total - 30 miles

Friday, December 27, 2013

Having fun!

Picture it. The reddish soil of Palo Duro Canyon. 2008. It was then and there, about 5 years ago, that I ran my first ultramarathon and my first trail run. I had never run a trail before. The description said "99% dirt trails on the floor of the canyon" with a photo of a wide open trail. How hard could it be? What were all of the things people were wearing on their shoes? Oh, we need a flashlight? Anyone have an extra? People are carrying water - in backpacks with straws? Is there not any water along the way? Yes, these were just some of the questions that I had throughout the day - including - what did I get myself into? Followed later by - what did I do to my knee?

It's funny to think about how it all started. How naive I was. How a 50K seemed so far to run. How little I knew about running, and how little I knew about my limits and what I could accomplish with focus and determination. How excited I was to discover a whole new world I never knew existed. How hooked I had become with just run race - one trail experience. I hobbled around for a month with IT band issues aggravated by running on the uneven surface after Palo Duro. But this didn't deter me from wanting to get back out and run another trail. The one marathon I had previously run ended up being the only marathon distance race to this day I've completed. I was hooked on ultradistance.

My running has progressed considerably in the last five years. From showing up unprepared to having a closet full of a supplies and a myriad of bags and cases to tote to races. From one pair of shoes to a closet full. From one 50K medal to multiple 100 mile buckles. From saying "I think I can" to "I know I can." My running is less about "how far I just ran" and more about "how much fun I just had." That pretty much sums up my running in 2013. Fun.

This year I explored some unbelievable places with awesome people. Some highlights were running the Grand Canyon R2R2R with friends from Utah and seeing the canyon in ways few people every get to experience. Pacing my buddy Howard Mayson to his first 100 mile finish above the red sandstone cliffs at Bryce Canyon. Walking down Main St in Leadville, CO and completing the "race across the sky" for my 5th 100 mile finish. Running the Zion Traverse.

Each of these runs produced memories I'll have forever. I took away experiences, learned things from friends, and learned things about myself. I tweaked nutrition and shed pounds and found that a leaner, meaner me produced faster times with similar effort. I continued to be amazed at the selfless attitude of other runners that will give up their time and energy to help me achieve a goal. I'm much better at focusing on my running attitude, knowing that my apptitude will follow with discipline. Most of all, I had a blast.

Just as 2013 was an improvement over 2012, good things are in store for 2014. Acceptance into the Western States 100 opens up the door for a potential UltraRunning Grand Slam which includes four hundreds: Western States, Vermont, Leadville, and Wasatch. Of course there has to be some good prep runs leading up to those such as Bandera 100K and Moab 100. Although some of these are tough runs, and there will be some unhappy times during some of the races for sure, and although I want to finish all of them with great times, first and foremost I want to have a good time. Afterall, 100 miles is a long ways to run when you aren't having fun, right? I also look forward to supporting other runners at the aid stations, at the finish, or helping them get to the finish just as so many people have helped me along the way.

Gotta run have fun!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Western States 100 Lottery

Just after my name was drawn. Whoop!

It's been almost a week since I watched the Western States Lottery on the internet and saw my name pulled from the metal hopper - 45th out of 270 drawn. I'm still not sure it's 100% sunk in that I'm actually going to get to run - evidenced by the fact that I've checked the official 2014 entrants list multiple times just to verify and have regularly checked email waiting for some type of welcome/confirmation email (did receive the receipt that the registration fee had been processed though - that day!)

I read about the WS100 from Dean Karnazes' Ultramarathon Man. I knew it was something I had to one day attempt - and gained my first entry in 2009 when I had barely run a qualifier - Palo Duro 50 mile in 10:44 with the specific goal of entering the lottery. I thought I was pretty cool. Apparently I also thought I was lucky because I was pretty sure I'd get in that year. I didn't. Talk about being bummed out. I remember wondering what I would do with my running - what races would I run to pass the time until the next lottery? What other races were there besides THAT one? I felt like I was in a holding pattern. 

I fumbled around with mostly local races but took a stab at a couple of 50K's in the mountains out west because c'mon - I had run a 50 mile race before so a 50K was a training run. Kindergarten. I ran the Jemez 50 mile in NM but dropped down to the 50K midway through the race and later that summer ran the Speedgoat 50K in Utah and received the dead last award for the last finisher. These two races taught me very quickly to respect both the terrain and the distance. Western States was three times as long. Confidence and ego put in-check. 

The 2nd WS100 lottery came and went - I didn't get picked again - and I found other races to focus my attention on. I was sort of over it. I started running more races in the mountains. I started working harder in gym - focusing on really building up my legs which I never thought I really needed to do since I ran so much. Remember, I could run 50 miles. Oooh. I started having a lot more fun by enjoying awesome scenery and meeting new people that shared the same passion. I stopped focusing on always having to force myself to do better from race to race to race - and let my running take a natural upward progression rather than a forced one. I stopped going off of a pre-determined training regiment, and started going off of feel. I started understanding that running was so much larger and more rewarding than one race, and that my calendar year didn't have to be from the 2nd Sat in Dec to the 2nd Sat in Dec.

The last few years I've had some amazing experiences. Zion 100, Bryce 100, Leadville 100, Pony Express 100, Zion Traverse, Grand Canyon R2R2R to name a few. My times have gradually gotten faster. I've learned to run smarter races. I've learned to tweak and fine tune my strategy and listen to my body during races to improve my chances of finishing. I understand how to work through lows and push forward. I know how to pare down my drop bags so they're necessities and not security blankets. And most importantly I realize that I'm not the runner now that I was 4 years ago that thought he could run 100 miles; I'm smarter, stronger, and better prepared to tackle the challenge now.

Sometimes fate has a funny way of giving us what we want, when we need it, and when we're ready for it. I wonder what path my running would have taken if I had gotten into WS100 four years ago. Would I have finished? Would I have had a good time? Would I have learned all of the things about myself and my running that I've discovered? Would I still be having fun? Although there's no way of knowing - I do know that my experience in June is far more likely to go well than it would have several years back. Four years ago I simply wasn't ready. I wasn't ready physically. I wasn't ready mentally. My running wasn't ready for that step. But now. Now is a different story and I plan on seizing it. Confidence.

"Here I go it's my shot. Feet fail me not. This maybe the only opportunity that I've got!"  Eminem