Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rattlesnake Ridge 50K Race Report

Since I saw no others online, I figured I'd do a quick report.  We were out visiting Kym's sister for 12 days, so I looked for a place to run or race while I was here.  I found the Rattlesnake Ridge races.  I was torn between the half marathon and the 50K.  Since I just ran MMT 5 weeks before this race I'm not 100% recovered, but I'm definitely not in half marathon shape, so I went with the 50K.  The elevation would be more than any east coast 50K I'd ever run.  So, in prep, a few days before the race I ran up Mt. Si.  I parked in the wrong spot and ran up the Old trail from the Boulder Loop.  It's apparently much more steep than the normal Mt. Si, and there' wasn't a single person on it.   When I intersected with the Mt. Si trail there were a few dozen people I passed in the last 1/4 mile up.  There was a thick fog at the top, so it made my decision to not climb the haystack easy.  I made a wrong turn at one point, and added about a mile on the way up. So, the climb up was 4.2 miles with 3600 feet of climbing in 1 hour 22 minutes.  The run down was 3 miles with about 3300 feet of descent in 40 minutes.  Nice way to pound my quads just before the 50K.  Mt Si run from little Si lot I think garmin

After a quick 1/4 mile out and back we headed towards the Rattlesnake Ridge trail.  Miles 2-5 go straight up the mountain, about 2600 feet of gain.  Halfway up you see the sigh to the Ledge lookout.  I was tempted to go take a look, but I had no idea how far the ledge was, and I was in around 4th or 5th place at this point.  The next 6 miles are downhill.  There's slight ups for the first mile or two, but its mostly down and fast.  I'm not a fast downhill runner and sore quads are the lingering effect of MMT.  I was passed by about 6 guys over the next few miles. The last mile before the turn back up the mountain is on a crushed rock utility road.  Shortly after the aid station I started to pass the 1/2 marathon runners, who had just started their race.  It was fun to have a lot of other runners out there climbing back up the ridge line. The only "problem" with the race, if you want to call it that, is the traffic.  After you pass the trail to the ledge on the way back, around mile 19, there's tons of people hiking up and down the mountain.  It was a beautiful day, so there were probably even more people out there than usual.  There was a lot of stopping and waiting, and slowing down to avoid people for about 2 miles.  After coming off the trail you pass the Finish line, and there's a 4.5 mile out and 4.5 mile back.  On the way out I was running really well holding low 8 minute miles.  On the way back, I realized I was running well because those miles were all downhill.  About 100 feet of mile down on the way out, then 100 feet per mile up on the way back.  Easy if it's early in the race, tough for the last 4 miles of a 50K.  It's all runnable, and I ran it all, but it feels like it'll never end.

The course was extremely well marked.  I bought a "clearance" shirt after the race for $5.  The trails on west coast are much different than the east coast.  Mostly in the long climbs and downhills.  There's definitely no 4-6 mile hills in the Philly area. Also, the trail is all smooth.  There's rocks and roots, but they're all avoidable. The trail up to the Ledge was probably the most technical with rocks.  The backside had more windy/switchbacky trail. Rattlesnake Ridge 50K garmin

view of the trail

another pic of trail

view from the Ledge, halfway up where the 50K runs

wiping daddy's sweaty kiss off

Icing my legs in the cold lake after

all the people on the ledge

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

MMT100 Race Report (again)

Last year I ran Massanutten as my first 100.  I blistered early, sprained my ankle at some unknown point, and had no fun over the last 50 miles.  So, I figured, let’s do it again. 

Last year Kym and I had plans to go out to dinner with some friends from my running club (Pagoda Pacers), but we got there too late.  This year we left early to get there with plenty of time to set up, but heavy rains on the ride down delayed us.  When we stopped for lunch at Chipotle we sat down to eat and saw Jim Blandford and his wife Karen, and crew Beth.  Exactly who we were having dinner with that night.  We joined them for lunch and I talked to Jim about his nutrition plan for the race.  He does Perpetuem with a gel and S-cap every 45 minutes.  This is what my plan was, with real food added in since I’d be out there for many more hours than him.  We got to race headquarters around 3pm and saw the mess it was because of the rain.  The parking lot was a mud pit and the field leading to the start/finish line was underwater.  We checked in and learned the bridge to the campground was out.  This meant we’d have to drive between the two, and that the start was moved to the campgrounds this year.  We drove up to set up camp and there were only about a half dozen camps set up at this point.  I noticed one was Karl Meltzer’s car.  He had his speed golf bag out, so I went over and talked to him about it.  He was very friendly and it was an interesting conversation about the sport.  Kym and I set up camp, went to the pre-race meeting, out to dinner, and I was asleep at 10pm.  I woke up twice in the night with nightmares of DNF’ing at mile 54.
Overflowing river on race morning

Race Day
When anyone asked me my goal for the race, I generally would tell them to not get the blisters I had last year and to not sprain my ankle like I did last year.  By doing that I knew I’d be able to have a nice improvement.  I told only one or two people my stretch goal of finishing before the 6am sunrise on Sunday.  That would be a 2 hour and 49 minute improvement, and would not be easy.

Start to Edinburg Gap
Last year I recall the first time I had to get my feet wet was around mile 65.  This year would be much different.  On the 4 mile road to the trail we had several shin deep water crossings from the overflow of water off the mountains.  There were about 15-20 of these types of crossings through the day with miles and miles of wet and muddy trail.  My plan to keep my feet dry all day was out the door 1 mile into the race.  I ran the first few miles with my friend Lori (who won 1st place senior woman!).  When I got to the trail I moved much more quickly up Short Mountain than the group I was near.  When I got to the top I ran the rest of the section with two guys, Brad and Dan, who were friends running together.  I very much enjoyed the conversation and leisurely pace and the weather was perfect.  I rolled into Edinburg gap at 6:25, exactly the same time as last year, but at what felt to be a much more relaxed pace.  12 miles.  0 minutes ahead of last year. 

Edinburg to Woodstock to Powells to Elizabeth Furnace
photo credit: James Williams
After leaving Edinburg there’s a long climb, then about 19 miles of very runnable trails with one other climb before you see your crew again at mile 33.  This section all blends together for me.  I know that I climbed the first hill strong, then put in my headphones for the first time.  During the runnable sections Brad and Dan caught me after I went through the first Aid quicker than them.  There was a group of 5 of us that ran a lot of these miles together.  At points I felt like their pace was too quick for me, so I’d drop back from time to time.  At Powell’s I had some French toast that might have been my favorite food of the day.  It was exactly what I desired at that point.  After leaving Powells’ there’s a fire road for a few miles.  During this section there was some talk about being excited for the next hill so we could justify walking.  5 or 6 of us hit the mile 27ish climb together.  I’m still very new to running very long distances, but the best thing I’ve learned is to walk with a purpose.  When I’ve run with Jim Blandford and other Pagoda Pacers who are better runners than me, I’m struck by how quickly they can move while walking.  I made it a point to walk with vigor when I decided to walk.  All day.  If you think about it there are something like 30 miles of uphills.  If you can take that average down 2 minutes per mile just by walking quicker, that’s an hour off your time.  It’s a lot easier to walk 2 minutes per mile faster than to run 2 minutes per mile faster.  So, on this uphill I pulled pretty far away from the group.  I was a few miles past the hill before they caught up to me again.  I’m just not as fast on the flats/downhills as them.  I got to Elizabeth Furnace at 10:38am.  33 miles.  11 minutes ahead of last year.
coming into Elizabeth Furnace

Elizabeth Furnace to Shawl Gap
My plan was to change socks at Elizabeth, but reports of a very wet trail ahead led me to decide to wait until Shawl.  This section was one of my least favorite last year.  After all the runnable trail we had just been on, the climb here was a kick in the gut.  It’s not the longest climb on the course, but one of the more technical ones.  Lots of switchbacks, steps carved into the mountain out of stone, and when you look up, it seems like it will never end.  This year I knew what I was getting into, and just put my head down and hiked as fast as I could.  There’s some high grass fields in this section and Kym pulled a tick off me as I got into the next Aid Station.  38 miles. 23 minutes ahead of last year.

Shawl Gap to Veach to Indian Grave to Habron
Coming into Shawl I started to feel a hot spot on the bottom of my right foot.  I took a long time here to change socks and to put moleskin on the bottom of both feet.  This 100 million percent saved my race.  The bottoms of my feet did not blister all day.  During a short road section before Veach I ran a little with Kyle.  A friend of a friend who I’d met just before the start.  Kyle and I would leapfrog and run together a little for the next 30+ miles.  The climb out of Veach is one of the toughest of the day.  It’s long and mostly straight.  You can look ahead of you and see you just keep going up and up and up.  It’s the middle of the day so it’s hot, and there’s 9 miles between aid stations.  I had two handhelds at this point, so I had to drink a lot, yet conserve water for the long time it would take.  After the long climb, there’s some runnable miles before you get to a ridge on the side of the mountain.  Very technical and actually a little scary in spots.  You just have to take your time and get through it.  It was here last year that my bottom of the foot blisters started.  This year, I was feeling great.  Just before Indian Grave I caught back up to Dan.  Brad had been feeling strong and took off on him.  Dan, Kyle and I ran most of the road to Habron together.  54 miles. 41 minutes ahead of last year.
me, Dan, Kyle photo credit: Ryan Paavola
54 miles done and happy. photo credit: Tab

Habron to Camp Roosevelt
I sat down to change socks at Habron.  I also taped my toe as it’s always a blister area.  This was my only blister of the day, but I never felt it until about a day after the race.  Dan and Kyle left Habron well before me.  I was having fun talking with friends here.  I left there with two handhelds, a burrito, a half of a PB&J, and an amazing ice cream sandwich.  I settled in for one of the longest climbs of the day.  It was the hottest part of the day, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.  The climb seems to take forever here and as I neared the top I caught up to Dan who was with Brad who had stopped and was forcing himself to puke.  I quickly moved on wishing them luck.  I don’t remember much about this section other than that rough climb. 63 miles. 47 minutes ahead of last year.
Pretty sure that guy is about to punch the girl in the face
my bro and me

Camp Roosevelt to Gap 1
When I got into Camp Roosevelt I was greeted by my brother.  He had asked me how he could see me at some point, but I never go confirmation that he’d be there.  It was an awesome surprise.  Unfortunately I was feeling so good at this point I got out of there as quick as I could.  I’d heard that the next section would be the wettest of the course.  Last year I had just taped my feet for the first time, and this was my best section as I ran most of it except the large climb.  This year was a lot of hiking, as running through the constant stream of water would have just taken too much out of me that I wanted to conserve.  The large climb was not nearly as large as I had remembered.  But, the back side of the trail was just as wet as the front, so it was slow moving down that as well.  69 miles.  56 minutes ahead of last year.

Gap 1 to Visitor’s Center
Coming into Gap 1 I was again changing socks and checking on my moleskin.  The volunteers here were amazing.  They gave me a foot bath, cleaned my shoes, reapplied moleskin and got me fed.  All while I just sat there.  Really awesome.  As I was being waited on Kyle came in and got out of there.  I could have stayed forever, but my midway goal was in reach.  I knew my best chance at finishing before sunrise would be made or broken here.  After leaving Gap 1 there’s a big climb then you hit the pie plates.  Mile 71 turn left, mile 98 go straight.  When you turn left you’re greeted with some horrible running along a ridge.  Up and down over the ridge with big rocks all over the place.  I wanted to cry here last year in the dark.  This year, it was not dark.  I looked at my watch when I made the turn and I think it said something like 7:55pm.  I had a few minutes to run in the sunlight.  So I took off like a bat out of hell.  I ran recklessly.  After spraining my ankle last year I am always afraid of it.  I didn’t care here.  I ran as fast as I could over this very technical section.  I made it through the worst of it before the sun set over the mountains. 26 hours was possible now.  I continued to move well here and passed Kyle for the last time of the day.  The last few miles of this section are on a road.  I welcomed it and ran strong.  Last year without stopping at Gap 1 at all this section took me 2 hours and 42 minutes .  This year I stopped for about 10-15 minutes and still finished the section 35 minutes faster.  78 miles. 1 hour and 32 minutes ahead of last year.
leaving Visitors Center (I think?)

Visitors Center to Bird Knob to Picnic Area
Coming into Visitors area I knew I was too early for Kym.  So, as I ran into the Aid Station I looked for her car.  Sure enough I was able to find her still asleep.  She popped up and got me what I needed while I ate some delicious soup.  I was moving well, so I wasn’t sitting down.  I got out of there quick.  The climb up Bird Knob is very steep and technical.  Last year there was also fog at the top.  I had back to back to back 27 minute miles here last year.  This year I moved very well and passed several people at the top.  Some more soup at Bird Knob, and back to running.  After you leave the aid station there’s a seemingly very long ¾ mile road to the next climb.  It’s a relatively short climb before a few downhill runnable miles.  These miles take a long time and last year just as I started to feel better I got sick of them and crashed.  This year I convinced myself there were more miles than there were, so when I got to Picnic Area I was mildly surprised.  88 miles. 2 hours and 57 minutes ahead of last year.

Picnic Area to Gap 2
Last year I got to Picnic and sat down to sleep for 30 minutes.  This year I sat down and had another amazing job done on my feet.  Cleaning, remoleskin, new socks.  Awesome volunteers.  I grabbed some food and got out.  There’s about a mile and half of downhill leaving this aid station and the sitting down for 10 minutes did my legs in.  My quads were toast, so I’d be walking this.  Fast walking.  After the downhill you start uphill and just keep going up.  I don’t remember it being this long last year, but there’s about 3-4 miles of climbing.  Some mild uphill, some steep uphill, some through a fast flowing creek.  After getting through that you then go back down a pretty steep hill.  It’s wide trail of loose smaller rocks.  Extremely runnable if it were earlier in the race, but not here.  When it wasn’t too steep I was able to do some running.  Finally you come out to about a 2 mile section of road before the last Aid Station.  I wasn’t moving too fast here, but I was doing my best to run as much as I could. 97 miles.  3 hours and 55 minutes ahead of last year.

Gap 2 to Finish
When I got into Gap 2 I looked for Kym and couldn’t find her.  I loaded up on some food and headed out.  Oops, Kym always hands me new full bottles, so I headed back to refill them.  As I was leaving here I looked up and down the street then heard my name.  I was again so far ahead of what she thought, so she had just woken up.  I grabbed a long sleeve shirt and headed out for what I knew for sure to be a sub 26 finish.  Heading up this climb for the second time of the day I caught somebody who asked me where the pie plates where. I pointed to the headlamps above us and told him up there somewhere.  He said he was on his first climb up as his stomach was giving him issues and he needed a nap.  I wished him luck and headed off.  Just then I got to the pie plates and shouted back he was almost there.  From here there’s a very steep drop then some very technical trail.  It was all fast walking for me.  There were some sections here that I was able to run briefly, but my quads were just too painful.  Finally I got to the glorious road.  4 miles to go.  I looked at my watch and it was 3:58am.  15 minute miles to go sub 25, 12 minute miles for a 4 hour PR.   I started running and didn’t stop.  I passed Keith Knipling with a mile or two to go and got that 4 hour PR.  I sat down and was able to amazingly see Keith finish his 15th MMT at the age of 38.  We're the same age, so if he follows his dad's footsteps he can do 50 of these.

103.7 mile in 24:43:03.  4 hours and 6 minutes ahead of last year.

Post Race
My goal of finishing before sunrise was blown away by the fact that I was able to get a shower and back to sleep by sunrise.  4 hours of sleep in the tent and I was actually able to help Kym pack up camp this year.  We went down and joined our friends at the finish to hang out, eat some tacos, and drink some beer.
Meltzer, Yoder, Lori, I forget his name, Marsha, Beth, Kym, Me, Jason Lantz. photo by Karen Blandford

A huge thanks to my awesome wife for chasing me down and being there for me again.  She's down on herself for not being awake when I arrived a few times, but I was so far ahead of my times that there's no way I could be upset.  She's done this by herself for the past two years and I can't imagine how difficult it is to do that.

Three days post race and I’m able to go up and down stairs without too much trouble.  My big toe blister is the only really annoying thing I have going on now, but hopefully that will be gone in the next day or two.

Less mud and quicker through the Aid Stations for sub 24 next year….?

edit:  GPS records

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Massanutten Mountain Trails 100

Kym and I arrived at camp at around 3:30pm Friday and immediately made our way to the registration for the 4pm race briefing. We met Biddi, Larry, Nebs, and Mike B. there. We we going to go out to dinner with a group with my running club, but we got there too late and didn't have time to set up camp before dinner. After setting up camp and heading back down for dinner at the race headquarters I was actually able to fall asleep at around 9pm. Of course I was up by 10:45 for a few hours, but I got a decent amount of sleep before the 3am wakeup. One thing led to another on race morning and I was literally running from camp to get to the 4am start. And we’re off. The first 3-4 miles was road and Nebs and Mike B don’t know it but I stayed about 5 feet behind them the whole time on that road. I didn’t necessarily want to get into running “with” anyone this early, so I hung back a little. When we hit the first trail it was a decent, not too rocky trail until we hit Short Mountain. Short’s a great place to start the race because you’re quickly introduced into the ridiculous rocks, and it’s very much 30 seconds running, 30 seconds rock-hopping. So, there’s not much room to really hammer in this section to get into too much trouble. In this section it was probably in the mid to lower 60’s out, but the humidity was very high and I couldn’t wait to get the stupid headlamp off. Around mile 8 I started to feel a hotspot on the ball of my right foot from my shoes slipping on all the rocks. Shortly after that the trail actually became runnable, so I didn’t want to stop there to fix it. Just after the first crew aid station (12.1) I remembered to stop and adjust my shoe. I had put them on in my tent at around 3:15am, with intentions of readjusting later, but forgot. I should have adjusted both at this point, but I didn’t. And here’s where the rest of the day/night becomes mostly a blur, so I’ll just randomly say stuff now. Nebs and I ran for about 8-10 miles together from like 20-30. It definitely helped get through a very boring 2-3 mile crushed gravel section. Ball of left foot blister started around mile 40 and was uncomfortable for the next 7-8 miles before it burst. Then I could put pressure on it. Every step was a stabbing pain, but I was moving well. At mile 63 I decided to have it addressed and Biddi moleskined me up and definitely helped save my day. Two of the aid stations had cold towels/dunking stations and they were the greatest baths of my life. My Garmin first died after 12 hours and 48 minutes and 55 miles and did not upload the elevation stats today. Devastating. I borrowed Biddi’s Garmin at mile 63 while I was feeling good and had fresh coverings on my blister. I put in a 22 minute mile during the big climb before the downhills into Gap 1, and I thought it was my best mile of the day. My least favorite part of the day was after Gap 1. There was a big climb, then what felt like miles of unrunnable trail in the dark. Massive boulders the size of cars you had to jump across and off. My right foot blister kicked in here and every jump was murder. From mile 78-82 were back to back to back 28 minute miles. A brutal climb and thick fog at the top put me at a race low. (Amzginly, looking at the splits, that 3.5 mile section was very middle of the road, while it felt like I had to have been worse than everyone) After Bird Knob AS It was 7 more miles to the Picnic aid station and I worked on a way to talk myself out of quitting. It was going well as the trail became runnable, until I thought the aid should have already been there and it was no where in site. When I got to Picnic Area (87.9) I grabbed a chair and a blanket and closed my eyes to the best of my ability. My blisters were killing me and my attitude sucked. After 15 minutes I opened my eyes and Kym and Biddi talked and Reike’d me into going. It was then 3:30am, my brain wasn’t working and I thought I had 18 more miles and I was calculating 18 miles of 30 minute pace for 9 more hours and I simply couldn’t do that. But, eventually I decided I had to. I took some magic pills (carbo veg 6c) from Biddi and got on my way. Forgetting to re-lube, my headphones, a new Garmin and everything else I wanted. About a half mile later I actually started running again. The magic pills worked? The blisters still killed, but my head was much more clear. Over the next 5 miles I passed about 6 or 7 people, I was feeling great. A comical section of about ¼ mile – straight uphill through a fast flowing creek. It was ridiculous. A girl I had caught was trying to quit throughout this section but her pacer kept her going. I think I need one of those pacer things if I ever do this again. Then a downhill rocky section did me in. I had to walk it all because of the blisters and all those people I had passed, then passed me back. I was in and out of the last aid station in a few minutes. The sun had re-risen and I was going to finish. The only way I was able to get through a very technical section around mile 99 was to literally lean into a tree, then fall into another tree to make forward progress. Once the 5K road section to the end came I was cruising. I didn’t have a watch, but I’d guess I was doing around 9 minute miles. Largely because at one point I turned around and saw a blond girl pacing a tall guy. I thought Nebs and Biddi were catching me, so I put my head down and ran as fast as I could. Coming into the finish, I hadn’t had a watch in 16 miles, so I had no idea if the clock would read 29 hours or 32 hours. I was in shock when I saw I went 28:49:15. All in all the lows were lower than the highs were high. I’m very proud of myself and I couldn’t have done it without all the help I received along the way. Thanks to Biddi and Nebs, and especially my awesome wife who was there for me at every stop. PostScript - almost two weeks later and I still haven't run. Two days ago I pulled a 3 inch by 3 inch hunk of dead skin off the bottom of my left foot. My left ankle is still bothering me and I have an MRI set for next week. Oh, and I know I can go about 2-3 hours faster if I can figure out the blister issues.

mile 33.3 - Elizabeth Furnace

Note left foot is twice the size or the right

mile 13ish rocks after Edinburg Gap

I think this was mile 67ish before Gap1.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Febapple 50 race report

In December I won a chance to run the Massanutten 100 so I started looking for semi-local ultras to use as long runs to help prepare. The Febapple 50 fit perfectly in my schedule to use as an early long effort, and would be my first official 50. Kym and I started the 2 hour drive at just after 4am. The weather forecast was 40s and rain all day and a light rain fell for the whole drive. It hadn't snowed in a week and the mild weather had melted it all. All except the snow on South Mountain in NJ. Somehow the trails were still largely covered in a thick layer of ice and snow. We arrived and I got dressed in the car and had just enough time to hear the RD's pre-run talk (which I should have paid attention to) and we were off. Knowing some of the others running, I settled in a smaller pack of about 4 off the lead pack which had about 10-15 guys. The first mile was on roads and then we took a quick 300-400 foot drop over the next half mile on a trail similar to those on the Horse Shoe Trail around here - small, somewhat loose rocks. A short flat stretch, then back up. I tried to keep a steady run up this whole big hill, but even the first time around ended up walking some of it. Several technical miles with several very icy spots followed back to end the first mini-loop to the start/AS area. The first 4 mile loop was about 25% covered in ice/snow and the second 6 mile loop was closer to 2/3rds covered. The second half was less technical, but the ice made the going a bit slower than I was hoping to run. I noticed some people wearing yaktraxs, but I feared that wearing them for too long would tear up my feet.

Slipping into mile 4 Aid Station
 The course lollipops around mile 7 and mildly confusing trail markings and my stupidity of following the people in front of me, and my failure to listen to the RD's directions before the race lead to a 2.2 mile mistake when we turned right instead of left. I noticed this as I reached the 2nd Aid Station for the 2nd time in a row. Another runner in front of me, and the one I followed who was now behind me started to backtrack, picking up several others that made the same mistake. At least 8 runners did this on the first loop. It mentally crushed me for much longer than it should have. I also ran faster than I should have trying to make up that time, which surely hurt me in the long run. After my second full loop the ice and snow was bothering me enough to decide to put on my yaktraxs for the 2nd half of the race. Of course though before I put them on I had a nasty, feet above the head, cartoonish fall on the ice. Initially I thought only my right hand took the brunt of the fall, but a few days later when my left leg was the only thing still hurting, I realized the bruise on my hip was due to this fall. Once I put the yaktraxs on I cursed myself for not just wearing them the whole time. No feet issues, no slipping, and no prancing around trying to avoid the ice. At mile 30 I changed out of my wet shirt (as far as I can remember there was a light rain all day) and this made my outlook a lot brighter. I felt so much better being warm and dry, if only for a short period. When all was said and done I finished in 9:39 and in 8th place. Out of 40-50 that started, only 20 did the full 50 mile distance. The race has 50K, 20 mile, and 10 mile options that all start an hour apart and if you want to drop down, the RD allows you to just enter in that race's standings. When I finished up and was eating a little, the awesome volunteers pointed me towards a cooler of beer they had and offered me to help myself. Can't beat that. While leaving my house at 4am for a race isn't the most desirable thing, I'd definitely do this race again. The race and course are awesome (my Garmin measured 5500ft of gain, a friend's measured somewhere around 6700 ft of gain). The "swag" was a vest with the race logo. It's nice, but I always prefer a technical shirt to run in.

Finishing happy

Monday, October 08, 2012

Blues Cruise Race Report

I can't say this will be a very exciting recap, but I also like reading others' recaps when I first run a race, so I guess I'll just put one out there.  First off, great organization, great race. 

 Two weeks before the race I met up with some of the Pagoda Pacers to run about half of the course. What we ran that day was from mile 2 of this year's course (clockwise around the lake) to 17. Lots of rolling hills in this section with one or two that were big enough to walk. It was a good preview of the course. Definitely the most difficult stretch of the course. The first two miles of Blues Cruise to get to that section are mostly downhill. The course is a good mix of single track, double track and a few farm roads. The course has a lot of farm land that has deeply grooved single track which is not my favorite type of trail to run. I always feel like I'm going to trip up on it.

One major plus was that Kym and the kids came to cheer me on and they were able to drive around and see me a lot. They were at the start, then I saw them at the mile 4 Aid Station, at backroad around mile 12, at the mile 17 Aid Station, mile 24 Aid Station, mile 27.5 Aid Station, and back in time for the finish. It was a great boost seeing them so often.

Leading up to this race my training was not exactly where I wanted it to be. Besides the 100K last month, I hadn't run more than 16 miles in almost 2 months. But, for the first 19ish miles I was feeling great so I just kept it up. What I lacked in physical preparation I hoped to make up in the confidence I gained when I ran 100K. When I reached the biggest hill of the course at mile 19 I was averaging around 8:15 miles. The hill here really sucked a lot out of me (I think this was skislope hill?). I've run tons of trails lately, but nothing with hills like this. While that hill hurt, luckily the layout of the course this year provided me ample time to recover. From mile 20 to 26 there are very few hills. I was able to get my legs back and continue with a decent pace. I ran with another guy for about 3-4 miles here, which was really the only extended time I spent running anywhere near anyone. He was stronger, and eventually took off when I stopped for a bathroom break.

From all the race reports I'd read in the past, I expected the entire last 11 miles to be as flat as miles 20-26. But, they weren't. There were lots of very small, slightly steep hills over the last few miles, with one very steep short hill, and then a hill that seemed to go on forever at around mile 30. My 8 minute miles slowed all the way down to a few 11 minute miles at the end. The mental game could not beat the physical. But still, I came in at 4:33:40, a 24 minute PR over my HAT run time.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Labor Pains 12 hour Race Report

Yesterday I ran the Labor Pains ultra.  A 12 hour event on a 5 mile loop through the trails of Mt. Penn.  Leading up to the race I'd done one run of 3.5 hours and one 4 hour run.  I figured I'd be able to get about 6 hours of running in without it being too painful.  I ended up with so much more than that.

My internal alarm clock went off at 3am and I rolled around for a while before getting up and going.  I arrived about an hour early of the 7:30 start time and set up shop with a couple I know from Dailymile.  The  start time was 12 minutes late in typical PCS fashion.  As with my first ultra I wanted to run the uphills while I could as I assumed I'd be walking them later.  According to my Garmin there was somewhere around 800 feet of elevation gain per loop.  My first lap ticked off at 45 minutes.  A bit faster than planned, but not too crazy.  The course was easy compared to anything else I'd ever run at Mt. Penn.  It was about 98% runnable.  The other 2 percent was very rocky or short crazy steep hills.  My second lap was identical to my first.  Except the rain started at the end of this lap.  It came down hard for about an hour an a half.  It seemed to cut the humidity, but made for a few slippery trails.  All in all the trails held up very well all day for the amount of feet that tread them.

At the end of my 3rd lap I started a trend.  Grab my phone and email Kym how it was going and take 1 Advil.  I did this every other loop for most of the rest of the day.  My pattern also became to eat twice per lap.  Once at the main Aid Station (pretzels, PB&J, candy, salted potatoes.  That which I did not eat - burgers, hot dogs, soup, pasta, bagels, and other stuff I paid no attention to), then I'd either grab a Gu I brought, or a mini cliff bar from the main AS to eat at the 2.6 mile station.  I twice filled my water bottle with electrolytes, and water the rest of the day.  I drank coke or powerade when I felt like it.  Hydration was never an issue.  Peed about 9 times throughout the run.

On my 6th lap I passed by the marathon sign at 4:15.  Halfway through this lap another runner fell in line behind me and we pushed the pace for the rest of this lap.  After the 30 mile Aid Station I got out ahead and then he caught me again and we pushed the pace for the rest of that lap.  I lost him after that, but I'd say I went a good 5-10 minutes faster in that time with us pacing each other.  At the 50K mark I was somewhere around 5:10, then when I reached 50 miles I was at 9 hours.  Well before I reached 50 miles I had decided to not stop there.  I knew I'd have 3 hours to spare, so I knew around mile 45 I wanted to go for 100K.

At mile 40 I changed into dry socks and shoes and shortly after that big blisters popped in each foot.  The pain was short lived though.  Throughout the day I hit just about no rough patches until mile 58.  Up to this point I had only been passed by 1 or 2 non-team runners.  After the mile 57 aid station 3 runners passed me.  I was discouraged by how strong they looked.  Granted, I had no idea if they were on mile 30 or 60.  But I decided to not let them go, so I picked it up and started running, passing them.  Two of them fell back and one said "let's go have some fun!" and ran with me.  I talked to him, and he was 5 miles ahead of me.  That news hurt.  And when I gave in to walk and he tore past me, and the other two also did the same, I got angry.  As a faster runner, one mentally rewarding thing about a 5 mile loop is that I passed about 400 runners throughout the day.  It does wonders for an ego to pass someone.  And not only does it feel good, but in the ultra world, everyone is always encouraging.  They said good job to me, I tell them the same.  But, as someone who doesn't get passed very often, it was a kick in the gut.  The guy was awesome and encouraging, but I couldn't hang.  About a half mile later "Be Calm" from Fun came on my ipod.  These lyrics put me in my place "I know you feel like you are breaking down, I know it gets so hard sometimes, be calm.... it just gets so hard sometimes, be calm."  So, I calmed down, and Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" came on next.  And I caught up to them.  At this point I was at 60 miles in 11 hours.  I had either 1 hour to try to get 5 more miles, or I could finish the 100K with a mile out and a mile back.  I was tempted to go for it, but knowing there is no partial credit, I wanted to be sure I got that 100K mark.  100K in 11:20.  3rd in the under-39 male age group, and probably somewhere around 7th overall.

edit 7/2013 - garmin link to show course/elevation -

Sunday, March 25, 2012

HAT Run 50K Race Report

Susquehanna State Park
Kym and I left the house at about 5:45am for the hour and 45 minute drive. When we were about 3 miles from the park it first started raining. The rain steadily fell until just before the race started.
Beautiful day for a run
Going into the event, I was unclear of how many hills there were. The elevation chart on the website is very dramatic, so I did as many hills as possible during my long training trail runs. I set a stretch goal of 5 hours, thinking I'd be happy around 5:15. With the amount of rain that fell, I added about another 15 minutes to that in my mind.
The course starts on an open field, and this year it looped past the start at 1.5 miles, then again at 3.6 before going out to two 13.7 mile loops. The first 1.5 mile loop was almost all open fields and while the terrain wasn't ideal, the hills were minimal.
a blur in the rain
 I clicked the 1st mile off at 7:57, and the second, when we hit the first downhill trails was an 8:17. Way ahead of where I wanted to be. A little dangerous, but I felt it was ok to get some quick miles in while the trails allowed it. Going up a steep incline in mile three, everyone around me was walking. I didn't feel I needed to, but I figured I may as well join the crowd. About 15 seconds later I could see the top of the hill, so I went right back to running. The hills I trained on at French Creek state park are technical, and very long. A good hill there will go up for over a mile straight. The hills at the HAT run are mostly 1/4 milers. There's a ton of them, but I always felt like I could see the top, so I could make it running. All ultra advice, especially to first timers is to walk the hills. But, I figured if I were to be walking the hills later in the race, I wanted to be running them early. So, I attacked the hills, doing all of my passing of people there. Around mile 7 there's a mile long stretch across fields where people can open it up. Rolling hills instead of climbs. I got passed by several people here, even though mile 7 was a 7:48. Hitting the trails over the next few miles and I did some passing on the hills again. Miles 11 and 12 are on roads, mostly downhill. Quad killers. I didn't train for this type of terrain at all, did a 7:24 12th mile, and still got passed by about 5 guys. After the mile 12.5 aid station, there are a series of the most steep inclines. This is where I did the most of my 1st loop walking. It wasn't much, and it was less than a lot of people around me. At mile 18 I hit the aid station and set back out for the next loop on what I knew would be brutally muddy trails.
before the "muddy" parts
 I read someones description that it was like running in pancake batter for the 2nd loop, and that's pretty much right. Shoe sucking mud. I feel bad for the runners toward the back who dealt with these conditions for the entire race when 400 people in front of them tore the trails up before they even got to them. My mostly running strategy kept up for much of the 2nd loop. From miles 18-26 I was basically alone. I had just passed someone and there was no one in front of me or behind me for 8 miles. It made running the uphills harder since I had no competition. I did a little more walking here. After the road section the 1st overall female passed me at the aid station. I stayed with her for about a mile of so, but in the 27th mile my wheels really started to fall off. The hardest hills the first time around were brutal the 2nd time. I'd push myself to run 10-20 feet at a time. Around the 26 mile marker my overall pace was a 9:20. By mile 30 it dropped to 9:40. When I was walking up some of the last hills I figured my shot at a sub 5 was now out the door and just wanted to finish with as much running as possible. As I approached the finish I saw my Garmin was wrong. 4:57:10 for my first ultra. Not too shabby for this course in this condition.
note the change in the field trail.  Now imagine the ones that started as dirt.
Lastly, I'll note that the websites 9000 feet of elevation gain info is dead wrong.  Don't get me wrong, there's hills and a lot of them, but nowhere near that.  My Gramin showed 3454' of gain:

HAT Run swag: 

tech shirt for all, hat and car seat cover for finishers