Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Indiana Trail 100

The Indiana Trail 100 was my first 100 mile race since the Florida Keys 100 in May of 2012.  In preparation for running some obstacle course races in 2014, over the winter I added 3-4 days of week of Crossfit or Spartan WOD's (Workout Of the Day) to my workout routine.  Going into the race, I was happy with my training and managed to not get injured.  Below was my basic training plan.  I wasn't able to get in every workout each week due to work and social life but most weeks was close to the below.  Maybe I need more social life.

Monday: AM: 4 mile run to work, Midday: 30-40 minutes variety of weights, PM: WOD + 8 miles

Tues: AM: 4M, Midday: 30-40mins weights, PM: WOD+8-15M

Wednesday: AM: 4M, Midday: 30-40mins weights, PM: 10-25M

Thursday: AM: 4M, Midday: 30-40mins weights, PM: WOD+ Speed/Track

Friday: AM: 4M, Midday: 30-40mins weights, PM: WOD+8-12M

Saturday: 30-60M

Sunday: Off (Sunday Funday!)

It was high volume training for sure at 80-140 miles per week, and the WOD's definitely added muscle, especially in my shoulders and around my legs.  I estimate I added 10 pounds of muscle compared to the fall.  It was enough that there are several shirts and pants in my closet that I can't fit into any more.  I was happy with this, but from a practical standpoint I didn't know if this extra weight would help or hurt my 100 mile racing.  My hope was that the extra leg strength would protect from all the pounding in the second half of the race, but the proof is in the pudding!

Our race weekend plan was to wake up at 12:30am Saturday morning, drive 3 hours to Indiana from Chicago for the 6:00am Eastern race start, run the race, chill out for a couple hours, drive 3 hours back to Chicago and somehow make it to work Monday morning.  This would not have been possible without the badass help from my crew chief and pacer, Loli.  Loli went two nights in a row with almost no sleep, drove for hours, ran almost 30 miles and was wonderful at keeping my pace and spirits up.  This is her out running when it was -16F this winter:


Isn't she beautiful?
Race day was perfect weather, 50 at the start, mid 60's during the day.  The course was 6 17ish mile loops of rolling hills, very pleasant.  I started off in the front pack of about 8 people but I was not sure who was running the 50 or 100 mile versions.  My plan was to take it relatively easy and try to land soft while keeping my pace up enough to keep the adrenaline pumping.  I didn't bring a watch or pay attention to my place during the first half of the race to keep myself from going out too hard.

The first lap went by nice and easy in 2hrs 33mins, well ahead of my goal pace of 18 hours.  The second lap also felt great, best I have felt in the first third of a 100.  The second lap I floated in around 2 hours, 34 mins. 

Feeling fine on the first loop

The 3rd lap was also going smooth and I was starting to think I was going to breeze through this thing when reality came crashing.  Somewhere around mile 40 I tripped hard going downhill, rolled off the trail and slammed my left knee into a tree.  I screamed in pain and surprise, got my bearings, and gingerly stood up to inspect the damage.  The tree got me squarely on the side of the knee.  I could barely walk for several steps and seriously thought my day was done.  I kept at it though and after a while I was able to get a limping stride going over the next 10 miles.  I finished the third lap in 2 hours and 48 minutes with a 50 mile time of 7 hours and 56 minutes.  I was well ahead of my goal time, but I was banged up and the problems were just getting started. 

Starting the 4th loop I realized I was in first place!  I had had a hunch I was leading but I wasn't sure until the 50 milers were off the course.  Loli now joined me for a few miles, which was nice, I had hardly seen anybody the first 8 hours of the race.  In addition to my knee trouble, my stomach now started to bother me.  I couldn't eat and could hardly keep water down.  I had a long pit stop in a porta potty and I lost first place, I think to John Trout.  I struggled through lap 4 in 3 hours and 2 minutes and was actually pleasantly surprised by my lap time considering how awful I felt.

Lap 5 started out as a slog but as the sun was setting and the air started to cool, I started feeling better!  I put my head down, turned my brain off and just went, zenning out as best I could.  I found that if I went faster and kept my adrenaline pumping, I felt better than if I slowed down.  So away I went.  I finished the lap in 3 hours and 11 minutes, back in first place and feeling fine.

Starting the final lap I knew I had a substantial lead, probably at least 30 minutes so my plan was to keep my head down and the pace up but not too crazy as the sun went down.  The loop was relatively uneventful except for a few face plants in the dark.  I think I fell a total of 15 times over the course of the race, I was completely filthy and beat up by the end.  I really am clumsy at these things.  Damn nature.  Loli joined me again for the last 5 miles and we came in to finish with the win in 17 hours and 42 minutes.  My first 100 mile win and 100 mile PR by more than 2.5 hours!  Hot Damn!

Except for the bang in the knee and the relatively short amount of time with GI problems, this race was comfortable from beginning to end.  The first time I have ever felt so comfortable at this long of a distance.  I thought 100's were supposed to hurt!  I guess I should have gone faster.  There is always next time I suppose.  Thank you to everyone who made it possible, I will see you out on the trails!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

410 Miles, One Week. Running the Length of Illinois.

Now. that. was. a. long. run.  It's getting close to two weeks from the finish as I write this and it still hurts.  As expected, things didn't go as expected. 

Our plan, envisioned by Brian Gaines many months ago, was simple enough on paper: Run from Paducah Kentucky to the Wisconsin border, approximately 410 miles, and do it in one week.  We planned to stop each night at hotels in towns along the way, so the distance each day varied depending on the distance between towns from around 50 miles to over 75 miles, close to an average of 60 miles a day.
As someone who has done a lot of crazy runs, I knew that 60 miles a day for 7 days is pretty insane, very likely past my own ability, or at least right at the edge.  So naturally, I jumped at the chance.  Eventually three other nut jobs decided to take on the task: Chuck Schultz, Tony Cesario, and Scott Smoron.  We also had major, massive, incredible support from Scott Kummer.  Scott gave up a week of his time to drive the support truck and provide aid, and he saved our lives, figuratively and literally.  Additionally, many friends and family came down to provide both physical and emotional support.  Finally, we had a sponsor, HealthVend, who hooked us up with all kinds of healthy food we could use on the go, which is invaluable in the middle of nowhere Illinois.  More on the products we were supplied below. 


We were also running for a great cause!  Chicago Run  is non-profit organization that implements and supports running programs for children and youth in Chicago.  We managed to raise over $2,500 for em, and it's never too late to help out: http://www.razoo.com/story/Teamlol 

We spent the entire day Saturday the 29th driving down to Kentucky, then started at 6:00am precisely on Sunday 30th.  It was an amazingly comfortable, overcast summer day.
Day 1:  The first day went smoothly, we spent most of the day running through the Shawnee National Forest area.  It was picturesque, there was not a lot of traffic, and our legs were relatively fresh.  A hint of some of the challenges to come came when we realized the distance ended up being 50 miles, rather than the expected 47, and I also felt more tired and beat up than I thought I should be given it was only day one.  50 miles is far no matter how far you have to go I guess.  Oh boy.

Day 2: Harrisburg to Fairfield, 52 miles.  Day 2 brought on the view we would have for most of the remainder of the run; corn, corn, corn, corn, corn, corn, beans, wheat, barn, farmhouse, corn, corn, corn, etc.  Cloudy and rainy most of the day, which was good for the runners, not so great for Scott and Brian who were crewing.  At the end of the day I felt ok, tired and too sore already, but ok and ready for day 3 which was scheduled to be our big bad 80 miler.

Day 3: SNAFU.  Day 3 started a little slow, it was raining still, we were all pretty sore and tired already, and we had 80 miles to get done that day.  Then things got really tough.  Almost 5 miles into the days run, we come across a washed out area of the road.  As we were debating wading through or adding on a couple of miles to go around, the truck died.  Then the truck wouldn't start back up. 

video
The initial assessment:
The starter went *Click! Click! Click!* but no good, probably the alternator went out.  Which is a relatively easy fix, except we were in the middle of nowhere, 5 miles from the nearest town, and the nearest town is teeny tiny. 

We called both tow trucks in town, one wasn't available, and the other guy said he didn't have a flatbed which would be necessary with our 4X4 truck.  Which was funny, because we called the local police office to see if they had anyone to recommend and the Sheriff said: "You called Joe? (not his real name), Joe has a flat bed!"  So basically Joe didn't feel like getting off his ass to help.  We also called AAA and was on hold for hours without luck. 
Pouring rain, stuck truck

So without help on the way, the guys had a bright idea, "let's push the truck back to town!"  I thought they had lost their minds, there was no way we were going to push the truck 4-5 miles then try to turn around and run 80 (or any for that matter), it was insanity.  I wasn't really in the mood to push the truck so I took video of the madness and ran to a couple of farm houses to see if anyone was home (no one was):
video
Fortunately, after about a mile of pushing the big truck down country roads, someone stopped to help.  We got a jump which got the truck started but it died again after just a block or two.  Fortunately, the Good Samaritan stayed with us and gave us a jump several times to get back to town and to a shop to get it fixed.  We went to a diner down the street to wait for the repair and make a plan for how to continue. 

So what to do?  We had lost our entire morning, 4-5 hours, with a broke down truck.  If we tried to run 80 miles now, we wouldn't finish until mid to late morning the next day, losing a nights sleep and not be able to get use of our hotel room.  We could also just wait to start again the next day, delaying our finish by a day.  This would have been ok, but then we would lose our chance to finish the run in less than a week, and would screw up our hotel, crew and work schedules.  So, it was decided that we get back on the road as soon as possible, and get as many miles in as we could before morning.  Then we would drive to Mattoon where we had our hotel, then drive back to where we ended and add the extra miles to day 4.  The day 3 SNAFU cranked the difficulty of the run up to 11.  The rest of the week was going to be very tough going.

Day 3 Continued: We were finally back running close to noon, trying to get in as many miles as we could.  For the first time the group started to get pretty spread out.  Scott jumped ahead with Chuck a couple miles behind, then me, then Tony.  It was a surprise to see Tony fall so far back.  We call him "Tony the Tank" because he has giant legs of steel and nothing can stop him.  Among many other feats, he once ran 40 miles a day for a week on his own, just for the hell of it I believe.  I told several people that Tony had the best chance of finishing out of the group.  So it was a huge surprise when I saw him sitting in the truck around 5:00pm.  Apparently he had not been able to keep down food for much of the day, among other problems, and was going to have to call it quits.  I was shocked, and nervous, I was not feeling well at all myself, it was only day 3 and chances were starting to get long that anyone was going to make this thing.

We were about 50 miles in when it got dark, so we put on our night gear.  It was the first time we put on our night gear in the week.  We hadn't planned on it, but we ended up running late into the night for the rest of the week.

Surprisingly, I started to feel much better as night came on, laying down several sub 9 minute miles, which by now felt like a full on sprint.  I finally caught up to Scott and Chuck after being behind all day, and we ended the day after midnight with 65 miles.  It was 15 miles shorter than we planned when we started the day, but pretty good considering the challenges of the day.

Day 4: South of Mattoon to Champaign, 60 Miles: After a short nights sleep we started the day with more bad news, Scott was not going to continue.  Out of the 4 of us, Scott had the least experience, but he was a strong natural runner.  He gave it a valiant effort, but running such huge volumes of miles day after day after day can crush even the most experienced.  So now we were down to 2 runners.  Our run had been in preparation for months and we involved many supporters, sponsors, friends and family.  It would be a massive let down to disappoint all of those people.  Chuck and I committed to each other that we would not stop "Till the wheels come off", meaning something would have to physically stop us from moving before we would stop.

Day 4 began well for me, I started where I left off the night before running sub 9 minute miles.  Maybe not the smartest way to start a 60 mile day, but I had decided to run well when I felt well, because it may not happen again soon.

Unfortunately by late morning, the heat finally arrived.  We were actually very lucky to have the first 3 days as cool as they were, but that didn't make the current heat any more pleasant.  But, we kept slogging along, seeing the sights (corn), and the occasional small town.  Finished the day around midnight.
Above: Sights of Illinois.

Day 5: Champaign to Gilman, 50 Miles: Happy Fourth of July!  We started the day a bit late because we were getting very sore and beat up.  My feet, Achilles tendons, and little toes were especially bad.  My tendons prevented me from have a stride length more than a few feet and it felt like someone was hitting my bare foot with a metal bar every time my feet hit the ground.  Chuck was also not looking so good.  Among other things, he pulled the muscle that runs over the front of his shin bone (I don't think I even have a muscle there), and it turned an ugly black and blue.  I had never seen a pulled muscle look like that.  We got to see all kinds of weird injuries before the run ended.  This billboard I passed in Gibson Illinois seemed especially appropriate:
Yes. Yes and Yes.

After a very long day we got done around 10:00, with a nice fireworks show at Gilman to end the day.
video


Day 6 and 7: Gilman to Wisconsin, 130 miles: We started day 6 (Friday) faced with the problem that we knew was coming: There wasn't enough time for us to get to Wisconsin before Sunday at 6:00am without pushing through the night.  So we decided to basically combine day 6 and day 7, running as much as possible, and we would just have to take the opportunity to sleep for small amounts when we could.  Basically, it was going to be hell.

My memory of day 6 is a little hazy.  I remember it was hot and there was a lot of corn.  Other than that I think I just turned my brain off and kept doing what we did best, keep moving forward. 
At some point Chuck and I started to get pretty far apart, with me being ahead by several miles.  Fortunately, at this point we were joined by several New Leaf Ultra Runs supporters, so one support crew stayed with me, and one with Chuck.

As the sun set on day 6 my head cleared a bit as the air cooled.  Next I just wanted to get as many miles in as possible before sleep deprivation forced a stop.
video

 As I ran through the night on day 6-7 I made a plan: Try to get to less than 70 miles to go as soon as possible, then find a place to get at least a small amount of sleep before sunrise on day 7.  I would then have 24 hours to accomplish less than 70 miles.  Even if my current state of damage got worse, which it totally could, I felt like I had a good chance to at least crawl it in by 6:00am.

At 2:00am we found a hotel on the route, and tried to sleep until 5:00am.  My feet and legs hurt so bad that unfortunately I didn't get any actual sleep, but I at least got to be horizontal for a few hours and my crew got some needed shut eye.  Interestingly, at 6:00am we were hitting the road as Chuck and his crew came in to use the hotel room.  It was the last time I saw Chuck until Sunday close to noon.

Day 7: Chicago Suburbs to Wisconsin Border, 69 miles: Finally the last day had arrived.  It was going to be another hot day, so I wanted to get as many miles in as I could before the heat of the day.  The pain in my legs and feet at this point was almost as bad when I stopped as when I was running, so I told myself I might as well keep running and try to produce enough adrenaline to tamp the pain down.  We were able to get 22 miles in during the first fours hours of the days run.

The heat and lack of sleep during the middle of day 7 was making me super duper sleepy.  I was trying everything I could to keep my eyes open.  One small diversion, I happened to run by the original McDonalds in Des Plaines Illinois.  Not exactly a Wonder of the World, but you take what you can get.

After slogging along all day, I finally was greeted by my last sunset of the Illinois run.
video

I had about 15 miles to go at 9:00pm, this thing was finally seeming like it was going to end!  I could slowly walk and still make it by 6:00am.  I probably would have slowly walked the rest of the way but I was in this pain limbo where it hurt to run as much as it hurt to stop, plus I was sleep deprived and just generally exhausted.  In order to end my misery as soon as possible, I continued my slow run to the border.

 For the last 15 miles I was joined by a whole bunch of New Leafers, as well as Bridget and Scott each took turns running with me, keeping me awake, and trying to keep my spirits up.  I was so bonked that I could not have been good company.  I am very grateful for everyone's help.

At 12:26am on day 7, we made it!!  AND, right at the border, there was a bar!!!

Wow, that was truly Epic.

I found out after I finished that Chuck had been forced into walking.  His knee was horribly swollen, IT band was a mess, he had bruises and pulls all over.  Plus, apparently his crew had been hitting him with sticks!?!  You will have to check Chuck's Blog for answers on the that last one. 

He never stopped though.  After several days of searing pain, Chuck finished around 11:30am on Sunday:

We made it!  Thanks again to all of the supporters out there. 

Please check out our nutrition sponsors:
Vigilant Eats - http://www.vigilant-eats.com
Jimmy Bars - http://www.jimmybars.com
Lenny & Larry’s - http://www.lennylarry.com
Factor 75 - http://www.factor75.com
Water Sensations - http://www.infuseyourwater.com
Chia\Vie - http://www.drinkchiavie.com
HealthVend – a Division of Norman Distribution, is a full service Distribution company out of IL that specializes in bringing the best healthy snacks and beverages to vending service companies, micro-markets and school districts across the US.
Norman Distribution, Inc. is a full service distributor specializing in chain & independent, convenience and grocery accounts. Founded in 2009, our mission has always been to provide premier service to our retail customers and vendor partners. Our abilities have produced positive results for the brands and retailers we partner with.

On to the next adventure!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Running the Length of Illinois for Chicago Run

I haven't posted recently but I have been running a lot, preparing for probably the craziest challenge to date.  Starting June 30th a group of 5 ultrarunners and one extraordinary driver/support crew are going to run the entire length of Illinois from Paducah Kentucky to the Wisconsin border, almost 410 miles... in one week!  Each day we will range from about 50 to almost 80 miles, stopping in small towns so we can sleep in hotels and get out of the heat for a bit.  We are raising money and awareness for a great charity, Chicago Run, and we are getting a ton of good, healthy on-the-go food from HealthVend.  Help us out by donating on our charity site: http://www.razoo.com/story/Teamlol

This run really scares me, I have never run distances like this day after day after day.  The chance of injury looms large.  I am glad there are several of us making the attempt, I think the odds of all of us making it are slim, but the odds of at least one of us making it are pretty good.

I will be doing live updates through my facebook page, and will be doing a recap back here.  Good luck team Land Of Lincoln (LOL)!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chicago Lakefront 50 Mile 2012

This is the fouth time I have run the Chicago Lakefront 50 Mile race.  It is the first ever ultra I ran back in 2006, a race I won in 2010, and as the only ultra in Chicago I feel like it is our home race to defend.  Because of these factors, unlike most ultras, I tend to treat this race as a race to try to compete and win, rather than a personal challenge to overcome the distance. 

The race is four 12.5 mile out and back segments along the lakefront, very flat and other than being a bit windy it was great weather, around 40 at the start and into the mid to upper 40's through the day. 

At the start, I took off quickly to see who would come with me and right away there were three of us that pulled away a bit from the group.  I was in lead for the first 6 miles, then was passed by someone I didn't recognize, and he quickly pulled away.  I was happy with the speed of the first lap of 1hr and 27 minutes.

I started the second lap in second place with first place pulling out of sight.  I was not too worried however, because I had a feeling he was out running himself, and we had a long way to go.  This turned out to be true, after the turnaround at mile 18.75 he was nowhere to be seen.  I am not sure if he dropped or just stopped for a while but it was the last time I noticed him, so I was back in first place 1/3 of the way through the race, thinking maybe I could go the rest of the way uncontested.  No such luck, after only a couple of miles in the lead, I was passed by Alex Leon.  Alex looked very comfortable and very fit and I thought "uh oh".  I ended the 2nd lap at the 3 hour mark, happy with the time, but a quarter mile behind Alex.

During the third lap the pain started to settle in.  In was really great to have the physical and psychological support of Bridget and the dozens of New Leaf Ultra Runners who were volunteering at the main aid station.  Despite all the encouragement, I was slowing down and Alex disappeared into the distance.  I finished the third lap with a dissapointing time around 4 hours and 47 minutes, about a minute a mile slower than my previous laps.

Starting the 4th lap, I resigned myself to second place.  I was well behind first, well ahead of third, and frankly I was exhausted and in a huge amount of pain.  My goal was to do my best to maintain my pace, and I was going to be happy with the results.

Suddenly, with 7 miles to go I saw Alex a quarter mile in the distance.  Out loud I groaned and said: "Oh Shit", because I knew that I had chance to catch him, but it was going to be hard as hell.  Then I said my mantra to myself: "You didn't sign up for this thing because it was going to be easy.", and vowed to give it my all.

With 5 miles to go I had closed the distance and decided that I needed to pass him with authority and get as much distance as possible to make him think I had plenty left in the tank, with the hope that he would give up the chase, because I didn't have anything left in the tank at all.  I passed running under a 7 minute mile pace.

As soon as I passed Alex I saw Bridget and Sabine, who had been coming my way from the New Leaf aid station.  I am glad that they did because I desperately needed fuel and I couldnt slow down for the aid stations or I would never get back to speed again.  Because of her help I was able to get a few gulps without slowing down.

With four miles to go I had opened up a decent lead but the wheels were starting to come off.  My legs were on fire, which was expected, but the real problem was cramping and the loss of what I will call "mental control".  I would get light headed and kinda lose where I was for a minute, then snap back to reality.  Inside my head I was screaming at myself to "wake up!" and "focus!" and "hold it damnit!".  At the same time I was cramping, it started in my calves, then my hamstrings, but also my stomach and abs, shoulders, neck, tongue, face and even eventually my forehead.  I didn't even know that was possible, a cramp in my forehead. 

My head and body kept tilting to one side as I got light headed then I would force myself back straight, desperately trying to keep a reasonable stride so Alex would not be aware of my travails.  The cramping tounge made it difficult to swallow, and combined with the minor head cold I had, made for a slobbery mess.  It couldn't have been pretty.

After what seemed like a lifetime I was finally able to start smelling the finish line about a mile away.  For the first time I chanced a look behind me to see how far back Alex was.  I didn't see him and the thought: "I've got it", ran through my head.  At the thought of "I've got it" a surge of adrenaline rushed through my body.  Usually, a surge of adrenaline at the end of a race is a good thing, helping propel me to the finish line.  However, my heart rate was already racing and I was already lightheaded, so as soon as I thought "I've got it", I veered off the path and nearly fell over.

I took several stumbling steps forward, completely out of my head, trying to force myself straight and to relax and get my heart rate under control without completely stopping.  After a few seconds, I was running again, although much slower.

With a quarter mile to go I could hear Bridget and other people screaming at the finish line.  The race ends with a very short up hill and at the bottom I nearly came to a complete halt because I took one walking step and almost fell over.  I ran up the hill hunched over, leaning to the side.  With 5 yards to go I collapsed to the ground as people screamed "NO!!" and continued across the finish half crawling, half rolling on the ground in 6 hours and 33 minutes.

After getting across the finish I dragged myself to the side and started a terrible cramping fit which much have looked bad based on the looks on the faces of race management.  A minute later, Alex finished.

Now that was a race!



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Keys 100

Bridget and I ran the Florida Keys 100 May 19th and 20th running from Key Largo to Key West.  It was epic! 

This blog post is going to be a bit different than my previous race reports.  First off, there are a lot more pictures.  Bridget and I both took pics along the way.  WARNING: The pictures get more gruesome as they go on. 

Also, I am going to pass the writing off to newly minted 100 mile badass Bridget Nord!  My race was interesting, it involved bloodshed, delerium and a sub 24 hour finish.  However, I think Bridget's day was more entertaining and epic.  I will have you hear it in her words.  Take it away Bridget!:::::















Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Year's One Day

Instead of partying till dawn New Year's Eve to New Year's Day and then jumping into the frozen Chicago Lake Michigan like we did last year, this year, Bridget and I decided to travel to San Francisco and run from 9:00am NYE to 9:00am New Year's Day in Coastal Trail Run's New Year's One Day.
To take advantage of being back in the bay area, we arrived a couple days early and were fortunate to get reservations at my favorite restuarant, Chez Panisse two days before the race and then we spent the whole day before the race in Napa doing the Wine Train and visiting the Grgich Winery. Several glasses of wine the day before a 24hr race is good for carb loading right?
I have run this course before although not on New Year's. The first time was in 2008, which I was fortunate enough to get my first ever win and do 130 miles. http://ultrashan.blogspot.com/2008/10/san-francisco-one-day.html The second time was in 2009, where I stopped at the 12 hour mark with around 78 miles and an achilles injury, probably brought on by going out too fast.
The training leading up to this one went very well. In October, my office moved to a building with a gym so in addition to my nightly runs I was able to start running the almost 4 miles to and from work plus workout at lunch time. This let me run more miles at a faster pace and more overall. I had several weeks in a row of 120-160 miles. My two main goals for the race were to do well competetively and best my previous distance of 130 miles if possible.
Race day was perfect weather: low 60's and sunny during the day, high 40's at night. It was great to see a lot of friends from the area running the race and cheering us on. 9:00am hits and off we go.
Right at the start two people jumped ahead of me, moving fast, really fast. The person in first seemed to be doing seven minute miles, which seemed sorta suicidal in a 24hr race. I didn't want to make the same mistake I had made on this course previously so I was determined to take it easy and just go at my own pace. Fortunately, my easy pace was still eight to eight and a half minute miles. The extra miles at faster pace seemed to have lowered my 'taken it easy' pace. I later heard that the person who jumped out at seven minute miles was using this race to qualify for Boston, then he kept running most of the rest of the race! Although he did slow down later, I couldn't imagine trying to keep running all day after completing a hard marathon.
The course is a 1.061 mile loop at Crissy Field, which is a beautiful area in San Francisco with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the bay and the San Francisco skyline, over and over and over, etcetera. It's flat and ideal for getting in big miles, although it is a mental challenge with all the repetiveness of it. Fortunately, the runners and especially the volunteers were amazingly nice and helpful which definitely brightened the day during the hard spots.
I finished the first marathon in around 3 hours and 30 minutes, well ahead of my goal pace but feeling easy. Also, Bridget finished her first marathon in under 5 hours! Amazing, especially for someone who has not been doing long distance running for long and has not run an actual marathon, she just decided to be hardcore and go straight for ultras.
By midday, things were not feeling so easy anymore. Pain was setting in big time and I was doing 9-10 minute miles. Still ahead of goal pace but feeling like there was a long, long way to go. Timed events are difficult mentally compared to distance events because no matter how fast or slow, the finish line marches toward you at the same terrible pace and I was letting that fact get to me. I was also getting lapped, and by nightfall I was in 2nd place 3-4 miles behind and getting further. I was slowing down and felt like my goals were slipping away.
Then, just when I was thinking I was going to be slowing down more and more and more, something changed. First place, Chikara Omine, suddenly slowed to a crawl. Almost literally a crawl. He must have seized up terribly because he was moving like a slow motion zombie. It looked very painful. Chikara is an amazing runner, much more accomplished than myself, and while I felt his pain, seeing the chink in his armor gave me an energy boost and I was back running a good pace. Also, my friends Devon Crosby-Helms, Nathan Yanko, Brett Rivers and Larissa Polischuck all stopped by which was great to see. Brett and Larissa even ran a few laps with me, which was really helpful. Around the 14 hour mark, I took the lead.
As New Years approached, party boats started to fill up the bay. I found out that there was going to be fireworks at midnight, cool! The 6 and 12 hour races also started so that they would be ending at midnight, so there was quite a party atmosphere. Right at midnight, about 90 miles in, we stopped for a toast of champagne, which was the first time I have had champagne at an aid station, kinda nice.
After a quick 10 minute break at midnight, it was back to the work at hand, and by 100 miles in 17ish hours, it was once again a grind. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, begging for the sun to rise. The nice part was I was walking a little bit every now and then and I would get to walk with Bridget for a while, which was nice company. I was also now far ahead of 2nd place, over 10 miles. To keep myself motivated, I pretended like 2nd place was closing in so I could use the fear for energy.
Finally, the night ended. Around 7-8am I heard someone closing in on me, I had been pulling away from the whole field since before midnight so it was a bit of a surprise since I thought I was still moving at a good pace considering the distance. It was Bridget! She was still running after all this time. We ended up doing the last several laps together, ending the race with 126.3 miles for me and 80.6 miles for her. Bridget got 3rd place for the women and I was 1st place overall. Rock!
I felt pretty good at the finish, I usually roll around on the ground in pain and exhaustion after a 100+ mile race, but I was able to stand for the awards. Bridget was definitely feeling the pain though, she was nauseated and not able to stand up. Fortunately our friend Gasper Paluzi was kind enough to basically carry Bridget to his car and give us a ride to the hotel.
Off to the next adventure! I think Bridget caught the ultra bug, because in the airport on the way home she was talking about doing her first 100 miler! We have our eyes on http://www.keys100.com/. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 24, 2011

St Pat's 24 Hour

Wow, it's been 11 months since posting a blog. While I have not been writing, I have been running! I ran most of a 200k fat ass run, had a win at the Sunburn Six in the Stix 12hr, a DNF at Burning River 100 (damn achilles'!), and several other 5k and 10ks.
This year I decided to focus one race on a 24 hour event to see if I could break my PR of 130. I had planned to go back to San Francisco where I set my PR in the first place since its really flat and the weather is usually nice. However, logistics didn't work out so I tried to find a good race in the region. I found a great, really well run race, the St Pat's 24 Hour Race. So, this last weekend, Bridget and I woke up at 3:30am and made the two hour drive from Chicago to South Bend. Bridget was running the 12 hour, her first event over 6 hours!

I was feeling confident except out of the blue three days before the event, I started to have some achilles' tendon pain, my arch nemesis. It wasn't bad, but achilles problems ended my last 100 miler 60 miles in. However, I decided, screw it, just pretend there isn't a problem and just go.
The weather was perfect for running, it was a crisp fall day with colorful leaves on the trees and on the ground. The course was a three mile loop and each loop had only one significant downhill and uphill, although the rolling hills did seem to magically grow as the day and night wore on. I was feeling good so for the first ten laps I averaged just over 8 minute miles, putting me into the lead.
What I didn't see coming (literally) were all the roots! All the pretty fall leaves made excellent camouflage and I found myself hitting the ground over and over and over. I fell all the way to the ground seven times (a new PR) and clipped my toe and almost fell just as much. I heard other people fell, but not as often as I did. I must be a slow learner, I think I hit the exact same root on 3 separate occasions. Especially in really long races like a 24hr, I keep my feet close to the ground, which is great for efficient running, not so great for getting over roots. Later in the race when I slowed down I finally stopped falling as much, but by then a lot of damage had been done. Most of the damage was superficial: scuffed up hands and knees, bruised arm and shoulder, lots of dirt in my water bottle. However, a couple times I twisted my left ankle pretty bad, the same side I had my achilles problems. By mile 30 the ankle was swollen and the achilles was burning, although it had not forced me to limp (yet).
As night fell, the pain started to set in, both the pain of running all day and into the night and also in my increasingly swollen lower left leg. At 12 hours in, I had ran 75 miles, exactly my goal to beat my PR, however, I knew the likelihood of reaching the PR was becoming less and less and I could no longer put full weight on my left leg without some serious teeth grinding. I decided to stop for five minutes to rest and see how Bridget's 12 hour race finished.
It turns out, Bridget finished with 52 miles! Amazing accomplishment, more than 20 miles over her longest single stretch of running. Even more impressive, after a short rest, Bridget was helping me with my race and even joined for a few laps later on.
The 80 to 100 mile section was very tough so I was playing head games with myself. I was very close to walking so I kept telling myself: "Only one more lap and then we get to walk a bit". Then I would finish the lap and tell myself again: "Only one more lap and then we get to walk a bit." After a several laps of this torture, I was closing in on 100 miles. My goal became to get to 100 miles in under 18 hours. Mile 95-100 I felt like I was running hard and fast, but according to the splits, I was doing 15 minute miles. I was starting to slow big time, but I did the first 100 in under 18 hours, probably a new PR! (I am not exactly sure because most of my fastest 100 milers have come as a part of longer events: SF 24 hours, the 195 mile Windy 2 Indy, a 200k earlier this year).
I made it 100 miles in 18 hours and had 6 hours left to go. Just 30 miles in 6 hours to beat my PR. Normally 30 miles in 6 hours would be totally doable, but with the toll of mile and miles and messed up tendons and joints, it wasn't going to happen. So, my focus went to winning the race and trying to break the course record. The course record was 103 miles, so I felt I had that covered. After looking at the results this far I realized I had lapped everyone at least three times, so I was a minimum of 9 miles ahead of second place. 9 miles seems like a lot, but with 6 hours to go and me now mostly doing a slow walk, I had to keep going.
Fortunately, Bridget was (amazingly) willing and able to join me to walk a few laps. It gets lonely walking in the dark woods and I really appreciated the help. Also, the race staff were wonderful. They had everything available you could possibly want, and cheered the whole night. The only hard part was passing the nice bon fire they had set up every 3 miles.
Finally, the sun started to come up for the second time since the event started. With 30 minutes to go I was still around 9 miles ahead 114 miles total, so I got to sit down (whew).
Inspecting the damage, I lost 5 toenails, was bruised all over my left side, and my achilles and ankle are bad enough that I am not yet running a week later as I write this. On the plus side, I have some wonderful memories (in retrospect, painful at the time), a win, great time with fellow athletes/adventurers/head cases, and a nice hand made mirror for a prize. Awesome!