Thursday, October 31, 2013

Equalizer Run RR

What: Equalizer Run
When: October 26, 2013
Where: Des Moines, IA
Distance: Whatever is covered within 24 hours
Goals: A) 50 miles
            B) 43 miles (distance covered last year)
            C) 26.2 miles (minimum for the hoodie)
Final Distance: 50.5 miles

The Weekend Before:
On October 19th, I ran my first 50K. My plan was to run it easy, but that quickly changed at the 21 mile point when I was told I was on pace for a sub-6 hour finish. I pushed a bit and ended up falling hard at mile 24. After the race, it was painful to straighten my right leg. I decided to take it easy and only ran once (on Thursday) the week leading up to the race. That run went well, but I could still feel a twinge in my knee.

The Day Before:
I started packing at around 10:00 in the morning so I could be on the road around noon. I packed a tent, blankets, camp stove, food and hydration supplies, selected the running clothes I planned to wear. The clothes included multiple shorts, pants, short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, 3 pairs of shoes, multiple pairs of socks, and multiple jackets. I hit the road around 12:15ish.

I arrived in Des Moines and checked into the hotel around 3:30. I went to wally world and bought some other food items for the race. Suddenly, I got a feeling that I forgot something at home. I decided I better lay out the clothes I planned to wear at the start of the race. Shoes/socks - check. Shorts/pants - check. Shirts...where are those darn things. F@%@! I forgot the shirts. It turns out I put them beside the bag, not in it, ooops. Back to wally world I went and bought some shirts. It turns out I did have some long sleeve shirts from previous races in the car, but just like the new shirts, this would be the first time time they would be worn. Thankfully it was just shirts that I forgot, I already planned on using waterproof band-aids so I wasn't worried about chaffing.

There was a pre-race dinner and a sports bar located 37 seconds away from the hotel. I had a burger and beer and enjoyed conversing with friends, old and new. We left the bar at about 8:00 and I went back and finished laying items out for the race.

The Race:
Since the temp was in the upper 30s/low 40s, I started in shorts and a long sleeve shirt. I settled on starting the race in my Pearl Izumi Road EM N2s. My plan was to switch to my Mizuno Wave Riders after about 2 hours and then finish in the Brooks Ghost.

I met up with friends for breakfast at the hotel. We had planned to get to the race location by 7:00. We left on time, but unfortunately there was a major traffic delay and we arrived about 7:15. After unpacking everything from our vehicles, we set up the tent. Before long, it was time to line up for instructions. I thought I had time to mix up my hydration bottles, but I was wrong. Since this was a 24 hour event and only a 1.9 mile loop. I decided to go without the belt for the first loop.

At about 8:00, we were off. I fell in with a couple of runners, Tim and Britt. Just like with most of the other ultra runners I've met, conversation came easy. The loop seemed to end quickly, we ran it at about a 10:00/mile pace. After I crossed the line and made sure I was counted for a lap, I stopped at our "base camp" and mixed up my bottles and put on the hydration belt.

Tim, myself, and Britt during the first lap.
The next mile I ran too fast at a 9:18 pace. I settled down after that and averaged right around a 10:00 mile until mile 15. I stopped at the "base camp" every lap and nibbled on something or refilled a bottle as needed. After lap 6, I changed my shoes as planned and headed back out in the Mizunos.

After lap 9 (Mile 17), I started walking several sections of the course each lap to conserve energy. Then around Mile 21, I started getting pain in my left calf. It felt like a knot and was sore to touch, but it wasn't acting like a cramp. I decided to start walking from that point to start taking it easy on the calf. Somewhere around Mile 25 I was starting to get pain at the base of my shin, just above my right foot. It hurt to put too much pressure on it or flex the foot. I could still move forward, albeit slowly, so I trudged onward. At about 2:15pm (Mile 28ish) I took a break for a couple of hours to eat a sandwich and massage the calf.

At about 4:20, I changed into the pair of Brooks shoes and headed back out to start Mile 29. I decided I wanted to make it to at least the 50K point before I took another rest. I made it to about 32.75 and decided to go grab some grub with a couple of friends. Since I have never had Chipotle, that's where we went. I must say it was a pretty tasty burrito. Then again, I was hungry so it might not have been as good as it seemed.

After dinner, I decided to try and get some rest. I laid down in the tent to let my calf & shin get some needed recovery time. I couldn't sleep, so I read a book for a few hours and then closed my eyes. I woke up at around 12:30am and headed back out some more. The calf pain had really diminished, but the shin pain was still there. When I approached the rainbow bridge, I snapped a few pics since it does look really cool at night.

I did the math and figured at the pace I was walking, I could reach my goal of 50 miles, as long as I didn't take any more breaks.

I made it to Mile 40ish and suddenly got real foggy headed while crossing the bridge. It was as if I was buzzed or drunk, even though I haven't drank any alcohol. I decided that when I got back to the "base camp" I would stop and try to get some sleep. I made it back at about 3:00am and managed to sleep for a couple of hours.

When I woke up, I figured that my shot at the goal of 50 miles was long gone. I set a new goal of 45 miles and headed out for more laps. This time around, my calf felt fine, my shin was hurting less, but my right knee was starting to twinge. This was an issue that was left over from falling during the 50K the previous weekend. It wasn't changing my gait, so I decided to keep going. Since the calf and shin were better, I was able to pick up my walking pace and make some decent time, all things considered.

Somewhere around 5:30ish, I came up to the "Justice League," a group of people dressed up as super heroes. My first thought was, "oh great, I'm about to encounter a pack of crazies patrolling the park." Thankfully, they were the entourage of Tim, one of the runners I ran with during the first lap. We exchanged greetings and I headed on my way, my mind at ease knowing the Justice League was there to keep the park safe.

At about 6:00 I caught back up to another runner/friend, Brad, and walked the remainder of the lap with him and his family. It felt good to talk and take my mind off of the knee. It was all I could do to keep pace with him, but I managed. When we made it back to start another loop, we decided to start doing the out and back section that consisted of going down the path to an orange cone and turning around. Each out and back section was a quarter mile in length.

With just under 30 minutes to go I was told that I was at 47.46 miles. I tried to pick up the pace, but was still walking. I tried to see how a very slow run felt. It didn't hurt any more than a walk so I went with it. The orange cone was placed on a downhill section of the path. I had to walk this section due to my shin hurting too much while running it. So I walked down to the cone, back up the "hill" and ran the rest of the way. My pace slowly started to pick up and I started to feel good.  Eventually, I started to actually run. It felt really good to stretch the legs out and get some speed going. I knew I was close, so when I made it back to the finish line, I asked how many laps I had left to reach 50 miles. At that time, I was told two laps. I think I just about sprinted those two laps. I asked to make sure I was at 50. I was told I was at 49.46 miles. Crap, this meant I needed to run three more out and backs to reach 50 miles. I didn't even look at the clock, I just took off running as fast as I could at the time. I ended up finishing the out and backs and realized I had some time left so I ran, slowly to get one more finished. I ended up walking quite a bit to the cone and then slowly jogged back to the finish line.

Shortly after 8:00am, the awards were handed out. One of my friends, Dian, made some cool finisher medals for the event out of petri dishes and some advil.

The longest distance covered, actual miles, was 118 miles which made for a new event record. Talk about impressive.

Enjoying the awards with my fancy red/yellow hat.

It felt great to achieve a goal that I thought had slipped away from me. I couldn't have asked for a better finish. I had a lot of fun over the course of the event and met a lot of good people. During my walking sections, I was always asked how I was doing and getting words of encouragement from those passing me. The only thing that would have made this event better is if it was on a trail instead of an asphalt path.

Surprisingly, I never felt as bad after this event as I did after the 50K the previous weekend. I also felt better after the event this year than I did after finishing about 43 miles at it last year. To say that I am happy about both the result and how I felt after the event is a huge understatement. This gives me some hope heading into longer ultras on trails in 2014. I can't wait!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lake Perry Rocks 50K RR

What: Lake Perry Rocks 50K
When: October 19, 2013
Where: Lake Perry, Meriden, Kansas
Starting Temp: 32F
Finish Temp: 62F
Fueling Strategy: Tailwind nutrition as the mainstay, supplemented by real food at the aid stations
Goal: sub-7 hours
Finish Time: 6:07:19

 I had a good spring racing season, then came the heat of the summer. It was a struggle to get in any long runs. Then I ran Coleen's Sweaty Ass Run on August 10th, a 10 hour event in which you run a 5K  XC loop as many times as you want to within the 10 hours. I eked out 15 miles and decided I wanted to attempt to run the Hawk Marathon on September 14th. I would use the marathon as a training run to see if I could run the Lake Perry Rocks 50K.

After finishing the marathon and feeling good, I registered for the 50K the next morning and sketched out a training plan. I had scheduled back to back long runs on the weekends to get me use to longer runs without causing me too much recovery time. Unfortunately, the back to back long runs rarely happened as scheduled. The first week I ran both 11 mile runs as planned, but that was basically the end of following the schedule. I always got in the first long run, but never managed to run the 2nd long run. I had planned my longest run, a 22 miler, the day after a 4 mile race. Evidently, I underestimated how tired I would be after the 4 mile race as my 22 miler was ended at 11 miles. What that means is that my longest run between the marathon and 50K would be 16.5 miles. I realized my training was insufficient for actually racing the distance, but based upon the marathon, I figured I could still finish just under seven hours.

Race Week:
I had planned an easy 10-12 mile run around a park on the Saturday before the race. Then one of my friends asked if I wanted to go for a trail run, of course I opted for the trail run. I had a fun on the run, but we ended up doing a fairly hilly 14.5ish miles. The run was a blast and we took it easy, but I wondered how the legs would recover from the hills.

During the week leading up to the race, I ended up running three runs for a total of nine miles. On the first two runs, my legs felt tired, but on the third run, they felt pretty good. I took it easy on Friday and felt good going into the race.

Race Day:
I woke up at 2:30 so I could drink my coffee, let nature run its course, then drive the hour long trek to the start of the race. I made it to the race location at about 6:30ish and it was cold. I remained in my car for a bit until it was time to pick up the race packet. After picking up the packet, I mingled with the other runners until we had about 10 minutes before the start of the race.  At that point, I went outside to start getting use to the weather.

With about 5 minutes until start time, we started to line up.

Facing the starting line

Facing backward.
 At 8:00, we were off. I told myself to keep a slow and comfortable pace. Myself and one my friends, Casey started keeping pace. We decided to try and keep a 12:00/mile pace and see how it felt.

Sometime during Mile 1
 We fell in line with other runners and started to settle in and enjoy the run. Early in the first mile, I had a small rock make its way into my shoe. It wasn't causing any pain so I decided to wait until the aid station at Mile 6 to remove it.

The first mile was on pace, but we noticed we had really slowed during the second mile and decided it was time to make the move to pass the runners leading the conga line. Another runner, Jonathan, decided to follow us and we now were a pack of three.

Early in Mile 2, before making the pass.
 After passing, we picked up the pace a bit keeping it comfortable. By the Garmin, we kept knocking off miles at about 12:00 pace. It felt good and fairly effortless. I felt like I was in the zone. The time just flew by and before I knew it, we had reached the manned aid station at Mile 6.

Early in Mile 3

Photo taken during Mile 3 with the camera held behind my head.

Early in Mile 4.

Halfway through Mile 4

Near the end of Mile 4

Early in Mile 5

Early in Mile 5

Late in Mile 5

Early in Mile 6

Early in Mile 6

Manned aid station at Mile 6.
We reached the Mile 6 aid station in one hour. I took the time to remove my left shoe and empty out the rock. Put the shoe back on and refilled one of my water bottles with Tailwind. So the Garmin wasn't matching up, imagine that. After realizing we were averaging 10:00 miles I decided to slow the pace a bit, but not much. I figured as long as I was running well and could still readily hold a conversation, the pace was good.

By Mile 8, Casey decided to slow down to a pace he knew that he would be able to sustain throughout the race. Jonathan and I kept on truckin and maintained a relatively steady pace. The miles seemed to just fly by and before I knew it, we had reached the Mile 13 aid station.

Early in Mile 7. This section added about a pound of mud to each shoe.

Near the end of Mile 7

During Mile 11

During Mile 12

During Mile 12

During Mile 12

During Mile 13
Since we would hit the aid station again after running a two mile loop, we just ran passed and planned to hit it on the way back.

Shortly after leaving the aid station, I stopped again to check my shoe for rocks. Since removing the rock at Mile 6, it had felt like I still had a rock in it. No rock was found. I retied the shoe and started running again, but I didn't tie the shoe tight enough. Since it still felt like there was a rock in the shoe, I decided to completely remove the shoe, sock, and insole to make sure nothing was there. I also scraped off the mud to make sure that nothing was poking through the sole of the shoe. After nothing was found, I decided that my foot must have been bruised and I would just have to push it out of my mind. I was starting to slow during this section and made it a point to walk most of the hills during the 2nd loop.

During Mile 14
When I reached the aid station for the 2nd time, I refilled both my bottle with Tailwind and grabbed two more pouches that contained pre-measured amounts of Tailwind for when the bottles need to be refilled again. I decided it was time to eat something and grabbed a few pringles, a couple of small cookies, and a small pastry.

Leaving the aid station after Mile 15

 I thanked the volunteers and headed back onto the trails.

During Mile 16

During Mile 16
 I was having a little pain near the right hip, but it was sporadic so I pushed onward. I would walk any hill and run the flats and downhill sections. The pace obviously slowed, but not too terrible. My goal at this point was still coming in just under seven hours so I wasn't worried about time, I was just wanting to manage the race so I could finish. The miles were getting more tiring, but the time still seemed to fly by and I managed to make it to the aid station at Mile 21 a little before noon feeling tired, hurting a little, but not too bad. I was still in good spirits and having a blast.

During Mile 18

During Mile 20. Some evil person put the chair out to coax runner to sit down. I avoided the temptation.

Aid station at Mile 21.
At the aid station, I drank some coke and ginger ale, refilled a water bottle with Tailwind, and grabbed a few pringles. After thanking the volunteers, I set back out on the trails.

Things were going well for a while, but during mile 24ish, I rammed my right foot into a rock and hit the ground hard. My right knee hit first, then my forearms took the brunt of the force. It felt like I rolled and leapt back to my feet fairly quickly. According to Jonathan, the fall was graceful. I dusted myself off, checked the mud-caked areas for cuts/blood, and continued down the trail.

After a while my right forearm started to hurt, like it had been bruised during the fall. Other than the bruised arm I was starting to feel really food again. I commented that the fall must have fixed something because I had a second wind. The running sections were growing longer and the walking sections shorter. Don't get me wrong, I was still tired, my hip was still hurting sporadically, but I was having a blast and moving forward.

During Mile 22

During Mile 25. Due to an unstable section of trail, we were routed up the side of the hill and back on to the trail when safe.

Flags guiding the way off the trail
At about Mile 27, my left knee started to complain. I started to believe I had a chance at sub-6:00 as long as my knee would hold out. I trudged along and started to slow. I figured if I made it to the main aid station at 5.5 hours, I would have a shot. I made it to the aid station fifteen minutes later than needed and stopped to drink some coke and ginger ale. Another runner came into the station shortly after I did. I made it a goal to stay ahead of him and headed out to finish the 2 mile loop. I was hoping to finish before the race clock showed 6:10, but at my current pace, plus the big hill leading up to the finish line, I knew it would be close. I trudged on running as long as my knee allowed it. I walked the hills, but was still able to run short distances of the flats and run all of the downhill sections. I finished the two mile loop quicker than I expected and made it to the bottom of the hill with five minutes to go. I thanked the volunteers and started to powerwalk up the hill. I started to run just before cresting the hill. People started to cheer and I tried to run it in. I crossed the finish line and felt awesome. I had finally achieved a goal that I had been trying to reach for several years now. To say I was happy would be a major understatement. I far surpassed my expectations and had a blast doing so. I definitely call the race a success!

The volunteers throughout the race played a huge part of getting me to finish the race. Every time I left an aid station, I had renewed determination and a little energy boost. To all the volunteers, THANK YOU!

And now for some photos taken by Kristi and Rick Mayo: