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

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chilly Cheeks 2012

On Sunday I ran the Chilly Cheeks 7 mile trail race. I did this race last year when the trails were covered with a few inches of snow. The footing last year was poor and I wasn't in as good of condition as I am this year so I didn't try to run as hard last year. In road races I generally finish in the top 5%, and trail races I'm closer to top 10-15%. I decided to try to change that and took off like a bat out of hell. A quarter mile into the race there's a free for all up a hill. I was probably in about about 20th place up that hill (out of 580), and when I started down the street to the next trail it felt like I was kicked in the gut. That feeling would stick with me for the next 7 miles. Whether it was the 15 degree weather or the fact that I'm not in as good of hill shape as I think I am, it didn't matter, I hurt. But, I wasn't about to slow down.
Without snow on the trails this year, I was surprised to find just how rocky the trails are. About 2.5 miles in I felt like my socks were bunched up in my shoes, but it turns out my feet were just starting to swell a little from taking the rocks too hard in shoes that probably don't have a rock plate (Adidas Marathon Trail). At 5 miles in there's the first flat stretch of the race where I was able to get my legs back and aim for people to pass. But, when you're running with the front of the pack, you can't easily catch someone 200 yards ahead of you. And when we hit the single track again I unfortunately followed them about 50 yards off course (straight down a hill of course). After climbing Mt. Whadafug (my 4th or 5th hill having to walk up) I knew it was all downhill from there. I flew down 600 feet of elevation over the next mile trying not to blink which would have resulted in a tumble. I ended up in 33rd place with a time of 1:01:something. 18 minutes and 54 places better than last year.
It's amazing how when I run a race like this I, and my legs are trembling beneath me as I trudge up another hill I question why I even do this. But, as soon as it's over I start planning on how I can do better next year.
The rocks beneath my feet were like that for about 70% of the trail.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Loooong Run

By way of training site DailyMile I found out about a "Fat Ass Run" taking place just down the street from my house - Kent and BJ's Recover from the Holiday 50K. I'd never heard of a Fat Ass event. A Fat Ass is a no-frills "race". No awards, no spectators, no bibs, but best of all no entry fee. Bring your own water/food/gatorade. Kent was one of the originators of Fat Ass, and this was his 27th annual event. It was being run on the Perkiomen Trail, where I do a lot of my running. The course was a 10K loop starting/ending from his garage just off the trail. After each loop runners wrote down their times on a poster board and decided whether to continue on, or stop and drink beers and eat the smorgasbord of food provided by Kent and other runners.. I believe this was the largest running on record with around 50 runners out there.

I started with another runner I "know" through DailyMile. We got caught up behind a large group of runners going much slower than we planned, so after about a mile we passed them and ran our own paces. John took off on me and I settled in to a pace that I figured would catch the next group of people in front of me within the next few miles. Around mile 5 I caught up with them, and then that group dispersed. After the first loop John continued on together over most of the first 30K. 30K was my goal given my recent injuries. My previous long run since the marathon was 15 miles... but those were trail miles. So, after 18.6 miles on the flat Perkiomen trail I was at just about 2.5 hours of running, which matched my 15 trail mile time. I was feeling fine except for a little blistering, so I headed out for a 4th loop after a stop at my car for a change of shoes. Around 20.5 miles into the run I really started to feel the miles in my legs. At this time there was no more than a handful of people that chose to run more than 30K so I was pretty much on my own. I had just put on my iPod for the first time all day, and with my music, and comfort with the route I've run 100 times I cruised fairly comfortably into my longest training run ever - 24.8 miles. Two days later I feel pretty ok. A great confidence booster in my HatRun training.

When I finished most of the other runners were inside enjoying lunch and beers. They all knew each other pretty well and my introvertedness prevented me from feeling comfortable there, but it was a great day all around.

Garmin data -