Wednesday, November 9, 2011

2011 Mountain Masochist Race Report

I don't know how others feel about this, but for me there is something very special about beginning an ultra early in the morning, before the sun comes up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. At 6:30 a.m. on November 5th it was cold and the sky was clear, stars shining.... nearly 300 of us congregated at the St. James Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. One final prayer from Horton and we were off for a day long adventure. It's hard to describe the emotions I was feeling as the day began to brighten and you could see the outline of ridges in the distance on all sides of us. I was running with the lead group of women as the sun rose and we darted from the road onto our first trails just as day was breaking.

I had 3 goals coming into the 2011 MMTR... first- win the grand masters division and win a Patagonia Down Jacket; second- break 9 hours (which would mean a 56 minute improvement over last year) and third- set the all time 53 yr old record (which was and still is 8:51). If things went well I knew I would improve significantly on 2010. I was better prepared both physically and mentally. I put in the work so now it was time to get down to business and get it done.

Some of my goals were a stretch but I felt I was capable of getting down around 9 hours. I had a super stressful day on Friday, Masochist Eve... unexpected water in my basement from heavy overnight rains, family scheduling problems, last minute critical tasks, but 4 hours after my planned departure I was on the way to Lynchburg (w/ wife Sara and 13 yr old son Patrick).

As my race unfolded along the Blue Ridge Parkway I settled into running in a small group which included all the top seeded women, first Alyssa Wildeboer and Dacia Reed...soon to joined by top seed Sandi Nypaver. Also in the group was David Kirby who I ran with side by side for much of the New River 50k. I knew we were running fairly fast but also knew that the top women would be likely going sub 9 hrs so I was right where I wanted to be.

Not a very good photo but I'm in the background heading up the trail as women's leader Sandi Nypaver stops at the 1st Aid Station

As we headed up the first trail Sandi gapped the other women a bit and we had a small group of us running together. All was going well, the trail wasn't as muddy as I expected and we could go around many of the flooded sections. The streams had more water then last year so my feet stayed wet and cold during this early section. When crossing Dancing Creek I "almost" kept my feet dry but my dancing wasn't up to par and got one foot ankle deep just as Clark Zealand called out my name and Horton yelled out good job "Rob Spanish." [I wonder how many times I have heard something similar... Horton needs to work on some more original/creative material]. Somewhere in the 12-15 mi point in the race I stopped to urinate and I lost my small group which included the women's leader. I pretty much ran by myself from that point until the ~1/2 way point at Long Mtn Wayside. My legs began to go south on me really early. I'd say at about the 17.5 mi Aid Station my legs began to feel dead and shortly after began to ache/hurt. I didn't worry a whole lot as sometimes this happens and you bounce back. It wasn't to be this time. I tried to fuel up but that didn't seem to help much. After one of the deeper river/stream crossing I ran very steady up the fairly gentle 2 mi climb. I seemed to feel better on the climbing then I did on flat and downhills.

I got to the Long Mtn Crew Access point and met Sara and Patrick and they had my drop bag. Refueled with gels and a new hand held and I was off. I let them know that my legs were dead and maybe it just wasn't my day but I'd continue on. They informed me that Eric Grossman was in the lead and Sandi Nypaver was the only female ahead of me (of course Patrick informed me that she was WAY ahead of me). I reached Long Mtn in 4:15, about 30 minutes faster then 2010. On the long climb up Buck Mtn I leap frogged a bit with Dacia and Alyssa and a couple of other guys. Alyssa took a spill in front of me but seemed to be okay. After I crested Buck I tried to make good time on the way to the Loop. Remembering last year, I knew I needed to make good time when I was able.

Sara and Patrick met me at "The Loop In" Aid Station which was nice. Wasn't sure they'd make it up the gravel road but nice to get some encouragement and a gel. I only saw one other runner during the 6 mi loop portion. He came up behind me and we ran together for a bit before he moved on ahead. He had just graduated from Liberty and ran 8:50 ish last year so I felt like maybe I was on pace even though I was feeling so bad. He just shook his head when I said I was 53 yrs old and trying to break 9 hours. For me, and many others, the Loop is a favorite section of the MMTR course. It's a tough section, the most technical, and is slow going, but beautiful and authentic.

Coming out of the loop I tried to pick up the pace as the next several miles was rolling Forest Service road terrain. My legs were feeling awful but I remember Beth Minick sending me a message wishing me well and I repeated in my head what we told eachother "all business." I got to Salt Log Gap Aid Station and knew there was a tough section up to the final Aid Station... the next 4 miles took us through very rough trail, hard to follow, ankle deep leaves. At Salt Log Gap my watch said 7:30 but I knew it might take an hour to get up to the top of the ridge before the 4 miles or so down to Montebello. By the time I reached the last Aid Station I indeed had only 30 minutes to get a sub 9 hr time and I knew that was unlikely. My legs were completely shot but I pushed on. Only one runner passed me as I hobbled my way down the mountain and on into the finish. I crossed the finish line in 9:09:31. Happy to be done and really feeling more satisfaction then I expected. Looking back.... this was my toughest race (felt bad so early and could never shake it), yet my most grafifying race by pushing myself when I could have easily packed it in. I got the usual handshake from Race Director, Clark Zealand. Then a "good job" from Dr. Horton. Horty asked me how old I was and when I replied 53, he shouted Grand Masters. I told him I think a few "old guys" were ahead of me but he just looked at his clipboard and said I don't know... I think you may have "won." Nice to have my family (but missed Kane, my oldest son) with me. They were excited that Eric G. won and that I had survived what was a very tough day. I think the temps were a little warmer then last year and we sat soaking up the sun on the porch of the Montebello Country Store. I got really emotional as we baked in the sun and I saw Jenny Nichols come striding across the line in 9:45. I was yelling, "holy @$%* that's Jenny under 10 hours!" My buddy Rick Gray was not far behind a little over his 10 hour goal.

On Monday, I got back to the work routine and our usual "morning huddle" meeting at the hospital. To put this in context... I work at a Geriatric Behavioral Health unit. A psychiatric unit for old folks. Our Program Director told my co-workers that I ran a big and long trail race and that I won my age division. He said Rob didn't tell you what prize he won and I was about to brag about the Patagonia jacket when he said yeah Rob wins a personal psychiatric evaluation. We all laughed and I told the nurses and social workers to be careful when walking in the hallways and not to knock me over as I would be moving slow. Our Nurse Manager asked if I should wear "yellow socks".... we give yellow socks to all the geriatric patients that are fall risks. I for sure needed some yellow socks for a few days after a very rough but successful 2011 MMTR.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Peter Fish

Below is a Waldo 100k race report from the amazing 75 year old Peter Fish

2011 Peter Fish
Waldo 100K
August 20, 2011
Peter Fish, 75

I finished Waldo in overtime (18:39) in 2004, in my second attempt, and three tries since then have not taken me past the last cutoff at Twins2. I decided that this year would be my last attempt, finish or no, but that I would make a finish at Waldo my main priority for the year.

Waldo has been my favorite race since my 2004 finish, and I have intended to run it every year. In 2005, I opted instead to try the Cascade Crest 100 (DNF), and in 2006 I paced my friend Tom Pelsor to a successful finish. I was back as a starter in 2007, but was basically undertrained, and sat through the Charlton cutoff in the medical tent with palpitations. In 2008, I signed up to pace Tom at Leadville, but came back to Waldo in 2009 determined to finish. A major bonk on the way to Twins2 led to my first encounter with the sweeps in any race, and my determination to finish was transformed into a determination to never run again. Fortunately, on the way home the next day it occurred to me what had happened. I had been drinking undiluted GU2O all day, and had too many calories and not enough H2O, which made me nauseous and dehydrated at the same time. Armed with this information, I signed up for a rematch in 2010. With my drinking habits modified, and being otherwise well-trained, I was in fine shape until the first climb to the Twins AS, when I developed a nasty blister on my left big toe. I never get blisters, except occasionally on my toes, and all of these were taped. However, I hadn’t used any adherent, such as benzoin, and the tape on the big toe had come off, so for the first time in my life I stopped at an aid station for blister repair. This was accomplished very deftly by a fellow named Bill, but unfortunately it took about 15 minutes, and an additional 8 minutes spent trying to find a lost glove on the way to Charlton brought me into that AS 2 minutes after the cutoff.

By this time, any sane person would have given up entirely on Waldo, and devoted himself to some less troublesome activity such as kiteboarding or skydiving. However, all these experiences had failed to convince me that I couldn’t do Waldo, because in every case, there was a different reason why it didn’t work out. So one last try was in order, and hopefully no new difficulty (such as a blizzard) would emerge to thwart me.

As you get older, you have to work harder. Accordingly, since 2004 I have increased my mileage by about 15%, from about 200/month to about 240. During the last couple of years, I started doing hills consistently, at around 5-8,000 feet of climb per week. After the Siskiyou Out Back 50K (July 9), I laid out a training program for the 7 weeks leading up to Waldo. My mileage for the year, before SOB, was 1452.

Week Miles (Goal)
Climb (Goal)
Long Run
1 SOB 76.2 8415 13, 31
2 7/11-17 40.4 (40) 2300 (3000) –
3 7/18-24 77.4 (75) 7920 (9000) 28,28
4 7/25-31 36.8 (40) 2655 (3000) –
5 8/1-7 59.4 (75) 8000 (8000) 28
6 8/8-14 34.5 (30) 2165 (2000) –
7 Waldo 84 (62) 11,000 62

Another event that contributed to my training was a fund-raiser for a local skatepark, in which I ran my age (75) on a track in a little under 24 hours.

Over the years, I have tended to travel lighter whenever possible. In this race, I wore the same clothing from start to finish: the 2010 Waldo T-shirt over a light long-sleeved shirt (helpful against the voracious mosquitos), Race-Ready shorts, Injinji socks under Thorlo crew socks (no blisters this time), Inov-8 Talon shoes with Joe Trailman gaiters, and the hat I always wear. I had a Nathan 2-bottle pack with one bottle of water and one of GU2O, a film canister full of S-Caps, a flask of Hammergel, a Ziplock with some candied ginger, and a Clif bar (all these renewable from drop bags), and had 4 containers of Ensure in my drop bags. I had a pair of trekking poles with my drop bag at Rd. 4290, which I hoped would get me up the hill to Twins 2 (and Maiden Peak). I started with a Petzl Black Diamond headlamp and a Streamlight 7 LED, and had one of each in the 4290 bag for the finish (NFI in any of these products).

A couple of months before, my son Jeremy called to ask about the Waldo race. He had intended to sign up for it himself, but found that it was already full. I immediately suggested that he consider pacing me there, as it would give him a good idea what the race was like in preparation for doing it next year. He readily agreed, and after he came up from his home in Moraga on Thursday, we rode up together on Friday to our lodging at Odell Lake Resort, where I usually stay. I believe his presence was a major factor in my finishing, not only for the pleasure of having his company during the second half of the race, but also for the incentive it provided me to stay on schedule and arrive at the pickup point at Charlton in good mental and physical condition, and to push through to the all-important 4:30 PM cutoff at Twins2 (about 45 miles). As it turned out, this was his first experience at the ultra distance, a tough 50K or so, although the year before we had hiked a total of about 45 miles in a week in the southern Sierras, during which he had carried a 60-pound pack over some very hilly terrain, so I had no doubt that he was more than equal to it.

For each leg of the course, I’ll show my actual split, and the projected time in parentheses.

Gold Lake, 7.4 miles: 1:51 (1:57), starting off at 3 AM, a very mild moonless morning, with a short steep climb up the ski access road, then a long downhill through the woods. I was relieved to pass without incident the sudden upturn where I fell and cracked a rib in 2009. I very quickly moved into dead last place, and saw very few people going in the same direction for many hours. I filled my bottles quickly at the AS and headed out, glad to be a few minutes ahead of schedule.

Fuji Up, 5.0 miles: 1:38 (1:35), almost continually uphill through the forested slopes, past several small lakes that gradually came into view as the sky lightened. I left my bottle pack at the AS, gladly accepting a spraying with mosquito repellent, as the bugs were out in strength in this wetter-that-usual year.

Fuji Down, 2.5 miles: 0:52 (0:51), feeling strong going up the winding trail to the summit, which is never visible until you’re there. Shortly before the top, at a switchback, I was passed by Dave Mackey, the leader, at exactly the same point where the leaders caught up with me last year. Then there were three of them, but Dave was all alone and quite a ways in front. On the way down, I gave ground to quite a few speedy runners from the regular start, who had gained 15 miles on me in only 2 hours. Still very close to my schedule, I picked up my pack and headed for Mt. Ray.

Mt. Ray, 5.6 miles: 1:29 (1:35), after descending for a mile or so from the Fuji station, the trail follows the grade for several miles, then goes down, steeply at times (you’d hate to have to climb up it) to Mt. Ray, and I was able to run relatively briskly for much of this part, the easiest on the course, with very nice footing on the forest trail, and arrived at the Mt. Ray station 8 minutes ahead of schedule. Having regular start runners passing me continually probably helped me pick up the pace.

Twins 1, 6.6 miles: 1:56 (1:57), a long uphill slog through pleasant terrain, with some zig-zag moves onto the Pacific Crest Trail that have occasionally thrown runners off course in the past. At one point you are heading more or less south in what feels like the wrong direction, and I lost some time there in 2004 before meeting another runner who straightened me out. (The course, incidentally, is extremely well marked, with people at the intersections to guide you in the right direction). As always, the aid station appears at the last minute, just when you’d just about given up on it. Last year, everyone was in angelic garb, and I felt as though I’d died and gone to heaven while I was getting my blister repaired. This year, I didn’t dilly-dally, noting with pleasure that I was still a little ahead of schedule and still feeling good.

Charlton, 4.9 miles: 1:24 (1:20), the Twins AS breaks up the climb, but it continues for what feels like too long before dipping down to the lake. The first time I did this leg, in 2003, the distance was marked as 4 miles, and I had an hour until the cutoff. No problem, I thought, then I climbed for about 40 minutes wondering how they got a lake way up here, before finally reaching the top and running pell mell down to the Charlton AS 15 minutes late. This time, I had a better idea of the task, and came in about 5 minutes ahead of my scheduled 12:15 arrival despite losing a few minutes.

4290, 5.2 miles: 1:40 (1:35), it was good to see Jeremy. He had been following my progress, and was pumped up that we were making such good time. This leg is one of my least favorite parts of the course, although the mild weather kept it from being as hot as usual. It’s partly a clear-cut section, rather brushy, without much shade. This was where I started to fade in 2009, when I needed more water, instead of the full-strength GU. This time, my pace was slowing down somewhat, but I was still feeling strong, and it was pleasant to have some company and catch up with my son, who I hadn’t seen for months. When we got to the AS, I sat down to have some soup (I think) while Jeremy undid my trekking poles, which were packed in a mailing tube. When we tried to adjust them to the right length, they wouldn’t lock down for some reason, and after the two of us and one of the AS guys struggled with it, I said “forget it, let’s go!” and we took off, having lost 11 minutes at the AS.

Twins 2, 7.5 miles: 2:38 (2:30), this is the part of the course that makes or breaks you, although it doesn’t break you quite as badly as it did on the original course, when you had to summit the Twins. This took me nearly 3 hours in 2004, and considering the time lost at 4290, 2:38 was not a bad time, especially given the frequent patches of snow near the top. As we got over 6000, I started getting tired and feeling the altitude, and began taking brief pauses of a few breaths at every 100 feet of climb (measured by my Suunto altimeter, a piece of gear which I forgot to mention). At the top, where the trail heads down to the AS, we met a couple of people who said the station was about a mile away. At that point, we had about 13 minutes to the cutoff, and I started to run. Jeremy joined in, and we kept up a brisk pace for about 7 or 8 minutes, having no idea how far we actually had to go. It’s hard to be discouraged when you’re running as fast as you can, but we really started doubting that we were going to make it. Jeremy said he’d go ahead and find out how close we were, and he took off. He was a 4:20 miler in high school, and at 47 he can still fly. A couple of minutes later he came tearing back around a turn and gasped that it was really close, so we turned on the afterburners and blew in to Twins at 4:28 PM, with time to fill our bottles and head out (we had been informed at the runners’ meeting that cutoffs would be strictly enforced on leaving the station). Everyone there cheered us on lustily (as was the case in every aid station for the rest of the race). We had passed a couple of people on the way down, but we were the last ones to make it through.

Maiden Peak, 5.2 miles: 1:44 (1:36), after that dramatic incident, we were fairly casual during the easy trip to the Maiden Peak AS, where Jeremy saw the downhill section on the PCT that I had come up earlier in the day. Mostly hiking now, we were still close to the projected schedule, but falling a little behind.

Maiden Lake, 5.1 miles: 2:38 (2:08), this is the infamous climb of Maiden Peak, the last mile or so being quite steep and forcing me into my pattern of pausing briefly every 100 feet of climb. I neglected to mention that we had picked up some company at Twins, in the form of the sweeps, who were not a threat to eliminate us at that point, but would accompany us the rest of the way. I felt rather guilty that they had to follow us all the way up Maiden Peak, but they seemed to take that in their stride. At the summit, we were treated to what may be a first-ever runner’s view of the sunset from that point, as we were
certainly the latest runners ever to reach the summit during the race. It was quite beautiful. When we descended, we were able to tell the man directing traffic to the Leap of Faith trail that his long day’s work was done. When we reached the aid station, we were greeted with cheers and encouragement, to an extent that I never experienced during a race. Perhaps it was mixed with relief that the old guy was finally getting through, but it seemed pretty heartfelt to me.

Finish, 7.5 miles: 2:35 (1:56), a very easy section to run, but impossible at that point in the race. In 2004, it took me 2:04, 8 minutes longer than projected. This time was considerably longer, but we were steady at about 21 minute pace, Jeremy leading the way, then me, then a small but cheerful crowd of sweeps and other volunteers going home for the night. This section almost seems like a repeating loop, rolling up hills and down the other side, all looking pretty similar in the dark. At last we hear the traffic on the highway and see a few lights and buildings. As we went under the ski lift, Jeremy said I should go in front to the finish, so I went ahead, and suddenly started to run as I saw the finish line. s I went faster and faster, or so it seemed, and tried to be careful not to trip on the rather rough approach: what a spot for a faceplant! But I made it with my dignity intact, in 20:25:53, a course record for age and slowness. There were a surprising number of people there, and they were all most enthusiastic. More surprising still, there was still hot food available, and Jeremy and I sat down to a well-earned hamburger feast. What more can be said? In my 2004 report, I said “if I can do it, your grandmother can do it.” This time, I felt like I was my grandmother doing it. My thanks to Craig and Curt and all the volunteers for a wonderful race, the best of my life, and thanks for putting up with my 7-hour trek from Twins to the finish. I hope this report will be helpful to any other superannuated runner who wants to attempt this monster, and for the sake of the management, I hope you don’t break my time record in the wrong direction! If I do this one again, it will be reversing roles, accompanying my redoubtable pacer/son.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mud, Snow, PR

The days leading up to the weekend of 9/24 were full of rain and storms. I had a work event to attend on Saturday the 24th but signed up for a noon shift instead of first thing in the morning so I could run the Salem Lake 30k. Because of flooding on the course they changed the route to one loop, then out to the aid station at the 6 mi mark and back. I tried to run a bit before the 8 a.m. start but settled on a couple of miles or so as the rain and wind was starting up. The city of Winston-Salem had done a good bit of work on the first 3.5 miles of the loop and the only thing we had to deal with was the heavy rain. I ran the first mile or so with my running friend and neighbor Chuck. First mile was 7:18 and I was feeling nice and smooth so I began to speed up after the first few miles. When we hit the back side of the loop it was a real mud fest... slipping, sliding, puddles and sinking into the slop. I was rolling along feeling pretty good as I completed the first 7 mi loop under 7 min/mi pace. A good bit faster then I planned and surpised to be catching up with some runners I figured would be well ahead of me. I hung on and finished the 18.9 mi course in 2:14, 7:06 per mile. A little further then a 30k w/ the course change due to flooding. I was surprised when I saw the results and had finished in 26th place. I didn't remember that many runners in front of me at the out and back section. Well apparently 10-12 runners didn't turn around and do the out and back part, they continued on for 2 loops. When the RD realized this he just sent them out to the 2 mile mark and back. So, they only ran 18 miles and the rest of us that ran the correct course ran 18.9. The overall winner was one of the people that ran the short course. Didn't make a lot of sense to me but that's what happened. Doesn't really matter I suppose but I do wonder how many of the runners in front of me actually ran as far as I did.

The next weekend, Oct. 1 I headed up to Grindstone Campground to camp and run with Beth Minnick and JJ Jessee and one of Beth's friends Jason. I noticed the weather in High Point was going to be much cooler but I was in for a bit of a shock when I checked in at the ranger station and was informed that there would be snow at the higher elevations. The temp dipped down to the mid 30's on Friday night with a steady rain. Thankfully Jason brought plenty of dry wood. Had some killer veggie soup Beth had prepared that we heated on the open fire. A group of runners from Boone joined us on Saturday morning and we had a nice 5+ hour adventure up in the Mount Rogers, Scales, Rhododendron Gap area. Light snow dusted most of the higher elevations and extreme temp and condition shifts made it all interesting. We even took a "short cut" that added plenty of time even though it was the "shorter" way to go. We actually had a one mile section that took us 28 minutes... and we were moving the whole time, but doing more rock climbing then running. We made our way back down to the campground and thankfully Jason had a nice fire going for us. Warm shower and back to the pot of veggie soup and chatting around the fire. Great to see Sean from Boone and meet Dennis, and a new/different Beth and Jenny (not Iron Mtn Beth and Jenny... this was Watauga Beth and Jenny). I struggled on the run, tired legs and little fueling but I made it back. As I was heading out of the campground a fairly big bear was making his way across the road. He stopped and looked at the car then ambled into the woods before I could get my phone out of my pocket to take a photo.

October 8th weekend it was off to Fries, VA for the New River Trail 50k. We had almost identical weather as last year. 40ish at the start, fog lifting off the New River and 60's at the finish. I ran some with Dennis Norris who I ran with the week before in the mountains and then moved ahead and started running with David Kirby who is a UNC law student. I caught up to David at about the 6 mile mark and we ran together until the marathon mark. The miles seemed to just go by and I knew I was running under 8 min pace but with no marked miles I wasn't sure what the pace was. David and I talked non-stop and it made the run seem effortless. At one point around 22 miles I said I hoped I wasn't slowing too much and he should move on if needed. He had a Garmin watch and said we aren't slowing much our last mile was 7:33. Definitely faster then I realized. We went through the marathon around 3:12-3:14 I believe. I stopped to water the bushes at around mi 26 and David gapped me by a bit. I coasted on in and finished in 3:51, 7:27 per mile. 5th place overall and 27 minutes faster then 2010 and beat my 50k PR from 1978 when I was 19 yrs old. After I did the facebook friends thing with David after the run I found out in addition to being a law school student, he is also a stand up comedian. Tip to the ultra runners... if you want the miles to fly by just run 3/4 of the race with a stand up funny guy and you'll forget about the pain.

I had a great 3 week block of running and feel good about my preparation for MMTR. I haven't done as much overall volume as last year but a bit more quality and more mountain training runs. I'll do one more 4 hour run this weekend and then rest for the 11/5 Masochist.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Then and Now

Thought folks might get a kick out of the old photo. Believe it or not I was a sophmore in high school in the 1973 pic. A strapping 4'11". I know, I know... I used to be really cute and now I'm just old and scrawny (or so says my wife).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mount Mitchell Challenge/Umstead

Mount Mitchell Challenge = YES

Umstead 100 = NO

Got lucky and was selected in the lottery to run the 2012 Mount Mitchell Challenge (40 miles up to the highest peak east of the Mississippi)

Not so lucky with systems error in speed registering for the Umstead 100.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Back Pain and Iron Mountain Trail Run

The weekend before the Iron Mountain Trail Run I planned on doing back to back long runs. I ended up doing a nice solid 22 mile run on Saturday, although hot and humid I had no issues. On Sunday morning I drove up to Pilot Mountain to do my 4 hour loop but shortly after beginning the run my lower back began to stiffen. I didn't think much of it... figuring it would loosen up and was maybe just stiff from the drive up to Pilot Mtn. It got worse and worse as the run progressed so I ended up turning back early and did an extremely slow walk/shuffle back to car. I still got in over 3 hours but quite slow. For the next 4 days I didn't run a step. It was hard to even walk on Monday. I was lined up for the Iron Mountain Trail Run 30 mile option and really didn't want to miss it but also wanted to be smart about things. The back got a little better each day and by Friday I was able to do a slow 50 min. jog. I figured I'd head up to Damascus and just play it by ear. If it bothered me too much I could always turn back early, DNF and walk/jog back to town.

I arrived at the Damascus Town Park in the pre dawn darkness... legs feeling rested but still not sure what to think. It was hot already and likely to be mid 80's during the day late in the run. Didn't get much visiting done prior to the race but did get to see Rick and Tammy Gray (Tammy volunteering) and Jenny Nichols who was loading up the SUV with supplies for the Rowland Falls Aid Station which I would miss because I was only running 30 miles (I hoped). My back was okay and was just glad to be in the race as I got one of the last available slots.

Slurping down a gel prior to the IMTR start

The race started at 7 a.m. and obviously my legs felt good (4 days of rest will do that to ya) and my back was okay. The first 5 miles are run along the Creeper Trail, so smooth and easy. Some will call me dumb but I really wasn't sure how far I'd be able to run and since I was feeling fine and the terrain was easy I decided to pick it up and catch up to Eric Grossman, the elite ultra runner from Emory, VA and founder of the IMTR race. He was just catching up to Shawn Pope, the younster from Ohio... one of the two of them were very likely going to win the 50 mile race. One of Eric's friends had a Garmin and after catching them he said to Eric "that was a 7:05". Yikes that was probably a sub 7 min mile for me. Still feeling fine I figued what the heck I'm only running 30 miles today.

I was in and out of the 5 mile Aid Station pretty quickly after a hand held bottle fill up by Jenny and a shout out from friend Beth Minnick. There were several runners ahead of me but I wasn't sure who was running the 16 mi race, the 30 mi race and the 50 mi race. I figured out pretty quickly that I could run w/ Eric on the Creeper but heading up the mountain over the steep, single track wasn't going to last very long. I passed a couple of runners and a couple passed me but we settled into the real mountain running portion of the course. Lot's of climbing and technical single track but also many portions that were quite runnable and I tried to make good time when I could. A pattern was set for the next 25 miles. Eric's high school friend, David Lawhorn from Kentucky, would catch up to me on the downhill sections, then I'd pull away from him on the climbing. I always say I'm a good uphill runner but I never knew if that was true or I was just better at uphill as compared to my weak technical downhill running.

Amazing how short a 30 mile race feels when your mind is wrapped around 50 and 100 miles efforts. We went through the FS 90 Aid Station manned by JJ Jessee and Tammy then to the Skulls Gap Aid Station and the 30 mile turnaround. I was informed that I was in second place at the turnaround. I was out ahead of David and was just happy to realize that all was okay physically and I'd be okay heading down the mountain. A couple of miles into the return trip a runner caught me. I joked with the person behind me thinking it was David saying you caught me fast. The response came from a womans voice. OHHHH okay I finally can finish a race as the first 50+ yr old and I still get chicked. We talked a bit and she was on down the trail (both runners ahead of me were over 20 yrs younger so I shouldn't feel so bad right??). There was so much down hill over the last handful of miles I was sure David would beat me into Damascus but coming into the FS 90 AS on the way back David was limping really bad and was muttering something about leg cramps. I almost waited but JJ and Tammy were there to tend to him. Okay now I'll certainly finish before David, dude was barely walking. Well with a couple of miles to go here comes David and this time flew by me on a rocky downhill. He said "I came back to life and that lady up at the last Aid Station is tough! I was saying stuff to her that indicated I might be considering dropping when she gave me a kick in the butt and said you've been here long enough now get moving!" I asked if it was the woman with the long dark hair and he said yea that was her. I think I laughed loudly as I thought Tammy only treated her husband Rick that way. Rick assured me she is "tough" when she needs to be and has been a great help to many an ultra runner that just needed that nudge to keep moving down the trail. I resigned myself to 4th place unless there was an unexpected uphill in the last mile or so. Not so fast David... after David disappeared out of sight for a bit, there he was again walking and limping. He was okay, just kicked a rock/turned an ankle. It gave me enough of a cushion and when we hit the paved road in Damascus I pushed it on in since I'd literally been slightly ahead of him for over 5 hours (except about a 1/2 mi section).

At the finish (no I didn't have to crawl up those steps)
I've looked worse but still a rough looking finisher taking a dip in the cold mountain stream

I ended up in 3rd place overall in 5:12. It was really hot and I didn't drink enough but all in all a good day. I used only 1 hand held bottle but in addition to filling it at the Aid Stations I should have downed a bunch before I went back out. Lessons learned. I also did 6 gels but that was pretty much it. I felt a bit nauseous while soaking in the creek and cramped up a bit but all was fine after downing many bottles of water with Nuun tablets to get re-hydrated. I wore my New Balance 101's with Dry Max- Maximum Protection socks. Really love the 101's. Can't wait for the NB 110's to come out in 2012 (unfortunately not in time to wear at Mountain Masochist).

Sara and I headed back home to watch the LSU football game with family but was sorry to rush off and not hang around w/ friends and see Eric Grossman set a new course record in the 50 mile race.

Monday, August 29, 2011

9 Weeks of Base Work

I am fairly pleased with how my training has progressed. For the past 9 weeks I've had between 70-90 miles per week. Several of the weeks have been over 80. I haven't taken a real serious systematic approach to the training just trying to run a lot of miles. It's been nice to just get a good solid base without scripting each day or each week. Most of my runs have been 10 miles or more, my friends Chuck and Tom like to go a little further on Wednesday mornings (12-14 miles) and then go longer and get some trail running on the weekends. During my base work phase I've been able to do some mountain running on 6 occasions. I did two runs on the AT from Elk Garden up to the Mt. Rogers summit and one of Kevin Townsends training runs on the IMT from Skulls Gap, 2 runs on the AT south of the Smokies and a Pilot Mtn run.

Not sure why this photo is so small but this is the raggedy looking group after 23 or 24 miles (well Kevin, Rick and I look raggedy, Kathleen and Jenny still looking good)

Enjoyed the IMT run a bunch. Great visits with Jenny, Rick and got to meet Kathleen Cusick. Nice dip in the waterfall on the second half was nice on a hot day.

On weekends that I didn't make it to a mountain run I've done a bunch of miles at Salem Lake as usual. The closest spot that I can get off the roads. Major Dam repairs are in progress at Salem Lake and the majority of the lake has been drained so it's not as pretty as usual but still a nice 7+ mile loop on dirt.

Before my older son went back to college this month I was able to get both my boys out for a night of music listening. We drove down to Lexington, NC to hear one of my favorite North Carolina bands Big Daddy Love.

Daniel Justin Smith doing his thing

Big Daddy Love @ High Rock Outfitters in Lexington, NC (the 5 a.m. run the next morning was tough)

In August had two good mountain weekends. Was a finish line volunteer at Jenny Nichols race, the Christopher Todd Richardson Memorial 10k (in memory of her brother). Let's just say... Jenny does things right. Highly recommend this race! And more important then the running and the good times, the entry fee and sponsorship money goes to college scholarships for deserving students. Two of the scholarship winners were present and that really showed what the event is all about. The next morning I had a nice run up Mt Rogers with Jenny and Ginger. A perfect cool VA morning.

With Jenny and Ginger the morning after the CTR 10k

Relaxin w/ the girls on the AT

The weekend after CTR I was able to visit my Mom in Hendersonville and then head to the Nantahala Outdoor Center for some white water rafting. Had lots of fun on the river but as soon as I was dry and fed I jumped on the AT and headed north for 6 miles of climbing up 3000 ft and back down to Nantahala Gorge. The next morning it was southbound on the AT for another 2 hour run. On Sunday at home it was 3 hours @ Salem Lake (7.5 hours of running in 3 days.) This weekend it was back to back 3 hour runs.

AT heading southbound out of Wesser, NC

I'm now ready to get a little more serious and begin MMTR training which will include the IMTR 30 mile race this weekend and New River 50k in Oct.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fueling and Minimal from 1948

While I was running with the Iron Mtn crowd on July 4th, my wife bought me a nice little book called "Walking With Spring" by Earl Shaffer. Earl was the first known person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 1948. (124 days- unaided) It was a great read... enjoyed the descriptions of the parts of the trail I have hiked (and run) and imagining the sections I have yet to hike.

A couple of things jumped out at me as I read his account from 63 years ago:

He wrote this after eating a big meal: "Almost instantly my legs lost that 'leaden' feeling and I felt like hiking again. Despite no unusual sensation of hunger my legs felt better after eating. From that point on my strength increased and so did my food bill."
I wonder how long it took for exercise physiologists, coaches, distance runners, marathoners, ultra runners to figure out our legs need calories even when we're not tired or hungry.... Ole Earl had it figured out in 1948.

Somewhere in Southwest Virginia the soles of his shoes had worn thin and he found a cobbler to resole his boots: "He half-soled my boots while I lunched on cookies and milk obtained at the grocery counter . I wanted to try walking without heels like the Indians did, so told him not to replace them. He finally agreed but joined the growing list of people who doubted my sanity."

I thought it was pretty cool how Earl was certainly ahead of his time. I was halfway waiting for him to say he needed to "Oil the Machine" with some Udo's 3-6-9 blend!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Recovery, Shakori, Phish, IMTR

Shortly after finishing the Umstead 100 and feeling pretty good about myself I came across these quotes from legendary Boston Marathon character Billy Squires who was talking about marathon runners running too many miles in training:
"He must love seeing the birds and squirrels and all that crap."
"Your wasting shoe leather. It's a game of speed. Now if you want to do 50-milers or 100-milers, which nobody does, and get your little medal you bought, fine. But when the gun goes off in the marathon, it's the fastest they give the awards to, not who can run all day."

I stand guilty on both counts! The recovery from my first 100 miler has been slow... aches, pains, lethargy, work pressures, family schedules, a weekend at the Shakori Hills Music Festival, bringing my younger son to his first Phish show... I just couldn't seem to get back on track until the past few weeks.

That brings me to last weekends 4th of July holiday. I felt something pulling me to head to the mountains, so I took Friday afternoon off and my wife, Sara, and I drove up to Pilot Mtn and did a 2 1/2 hour hike around and over Pilot(after a 10 mi run that morning.) I was still feeling like I needed more mtn trails so I shot Beth Minnick of Abingdon, VA a message to see if she was doing a weekend trail run. She invited me to join her Iron Mountain Trail Runners (IMTR) group on a run 4th of July morning beginning at the Elk Garden trail. I quickly did an internet search and found a room at a reasonably priced Inn in Damascus. I'd not really been to Damascus since 1978 when a friend and I hiked 722 miles of the AT as 19 yr old college students. I was all smiles as I got into town mid day Sunday remembering those hiking days so long ago. Damascus has changed a bit over the years thanks to the Creeper Trail. More eateries, bike shops and such. In 1978 there was one diner with one heck of a juke box. Before leaving home I found an old scrap book my mother kept with photos and letters I wrote home from the trail... letters? no blogging in 1978? I found a photo of me taken outside the back porch of the AT Hostel. Sara took another pic of me at the same spot this weekend. Below are photos from 1978 of me outside the hostel, a group of us below Fontana Dam, and the envelope postmarked June 14, 1978, Damascus VA (postage was .15!)

How do you like those suspenders and short shorts?!? (notice the return address... my college running nickname was "Lazlo")

Okay, now getting to the running part. Beth suggested she and JJ would pick me up in Damascus on the way to the Elk Garden meeting spot. So good to meet JJJ who I had only seen in photos and mentions in other blogs. JJ is a true mountain man with beard, ponytail and kilt to prove it!

JJ doing some pre-run activities. He fed the IMTR runners his lentil/couscous mush in a similar fashion along the trail

There were 8 of us in all... great to see Tammy and Rick G, and meet new trail running friends Sean D, Donna B, Mike D and of course JJ and Beth. This is starting to sound like the numerous AA meetings I've attended. "Hi, my name is Rob, I'm a trail runner" "Hi Rob!"

We were off on our run around 7:30 a.m. with nice temps and gentle breezes as we headed up the AT northbound (I think) with Rick leading the way.

We headed up single file as the grassy area quickly changed to wooded and here and there we all seemed to comment on the sweet smells of the changing environment. We stopped now and then to re-group, and keep us all on the planned route. If I wasn't talking and remembering races run and races missed, getting to know my new friends... I was concentrating on the trail and feeling really good inside because I was with friends once again moving my way along the appalachian trail. We turned off the AT onto the Mt Rogers trail and several others as we made our way up towards the summit of Mt. Rogers (the highest peak in Virginia.) It was great to have JJ with us to give wisdom, feed us, confirm what trail we were on, which trail we should take, and where to find water to refill drying water bottles. JJ truly knows the land and mountains so well and is at home. We were hoping Tammy and Donna would find their way when all of a sudden there they were looking strong making their way up an alternate trail to our location in a grassy bald. They headed on down while the rest of took a side trail to a water source, then decided we had to head to the summit. Very cool to be on top of Virginia in a thick wooded stand of trees, cool and damp.

We got to see plenty of ponies feeding and roaming and after a break on the summit we headed down. Beth led the way followed by Sean and then Rick and I. Beth lived up to her reputation of being a speedy downhill technical runner but I thought I did a pretty good job keeping up with Beth's 30 yr old legs using my almost 53 yr old legs... and Rick behind me with 50 yr old legs. I backed off just a bit in the last mile as I didn't quite have my trail legs back and was feeling a little fatigue and didn't want that to cause a crash. When we hit the "Sound of Music" type meadow at the bottom Rick picked it up and caught up with Beth and Sean as they hit the parking lot with me a few strides behind. The strong duo of Tammy and Donna beat us back to Elk Garden after our diversions and then Mike and JJ made it in and we were done! We all began to clean up, re-fueled and enjoyed that after run buzz and the company of old and new friends.

After run treats provided by Beth! There were a couple of red white and blue (PBR) beers under the melon and in the old days I would have pushed the melon aside to get at some brews but I settled for water, watermelon and a slushy grape drink.

Beth says Sean and I are now members of the IMTR crew but Rick says we still have to do the 42 mile night run to gain membership. Thank you so much Beth for inviting me to join you and your friends.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Umstead 100! 19:45:27

As the certificate that I received a week or so ago says: "Having exhibited the courage to try, the will to persevere, and the heart to endure, Rob French has successfully completed the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run and is hereby granted entry into the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Hundred Milers"

I'm finally sitting down at a computer long enough to write my Umstead 100 Race Report. As I approached my first 100 miler, I had 3 goals. To finish 100 miles on foot, finish under 24 hours, and if all went well I thought I might have a chance to break 20 hours. So much uncharted territory, fear of the unknown, overwhelmed at the enormity of it all....

My training generally went pretty well. I began training for Umstead in earnest the first week in January. I spent 8 weeks averaging 85 miles per week. About as much volume as I can handle. I wish I had done more "long" long runs but with kids sports, family and work obligations it was tough to schedule everything perfectly and weeks when I couldn't run for 5+ hours on the weekend I just ran a little more volume during the week. I was able to run two 50k races, 3 runs of 4+ hours over Pilot Mtn., a 4 hour "night" run, and two runs at Salem Lake over 5 hours.

On Friday, April 1st, I worked a half day and headed over to Raleigh around noon. Checked into the Hampton Inn and went over to Umstead late afternoon. I got my packet, milled around a bit nervously then sat down for the pre race briefing. The race headquarters was in a nice lodge type structure built by the CCC back in the 30's. I sat with my friend Rick Gray from TN, his wife Tammy and a few of Rick's friends. Rick was full of his usual positive enthusiasm... complete with bear hug when he saw me. The info at the briefing was helpful, paticularly for first timers. All the newbies had to stand and repeat loudly: "drink before your thirsty, eat before your hungry and walk before your tired!" I discussed a little race strategy with Rick... do I wear a headlamp the first loop? (nah), we both planned for 12.5 mi loops of around 2:05-2:15 and complete the first 50 mi's in around 9 hours (giving us a 2 hour cushion for sub 20 hrs.) As a first time 100 mile attempt it was hard to plan too much... it was hard to fathom making it the whole way. I didn't really have a full time crew... my friend Tom was driving over and would meet me in the morning and be in and out throughout the day/night (he has a daughter living close by in Raleigh), my wife (Sara) and 2 kids (Kane and Patrick)would be over late afternoon, and possibly neighbor and running partner Chuck coming over late. Kane, Tom, and Chuck all hoped to run a loop with me but no real "plan" of who was running when. I felt pretty confident I could run 100k, but the final 37.5 miles was a complete unknown. The spaghetti dinner was tasty but I felt like I didn't eat enough so stopped at an Italian Resturaunt on the way back to the hotel and got another pasta bowl to go.

On Saturday morning I headed over to Umstead before 5 a.m. to be sure I was parked and situated for the 6 a.m. start. I drank coffee, ate some final carbs, laid my bag of gear (numerous clothing options, gels, Perpetuem, Heed, extra shoes, socks, hats, headlamps, Clif Shots, bananas)out in the lodge and visited with Tom, who was intrigued by the scene. Precisely at 6 we were off into the darkness.

Umstead is a loop course, 8 - 12.5 mile loops with 1,000 feet of vertical each loop. I carried one hand held bottle the first 6 loops and had running shorts with pockets for my gels. Plan was to ingest a gel every 20-25 minutes. The first loop was uneventful (it better have been right?) It was a bit more hilly then I expected. Maybe it felt that way since most of the major hills were in the last 5 miles of the loop. I ran much of the first two loops (off and on) with a young guy from SC and Michael Patton from Ohio. It was important, at least for me, to run with others and talk so I would keep my mind off how much of the race remained.

At mile 34 or so (3rd loop) with Michael not far behind

At the 10 mile mark I was at 1:34, so a little under 9:30 pace and the first loop was in 1:58. So a little faster then planned but everything felt fine. I attempted to slow some and go easy the 2nd loop but I actually ran a min or so faster then the first loop so I passed 25 miles in 3:56. Tom met me after the first loop and seemed more concerned then I was with being under 2 hours. He helped me grab gels and fill my bottles. I stripped off layers the first few loops. I didn't have the most efficient transitions with no real crew and having to run up into the building each loop to find my bags. I'll set up a little differently next time.

Temps were nearly perfect for me the entire 19+ hours. 41F at the start, 60's during the day and then down in the 30's Sat. night/Sun. morning. I slowed a bit on the 3rd loop but not much. I think it was the 4th loop, approaching halfway I ended up hooking up with two guys running together. One was Timothy from Long Island, NY and Jason from Georgia. They appeared to be running together and I asked if was cool if I went along with them. Timothy said it was more then cool if I joined them. It was a new person for them to talk to and keep their minds occupied (just as I wanted).... Without a huge amount of detail... having a guy from Long Island running along with you during a 100 mile event can be pretty entertaining. "F bombs" were dropped, crude descriptive language, entertaining stories, comments like quit "busting my chops" rob from north carolina. I lost contact with Timothy and Jason when I made a pit stop and hated to lose them to run along with AND keep me entertained!

Me in the middle, Timothy on left, and Jason in the "Umstead Bitches" shirt
Come on now, how could you not want to run with these guys (by the way, they both kicked my ass)

After losing contact with my entertainment I ran the 5th loop entirely alone. But before that I hit 37.5 miles in 6:10 and 50 miles in 8:38. I was encouraged by setting a PR for 50 miles and feeling really good. Although the 5th loop alone was tough mentally, I actually ran the 5th loop slightly faster then loop 4. A very good sign. I got to the 100k mark in 11:06 and was now in new territory. I had at least run as far as I had ever run before. Another plus during those middle miles when you are thinking there is no way it would be possible to finish was seeing my sister Eileen and her husband Gregg at mile 34 or so and then again on the next loop (big thanks to Eileen for taking all the photos I'm using... she's a talented photographer. Check her stuff out at

Again, I really had no specific plan for pacers but when I finished loop 5, the family was there to meet me at the headquarters/start/finish. That was nice! I knew it would be close to dark when I finished loop 6 so I grabbed a long sleeve shirt and my 19 yr old son Kane and I headed out. I can't tell you how cool and inspiring it was to have my son running with me for 12.5 miles. At a point in the race when I didn't see how I could really finish, he kept me moving, made me run when I wanted to walk, encouraged me to eat, held my water bottle when I grew tired of it, and generally he just believed in me and knew I would make it. Kane and I finished our loop and I had now completed 75 miles. That sounded cool telling my wife "it's 75 miles now!" I really really slowed that loop and I think it was more from the intimidation of knowing I would still have 25 miles remaining then from exhaustion or pain. Don't get me wrong... I was tired, my legs hurt with every step but I could keep moving and so I did.

As I was grabbing gels, bottles, putting on more layers, grabbing a head lamp, my friend Tom came rushing in with his "gym bag" ready to do his pacing duties. Super! If Tom hadn't come storming in it would have been so easy to cozy up by the fireplace and be happy with 75 miles. Tom was ready to roll. There is a little out and back section at the beginning of the loop so Kane had the idea that he'd run that with us along with my younger son Patrick (Kane is 19 and Patrick 12).... what a great idea. So Tom, Kane, Patrick and the old, skinny guy shuffling along headed out once again for more.

On the way back from the out and back section along came Sara hoping to jog along with us some as well! That was a special moment. I'm in a bit of a blur on the 7th loop as I was becoming a little delirius. Tom helped enormously. It was hard at this point to just keep moving but he didn't push me too hard but was encouraging and kept it light. We talked about all sorts of things. The gels were getting hard to get down and I told him they were getting harder and harder to swallow but he kept reminding me to try another and sure enough I was able to. I don't know how many gels I did but probably close to 40. Tom assured me that Chuck was on his way from outside Charlotte (his super star running daughter had a track meet.)

The 6th and 7th loops were so darned slow but I completed them and then I knew I'd make it even if I just walked the final 12.5 miles. Chuck was there to greet me, strap on a head lamp, slip gels in his pockets and ready to pace me the last loop. The final loop was my slowest. I just tried to keep moving but we did some calculating and I knew I could get under 20 hours so I ran/jogged when I felt I was able, walked when I wanted and just kept moving. I know I was talking nonsense by this point. But when I walked I was walking fast.... any faster and we'd have to break into a jog. The last loop was the only time I allowed myself to look at the mile markers and think about how far I had gone and how much was left. It was one hell of a feeling to say in my head, 94 miles, 6 to go. What a shock when I got to the aid station at the 7 mile mark of the final loop and there was my sister and brother in law again at 12:30 a.m. We visited some, Gregg helped fill my bottle (now using a waist belt), and I was off once again for those final hills. Chuck and I jogged along the last mile or so and it was hard to hold my emotions inside. On a funny note we actually failed to bear left with a half mile to go and temporarily got off course (so officially I ran 100 miles plus 100 yards or so), but we got back on course and then after passing the 12 mile mark my knee began to hurt big time.... Chuck said well your knees can hold up for 99.5 miles but not 100 (99 1/2 won't do!) Chuck was pretty patient with me... all my repeating questions, making sure he was calculating right and I'd get under 20 hours, just general nonsense talk and slow going. I crossed the line in 19 hrs 45 min 27 sec. Sara and Kane were there to embrace me (Patrick had fallen asleep in the car) and Blake Norwood, the RD, presented me with my sub 24 hour belt buckle and I was done.

Filling up a bottle for the final time at the 94.5 mile mark

On a loop course and running my first 100, it was so important for me to have my pacers. I can't thank Tom, Chuck, Kane, Patrick and Sara enough for running with me. Sharing this with them was special. There were many inspirational moments over the Umstead weekend but none more then the woman who was setting up her gear beside me in the headquarters building. It was Betty Smith from MD, our paths would cross a few times. As we headed out at the start we wished each other luck and she said, I know I can't go 100 miles in the 30 hour time limit but I think I'll win my age group, I'm 70 years old (with a big smile.) Looking back at the results Betty had completed 25 miles when I was halfway. She was in good spirits. When I was finished my 100 miles, she was back in the headquarters putting on layers..... she had finished 50 miles and by this time it was after 2 a.m. and she said "I'm heading back out" One of the race volunteers was looking for a volunteer pacer to head out with Betty. It was really emotional the next day to look at the results and sure enough Ms. Betty Smith had completed "one more loop" and finished her day/night/day with 62.5 miles!

I'll do another post on how I felt after and my recovery. Since we keep track of such things, I got chicked by two and two 50 yr olds were ahead of me but no one my age or older in front of me (speaking of 50+ year olds, what an amazing run by Will Jorgensen!) I'm taking it pretty slow and not rushing the recovery at all. Below is a link to an article the local Greensboro paper did on my race.

Thanks again to all that helped me, encouraged me, to Rick and Tammy Gray who gave me some gels out on loop 4 when I forgot to grab them at my bag, and to the volunteers who did an amazing job assisting us for such a very long day/night/day. I think maybe I found a distance that suits me!

Monday, February 21, 2011

116 mile week (well sorta)

Tools of the trade during a 4 hour night run

Technically it's correct I did have a 116 mi week. There are 168 hours in a week (24x7=168) and if you started my week at the start of the Holiday Lake 50k and ended the week 165 hours later at 3 a.m. on the next Saturday, I covered a total of 116 miles.

I recovered pretty well from Holiday Lake... took a couple of easy and short recovery runs the two days after HL and resumed normal training right away. Obviously from a total weekly volume standpoint I'm in a good spot with my training and with 6 weeks to go until Umstead I'll try to keep the total miles about the same but also try to take at least one run of 35-40 miles and some more good back to backs.

I decided not to run the Pilot Mountain Marathon on 2/19. I really hated to miss it but my younger son had a big weekend of AAU basketball with an important parent/coach meeting to discuss tournaments and do some planning. I didn't want to miss the meeting so I opted out of Pilot Mtn. SO instead I decided to do a night run on Fri night-Sat morning. I did the run solo around my neighborhood. Couldn't talk anyone into joining me. I did five 5.1 mile loops covering 25.5 miles with a running time of 4:10 (which included 4 bathroom breaks, re-filling hand held bottles, a clothing change) Since I will likely be running into the night at Umstead I thought it was important to try a night run. Began the run at 11 p.m and finished up at 3:10 a.m. I really didn't get sleepy at all. With a big pasta meal around 7 p.m. I was worried about my stomach but it really wasn't a problem... guess "everything burns in the furnace"(Once a Runner quote.) Wore a headlamp just to get used to it but really only turned it on when cars went by so they could see me and I could hop up on the sidewalk or front yards. Decided I didn't really want to find out if the driver was drunk or just coming home late! Got pretty quiet between 2 and 3 and with a nice full moon shining down on me it was kinda nice.

After the night run I was pretty wasted most of the weekend. My legs were fine but took until Monday to feel normal again. I didn't run a step the rest of Saturday and Sunday. Although I did walk for over an hour each day. I did a nice 20 mile run today (Monday) thanks to an unexpected Presidents Day holiday. Averaged 8:23 per mile on an unseasonably warm day. Started the run in a thin long sleeve shirt and finished up shirtless (okay no laughing at the thought of my untanned, strapping, 5'9" 130 lb frame running barechested on a February morning)

I decided to do my training log online daily rather then do summaries in the text (Can be found on the right column of the blog)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dig the Pain

Photo of start/finish banner courtesy of Jenny Nichols (probably Brock actually)

I have never listened to an IPOD while running like some runners do... but that doesn't mean I don't hear songs in my head from time to time while running. This past Christmas I bought myself a present (even wrapped it and put it under the tree).... It was the latest CD by Chicago bluesman Charlie Musselwhite. Musselwhite is one of my favorite living harp(harmonica) players. He plays Chicago style blues but heavily influenced by his Mississippi Delta heritage. He plays much like "Little" Walter but now and then you can hear a bit of "Big" Walter which is more the style I play (or so I'm told). Anyway, I was listening to his CD "The Well" on my way up to Appomattox to run the Holiday Lake 50k++ and somewhere about 23 miles or so I couldn't get the tune Dig the Pain out of my head.
Can't let it go
Can't hang it up
I dig the pain too much
I pay a price in misery
It looks good to me
You tear me down
When you build me up
You know I dig the pain too much
I feel the pain
Don't need no crutch...
Ya know...
Tired of suffering
Tired of pain
Don't expect me to explain
I'm overwhelmed by your touch
I dig the pain too much!

It's been said that in ultra running you just have to "embrace the pain" when it inevitably comes during your run. I'd hit a bad patch somewhere around 22-24 miles and when I felt that discomfort of the effort, the tune started playing in my head and it wasn't so bad. I guess it was the song and possibly a double shot of Clif Shot gels that got me to feeling good again. I don't think "embrace" would have worked quite as well as "dig" for a blues tune!

As I took the 3 hour drive up to the Holiday Lake 50k, wasn't quite sure what to expect. I didn't plan to taper at all and had taken a 4 hour mountainous run last Sunday but by Wednesday my nagging knee pain was very evident. I'm not sure exactly what my problem is.... feels a bit like IT trouble but bottom line is I get sporadic very sharp pain on the outside of my knee and my whole left leg feels like it's going to collapse. Sounds a little similar to what Anton Krupicka mentioned in his Rocky Raccoon race report: "Over the course of the rest of this loop my knee would worsen to where it would spontaneously give out on any downhills" So I cut Wednesdays run a little short and didn't run at all on Thurs or Fri. Very unplanned. So went into HL not knowing how my knee would act but also feeling unusually rested.

Holiday Lake is a really nice setting for an ultra. Deep in the Virginia woods with somewhat rustic cabins, bunkhouse, bathhouse and dining hall. I picked up my race packet and milled around, ate the pre race pasta and hung around for Horton's pre race entertaining breifing. I saw a lot of familar faces from Masochist but didn't really know any of the folks assembled. I was shocked when Horton asked for all the first time ultra runnners to stand and it seemed like it was half the room. I headed back to my room in Appomattox around 8:30 p.m.

I didn't get the greatest nights sleep but not sure why. I wasn't nervous or anything (other then concern about my knee). I was up at 4:30 and did the usual what do I wear when the start will be in the low 20's and the finish in the 40's. After much internal debate decided to go with tights rather then shorts. I just don't really like being cold, so I wanted my legs covered. As we sang the national anthem, prayed and all that jazz I found Rick Gray in the crowd and figured I'd follow him out since we are of similar abilities and age. I leap frogged a bit with Rick early and joked with him that I couldn't let him get too far ahead since last weekend he had run Uwharrie and I had "only" done 4 hours at Pilot Mtn.

The course was hilly but nothing terribly tough or long. So very very runnable and the single track sections weren't overly technical even for a somewhat newbie trail runner. Pretty much the whole day I didn't get into a good rhythm and felt a little choppy. The trail wasn't rough but with the rising sun in my eyes, frozen rutty sections I just didn't feel real smooth. I got to the two loop turn around before expected and realized I should be able to get under 5 hours unless I fell apart on the second loop. There were two female runners ahead of me and I figured a couple of "old guys".

On the way out on the second loop I was running much of it alone but probably the best section in terms of feeling really comfortable and smooth. The runners coming in from their first loop were all inspiring with everyone encouraging one another. So great to see Jenny Nichols heading in with a big smile and a shout out. She was in control for sure. As I stated above, somewhere around 22-24 miles or so I hit a bad patch and really felt terrible. I thought, UH OH, this could be a long day. But some fuel and songs dancing in my head got me back on track. With maybe 5 or 6 miles to go Bethany, 3rd overall female, caught me and we ran together a bit.... she hoping no girls caught her and me hoping no one with gray hair might go by. She really pulled me along until I took a spill with a couple of miles from the finish. I was fine, just muddy and aggravated that I'd made it 31 miles without a fall but couldn't make it in without a dive and letting Bethany pull away. The last few miles I felt really strong and felt like if needed I could have run further or cranked it up a bit. Finshed in 4:56 (about what I expected) and was 48th place, chicked by 3, and behind 3 50+ year olds. My knee hurt now and then on the second loop but it held up well. Maybe I put the knee issue behind me???

Very much enjoyed the post race atmosphere. Great fun to cheer on friends and strangers that either have big time relief on their faces or joy. Highlights post race were seeing Rick Gray slip in under 5 hours by 15 seconds with his wife screaming and Horton hooping it up and then one of the younger mothers finishing with her 3 children running in with her, and of course the joy on the faces of every first time ultra finisher. AMAZINGLY there were 305 finishers out of 317 starters!!!!!!

One final observation. After I nibbled on some food and drink at the finish I walked over to my car to put on dry clothes and "clean up" a bit (if that is possible after 5 hours running in the woods without a shower to do the cleaning)... well I looked in my rearview mirror to check my nose and I had dried choclate Clif Shot gel caked all the way around my mouth! Yikes, I bet that was impressive. I hope next time that Rick, Tammy, Jenny or someone will say dude go clean up no one wants to talk to you looking like that.

So now to decide do I actually try the Beast and run a 50k the week before Umstead AND do that crazy Hellgate thing? Nah that is absurd....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Quote of the Week

"The one thing that separates ultra runners from other contributing members of society, and other athletes, is the ability to forgo all reason, logic, judgment, and fear and jump into the arms of certain pain solely on intuition and ambition"

-Hal Koerner (after the Rocky Raccoon 100)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Training Summary 1/31/11 - 2/6/11

View on the way up Pilot Mtn 2/6

I had another solid week of training this week. Nothing spectacular but feeling stronger. Did not get in back to back long (over 20 miles) because of my weekend family schedule but got a total of 84 miles which included a 4 hr. run and 3 others of approx. 90 minutes or longer. My 12 year old son had a basketball event to attend from 8 a.m. - 11 a.m. on Saturday so met up with my friend Chuck on Friday morning at 4:30 a.m. and we did 16.5 miles before work. Then met Tom at 5 a.m. Saturday morning for 10 miles. Had planned on getting in two hours on Saurday a.m. but hard rain and 32 degrees cut it short. Friday's run was also in a "wintry mix" so can only make me stronger.

Rocky single track on the way up (good practice for "the loop")

On Sunday I headed back to Pilot Mtn for the third weekend in a row. And did nearly 4 hours alone. I did the same loop as last week and got to the summit 3 minutes faster and finished the run in 3:58, which was 4 minutes faster then last week. I tried to run more like the seasoned mtn ultra runners and ran faster then I normally would on a 4 hr. run on the downhills and flats and walked the steep uphills and while fueling. Seemed to work well and felt stronger late in the run. Another beautiful day to be running in the mountains. Very muddy and sloppy but bright and sunny.
This is what my dog was doing before and after my 4 hour run (and probably during)

I'm planning on running races the next two weekends but don't plan to taper or run them super hard. I'll just try to get solid runs in the 4-5+ hour range. Holiday Lake 50k is this upcoming weekend (will be great to see and hang out with the VA and TN folks)and that run will be actually 33.2 miles and then the following week is the Pilot Mtn marathon which I am now very familiar with.

I've gotten a bit more serious with my veganism. For me a plant based diet just makes so much sense.... I began eating this way for my health but it has become much more then that. As much as caring about myself it's about caring for others, concern for humanity, concern about the earth and its creatures. (would be nice if it helped my running as well!!)
I'm not really much of a cook but tend to fend for myself in terms of preparing the food I want to eat. One joy I have in between long weekend runs is cooking up loads of food. I was shocked yesterday when I got home from Pilot Mtn. I was half expecting my wife to complain that I was gone for six hours but she had cooked up some black beans, onions, mushrooms, tofu scramble and it was all ready to be wrapped in a tortilla with guac. Just what I needed. Then in prep for the Super Bowl we cooked up some turnip greens... added in mushrooms, onions, cabbage, celery over quinoa. Sometimes it's just hit or miss... last week after a 4 hr run outing I wasn't sure what we had to prepare but found some pinto beans and lentils and put those on to cook. And I just cut up what we had around.... onions, green onions, mushrooms, green pepper, bok choy and served that along with the legumes over Couscous (good change up from the usual brown rice)....

Training Summary 1/31 - 2/6

Monday 1/31
AM Easy 6 miles in Vibram Five Fingers

Tuesday 2/1
AM 10 miles generally easy pace

Wednesday 2/2
AM With Chuck and Tom, 13.5 miles at 8:34 pace. Knee was hurting again late in run. Iced it after, stretching IT, foam roller

Thursday 2/3
Complete rest day (concerns about knee)

Friday 2/4
4:30 AM 16.5 miles fairly easy but in light rain, sleet/freezing rain

Saturday 2/5
5:00 AM 10 miles with Tom in cold rain. 32 degrees and steady rain. Planned on longer.
PM 6 real easy miles

Sunday 2/6
AM At Pilot Mtn 3:58, same loop as last week. Improved by 4 minutes and felt fairly strong late in run.

Total = 84 miles

Sunday, January 30, 2011

FROSTY FIFTY and Training Again

After a very inconsistent December I'm finally back to some fairly serious training. I thought I'd spend the last few weeks of November recovering from the Mountain Masochist.... but recovery mode continued all the way through December. Physically and mentally I just wasn't with it until the new year.

I pretty much scrapped doing the Frosty Fifty (50K) but after a hard 10 mile run on Friday 1/7 I looked at the calendar and realized I really needed to start doing some 4+ hour runs if I was going to run 100 miles in April so I called the race director and asked if I could squeeze in at the last moment the next day(do I make a habit of this??) I wasn't ready to race so figured I'd just trot along at 9 minute pace and get my 31 miles in. It was a cold morning and for the majority of the run I was clicking along in the 8:20's. A race atmosphere will do that to you. On the way out on the second out and back I caught up to Konrad Gannon and ran with him a bit. Konrad is Winston Salem's very own "Anton Krupicka"... big bushy beard, said he rode his bicycle to the race and was wearing some super thin "Nike Waffle Racers" that he got for $30 on Amazon. He even shaved off some of the sole to get them just right. Looked to me like he lived the super simple lifestyle. I think he liked that I was wearing an old pair of ski socks as "high tech" gloves. Konrad is the only runner that has completed every single Frosty 50. I pulled away from Konrad but was still slowing a bit (really wasn't ready for 31 miles at anything but a jog). We had a hard snow at one point which dusted the trail and then the last 3 or 4 miles I slowed a bunch after running out of fueling options. The last 3 miles were into a super hard wind and I was fine with just moving along. I finished in 4:30 which was about 8:41 per mile. Faster then I planned. I think one 50+ year old was ahead of me but had I been in racing mode I think I would have gotten him. {Congrats need to go out to my friend Jenny Nichols who ran the Frozen Sasquatch on the same date and was 2nd overall female... SHE'S BACK! Rick Gray had a great day as well and celebrated a birthday.... bad news for me, Rick is now in my age group!}

The Frosty 50 has jump started my training. I've run 20 of 21 days the past 3 weeks and have had weeks of 84 mi, 91 mi, and 81 mi. I'm excited to be back to training. I've run consistently during the week and each weekend have done some back to back long runs in prep for Umstead (100 mi) on 4/2.

The first weekend post FF I did back to back 20 mile runs at Salem Lake.

Salem Lake on 1/15/11

We had a some snow during the week and temps stayed cold so we had snow on the trail. 90% of the trail was packed snow. A great surface to run on. I wore my Inov 8 X-Talon trail shoes which I don't really like all that much but found out they are perfect for running in the snow with the knobby sole (great traction). I ran alone on Saturday but the surface was so nice that I talked my friends Tom and Chuck and we all met up and I did another 20 miles the next day.
Salem Lake on 1/16/11

The next week was really pleased to get over 90 miles. Good runs during the week and more quality then usual for me. I ran 22 mile on Saturday at Salem and did the first 17 miles with Chuck at 8:20 pace and below. On Sunday I found a new trail to run. I drove up to Pilot Mtn and ran on the Corridor Trail which is about 6.5 miles long and runs right into the State Park.
Along the Corridor Trail with Pilot Mtn in the distance

I did 4+ hours of running on 1/23 on the new trail and never saw a single runner or hiker the entire day. Did find 3 guys on horses but that was it. So nice! Since I did 2 "out and backs" and the guys on horses were as well, we passed each other several times. The 2nd time we passed one of them said "you must be training for one of them marathons"... I told him something like that but actually did 50 mile trail races (didn't figure training for a 100 miler would be believable). When we passed one more time the guy asked how many days it takes to do a 50 mile race. I told him that so far I had finished them in one day!

Taking a re-fueling break at Pilot Mtn

This past weekend I did another 4 hour run at Pilot Mtn and ran most of the Pilot Mtn Marathon course... did the Corridor Trail again, then hit the Mountain Trail which was extremely tough up to the summit on very technical single track. Got to the summit then ran Ledge Spring Trail, down the Grindstone Trail, then to Grassy Ridge and back to my car on the Corridor again.
View from top of Pilot Mtn

Race Plans for 2011
1/8/11 Frosty Fifty (50K)
2/12/11 Holiday Lake 50K++
2/19/11 Pilot Mountain Payback Marathon
4/2/11 Umstead 100
4/23/11 Promise Land 50K (maybe depending on recovery)
June Grand Canyon R2R2R (unlikely but possible with a friend in Austin, TX)
11/5/11 MMTR

Training Summaries for the past 3 weeks:

Training Summary 1/24 - 1/30
AM Easy 6 mile run
AM 12 mile run, after an easy 3 miles, ran hard for 7 miles @6:50-7:20 pace, passed thru 10 mi in 78 min, then easy 2 miles
AM Planned on 2 hours but knee was hurting so stopped at 10 mi's.
PM 3 miles easy testing knee in Vibram Five Fingers
Rest Day
AM Easy 10 miles
PM 4 miles in Five Fingers
AM At Pilot Mtn. 4:02 for 22 miles
AM Easy 14 miles at Salem Lake

Weekly Total = 81 miles

Training Summary 1/17 - 1/23

AM 4 miles easy
AM 10 miles at 8:20 pace
AM 12 miles with Tom and Chuck, solid pacing.
AM 10 miles easy
AM 10 miles with Chuck, 8:24/mi
AM 22 miles at Salem
AM 23 miles at Pilot Mtn

Weekly Total = 91 miles

Training Summary 1/10 - 1/16

AM Easy 8 miles
AM 5 miles in snow
AM 10 miles, much of it at 7:45/mi
AM Easy 4 miles
PM 8 miles incorporating 3 miles at 6:50/mi
AM Easy 10+ miles
AM 20 miles in packed snow at Salem
AM 20 miles in snow at Salem

Weekly Total = 84 miles